“Jock my dear chap its good to see you. I don’t think that I’ve seen you in the club since January”.
“Good to see you to Phillip old man. I haven’t visited the old place since December. I’ve been travelling in South America, Columbia mainly”.
“That would explain your absence. Can I get you a drink?” Phillip asked.
“Most kind old chap. I’ll have a whisky please” Jock replied.
Phillip signalled to one of the soberly dressed waiters.
“Yes Mr Drummond?”
“Two whiskies please Robert”.
“Bring them into the library there’s a good chap”.
“Of course sir”.
The two acquaintences ensconced themselves in huge leather armchairs in front of a blazing log fire. The fire light shone on the spines of the leather bound tomes which stood in the heavy oak bookcases. Jock lazily scanned the books his eyes pausing on an early edition of Hobbes’s Leviathan.
“And which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short” Jock said.
“Do you really hold such a pessimistic view of the human condition” Phillip said stretching his long legs out towards the open fire. “Life is good. We have this excellent whisky which we are enjoying in one of Pall Mall’s most exclusive clubs and you go quoting that old pessimist Thomas Hobbes”.
“One mans pesimist is another mans realist my dear chap. Hobbes saw the necessity of a strong government to keep the herd of humanity in order. Tell me Phillip my old friend what in your opinion is the greatest evil, that which man fears most?”
“Lack of individual freedom. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany both comprehensively stamped on liberty with horrendous consequences”.
Jock smiled sadly.
“You are an all round good egg Phillip and that is one of the reasons I derive so much pleasure from your society. You are incorrect in your surmise though. The thing which man rightly fears most is the lack of social order. He fears the theft of his property by the great unwashed. He lives in terror of the rape of his wife by the sexual pervert lurking in the shadows. Beyond the bright lights of this club their lurks a stinking mass which can hardly be dignified with the name of human. Government is there to keep order, to protect us from the mob and when push comes to shove you and I really don’t care which government holds sway. Our concern is that the authorities keep our person and property free from molestation and the mob in check”.
“But my dear fellow by your logic any government is legitimate provided that it maintains social order. Do you really believe that Franco’s Spain and other similar regimes should be lauded on the grounds that they upheld social order?”
“Tell me old boy how much value would you place in democracy if the people out there” Jock said gesturing in the direction of the window, “decided to run riot and attack your flat in Mayfair?”
“That is extremely unlikely to happen. Democracy has deep roots in this country and the people do, on the whole support the system”.
“Indeed and I support democracy while the democratic system maintains order. Hobbes view was that any government which promotes social stability should be supported but if that system fails then the populace are entitled to switch their alegance to whichever individual or government is capable of preventing chaos. So I am a conditional democrat” Jock said with a smile.
“But dictatorships of the left and right have caused incalculable suffering. I don’t need to tell you about the Nazi’s murder of six million Jews or Stalin’s Gulags”.
“Dictatorships have indeed committed terrible atrocities. However when you face losing your life or property a strong dictator is the lesser of two evils. Weighing everything in the balance it is the lack of order which poses the greatest danger to humanity. Imagine that rather than sitting here in this gentlemans club enjoying fine whisky that you had to cower in a dark corner for fear of your life. That marauding gangs roamed at will across this green and pleasant land. Are you really telling me that under those circumstances you wouldn’t welcome a dictator with open arms provided that he put a stop to the anarchy?”
“I hope I wouldn’t embrace dictatorship. There are other ways of dealing with anarchy other than resorting to authoritarianism”.
“Oh Phillip my old friend you are such a liberal. You are undoubtedly one of the nicest, most civilised people I know but if push came to shove I believe that you would do anything to preserve the life and property of you and your family. Hobbes’s Leviathan is not merely a dusty old curiosity with no relevance to the 21st century. In Colombia I saw the truths of his great intellect reveal itself to me”.
“You know that successive governments have been fighting a losing war against the drug traffickers?”
“Of course its all over the media. Occasionally the authorities will kill or capture one of the leading drug barons but another quickly steps into his shoes”.
“Precisely so. However the really fascinating aspect of the whole Colombian situation is how many of these drug lords are regarded as heroes by the Colombians who live under their jurristiction. The barons provide healthcare and other forms of charity which helps to cement their hold. Granted there is a good deal of brutality but this isn’t the primary means by which the drug traffickers maintain their power. If you have nothing or very little and someone (anyone, even the devil) suddenly furnishes you with money which buys you comforts, you will embrace him as a liberator with open arms. For the poor of Colombia the drug barons release them from the state of nature allowing the people to flourish in an ordered society”.
“But what of the horrendous effects of drugs on the poor sods who’s lives are wrecked by them?”
“If you are a peasant farmer in Colombia is the stupidity of some junkie in the back streets of Leeds really going to be top of your priority? No your concern will be with the welfare of your family. The local drug lord has just provided you with the money to purchase medicine for your sick little girl so why should you care about some silly kid shooting up heroine on the other side of the world? The bottom line is my dear chap that people will do anything to survive”.
Jock paused his eyes taking on a far away look.
The hut stank of bird droppings. Chickens wandered in and out at will.
“You like young girl” the man at the coffee stall had asked.
“How young?” Jock had asked.
“Eighteen mister” the man said in broken English.
The child looked about thirteen. Jock hesitated, what was left of his moral compass holding him back.
“It OK mister. I need money. You fuck. No problem”.
Yes people would do anything for money and security however slight that security might be Jock thought as he finished his whisky.
“Good to see you Phillip old bean. I’ve no doubt that we will run into one another again soon” Jock said rising and shaking Phillip’s hand.
“Nice to see you to old man” Phillip said.
Phillip gazed out of the window as Jock Carmichael walked briskly away from the club. Was his acquaintance right? Was life a mere matter of dog eat dog with the necessity for government (any government however brutal) to maintain order?
“I hope not” Phillip muttered as he reached out his hand for the bell which summoned one of the waiters. Time for another drink he thought.