Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cool Britannia: a failure to covenant

Just a reminder that the Covenant Zone bloggers meet every Thursday, 7-9 pm in the atrium of the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library, in front of Blenz Coffee. Join us if you can - look for the blue scarves - and would like to discuss the state of our shared covenant, the guarantee we each must spiritually sign, that we will act to preserve individual freedom, for every one, in the face of those who want to return the world to a politics of group identities and group resentments. Here are some sundry thoughts on the erosion of freedom, mostly to do with Britain, that I have picked up reading the last few days.

Pajamas Media's David Rusin has a good snapshot of how the British arts scene has become dhimmified. It seems that today's "artist" must constantly self-censor and appease Muslims, lest they emit from their collective fold some members intent on violence.

And who dares speak out against the corruption of Britain, including its police forces? Phyllis Chesler interviews Lionheart, the blogger apparently in the sights of the British police for "racist" hate crimes, for blogging dramatically about the Jihadi gangsters running drugs and prostitutes on the streets of his home town. Lionheart, sounding so naively politically incorrect, may sound an exaggerated even hysterical tone to some readers; but if so, perhaps he is a reminder of how we have lost the ability to produce young people willing to bare hearts in condemning obvious evils in the crime-ridden streets of our cities, when that evil has anything to do with Islam. In any case, the defender of freedom must be willing to defend the freedom of any and every voice, short of calls to violence; so we are now all Lionhearts, or losers. Freedom of speech is indivisible. We either all have it, or none of us has it except on the conditional approval of the powers that be.

Lionheart, who has had to flee his home and country in fear for his life, is just one of many thousands of Brits who have quietly gotten up and left their increasingly dysfunctional country. Lionheart is bluntly saying what an Anglican Bishop was widely condemned by the British political and media elites for saying in more measured tones.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali:
"There has been a worldwide resurgence of the ideology of Islamic extremism. One of the results of this has been to further alienate the young from the nation in which they were growing up and also to turn already separate communities into "no-go" areas where adherence to this ideology has become a mark of acceptability.

"Those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work there because of hostility to them. In many ways, this is but the other side of the coin to far-Right intimidation.

"Attempts have been made to impose an "Islamic" character on certain areas, for example, by insisting on artificial amplification for the Adhan, the call to prayer.

"Such amplification was, of course, unknown throughout most of history and its use raises all sorts of questions about noise levels and whether non-Muslims wish to be told the creed of a particular faith five times a day on the loudspeaker. This is happening here even though some Muslim-majority communities are trying to reduce noise levels from multiple mosques announcing this call, one after the other, over quite a small geographical area.

"There is pressure already to relate aspects of the sharia to civil law in Britain. To some extent this is already true of arrangements for sharia-compliant banking but have the far-reaching implications of this been fully considered?"
At least Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali does not seem to suffer from White Guilt and says he stands by his views, despite the angry dung storm in which his comments have been covered.

What's left of British conservatism, if we can take as a guide one of the few mainstream conservative columnists, Peter Hitchens, can only offer the vague hope that if Britain is to survive as anything like the culture it has been, it must rediscover its Christian roots (I would prefer he accented the covenantal, not the Christian per se):
Diplomacy, tolerance and good sense can - in the right conditions - almost certainly bring about integration in the divided cities of this country, given enough time and a breathing space in which mass immigration is halted.

A strong Muslim minority in this country could have many good effects (I'll come to that later). But it is important that Islam does not gain the status of Christianity, for that will mean a moral and cultural revolution of enormous force.

One of the great puzzles of modern Britain is the political left's attitude to Islam.

Why should an atheist, sexual liberationist, morally relaxed liberal attack people such as me (as they do) for criticising Islam? They have nothing in common.

It is in fact quite simple.

The left will deal with any ally against conservative Britain. It thinks it can use Islam to further its ends, just as in the past it has allied itself with any anti-conservative, anti-patriotic cause that was going. But the alliance lasts only long enough to allow the Left to destroy what it doesn't like.

The trouble is, Islam is more serious and determined than any of the other people whom the left have sought to use for such purposes.

