Belmont Club

On the Immortality of Weeds

The conviction of Briton Michael Philpott for the crime of burning down a house to get his kid’s welfare checks back inspired A. N. Wilson of the Daily Mail to brand him the “perfect parable for our age … his house, his booze, his drugs, his women and his 17 children were paid for by a benefits system meant to be a safety net for the truly needy.” “Shameless Mick”  gamed the system. ‘Michael Philpott did not want to work. He just wanted a house full of kids and the benefit money that brings.’”


When he lost custody of the kids to his former girlfriend Philpott set a scare fire to the house so the judge would conclude his ex was an unreliable parent and give the kids with their welfare checks back to him. But the fire burned out of control and incinerated all the kids in the house. The judge concluded instead that he was guilty of manslaughter.

Philpott is part of a new and burgeoning profession called voting for a living. And it’s not just confined to the poor. Jonathan Foreman’s book on the foreign aid racket Aiding and Abetting explains that if you really want into the big time then compassion’s the game for you.

There is an argument that the aid industry’s primary economic function is as a system of ‘outdoor relief’, or rather high-status employment, for members of the upper and middle classes in Britain and elsewhere. Clare Lockhart, co-author of Fixing Failed States, likens the aid industry to the Victorian Church of England, a prestigious institution in which third sons of elite families could work without soiling their hands in trade or industry.  Today, for university educated, idealistic young people (who may not have many marketable skills at home and whose background is no longer a guarantee of a fulfilling job at home), aid work offers prestige, moral glamour, adventure, foreign travel and, for some, a good living.


There’s nothing like caring for others to really do well for yourself.  France was recently shaken by news that its professional athletes had to pay a 75% tax on their earnings while the former Socialist Minister of Finance, who publicly inveighed against rich people salting their savings overseas finally admitted that he had a secret Swiss banking account. “Jérôme Cahuzac, who until two weeks ago was responsible for cracking down on tax evasion, admitted to having hidden funds in a secret Swiss bank on Tuesday. Judges have now placed Cahuzac under formal investigation.”

On his blog, Cahuzac said he was “devastated by remorse” and begged forgiveness from French President François Hollande.

“I ask the President, the Prime Minister, my former colleagues in government, to forgive me for the damage I have caused them,” he wrote, adding that he had some 600,000 euros in a foreign bank account that he had held in his name for around 20 years.

Cahuzac’s remorse may be for himself. Too bad I was caught. Remarkably for our caring age, shamelessness is unabashedly back. People will apparently consent to any exhibition; lie cheat and steal to whatever degree or shame and degrade themselves to any extent to earn a buck. And it’s OK, especially if you get on a reality show.

“Shameless Mick” Philpott for example, lost no time exploiting his momentary notoriety to say on a talk show that he was “having a threesome with his fellow defendants on the night of the fire, while he also claimed not to have showered for 12 weeks before the fire.” If you had paid him to take a dump on TV he probably would have.


One might conclude that the shameless have got the better of the world, were it not for the fact that it is so overrun by that other paradox, an excess of militantly godless morality. Big size soft drinks, pictures of guns, and words too numerous to mention are all proscribed. People shamble along in a rigid PC respectability every day; and yet there is something disturbingly passive and dead about the population who votes for a living instead of working for it.

Why do we live in an age of both intense public piety and almost no personal morality. It’s a paradox worth examining. Why can a single politically incorrect or ‘uncaring’ public statement ruin a career while private villainy so unimportant.  Why are the only sins that count today political ones? Why is it that the only mistake possible today is holding the wrong views, as David Gregory showed. Hate the “high-powered magazine” and its ok to hold the high powered magazine. It’s almost as if where you are in the system, not what you actually do that counts. Especially if what you do is work for a living. Public piety is everything; in our own personal behavior nothing matters. One writer in Bribanes Times asks:

Does this go some way to explaining a phenomenon I like to call ‘hot chicks and douche bags?’

You see it all the time. Beautiful, lovely women who generally make very sensible life decisions sometimes wind up with lads who, to the outside world, don’t appear to be their equal. Why? Are they trying to fix him? Are they attracted to his hopelessness? Do they not know their own value?


What value is that? Isn’t it true that the individual has no inherent value; an idea that is asserted in so many way. Judging douchebags would be judgmental but a fetus is not really a person until society declares him to be.  Aren’t individuals a byproduct of the social construct? And isn’t it true that only system causes  count in explaining our personal failures.

Have you had an abused childhood, lacked counseling, were bullied or experienced racism lately? Well that explains everything, because you’re just an empty vessel into which society pours its wine.

Consequently the answer to “Shameless Mick” or stolen Foreign Aid or lying politicians or douchebags is always in some kind of bureaucratic reform, licensing or regulation. Weeds exist because something is wrong with the garden.  And mass killings happen because “someone” — never yourself — forgot to proscribe the guns.  The cycle is familiar. Another Philpott, another regulation. Another terrorist bombing another body search for everyone.

And so we go through life helpless and passive. The English chavs, the foreign aid victims, the taxpayers and the modern hot chick alike stumble through existence waiting for some political party to deliver them from evil. For things just happen to us now.

One of the unreckoned costs of curtailing freedom, of denigrating the role of the individual, has been to subtract an essential ingredient from reality. Our individual wills are really an illusion, isn’t that settled science?  The real hidden cost to believing that “you didn’t build that”  or it’s equivalent “you didn’t do that”  is a fundamental impoverishment of in the concept of what it means to be alive.  In his own way “Shameless Mick” thought of himself as some kind of success, someone who had done a great thing. He had achieved that great transcendence,  minor celebrity.


he lay face down on the corridor floor in ‘‘a childish performance and a plan to make him look like someone who was distraught and unable to stand’’.

Moments later, Philpott joked to female police officers he would marry them, and later propositioned another officer to go back to his hotel room.

Marie Smith, the manager of the Royal Derby Hospital morgue, where the children’s bodies were taken, said Philpott had pretended to faint, referred to his dead children as ‘‘little —–’’ and held a police officer in a headlock during ‘‘horseplay’’.

And yet he didn’t earn a dime. Who are ye Mick? Are you someone I can hate or  feel anything human for?  Or did you never exist at all and simply know it?

The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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