Antony Lerman's conclusion that politicians must "empower" citizens is somewhat irritating. From where, if not from us, does he think he they derive their powers? If they want to "empower" us, why don't they simply stop taking power from us? We don't need them to "empower" us but to stop disempowering us!
Lerman tells us public institutions have lost our trust. He is right. Infuriatingly he seems to think it's our fault. Researchers at Cambridge University, he says, have found a correlation between public happiness and trust in public institutions. That makes perfect sense. To a rational person it's obvious that people would be happier if their institutions prove generally worthy of trust. Only a Guardianista could twist that to mean we would be happier if only we were more gullible.
In the New Labour era, the institutions of the British State have involved themselves in every aspect of our lives. Not happy merely to administer public services and protect us from force and fraud, they decided they were there not to serve but to rule. They told us how to think, what to eat, what to drink, how to work and where to smoke. They have subverted beloved charities, turning them into tools of state power. They have even tried to modify the very nature of our beast; eliminating the hunter from the hunter gatherer beneath our modern veneer. What fool, having lived through all that, could seriously say it is our fault that we do not trust our public institutions?
He sneers at the Catholic Church as an outdated institution but he is as devout as the simplest parishioner when it comes to his own loyalties. Just as some churchmen seem annoyed with victims of child abuse for damaging the Church's name, so Lerman seems to resent our response to the incompetence, dishonesty and corruption of the Blair/Brown era. Lerman's ilk gleefully broke down the old loyalties to "God, Queen and Country." They sneered at the simplicity of those who felt them. Now it seems they did not seek to replace them with rationality. They just wanted to substitute blind loyalty to new institutions of their making.If the British State wants respect, let it earn it. It can begin by acknowledging our mastery. Let our servants not speak as if they were rulers. Let them not speak of our money - hard earned by our honest endeavours - as if it were their own. Let's hear no more of money "taken out of" or "put into" the economy, for "the economy" is all our budgets, not just the State's. Let our MPs caught with their hands in the till stop speaking ruefully of being scapegoats. Let them embrace their servitude with joy and treat their masters with the deference we deserve; not just at election time neither.
Lerman writes that we rely on institutions:
"...not just to manage the functions of society they cannot organise on their own, but also to give meaning to our lives..."If he truly thinks that, he is a damn fool and a pitiful apology for a human being. The meaning in our lives comes from the joy of deploying our talents to make us independent; from looking after the people we love; from caring for families and delighting in the company of friends; from the free exercise of such creativity as we are lucky enough to have - whether in fine arts or cookery or just in telling a good story to amuse a friend. it comes from being fully human, which is to say fully free. He goes on;
Institutions must arise out of responsibility and generosity. Sometimes they seem to be part of a war against what politicians see as the worst individualist instincts of the people. In these circumstances, the legitimation of institutions, which Jürgen Habermas argues means citizens' sense that the institutions within which they live are just, benevolent, in their best interest, and deserving of their support, loyalty, and adherence, will constantly be problematic.
See that? It's not trust itself that's important; genuine trust earned by honest performance. No, it's a "sense that the institutions ... are benevolent" - and to hell with whether it's true. Well, Mr Lerman, that's not how it works. If you want it, you have to earn it.
If Parliament wants our trust again, let it serve our interests honestly and not those of its members. If the Equality & Human Rights Commission, MI5 or the Cabinet want our trust, let them earn it. How? By making only promises they can keep and then keeping them. By admitting their mistakes when they make them (as they must). By telling the truth, not only when it suits their political objectives, but even when it interferes with them.
Institutions are human and therefore defective. They can perform wonders and commit crimes. Our trust in them, if rational, must be provisional. Institutions are valuable to the precise extent they serve us well. We no more exist to serve the modern state, than our forefathers existed (whatever they may have thought) to serve the Church or the Monarchy. If they lose that provisional trust, it is their fault. I damn Lerman's impudence for lecturing us about how happy we would be if we trusted them regardless.
The whole stupid article could be summed up in three words;
"Ignorance is bliss"
To hell with that.