And so, while intending to dethrone Christianity and make this a secular society, the left now risks helping make this an Islamic society, which - if it comes to pass - will be profoundly hostile to everything the left wants.

These are the fruits of cynicism.

As the bishop notes, and as hospital chaplaincies so clearly show, the disestablishment of Christianity has not led to the opening of Richard Dawkins reading rooms in our hospitals, but in the increasing creation of multi-faith rooms which have an increasingly Islamic character, thanks to the fervour and devotion of Muslims, and the fading faith of the Christian churches.

Likewise the removal of Christianity from the state schools may well end in the existence if an increasing number of state schools which are in effect Islamic, while the official national religion, Christianity, goes neglected and untaught.

A Christian country would have kept the chapels, and allowed and encouraged the opening of separate rooms for other faiths.
There is no doubt that the laws, institutions, customs, language, marital arrangements, relaxations, family structure, even the diet of this country are the result of centuries of Christianity.

If it became a Muslim country, all these things would change, some beyond recognition.

If we want that to happen, and deliberately choose it, then all well and good.

Islam, as I stated earlier, has many admirable characteristics and would surely be better than total Godlessness, but how foolish to let it happen by mistake, and then regret it when it was too late.

The militant 'war on terror' sorts who inveigh against Islam still seem to think that the Maxim gun, or the CIA, or MI5, or airstrikes on Afghanistan, or invasions of Iraq and Iran, will defeat this powerful ideology.

The anti-British left seem to think, by contrast, that Islam is a pet pussycat which they can toy with, set on their enemies for while, and lay aside.

Both are wrong.

If you prefer our sort of society to an Islamic one, then you have to recognise that the good things about our society come from Christianity - and the more we throw those good things aside and the more we dismantle Christianity in our state, our schools, our culture in general, the weaker our society will become and the more likely it will be to embrace Islam - which suffers from no doubts about its rightness and is not in the least bit afraid of Professor Dawkins.
I think Hitchens underplays White Guilt - which can be understood as the Western fear of the privileged, whether white skinned or not, doing anything - in characterizing the left-liberal consensus. Our "elites" today fear taking any non-risk-management lead in society, lest taking the lead in any endeavour, other than risk management, creates some new inequality, some material or intellectual distinction between leader and led, winner and loser, for which one will only become yet more guilty in the postmodern victimary theatre where any inequality is today a justification to invoke the Nazis gassing helpless innocents. Yet, as Hitchens shows, the fear of doing anything, other than controlling people, the fear and guilt that motivates the left-liberal elites, only demonstrates that their dream of a neutral "multicultural" state is a fantasy. Human society abhors a vacuum. Multiculturalism is not in fact neutral; it is only a temporary deferral of the inevitable choice that any society must make about what it holds sacred. And a society that does not defend the sacrality of the free individual will likely end up with some more brute form of politics in which groups, not individuals, are what is sacralized; and people will be limited by the boundaries appropriate to their group. Indeed, the idea of a neutral "multicultural" state cannot exist without a state that becomes ever more controlling of individual speech and freedom, of "risk", as Lionheart can testify.

What we see in Britain is the failure to covenant, an unwillingness of the elites to champion their society as the defender of the individual and his or her freedoms, choosing instead to defer to the group resentments of victimary politics. When this attitude takes over a political party, it leads to the kind of madness where we see contenders for the President of the United States, the supposed leader of the free world, competing over who can woo voters with some well-timed crying, or some subtle blackmail claiming America won't heal its unspeakable guilt until a black man is in the White House. No sense that America and freedom are under attack from a global Jihad in tandem with the Gnostic forces of Western self-hatred is able to enter the stage of the Democratic party politics. In giving an overview of the antisemitic, black supremacist church in which Barack Obama supposedly found his way to become a "Christian", leaving behind the Islamic faith in which he was vaguely raised, Melanie Phillips asks "And how have the Democrats got themselves into a position where the choice they offer voters for the American presidency is between Hillary Clinton and this man?". Camille Paglia explains something of what many of us find so unsettling about Ms. Clinton:
Hillary's willingness to tolerate Bill's compulsive philandering is a function of her general contempt for men. She distrusts them and feels morally superior to them. Following the pattern of her long-suffering mother, she thinks it is her mission to endure every insult and personal degradation for a higher cause -- which, unlike her self-sacrificing mother, she identifies with her near-messianic personal ambition.

