Cameron's Broken Rhetoric
We must hope that David Cameron is as good as his word. It would be so nice to have running water and an inside lavatory like we did in the old days and to be able to buy proper meat in shops instead of having to shoot squirrels and pigeons in the garden and stew them over an open fire.
For David Cameron said he would 're-civilize' our society.
And even the old tradition of church-going on Sundays would be preferable to the cannibalism that is now rife in the village, along with the unseemly sight of one's neighbours, naked and daubed in woad, conducting strange rites-of-passage ceremonies in their back gardens.
It's clear that Cameron is going to rival Blair when it comes to spouting meaningless rhetoric. Is this a skill that is learned at public schools? But I must resist the temptation to be sarcastic, satirical, or just plain silly, and make some more serious points.
David Cameron believes there is such a thing as society. It's an abstraction of course but he quite likes it. There is also such a thing as the State - another abstraction. But he's not nearly so keen on the latter.
'Society is not the same thing as the State' he said. This astonishing discovery was greeted with prolonged applause.
Our society, he says, is 'broken', an appropriate term to apply to a concrete noun like a plate, but when applied to an abstact concept like society, what on earth does it mean?
Anyway, he has kindly offered to mend it for us.
The State is the collection of governmental structures by which a society organises and regulates itself. Political parties compete for control of these 'levers of power', as they are sometimes called. They are the means by which to achieve the ends that politicians desire.
And new initiatives, of which Cameron, like all politicians, has many, will often require new means - in other words, new resources, financial, human, administrative and organisational.
But Cameron, like most Tories, dislikes the State and wants its role reduced. This leaves him willing the ends but not the means. His solution is hardly original and no less fatuous than it has always been - leave it to the voluntary sector. So we will build Jerusalem with the Women's Institute, the Boy Scouts and the Prince's Trust and it won't cost more than the price of a raffle ticket or a woggle.
Of course, the voluntary sector is much bigger than that frivolous comment suggests, comprising thousands of organisations with many different agendas and, more importantly, conflicting and mutually incompatible agendas.
To transfer primary functions from the State to the voluntary sector - which Blair also favours - is actually a negation of the democratic political process by which the electorate temporarily gives power to a political party to implement a rough and ready consensus about the type of society it desires. Far from 'mending' a 'broken' society, the Cameron/Blair cop-out leads to a weaker, more dangerously fragmented society and to a situation where Christian schools can teach Creationism as a valid scientific theory and both Christian and Muslim schools can teach the evil of homosexuality. It would presumably be just as acceptable for a bunch of loonies to have a school that taught that the Earth was flat or that the universe is controlled by a giant lizard. It's a dangerous and destructive form of pluralism.
The balance between State power and individual freedom is always difficult. But the attempt to keep the State out of people's private lives is not just about how much tax the State takes from people's pockets, as Tories like Cameron seem to think. For if the State withdraws from key areas like education, health and welfare in favour of private and voluntary diversity of provision then yes, a thousand flowers may bloom but there will be some ugly and poisonous specimens amongst them that will destroy social harmony and cohesion and individual freedoms too.