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Ripon, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Gary Dolman was born in the industrial north east of England in the 1960s, but grew up in Harrogate in Yorkshire, where he now lives with his wife, three children and dogs. His writing reflects his fascination by the dark places of the human mind.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Peers, Plebs, Presidents and People.

It was the liberal peer Lord Acton (1834-1902) who famously remarked that, ‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.’

What Acton meant by this was not that the powerful would necessarily become corrupt or fraudulent in the legal sense of the word but rather that power tends to cause a moral corruption, a corruption of the heart and conscience.  There were very many in Acton’s own day like that. The immense wealth and military might of Victorian Britain led to the outrageous exploitation of many of the weakest in society both at home and abroad despite the efforts of the celebrated philanthropists and social reformers of the day.

Tragically, little has changed almost a century and a half later. From Presidential candidates in the United States to some of the popular press here in the UK there is a deeply-held belief that some people are part of an underclass of no-hope, ne’er-do-well freeloaders who parasitize society. It is an attitude held by not a few, both in government and in society.  

These individuals have invariably been born into privilege; either into wealth or self-perceived authority, or at least NOT into financial and emotional hardship. They see disadvantage as something that must surely have resulted from laziness or fecklessness and not from circumstance or sheer bad luck. They make judgements based on stereotypes and assumption and they condemn.

After months of portraying those on disability benefits as largely workshy and lazy, Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborn were roundly jeered by the spectators at the recent Paralympic Games in London.  They then attributed this to the poor presentation of their views rather than the views themselves.

Then we have a now-notorious Chief Whip in the British Government who (allegedly) called a member of the police service a, ‘pleb,’ and (again allegedly) suggested he should ‘know his place.’ He may well have been, as he claims, tired and frustrated when he made the outburst but tiredness and frustration does not excuse that fundamentally superior attitude of mind; it merely explains why it was blurted out in the heat of the moment.

Civilisation is all about how we regard and go about caring for the least advantaged in society, not about how we might encourage or laud those who already have the most advantage. It is about striving to do what is best for civilisation – for society – as a whole, not for ourselves or our ‘equals’. This is not politics; this is simple humanity. It sounds self-evident but tragically relatively few really live it.


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