Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Playtime is over

There is a theory - one I subscribe to - that Western societies have become vulnerable to Islamism because they have lost faith in their own core values, and are unable to offer any resistance to an ideology that is hellbent on bringing them to their knees.

People cleverer than me believe that many Westerners have reflected on their history and on the changes that have taken place in their lifetimes, and become so disillusioned with their way of life that they can’t bring themselves to defend it, even if they don’t especially care for what threatens to take its place.

Maybe. But if there is some deep philosophical explanation for this cultural ennui, those gripped by it must be old enough to have grown world-weary, or learned enough to have a sense of historical perspective. We may have our fair share of geriatric cynics who've fallen out of love with the West, or academics with an axe to grind against it, but they aren't numerous or influential enough to infect an entire culture. For there to be such widespread distaste for Western values, there must be considerable animosity among a younger, less intellectual demographic, whose distaste is rooted in something other than personal experience or scholarly knowledge. I suspect the real explanation is a lot less complicated.

When the Left collapsed as a labour movement in the 1980s, it was hijacked by brattish malcontents looking to dodge the responsibilities of adulthood. They gazed at their society, their culture, their civilisation and saw the prospect of a life at odds with their spoilt childhoods: one of duties and expectations they’d never experienced, criticism where flattery used to be, and toil where once there was leisure. Even their educational achievements, so important to them for so long, looked set to play second fiddle to qualities they conspicuously lacked, like charisma and cunning.

Instead of accepting that things are probably the way they are for a reason and getting with the programme, they sought excuses for why they shouldn't bother. It wasn't that they were lazy, entitled or scared, it was because the system was unjust, and unfairly skewed against them. It was down to elitism, racism, sexism, or whatever -ism afflicted the latest victim group looking for a societal sick note. There should be greater equality, they cried, so there would be fewer opportunities to thwart their precious egos.

Having never grown beyond the idea that their welfare is someone else's responsibility, they blamed everyone who had brought history to its current point for letting them down. It wasn't inevitable that the cosy assurances of their childhood should come to an end; it was a mean-spirited decision made by people too selfish, ill-educated and hidebound to entertain an alternative. Their resistance and state of perma-outrage was proof of their commitment to higher ideals, and confirmation of their moral superiority to the degraded champions of the status quo.

These infantile malcontents spoke the language of rebellion and liberty, but the last thing they wanted was to be left to their own devices. They simply expected society to afford them the same simulacrum of power and freedom enjoyed by a mollycoddled teenager.

They envisaged a world in which their pampered youth was replicated in adult form. So instead of a pat on the head for drawing daddy a picture, there would be cushy jobs that pandered to their narcissistic whim. Rather than suffering the judgment of others, there would be soothing assurances that they are perfect as they are. Any big boys who outshone them, or asked for more than they were willing to give, would be brought to heel. Instead of dealing with the consequences of their actions, some parental figure would tidy up after them and make things better. Being too immature to cope with disagreement, theirs would be the only voice heard and the only advice followed. In fact, as many of their emotional and material needs as possible would be catered for, so they could pursue a life of adolescent insouciance.

These overgrown sixth-formers were successful in rebuilding society in their own image. They took over our institutions and created millions of non-jobs in the public and private sectors - jobs that were like schoolwork in being of little value to anyone other than those doing them. Likewise, they oversaw the proliferation of in-pay ‘experts’, whose findings only ever made the case against autonomous adulthood and for the empowerment of people like them.

They expanded the welfare state and turned the NHS into a national religion, normalising dependency and portraying self-reliance as a hoity-toity privilege. They propagated universal excuses for ineptitude and failure via bogus theories of oppression, then howled down naysayers and called for them to be jailed. They sanctified youth, prioritised the interests of youngsters, and cursed the elderly for not just shutting up and getting out their cheque books.

They upended traditions and trashed social norms with the glee of people too naive and arrogant to believe they served any useful purpose. To this end, they also flooded the country with immigrants, to dilute the dominant culture, upset their opponents, and advance the need for a bigger welfare state. Freedom, and those who cope with its slings and arrows, were vilified, while vulnerability was turned into a virtue and presented as our fundamental condition. In fact, everything they did seemed designed to infantilise the populace and strengthen the hand of the authorities, who were cast in the role of doting parent.

Perhaps the greatest symbol of their success has been the EU: a monument to unaccountable, paternalistic power; a writer of stifling rules that curb our freedoms and, therefore, our responsibilities; a creator of makework jobs to fill the schoolwork-shaped hole in the lives of beta nerds who fancy themselves too smart and sophisticated to join the rat race; an endorser of the kind of people who fill those jobs and of their position as masters of the universe.

But like all leftists, they eventually overreached. The cost of supporting their juvenile Shangri-la became unsustainable, and the people cowed into propping it up decided enough was enough. The financial crash of 2008 exposed its economic inanity, setting a number of Western nations on the long path back to probity. With accountability back in vogue, resentment grew of the institutions that had taken it away in the first place: the EU, the nanny state and the legions of technocrats who presumed to tell us how to live. Brexit and Trump were natural responses to this sentiment.

