The Tories routinely misapply, debase, distort and tarnish the word ‘freedom’ to the point that their definition of it is the polar opposite of the concept’s time-honoured, peer-reviewed, critically accepted meaning as explored, dissected, analysed and understood by serious philosophers throughout the ages. From Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC) and Epicurus (341 BC-270 BC) via thinkers as varied in emphasis, angle and outlook as Spinoza (1632-1677), Voltaire (1694-1778), Rousseau (1712-1778), Kant (1724-1804), Mill (1806-1873), Russell (1872-1970), Sartre (1905-1980), Arendt (1906-1975), Berlin (1909-1997), Vonnegut (1922-2007) and Foucault (1926-1984), all agree on one fundamental, irreducible and central tenet of true freedom. Dubbed ‘the harm principle’ by John Stuart Mill, it can be summed up thus: people should be free to do whatever they wish – UNLESS THEIR ACTIONS HARM SOMEONE ELSE.
Of course, this is hardly a breakthrough revelation. The Bible’s “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31), tweaked by English writer and clergyman Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) in The Water Babies into “Do as you would be done by”, boils down to much the same ethical principle, and the idea that we are not free to do what we like regardless of the consequences is, after all, the reason there are laws prohibiting, for instance, murder. If one individual’s ‘freedom’ is at the expense of another individual’s then it isn’t freedom, it’s oppression, exploitation, injustice and violence, and taken to its logical conclusion, would be a recipe for the destruction of civilisation itself.
These are the basic, uncontroversial planks of human society for anyone with a rough smidgeon of decency and a couple of working brain-cells – so that rules out the crazed rightwingers who, enabled and emboldened by giant, monopolistic American tech corporations, have taken over the Conservative Party, the mass media and the governance of the UK. They call themselves “libertarians” and ceaselessly bang the drum about their love of freedom, but in actual fact they are extremely illiberal and deeply anti-freedom.
The same Tories who, for instance, opposed and openly flouted pandemic restrictions, because they slightly impinge on the right of ‘free-born Englishmen’ to be selfish, ignorant arseholes, are simultaneously introducing draconian and illiberal measures that will outlaw peaceful demonstrations, protest and dissent itself; restrict and undercut the right to vote; gerrymander constituency boundaries; give the police unprecedented new powers of arrest, stop and search and detention without trial; criminalise refugees and the very act of seeking asylum; and actually repeal the Human Rights Act and abolish wholesale all the vital constitutional freedoms enshrined in it. Oh yes, these same Tories are all in favour of ‘freedom’ – so long as it is solely freedom for the wealthy, the powerful and people exactly like themselves to continue to be utter bastards; the freedom to flagrantly break both UK and international law, to corruptly award lucrative government contracts to their cronies and families, to purge public bodies of dissenting voices and then stuff them with their placemen and allies, to be bought by fat backhanders from lobby groups, big business and billionaires, to ransack and cripple public services, to privatise, commercialise and monetise the public realm, and to wreck the very notion that there could be such a thing as ‘society’.
These British Tories embody – in their hideously ugly, boorish, vulgar, barrel-scraping style – what is almost the defining characteristic of a rightwinger: the insistence that the individual has primacy over the collective good, a category error born of the refusal to distinguish between freedom to and freedom from.
For instance, freedom from poverty, hunger, homelessness, abuse, manipulation, expropriation, authoritarianism, propaganda, inequality, discrimination, fear, squalor, pollution, the destruction of nature and the creation of an uninhabitable planet is infinitely more important and precious than freedom to, for instance, rip off, con, profiteer, accumulate, asset strip, land grab, trash the social sphere and wreck the environment.
You can always tell a rightwinger by such spectacular ignorance and monumental selfishness. This has reached its apogee of wicked lunacy in the US, the ‘land of the free’, where the omnipotent gun lobby makes sure the freedom to possess a deadly weapon takes precedence over the freedom from being gunned down by some fucked-up thug – with 40,000 gun deaths per year being the predictable outcome. But 40 years of fanatical ‘free market’ capitalism unleashed by the US and spread around the world by the apostles of unregulated globalisation has done more than just stack up the corpses: it has degraded the human race itself by creating millions, nay billions, of hyper-individualised, preening, swaggering, profoundly thick egomaniacs. The very essence of humanity has been profoundly corrupted. Examples of this in practice are everywhere, but three recent shocking examples in the UK that made news headlines vividly illustrate what I mean. They are admittedly extreme, on the far fringes of the spectrum of horror, but remember those involved are not aliens from another planet; they are, after all, just people.