It's no coincidence that Hillary's staff has always consisted mostly of adoring women, with nerdy or geeky guys forming an adjunct brain trust. Hillary's rumored hostility to uniformed military men and some Secret Service agents early in the first Clinton presidency probably belongs to this pattern. And let's not forget Hillary, the governor's wife, pulling out a book and rudely reading in the bleachers during University of Arkansas football games back in Little Rock.

Hillary's disdain for masculinity fits right into the classic feminazi package, which is why Hillary acts on Gloria Steinem like catnip. Steinem's fawning, gaseous New York Times op-ed about her pal Hillary this week speaks volumes about the snobby clubbiness and reactionary sentimentality of the fossilized feminist establishment, which has blessedly fallen off the cultural map in the 21st century. History will judge Steinem and company very severely for their ethically obtuse indifference to the stream of working-class women and female subordinates whom Bill Clinton sexually harassed and abused, enabled by look-the-other-way and trash-the-victims Hillary.
A preference for victimology over an imperative to covenant for true individuality and freedom gets us this hopeless choice between prospective "leaders". It also gets us a denial of historical realities.

When I read the latest stunning article Charles sent me, it reminded me of a history graduate student I once knew who was shocked to find that when she merely mentioned the role of aboriginal women as prostitutes in the mill towns and ports of Washington State, a hundred or more years ago, she was widely condemned in front of her fellow conference participants for bringing to light such unsavory facts. A British writer who made his name with a politically-incorrect, avant la lettre, action hero who was widely enjoyed by the British public in the 1970s and 80s, found that a new "reality" had come on scene when he tried his hand at Hollywood screenwriting in the 1990s. In his last testament to the British public before his recent death, George Macdonald Fraser writes:
As a screenwriter [at which Fraser was almost as successful as he was with the 12 Flashman novels; his best-known work was scripting the Three Musketeers films] I once put forward a script for a film called The Lone Ranger, in which I used a piece of Western history which had never been shown on screen and was as spectacular as it was shocking - and true.

The whisky traders of the American plains used to build little stockades, from which they passed out their ghastly rot-gut liquor through a small hatch to the Indians, who paid by shoving furs back though the hatch.

The result was that frenzied, drunken Indians who had run out of furs were besieging the stockade, while the traders sat snug inside and did not emerge until the Indians had either gone away or passed out.

Political correctness stormed onto the scene, red in tooth and claw. The word came down from on high that the scene would offend "Native Americans".

Their ancestors may have got pieeyed on moonshine but they didn't want to know it, and it must not be shown on screen. Damn history. Let's pretend it didn't happen because we don't like the look of it.

I think little of people who will deny their history because it doesn't present the picture they would like.

My forebears from the Highlands of Scotland were a fairly primitive, treacherous, blood-thirsty bunch and, as Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote, would have been none the worse for washing. Fine, let them be so depicted, if any film maker feels like it; better that than insulting, inaccurate drivel like Braveheart.

The philosophy of political correctness is now firmly entrenched over here, too, and at its core is a refusal to look the truth squarely in the face, unpalatable as it may be.

Political correctness is about denial, usually in the weasel circumlocutory jargon which distorts and evades and seldom stands up to honest analysis.

It comes in many guises, some of them so effective that the PC can be difficult to detect. The silly euphemisms, apparently harmless, but forever dripping to wear away common sense - the naivete of the phrase "a caring force for the future" on Remembrance poppy trays, which suggests that the army is some kind of peace corps, when in fact its true function is killing.

The continual attempt to soften and sanitise the harsh realities of life in the name of liberalism, in an effort to suppress truths unwelcome to the PC mind; the social engineering which plays down Christianity, demanding equal status for alien religions.

The selective distortions of history, so beloved by New Labour, denigrating Britain's past with such propaganda as hopelessly unbalanced accounts of the slave trade, laying all the blame on the white races, but carefully censoring the truth that not a slave could have come out of Africa without the active assistance of black slavers, and that the trade was only finally suppressed by the Royal Navy virtually single-handed.

