I invited the perceptive Orrin Judd what he thought about the juries/ justice/ collapse of civilization discussion Chris and I have been having and he has made a very interesting contribution
. The short of it is that he does not think that Britain, as a post-Christian nation, can engage in a Restoration, at least along the lines of Wilberforce's achievement. He also fears that Option 2 has been tacitly accepted, at least by the Church of England.
As far as the Church goes, he may be right. Peter Hitchens concludes his excellent survey of the state of British religion in The Abolition of Britain as follows:
... night after night, in the wards of a hundred hospitals, people die as they have always done, alone at the end and in many cases afraid of what is to come, more and more comforted by morphine, less and less by the Holy Ghost. We prefer not to notice. In the midst of death, we are in life and John Lennon's wish in 'Imagine' -- 'no religion, no heaven and no hell, and all the people thinking for today,' has come true. How odd that the Church itself should have helped it to do so, by abandoning its cold and austere central truth, that we all must die and may be judged, the one piece of ground nobody, not even Hitler or Stalin, could ever have captured from it.
But I have often felt that the Church has retreated from friendly ground. There is significant religious feeling still in the UK, I believe, but the Church does nothing to reach out to grasp this feeling and bring it back within the fold. So other churches, sects and faiths, be they Baptist, new age or Islamic, are reaching out and taking hold, thereby fragmenting the country further. The Church does itself no good by endless hand-wringing in public. A confident Church could see off these challenges, but we have not had a confident Church for decades.
Anyway, Orrin's comments about the supremacy of egalitarianism meaning that Restoration is well-nigh impossible are well made, and thought-provoking. Yet I have a feeling that egalitarianism's hold on the British people (at least, in the sense Orrin means) is weak. From what I remember from a few years ago, my constant communications across the Atlantic and my recent trip there, I feel that there is a simmering resentment, a realization that something is badly wrong, that perhaps it is good to open doors for the handicapped or give up seats for ladies, that this is not patronizing but actually rather a good thing. There is no leadership in sight, from Church or politician, that could give this feeling the impetus it needs, but I wonder whether something might not happen spontaneously in the next few years, as a groundswell of opinion rejects the "egalitarian" paradigm, just as a previous groundswell rejected the 70s economic consensus for the next quarter of a century (and, in swelling, brought Margaret Thatcher to the fore). It may happen. If it does, it is likely to be part and parcel of a groundswell that rejects Europe and either embraces the Anglosphere or turns to splendid isolation once more. A restoration of a distinct British (or English) national identity will need something like it to succeed.
There is, therefore, I think a possibility that Orrin's Option 5 -- a counter-revolution -- may occur in the UK. The hope is slim, but realistic, in my opinion.
Turning to Chris's latest comments
, I broadly agree (for the reasons stated above) that people do have a basic sense of justice, but I think it has been skewed considerably. Why else is "grassing" viewed as a greater crime than assault on old ladies? The problem is not so much the complete collapse of civilization -- we haven't yet reached Locke's state of needing to steal arms to defend ourselves (and we'd have to steal them from the criminals in the UK...) -- but a collapse of trust and feelings of shared endeavor. "Bugger you Jack, I'm all right" was thought to be the watchword in the 60s but it has never been more applicable than now. The great institutions -- the Church, the artistocracy, the law, the police, Parliament, the NHS, local government -- have, in many ways by their own actions, all lost so much respect that, coupled with the fact that no-one is taught why we have them in the first place, they have become counter-productive. The armed forces and, amazingly, the Royal Family are the only institutions that still retain considerable public respect.
Yet the framework is still there. As I said, I don't think knocking it down will do much good. Nor will desparately papering over the ever-widening cracks. Instead, we have to rebuild, repair and bolster. That will take genuine effort in terms of engaging the public in a wide-ranging debate about what our nation is all about. It will entail teaching history (and the public appetite for popular history programs seems to demonstrate a felt need here), engaging the public in local discussion of issues and, above all, asking them to make decisions.
Returning to the subject of juries, I think that the proposed reforms go in the opposite direction. Rather than removing trial by jury for crimes with a jail sentence of 6 months to 1 year, I would install it for all crimes where the accused stands a chance of going to jail. Rather than questioning the principle of innocence until proven guilty, I would enshrine it in a new Charter -- not Act -- of Rights (note that the American Constitution does not guarantee it, unless it is part of due process), debated up and down the land. Rather than loosening Habeas Corpus, I would reassert the supremacy of English/Scottish law over the Islands. And rather than abolishing double jeopardy protections I would say to police and public that we're going to pull our socks up and make damn sure that when we know people are guilty we can prove it, and not cut corners in the hope of getting a quick verdict, which is the real answer to the miscarriages of justice problem.
In some ways, this discussion is about whether we are going to give the people of Britain a fish, or teach them to fish. As for me, I'm going fishing...