Thursday, May 24, 2018

Broken Britain: Brexit as a "Coup De Grace"?

The author has written before about how many of those in favour of "Hard Brexit" see it in more esoteric, transformative terms. Such thinking is inherently dangerous, and it is even more alarming that some in high office actually believe in this form of delusional grandiosity. The people who are in charge of the direction and strategy of the government's Brexit plan are literally off with the fairies. Having a "vision" is one thing; but these people seem to be having "visions" of Britain that make you question their rationalism. This is what is truly terrifying about where the country is heading: it seems to led by people who are in the grip of "mania".

There are those in government who see Brexit as an opportunity to transform the nation into a vision of an orgiastic, free market paradise. Then there are those who, more fatalistically, see Brexit as the inevitable culmination of Britain's intellectual and moral decline; this narrative, its advocates argue, has been going on since the end of the British Empire, brought on by the Second World War, with Britain's entry into the "European Project" simply a sign of the country's national demise. In this narrative, Brexit is the "death blow" to the long decline, leaving a clean slate to start afresh.
This second viewpoint, held in certain "Brexiteer"circles, is controversial as its thinking mirrors much of the fatalism that can be found in the "Alt-Right" and classic Fascist thought (such as by Julius Evola).

As is common with extremist thought, the grain of truth that is contained in their thinking is twisted out of shape into something monstrous. Is it true that there are things wrong with Britain? Of course. Has there been an intellectual and moral decline since decades ago? When you look at the evidence of how the government, economy and its infrastructure has been ran in recent years, it seems self-evident. The political class at the highest level seems morally-absent of responsibility for their own actions and towards the lives of others. This explains how things like Grenfell can happen, the child abuse scandal, food banks, rampant homelessness, the "hostile environment", the collapsing public sector, and so on. The managerial class that run the day-to-day affairs of the economy are only interested in making a quick buck, with no thought towards others or the long-term future. This explains the Carillion scandal, Zero-hours contracts, the country's appallingly-inefficient transport network, and so on.
Put in these terms, it's easy to see how some people can be hoodwinked by extremist thought. Britain seems to be a country in terminal decline, so the thinking goes, and Brexit as a "coup de grace" would be one method of achieving real change.

Except that there are plenty of other methods of effecting "real change" that don't involve leaving the EU.
Britain's terminal slow decline has been self-inflicted, by the actions of a short-sighted, self-serving elite. The political system has atrophied, with the sight of its MPs still doggedly at work in a parliament building unfit (and legally unsafe) for purpose epitomizing the problem. Apart from the 2015 election, the electoral system has delivered hung parliaments since the financial crisis, and looks set to do so for the foreseeable future. The outcome of this could only ever be deadlock in the political system, with nothing being decided, and nothing being done about Britain's worsening and lengthening list of problems. Theresa May and her government symbolize this perfectly.
If the referendum hadn't happened, or the vote had gone the other way, it's easy to see that Britain's problems would have remained unresolved and allowed to fester as they still are now. "Brexiteers" would still be a pressure group on the government, poisoning Britain's relations with the EU because it made good short-term political sense at home. The current high street malaise that is afflicting swathes of Britain's retail sector is not really a result of Brexit, but down to structural failings in the market. These would have happened regardless. Nobody in government has an answer to this innate weakness in the nation's economic model; all that is needed to knock down Britain's lethargic economy is a stiff breeze. "Brexit", however, is an oncoming hurricane.

In this sense, since the financial crisis, Britain has had a zombie economy and a zombie political system; alive, but not really living. The moral and intellectual decline mentioned earlier has come about through a system that creates a class of people who superficially have the skills to administer, but without the intellectual dexterity or moral centre to provide real leadership. Because the system we're talking about is "the establishment", being of the right background, supporting orthodoxy, displaying loyalty and defending the system from outsiders are the traits that accelerate advancement. This is a corrupt, insular culture incapable of seeing outside its own narrow interests. Anything that challenges its position, such as a different way of doing things, must be suppressed.
Returning to the British Empire, it could be argued that if "Brexit" is seen as the "coup de grace" of modern Britain, then the Second World War was the "coup de grace" of the British Empire. In a sense, the real spiritual end of the British Empire was marked by the First World War, with Britain and France the only imperial powers to have really made amoral colonial gains out of it. Those "gains" were mainly in the Middle East at the expense of the Ottomans, and proved to be fleeting; poisoned chalices that proved that imperial greed had superseded strategic sense. It quickly became clear they were not worth having, and by the time of the Second World War, it was clear to their American allies that those empires were morally bankrupt as well as financially broke.

The recurring vice here is short-termism. Opportunistic greed was what saw Britain and France extend their colonial reach into the Middle East, and was a sign that Britain's leaders lacked the ability to see beyond the end of their nose. The same short-termism has been true of Britain's leaders since then, with the occasional exception (fighting against the tide). Churchill's imperialism was emotional and irrational. Britain's empire died because it was run badly, with little long-term strategy. Britain's economy has been run the same way ever since, with it becoming increasingly inefficient and unproductive. Forty years ago, factories were closing and shedding jobs because there was no strategic direction from the top; there an inability to think dynamically. The answer that came along was "neoliberalism", and the restructuring of the economy away from manufacturing and towards services. As we see now, that was only a short-term fix, shown up to be a charade by the financial crisis. And the economy was only held up after the financial crisis by creating a "zombie" economy, that was kept alive but incapable of real growth.

This is what is meant by "Broken Britain": a country that is structurally knackered, held together by a political class that is intellectually incapable of dealing with real challenges. Worse, in Theresa May, the sclerotic political establishment is led by someone who is literally only interested in holding power for herself and the interests of her party. It is a morally bankrupt government, presiding over a country that is slowly falling to bits.
This inherent weakness in both the economy and the political structure of Britain - where short-term fixes are seen as the only answer - is also a symptom of a failed democracy. There is the appearance of democracy, but the government of Theresa May shows less and less inclination to pretend even that veneer is worth maintaining. Since the referendum, all pretense at effective parliamentary democracy has disappeared, its views ignored, with May creating new peers for the House Of Lords at a whim. Since the referendum, parliament has become redundant in the government's eyes. Who cares what it thinks any more? The government don't, as they are now fulfilling the "will of the people"; and the electorate have even less respect for parliamentarians now than they did even before the referendum.
The argument that, due to its cumulative institutional failings over the years, Britain as we understand it has reached the end of its natural life is a persuasive one in many ways. Britain never really adapted to a role after the empire, with its industrial base shrunk to the point of no return, and its natural wealth depleted. While there are parts of the country that will always be wealthy, thanks to government policy the levels of inequality have become so self-evidently enormous and skewed in one direction that they cannot be sustainable. When Britain has regions that have both some of the highest and lowest levels of wealth within the EU, something is seriously rotten with the way the country is ran. As said earlier, it is this persuasive narrative the extremists are taking advantage of, in pushing for a form of Brexit that will completely sweep away the old order. It explains how both main parties in parliament have been consumed by more extreme elements, so that the only real choices on offer to the electorate are between "Hard Brexit" and some kind of "Hard Socialism".So the story goes, the pendulum can only swing so far before it swings back the other way. It is this persuasive narrative that is so dangerous, as it can only lead to a dark path, where chaos is used as a tool by those with few moral qualms.

