Friday, 17 November 2017

Bash away at the subversive Christmas ads

Oh Jesus, as if it matters. Who cares whether TV Christmas commercials feature Muslims, gays, transsexual cripples, rutting donkeys, or anything else for that matter? No one’s trying to insult Christians, upset conservatives or ruin all the yuletide fun. Get over it. Move on.

Social media has been full of this kind of thing since the big stores launched their festive ads, featuring images seemingly designed to infuriate the reactionary bigots of the progressive imagination. And yes, it’s ridiculous that such a trifling matter should provoke so much outrage, but it’s also hard to avoid the suspicion that this is precisely the point.

When you insert your agenda somewhere conspicuous yet trivial, any objection to it looks unavoidably petty. Even non-ideologues will spring to the defence of your propaganda rather than side with fulminating racists. One sneaky attack follows another, and eventually civilisation suffers death by a thousand cuts.

Admittedly, Christmas ads aren’t the ground on which I’d choose to make a stand against the progressive tide, but I didn't pick this fight. If this is how it has to go down, so be it. Allow me, then, to explain for the benefit of the eye-rolling liberals sighing “big deal” why these ads are ‘problematic’.

I’m sure a few people were miffed by the lack of obvious Christian imagery amid the multi-ethnic commercial showcase (Tesco’s advert featured a royal flush of Muslims, Sikhs and gays), but that’s not the real issue here, because religion was hoovered out of large parts of Christmas a long time ago. Nor is that people are appalled at the mere sight of tinsel-draped foreigners and homosexuals, despite what the BBC and the Guardian may think. It’s the pushers of identity politics that are the problem, not the groups they are pushing.

We are frequently told that identity groups should not be criticised, disrespected, imitated, borrowed from, or held to any standards other than their own. We should adjust our way of life to accommodate theirs, and embrace their customs and values as delightful additions to the patchwork of British life. Then we should celebrate the differences between these disparate factions, show them boundless tolerance, and all live happily ever after.

Trouble is, this hands-off approach to group relations is a one-way street. Whereas the majority is expected to keep its nose out of minority affairs, minorities are invited to put their stamp on the dominant culture, and any attempt by the majority to have its own thing is met with howls of protest.

Which isn’t to say that the opposite should be true and the majority should be screwing with minority interests. If Hindus want to celebrate Diwali and Muslims want to celebrate Eid, who is anyone else to meddle? No one would dream of trying to ‘whiten’ their celebrations, but as long as there are double standards in this regard, many will object to being the only ones whose traditions should be done over in the name of inclusiveness - and given the stealth tactics used by the Left, they will suspect that minorities are being used as a weapon against the majority.

A great many people understand that you can’t go down this multiculti identity group route without compromising a country’s values and customs, and changing its look and feel. And they happen to like how their country looks and feels - or how it used to, anyway - and not because they're all haters and imperialists. If minorities should be proud of their identity and their heritage, why the hell shouldn’t the majority? They were never consulted on the changes that have been forced on them, so they’re naturally aggrieved at what has come to pass, and are protective of those traditions that haven't yet fallen to the armies of progress and diversity.

With every victory these armies claim, the guardians of tradition become increasingly sensitive to the appearance of progressive mascots in their midst, seeing them as precursors to another full-scale assault. And they're right to be wary. This, after all, is a society in which a teacher can be suspended for ‘misgendering’ a pupil, citizens who fight with ISIS are rewarded with council houses, and the authorities turn a blind eye to Muslim child-abusers from a fear of seeming racist. Political correctness is not just the stuff of conservative fever dreams; it’s real and it actively works against traditional culture. Little wonder, then, that some want to preserve those areas of life still largely untouched by progressive dogma.

“Yeah, but this isn’t political correctness,” the pushers of PC assure us. “This is just about love and tolerance, and definitely won’t lead to anything else.” To which, most sane people say “pull the other one”. They know how these people work and have seen enough supposedly innocent gestures mutate into full-blown leftist face-slaps not to be fooled again.

As David Cole observes, “Social engineering of the type the left desires is accomplished by a very simple formula. Advance one step, and then promise that this step will not in any way lead to the next step. Wait a brief amount of time, and then advance to the next step, explaining that it’s only logical now that the previous step has become so widely accepted. Simple rule: Swear there’ll be no progression, and then progress.”

Most people get this, so even if the latest suspicious act is as innocent as its protagonists claim, they’ve pulled this shit too often to deserve the benefit of the doubt. Chances are it’s another sly backdoor effort to undermine normalcy and shaft the status quo.

Christmas is important because it’s about family and tradition - things that get up the nose of leftists and which they routinely attack. It’s a touchstone for those who aren’t exactly enamoured with the direction our country has taken; a beleaguered redoubt in a hostile land of screeching SJWs, scheming Marxists and resentful wreckers. So when progressives start messing with it, the backlash they receive is not, as it may first appear, an attack on the victim groups being showcased; it’s a rebuke to the agitators pulling their strings.