The position of our sissyfied overlords on social issues began to grate, too. Their insistence that ‘the system’ was profoundly unjust required them to wage a never-ending war on behalf of the ‘oppressed’ - an increasingly ridiculous and unpalatable roll-call of misfits and ne’erdowells. “Why should we sacrifice our way of life to satisfy these people,” the public wondered, “when they are so few and their interests so at odds with our own?”

In the face of this push-back, the left-wing establishment upped the ante, directing its spite at whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality, and all those other markers of the status quo. The targets of this blood libel were to blame for all the evils of the world and deserved to be shamed, punished, blotted from history, and replaced by mascots of the brave new world.

Such absurdity was not only offensive to the vast majority of people, it flew in the face of their own experiences and common sense. The declarations of the new Left, for so long taken as the voice of reason and progress, sounded like lunatic rantings. Their underdog-worship became a series of unsustainable contradictions. They rooted for gays, but then Muslims became the victim de jour, who were not so hot on the whole gay thing. Cue hilarious displays of intellectual gibberish and cognitive dissonance, to the eye-rolling despair of sane people everywhere.

In spite of the Right’s resurgence, the cultural establishment remains firmly in the hands of adolescent leftists, who so despise the prospect of a truly free society that they will do anything to avoid its deliverance. They will kick, scream and spoil like sulky teenagers until they get their way. Their rage and their hatred for their own cultural inheritance is all the greater for them being so used to having their cake and eating it. They would rather live under a totalitarian regime if it means avoiding the challenges, frustrations and potential humiliations of freedom. They even believe, on some sub-moronic level, that they will be afforded more grace and favour under autocratic rule than under the ‘iron fist’ of liberty.

With the tide turning, panic is spreading among millennial ingrates and their aging soulmates. Their foot-stamping demands for salvation become more hysterical by the day. They don't want to grow up, dammit, and they see nothing worth saving in the culture that expects them to do so.

Well, sorry kids, but playtime is over.

Friday, 9 June 2017

There are none so blind

Thursday's General Election saw millions of first-time voters give their support to Jeremy Corbyn. Apparently, they felt his pledge to stick it to the rich and increase public sector spending equates to justice and decency, and they’re very much about these things. History has demonstrated time and again that big government is a bad idea, but hope springs eternal. The imbecilic idealism of youth ensures that each time socialism is tossed into the dustbin of history, it crawls out again to entice the another generation of fantasists.

For doubting the wisdom of eternal state expansion, conservatives are seen by the Left as heartless knaves, who walk on the backs of peasants. Or as Thomas Sowell put it, they “seem to assume that if you don't believe in their particular political solutions, then you don't really care about the people that they claim to want to help”.

Leftists find it useful to conjure up evil conservative straw men, because they like having something dark and satanic to define themselves against. In truth, however, conservatives do care about other people. They’re just more interested in doing good than feeling good. The reason they doubt the ability of a benevolent state to banish all our social ills isn't just down to their lack of faith in the omnipotence of bureaucrats, but because they have a grasp of economic reality.

To illustrate this point, allow me to borrow an example from philosopher Jamie Whyte. Suppose I took a portion of your income and did your weekly shopping for you. Chances are, I’d buy plenty of things you don’t need, be extravagant where you’d have economised, and frugal where you’d have splashed out. Even if I stayed within your usual budget, what was left wouldn’t be enough for you to afford the things I'd neglected to buy. You’d be left worse off than if you'd done your own shopping.

Now imagine this scheme was rolled out nationwide, with the government buying groceries for everyone. Soon enough, retailers would tailor production to the government shopping list, and variety would vanish from the shelves. With no competition or consumer choice to worry about, there would be few controls over costs, and nothing to drive productivity, quality or innovation. With everything free at the point of use, demand would be effectively infinite, but budgetary constraints, growing inefficiency and spiralling costs would hamper supply. Rationing and shortage would be inevitable. Eventually, you’d have to queue around the block for loaf of bread that used to cost a pound, but now costs a tenner and is full of weevils.

This is why it’s absurd to claim a little less efficiency is a fair price for a little more equality. Truth is, the state makes everything so expensive that it can only be afforded by the state. This may not bother you if you think someone else is picking up the lion’s share of the cost, but when government plays provider, prices rise and quality falls to such an extent that you’d still be better off paying your own way.

To understand the magnitude of this effect, consider Venezuela. Even having the largest oil reserves on earth couldn’t save it from the consequences of socialism. Its economy is in tatters, not because of interference by scheming gringos, but because of its statist policies. This is the eventual fate of any country that goes down the route of providing the public with too much 'free stuff'.

Once statism takes hold, it’s very hard to dislodge. Because the NHS has a near-monopoly on healthcare, for instance, it dictates and drives up the cost of medical procedures nationally. Private alternatives compete in this inflated market, so their prices tend to be high also. They have a limited pool of potential customers (because most people can’t afford private healthcare after forking out for the NHS), so there is insufficient competition or demand to apply downward pressure on prices. The net result is that only a relative few buy private health insurance, and everyone else is stuck in the gravitational pull of an NHS doomed by the mechanism described above.