The answer is not a Brexit "coup de grace", but a political class that is able to think dynamically, by seeking answers to problems from outside its own narrow, incestuous confines. The answer lies not in a "neoliberal" dystopia outside the EU, but in seeking strategic answers from within the EU.
Alas, this seems just a pipedream: the tragedy is that far more people want to believe that the Brexit "coup de grace" is the only way to bring about real change; in reality, it is far more likely to bring about a change for something even worse.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The psychology of Theresa May: a microcosm of British neuroses?

The phrases and words used to describe Theresa May's psychology and vision are not ones that evoke confidence or optimism: dull-witted, closed-minded, controlling, parochial, and insular are just a few examples that have been used in the past - and some of these were when she was at the height of her powers, before the botched 2017 election.
Since then, other even less complimentary phrases and words have been used, with anecdotes to match. Before she was known for her Sphinx-like inscrutability (which she willingly allowed others to use to project onto her their own fantasy of a modern "Iron Lady"); this mask has now been revealed as hiding an absent intellect, whose deficiencies have been shown up in the unyielding spotlight of the highest office.

It is now clear that the progress of her political career has come about through being of the right background, in the right place at the right time, being able to use connections to rise unchallenged, then use the art of low politics and opportunism to become Britain's un-elected Prime Minister. The superficiality of the modern British political system allowed her to become its worst leader in modern times. At a time when it needed a political and intellectual giant to navigate the Brexit miasma, the system instead produced a woman who seemed to symbolize the middling banality of "Middle England". In this way, if Britain wanted a leader who distilled the neurotic psychology of the Brexit-voting Home Counties, she was it. When she was called "Madame Brexit" in Poland, the speaker unwittingly nailed the psychology of Britain's leader.

The key to this rise to power lies in her narrow world-view, being able to advance in the small circles of the establishment she was part of. This narrow, unchallenged world-view also explains why she appears such an incompetent and uncaring leader. She spectacularly flunked the 2017 election campaign, and the article in the link explains why: never having been challenged throughout her career, and actively resisting challenges at every turn, in the cold light of day, her personality and fragile self-esteem crumbled.
And yet, since that psychological defeat, she has been unwilling to change with reality; instead, she has doubled down. From her delusional version of reality in her address outside Downing Street justifying her alliance with the DUP, to her insistence on Britain taking the obdurate course of a "Hard Brexit", this is a woman incapable of reason. On other issues, like the "hostile environment", her implacability can no longer be seen as a sign of psychological strength, but of inner fragility. Somehow, it seems almost like a neurotic (possibly even "sociopathic") matter of duty: to fulfill a government target, regardless of the human cost. It seems the same is true of Brexit: her irrational focus on immigration (and thus leaving the single market) seems like an obsession to "respect" the "will of the people", regardless of the cost to Britain as a whole.
That being said, her focus on immigration - as being the personal epitome of "Middle England" - may also be seen as reflective of parochial prejudices typical to her peer group. In her role as Home Secretary, her personality seemed especially-suited to the role's unforgiving nature: as the midwife of the "hostile environment", and its application now to the logistics of Brexit. Being the only child of a vicar, raised in an environment where the "naughtiest" thing she had ever done was run through a wheat field (!), it tells us that she would instinctively have difficulty seeing things from another's perspective. Immigrants are naturally seen as a "problem" because they are untrustworthy outsiders; crime is naturally seen as the result of "bad people"; poverty is the result of bad choices; change is naturally seen as something to be avoided. These are prejudices that seem innate to her and many others who live in Brexit-voting "Middle England".

While Theresa May didn't actively support the Brexit campaign, in its aftermath she wholeheartedly embraced its meaning. Her first ten months or so as Prime Minister were when her inner personality was able to most easily manifest itself in government: this was the era of "Theresa May's Team".
With her two long-standing advisors - Nick "Rasputin" Timothy and Fiona Hill - she was able to run government from this small inner circle. Wary of outsiders, authoritarian and bullying in nature, it was not a pleasant experience for those who encountered it. In a wider sense, this can be seen as a microcosm of some of the worst aspects of human nature. May's intellectual limitations are hidden over this psychological mask; a false, imposing, persona, "Wizard Of Oz" style.
This "Wizard Of Oz" performance was shattered in the 2017 election campaign, and yet her overall public image is still in surprisingly robust shape. How is this possible?

One reason for this may well come back to her middling, banal personality mentioned at the start. Simply, because many people in "Middle England" can so easily identify with her mindset (and human frailties) in themselves, this somehow makes her - paradoxically - more "relatable". In other words, the fact that she is incompetent, prejudiced, bullying, dull-witted and insular means she is just like them!

Theresa May thus represents the (metaphorical) "everyman" that encapsulates many British neuroses. Her embrace of the Brexit side after the referendum has remained undimmed after the 2017 election. Her instinct seems to be to represent that half of the nation whose instincts are her own. She simply doesn't give the other half of the population a moment's thought; and her behaviour  - from her reaction to the Grenfell fire scandal, to the "Windrush" scandal, to the "hostile environment" - supports that analysis. Those who are from outside her narrow social subset she struggles to identify with. This kind of attitude is typical of those who  - for various reasons  - rarely interact with those very different from themselves. From a psychological point of view, it creates the "parallel lives" that seem to be becoming more and more common in modern Britain, thanks to a combination of inequality and government strategy.
This kind of divide in Britain is the one that Theresa May is presiding over, and entrenching through her government as well as her own application of power. Through her own innate resistance to change, everything that is wrong in Britain gets worse. Through her irrational, delusional pursuit of "Hard Brexit", Britain's path is to one of self-destruction. This is the neurotic mentality of a person who is willing to let the nation suffer than let her world-view be challenged.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Brexit and the parallels of WW1: a study in complacency

For all the many commemorations of the events of the First World War that have happened in recent years, what the media have spent little time looking at are the lessons learned from the events leading up the the outbreak of war, and how the war itself was conducted.
This blogger's own study of Kaiser Wilhelm (and his connection with Turkey's Enver Pasha) tells us how important the psychology of those in power can have such a great effect on outcomes; literally, making the difference between life and death, war and peace. The contemporary parallels with Donald Trump - and any potential comparisons with "Kaiser Bill" - are interesting in themselves, as they tell us how easy it is for dysfunctional personalities in positions of power to attract other like-minded misfits. Thus they create a dangerously-combustible administration, both for each other as well as everyone else.

