Whenever the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, wanted to rationalise his country's dubious involvement in the US-led invasion of Iraq, a misadventure which ultimately cost him his plum job, and continues to claim the lives of British soldiers, he used a well-known rhetorical ploy, trading on equivocation, by asserting that going to war was the right thing to do in order to checkmate those bent on assaulting their way of life.
This ploy exploits the vagueness or ambiguity of a word or phrase in order to manipulate people's attitudes or actions, a gambit Blair was adept at when he superintended over British affairs from No 10 Downing Street, official residence of the British Prime Minister. Whenever Blair used the phrase, â€˜the right thing to do,' in defence of the Iraqi debacle, he usually meant that going to war was the morally correct thing to do, despite the fact that many of those he tried to win over with the ruse held the invasion from the outset to be immoral.
But the question that ought to be asked is: What is this â€˜British way of life,' the defence of which was so important that Blair had to drag an unwilling nation to war on sexed-up security reports? It is the seven-letter word â€“ Freedom. There is no doubting the fact that the British cherish their freedom. They are proud of it and wish that every other race on the face of the earth would enjoy as much freedom as they do, or so they claim.
The adroit politician he is, Blair knew and still knows how much importance his people attach to their freedom and was well aware that if anything could scare any British man or woman out of his or her wits, it is the fear of his or her freedom being circumvented by anybody, in any way. Blair unscrupulously exploited this fear to tilt at windmills.
Of course, it goes without saying that freedom is good, but when that freedom tilts to the absolute, that, in itself, and at some point, creates its own problems, and eventually may become an albatross. More often than not, it comes at a very steep price and Britain seems to be paying that price at the moment because the freedom which the people revel in is spawning mind-boggling social vices. The jury is still out on whether it also fuels most of the inexplicable, albeit unconscionable crimes committed here almost on daily basis. But there is no denying the fact that too much freedom is turning Britain into a soulless nation or at best into a society where time honoured values are being repudiated by the day.
Take the issue of marriage, for instance. Some of the fastest disappearing words from English lexicon are â€˜husband' and â€˜wife.' In their stead is the word â€˜partner.' In most official documents, including church documents, where the words husband and wife ought to be used, the word partner is used and the reason is simple. In a society where gay marriage has been legitimised even within the church, categorisation becomes a problem. Who is the husband and who is the wife? But even in what ought to be normal marriages between a man and a woman, the fear of commitment and love of freedom is making it extremely difficult for couples to go the whole hog. People in this part of the world now view the sacred institution of marriage and the stability it brings to bear, not only on the lives of individuals, but also society at large, albeit with its associated commitment and sacrifice, as an infraction on their right (freedom) to do whatever they want with their lives, whenever they want to. Slowly but inexorably, marriage is being stigmatised, all in the name of freedom.
For instance, how does one explain Alastair Campbell's, former director of communications to Tony Blair, apparent discomfort at people referring to the woman he had lived with for 27 years, who is the mother of his children, as his wife? In an interview published in The Independent penultimate week to mark the publication of his book, The Blair Years, Campbell, Blair's spin doctor was asked; "Your wife is a valiant defender of comprehensive schools. Were you embarrassed when the Blairs didn't choose their local comp?" And he riposted: "Fiona is not actually my wife, though we have been together for 27 years, and our children find it hilarious that the Telegraph calls her "Alastair Campbell's girlfriend...." Rather than marriage, the fad now is civil partnership, a euphemism for adultery.
Even most of those that end up tying the knots have their eyes firmly trained on hefty divorce settlements. The UK has the unflattering reputation as the divorce headquarters of Europe because British judges are known for their generosity in awarding mouth-watering sums of money to women seeking divorce.
A report released by the Office for National Statistic (ONS) in late June, and published in The Sunday Times of July 1, 2007, indicated that marriage lines in the UK are getting thinner. "There were 244, 710 weddings in England and Wales in 2005," the report said. "That's a drop of more than 28,000 on the previous year and marks the lowest figure since 1897." This decline, the report revealed, has been steady since 1972 when the popularity of marriage started waning. "It means the marriage rate â€“ the number of weddings compared with the population â€“ is at its lowest since records were first kept in 1862. The proportion of married people in the adult population is 50.3 percent. In the 1970s, that figure was just over two-thirds."
This problem has had monumental consequence on the primary social institution the human race has ever had â€“ the family. Family values are fast being eroded in the UK because of people's insatiable thirst for freedom. The family bond that acts as a restrain on the delinquencies of juveniles is no longer there.
It goes without saying that the decline in marriage leads to only one destination â€“ more children are born out of wedlock. According to the ONS report, 327,000 children were born to unmarried parents in the UK in 2006, nearly half of all births â€“ 47 percent.
But even at that, this percentage does not represent the reality on ground considering that the figure includes children born to migrants from Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe who are more likely to do so within marriage. In other words, if the statistics is only that of children born to British couples, the percentage born out of wedlock is bound to be higher.
Last year, Patricia Morgan, a social worker, wrote a study of family policy for the Civitas think tank, and what did she reveal? The obvious! "Two out of three of the babies outside marriage would have been born to couples with one eye on the benefit authorities." In the UK, the easiest way to attract social benefit including housing and handsome monthly allowance is to have a baby out of wedlock. Morgan went ahead to state the obvious which is the fact that children born outside marriage are more likely to end up in a single-parent family since the "average cohabitation couple last just three years, while the average marriage lasts 12 years."
With the traditional family system consigned to the dustbin of irrelevance and the values herein inculcated thrown to the dogs, is it any wonder that crime is on the upsurge in the UK?
Presently, Britain's prison system is in crisis, already bursting at the seams with inmates. Since 1993, the prison population in the UK is said to have almost doubled to a record breaking 81,000 inmates, giving England and Wales the highest incarceration rate in Western Europe. So grim is the situation that the government recently came out with a policy aimed at decongesting the prisons. The programme, early release scheme, which came into effect from June 29, 2007, is aimed at freeing offenders up to 18 days ahead of their scheduled release date. Although inmates convicted of serious sexual or violent offences are excluded, the measure is expected to apply to around 25,000 prisoners over the course of one year.
But barely one month after it started, it has already run into a hitch. Last week, the Minister of Prisons, David Hanson, said of those freed (1,701 in the first week), 30 had already been recalled to jail while 18 are officially on the run after failing to check in with their probation officers. In fact, six of the criminals were alleged to have committed eight crimes within days of their being released. Now opposition leaders are calling for the abrogation of the scheme.
Sex related crimes are on the upsurge as paedophiles prowl the country, stealthily stalking their quarries. Perhaps, the greatest risk any parent can take is to leave his or her child unattended for two minutes. If she is a girl, even if she is a year old, it is a crime to leave her in the care of even close relations.
Early this month, a 21-year old man, Michael Mullen, was jailed for life by a Leeds Crown Court, for raping and murdering his two-year old niece, Casey Leigh Mullen. According to the report, the toddler lived with her parents and a three-year elder brother before her violent death. On the day she was killed, her assailant, Michael arrived at their home in Gipson, Leeds with David, his brother (Casey's father), after an afternoon of drinking and Michael thereafter went upstairs where the girl was sleeping.
While sentencing him, Justice Simon said: "Your victim was a vulnerable toddler in a nappy. You covered her face with hand while raping her then strangled her with a ligature."
When he was arrested, Mullen was found to have a picture of Casey, naked from the waist down, on his mobile phone.