The only way to break the spell is through privatisation. But that is a poisonous word for people concerned with ‘social justice’, who (getting things entirely the wrong way round) associate it with bad value, shoddy service and diddling the poor. Instead, they call for more public spending, preferring short-term good they can take credit for supporting, than long-term good they did nothing to bring about.

The same people probably wouldn’t dream of using government mobile phones, eating in government restaurants, or going on government holidays. They understand how expensively second-rate those things would be, but refuse to view our monolithic public services the same way. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The road to hell

Consider this…

Islamic terrorism is committed by a tiny fringe of extremists – a fraction of one percent of all Muslims, who follow a perverted interpretation of what is a fundamentally peaceful faith. The remainder are thoroughly decent people, appalled by the atrocities being perpetrated in the name of Islam, who want to live in harmony with non-believers.

Their way of life may be different to ours, but the two are entirely compatible, providing we, as hosts, show sufficient tolerance and understanding. Not that our own culture is anything to be proud of, being a sorry tale of prejudice, oppression and greed. Instead of singing its praises, we should accept Muslims and their customs into the melting pot of British life, as an antidote to our shameful past and to the people who want to keep it alive.

Provincial racists, with their poisonous patriotism and support for Tory cuts, are the reason Muslims feel alienated and neglected. We must not give into their demands for an immigration crackdown and closer scrutiny of the Islamic community. More racism, more arrogance and more meanness are not the cure, they’re the cause. We need to show Muslims we are accepting, humble and generous if we are to win their allegiance.

The idea that Islam has spawned a disproportionate number of fanatics is a distortion. There are plenty of Christian, Hindu and Sikh murderers in the world, though they don’t get the same exposure. In fact, most so-called Islamic extremists aren’t motivated by religion at all – despite what they might claim themselves. They’re mentally-disturbed individuals, using Islam as an excuse for their actions. Many are not even affiliated to a terrorist organisation. They’re just lone-wolves, who happen to be Muslim, so it's difficult to understand their motives or intercept them before turn violent.

Statistically speaking, terrorism isn’t a big deal, anyway. The chances of being killed in a terror attack are so small as to be insignificant. Even if a hundred people are murdered by terrorists in Britain this year, that’s only about 5% of the number of who’ll die on our roads. We shouldn’t let the drama of these events and sensational press coverage let us get things out of perspective.

Then again…

...try telling the family of someone killed in Manchester or London that the death of a loved one is no big deal – a statistical anomaly that shouldn’t be blown out of proportion. As Mark Steyn put it, in response to the fatuous claim that more Americans are killed by falling fridges than by terrorists:

“Your refrigerator is not trying to kill you, and not eternally seeking new ways to do so. You don’t have to worry about your fridge getting hold of an automatic weapon, or a dirty nuke. The Islamic supremacists want to kill as many infidels as possible by whatever means are to hand. Nor are statistics irrelevant: If you’ve lost your only child because she went to an Ariana Grande concert, that’s 100 per cent of your kids who are dead. When it comes to deceased loved ones, the only statistical pool that counts is your family, not the nation or the planet.”

Events of the type witnessed in London and Manchester strike a special kind of fear into us precisely because they're exceptional. They shatter our assumption that, despite all the terrible things in the world, we can still go to the shops, the pub or a pop concert, without being massacred by medieval savages. As such, they're not just attacks on innocent people, but on civilised order itself.

Knowing that these dreadful incidents occur more often in far-flung places than at home doesn't comfort us, because we don’t live in those countries. What shocks and appals us is that it’s happening on our doorstep, where we’re entitled to feel safe. The more we explain away terrorism with pie charts and philosophical musings, the more we resemble those lawless hellholes where we're told they have it much worse.

Muslims are not the only people of faith committing murder, of course, but they’re the only ones doing it in the name of their god on a global scale. Those responsible haven’t misinterpreted their religious teachings, they’ve taken them verbatim. If anything, it’s the moderate Muslims who have things back to front, because, contrary the ‘religion of peace’ trope, the Koran doesn’t have a New Testament or Version 2.0 that preaches tolerance and forgiveness. All it has is the real-deal original, replete with blood, thunder, and death to the infidel.

It stands to reason – not as a matter of prejudice, but as a statistical certainty – that if you increase the number of Muslims in your society, you increase the number of Islamic extremists. Despite this, many people are reluctant to halt or reduce Muslim immigration, or deport and detain terror suspects, because they claim it would stigmatise Muslims already living here and could inspire more attacks.

Whether you take this position or not, there is surely a degree of bloodshed beyond which even the most tolerant individual would be forced to park their principles and support more robust action. So why isn’t that moment now? If the preachers of tolerance believe we’ve some way to go yet, they need to spell out exactly what ‘enough’ looks like. What kind of death toll can they live with? Put a number on it.

As for the idea that taking action against Muslims would inflame the situation, how do we know? Where’s the evidence that moderate Muslims would take measures to prevent further mayhem as a call to arms? And what alternative do we have, anyway? Two decades of multiculturalism – of turning a blind eye to misogyny, homophobia, arranged marriages, child rape gangs, female genital mutilation, and all the other ‘eccentricities’ of Muslim culture – have done little to improve matters. Why would more of the same make a difference?

