I have just returned to the UK and while working on a film project was also invited to speak about the increasing anti-Americanism that seems to be so prevalent in Europe and indeed among the US elite. While I strongly criticise the pernicious and narrow anti-American outlook, that really seems to be an all out attack on human aspiration and ambition more broadly (where America is seen as still somewhat "can-do" which these days is unfashionable and we are told to slow down, less is more, and limit ourselves) I am dismayed and shocked to see just how far much of the opinions are shared on both sides of the pond. These ideas, though, are far more about attacking the general view that people are reasonable and should be allowed to pursue life, liberty, and happiness without interference.
The recent proposals for instance to ban smoking in New York parks represents the consolidation of some of the trends I wrote about some time ago here with regard to the utter disdain and contempt that bureaucrats today seem to have for ordinary people, whether it is about what we eat, drink, or ingest.
With the move to ban smoking in parks, it is clear none of this was ever about second hand smoke, but far more about demonising certain groups that are beyond the pale. Whether it is banning smoking in cars or talking with disdain about junk food (read: junk food eaters) the idea is the same -- autonomous citizens we are no longer, but rather childlike subjects that need to be nannied.
In the UK this disgraceful outlook has gone even further when it comes to adults accompanying children to the playground. While I often cringe at the NY City park signs declaring "no adults unaccompanied by children" in Britain, Watford Council has just introduced legislation banning adults from supervising their children at local playgrounds. This is an outrage -- and represents the expanding idea that adults are likely to be violators rather than caring, considerate citizens, and family members.
In Europe the appetite for banning alcohol consumption in public spaces has been on the rise and the general outlook is one where humans are a dubious species, hell bent on destroying the planet (and themselves) and that they need to be continually regulated and supervised.
In spite of the enthusiasm that surrounded the election of President Obama, it has become increasingly the case that the sentiment is one that people generally are irresponsible and in need of supervision from bureaucratic politicians. This is extremely dangerous.
That is why I am so pleased to be speaking at The Battle of Ideas in London this weekend, which is billed as a place where unorthodox ideas and challening debates are welcomed. With over 3,000 attendees and 300 international speakers, it seems we need more battling of ideas to challenge the increasingly unanimous conformity of our times.
Let's demand we stop being treated like naughty school children and take back the autonomy necessary for citizens who want to shape their destiny and the world around them.