When it comes to the hypocrisy of virtue signalling, America has by no means cornered the market. Watching Boris Johnson mince around about “carrying out the will of the people” by implementing Brexit nolens volens, deal or no deal, isn’t merely funny because “the will of the people” hasn’t been consulted lately. It’s also funny because such a consideration for Boris and his kind has been traditionally out of the question.
The “will of the people” is overwhelmingly (85% in fact) that the disgusting practice by the putrid, plummy, inbred aristocracy of that barbarism generously known as fox hunting (fox running down and murdering would be a more likely description), ought to remain banned by law, doesn’t stop Boris and his horde of self-congratulating double-dealers from promising their posh friends to bring it back any day now. Not that they need to. Fox hunting continues unabated despite the ban. So much for the will of the people. It appears that the rich and powerful are above the law here too, no matter how many well-meaning Democrats over there and Labour Party members over here recite the mantra that proclaims otherwise.
But one thing the Brits did get right is gun control. While America is content to suffer September 11th-quantity death tolls every month for decades on end, Britain’s got it sussed, as they say. I know, it’s hard for the average American to believe that cops can actually enforce the law without guns, but enforce it they do. Though they may occasionally find themselves in fear for their lives, just like their well-armed counterparts in America, it is much harder nonetheless for them to murder someone on that account and get away with it, particularly if the person being potentially murdered is black. I don’t know about you but that argument alone makes me happy that cops here don’t carry guns.
But what is a politician to do? The will of the people sometimes isn’t for the objective best (Brexit) and sometimes it is (fox hunting, gun control). I think I have the answer, and it’s one you probably know already, you just don’t have many opportunities to think about it so you’ve never thought about it in a formal sort of way.
I think what we need are politicians who do what’s best for us. I know, that sounds so obvious as to be almost stupidly self-evident. But hear me out. Were I to choose an airline pilot, I would choose her or him with certain specific criteria in mind. Naturally the pilot must fly me comfortably and safely to my destination. They must obey the rules of good piloting. But the pilot doesn’t always do everything I want. For example, in the interest of safety she or he may elect to turn back. I may not want that, but that would be nonetheless in my best interest. They also may take a roundabout route that will get me to my destination much later in order to avoid an intervening storm system. Again, I might not like it, but the pilot is the expert in this.
What we have instead these days, keeping with the airline pilot metaphor, are pilots who don’t take us to our destinations at all. They take us close to where they live, because it’s convenient for them. They assure us that where they live is really the best place after all for everyone, even though it’s not. They give us inadequate bus fare to get us home, and they expect us to be grateful for that. And they become indignant when we are not.
Sometimes they fly dangerously, because it suits them to. They take chances with our lives and ignore safety laws because someone is paying them to get to their destinations quicker, even when that destination isn’t our destination. Sometimes it’s just because they are hungry and want to get home to dinner sooner. But it’s really all about them.
Once in a while, as is the case recently in America, a country will pick an airline pilot, keeping with that analogy, who doesn’t have any idea what an airplane is. We sit in the passenger compartment with our seat belts on waiting for the pilot to take off, while the pilot is in the cockpit trying to eat the plane. After a couple of years he finally realizes the plane isn’t food. So he tries to play golf with it. He makes frequent, baffling announcements over the intercom. Some passengers cheer. Most do not. And so on.
All of which is to say, what we really want are competent leaders, much the same way we want competent airline pilots. We want a smooth ride. We want to reach our destination safely. Our leader should be a man or a woman hired specifically for their special knowledge. They are an intellectual elite who can do something for us that we don’t have a clue about ourselves, and they do it very, very well. They do what they do always with our safety, our comfort and our very best interest as their number one objective.
There has been another mass gun killing. This time in West Texas. Our pilots, the ones currently in charge, and in keeping with the analogy, will invite us to look out the opposite window. We will see the ground and the airport, same as always. A minority of the passengers will be angry because we don’t find the view beautiful. But most of us will remain baffled, confused, frightened, and very much wishing we had a pilot who knew what the hell he was doing.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.