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July 21, 2019
(And at four o’clock in the morning I might say)
My apologies for not quite grasping your point when I read your last comment. It came to me in the middle of the night and having composed my answer I cannot get back to sleep without getting this down.
You say to me that I should not argue against the enactment of Brexit because ‘the legislature’ has given their word that it will go through and if I were to persuade them not to do so they would be being ‘dishonourable and unprincipled’ and that I by so doing would be ‘dishonourable and unprincipled’ myself.
Have I got that right now?
Well, in that case I have to apologise to you. I did indeed have a mental block preventing me from seeing your moral argument as you asserted I did. As you asserted all Remainers have.
I think the best way I can express that mental block is: because that’s daft.
You are elevating the virtue of ‘keeping one’s word’ above all other virtues and casting me in the roll of a tempter who is trying to turn frail politicians away from the path of righteousness. I do not see myself in that light.
Yes, one should keep one’s promises. But supposing another person has made a promise that does not oblige me to step out of their way if that promise is a harmful one let alone to actively support them.
Suppose (to snatch an example randomly from my seething, sleepless brain) one promises to find the home address of a work colleague for a friend. And one then discovers that the friend wants the information to go around and beat up the colleague who has offended them. Is keeping one’s word the right thing to do in these circumstances?
Most of my effort is going towards persuading those who support remaining in the EU not to give up hope and to continue to throw their opposition in the faces of those in power. Rally the troops, keep your powder dry stuff.
Surely you will allow the poor beleaguered MPs to give up their promise if it proves impossible to carry it out due to public opposition? (“Yes, dear I did promise you we’d go to the moon for our holidays but it turns out not to be possible this year.”)
I will not deny that it would please me greatly to think I had a hope in hell of persuading even one MP to gladly change their mind on this. I would not regard that however as breaking their word but rather recalling them to their greater duty.
“Salus populi suprema lex esto” which means ‘the good of the people should be the supreme law’ and which Wikipedia tells me is Cicero. Not the good of the party, not one’s own reputation but the good of the people.
We may disagree about the nature of what is good but surely not about our duty to pursue the good. There are means of seeking the good which destroy the good you pursue but I am doing my damnedest to stick purely to those means which are peaceful, honourable and legal in the hope that after this mess we may continue to have a means of honourable discourse and reasonable disagreement.
And now back to my bed.
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