Monday, 31 July 2017

The egotism of the BBC pay gap delusion

One of the guiding beliefs of the modern Left is that we should be treated according to what we feel on the inside, as opposed to what people see on the outside. So, if you reckon you're a capable, hard-working person, it shouldn't matter if everyone else sees you as a oafish layabout. If you want to be considered beautiful, then that's what you are, even if you're pig-ugly. And if you're a man who thinks he's a woman, then a woman you are, in spite your penis.

Whenever someone is bold enough to call a spade a spade (or a penis a penis, for that matter), the Left cries ‘discrimination’ in order to preserve the lie that everyone is what they say they are. This is one reason why leftists are forever pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour: because once you put enough unpalatable ideas beyond criticism, it becomes hard to deny people their inner desires, however narcissistic or grotesque they may be.

Which brings us circuitously to the kerfuffle over the gender pay gap at the BBC. The corporation’s release of star salaries has prompted plenty of feather-spitting among leftists, who are appalled to learn that female presenters are generally paid less than their male counterparts. This is, we are told, further evidence of the patriarchy’s relentless campaign of oppression against women. Or something.

Prior to the uncovering of this supposed scandal, the gender pay gap theory had already been thoroughly debunked, but like so many ideas useful to the Left, it continues to be brought to the stream as if it still holds water. Every new ‘exposé’ of pay discrimination is put up in lights, as though it adds weight to the original argument and the previous debunking never happened. Tell a lie enough times, and all that.

The BBC is a public body, of course, so it routinely indulges all manner of PC insanity, but it still has to compete for an audience against privately-owned rivals. As such, it's pay structure must have some grounding in reality. Its most marketable stars will receive large enough salaries to dissuade them from going elsewhere, and its lesser lights will be paid according to their value in terms of talent and popularity.

A celebrity who hosts a successful flagship programme, the appeal of which is largely down to their personality or the expert insight they provide, is likely to be paid more than the host of a less popular show which is more about content than the person presenting it. The Chris Evans show without Chris Evans is not the same thing. The host of, say, a sports programme, who introduces links, asks someone else's questions, and offers little personal insight, is probably interchangeable with any number of other presenters, and won't command the salary of a Chris Evans. That's the reality of the marketplace. Get over it.

According to its press release, Clare Balding, an outspoken critic of the BBC pay gap, earns between £150k and £199k, compared to John Inverdale who is in the £200k to £249k range. Both are BBC sports presenters, so the argument goes that they should be on similar money (which they will be if she's at the top of her pay bracket and he's at the bottom of his, but let's assume otherwise for the sake of argument).

The BBC is one of the most arse-achingly PC organisations in Britain. They're also the same people who gave Balding her first job in broadcasting, then pushed this rather dull lesbian into the limelight, so they're likely to be guided by something other than sexism when determining her salary. Who, then, between Inverdale and Balding, is the more valuable asset? Who would rival stations prefer to snap up, and who has had the longer broadcasting career? The answers are not irrelevant to a person's earning potential, but wage gap obsessives have not bothered asking these questions, let alone answered them.

If Clare Balding is really as bankable as she seems to imagine, she should be able to get a better-paying job with a different employer. After all, commercial stations want presenters who bring in an audience, and they wouldn't get very far if they denied themselves this advantage out of a commitment to sexism. But since Balding hasn't jumped ship yet, she is either wrong in her estimation of herself, or she has prioritised working at the BBC over earning more elsewhere. Perhaps she'd prefer to stay where she is and be paid more, but the BBC isn’t at fault for not letting her have her cake and eat it.

This brings us back to the Left’s belief that an individual should be treated according to their wishes, rather those of the person doling out the treatment. According to this reasoning, Clare Balding should be paid what she thinks she deserves, irrespective of any other considerations, because her opinion of herself is irrefutable. And if she isn’t, then it’s an open-and-shut case of discrimination.

I dare say the BBC is not perfect in its assessment of people’s worth. For instance, it pays Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker £1.75m a year, although it’s highly questionable whether anyone tunes into the programme to see him in action, or would stop watching if he left the show.

I’m sure such bad judgment isn’t confined to Lineker. Some of the women on the BBC payroll may well be undervalued, but others - perhaps a greater number - may be overrated. No organisation will ever base its pay structure on employee self-estimation, so the only alternative to the status quo is to pay by job description alone.

On some level, I suspect those calling for closure of the wage gap know this, which is why they prefer equality of outcome to true fairness. God forbid they ever got the latter, because as Hamlet said, “Use every man after his desert, and who should ’scape whipping?”

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 the convivial atmosphere. 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.