The problem with our political culture is not merely one of institutions and politicians, but of the public's mental weakness. Two developments make me say this.
One is the punishment of Matthew Woods, Azhar Ahmed and Barry Thew for making "offensive" statements. The fact that people faint like Victorian spinsters when their sensibilities are "offended" and demand legal protection is, as Septicisle says, "a sad indictment of what a petty, pathetic bunch many of us appear to have become." The proper response to such incidents is not to call for repression, but to become strong enough to resist being "offended".
The second development is the revelation that so many people knew Jimmy Savile was a predatory hebephile without doing anything about it.I'm thinking here not just of his managers and colleagues at the BBC and hospitals, but of some of his accusers. Forget that guff about him being a powerful celebrity; for at least the last 25 years of his life he was a creepy has-been.
What we have here are two examples of widespread mental weakness - an inability to stand up against injustice and a susceptibility to "offence."
This has unpleasant political effects. It leads to statist tyranny as the public demand that the state protect them from "offence" and from paedophiles without asking themselves how they can protect themselves.
Herein, however, lies a blind spot among political commentators. Because they take public opinion as a given, they fail to consider the possibility that failings in our political system reflect a weak public character. In this, they forget the words of Socrates:
In each of us there are the same principles and habits which there are in the State; and that from the individual they pass into the State?—how else can they come there?
The left is especially guilty here of failing to see the public's shortcomings. Deborah Orr claims that the coalition "has slender claim to democratic legitimacy." Richard Murphy says: "Governments across Europe are having to give up powers to the EU and must impose austerity on demand.This is democracy?" Both are wrong; Greek and British voters rejected anti-austerity leftist parties. And both are wrong for the same reason. They are shifting the blame onto democracy for what are in fact the failings of the people. They don't see that democracy and justice (let alone democracy and freedom) conflict.
Democracy - even in its present imperfect form - is a mirror onto the face of the public. And if you look in a mirror and see an ugly face, you should not blame the mirror.