In schools, the waging of war against examinations as "elitist" exercises which will undermine the confidence of those who fail - what an intelligent way to prepare children for real life in which competition and failure are inevitable, since both are what life, if not liberal lunacy, is about.

PC also demands that "stress", which used to be coped with by less sensitive generations, should now be compensated by huge cash payments lavished on griping incompetents who can't do their jobs, and on policemen and firemen "traumatised" by the normal hazards of work which their predecessors took for granted.

Furthermore, it makes grieving part of the national culture, as it was on such a nauseating scale when large areas were carpeted in rotting vegetation in "mourning" for the Princess of Wales; and it insists that anyone suffering ordinary hardship should be regarded as a "victim" - and, of course, be paid for it.

That PC should have become acceptable in Britain is a glaring symptom of the country's decline.

No generation has seen their country so altered, so turned upside down, as children like me born in the 20 years between the two world wars. In our adult lives Britain's entire national spirit, its philosophy, values and standards, have changed beyond belief.

Probably no country on earth has experienced such a revolution in thought and outlook and behaviour in so short a space.

Other lands have known what seem to be greater upheavals, the result of wars and revolutions, but these do not compare with the experience of a country which passed in less than a lifetime from being the mightiest empire in history, governing a quarter of mankind, to being a feeble little offshore island whose so-called leaders have lost the will and the courage, indeed the ability, to govern at all.
We were freer by far 50 years ago - yes, even with conscription, censorship, direction of labour, rationing, and shortages of everything that nowadays is regarded as essential to enjoyment.

We still had liberty beyond modern understanding because we had other freedoms, the really important ones, that are denied to the youth of today.

We could say what we liked; they can't. We were not subject to the aggressive pressure of special interest minority groups; they are. We had no worries about race or sexual orientation; they have. We could, and did, differ from fashionable opinion with impunity, and would have laughed PC to scorn, had our society been weak and stupid enough to let it exist.
The same is true in British Columbia, my friends. And the only thing that can change it is if a new conversation gets started, one in which people, including the highest leaders of state, are no longer pandering to victimology, but decide that free individuals actually own their government and must take on the responsibility of self-rule and freedom, instead of asking how much is owed by the system to us, we poor suffering humans that don't deserve reality as it nastily is. No, reality must be remade according to the fantasies of the latest Utopian dream, and the academic piety that reality is always only a social construction that we can change at will. Those who think otherwise, may be dieing off like Fraser, but as he notes there may be some youngsters with a will to love the hard reality of an unspeakably vast and seemingly indifferent universe. Let us get together and covenant.
We are yesterday's people, the over-the-hill gang. (Yes, the old people - not the senior citizens or the time-challenged, but the old people.) Those of ultra-liberal views may take consolation from this - that my kind won't be around much longer, and then they can get on with wrecking civilisation in peace.

But they should beware. There may well be more who think like me than the liberal Left establishment likes to think. When my views were first published in book form in 2002, I was not surprised that almost all the reviewers were unfavourable. I had expected that my old-fashioned views would get a fairly hostile reception, but the bitterness did astonish me.

I had not realised how offensive the plain truth can be to the politically correct, how enraged they can be by its mere expression, and how deeply they detest the values and standards respected 50 years ago and which dinosaurs like me still believe in, God help us.

But the readers' reactions to the book were the exact opposite of critical opinion. I have never received such wholehearted and generous support.

For the first time in 30 years as a professional writer I had to fall back on a printed card thanking readers for writing, apologising because I could not reply personally to them all.

Most of the letters came from the older generation, but by no means all. I was made aware that among the middle-aged and people in their 20s and 30s there is a groundswell of anger and frustration at the damage done to Britain by so-called reformers and dishonest politicians who hardly bother to conceal their contempt for the public's wishes.

Plainly many thought they were alone in some reactionary minority. They had been led to think that they were voices muttering to themselves in the wilderness.

Well, you are not. There are more of you out there than you realise - very many more, perhaps even a majority.
Time to covenant, to act as guarantors of each other's freedom.

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