Aidan O'Neill remembers Britain as a fundamentally riven society twenty-five years ago under the premiership of Margaret Thatcher; a country divided by she who sought to rule it with certainty, but without compassion. The memories of Britain as a bitter and broken polity split asunder by a year-long strike of its coal miners were stirred again by a recent visit to the United States to attend a conference on Catholic Social Teaching where the growing social and legal acceptance of homosexuality and the continued toleration of lawful abortion were both angrily denounced by two speakers who revealed a fundamental disjunction between their vision and hope for a properly Christian America, and their experience of an America which they characterized as misgoverned by a conspiracy of liberal judges and complaisant politicians. A subsequent roundtable discussion on the prospects for a written constitution for the State of Israel also revealed a picture of a profoundly divided society with utterly irreconcilable political visions competing for its future. In the face of such radical diversity in political vision the author suggests that the better way forward is to focus not on ends but on means, and always to honor the constitutional and legal processes which result in, albeit imperfect, decision making. Although a very thin form of consensus, it is suggested that such an approach is the sine qua non for any polity aspiring to the condition and ideal of democracy to be able to function, and, ultimately, to achieve some kind of justice.
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Aidan O'Neill; Nineteen Eighty-Four (AND -Five): A Brit Looks Back. Common Knowledge 1 August 2009; 15 (3): 324–330. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-2009-013
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