Fracking protestors, Khashoggi and a dusty old document

What does the disappearance of a Saudi citizen in Turkey have in common with 3 men jailed in Lancashire, UK, for disturbing a fracking company’s operations?

The immediate connection would be energy supplies.

Saudi Arabia is a primary supplier of world oil. And fracking is a means to reduce western dependence on Arab oil; perhaps become self sufficient and so avoid the intermittent embarrassment of trading with a dictatorial regime.

The issue over Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance remains to be resolved, but the scenario does not look promising. The point at issue is whether the ruler of oil rich Saudi Arabia is responsible for the probable death of the dissident Saudi citizen who has been writing critical pieces for the Washington Post newspaper.

Another issue is what President Trump of the United States is going to do about it all. Having promised severe punishment when the news broke, will American corporate contracts and interests now take precedence over sanctioning Saudi Arabia ?

Corporate interests on the one hand, and individual freedom of expression on the other. Which will the American president choose to defend ?

Will the economic factors determine the issue ?

In the UK, 3 men have just been released from prison after being sentenced last month to over a year in detention for having been a thorough nuisance at a fracking company’s site in Lancashire. The UK Appeal Court ruled the imposition of prison sentences excessive, and immediately released the men.

There had been no harm done to person or property. The protestors had constrained their actions to climbing on lorries and such. They had done no physical damage to any one or anything.

The British Daily Telegraph reports that no-one  protesting peacefully  has been jailed in the UK  since 1932. On that occasion, protestors were walking in open country, fully aware that it was in fact privately owned land.

Broader issues of justice, and the use of the law and the courts comes into play. Beyond and behind that, is the power play of forces;  and beyond that lies the philosophy those forces represent.

In Lancashire, the law was used to stop people protesting on a matter over which there is considerable disquiet. Fracking. In this instance, the fracking company had won the day, and the protestors paid a high price.

But with the protestors release, the forces ranged against the fracking company are emboldened: BBC radio news reported talk of mass demonstrations because the fear of being sent to prison is removed.

Beyond the manipulation of the law – and it usually is when it comes to major economic and political matters – lies the ultimate political, indeed philosophical issue.

Yes, there is the eternal question of rights, but I am thinking here of a broader and  historically significant philosophical clash.

What is the ultimate confrontation here ?

On one side is the unfettered, pragmatic and exploitive mindset that says we need energy, therefore we must exploit the resources available to meet the demand. The consideration is purely practical and material. All else is secondary.

Ranged against this is the preservation of the planet and its finite resources;  the concern about environmental damage and the consequences to human health.

The way in which I summarise the two antagonists perhaps reflects my own disposition, but I trust it is a realistic appreciation.

These two forces are normally presented to the world as the clash of profit motivated big business on one hand, and the planet purists of the Green movement on the other.

I’d like to suggest another perspective, and one which I believe to be critically relevant both for the philosophical health of the Right, and for the public perception of what constitutes Right wing politics.

If the Right position is classic conservatism, then we wish to preserve what is of value from the past: all that we have gained from experience and know to be of importance to us.

That change will happen is a fact of life. The question is how you go about making the change, and in what direction ? Will change destroy what we have gained, and what is of value; or will it enhance our future by taking account of the best in what is and preserving it?

Do we take a Left wing view, making all change serve an ideological agenda; or do we take a pragmatic view with reference to what we know works, and to what we know about our world and human nature ?

For too long the Right has been dominated by merely materialist considerations. This has tended to exclude moral considerations. What is more, it has been failing to recognise, and so to reiterate, the fundamental value of its experience based approach.

The perceived interests of business are allowed to outweigh all else, and this brings the Right into disrepute.

It has arisen because conservative minded politicians have failed to properly identify and therefore to implement their own philosophical approach. And a core tenet is expressed in the word, responsibility. Not only that each of us should be responsible in all we say and do; but that we are responsible to pass on what is of value to future generations. 

I suggest that the preservation of our planet and its precious resources is a question of such responsibility.

Natural conservation is as important as political and social conservation.

To allow exploitation of the planet to the exclusion of all other considerations is insane. It is to put a heretical emphasis on one key aspect of Conservatism to the exclusion of other truths. Being a heretical form of thinking,  it excludes other aspects of the conservative philosophy, and so makes a grotesque distortion of the broad picture of right wing understanding.

It becomes, if you will, a divergent sect; a dangerous cult even.

And it is this grotesque distortion which large corporate interests manifest as they maximise material exploitation and monetary gain to the exclusion of all else.

They justify this superficial understanding by reference to creating work and to independence of energy supply.

Well, work is created by criminals marketing illegal and toxic drugs; work is created by human traffickers.

The existence of either a market, or the consequent creation of some form of employment thereby is neither a valid nor moral argument.

It is to place a premium on the starkly economic and therefore merely materialistic.

When the Right falls into a merely materialistic perception of the world, it has lost its way.

Socialism, the principal ideology of the Left, is predicated on a merely materialistic view of life. All is reduced to physical want and physical stimulation.

In both the Socialist paradigm and the grotesque heresy of ‘corporate-profit-justifies-all’, we see not just a complete abnegation of classic conservatism, but a reduction of human society and life to the obscene mindset that human beings are simply producers and consumers of goods.

That is fast becoming the rationale of the philosophy informing our politics today.

So if we come back to Mr Trump’s promise to punish and to Mr Khashoggi’s plight, we find that individual greed and monopoly of power through big corporations – be they American arms suppliers or Saudi princes – are threatening fundamental human values and freedoms.

Where then should true conservatives stand  ?

For this Right wing commentator, I come back to the age old principles.

Power must be responsible; it must be exercised for the general welfare; those who have it, are under a fundamental moral obligation to exercise it with a view to guaranteeing and enhancing the life and liberty of human beings.

And if a philosophy or force threatens such liberty, it must be brought back into line, and it must recognise its place and its responsibility in the overall scheme of things, for power is not an end in itself for the private pleasure or whim of over mighty, self serving individuals.

But power is effectively a trust. As the barons of England had to remind a king who believed his judgement and concerns to be above and beyond all others when they obliged him to assent to Magna Carta – and incidentally had to keep reminding him and his successors.

And what does the executive power of the king agree to in Magna Carta ?


Amen, Amen and Amen !

Copyright © 2018 Ray Catlin. All rights reserved.

By Conservatism Institute

The profile photograph displayed on this site is a portrait of Edmund Burke [1729 - 1797] whose book, Reflections on the Revolution in France, articulates the perspective and principles associated with a conservative view of politics in the English tradition. The photograph is supplied courtesy of

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