Christopher Clark's "The Sleepwalkers" is one of the best studies of the run-up to the First World War, in terms of his analysis of the personalities and interpersonal interactions involved, as well as the wider context.
Related to this, "The Ottoman Endgame" (by Sean McMeekin, published in 2015) tells us the tale of the Ottoman Empire's last thirty or so years of life. British hostilities during the war are explained in excellent detail, and one passage of the book describes the misguided thinking behind the British government's decision to attack the Dardanelles straights and the Gallipoli peninsula. A hundred years on, in the current shambolic context of Brexit, it's hard not to be struck by the author's choice of words:

"The doctrinal conception of the Dardanelles campaign was still in flux when the naval bombardment began. At some level, there was an element of wishful, almost magical thinking involved. Churchill may or may not have really told Kitchener that the campaign would be won with the super-dreadnought (Queen Elizabeth) with her "astounding effectiveness" and "marvelous potentialities". But he did insist that the fleet could get through on its own. As for Kitchener, he changed his mind more often than anyone else. On the day of the bombardment, Kitchener insisted that an amphibious operation at Alexandretta (on the Mediterranean coast) was preferable"

The use of the McMeekin's phrase "magical thinking" cannot have been one purloined from the current Brexit mess, as this book was written long before the referendum campaign even started. But what this passage tells us is how complacency is the hallmark of all policy disasters. Not only that, but the strategic indecision that the British government were in over their campaign against the Ottomans a hundred years ago is mirrored by that of the current government over Brexit.
In this blogger's previous post, we looked some of at the Second World War myths that surround British identity, and marked out Churchill's elevation to that of historical icon as being particularly misguided. In effect, his role as Prime Minister during WW2 rehabilitated his discredited image from that known during WW1 and afterwards (as well as the morally-questionable actions taken when Prime Minister). But what everyone remembers today is that the man on the current Five Pound Note was a national hero.

The Sleepwalkers

This brings me to the personalities of the current government, and how they compare to the personalities in government a hundred years ago, sleepwalking as they are into a national crisis.
The fact that Boris Johnson has written a biography on Churchill, and the fact that he fancies himself as an articulate writer and orator in the same mould, tells us all we need to know. Interestingly, Boris' rise to the highest levels of government (The FCO) in his early fifties mirrors that of Churchill's at the same period in his life (when he was Chancellor in the Baldwin government in the 1920s). Boris seems to dominate political life in government in the same manner that Churchill did back in the 1920s, when, like Boris, he was an often exasperating figure.
Apart from the opportunistic Foreign Secretary, other prominent self-serving cads include the recently-elevated Gavin Williamson (now Defence Secretary). Meanwhile, there are Liam Fox and David Davis, whose attitude to Brexit and its intricacies is the complacent belief that somehow everything will work out fine, using solutions to problems that have never been tried before, and blithely expecting the EU to accept all this on trust. Sajid Javid, the new Home Secretary, seems to see Brexit through the same distorted free-market lens as Fox and Davis, where the potential opportunities that Brexit presents are given much greater weight than the far more real difficulties that leaving the single market brings to the economy. As with Gallipoli a hundred years ago, "magical thinking" is the norm.
It might be fair to summarize the rest of the personalities in government as being either a) clueless and complacent, or b) horrified but silent. The silence comes from the necessity to maintain the illusion of unity in government, by repeatedly delaying the required debate. And at the head of all this is Theresa May.

It is May, and her personality, that is perpetuating the absurdity of government inertia. Everything about her personality seems fatally unsuited for the deadly-serious task at hand: what has been called her "dull-witted rigidity" in refusing to reverse her decision to leave the single market and customs union; her reactionary instinct to close down debate; her small-minded parochialism that prevents her from seeing an outsiders' perspective; her naturally-conservative aversion to embrace a challenge or take a real risk.
All these factors come together to create a perpetual lethargy in government, where her administration is now a hostage to events. Instead, it somehow hopes that the EU itself will provide the answers to Britain's problems, from the unresolved (unsolvable?) Irish border, to a relationship with the EU that will be both outside the customs union but provides easy access to the single market. It is no wonder that Brussels is losing patience with such arrogance. Meanwhile, the arrogance is magnified as the British government treats the Irish position on the intractable border issue as though simply because Britain is bigger than Ireland, Britain must get its way. According to Britain, Ireland and the EU should help Britain to solve the problems it created for itself. Meanwhile, EU support for the Irish position is based on the simple fact that Ireland is in the EU and Britain isn't (or soon won't be), which is completely lost to the British government. They still see things through the lens of the Imperial power-plays of yesteryear, and yet wonder why outsiders don't trust them.

It is this arrogance that breeds complacency. The same kind of arrogance was found in the European capitals in 1914, when everyone expected that the war would be over by Christmas. Churchill's belief (arrogance?) that the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 would be an easy victory found fruit in the earlier victories that Britain had against the Ottomans in the first few months of the war (in Mesopotamia and Suez). Thus Britain created for itself the belief that Turkey was a pushover.
Britain's government today seems to have the same complacent belief about the EU. Because Britain usually got what it wanted from Brussels when it was in the EU, when it came to Brexit, the belief that "they need us more than we need them" infected the minds of the British government. It is clear that many of them still believe that, even after being repeatedly told by Brussels of the fundamental error of their thinking. Many of them still believe that, when push comes to shove, Brussels will cave in at the last moment. There is no rational basis for this assumption.

So what we are left to assume is that the current British government is dangerously deluded, almost as dangerously deluded as many European governments were in 1914. The difference now is that the only ones that will really suffer from the British government's "delusions of grandeur" will be the British people themselves.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

British psychology, WW2 nostalgia, and Brexit

This blogger recently was reminded of how commonplace events like "WW2 nostalgia" days are in Britain. This got me thinking about how this kind of thing compares with other countries that took part in WW2, and what motivation and psychology is behind these kinds of events in Britain.

