The Malta Independent 7 December 2019, Saturday

Underlying Political Philosophies in the UK and Malta

Michael Asciak Sunday, 3 November 2019, 09:14 Last update: about 2 months ago

It goes to say without a doubt that the charade we see happening in the UK in its efforts to leave the EU is based on an unsound philosophy and one which does not reflect the integrative philosophies necessary in today’s world but one where one harks back to the individualism of the nation state. Britain first but, ultimately, Britain is alone.

This mentality is one that obviously forms the forma mentis of the older generation that was exposed to it, especially in the two world wars. In this, they fail to realise that the world has moved away from that forma mentis to one where international solidarity and shared sovereignty are important in a world that is globally communicative and globally mobile, where the frontiers of the nation state are being overcome in an effort to reach out to other peoples and cultures.

Some individual observers see this globalisation as an ethically neutral process whereupon it depends on how its effects are managed in determining whether it is a good thing or a bad thing.

Others perceive that there may be a higher order responsible for what is happening so that, ultimately, globalisation is a higher plan by God to bring people and cultures together. First, nature itself slowly became conscious and then ultimately self-conscious through evolution and in the ultimate evolution of man who is the only self-conscious living thing, the only creature who can bend reason on itself.

But now the commune of man, society, is also moving through phases of higher consciousness at a cultural-global level, some say to a point where culture itself becomes self-conscious. If globalisation is man-made then I can understand that there might not be a teleological end and it may end up as a messy affair, but if it is coming from God, then nothing can stop it and its teleological motive, and we do a disservice to ourselves to stand in its way. Nations and cultures should have open dialogue amongst themselves and find common ground for activities which show respect to differences. Observe Pope Francis’ recent call for sincere dialogue with Jews and Muslims in particular and the attention needed for a global ecology.

The philosophy of Brexit, the philosophy of Trumpian politics, are based on the idea of the nation state as set out by Hegel from the turn of the 1700s to the 1800s, where nation states were still very autonomous and sublimated citizen rights to themselves. Hegel’s philosophy of the state is closely linked to his philosophy of history where the concrete unit of the spirit of world development is the national spirit or spirit of the people expressed in their culture, art philosophy, legal organisation and religion. In every historical period, there is one people who necessarily dominate the rest, guiding the cultural development of an era and lending the world its spirit. (Britannia rules the waves)!

The content of the spirit of the people, the state, is one which is prior and above the individual. The people are a social collective where the state is the highest form of social aggregation well above the individual. The nation-state represents for Hegel the ultimate height of movement. Each state affirms itself as an individual sovereign against others states and there is no sovereign power higher than the state itself to resolve inter-state issues.

To settle inter-state issues, war may be necessary and in this the spirit of other peoples and their rights may be subsumed to the spirit of the dominant state. One instrument of this mentality of one nation over the other is founded and closely related to military valour as the very foundation of the legal recognition of hegemony. Note British Brexiteers cries of becoming great again and of once more strengthening their armed forces to become a world power again! This mentality of nation-states cleared the way for the totalitarianism of the twentieth century and we have seen not only the disasters of world wars but also the Marxist philosophies emerging from Hegel’s ideas.

It is towards this that Britain seems to aspire. Having been one of the winners of the Second World War – as opposed to the vanquished nations of Europe – Britain, like America, felt no need to alter this basic Hegelian mentality with the result that it is still intent on pursuing this route today, with disastrous consequences.

The nations of Europe learned from the war that the way forward lay in empowering the individual with fundamental rights and in this respect sharing the sovereignty of the state in working for this individual empowerment. Under the Christian – mostly Catholic leaders – of these states, a new co-operation was laid down in the structures of the EU, which not only led to 70 years of peace but also individual economic and cultural empowerment never seen before and an important institution of mediation in an increasingly globalised world.

Maybe Charles de Gaulle, the President of the French Republic after the war, was right: Britain should not have been admitted to the European project because, as a victor nation, it was not yet ready to share sovereignty with the other European states. Today, I say that de Gaulle is still right! We find this sentiment emerging amongst some other nation states when the issue of immigration, and how to manage it, rears its head. One must keep in mind that the only way to manage this global phenomenon adequately is through European co-operation and action in the EU. Alone it is impossible to confront as single nation states.

Malta does not apply the Hegelian philosophy. We are too small to think in those terms and have often co-operated with the colonial powers that have ruled us until independence in 1964. Since 2004 we have joined the idea of sharing our sovereignty with the other nation states in the European project, so that Maltese individuals today are more empowered and economically well-off than any of their forbears.

However, one of our colonial traits remains. It is the philosophy of self-interest which trumps national and European solidarity. Ayn Rand is a Russian-American writer who first put forward the philosophy of the ‘virtue of self-interest’ which, she says, drives man forward and, in her words, is “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute”. This is a variant, a new individual form of the act utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham. At least Bentham spoke of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, but Ayn Rand speaks of individual egoism and happiness as the motive force for political activity with which Donald Trump is so enamoured.

We have been regaled for these last seven years with a Labour government of this philosophy, that of self-interest ruling the roost. A particular case in hand, is that of Minister Ian Borg who wants to build a pool on arable land next to his house on the outskirts of Rabat and he astonishingly gets a permit for this. A neighbour takes the Planning Authority (PA) to Court for issuing this permit. The Court finds that the permit should not have been issued, as it was based on the wrong policy, but the PA insists on issuing the permit anyway as the Court did not issue any order for it to desist.

This is incredible in that the neighbour is now – again – taking the Minister and the PA to court to order them to stop the building of the pool. This is nothing short of the incredible in a country where the government is supposed to set an example to its citizens but, as we have seen, has often encouraged the value of self-interest as a model for political action.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as we all know that ministerial and secretarial operatives are encouraged to do as they wish, with people who support them being financially rewarded. Note Kurt Farrugia’s handsome pay of Euro 180,000 per year to say nothing of Panamanian and Dubai offshore companies and PL back-benchers all being appointed to several chairmanships with hefty pay packets! This is a disgrace and ultimately will bounce back to haunt this government as it replaces the rule of law and solidarity with blatant self-interest, hopefully before we have any of our country left for us mere citizens. It is important for us all to continue to act in a way that exposes the self-interest model of this government until the day where we really have a government based on the solidarity and rule of law that we deserve.

 

 

Dr Michael Asciak MD, M.Phil, PhD

[email protected]

 

 

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