14 May

Invasion of the Body-snatchers

Picture the massed crowds turning out for Hitler at Nuremburg, vast, faceless, more like a geometrical object than a gathering of human beings. Ditto the parades for Mao and for the Great Leader in North Korea. It is the trademark of totalitarianism and its aim is the obliteration of personality and individuality. A people ceases to be a people and degenerates into “the masses” – something like a machine in which every cog is an identical, interchangeable unit. Nazism and Communism are what might be called “totalitarianism-heavy.” What we have in secular Britain and throughout the officially atheist EU is “totalitarianism-lite” I mean, citizens of this politically-correct hell-hole are not (or not yet) arrested without trial, thrown into prison and tortured for expressing a dissenting view. But be patient, we’re getting there. Commit the thought crime of “racism” or “sexism” or “homophobia” and you will be punished by denunciation and your opinions condemned by the politically-correct unelected elite by which we are governed: you will be excluded from the public realm, the metaphorical equivalent of being sent to the gulag.

Totalitarianism achieves its control by abolishing individuality and differentiation. Notice how “discrimination” is now only a dirty word used to describe a crime, whereas once it was a mark of honour to be thought “discriminating,” for it connoted good taste. Totalitarianism-heavy does this in a big way by arranging the masses in parades of choreographed sameness, by referring to what were once individuals by numbers rather than names, by corrupting ordinary language to make it serve the totalitarian ideology. The results are sometimes hideously laughable: for instance in the totalitarianism imposed by the reign of terror created by the French Revolution, the guillotine which toured the country executing thousands was operated by “the Committee for Public Safety.” Torture or exile in the USSR was described as “re-education.”

Our own totalitarianism-lite is getting good at this and we may be certain that, given time, we shall establish the full glory of totalitarianism-heavy. Only be patient.We can reclassify the murder of an unborn child as just “a termination.” Thus killing becomes, literally, demoralised and the most perfectly obedient member of the corporate state is the dead foetus on the slab: not a human creature at all, only a statistic. We have redefined marriage by compelling acceptance of the fantasy that this can be between two people of the same sex. Only we are further compelled to stop saying “sex” and say “gender” instead. So what were once persons are now only nouns, interchangeable like monads. And don’t think that in the aims of the social engineers it’s a case of job done. There is a long way to go yet and it will not be long before “marriage” will be a word to refer to any sort of shack up that any two – but why stop at two? – people say it is.

We know from the Revolution in France that when we hear the fine-sounding new words, symbolising Enlightenment perfection “liberty, equality and fraternity” that the next sound we shall hear is that of the tumbrels. And so our present totalitarianism-lite has given us “diversity,” “equality,” “rights,” “liberation” and “inclusivity” – words which are meant to suggest an agreeable atmosphere of live-and-let-live, but which only serve to institute a conforming sameness. Deny the validity of those new words in their new context and you are on your way to becoming a non-person. In the interests of “inclusivity,” you will find yourself excluded: like the traditional Christian who cannot accept “gay” “marriage.” You may lose your job for wearing a crucifix. Last week one man was sacked for playing a cheerful popular song composed in 1932 and played thousands of times without earning any disapprobation: until now.

Another tiny step has just been taken along the everlasting path to our perfectly enlightened society. Feminist academics, scenting “sexism,” have declared that pupils should not address their teachers as “sir” and “miss” but employ their first names – or else, as one of these feminist apparatchiks said – “Address both male and female teachers as ‘sir’.” By such little absurdities our fate is settled. Wittgenstein said, “Create a language and you create a world.” Yes, and destroy a language and you destroy a world. An added sweetness has been imparted to this satanic folly by the fact that the academic who made this recommendation is a professor of English!

Did you ever see the 1956 black and white film Invasion of the Body-snatchers. I can vouch for it as the very parable of the way totalitarianism becomes established and progresses until it achieves its final paranoid inertia of utter dehumanised sameness and compliance. In the film, individuals are visited in their sleep by the alien power and their normal bodies and minds are replaced by carbon-copy but perfectly compliant specimens. This doesn’t happen all at once: the process is gradual. But it is ineluctable. Fall asleep and that’s the end of you.

We are all asleep.

