One of the things I most value about my innate Tory disposition is the liberation which it delivers from being forced into holding ridiculous views. Let me explain.
Keith and I were talking about Choudary's planned protest march in Wootton Bassett. Keith said - Is it Royal Wootton Bassett? And I said - I'm not sure, I don't think so, and he said - It should be. And of course he's right. You know he's right. We don't need to work out why it should be right for that town to be so honoured, or to make outlandish claims for our internal reasoning. We see the quiet dignity of the townspeople, honouring our fallen; we sense the solace provided to the grieving families, and we know that they are good people performing a good act. Without reference to anything. And I would like to see the country honour them for their service.
And similarly. Similarly. Even to make an analogy between my thoughts about the town and Choudary makes me feel angry with myself. Anyway. Similarly: I know that Choudary is a disgrace to every civilised norm I hold dear, and should not set the vile bodies of his supporters to march through that town.
But, surely, to hold this view is a crime against the inviolable principle of freedom of speech? References to Voltaire etc etc. Well of course it is. I'm being incoherent. I'm inconsistent. In general I support freedom of speech. Politically, I think the 'no platform for the BNP' cross-party agreement (while understandable) has been an abject failure, with the opposite outcome to that intended. I think most hate-crime legislation at best pointless and insulting, at worst a symptom of the Identity balkanisation of British society. But I don't support Choudary's freedom to speak ill of the British dead, for reasons I don't even want to have to explain.
But explain them we must, and with some more depth than the usual response (which is: Do you support the right of someone to shout FIRE in a crowded theatre? It is not fear of the response of British citizens which makes me so hate the thought of Choudary's march). Leftwing thinkers are aware of the problem and some are reluctantly coming to the conclusion that because they are in favour of free speech, then it follows that they must support Choudary's right to march. Well of course it follows, if you believe (1) human thought must be governed by predetermined algorithm and (2) to be inconsistent in one's reasoning is a serious crime. In the absence of a set of axioms to which we pay obeisance, regardless of circumstance, what does the Tory do?
We put our faith in institutions. Institutions are the most important construct, or thing, about our shared life. I think of institutions as a cross between an engine, a sort of machine, by which human beings can be joined together into common endeavour; and also as transcendental objects in and of themselves. Clearly an institution doesn't physically exist - I can't point at a platonic 'family' - but psychologically they are crucial for the common life. Most importantly (for the Tory), most institutions are organic: they are man-made (in that without Man they wouldn't exist) but not planned or engineered by a few experts.
The norms of the institutions with which Choudary's march would come into conflict are many. He would insult our armed forces, of course, but that institution is, I would guess, robust enough to protect its self-belief against his idiot rantings. But Choudary's march also offends another institution: the reverence with which almost every British civilian views the armed forces. I choose: I choose to prioritise that reverence, because the ties which bind the civilian to the soldier - the fellow citizen who will risk his or her life in our national interest - are more important to me than Choudary's (undoubted) 'right' to insult them, in the town which marks their deaths.
What the institution is doing for me, here, is providing the context in which my opinions become a decision. Abstract concepts - no matter how attractive to the Tory ('freedom') or to the Left ('equality') - lack any human context, and as such are poor guides to correct human behaviour, particularly when taken to an extreme, no matter how logically such a journey is undertaken. One of the things which has gone wrong over the last decade in Britain - one of those things which it's hard to put your finger on - is that we've downgraded the importance of listening to our institution-engendered emotional response to occurrences, and upgraded the (undoubted) importance of the individual to maximise his or her 'rights'. We need to get the balance better, again. Part of that means giving up the impossible ideal of always being required to provide a universal, inviolable principle with which to defend a completely correct emotional response. Choudary shouldn't protest in Wootton Bassett.