Pragmatism - the Spirit of the Age

This is my first post about the forthcoming election. Except that it isn't, it is about my reflections on the last decade of British life. Certain things are held to be true. Sadly, nobody believes that the same things are true. Not only that, they change their minds about what is right and what is true according to the myriad conflicting pressures and tropes and the demands of the moment. This is pragmatism in action. This is short-termism. If anything, the last decade can be characterised by the triumph of pragmatism over vision.

There is an old line somewhere that goes, "By their fruits you shall know them". There are some people whose sum total of activity will leave a net contribution to society. Some will do it because of the kind of work they do, like doctors or firemen, and others will do it by being quietly supportive of friends in need. Some will do it, merely, but importantly, by working all their lives, paying taxes and doing everything the right way - often the hard way.

It is easy to cut corners. It is easy to be bad. It is easy to make money if you have no scruples. But the kind of society we achieve is dependent upon the combined efforts of all those whose overall contribution is positive.

And so, in taking a look back at the last ten years, I believe the key question is, who won? Was it the people who try and do things the good way or people who don't care about others, only personal gain?

Personal gain needs unpacking; there is a lot to be gained by being identified as a protected species. It firstly appeals to the ego. It then benefits to the detriment of others. If then, this arbitrary and exalted status is enshrined in law, it is a foregone conclusion that the exalted status will be open to abuse. Choose your own examples.

A lot is talked of privilege and class. Privilege though, is not just which school you went to, or who your parents were, it is the means by which one person is elevated in status above another, at the cost of another. The Unions were a paradigm of this in the 70's. They had placed themselves above the populace they claimed to serve, and in fact, had tyrannised it.

Privilege is conferred on many who have no real deserving of it. The government can apparently create peerages at will, and then place them in political positions without the inconvenience of worrying the democratic process. I wonder how many of these non-elected individuals can actually run a government?

Privilege is conferred upon many who have merely conformed to an arbitrary index of deservance, such as ethnic minorities and gays. Members of these two example communities throw up the good and the bad, but it is the bad that political correctness protects. The examples in political life are fairly obvious.

Where has hegemony gone? Who runs the country? What kind of a country is it that imprisons householders who seek to protect their families from violence, and compensates criminals?

Why has the Muslim community been single out for favour and tax-payer's money, when a large proportion of these people want to overthrow the very mechanisms which allow them to live peaceably and free?

What is it about this decade, that has seen two wars which we have essentially lost, or at least have been proved utterly pointless? What is it about this decade that has seen the rise of domestic, Islamist terrorism?

What is it about this decade which has revealed our hospitals to be filthy and our schools to be lower than former Eastern Europe countries in achievement?

I know there are many answers to complex issues, but I would like to put one thing forward, and that is that we are no longer a nation that is in any way religious. Now, you may think that is a good thing, but just stop and think for a moment: if you spend any part of your day in contemplation or abstinence - even if abstinence means turning the telly off - if you spent time trying to understand your place in the universe, or even, seriously thinking about God, it is possible that you would begin to see how far we have fallen from the beauty of humanity and you might begin to see that pragmatism, the spirit of the age, is good for five minutes but not for eternity.


Jim Baxter said...

Is pragmatism the spirit of the age? I don't see it that way.

As for being a religious nation, I understand that the United States is an overwhelmingly religious nation. Is the average American more selfless, more imbued with wonder, than, say the average Briton?

I really don't know, but I doubt it.

Wrinkled Weasel said...


I confess I failed from an academic standpoint and did not define my terms.

You write of the USA as being "religious". In my definition they are cult followers, no better than the KKK or the Salem Witch hunters.

Religion to me is highly personal. I prefer to see it as a contemplative occupation, not a public relations activity.

As for pragmatism, why is it that everyone lies to you as the default these days?

Jim Baxter said...

'Why is it that everyone lies to you as the default these days?


Everyone? The politicians always have done. Never had it so good, indeed, when the country was bankrupt, sigh, as usual.

Go back as far as you like.

But, we know that about them. Who else do you have in mind?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Everybody you have to deal with in everyday life. People no longer own up to being wrong, they lie instead. It closes down discussion and you cannot argue with a liar.

The BBC lies about bias or even the fact that its programme makers lie.
Cold Callers lie about taking you off their list or tell you the real reason they are calling.
Restaurants lie about the freshness of their food or its origins.
Advertisers lie all the time.
Car salesmen lie about the state of road worthyness, or why the MOT was a failure.
People in court lie about their innocence.
Employers lie about why they are not taking you on or sacking you.
The list is a lot longer, but why go on? You know that nobody will tell the truth if it is in their interests to do otherwise.

History has been re-written so many times during the last decade, I doubt if future historians will be able to make sense of it.

Jim Baxter said...

That's all lies! I know my rights!

Oops. Sorry.

I always come back to the same question: when was it different?
Advertisers lie all the time? 'Senior Service, the cigarette your doctor smokes'.

Mr Churchill watched the blitz from the roof of the Treasury? He bloody well didn't.

The paedophile throughout the ages prtected by the organisation?

My list goes on and on too.

That's people. You gotta love 'em.

Maybe it's the job I do. You see the same thing year after year, decade after decade.

Actually, that's most people's jobs. As you were.