1. The Phillips Controversy
This week, there was controversy in the UK over observations made by Trevor Phillips about Muslims in both a Sunday Times article and a Channel 4 documentary. Phillips cut his teeth in the UK campaigning for equality and at one stage of his career was an ally of Muslims in the UK, championing their cause via the platform of ‘Islamophobia,’ a term he made famous. While not antagonistic to all those identifying as Muslim, he is of the considered opinion that many Muslims in the UK – who are mostly of South Asian background – do not believe in equality (particularly between the sexes) and thus are ‘un-British.’
Since equality is the ‘be all and end all’ for Phillips he then was able to conclude that gang rape and terrorism, even suicide terrorism, are exclusively Islamic phenomena. It buttressed his main point although no intelligent person seriously believes these claims. Many intelligent people will say differently, however, because of their personal dislike of Muslims.
2. The ‘e’ Word
Anyway, before we get distracted by citing terrorist acts committed by Northern Ireland supporters of the British Crown, suicide bombings committed by the Hindu Tamil Tigers or gang-rapes occurring in Brazil, South Africa and India to support the inforned view, let’s stay focused on the ‘e’ word, which is the foundation of Phillipine ethics.
Now, there are two basic types of equality in the world. The first one would be that which many Muslims, Christians and other ‘social conservatives’ believe in. Equality and inequality are closely woven together in an ethics whose moral foundation is either that of natural rights, Scripture or even a reason-faith dialogue (Scholastic or Averroist). The word ‘equity’ might be used instead of equality to avoid confusion. There is either an acceptance of natural differences or of natural abilities or even of inherited inequalities. Like/unlike entities are judged similarly/differently with respect to certain ‘bases.’ For example, men and women are treated differently in a family law court but equally in a commercial case.
Then we have the social justice version of equality. This is undoubtedly the type of equality that Phillips, along with most in the UK, adhere to. This form of equality is inspired by Christian natural law and the notion that Mankind once lived in a pure state without laws or government. But while Christians use this as a starting point, social justice egalitarians see it as their duty to level differences and reach the natural law ideal as a goal. Men and women must be made equal, races must be made equal, classes must disappear, all intimate relationships are the same. Egalitarianism must be achieved across all sectors of society and must be imposed if necessary. There are some rules, such as capacity to judge, which prevent this equality being extended to children and animals, but most people reading this would understand the general trend of this form of equality.
3. Socialism as the Vehicle of Equality
The ugliness of social justice equality was demonstrated clearly by totalitarian regimes in the 20th century. Both right and left were socialists – they wanted to socialise their populations. This meant that all significant differences were legalised or brutalised out of existence. Religious organisations and outsiders suffered particularly because of inherent resistance to this form of equality.
Despite its association with totalitarianism, Socialism was attractive to most in the world, both leaders and followers. It was thought possible to humanise totalitarianism. Nearly every country after WWII, including the UK, incorporated socialist ethics into their fabric. In Britain the monument to this is the welfare state.
The benefits of equality were that countries could be thought of as peaceful militaries. Everyone received their share. The downside was that the government had to monitor for any signs that people were stepping outside the social justice framework. This was foreseen by Churchill in what was known as the ‘Gestapo speech.’ Winston said the following about a proposed welfare state.
No Socialist Government conducting the entire life and industry of the country could afford to allow free, sharp, or violently worded expressions of public discontent. They would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo, no doubt very humanely directed in the ﬁrst instance. And this would nip opinion in the bud; it would stop criticism as it reared its head, and it would gather all the power to the supreme party and the party leaders, rising like stately pinnacles above their vast bureaucracies ofcivilservants, no longer servants and no longer civil.
4. Socialism Develops in the UK
Yet so long as the British population remained relatively homogeneous, questions that Churchill raised about equality could be suppressed. Britain was transformed over the next 20 years, however. There was a new spirit of openness and also large numbers of immigrants arrived from the British colonies. Discrimination was rife. The issue came to a head in Enoch Powell’s famously misquoted ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968.
The benign side of the welfare state showed itself. Discrimination was outlawed, racism clamped down upon. The problem was that nothing was learned by the natives. People were forced to like those they despised for childish reasons instead of being persuaded to do so by politicians, church leaders, etc … and so made to develop emotionally and spiritually. A vicious cancer of Fascist racism now started to inform UK public opinion. These were socialist and egalitarian voices too, but they wanted to level racial/cultural differences more than social/economic ones.
5. 1980s to the Present
The issue of egalitarianism boiled over with race riots in the 1980s but since the late 1980s has become a question of Islam. The problem with Muslims vis-a-vis social justice egalitarianism is the adherence to equity, especially in gender relations. Muslims quite logically believe that men and women are inherently dissimilar and even (shock horror!) assert the male-female marital union as a special one.
6. Concluding Remarks
Just as Churchill predicted, the egalitarian weapon of the welfare state has turned into a tool of repression. It has gone from bringing the ‘high and mighty’ down to Earth to being one of the implements of the misconceived War on Terror. It is not as ugly to watch as totalitarianism but is still highly disconcerting nonetheless. And for anyone in the UK there is no escape from the gatekeepers of social justice equality once their ire turns on a group of people.
And, in conclusion, that is the great irony of the ugly idea of social justice egalitarianism; ultimately it is completely arbitrary.
I am one of the few left in the world opposed to social justice egalitarianism as you can tell if you read any of the three books I’ve written on politics. My Amazon page can be viewed here.