Roger Scruton: Truth In Politics
By Roger Scruton
Human beings make rational choices, and choices are rational only if they seek out the truth. But the truth may be uncomfortable, so that we have a motive to avoid it. Or it may be unacceptable to those on whom we wish to impose our decisions, in which case we have a motive to conceal it. Perhaps the deep truth about our condition is so uncomfortable that we stand in need of some collective delusion that will make us governable – so Plato thought, and advocated the ‘Noble Lie’ as a means of crowd-control. The totalitarian systems of the 20th century took this seriously, and rewrote the human condition in terms of mythical ‘struggles’ between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, or the master race and the human vermin. In due course the totalitarian project advanced in the way foretold by George Orwell, inventing a language and a doctrine that would make the truth inexpressible, so that people would have to ‘live within the lie’, as Havel put it.
However, while human beings can be for a long time browbeaten into accepting lies and myths, the instinct for the truth lies deeper in their psyche than the willingness to be deceived, and will eventually erupt in protest. Two great lies have dominated British politics since the 1960s, and it has now become impossible to repeat them. The first lie – propagated by the Labour Party – is that mass immigration is a positive benefit, and that anyone who resists it is a racist, a fascist, a Little Englander or worse. The second lie – propagated by the old guard of the Tory Party – is that the European Union is a free-trade agreement whose economic benefits far outweigh any minor social costs. These lies have been maintained in being by intimidation of a kind that has rarely been seen in British politics. To speak out publicly against mass immigration, even to advocate, like Ray Honeyford, an active policy of assimilation and integration, was to be condemned as a racist, not only by the activists but by the hierarchy of the Labour Party. Your career was immediately at risk, and if you were a politician or a teacher you could no longer hope for promotion.