It's official, and you heard it here first. An alien being has arrived on Earth.
It's calling itself George Monbiot, and by all accounts it's not having an easy time. Travelling in Indonesia, Brazil and East Africa, it was shot at, beaten up by military police, shipwrecked and stung into a poisoned coma by hornets. It came back to Britain after being pronounced clinically dead in Kenya, having contracted cerebral malaria. In Britain, it joined the roads protest movement. It was hospitalised by security guards, who drove a metal spike through its foot, smashing the middle bone.
Pretty convincing disguise, huh?
It's managed to land itself a job writing drivel for the Guardian, which is where The GOS came across this little gem:
"The car is turning us into a nation of road-raged libertarians, says environmentalist and Guardian columnist George Monbiot.
I believe that while there are many reasons for the growth of individualism in the UK, the extreme libertarianism now beginning to take hold here begins on the road. When you drive, society becomes an obstacle. Pedestrians, bicycles, traffic calming, speed limits, the law: all become a nuisance to be wished away. The more you drive, the more bloody-minded and individualistic you become. The car is slowly turning us, like the Americans and the Australians, into a nation which recognises only the freedom to act, and not the freedom from the consequences of other people's actions. We drive on the left in Britain, but we are being driven to the right.
It is not just because of his celebration of everything brash and flash that Jeremy Clarkson has become the boy racer's hero. He articulates, with a certain wit and with less equivocation than any other writer in this country, the doctrine that he should be permitted to swing his fist, whoever's nose is in the way. For years he has championed the unrestrained freedom of the road. He takes it so far that from time to time he appears to incite his disciples to vandalise and even kill. "If the only way of getting their [the Government's] attention," he told the readers of the Sun in 2002, "is to destroy the tools that pay for their junkets and their new wallpaper, then so be it. I wish the people from MAD all the very best". In February this year, he suggested that speed cameras might be "filled … with insulating foam that sets rock hard". After the London bombings in July, he observed that "many commuters are now switching to bicycles … can I offer five handy hints to those setting out on a bike for the first time. 1. Do not cruise through red lights. Because if I'm coming the other way, I will run you down, for fun. 2. Do not pull up at junctions in front of a line of traffic. Because if I'm behind you, I will set off at normal speed and you will be crushed under my wheels. ..."
Clarkson wants society out of his way when he's driving, and he isn't too particular about how it's done. One day, one of his fans will take him seriously.
But, doubtless cheered by the response of his readers, he has expanded his journalism from attacks on "the Lycra-Nazi sandalistas of Islington" (cyclists) to polemics against every kind of government intervention. He now rails against "nannying bureaucrats sticking their index linked snouts into the trough" (health and safety inspectors); complains that he has to tell the police why he wants to keep a gun; appears to champion the right of householders to shoot burglars in the back; and ponders the use of landmines to deter ramblers.
His acolytes are also venturing onto new ground. The website of the Association of British Drivers carries the usual links to campaigns against humps in the road (yes, people really are that sad), speed cameras and the congestion charge. But it also directs its readers to about 50 sites claiming that global warming is a fraud and a lie, several tirades against the evils of the nanny state, and an article by John Redwood calling for lower taxes. Libertarianism has left the road and is now driving down the pavement.
Of course, these politics are possible only while we have a state capable of picking up the pieces. If there were not a massive hidden subsidy for private transport, those who decry the nannying bureaucrats couldn't afford to leave their drives. Speed cameras, according to the Government's study, now save the country £258 million in annual medical bills: a fraction of the billions in health costs inflicted by Mr Clarkson's chums. Just as the leftwing movements of the 1970s, in David Harvey's words, "failed to recognise or confront… the inherent tension between the quest for individual freedoms and social justice", the new libertarians fail to recognise the extent to which their freedoms depend on an enabling state. They hate the institution which allows them to believe that they can live without institutions.
It is strange to see how the car has been overlooked as an agent of political change. We know that the breaking of the unions, the dismantling of the welfare state and the sale of council houses that Margaret Thatcher pioneered made us more individualistic. But the way in which the transition from individualism to the next phase of neoliberalism - libertarianism - was assisted by her transport policies has been largely ignored. She knew what she was doing. She spoke of "the great car-owning democracy", and asserted that "a man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure". Her road-building programme was an exercise in both civil and social engineering. "Economics are the method," she told us, "the object is to change the soul". The slowly shifting consciousness of the millions who spend much of their day sitting in traffic makes interventionist government ever harder. The difference between the age of Herbert Morrison and the age of Peter Mandelson can be, in part, accounted for by the motorcar.
It shouldn't be hard to see how politically foolish are the current government's transport policies. The £11.4 billion it is spending on road building is an £11.4 billion subsidy to the Conservative Party. However much Blair seeks to accommodate the new libertarianism, he cannot consistently position himself to the right of the opposition. The longer he sustains Thatcher's social engineering programme, the more trouble he stores up for his successors. Every branch line that's closed, every bus that is taken off the road, every new lane added to a motorway hastens the day when the Tories get back behind the wheel."
Well, I rest my case. It's hard to imagine what planet this person comes from, isn't it? - hence our headline. It's obviously a world that has no sense of humour if Monbiot can't understand what Jeremy Clarkson is all about.
And we're all becoming rabid individualists and libertarians, are we?
Well, no, George, not in my world, we're not.We aren't allowed to make our own decisions on the roads, we can't drink, we can't smoke, we're all too fat, we don't eat properly, we mustn't take risks, we can't use creosote or spot-remover, we have to pussy-foot around thick religious nuts in case they take offence, we can't use the water that falls free from the sky, we mustn't go outside without a three-inch layer of factor 80 sun-screen, we have to put the right sort of litter in the right sort of litter-bin or risk prosecution, Auntie BBC invades our living-rooms with threats about what will happen if we don't renew our television licence, and our personal habits are daily insulted. Have you seen the latest anti-smoking advert? A pretty girl with a cigarette is told "You stink!" But of course it's OK to attack smokers, isn't it? You can say anything you like about them, because it's for their own good and besides, you're right and they're wrong.
And that's liberty, is it? That's a nation for individuals, is it?
And to cap it all, we're supposed to take idiots like Monbiot seriously, because we're all so thick and thoughtless that we won't notice that when he writes "the £11.4 billion it (the government) is spending on road building is an £11.4 billion subsidy to the Conservative Party" he is actually talking bollocks.
No, George, I think on balance we'd prefer it if you got in your capsule and blasted off back to wherever you came from. We have military police, security guards and hornets in this country too …
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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