A garlic 'crime' that stinks of absurdity

THEY SAY you can’t compare an apple with an orange, but now we have a man doing 6½ years in prison for the fiscal difference …

THEY SAY you can’t compare an apple with an orange, but now we have a man doing 6½ years in prison for the fiscal difference between an apple and a crown of garlic. Perhaps we are getting closer to what was once thought philosophically impossible.

Indeed, our leaders are capable of going further than even the Greeks ever envisaged, not merely defining the distinctions between various fruits and vegetable, but actually developing formulas and equations to capture these distinctions in differing rates of taxation. That such methods remain mysterious to the normal citizen is irrelevant: already we are cowed by their logic, and soon we will become convinced that the fruits and vegetables themselves are no more than the physical representations of an absolute fiscal logic.

Welcome to absurdistan in Paddyland.

Of course the “experts”, the legislators, the lawyers and the lobbyists can “explain” why the law is as it is. And, of course, all laws, however stupid, must be obeyed at all times without question. You could, if you wished, get waylaid into the logic of the architects of such absurdities, and soon the shadow of absurdistan would begin to recede into a fog of “rationalist” dissembling.

On the other hand, I could, if I wished, go to some trouble to outline the rather sinister context out of which laws like the infamous “garlic law” arise – the workings of that secretive and mysterious entity called the World Trade Organisation and the secret power of various corporations and cartels in utilising it to impose their will on the democratic processes of sundry western societies. I could talk about the paradox of “free trade”, which is anything but free, as Paul Begley is now in a position to attest at some leisure.

But really we need to stay with our initial sense of the meaning of this kind of law: it is plain daft. It is senseless, and therefore morally and otherwise wrong.

Such phenomena are part of the growing senselessness of our cultures, which, having eradicated from their thinking the most fundamental understandings of man’s situation, are now at the mercy of arbitrary and capricious forces, which mould reality anew behind our backs.

This imposed senselessness has been a constant theme of my good friend Desmond Fennell, one of our greatest essayists and perhaps our only modern philosopher. Recently, he observed in the course of an email exchange between us:

“With the abandonment and capricious replacement of

many of its core rules – including the rule about relations with the supernatural – life in the West, Ireland included, has lost sense, and instead of presenting sense presents senselessness – an affront to the rational and sentient human being. This has dire effects on people of all ages, but especially on the most sensitive of the (naturally life-probing and life-assessing) young.”

In political terms, I believe, such senselessness is the consequence of a pincer movement involving the operation of vested interests on two distinct but inter-working kinds of stupidity.

On the one hand is the stupidity of the managerial political class, which implements the will of the cartels and the ideologues behind the backs of the allegedly democratic entities over which they preside. On the other hand is the moronic cacophony emanating from the lower tiers of public opinion in such societies, orchestrated by s**t-stirring commentariats that contrive to elide the absurdities in order to set one element of society against another.

Thus, public opinion is directed to the idea that Begley is a “thief”, who has sought to “defraud” his fellow citizens, rather than a businessman who tried to overcome a grotesque irrationality in order to make a living for himself and his employees in a ludicrous market run by corrupt operators on their own behalf.

But as the Russian-American writer and philosopher Ayn Rand pointed out in 1957, there is another syndrome here that we need to be conscious of also. “There’s no way”, she said, “to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

Increasingly, the point of laws – apart from acquiescing in the demands of some bullying lobby group – is to provide work for the parasitical professions – lawyers, traffic wardens, social workers and the like – which modern societies have evolved as a way of compensating for the elimination, through technological progress, of manual work.

Enforcement of absurd laws is a lucrative business, which keeps many of the State’s officials in a style that they might not otherwise have any hope of attaining.

The editorial writers tell us severely that the evasion of taxes like the garlic tariff are “not victimless crimes”.

I move quickly to remove one word out of their sentences and say simply that they are not crimes, full stop. The only crime here is in the imposition of stupidities on our societies that serve ultimately to alienate human beings even further from our true nature.

As Begley can now attest also, these are not victimless stupidities.