The Boxer Syndrome

Further to the last two discussions is a third thread of thought. Yes, we have politicians, bureaucrats and senior police officers who mistrust us to the point of wanting to follow our every move, to lock us up on suspicion, to read our every email and to log our road journeys. Yes, we have the very same puffed-up poltroons deciding that they know best for us, that they should decide how we will live our lives and decree which choices we should make; to make our choices for us and our lives a misery.

But… But… None of this would be possible were it not for the Boxer syndrome. The blind faith people have in government, that their intentions are good, and the crack-downs and the spying will only apply to other people.

Read any discussion on the surveillance state and it will not be long before someone trots out the vacuous and discredited “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” line. How soon before someone uses the expression freedom of speech doesn’t mean being able to say what you want? Yes, it means precisely that. Or, worse, someone thinks that it is clever to regurgitate the fire in a crowded room canard. And, of course, how quickly do people line up to ban that which they disapprove? Read any forum or discussion group online and you will see people tripping over themselves to ban, suppress or silence those who disagree with them.

The basic civil liberties we supposedly enjoy; habeas corpus, freedom of assembly, the right to protest, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association are under attack by the bureaucrats, the politicans and and ACPO, it’s true. But, these people have willing associates who will happily oppress their neighbours with barely a nod to a decent reason. Indeed, there is no reasoning, merely prejudice, bigotry and a lack of any coherent thought. The new language of [*]phobia will be sufficient for the screaming mob to decry the utterer, to request the dead hand of the state to enforce their prejudices, to silence the dissenter. And if that doesn’t work, the accusation of racism will still the twitching corpse of the contrary argument.

Yet this beast they will so willingly unleash on the minorities who dare to speak their mind, who wish to practice their chosen religion, parade through the streets in defiance of the latest diktat, wear funny clothing or, simply, want to enjoy basic privacy without being accused of criminal behaviour, forget that this very beast will just as readily devour them.

Boxer went willingly to the slaughterhouse believing that the authorities were doing the right thing for altruistic reasons, that the state would look after him, never believing that when his usefulness was at an end, they would discard him without a thought. The righteous will willingly do likewise with their pets (gays, Muslims, disabled, blacks – take your pick). Boxer’s sacrifice was in vain, because the authorities were as venal and hate-filled as anyone else. Government consists of people and as people they are no better than you or I. Certainly they are no better than the virtual lynch mob you will find on CiF or online fora, they merely make it appear more palatable with obfuscating language. There is nothing altruistic about them; they are the enemy of liberty. They are people, nothing more, nothing less and people will stamp on the liberty of others if it is in their own interest to do so.

And there, unfortunately, is the problem. The enemies of liberty are not just the politicians, the bureaucrats and senior police officers. It’s not just the petty jobsworths and town hall officials wearing the jackboot that stamps on the faces of the oppressed. It’s the man on the Clapham omnibus. And that is a depressing thought indeed.

*insert the special interest group of your choice.


  1. Good post, Longrider. I’d quibble with the “Government consists of people and as people they are no better than you or I.” I think government generally attracts a certain type of people, predisposed to ideas of order, control and conformity (nudgers as opposed to nudgees) and hence, I’d suggest they are, from the perspective of those who value civil liberties, more likely to be worse than you or I. It is the people within government who have created “the guvmint must do something” monster and promoted its application in all aspects of our lives. They even teach it in schools. For most people, government control is all they know and can conceive and they pass on acquiescence to their children (those who teach free thought and a distrust of authority to their children don’t always get the free thought and distrust they would necessarily hope for, that is the nature of the beast).

  2. Further to DocBud’s comment… I’d argue that, although governments are made up of people prone to the same failings as the rest of us, the things which we might, for the sake of it, call “democratic” governments have evolved on the basis that their behaviour should be transparent and accountable. I absolutely acknowledge that there’s a big difference between setting that out as a principle and achieving it in practice, but it is one of the things which is supposed to prevent those in government from inflicting the worst of their human failings on the rest of us.

  3. I’d agree with both points. The reality is that the system has failed, dismally. A classic example of that failure was David Blunkett – the worst kind of mistrusting authoritarian, imposing knee-jerk legislation at the first opportunity.

    The only ray of hope is the the new home secretary appears to be dismantling some of this apparatus.

    I wonder if there is a point where the democratic system has to implode before we regain control over our politicians again?

  4. I’ve been following these issues for some time since first protesting the SOCPA ban on protest outside parliament in 2005. In this time I also wrote a play inspired by it which is now going on next month at the Southwark Playhouse. Forgive the self-reference but your post reminded me of this line…

    Policeman: I like violence. I do. I like boxing. I find boxing soothing. There’s nothing complicated about boxing. It’s just two men slugging it out ’till the end to prove who’s the strongest. Like two rutting stags. It’s so animal it’s human. That’s why I like boxing. But these laws…they’re designed to prevent violence.

    It’s called Boiling Frogs. Do come and check it out if you can, I think you’ll find it interesting. Plus a heads up we will shortly be announcing Thursday night post-show discussions on civil liberties with guests including Henry Porter, Amnesty, Mark Barrett, Human Rights Watch and Justice.

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