"Remembering the past" is important for any country; but equally important, is why and how you're remembering it.

When France remembers its time during WW2, it might not be with a great deal of pride. Of course there are the actions of the "Free French" forces that should never be forgotten, and the unquestioned bravery of the French Resistance during the years of occupation. But for the civilian population itself, much of its memory would be tied up with being under the thumb of Nazi rule, or, in the case of the "Vichy" government, the moral stain of that administration's collaboration. In this sense, WW2 was a national humiliation that was only ended through the actions of their allied American and British "liberators". That memory stuck in the craw for a long time in post-war France.

Conversely, there is the experience of the USA during WW2. Fighting a war on two fronts (like the British Empire), against Japan and Nazi Germany, American involvement nonetheless was, with the significant exception of Pearl Harbor, a typically distant affair. Characterized by the wartime song "Over there", the continental USA was largely unaffected by the war on a day-to-day level. The USA paid dearly in military terms, but the country itself was barely touched by the war.
For this reason, the nostalgia that the USA might have for WW2 may be "justified" from a strict psychological standpoint, as it does not create an overly-misleading perception of that point in the country's history. From a prestige point of view, the Second War was glorious for the USA, as it was one of the leading victors, and it heralded the beginning of the country's role as a superpower. In this sense, the nostalgia makes a great deal of sense, as they are celebrating the birth of modern idea of the USA.

Then there is the experience of the Soviet Union. Its "nostalgia" for WW2 comes through the context of what they called the Great Patriotic War. Like the USA, their war against Germany starts in 1941, albeit six months earlier than Washington. But the price the Soviet Union paid was enormous, both in manpower, resources and land. Much of European Russia was occupied by the Nazis for at least two years, while its cities, and Leningrad and Stalingrad in particular, suffered appalling civilian casualties, on a scale not seen in Western Europe. While the country did receive allied aid from the Arctic convoys, the country essentially had to fight for itself, and it was only through sheer determination, resourcefulness and strategic errors on the Nazis' side, that allowed them to turn the tide. The Soviet Union paid by far the highest price on the allied side, and its "nostalgia" is about remembering the heroic fight against an existential threat, which they then drove back all the way to Hitler's Chancellery in Berlin.
This blogger makes no comment on the nature of the Soviet Union itself, or its conduct after the war; more on that has been said here.

Britain's role in WW2 and its nostalgia come from a somewhat different angle. On the one hand, the nostalgia for celebrating its heroes is genuine and universal. On the other, there is another side to the nostalgia that seems to function as a psychological crutch to support the nation's post-war insecurity. The fact that the post-war situation also saw Britain lose its empire may not be a coincidence.

"British Empire" nostalgia?

It could be argued that in Britain, WW2 nostalgia is for many, in fact, "British Empire" nostalgia.

The manner of Britain's WW2 nostalgia has sometimes seemed vaguely troubling from a psychological point of view, as it is based on historical revisionism. Unlike as is often assumed, Britain did not "win the war"; it was on the winning side as allies of the Soviet Union and the USA. As mentioned earlier, the largest cost in manpower and resources was taken by the Soviet Union, with American resources and manpower proving pivotal to the invasion of France. The Soviet Union and the USA "won" the war; the British Empire, by the end, was unfortunately a worn-out and bankrupt also-ran on the same side (and soon to be shafted by both after the war's end - or even, arguably, during its closing stages). These are facts that have also been conveniently "forgotten".

It is true that Britain was the first of those "allies" to declare war on Germany in 1939, but it quickly found out that it had bitten off more than it could chew. And it was more than pure luck that allowed Britain's armed forces to escape from being captured in 1940. The evidence actually points to the uncomfortable truth that the success of the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940 was in large part down to Hitler's desire to reach a peaceful understanding with Britain, as he didn't wish to "humiliate" Britain, with whom he had a lot of personal respect. In fact, his perception of the grit of British forces was so high that he was shocked that they decided to flee from the continent rather than fight. The delay at Durkirk (the "halt order") that allowed British forces may not have been to "allow" them to flee with their honour intact, but more through a misunderstanding of Britain's intentions; it seems he was expecting the Brits to dig in for a fightback from the beach-head of Dunkirk. In this way, more generally he saw the British Empire's existence as a bulwark against what he saw as other "barbarian" races. Defeating the British Empire's military capacity around the globe would have run against this motivation. The uncomfortable truth was that Hitler saw Britain and Germany as kin, with Britain's declaration of war against it judged as a kind of personal affront.
The idea that Hitler would have considered himself and the British Empire to have some kind of "common cause" would have been morally outrageous to Britain's sense of ethical superiority. Hitler's "unrequited love" of the country sits awkwardly with the self-perception that Britain has of its own moral certitude - how could an empire feel good about itself if it was secretly admired by the Nazis?  The answer, from a psychological point of view, was to destroy any hope Hitler had in thinking Britain would tolerate the existence of Germany under his rule. In this sense, Hitler's war on Britain could be seen as "revenge" for that rejection, with his visceral hatred of Churchill taking on the mantle of a personal vendetta.
Churchill's long animosity towards Hitler and Nazism in general could, it might be argued, have come from even an implicit sense of old English elitist snobbishness; as a member of the Victorian aristocracy, this isn't difficult to imagine. Apart from Nazism's raw hatred of the Jews, it's not hard to see Churchill viewing Hitler as a little more than a "jumped-up corporal", and Fascism in general as an uncouth, mob-culture ideology, anathema to his own sense of "British Empire" values.
And yet, Churchill himself had a career peppered with controversy. His views on the empire were shamelessly racist; more than many of his contemporaries, to the extent that some of his proposals to maintain discipline in the colonies would have been termed war crimes today had they been carried out as he intended.
It was the decision to bomb German cities and civilians during the summer of 1940 by the RAF that caused Hitler to end the "Battle Of Britain" and retaliate with the "Blitz". In these terms, Churchill's decision to bomb German civilians led to Hitler doing the same to Britons, while sparing Britain's air force from destruction. With the distance of time, such decisions now look morally dubious, with common Londoners becoming the targets instead of Britain's pilots (though whether Churchill could have predicted this is debatable). It then became a battle to destroy each other's homeland, and a metaphor for the destruction of each other's values. Churchill later sanctioned the senseless bombing of Dresden in the final weeks of the war, while in 1943 was complicit in causing the Bengal Famine, which led to the death of two million Indians. And yet this is a man that is idolized in British culture. This is the dangerous "false narrative" that uncritical nostalgia can create.
The wider point about Hitler was that - like Kaiser Wilhelm a generation earlier - fundamentally misunderstood Britain and its sense of prestige. Britain could not psychologically tolerate the thought of another nation challenging its own moral world view, and so had to be made out to be an existential threat to Britain's status. Hitler certainly justified the label as the "monster" of popular imagination, but the scale of that monstrosity was unknown in Britain until the end of the war; war against this "monster" was instead considered a kind of moral requirement for Britain's own self-respect, as well as to maintain its reputation and high standing around the world. The fact that some of the colonies began to rebel after the war was "won" supports this viewpoint.

