Tuesday 26 March 2024

Finding PISD sufferers an appropriate home


Parliament suffered an outburst of outrage yesterday as the dinosaurs who still don’t recognize that the UK no longer rules the waves fulminated against the audacity of the Chinese for daring to engage in illicit hacking activities. They’ve even dared to hack their way into the publicly available electoral registers. In the olden days, the response would have been to send a gunboat or two up the Yangtze river to teach the natives a lesson, but an aircraft carrier which struggles to get out of port without breaking down somehow doesn’t really cut it. Post Imperial Stress Disorder is, apparently, a thing. And it seems to be quite widespread, even amongst those who never knew Empire. It’s easy to understand how PISD sufferers might feel frustrated when the serious and dramatic UK response is a few meaningless sanctions against two named individuals and a small and obscure company.

The demands to be told exactly what the Chinese have been up to are reasonable, up to a point – but it raises a question about reciprocity. Does anyone seriously believe, for instance, that the UK’s security services are not hacking their way into Chinese computer systems with malicious intent? (If they’re not, that is probably an even bigger scandal.) Should the demand for openness and honesty be applied to the UK’s nefarious cyber activities as well? It’s a silly question, of course. We all know that the UK is special and unique, and therefore entitled to use whatever means are appropriate to protect its interests, including breaking international law whenever the fancy takes it. And not just in a ‘specific and limited way’ either.

The demand that others be held to a higher standard than ‘us’ is one of the main visible symptoms of PISD, but the disorder itself is incurable, sadly. The best we can do is try to isolate sufferers from the rest of society, and let them see out their days in comparative solitude. Somewhere they can rant to their hearts’ content and influence very little. That may, in fact, be the best justification anyone has ever come up with for the existence of the House of Lords. Seen as part of the selection process for membership of that institution, yesterday’s performance in parliament might even start to make sense.

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