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Opinion

We should look deeply into the eyes of those we elect

20 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left) welcomes the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to 10 Downing Street in March last year. Photo Stefan Rousseau PA/Wire

Ben Wildsmith

Saturday night was the lengthiest Schrödinger’s cat moment I can remember.

I was in India, so a few hours ahead when news broke that Iran had launched dozens of drones and missiles towards Israel in retaliation for the attack on its consulate in Damascus.

I was flying home the next morning and ignobly started fretting about whether the flight would be cancelled. You bastard, I told myself as I drifted off to sleep with my phone still in hand, checking for news.

Heaven knows what the five hours it took for those drones to arrive felt like for the people underneath them. Their internal dialogues must have been confused, angry, frightened, despairing.

To be subject to another’s will leaves us to contend with our own character, to rely on it entirely. In that part of the world, people must be coming to know themselves more completely than they ever wished.

In the public schools that have produced so many British politicians, it used to be held that character could be beaten into children. As we know, the truth is that it can only be beaten out of them.

Flogging

Whilst flogging and caning are no longer acceptable practices, the shadow of that thinking still falls across our culture. The lie that hard experience, rather than love, produces useful personalities propels damaged individuals to the top of organisations of every sort. We know better but we still allow it.

On the plane, skirting Iran on the rejigged flight path, it struck me that we have, in the UK, been extraordinarily lucky to avoid the sort of disaster that is ruining people’s lives in the Middle East.

Over the last few years, we have allowed palpably weak people to run our affairs and to escape censure for their misdeeds. Their malfeasance, particularly during the pandemic, has brought misery to millions of us but they haven’t, thankfully, been exposed by an active, determined enemy.

In Israel, before October 7th, Benjamin Netanyahu was facing the end of his political career and a probable prison sentence for corruption. Thousands had taken to the streets enraged that he was attempting to change the constitution so that he could avoid that outcome.

So, when Hamas attacked, its leaders knew that they were dealing with a man who was compromised to the point of desperation. He had shown them that his instinct for self-preservation would always supersede whatever sense of duty he had.

He could be relied upon to do the wrong thing, to outrage the world with his lies and cruelty. Inherent to this thesis, of course, is that they knew he would kill many thousands of their people. Just as he was willing to spend Israel’s standing on saving his skin, they were willing to sacrifice as many Palestinians as necessary to let him do it.

Asylum seekers

Back at home, I heard a Conservative spokesman say that their priority was that at least one plane full of asylum seekers leave for Rwanda before the general election. It would, he said, demonstrate that the policy had been feasible.

It no longer matters, it seems, whether the plan has any positive effects at all.

The futures of the people on this yearned-for flight are to be mortgaged on an election that the party knows it can’t win. They are to be shifted to another continent for the rest of their lives to make a point, or perhaps save a marginal seat or two.

Dull people never tire of telling us that idealism is childish. In the real world, they scoff, moral compromise is the currency of mature statecraft.

Well, that has brought us to Trump, Johnson, and Netanyahu. It has the putative leader of the free world on trial for bribing a porn actress whilst hot metal falls on children every day.  It has our Foreign Secretary so snookered that he calls for a ceasefire whilst defending the sale of weapons to one side of the conflict. It has made us ludicrous and, like Israel, vulnerable.

Most of the world faces elections this year. We should look deeply into the eyes of those we elect because people who wish us harm surely will, and we won’t escape consequence forever.


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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

Ain’t this the whole truth? Calibre and a moral compass are qualities to be left at the door before entering the highest positions of power it seems. All future leaders whose eyes we look into must bring these qualities in with them in future and we must reject all who do not.

J9 1968
J9 1968
1 month ago

Cogent, considered and compassionate, a good read. Must have been weird to be in India with close to a billion people getting set to vote in national elections. A real head-scratcher.

karl
karl
1 month ago

Only England elects Tories. But all candidates need more scrutiny. Most are alien to real life

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago

As mentioned in the article, Iran launched multiple missiles and drones towards israel in retaliation for the attack on its consulate in Damascus that killed (at least) 12 Iranians and Syrians. There was not even a squeak across the world, no condemnation of israel for the unprovoked attack from any of the usa, uk, or any EU country. We are constantly told by politicians that “israel has the right to defend itself.” Surely that right applies to every country around the world! As to the general message of this article, we had the chance to vote for someone that met… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Davies
Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

I have just watched ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie’ in its’ entirety and thank you for the link pointing me to it. It’s not that I needed much reminding of what has been removed from us but it was good (if that’s the word) to be reminded of the depths the sick of mind, inside the Labour Party and more broadly, the media would shamelessly sink to preserve the stranglehold on us, the people.

Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

Check the youtube channel “Gary’s economics” also. Goes a very long way to explaining the dynamics of increasing inequality.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

In addition: According to article in the Morning Star (tried to find it for link, no luck yet) there was a quote from Iranian leader saying if there has been condemnation of israel’s bombing of Iran’s consulate from the “west” then Iran would not have launched its retaliation against israel.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

And be wary of those with one mad eye like Blair…

Folks in the UK are taking casualties in the thousands daily from the Fat Shanks effect…

Last edited 1 month ago by Mab Meirion
adrian savill
adrian savill
28 days ago

Such a good article

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