30 Dec 2015

Moralising Tories Exposed as Racists

Interesting to see the news this morning about secret cabinet documents revealing deeply racist attitudes in the Thatcher government.
Oliver Letwin: Minister apologises after newly-released papers reveal 'racist' attitude towards black rioters. Independent.
I'm not sure why the Inde has placed racist in scare quotes. The attitude in the memo is straightforwardly racist.

That the Tories blame everything on "bad character" rather than, say, the effects of colonialism or slavery or just the prejudice and hatred that immigrants experienced in Britain is also telling.

On one hand its an example of the Attribution Fallacy that blames bad behaviour on bad intention or character. Something that social psychologists showed was wrong decades ago. This is part of the baleful legacy of Freud and his Romantic view of humanity - that we are all driven only by internal urges and that our environment does not shape us. This is totally wrong. Environment is at least as important as intention in shaping behaviour. Western Buddhists are also deeply affected by Freud's fallacy, sometimes more so since they seem to gel with our own preoccupations with self (though of course we paradoxically deny the existence of the object of our obsession).

It is also a classic aspect of conservative morality to see the poor and people of colour as basically immoral - no matter that the conservatives helped to make them poor (both now and in the past). That poor people of colour are lower down the scale of the conservative's (1985) value system doesn't really tell us anything new, I suppose, but it does nicely punctuate the point I was making last week about colonialism and attitudes to the colonised and enslaved. Letwin seemed to be saying that at least the poor white English people knew their place and stoically accepted the harsh conditions imposed on them, whereas by fighting back the black residents of London were doing something terrible. The class system requires that the oppressed stay oppressed, that everyone knows their place. And that is one of the major problems with immigrants - they don't understand the class system and so they don't stay in their place. Similarly trades unions were upsetting the balance of power and had to be put back in their place.

The question is, have things really changed in the intervening 30 years? On the surface the politicians seem to have changed their tune, but many of the social problems caused by poverty, lack of affordable housing, jobs and opportunities etc remain, suggesting that they have not been addressed.

The fact that Britain and Europe seem to be leaning to the political right these days is not an encouraging sign of a bright future ahead.

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Keep is seemly & on-topic. Thanks.