Artillery Row

Cowardice in high places

When the Archbishop of Canterbury can advocate the removal of church monuments, a great legacy of huge national importance is under threat

I could see it coming a long time ago.

Much of the phenomenon that emerged as ‘Woke’ was already discernible way back in the 1960s, expressed in print or in speech, emanating from more-than-comfortable “Champagne-Socialist” enclaves, where sartorial denim-clad conformity spoke inelegantly of admiration for Mao’s Little Red Book. In such milieux, episodes such as the Cultural Revolution or Stalinist purgings were whitewashed or excused as necessary.

But something else started to change, and this time it was all much more sinister. The adoption of Estuary English; the fake emoting and ham-acting that followed the demise of The People’s Princess; and the deliberate distancing of any candidate seeking election to Parliament from anything connected with High Culture, all began to corrode the very structures of society. Soon, all had to affect interest in media-created celebrities; fanatically follow FooBah; claim to be totally absorbed in the empty world of pop music; and pose as sound undeviating apparatchiks of GroupThink.

Nowadays broadcasters do not speak correct English (grammar has been dumped), and ensure that everything put out on the airwaves is carefully filtered to ensure there is no heresy against what is now the new orthodoxy; views contrary to those of received opinion are not tolerated, and those holding them are persecuted; universities are no longer places where free debate can take place. Even the meaning of words is being corrupted.

The viruses that emanated from the likes of Derrida, Dutschke, Foucault, Gramsci, etc., are far more deadly than those associated with the current pandemic. I recall,  dining in Cambridge many years ago, when Derrida was about receive an honorary doctorate, the topic came up, and one of the diners, a very distinguished scholar who had worked at Bletchley during the war, saw the expression on my face, observed that I clearly thought such an honour was wholly undeserved, and that in my opinion Derrida occupied a highly dubious niche in academe. She offered her own wholehearted agreement with my views.

Now, however, thanks to the malign influence of the followers of Derrida, Foucault, et cie, any civilised discourse, we are bullied into accepting, is oppressive; high culture cannot be tolerated because it requires work, thought, study, and is therefore an oppressive tool; there are no standards, because everything is relative, and therefore words like “beauty” are irrelevant; all institutions have to be taken over and changed from what their founders intended, becoming instruments of revolution and agents for the destruction of anything of real value; and society is to be utterly changed through the control of places of higher education, schools, the media, learned societies, professional bodies, and all groups, committees, bodies, or associations.

The witch-hysteria of the seventeenth century is not far-removed from the current state of affairs

The really frightening thing is that anybody who stands up to any of this is shouted down by the mob (the late Sir Roger Scruton was one prominent figure who suffered from such abuse). The adage that a well-organised minority inevitably forces its will on a disorganised majority is all too true. Dangerous, destructive agenda are often concealed behind slogans that sound not unreasonable, but are in fact covers for extremism. And any whiff of what might be perceived as racism causes those who ought to know better to lose their reason, cower, cave in, and, in blind panic, hasten to prove their liberal credentials by joining in the incontinent screams of rage against monuments, property, statues, and even the Classics of Antiquity.

It is taboo to say or write anything using language deemed unacceptable and racist, except when applying them to Caucasians. This strikes some of us as profoundly dangerous. But racism, it seems, is something in which only Caucasians indulge: other groups may insult Caucasians with ease and impunity, as they cannot be racist.

The witch-hysteria of the seventeenth century is not that far-removed from the current state of affairs: to be accused is enough to ruin someone. What is contemptible is that those in positions of power and influence display abject fear and cowardice, forsaking common sense and free speech at the behest of rabid mobs, then sacking those who dissent from the current hysteria.

There are others, of course, who are motivated not so much by fear and cowardice as by cynical complicity for personal gain: they adopt barmy destructive attitudes in order to appear progressive, not just by means of the glottal stop, but by associating themselves with forces out to destroy anything numinous, traditional, historically valuable, beautiful, and honourable, linking us to our collective memory.  Outfits hardly renowned for altruism, social responsibility, charity, or common decency, such as banks, put on nauseating displays of wokeness to gain credit from the Mob.

So-called conservatives, like those fools who handed Germany over to the murderous thugs of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party in 1933, are caving in to the very well-organised ideologues, doubtless imagining they, like the naïf German élites in the early 1930s, will be able not only to survive, but control the destroyers. The destroyers will destroy them, and everything else too: ruin, shame, mayhem, dystopia, and mass-murder will follow.

When even the Archbishop of Canterbury can advocate the removal of church monuments to individuals of whom he disapproves, ignoring historical contexts and aesthetic significance, a great legacy of huge national importance is under threat. The warnings and danger-signs are as clear as daylight. Heinrich Heine said it:

                       Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt,

                       Verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen! 

Quite so: a prelude indeed. Did we not witness that in the Platz am Opernhaus  (now Bebelplatz), Berlin, on 10 May 1933, when mobs of students unworthy of the name, self-righteously fired up with National-Socialist zeal, created funeral-pyres of literature, poetry, science, and much else, an act of cultural vandalism emulated all over Germany and Austria thereafter?

And once they had burned the books, they did indeed burn the people, and brought their country and much of Europe to ruin. The destroyers will have their way again, aided and abetted by self-serving cowards too scared to stand and be counted, unless the bullies are opposed and defeated. The prognosis is grim indeed.

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