The most unsettling aspect of modern politics is that the Enemy is no longer plain in view. We may feel in our bones that we are as oppressed, disenfranchised and generally shat upon, in our way, as those who suffered under Nazism, Marxism and fascism. But the actual evidence doesn’t seem to bear this out.
We’re free to fly wherever we want on our hols. No one is starving. We can vote. There are no death camps. We don’t dread the small-hours knock at the door. Our politicians consult focus groups because they feel they ought to care what we think. There are lots of channels on TV, not all of which reflect the ideology of the state. Being Jewish, gay or an intellectual are not crimes. (More’s the pity in the case of the last one.) We can speak out against whomsoever we want (so long as they’re not Muslim) without fear of being arrested. We don’t need to belong to the Party to get a job. There are no bread queues. Our kids aren’t obliged to spy on us.
Why then do we yet feel so un-free? By ‘we’ I don’t mean all of us, of course. I can’t imagine, say, David Aaronovitch waking up every morning and gnashing into his Coco Pops over the liberties Big Government is taking with his liberty. I doubt Michael Moore, Paul Krugman or the environment pod at the Guardian have ever done anything except shudder very pleasurably as the tentacles of state have crept ever deeper into their every orifice. But I’m guessing I’m not the only Speccie-reading type who surveys this brave new world we inhabit with growing alarm. ‘I do hope it’s no more than my imagination,’ we say to ourselves.