I’ve mentioned Tom Hodgkinson on here before. He’s the editor of The Idler, and has written books “How to Be Idle”, “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent”. I love the principles expressed in “How to be Free” (though not all the ideas in the book), and while I don’t agree with the term Idle I think The Idle Parent is a must-read and describes well how I was brought up and how I wish to bring up my own children.
I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring these two books, and the ideas contained in them further, in the hope that this will help me to explore further the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.
Chapter 12 – Forget Government – STOP VOTING
Tom suggests that we could actually do better without any government at all. That no matter the anarchy that might ensue, it can’t be much worse than what the government (career politicians) lead us to (war, terrorism etc). He says that “politics isn’t the art of running a country, it is the art of persuading the people that they need a set of paid politicians to run the country.”
He suggests that we should ignore the state and organise things locally in our own way. Not voting isn’t about apathy, it’s about opting out of “the system” so you can no longer blame the government for your problems. Then start being anarchic in your own back yard. Do as much as you can for yourself so that you are no longer reliant on government. It’s not about a revolution, it’s just about doing things for ourselves – ignoring the bigger world out there.
How does this match up to the "ink spots and grass stains life"?
I don’t think that this is entirely right. It’s all very well criticising those in power, but they are at least trying to help us to have a better country. I always think that if you don’t like something, then you should stop moaning about it and do something about it. We might wish to live in a society where we all look after one another, but that just doesn’t work – look at the time after the industrial revolution – most people were living in squalid housing, being paid a pittance and if you couldn’t work, then you couldn’t eat. It was a few philanthropists such as Rowntree who brought the plight of the poor to attention and started us thinking about doing something about it. The welfare state was brought in by … yes, by government. Universal education… yes, by government. These things might not be perfect, but for many, many people, they are considerably better than what went before.
Yes, voting is often meaningless and pointless, and until we have wholesale electoral reform it will continue to be so, with two parties dominating politics, with an unelected House of Lords and an unelected head of state. But rather than wringing our hands and saying that since our vote is worthless we shouldn’t bother, shouldn’t more of us be getting on and making that point, and forcing change so that we do live in a truly democratic state where our vote does matter and where we can really start to see things happening that we believe in to make a better country? If we don’t like the people running the country, shouldn’t a few more of us be putting ourselves and our ideas forward for election?
I like the idea of doing more for ourselves, of bartering, trading and swapping – but I don’t think that we can ignore the larger world that we are part of. There are still millions of children in the world dying of starvation, malnutrition and malaria – our government spends millions in aid to try to alleviate some of these problems. If we are all in our own back yards looking after our own interests - then who is looking out for these children?