Amazingly, we're not evil

Victoria Coren Mitchell writes of her buying 50 tiny tambourines in order to encourage the local librarian to continue her singing group for toddlers and tots:

To cut a long story shortish: my local library, which has been run by a children’s charity since the council removed its funding in 2012, has a weekly singing group for babies and toddlers. It’s a fantastic way to get parents, carers and children out socialising (and socialising together): toddlers that can sing, toddlers that can’t sing, toddlers from big houses, toddlers from council estates, toddlers from the temporary homeless accommodation in the next street, toddlers from the secret underground oligarchs’ lairs that must be round here somewhere… all of them clapping, dancing, speculating confidently as to the stock on Old MacDonald’s farm, then staying on to look at books and catch the reading bug. It’s truly a vision of how you would want society to be. UNLESS YOU’RE EVIL.

Despite our reputation we're not in fact evil. We might have the slightest wince at the thought of the yodelling little uns doing so in unison before the age at which they've quite identified what a tune is but that is about us, not them. But we do think this is a grand, if not essential, vision of what society should be.

It's possible to look at this from a rather conservative viewpoint, that of Edmund Burke and his insistence that it's the little platoons that actually make this thing called society work. Or we might be more properly liberal about it and consider the lessons of history.

For the 20 th century did give us a number of competing totalitarianisms. One thing that united them being their insistence upon that total control of society. This is clearest post 1945 in Central and Eastern Europe, which is when those with a plan were able to impose it swiftly, rather than the control being imposed in a more haphazard manner in reaction to events.

Everything, no matter what, was, is and must be under the control of the State. The Boy Scouts became the Young Pioneers.  The YMCA and all other youth groups must become part of the planned and organised State apparatus. The Women's Institute must not merely make jam or sing Jerusalem but must parade for socialist comity and understand their duty in building communism. That is, in fact, what totalitarianism really means, not the secret police and the Gulags, but that there is no civil society, no little platoons, no voluntary organisations. It is entirely possible to have such totalitarianisms of different flavours but they do all have that one unifying characteristic.

We've indicated that perhaps the two year olds' rendition of Old MacDonald might not be totally to our musical tastes but in a wider consideration it's one of the sweeter sounds this sphere affords us. For it's the exercise of that freedom of voluntary association, that most important of freedoms to society. As is, of course, dib dib dib, did those feet in ancient times and, young man, there's no need to feel down.

They're the sound of liberty, d'ye see?