This programme of appeasement and self-flagellation hasn't just failed to address extremism, it's facilitated it. For years now, left-wing intellectuals have charged Western culture with exploiting and oppressing people, denying them a platform, discriminating against them on the basis of class, race, religion, gender or sexual preference, and brainwashing them into pursuing a shallow, materialistic existence that serves the interests of a privileged few. Opinion-formers and decision-makers have indulged this dogma and, in doing so, sent a clear message to Muslims: you live among selfish, racist philistines, who will never accept you and have no beliefs worth embracing. Under the circumstances, I’m surprised more of them don’t hate us.

It’s easy for dangerous beliefs to take root in such an ideological void. The empty mantra of tolerance and diversity has replaced the judgmental values of old, and offer a free pass to anything opposed to how things used to be. When liberals urge us to stay united in the face of terrorism, what they mean is, “Don’t let this take us back to the bad old days”. They are so terrified of being called racist, or so wedded to the leftist narrative, they would rather sit on their hands and wait for things to blow over, than do anything worth a damn.

But it’s not going to blow over. The longer we wait without acting decisively, the worse it will get. Take the high road if you like, but know that it leads to hell.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Keep calm, carry on, do nothing

The Manchester Arena bombing warrants shock, outrage and sadness. And something else: honesty. The usual platitudes are now so tired as to be offensive, but we got them anyway: this is nothing to do with Islam, most Muslims are peaceful, a tiny minority has misinterpreted the Koran. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Okay, fine, make that argument, but it doesn't let Islam off the hook. It just tells us that it's uniquely problematic. After all, there aren't many Sikhs or Hindus who take their faith as a call to arms and go on killing sprees. Religion of peace or not, there is evidently something in the teachings of Islam that lends itself to murderous fanaticism.

Are moderate Muslims interested in solving this conundrum? Are they even able to? We're pushing on towards two decades since 9/11, and they haven't come up with much so far. Or is it the job of non-Muslims to find a solution? We'd certainly like one, but I doubt we can offer an easy fix - not one that doesn’t amount to submission, anyway. Or maybe we should stop overthinking the problem and just bang up suspects in our own version of Gitmo.

Then there's the prickly question of Muslim immigration. We could keep the door open and hope for the best, but that would be like leaving the water main on while waiting for a plumber to fix a leak - a plumber who may never show up. Besides, as Donald Trump discovered, any action that threatens to stem the inward flow of Muslims is unacceptable to right-thinking people. In fact, anything less than looking to maximise their number is considered deeply suspect. You don't want as many Muslims as you can get? What are you, racist?

This is where we find ourselves. Be sad, be angry, our leaders tell us, but don't let this atrocity upset the status quo - i.e. rampant immigration, cultural self-loathing and plenty of multiculti blind-eye-turning. This mentality is so entrenched among progressives, that when Islam hits the headlines for the wrong reasons, they immediately spring to the defence of the Muslim community, just as a mother reflexively sticks up for her child when someone else tells them off.

It's reasonable to ask what kind of person’s first thought, when confronted with a pile of corpses, is for the welfare of the community that spawned the killer, and who refuses to entertain any response, however effective, that might alienate that community’s members. To comprehend such insensitivity, one needs to understand how progressives view society, and their own place within it.

From their perspective, society is divided into four distinct groups. First, we have The Masses: malodorous, uneducated commoners, who, left to their own devices, will do, say and think all the wrong things. Lacking any intellectual sophistication, their tastes are vulgar and their opinions bigoted. They are easily bedazzled by demagogues and cheap trinkets, and harbour racist thoughts, which they hide behind a fig leaf of national pride.

Then we have the Bullies: white, middle-class professionals, who get all the breaks in life, because our society was built by their kind for their own benefit. They are selfish, hidebound philistines, who despise what is strange or different. They want to wind back to clock to a time when women were in the kitchen, gays were jailed, and darkies were nowhere to be seen. They elbow their way up the corporate ladder or slither into conservative politics, and lead the Masses astray, filling their heads with hate, greed and false dreams, and exploiting them for their own ends.

Next we have the Victims, comprising every disadvantaged and put-upon group in the land: the poor, the disabled, ethnic minorities, Muslims, women, and the LGBTQ rainbow alliance. They are the natural prey of the Masses and the Bullies, and their existence is one long tale of prejudice and abuse. They are blameless for their woes, because they never had a fighting chance. Their actions and behaviour, however destructive, are attributable to the mistreatment they have suffered at the hands of others. Denied a voice, ringfenced by hate, they are helpless to fight their corner alone.

So it’s a good job we have our fourth and final group: the progressive Saviours. Here are the heroes of the piece: wise and compassionate souls, nuanced in thought, sophisticated in taste, possessed of great intellectual and moral prowess, far too wise and wonderful to be constrained by the rules and values that govern the rest of us. If there were any justice in the world, we would live under a benign dictatorship of Saviours, who would provide for us, educate us, and keep us on the straight and narrow.

Despite being our natural leaders, the Saviours lived for many years in the shadow of the Bullies, who denied them the treatment they deserved, the jobs they were born to fill, and the influence they needed to make a difference. That’s why the Saviours are so nauseated by patriotism: because it’s a celebration of Bully culture, and a reminder of their own humiliation.