Thomas Hughes and Emma Tustin
Six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (2014-2020) was beaten to death by Tustin, his stepmother, following months of unspeakable violence, intimidation, torture and abuse by both Tustin and his father Hughes. Hughes, Arthur’s sole carer after his biological mother was jailed for murder, met Tustin on a ‘dating website’ (ie: somewhere unattractive people hunt for fucks). She had four children of her own from multiple relationships, two of whom lived with their fathers the other two with her in Solihull, England. Hughes and Arthur moved in with Tustin at the start of the pandemic and the pair began the systematic torment of him almost immediately, starving him of food, forcing him to stand in the hallway for days on end, making him sleep on the floor, violently assaulting him on any pretext, hurling foul verbal abuse at him, filming and recording his agony on their phones for a giggle and ultimately bringing his short life to a horrendous end through unsurvivable brain injuries – while they binge-watched TV, got pissed, guzzled takeaway food, tried to enhance their plug-ugly appearances with teeth-whitening and hair-dos, and played happy families on Facebook. Oh no, they weren’t going to let a little thing like the responsibilities of parenthood cramp their ‘freedom’ to be total scumbags. At the trial, jurors broke down listening to heartbreaking recordings of Arthur crying “nobody loves me.” Tustin was sentenced to a minimum of 29 years for murder and Hughes 21 for manslaughter. Both sentences are being reviewed as too lenient, and if ever there was a case of ‘throw away the key’ this is it. Decultured, self-centred, useless, hollowed-out materialists, they are beyond rehabilitation.
Savannah Brockhill and Frankie Smith
Smith’s daughter Star Hobson (2019-2020) was just 16 months old when she died in Keighley, England, from multiple catastrophic blunt-force injuries having endured a prolonged campaign of sadistic physical and psychological abuse inflicted by Smith and her girlfriend Brockhill, much of which they videoed to enjoy later. Violent, jealous psychopath Brockhill was jailed for a minimum of 25 years while cruel, negligent narcissist Smith got off lightly with 12 years, thanks to the time-worn defence of ‘mental health issues’ – which weren’t so serious that they hampered her expertise at eyebrow-plucking. The pair are 21st century archetypes: obnoxious, entitled, utterly shallow, appearance-obsessed morons who have never read a book, moulded by Instagram, Facebook, advertising and ‘reality’ TV trash. Smith was 17 when she gave birth to Star (the cringeworthy name she lumbered the poor mite with says it all), seemingly just to acquire a cute accessory and tick motherhood off her bucket list before going gay and finding the diesel dyke from hell. The toxic two were totally committed to their freedom to do exactly what they wanted at all times without an iota of responsibility or consideration of anyone else. Of course, the ‘freedom’ most abused in this case is the freedom to give birth. The fact that this particular freedom is deemed sacrosanct and untouchable the whole world over, as human numbers top 8 billion, rapidly exterminate all other species and render the planet uninhabitable, is the perfect example of ‘the harm principle’ being ignored and flouted on an immense scale. The solution is obvious: the freedom to breed should be tightly regulated and policed. To drive a car you must pass a driving test; why is there not a rigorous ‘fit and proper’ parenting test?
John Cole and Angharad Williamson
Logan Mwangi (2016-2021) was brutally murdered in Sarn, Wales, by his mother Williamson and stepfather Cole (assisted by an unnamed teenager) before being chucked into the nearby River Ogmore. The five-year-old had 56 catastrophic injuries, so severe they were consistent with those seen in high-speed road accidents. Williamson, raised in Essex by a Welsh mother and an English stockbroker father, went to a private school, studied film at college in Southend and worked as a manager of a phone shop. After a brief relationship with Logan’s Kenyan-born biological father, she moved to Wales, gave birth to Logan, married a former soldier, split up with him too and settled in Sarn. Vain, attention-seeking, demanding and a dumb hostage to the knackered nostrums of the multi-billion dollar ‘self-help industry’ (she spent most of her spare time watching YouTube videos about how to remove blackheads and pimples), she continued her hopeless hunt for her ‘right’ to happiness (she probably considered it her ‘journey’) by picking up career criminal and violent swine Cole, who had relocated to Wales from Warwickshire, in a Bridgend pub. The controlling racist, once a member of the far-right National Front, moved in with her and, enraged by Logan’s skin colour, proceeded to make the once happy, affectionate child’s life sheer hell. During lockdown terrible abuse went on for months before Logan died. In court Williamson’s unconvincing grieving mother act, flagrant lies, pleading for today’s much-coveted victim status and attempts to pass the buck fooled nobody. She, Cole and the unnamed 14-year-old (whose identity can be revealed when he reaches 18) were found guilty of murder. Sentencing has been adjourned for psychological reports and is due soon. All will get life and we can only hope they find out the true meaning of ‘freedom’ over decades rotting in jail.
Pictures: West Midlands Police, Facebook, Metro