Most human motivations are grubby, predictable, uninspired, trite, and all-too-often self-serving. I need look no further than within myself to notice this. Notwithstanding, most of us are great re-editors of our own pasts. We are all our own best hagiographers. That is why I prefer biographies to autobiographies, particularly unauthorised ones. (Were I ever to write my autobiography I would insist it be unauthorised.)
For example, I came to my enlightened liberal position through a careful examination of the political landscape. I knew on a visceral level that human rights and the preservation of the environment were the overarching issues of our perilous times. Blah, blah, blah. No. The truth of the matter was, thirty years ago I wanted to impress a woman and she was a liberal and so, here I am.
I landed in the best camp because I happened to become interested in a woman who was in the best camp. Thank goodness — or whatever — for that. It had nothing to do with careful examination or thought about the relevant facts of both positions. I’m a good guy by the skin of my teeth. Most of us want to be Mr. Spock but we are all Captain Kirks. That’s just the way it is, as Bruce Hornsby once put it.
Once we acknowledge this a lot of what goes on is much easier to explain. School shootings are a fad. The so-called pro-life movement is composed of people who are just paying lip service to the complete nonsense that abortion is murder. A lot of what we do is virtue signalling, sometimes misguided. We are apes aping other apes. Monkey see, monkey do.
Which brings me to Boris Johnson and his irrational cling to power. He even continues to cling to power after his so-called resignation. For those of you who don’t know, Boris resigned as head of the Conservative Party but he intends to stay in the role of prime minister until his replacement can be found. Some time in the autumn, perhaps? Meanwhile he will continue to scheme about ways to push his day of departure further and further into the nebulous future. If he is ousted, he will look for ways to come back.
Very few in government are fooled by Johnson’s “resignation.” When prime ministers quit, they quit. They don’t linger. This has been true of all the PMs who quit while I’ve lived here. From Tony Blair to David Cameron to Theresa May, their departures were abrupt and short, like a torn off Band-Aid. They leave in their place a caretaker acting PM until the party can select a permanent one.
What is different? Why is it taking Boris Johnson so long to quit? Why has he still (in point of fact) refused to go? Because he looked around at the worst and grubbiest example to follow, saw Donald Trump, and decided to follow him. Screaming and kicking all the way. Donald Trump proved that traditional departures, falling on one’s sword and decorum were for the birds. Who needs a peaceful transition?
As things sit right now, Boris would not survive another no confidence vote. He survived the last one by 38 votes. Today it’s doubtful he could get 38 total votes. The only thing stopping another no confidence vote is the rule that a second no confidence vote cannot be taken for at least a year after the last one, that is, June of 2023. But the 1922 Committee might scrap that rule, and if they do, Boris could be out of power as early as next week.
Meanwhile Boris clings on. Trump has set a grubby precedent and made it okay, in the minds of some. What two years ago was unthinkable is today the new black. Today the naked, unapologetic pursuit of power has become yet another way to do things. We don’t need to look any further than that for Johnson’s motivation. Boris is just following Trump’s lead. “The will to power” today is better described as “keeping up with the Joneses.”
That is why it’s so important for America to set a good example for the rest of the world. America’s recent further fall from grace, by forcing birth on 51% of its citizens, is a bad example that will echo around the world and spread like a cancer. Because, in the final analysis, human beings tend to do what other human beings do.
All anyone needs in order to be a toxic and effective example of how not to do things is fame or notoriety. The grubby, commonplace and all-too-human banality that governs most of us will do the rest. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.