The Saviours’ sense of having been wronged helped them forge an emotional bond with the Victims, who they came to see as fellow casualties of an oppressive system. Saviours dote on Victims like pets, protecting them from the fascistic Bullies and the ignorant Masses, and smoothing their path through life with a slip-slide of excuses and preferential treatment. The Masses, meanwhile, they treat with a mixture of disappointment and disgust. Saviours see it as their duty to guide and redeem these misguided proles and blunt their worst instincts. They hope one day to win back their loyalty and bring them under their wing.

Saviours use ‘whiteness’ as a catch-all phrase to describe the dominant culture of the Bullies: their unearned privilege, their exploitative ways, the way they feather their own nests at the expense of others. They know ‘white folk’ have it easy, because...well, just look at the balance of power in society. Every decision will go their way as long as people are free to think and choose for themselves, because that’s how the game is rigged. This is why, ultimately, Saviours want to stamp out individual freedom: because it’s a licence for injustice. Until erroneous thoughts are crushed and dissenting voices silenced, society will carry on making the ‘wrong’ choices and favouring the ‘wrong’ people. Life will be a gruelling assault course of crippling prejudice and thwarted ambitions.

Unlike Bullies, who covet material gain and heartless efficiencies, Saviours regard compassion as the proper measure of worth. The more they showcase their decency, the more good they do. The more people they emote over, and the more haters they hate, the better the world will be. Reality must be constantly reinterpreted to maintain a healthy stock of heros and villains, so Saviours can continue the good fight.

Viewed through a Saviour lens, Islamic terror attacks look like Victims punching up at Bullies. Saviours may be disgusted by all the killing and maiming, but they can identify with the rebellious sentiment. Appalled though they are, they don’t want to condemn the terrorists or defend Bully culture too much, because both are grist to their emotional mill. So they sympathise with the dead, warn against an Islamophobic backlash, and blame the West for provoking violence. It’s a fudged solution, but it preserves the narrative and rings some compassion out of the situation. Then they go back to sobbing over the mistreatment of Muslims and railing against white people.

Saviours have been in the ascendency in recent years. They have come to power across the Western world and set about undermining the pillars of Bully culture. They’ve actively supported multiculturalism and immigration (particularly the Muslim variety) because they weaken Bully influence and bolster their supply of Victims.

Saviour values are now so embedded in the public consciousness that when they are widely rejected, millions of people rise up in fury. Their virtuous self-image is so dear to them that any resistance to their agenda is taken as an affront - even if it's to protest the slaughter of innocents. Their message in the case of the Islamic threat is clear: keep calm, carry on, do nothing. And may God have mercy on our souls.

Friday, 30 December 2016

The ghosts of Christmas past

I love Christmas and everything that goes with it: the decorations, the presents, the music, the shameless excess and, most of all, the convivial atmosphere – that thing the Germans call Gem├╝tlichkeit. It's the summer of the soul in December, as the Muppets once sang: a warm glow of joy amid that cheerless gulf that begins in autumn and ends in spring.

I once spent a Christmas in Australia and was amused to discover they share our imagery of snowscapes and roaring fires, despite it being the middle of their summer. Much of this has to do with their British roots, of course, but it’s also because in the Anglosphere our notion of Christmas is intrinsically tied to the myths and traditions popularised by the Victorians. Christmas is an exercise in nostalgia for our own pasts and those of others.

Any annual event is bound to induce nostalgia, but it seems to me the Christmas we reminisce about and try to recreate each year belongs to an age that ended sometime in the early 1990s. Since then, few memorable festive songs have been written, programmes made, or traditions started – perhaps because this is when the world began to take on a look and feel that is familiar today. The warm glow of remembrance is generally reserved for different, simpler times, not dogeared versions of the here-and-now.

Christmases of yore were chintzy and naff, but that was their charm. They lacked the self-consciousness and affectation of today, where everything is an ‘event’, finessed within an inch of its life. The gaudy decorations, tacky gifts and blurry snapshots of yesteryear contained more authenticity than than anything found in the pixel-perfect modern Christmas. Give me Joe Brown flogging C90 tapes dressed as a ringmaster over a John Lewis sobfest any day.

Maybe no one has recorded a decent Christmas single lately because we’ve lost the ability to be so cheerfully uncool. Then again, maybe we lacked the means to be anything else back then, and technological and economic advancements have cost us our appreciation of modest pleasures. Yesterday's stuff of wonder is today's humdrum, the once-luxurious is now throw-away cheap, and what used to be hard to find is just a mouse click away. That’s the price of progress and there’s no way of putting the genie back in its bottle.

Progress has also made the world a smaller place. We are connected as never before to other people, inundated with a constant flow of news and information, able to document our lives and exchange opinions on social media whether we’re sitting at home or on the other side of the planet. This is a far cry from the the days when teenagers reached beyond their provincial bedrooms via letters, fanzines and transistor radios – lines of communication that made the world feel larger for being so insubstantial.