While Britain had "bitten off more than it could chew" in declaring war on Germany, the threat of actual invasion by Hitler was always a very remote prospect; for practical reasons as well as the "ideological" reasons already stated. It suited Hitler more for Britain to believe there to be a threat of invasion, as this would cause it to divert attention from his real aims ("Lebensraum") in the East. He wanted to bring Britain to the peace table by means of gradual deprivation and collateral attrition rather than by wiping out its armed forces, but was fundamentally mistaken in its effects on British psychology. The strategy could never have worked.
And so Britain during WW2 developed into the wartime saga we all recognize: the bombing, the rationing, the "making do". Britain was reliant on the USA for its survival after 1940, but its moral certitude was still intact. And Britain's WW2 nostalgia is more for a moral world-view than anything else: the idea that Britain, besieged from sea and air, was still able to maintain its independence and moral authority. The fact that it was reliant on the USA to preserve its "independence", and its "moral authority" was once admired by Hitler, is quietly forgotten. The nostalgia preserves the illusion.

Using a cultural reference, "Dad's Army" syndrome and Britain's WW2 nostalgia is all about "winning against the odds" while sticking to your principles. In that sense, from an ideological point of view it shares some ground with Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism; the idea that Britain is achieving things without the help of others (self-reliance) while also refusing to compromise (moral purity). These are values also common in the Protestant faith on both sides of the Atlantic. These are values also found, not coincidentally, in the minds of many Brexiteers.
Nothing is ever that simple, of course, and as already stated, this is factually inaccurate in Britain's case anyway. Britain's homeland was effectively an American protectorate after 1940 until the end of the war (and even, arguably, well into the Cold War), while its moral standing must always be put in the context of its imperial status.

WW2 nostalgia also coincides with the point at which the British Empire's reach was arguably at its height. While its influence was waning in the light of the rise of the USA, that country's isolationism left the British Empire as the world's great global potentate at the start of WW2. In this sense, Britain's status as an island meant the British Empire was an "empire of the sea", with its power projected through the Royal Navy. Its land forces were always fairly modest in size by comparison, especially in places like India, where its authority was held more through reputation and skulduggery than brute force. The nature of the empire's scope always meant that keeping it together was a matter of wits over brawn, with the fabled British education system playing a large role. This was one reason why Britain's rivals never considered her to be a power to be trusted; she always seemed to have a trick up her sleeve, as often proved to be the case. You don't get to be a global empire by always "doing things by the book".
Comparisons with the medieval maritime empire of the Venetian Republic come to mind. This was another potentate reliant on sea power, commerce and occasional dirty tricks to maintain and expand its influence, until its possessions sprawled across large tracts of the Mediterranean. Like the British Empire, its reputation preceded itself; from small beginnings, its authority gradually extended further and further afield, quickly taking advantage of opportunities that arose, while allowing a commercial system at home that encouraged adventurism.
When Brexiteers talk of the opportunities in the world outside of the EU they are instilling that same spirit of adventurism that saw Venice expand across the Mediterranean, reaching its zenith around the turn of the 16th century. This was the same time that Spain and Portugal were using seafaring as a route to riches around the world, with the likes of England and France to follow a hundred years later.
While Britain's military role in the Second World War soon became that of "sidekick" to American power, it did use its military intelligence to great effect for the allies. It is this perception of British intelligence overcoming foreign might that feeds into the historical narrative of "plucky" Britain; a narrative that adds to the nostalgia, and feeds the desire to reprise the same story in the modern era of Brexit.
As WW2 was when Britain's empire displayed its last flourish, WW2 nostalgia can also be seen as implicit nostalgia for the British Empire. With modern niceties, such things can never be stated so openly, and it is also true that many people's nostalgia for empire is also something subconscious rather than overt. But that longing for the past, when Britain was truly "great", cannot be understood without its imperial associations. And this raises some very obvious questions about the real psychology at work in WW2 nostalgia, apart from the ideas of independence and moral certitude mentioned before. It speaks of insecurity instead.

Meanwhile, with Brexiteers seeming to use the same "dirty tricks" that were once so familiar to the British Empire's rivals, the dye seems to be cast as to the direction they want to take Britain. Brexit is about "Empire 2.0", while the country's apparent WW2 nostalgia is a rose-tinted backdrop that acts as the "drug of choice" against the future stark reality of Britain outside the EU, as much as the wistful delusions that many have had about wartime Britain.
The WW2 nostalgia serves a purpose for the Brexiteers. If people can be so willfully delusional about what life was like during the Second World War, then why not about life outside the EU?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Britain's economy and government since the financial crisis: a problem of short-termism

There is ever more evidence that Britain is a country running on "borrowed time".

Economic short-termism 

Since the financial crisis, the country has never really recovered. All the figures show an economy that has levels of productivity so bad that they haven't been seen since the 18th century, before the country's industrialisation.
The pretense of a functioning "economy" exists, but it could be argued that all changes to the economy since the financial crisis have simply given the illusion of one. The economy that exists now is one of low productivity, low investment, low skills, low wages, and low security. Put in these terms, it makes one wonder how there's any real growth at all. There is a psychology of systematic short-termism, where many companies' only aim is to make ends meet until the next quarter. There is no thought given to longer-term planning; strategic thinking has gone out of the window.
This psychology has led, on one hand, to bringing down costs in any way possible: from companies like Carillion, who ran their affairs like a huge Ponzi Scheme, to the "casualisation" of the labour market, with the proliferation of zero hours contracts and deliberate underemployment. Meanwhile, the massive use of outsourcing is another way to cut costs, which is endemic in the public and private spheres. In this way, the illusion is created of the economy becoming more "flexible", as Larry Elliott mentioned in the linked article above, where it in fact simply becomes more nakedly exploitative. So the implication is that, since the financial crisis, the only way Britain's economy can stay on its feet is to regress back to 19th-century work practices. Except that the economy is doing so badly on some measures, that it's actually regressed to the 18th century.

