Who is we?

Posted quite a bit on this recently, when we hear debates on what is in “our” interests – a shared first person plural – in politics, whether UK in EU or Rest of the world in Syria, etc. All that really matters is who “we” are. I’ve called it the multiple overlapping constituencies problem, and a tendency to contrast any one of “us” that takes our fancy in a given context with “them”.

Last noticed it when the Syrian ambassador suggested redrawing of national boundaries would be needed to find long term solutions – unusual for the incumbent “nation” to raise that suggestion. Roger Scruton’s point here is that nations need to be more like families. And I agree. The additional point being that families also respect and trust each other as families of man (*). Having no national borders is a utopian myth, but the best practical borders are those that delineate families (ie tribes) that can – in Roger’s words – share a first person plural. Politically, economic, expedient, circumstantial borders that artificially confine or divide “families” will always exhibit problems. Families have problems of course, but they generally see them as “their” problems, not someone else’s.

And looking at what “binds” nations as families, is where “religion” (that which binds us) and trust-based-on-love come into it.

[Good on Mr Gove. The way I see it the eastern Mediterranean is “our” shores. They are we. We are experiencing an atrocity. In which we discover that Sarah Vine is Michael Gove’s wife – seen retweeted many times:

given the choice of humiliating David Cameron
or taking a stand against atrocity,
they chose the former. Nice.

This is why (counter-intuitively) numerical voting is the wrong approach in a democracy – people think it’s about us winning over them and forget about the topic – clearly advertised by Cameron (credit to him) as “judgement”. They’re meant to be representatives, not delegates. I heard one MP justifying his vote in terms of the count of emails he’d received on one side. Talk about passing the buck of moral responsibility.]

[(*) The “Family” model works, because you not only have familial love within, you also recognise and “identify with” another family with its internal relationships and problems. A different family, but another family none-the-less, just like us. They are no different to we.

And, taking the US approach, currently in seeing evidence of atrocity and risk of future atrocity to be acted against as being in “our” interest. Yes the justification / rationalisation panders to selfish interest, but the judgement is enlightened nevertheless. It could be (have been) us – identifying with them – an enlightened inclusive indirect self-interest. The indirection matters. Self interest beyond the immediate vote Mr Milliband.]

[And tangentially connected – here another relevant example of the folly of focusing on the arithmetic. Austerity? Let’s announce a cut. OK, now what? And talking of Milliband’s juvenile incompetence, when the numbers do matter – his party funding – he shoots himself in the foot with his previous knee-jerk to breaking the default connection between Labour and the Unions. Talk about missing the point of Labour, disregarding history.]

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