This was the Britain of my youth in the early 1980s. The country was still a grey, parochial place  a land of YTS schemes, picket lines and Findus Crispy Pancakes. Entertainment was three TV stations watched on a square wooden box. Offices were smoke-filled places, full of typewriters and casual sexism. Politics was a battleground, stalked by Tory radicals and Labour Trots. And above everything loomed the Cold War, the Russians, and the threat of armageddon.

No wonder feel-good pop music was so pervasive at the time. People needed a little colour in their lives, and those sun-drenched videos, garish hair-dos and ridiculous outfits provided the perfect tonic. Who wouldn't want to visit Club Tropicana or holiday on Duran Duran’s yacht when there were three million unemployed and nuclear oblivion was a four-minute warning away?

The Eighties also represented a tipping point, from a Britain steeped in heritage and tradition to a modern, cosmopolitan nation. It was the twilight of a less cynical, knowing age; gloriously corny, perhaps, but thankfully devoid of the kind of over-thought, over-regulated bullshit that blights life today.

For a few brief years, we had the best of both worlds: a Britain that was still decidedly British, but experiencing the first exotic signs of globalisation. For the young, it was an especially thrilling time, because popular culture was pitched more squarely at them than ever before. A technological revolution saw home computers, microwaves and video recorders becoming commonplace in people’s homes, and all this razzamataz was sufficiently baffling to the older generation to suggest a line had been drawn in the sand. It was the dawning of a new era that belonged to the young.

This is significant because our way of life until then had been largely dictated by that older generation. Most World War Two veterans were barely out of middle-age, and their influence, interests and experiences loomed large in our lives. They respected the past and its achievements, and paid tribute to them through the preservation of everything from our social norms to our architecture. It was clearly no longer Victorian England, but enough of that period’s ideas and infrastructure had survived to provide a sense of continuity from one age to another.

I am reminded of this by an incident from my childhood. I was seated by the window of my school classroom in what is now an antiquated scene: blackboard and chalk, rows of lid-top desks stained with ink. It was a cold morning and I was enjoying the warmth of an old cast-iron radiator set beneath the window. In places, the paint had been chipped away from the metal, revealing ancient layers that marked the passing of the years like the rings on a tree. It occurred to me that some of the caretakers who had applied this paint were probably long dead, and that the hundreds of children who had sat in this spot before me were now grown men, or had already completed life’s journey. That radiator, that classroom and that school were small monuments to experiences and practices stretching back a hundred years or more.

Accumulated experience is not something to be discarded lightly. It contains the wisdom of the ages, and catalogues the stories and traditions that make us who we are. It doesn't dictate our fate; it informs our choices and emboldens us to do things that conventional thinking might put out of bounds. And yet discard it we have done in recent years – possibly because it humiliates our modest accomplishments, or because its life-lessons threaten our egotistical desires, or simply because we think that all change is for the better. Whatever the reason, its gradual disappearance has left a soul-shaped hole in our lives.

There's plenty about the past we are well rid of, but with change comes the risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and surrendering to the nudge-nudge of those who think they know better. Gentle customs are scorned out of existence; common ties are sacrificed in the name of diversity; cherished artefacts make way for charmless replacements; the open spaces of childhood are covered in houses; the freedom to live an unsupervised life is whittled away.

Perhaps the nostalgia that consumes us at this time of the year is the response of people who feel that, in the march of progress, they have left something behind. Like the Soviets who realised their way of life was wrong despite knowing no other, the society served up to us nowadays doesn’t feel natural. It doesn’t reflect our tastes or stem from our experiences.

This is why the big public events we organise nowadays have lost their authenticity: because they are no longer a part of who are. I recall the celebrations that surrounded the Silver Jubilee of 1977 and the Royal Wedding of 1981 as being genuine outpourings of public affection. Street parties were just what people did. There was nothing contrived or ersatz about them; they were as genuine as any other similar events to have taken place over the previous century. By comparison, more recent public celebrations have had a whiff of tribute to them. They feel forced and phoney – simulacrums of the real thing, orchestrated by people hoping to resurrect experiences and sentiments that have been lost to us.

When striking poses of sophistication becomes a substitute for real accomplishment, the past appears shameful and ridiculous, with nothing to teach us about how we should live today. Society is rebuilt around our selfish whims, the need to feel good about ourselves and the snooty sophistication of . When the authorities step in to satisfy this need, they remove the autonomy and spontaneity that allow us to come together and build a society in our own image. They encourage us to look inwards, to feel vulnerable, and to regard other people as a threat to our wellbeing.

Technology has made it easier for us to stay connected, but it has also enabled us to keep each other at arm’s length. The more that Internet communication becomes the norm, the more weird and troublesome meeting in person seems. Staying in to avoid the hell of other people is seen as natural and healthy. Setting aside your hang-ups to be part of a crowd is becoming a thing of the past.

None of this is conducive to the joyous, devil-may-care attitude that characterises Christmas, which is probably why we still celebrate it so passionately each year. It’s a chance to throw off our inhibitions, ignore our modern pieties, and be the people we used to be. Not the idiots who goosed women and drunk-drove home, maybe, but the people who came together to enjoy simple pleasures in an unironic, heartfelt way.