And in spite of all these "flexible" measures introduced, services and construction, which make up to 80% of the overall economy, are floundering. With the retail sector going through what experts call a "transition", the effect on the ground is that those companies that are slow to adapt to the rise of internet shopping are simply losing customers at a punishing rate. Again, this is simply a symptom of a lack of strategic planning; something which seems depressingly common.
The irony here is that this has been predicted for years. With the collapse of manufacturing thirty years ago, retail and services have been taking up the slack. Except that now, thirty years on, retail itself seems to going through a similarly-testing period as was once experienced by manufacturing. Having an economy with such a large trade deficit thanks to the chronic lack of exports, Britain's is a consumption-led economy. Governments of the last thirty years have thought that "services are the future" for a country like Britain, which would fill the hole in the labour market left by the collapse of manufacturing.
After thirty years of "borrowed time", technology is beginning to test that theory on the high street, with very visible effects. In short, technology for many companies has been shown to reduce costs, with a need for fewer workers. Likewise, the rise in internet shopping has reduced the need for consumers to physically go to the shops on the high street. This "double whammy" has seen the proliferation of things like "self-service" checkouts and the gradual automisation of warehouse working, and also the closure of more and more high street shops and franchises as the footfall is simply drying up. While governments of the past thought that "services are the future", the "future" has since caught up with the economy. That "borrowed time" in which the economy was able to thrive on services alone, seems to be at an end.

These technological changes have been inevitable, but Britain's economy is poorly set-up to deal with them. For all the reasons mentioned earlier about how its labour market has "restructured" since the financial crisis, Britain's captains of industry have been too short-term in their thinking to consider the effect that these technological changes would have on the insecure and exploited workforce they have created.
As this underpaid and insecure workforce simply has much less money to spend, a "vicious circle" has been set up thanks to institutional short-termism. Workers with less money will consume less; if consumption declines, so do the fortunes of the companies that employ them. Everyone loses out, with the inevitable result being less money in the economy. This is the ultimate price of short-term thinking. It is an economic model that cannot work in the long-term.

Political short-termism

At another level, all the signs are that Britain has a political culture that is intellectually incapable of leading. Sharing all the same signs of malaise and short-termism as industry, the government is literally doing nothing about most of the country's problems, which are simply getting worse through government indolence. All that happens is that difficult decisions are kicked down the road, while the country's infrastructure, institutions and social bonds slowly fall apart.
Short-termism was the ultimate cause of the government's "austerity" agenda. It was politically expedient in 2010 for the government to claim that cutting the deficit was a necessary action, with spending needing to be cut across the board. However, all the economic figures since then have shown how austerity simply makes everyone poorer, including the government.
A government that spends less on government services that are there to improve public conditions is not saving money in the long-term. Companies with strategic thinking understand the importance of investment; government is the same. Governments that cut back on investment in their own population when the economy is doing badly are not helping the economy; they are making it worse. Reducing spending on mental health reduces people's mental health. Reducing spending on those with disabilities reduces how much money those with disabilities have etc. etc.

If the government continually reduces how much money it feeds into the public sector, the ultimate result will be lower tax returns for the government. It is a self-defeating measure. The same has been true of the wider economy, where fewer well-paid jobs in the economy since the financial crisis have simply led to smaller tax returns to the government. The reason why the former Labour government got into such a huge deficit during the financial crisis was largely due to the fact the the economy's collapse resulted into catastrophic collapse in the government's tax receipts from the overall economy. Unemployed workers don't contribute to the tax system. People with less money spend less.

On a different level, while the "transition" the economy seems to be going through could act as a painful "reckoning" on corporate short-termism, Brexit could well act as a "reckoning" on the government's own pathological short-termism.
A referendum on the fate of the entire country was chosen for the short-term political gain with the government's own party. Since then, Theresa May's government has conducted the Brexit process with the sole aim of keeping the governing party together, regardless of its potentially-disastrous effect on the country in the long-term. It has made itself look both ridiculous and obstinate in the face of reality. The government seems not to care about this, as long as it is the EU who can be blamed for any problems later on.

Brexit may well be the ultimate "reckoning" for Britain's broken economy and government. As economic short-termism can only work for so long before time catches up with it, the same is true for the government and Brexit. For the government, time is running out, as the EU keeps reminding it.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The "Windrush" scandal, racism and British identity: the real meaning of the "hostile environment"

Is it possible for someone to live in a "Fascist" state without realizing it?

It all comes down to a matter of perspective. Some talk of how societies in the same country can live "parallel lives", completely ignorant of the other's way of existence. In this way, those who have a law-abiding life free of everyday concerns can be blithely unaware of how the government creates hardships and denies basic rights to others in society who are equally law-abiding, but are for some subjective reason, targets for persecution.
In the most infamous "Fascist" state, Nazi Germany, the hate and withdrawal of human rights that the government held for some sections of society such as the Jews was overt. Partly, this was due to the extreme ideological conditions that were created out of the Great Depression; in such circumstances, people were susceptible to the easy blaming of scapegoats in society. In the case of Fascist Italy, the Nazis' ideological predecessor, the "hate" was somewhat more nuanced, and the withdrawal of rights from some in society was more gradual.
In both cases, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany were regimes that had come about through "revolution", albeit via the ballot box. Thus, their extremist ideology was a known quantity, and an overt part of their motivation. In this way, the population knew what the regime was going to do to "undesirable" segments of society, and knowingly supported it. In a similar manner, Apartheid South Africa dealt with its black population by considering them effectively as (to use the Nazi term) "Untermensch", whose legal rights were automatically less than the whites. The separatist regime in white-ruled Rhodesia had a similar mentality, even if it went about it in a more nuanced manner.

The treatment of the "Windrush" generation in Britain is not on the same level as these earlier examples, and may not be overtly racist, but their treatment is discriminatory and an abuse of their rights nonetheless. There is no government rule stating that people of a certain ethnicity and circumstance will have their rights withdrawn, but rights have been withdrawn nonetheless. It might not be government design that has led to certain segments of society having their rights withdrawn; but some segments of society have had their rights withdrawn nonetheless. These are not people who have broken any law; they are people who are seemingly random victims of government "persecution".
The law, however, is never random; it is only the seemingly random nature of the "persecution" that makes it appear that way. When a government decides to implement a law that reduces the rights of segments of society, for whatever reason, its motivation is overt. When a government makes a rule that disproportionately reduces the rights of one segment of society, how is this not persecution?
The British government's "hostile environment", while overtly introduced to reduce illegal immigration, has also reduced the rights in an similar manner to those of the "Windrush" generation. Apart from that, many law-abiding foreigners now live "parallel lives" to those Brits unaffected by, and seemingly ignorant to, the reality of the "hostile environment". This is the new reality that has meant rights that were previously protected are now uncertain, where the authorities are more likely to trust the word of a crooked (or paranoid) native than that of a victimized foreigner. Equally, punitive visa rules now mean that those Britons who have non-EU spouses are exiled from their own country unless they have well-paid jobs.

