This is our truth, tell us yours
If you pander to a moral panic over migration, as British politicians have, you end up at a point where the Hungarian Prime Minister, a man who’d need a lot of time to convince a very forgiving audience that he’s not a racist, can argue that his position, his use of trains conveying people against their will to camps is congruent with British and European policy.
If you pander to a moral panic over child sex abuse, and create absolute offences designed to remove any excuse from offenders, you end up with a fourteen year old boy being labelled a sex offender for sending a girl his own age a picture of his cock in a cyber version of ‘you show me yours and I’ll show you mine’.
The analogy should be clear.
Hard situations make for bad laws, but cheap decisions about short term electoral advantage make for dreadful laws. Pandering to racists leaves you in a place where it takes a child, drowned, on a beach to make politicians see what anyone else could see, that people who live with daily, random slaughter will take huge chances to escape that and live in peace.
Pandering to the moral minority will lead you to a place where kids, experimenting, trying to work out who they are, will end up criminalized, not helped. It’s a political position that seems entirely sensible provided you actually ignore reality.
I grew up as a young man, weighing the issues of nuclear disarmament. The debate was, so far as I remembered or understood, a debate about deterrence versus prevention. Deterrence depends upon two things; an awareness of the risks involved, and a shared framework of outcomes. Young men sexting that girl in their class who they fancy do not share the same framework of outcomes as lawmakers, and neither do racists who cloak their ideology in the language of overcrowding or migration policy.
This might seem like a small point, lightly made, but it goes to the heart of the debate about the futurre of socialist politics.
Saying something is against the law doesn’t work.
Think about that for a minute.
Prohibition routinely fails. We all know it. So why do we pretend it works? Pretending that we can prevent migrants from coming to Europe is delusional. Pretending that we can prevent young people from trying to have sex with other young people is delusional, and foolish.
If your solution to a problem is prohibition, you have most probably misunderstood the problem. If you believe in deterrence, you may be assuming too much about the rationality of others, or underestimating their perception of the forces driving them. Prevention is the solution, and in the case of Syria, if we cannot prevent the conflict between two unacceptable regimes, we have to accept that there will be a flow of migrants who do not wish to wait for their chance to die at the hands of either IS or the Assad regime.