To borrow from Ebeneezer Scrooge, honour Christmas in your heart and try to keep it all the year. Live in the past, the present, and the future. The spirits of all three shall strive within you. Do not shut out the lessons that they teach.

Friday, 25 November 2016

The war is far from over

Apparently, minority groups across America believe they will be vulnerable to persecution under a Trump presidency. Millions of bigots, whose tendencies had been kept in check by President Obama, will become suddenly emboldened. Hate crimes will skyrocket. Immigrants will be dragged from their homes and thrown into internment camps or deported. Gays, lesbians and transsexuals will be openly mocked and abused. Boozed-up rednecks will cruise the streets in pickup trucks, lynching anyone whose face doesn’t fit. And so on.

It’s true that Trump has promised to enforce immigration law (something that only seems outrageous after eight years of imperial disdain for the statute book), but the rest of this doomsaying is pure hysteria. The tempest of hate supposedly directed at the Left's favourite victims really boils down to a willingness to call bullshit on the lies and conspiracy theories that shore up these groups’ victimhood and empower the left-wing establishment.

From white supremacy and the patriarchy to Islamophobia and the cop-executioners of Black Lives Matter imagination, these fantasies have been uncritically reported by the liberal media as incontestable facts. The same media then calmly describes any contrary opinion as extremist - not opinions remotely on the scale of those progressive fables, you understand, but anything that merely contradicts them.

Breitbart News had a taste of this during its recent run-in with AppNexus. The ad exchange firm blacklisted Breitbart for allegedly using inflammatory language. It declined to give examples, so the BBC helpfully provided some in its report on the story: one headline suggesting women being offended online should log off, another calling for Southerners to take pride in the Confederate flag, and a third describing young Western Muslims as a ticking timebomb.

These headlines are only scarily ‘out there’ if you subscribe lock, stock and barrel to the progressive worldview. Otherwise, they just represent a different perspective - one that doesn't take the Left's word as gospel and doesn't believe that opposing its agenda amounts to an attack on the people it claims to care about.

While conservatives are branded bigots for failing to stand aside and wave through the progressive bulldozer, those caring-sharing lefties can do all the rioting, looting, punching, kicking and screaming they like, and if the media bothers to report it, it's to claim they were riled up by right-wing hate. Concerned about those fake news stories we keep hearing about? Look no further.

But times are a-changing. It's gradually dawning on the Left that it can no longer recite its favourite tropes without fear of dissent. The media’s determined efforts to thwart Trump and crush Brexit have destroyed what public trust it enjoyed, and harmed its effectiveness as a propaganda machine. The silent majority has had its say and the establishment is appalled to discover that decades of browbeating have not shaken erroneous thoughts from its head.

This must be particularly hard to take when (in cultural terms, at least) the Left seemed to be at some kind of apogee until quite recently. The banshee wail of social justice warriors echoed across the land, winning support from politicians, on-message hacks and harebrained celebrities. A blizzard of po-faced hashtags circled the globe, leaving no one in any doubt that racism, sexism, white privilege and all those terrible ‘phobias’ were grave problems that only a censorious left-wing establishment could defeat. The EU would march on, Hillary would be President, the SJWs would prevail, and all would be right in the world. Then this.

Anyone expecting a rethink by leftists will be disappointed. They will cling to their theories more fiercely than ever in the coming months. They will treat every bump in the road as proof that the Right got it wrong. If it rains on their birthday, it'll be the fault of Trump, Brexit, etc. And if reality proves otherwise, they'll bury their heads and carry on regardless.

They have plenty of form at this kind of thing. Take for instance that notorious symptom of the patriarchy, the gender pay gap - a theory so thoroughly refuted even the Huffington Post has been known to doubt it. Lefties still trot it out with a straight face and cry “woman-hater” at anyone who objects. Do they know it's a bogus statistic? Probably, but they would justify its use by saying it helps push the issue of sexism up the public agenda. And how do they know such sexism exists? Well, just look at the gender pay gap.

If misogyny were truly rife in society, proof of its existence would come down to more than debunked studies, prickly paranoia and mental gymnastics. Since that's all we get, there must be some underlying need by the Left to believe that we live in a deeply sexist society. Likewise, when Black Lives Matter jumps to conclusions and sticks to them long after they've been contradicted by facts, we're seeing a pathological need to believe that America is a virulently racist place.

These comfort blankets don't come without a cost. They sow disunity and distrust. They encourage a belief that the feelings of designated victims are more important than the facts of the matter. They dissuade individuals from examining the real cause of their unhappiness (often themselves). Perhaps worst of all, they describe millions of blameless people as bigots and invite them to be despised.

This isn't an unhappy coincidence. Left-wing ‘compassion’ always amounts to scapegoating someone else and punishing them for their sins. Outcomes that don't apportion blame and demand atonement don't pass muster. All those noble causes that lead to this point are just a pretext. It's screwing over others and destroying their way of life that matters.

What ‘white people’, the patriarchy and all those other bogeymen have in common is that they represent a particular social arrangement liberal-leftists object to - one that requires them to work hard, take responsibility, put a lid on their appetites, respect other people's wishes and meet their standards. By championing their favoured causes, leftists hope to undermine this way of life and avoid its clutches.

