This story today makes me wonder what sort of government – and perhaps by extension, what sort of law – we want:
A Libyan military commander is taking legal action against Jack Straw, to find out if the ex-foreign secretary signed papers allowing his rendition.
Abdel Hakim Belhadj claims CIA agents took him from Thailand to Gaddafi-led Libya, via UK-controlled Diego Garcia.
His lawyers have served papers on Mr Straw after the Sunday Times reported claims that he allowed this to happen.
It’s interesting that whilst the users of Twitter and other social networks (my take here) are battling to keep the law out of encroaching on their casually couched freedoms of speech, that selfsame tool for supposedly exacting the truth of a matter is reaching up to the stratospheric levels of ex-government ministers and the like.
And my question really is: do we know what we are doing?
Once the law begins to get involved with the minutiae of relatively trivial intercourse, it can hardly resist the temptation to go after the mightiest in the land. That’s what seems to me to be happening here. A game whereby everything must come under its apparently objectivising gaze. Maybe bearing more than a passing resemblance to that bewildering profession of economics which currently rules so many of our roosts.
Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong: it’s not the purpose of this post to decide. It may be fair to send racist and foul-mouthed social-network users to prison; it may be right to serve civil papers on ex-ministers of previous governments. I do hold my own opinion – but as a simple voter, what does that count? In a society evermore circumscribed by the supposedly “good” and “wise”, what can be the point of me expressing it in relation to concrete cases which clearly have their complex and incommunicable ins and outs?
It does seem to me, however, in a more general sense, that there must be an alternative to an eternal legalisation of society. In a way, it surely parallels the terrible medicalisation of what other ages judged to be the glory of human eccentricity: two professions – the medical and legal both – marching side by side in their awful attempts to type, control and ultimately homogenise our every instinct and movement as multifarious and ever-so-gentle beings.
Is this a battle, then, between the professions on the one hand and a wider and far more educatedly intelligent civic society, now far more aware of its intrinsic and moral rights, on the other?
Is what we are witnessing actually a turf war where economists, lawyers and doctors are all – maybe subconsciously, maybe with massive intention – fighting in some sad way to recover the respect and deference of yore?
And is it time the rest of us understood this war for what it was – and, by so doing, tried to renegotiate and reshape the compact which previously existed and defined our society?
In much the same way as some have argued in favour of an uneconomics, maybe it’s now high time we began to extend the principle to the other professions in the mix: unlaw, unmedicine and – even – uneducation.
Who knows? Perhaps that’s exactly what this Coalition government is really all about.
It’d certainly help to explain very many of the dynamics currently on show.
And, as a result, whilst implementing foolishly and destroying quite unnecessarily, they may have a point in some of what they think. If only our ministers knew how to properly verbalise their instincts, perhaps we could get somewhere through tried and tested methods of debate.
That greatest unprofession of all: the politico with nothing to do but retread old empires and resell them as something new.