Thursday, January 15, 2009

Re-reading the Fall Out

Andrew Anthony's Fall Out - How a Guilty Liberal Lost His Innocence is a very important book. It tracks how one liberal journalist has re-appraised a lot of what he thinks as a result of guilt ridden, anti-American default reactions and political positions. On one level he has been criticised as just another lefty drifting rightwards. But I have more respect for him as a writer and as a decent human being to dismiss either his infantile youthful lefty rantings and posturing *blushes* and his innate defence of individual freedoms and of human rights and democracy today.

Indeed, in the Observer this week his account of Salman Rushdie's fatwa is exemplary.

The debates that shape it centred around the hot issue that has dominated our generation; the invasion of Iraq and the response to it. The hatred of Bush's America fed by buffoons like Michael Moore and by those with seemingly greater intellectual ballast - like Noam Chomsky and John Pilger - has polarised opinion and blinded liberal responses to atrocities like 7/7. Well, has it?

In his preface to the paperback edition he refers to the reviews and the criticism the book received and the labelling - neocon, racist, midlife crisis - which mainly came from the very people who had clearly royally got his goat in the first place - Seamus Milne, Decca Aitkenhead and various others based at the Guardian, but also people he'd meet in his circle in London.

He's right of course, the liberal left doesn't have a response to terrorism, human rights abuses by Islamist terrorists. Or about crime and policing. Or racism. Just a knee jerk "yebbut" about America, Israel and "the West" and the police. He's grown weary of it, and so have I.

I've been on a similar journey myself, but have found the liberal left position I've always held as also lacking anything meaningful to say about entrepreneurship and business. I meet many decent, energetic, caring entrepreneurial people who aren't instinctive Tories, who care about the world we live in and respect human rights and justice. Labour policy has tied these people up in knots despite every attempt to speak the language of business. Despite the enormous contribution of ideas and energy that entrepreneurs make to the advancement of civilisation they tend to get parked in a place on a map marked "there be dragons" when it comes to weighing up the good guys and the bad guys. There is a racket called "corporate social responsibility" which utterly misses the point, by the way.

The current economic crisis has once again thrown all of this up in the air. Who hates America with Obama as President? Is socialism making a comeback under Gordon Brown? Is state control of the commanding heights of the economy on the agenda? Is labelling someone "a liberal" or of "the left" relevant at all anymore? Is David Cameron a liberal?

I think it's worth exploring further. Any ideas?

1 comment:

Voices From The Below said...

I totally agree that the liberal left has a limited and unhelpful response to issues such as Iraq, terrorism and racism but I think the argument that Anthony has lambasted his critics for is that the response to that should not necessarily be a swing to the right. The adoption of more conservative politics in the face of great adversity is an understandable response but a dangerous one, none the less.

I personally believe that the Labour party has failed to respond to the changes in the world in a way that could have engaged my generation (a la Obama) and that in that way they've failed the UK. That said I and most of my peers will never vote Tory. The result? Another generation of voter apathy.