The application of the government's malice appears random, but in fact targets the poor, the disabled, the non-white and the foreign. There is a reason why wealthy, educated "Aryan"-looking individuals are far less likely to be victims of the authorities' wrath, and why poor, illiterate "foreign-looking" people are disproportionately more likely to be victims. It is not "institutional racism" by law; it is the government allowing personal prejudice to determine how segments of society are dealt with. In such circumstances, government officials, public sector workers and others are left to subjectively determine if someone is "worth the risk" of being given the benefit of the doubt. With the "hostile environment" meaning people no longer have the "benefit of the doubt", prejudice and not wanting to take the risk means the law-abiding are losing their rights. This conduct is typical of that seen in authoritarian states, where rule of law is seemingly arbitrary, and human rights unequal.
This is certainly the case with how the "Windrush" generation have been dealt with by the British government, whose rights have been taken away arbitrarily, without the government even openly aware of it. They have literally become a "forgotten" part of society; in a Kafkaesque way, erased from government records. While the Nazis persecuted the Jews by design, the "Windrush" generation have been "persecuted" by ignorant neglect.

This ignorant neglect extends to all of the various segments of society mentioned before: the poor, disabled, foreign and non-White. It is a telling observation that many of those outside of Britain, in a stereotypical manner, see the country almost as a whites-only country. To outsiders' eyes, Britain becomes almost as "Aryan" as Germany was to the Nazi stereotype. This kind of lazy prejudice seems to now have infected the mindset of even those who live and were born here: British identity has become white identity. Anyone who is British and non-white becomes, by extension, not "really" British. Anyone who is British but has foreign connections or foreign interests is, by extension, not "really" British.
This mentality is what lies at the heart of Theresa May's insular, parochial and mean-spirited vision of Britain. This is what lies behind her criticism of citizens of the world being "citizens of nowhere". This explains her enthusiasm for creating a "hostile environment". While it is never overtly stated that the Britain she wants to restore is the one from her childhood, it is implied through all the rhetoric that her government uses. The point is that she doesn't need to state it overtly for it to be understood implicitly. It is an implicit hostility to the poor, disabled, non-white and the foreign. The "hostile environment" is a glimpse into the twisted, inner psyche of Theresa May.

It is this "implicit" culture of hostility that is what everyone in society has subconsciously registered. The culture of hostility that existed in the far-right regimes mentioned at the beginning was was overt and sanctioned in law. The "hostile environment" is not in the statute books written as such, because that would be too insensitive for today's times. Instead it is put in terms that make it seem simply a rigorous application of existing rules.
This is how the vast majority of society would be unaware even of its existence. As how those affected by its insidious effects can appear random and thus not actively "discriminated against", it is easy for those outside its grasp to think that nothing was wrong whatsoever.
This is why the question at the very start was asked. If nothing was wrong with how things appeared, how would the average person be aware of the reality?

This is where the media has a role. It is the media's role to report the news and issues of the day. But if those in charge of the media have an agenda of their own, how can the average person know the difference between "agenda" and a more objective truth?
The "hostile environment", it should be remembered, was largely a media invention that was then pursued by Theresa May and her government for selfish, political interests. She did not do it because she truly, deeply felt that foreign immigration was a threat to British security. She did it gain favour with influential media moguls and advance her own career.

One wonders when she was talking years ago about the "Nasty Party", that she wasn't really talking in some way of her own inner demons. Those petty, reactionary tendencies she once decried are the same ones that now guide her. But one suspects they always were, and that once she had a taste of power in the halls of government, it was impossible to restrain them. May's relationship with the hate-filled right-wing media and her elevation to the queen of the "Nasty Party" brings to mind the story of the protagonist in Klaus Mann's novel, "Mephisto".
In leading the Home Office in the way she did, and introducing the "hostile environment", she has sunk Britain into a kind of moral pit, with everything else about the administration she now leads falling into the same misanthropic mentality.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Psychopathy in politics: callous indifference versus deliberate harm (1)

It could be argued that there are two kinds of psychopathy, and two different manifestations of the behaviour.

First, there is what may be termed the psychopathy of "callous indifference". This is psychopath that has an aim, and will achieve that aim regardless of the cost to others. The aim is the only thing that matters, and those that get in the way only have themselves to blame if they get hurt. At the extreme level, there are historical figures like Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union with complete callous indifference to the fate of its population. He had a plan for the country, and no-one would be allowed to get in his way; if that meant millions of Ukrainians dying of starvation, or millions of others being killed and imprisoned by the government during the "terror", so be it. This even extended to his own family.
At the more mundane level, there are criminal gangs and the mafia, who get rid of people who are a "nuisance". Similarly, there are "white collar criminals" who will break the law and ignore regulations in order to make a profit. These are all manifestations of "callous indifference".
When it comes to government, there are governments ruled by those who have an aim, and are prepared to carry out that aim regardless of the cost to any innocent individuals caught up the government's scheme. It takes a large amount of callous indifference from government when they are shown real-life innocent individuals whose lives have been wrecked by government decisions, to still continue with the same aim regardless.

Second, there is the psychopath that perpetuates deliberate harm. This is the psychopath who (to use the British legal phrase), with malice aforethought, deliberately decides to do harm to others. His aim of deliberate harm is to "punish". An obvious historical example of this is Adolf Hitler, whose hatred of the Jews led to his conscious decision to try and wipe them out.

The focus of this article is on the first type: callous indifference, and how this is manifested in everyday politics.
Below, we'll look at some examples of government policy in contemporary Britain that could be construed as actions of "psychopathic" callous indifference.

Britain's "austerity" government" - a modern "case study" in callous indifference

The British government's policy of "austerity", enacted since 2010, has been its guiding principle. The idea, on the face of it, was to bring Britain's finances back into an even keel after suffering during the financial crisis. Explained in straightforward terms of "balancing the books", this garnered a lot of public support, at least initially. But this simplistic explanation masked the hidden truth.