They won't be deterred by their recent setbacks. They will fight more keenly than ever to restore themselves at the top of the tree. So what? Let them rant and rave. A change is coming whether they like it or not. Just be warned: the battle may be won, but the war is far from over.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The rise and fall of the new aristocracy

First there was Brexit, then Trump. Both represented the popular rejection of the establishment - of a self-satisfied, self-serving elite that thinks it knows best, and responds with petulant rage when anyone suggests otherwise.

So how did this elite come about, what's its motivation, and what is bringing about its downfall?

Here's what I think happened. We used to have a formula for a successful society and it largely involved leaving people to their own devices. They rubbed along together, suffered each other's judgement, satisfied one another's needs, and settled on guiding principles through trial and error. It wasn't perfect, but it was the most perfect state of imperfection.

Trouble was, all this toil and competition wasn't for everyone. Some people lacked the means or inclination to succeed on these terms, so chose another path. If they couldn't be the most socially-skilled or business-savvy, they could be the smartest and the kindest. Here were qualities that seemed lacking in the people they resented, which could be affected with little effort or sacrifice on their part. All they needed were the right opinions to parrot.

Unsurprisingly, they saw stupidity and cruelty wherever they looked: in every unmet need, frustrated desire and unequal outcome. Wherever reality fell short of perfection, they found proof of too much laissez-faire and too little control by people like them. If only they were in charge, instead of the fools, bigots and bullies, everything would be perfect.

In this utopia, thinkers and talkers would be held in higher esteem than lunk-headed ‘doers’. The most important of them would be freed from accountability, so they might get things done without interference from below. Educated, caring people everywhere would form a new aristocracy, whose ideas and feelings would trump the facts and deeds of the old guard.

And eventually, they got their way. What started as an effort to rationalise their grievances and assuage their insecurities became a route to power. Their central narrative - that freedom is a disease and learned caregivers are the cure - spread enough guilt and uncertainty to topple the traditional order.

The new ruling elite cherishes people and institutions that serve as standard-bearers for their kind. Be they the EU, the BBC or Barack Obama, they perpetuate the notion that society is a complex machine that only a select few can be trusted to operate. They reinforce the values that keep this anointed group in charge and hold the benighted masses at bay.

Unlike the aristocracy of old, today's nobles are often drawn from more modest stock. They're not all politicians, luvvies and tech millionaires. Anyone can feel a part of the ruling class simply by holding the proper opinions. These affiliate members might lack any real influence, but they live vicariously through those who do and share their smug sense of superiority.

When you deal in sentiments and ideas, there is no sales ledger to gauge your success. Your insistence that you are better than everyone else is everything. To concede for a moment that your naysayers share your perspicacity but simply take a different approach would be self-defeating. They must be measured as you measure yourself: not on results but on purity of intent. If you are better than them, it's because their motives are not as pure as yours. They are not just wrong, they are evil.

According to this philosophy, what is well-meaning is ‘good’, being ‘good’ is the acme of human endeavour, and expressions of ‘goodness’ by the ruling elite are the key to a better world. So anything that provides that elite with an opportunity to showcase its virtue is praiseworthy, regardless of its real-world benefits and irrespective of its veracity.

Calling someone a victim is the right thing to do, even if they are not being victimised. Promising people unearned benefits is honourable, even if it harms them in the long-run. Panicking about climate change is noble, because it expresses concern and empowers a benevolent elite. Pretending all cultures are equally compatible with our own is kind-hearted, even if it puts lives at risk.

Consequence doesn't enter into the equation here - partly because it is irrelevant to what is ‘good’ and partly because the cloistered lives of the elite distance it from any corrective feedback. Even its less privileged members, who are more vulnerable to cause-and-effect, are willing to ignore the contagion they help spread, so they can focus on feeling good about themselves.

When fine-sounding words are your trading currency, you have to keep spending to stay on top. You need injustices to fight and victims to save to prove your righteousness. You need top-down solutions to recommend to demonstrate your cleverness. If the causes don't exist, you have to invent them. If victims aren't forthcoming, you have to magic them into existence. If your solutions don't work, you need to suppress evidence to the contrary. Sooner or later, the very language people speak must be twisted to promote what is politically correct, rather than what is factually true.

This process intensifies as individuals dispense with the patronage of the ruling elite and reject its worldview. In doing so, they become persona non grata: part of the problem, not the solution. As the number of such people grows, the objects of elite sympathy become more exotic, encompassing obscure minority groups and foreign nations. Eventually, the elite comes to see the majority of its subjects as malicious cretins. The majority gazes back and sees an elite that is aloof, out of touch, and totally uninterested in its welfare.

Which brings us to where we are today: a society, a Western world in fact, that pours scorn and stigma on those who dare to speak the truth. In this way, it is not dissimilar to the old Communist states, where people had to degrade themselves by buying into self-evident lies.

Like those old Soviets, our masters pursue policies that trash our freedoms, vandalise our culture, destroy our wealth and threaten our safety. And we're supposed to indulge their dishonesty in silence. Well, not anymore. The people have spoken. The revolution has begun.