The austerity agenda has pervaded all aspects of government, from local government services to the police and armed forces, the welfare system and public services. With local government budgets cut by up to fifty percent in some cases, this has had a predictable and devastating effect on social care provision, with this having a cascade effect on mental health services, the elderly and so on. The surge in the number of homeless people is inevitably tied up with the fact that those in need of help from the state are simply being left to fend for themselves due to the lack of resources now provided by the state, with the predictable result that some have become the homeless "refugees" of the government's austerity agenda.
The "reforms" to the welfare system, enacted mainly under the watch of Iain Duncan Smith, have had a similar effect. From the introduction of Universal Credit, to the earlier changes to how disability was assessed, has meant that every reason humanly possible is being provided to withdraw funds from those in need. With a regime introduced that assumes that those asking for welfare are "fakers", coupled with one that creates an internal working environment where those working under the system not meeting targets under risk of losing their jobs, there is a culture of fear, both on those in need and those assessing that need. Those working for the state apply the rules rigidly for fear of official retribution; those who suffer the consequences of these rules can fear for their very future.
This culture of fear is deliberate. The fear created is systemically no different from that which has existed in authoritarian regimes; the only difference is the extremity of application. It is a fear borne of insecurity, that nothing and no-one is to be relied upon, and one small change can bring personal disaster. It has the double effect of dissuading some from even attempting to gain welfare that they are entitled to, while those who are on welfare live in constant fear of some small accidental event (like missing an appointment because of an unreliable transport network) resulting in a "sanction". The ultimate result of this can be being cut off from state support completely, regardless of the consequences.
While the government's aim of the austerity agenda may not be to punish sections of society deliberately, the "hidden truth" referred to earlier is that the idea is to deliberately reduce the size of the state. It takes a large amount of callous indifference to ignore the fact that this would have a seriously detrimental, even dangerous, effect on some segments of society. But the government doesn't care, because its aim is reducing the size of the state, regardless of its effect on society.

Theresa May's "hostile environment"

It takes a certain kind of willful ignorance of the lives of others to think that creating an immigration system designed with an inbuilt assumption of "guilty before innocent" is going to only punish the guilty. Whereas in the past, Home Office officials were allowed a fair degree of leniency about how stringently they enforced the rules, under Theresa May's watch as Home Secretary, this turned into the "hostile environment". This meant officials were to follow the rules to a tee, for fear of bring reprimanded or sacked. Those applicants who, for whatever reason, failed to provide the correct documentation, were to be denied. There should be no exceptions.
One early example of this was when the rules were changed around five or six years ago, so that only those British subjects who earn a high enough salary in Britain are allowed the right to live with their non-EU spouses and children in the UK. These rules are among the most punitive in the world, certainly in the developed world. This is a rule of such basic inhumanity that it has created "skype families", or has simply meant that there are a segment of British subjects with families that are forced into exile from Britain; due to government policy, some British families are unable to live in Britain.

Now the recently-highlighted status of the "Windrush generation" has shown the cross-over of the "hostile environment" and the "austerity" agenda. In the case of those who arrived to the UK from the Caribbean fifty years ago (around half a million, by some estimates), the only documentary evidence of their arrival was on their landing cards from decades earlier. But thanks to the Home Office's necessary "downsizing" in the first months of May's tenure, these documents were all thrown away for want of space in their new location.
Now these people can no longer prove when they entered the UK legally, as the documents were discarded by the very department that later on would need them to prove these people's rights. In this sense, the government has made them "non-persons", whose rights have been literally thrown in the trash.
You could call this sheer incompetence on a mammoth scale, but that would ignore the deliberate necessity for those in charge to assume that the people affected by this would all have other means to prove how long they had lived in the UK. But, in the absence of any national ID card system, the government itself only recognizes a small number of historical documents in such cases, as those in charge ought to know. This was why those landing cards, as anachronistic as they are, were so important (as well an indictment of the government's lack of proper systems). Because the government's own method of recording historical data is so haphazard and chaotic, without a British passport or UK birth certificate to properly declare your nationality, it's often difficult to prove your own identity over a period of decades. In this way, the onus is put on the individual to somehow have to hand a huge sheaf of documentary records proving his rights over decades, as the government itself simply has no organised historical system of records worthy of the name. This is nuts, but this is "the system". As said before, government officials would know this.
The fact that officials discarded those people's documents without question can only be seen as an act of callous indifference, that leaves the rights of those people affected up in the air. In effect, they have no rights, at least compared other British citizens, as they do not have the documents to prove it; the government threw them away. And being up against a Home Office that is no longer allowed to show leniency in special cases, how can they prove what rights they are entitled to?
Government assurances that these people will be treated fairly are facile and worthless, as the only way to ensure these people's rights would be to change the law on the government's "hostile environment", which is politically unthinkable. And this still does not magically bring back documents the government have destroyed.
The government has shown time and again it can never be trusted to "do the right thing", as the default setting of the system now in place under Theresa May is one of callous indifference that has aims and targets to be reached, regardless of the cost to those innocents caught in its trap, whose rights are removed arbitrarily. Just be thankful if you're not one of them, I suppose?

The callous indifference of the "hostile environment" also turns landlords, employers, hospitals and schools into virtual immigration enforcement officers in their own right, as they are now legally obliged  - under fear of government sanction - to check the status of who come under their orbit. The "hostile environment" has created a society of spies. What this means in practice is that those people even suspected of being illegal immigrants can be caught in this web of paranoia and prejudice. This is one way how those of the "Windrush generation" discovered their rights had been removed; by, for instance an employer or hospital checking their records and discovering (thanks to government actions) they're "not on the system".
The "hostile environment" has thus allowed basic racism and prejudice to re-emerge, where Britain is heading back to the hateful culture of "No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs". While the government might blithely state that only the guilty have something to fear, the realities of this involve wary landlords denying tenancy to people that "seem foreign", while more unscrupulous landlords house foreigners in unsafe (and illegal) tenancies, with the tenants too afraid to report them. The same is true for the public sector, where staff are now meant to check the status of anyone they suspect i.e. who "seems foreign". While Theresa May's idea was to create a "hostile environment" that made it almost impossible for illegal immigrants to live in the UK, the reality is that this now applies in much the same way to many foreigners in general, and even some Brits as well.

The British government's "austerity" agenda, coupled with its "hostile environment", are thus two examples of callous indifference that can be seen in politics. This is what happens when the mentality of the psychopath enters government: an unflinching bureaucracy of fear.