08 May

Government-sponsored Nihilism

Russell Brand, Caitlin Moran and Dizzee Rascal are to be added to the A-level syllabus. Brand’s 2012 testimony on drug use to a House of Commons committee will be in an A-level in English language and literature course in a development dreamed up by the exam board and the educational charity, The English and Media Centre. It will sit alongside Caitlin Moran’s Twitter feed, the BBC Newsnight interview with rapper Dizzee Rascal and the work of former Guardian columnist The Secret Footballer.  News of these innovations has already provoked members of the Department for Education to denounce the new syllabus: “It is immensely patronising to young people to claim that they will only engage with English language and literature through celebrities such as Russell Brand”, said a senior source in the department.

I read about all this in The Guardian which, in a spot of dumbing down all of its own, asked its readers to email and tweet to say whether they think these additions to the A-level are “a rubbish idea or a total genius.”I’ve no doubt that the journalist who “wrote” that phrase would defend himself by claiming he was being “ironic.”

The Guardian went on to say that accusations of dumbing down are “hysterical.” (I wonder if they meant that word to be taken in the ironic sense too?) Of course there has been relentless dunbing down for forty years and more. The A-level examining boards know it. I have some experience: some years ago when I was commissioned to write an article for The Times Educational Supplement on the subject, I had the very devil of a job trying to get the various boards to let me – purchase, not borrow – past papers for comparison. That was twenty years ago. I thought things were bad then but, to imitate The Guardian’s faux-proletarian “irony,” the syllabus was “total genius” in those days, but now it is “a rubbish idea.” If I may go back to the olden days, when I was studying for English literature A-level, we were required to have detailed textual knowledge of three Shakespeare plays – and if you were after top marks, you had to show a background acquaintance with the whole canon. Candidates were expected to be able to quote poetry from memory. And we were asked to read the whole of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall as well as verses by the metaphysical poets John Donne and Andrew Marvell.

Standards were incomparably higher all across the curriculum at primary as well as secondary stages. I attended a sort of Bash Street junior school in Leeds in the 1950s. There were forty in the (working class) class and we were learning clause analysis at the age of ten. In O-level maths we studied the binomial theorem and the beginnings of the differential calculus. In O-level RE we had show an understanding of the synoptic problem involving the first three gospels

Most teachers couldn’t do this stuff nowadays, let alone the pupils.

The government and the mass media go in for dumbing down for two reasons. First, they are pretty dumb themselves and know nothing of the intellectual tradition of the West – and what little of it they have stumbled across (in the interstices between pop music and fashion) they despise: “Shakespeare not ‘accessible’ to ‘kids.’ Eliot ‘elitist’ and so on.” Secondly, they have a vested interest in doing as little as possible to sharpen the critical faculties of the barbaric drones who constitute the underclass. Nobody has described the chronology of our demise better than R.G. Collingwood:

“From Plato onwards, Graeco-Roman society spent its life in a rear-guard action against emotional bankruptcy. The critical moment was reached when Rome created an urban proletariat whose only function was to eat free bread and watch free shows. This meant the segregation of an entire class which had no work to do whatever; no positive function in society, whether economic or military or administrative or intellectual or religious; only the business of being supported and being amused. When that had been done, it was only a question of time until Plato’s nightmare of a consumers’ society came true; the drones set up their own king and the story of the hive came to an end…”

30 Apr

Pre-emptive self-abasement

I don’t complain about Muslim attempts to Islamify schools in Birmingham. They are acting in their own perceived interests. Their desire is a Muslim Britain as part of a global Caliphate. Fair enough. I know what they want because they have stated it on numerous occasions. Should I be surprised, therefore, to discover that they are working to achieve their aims? Of course not. I expect to have ideological opponents in this world; and I expect these opponents to oppose my wishes. I expect them to use deception, trickery, smoke and mirrors, spin and all manner of means in their cause. Muslim tradition allows them to  behave quite differently towards non-Muslims from the code they employ in dealing with their co-religionists. No use complaining about this. It is a fact of life and I should just get used to it. And, when Muslims are criticised and reproached, they will play the race-card and make accusations of “Islamophobia.” Of course they will and they do. All the time.

What I do complain about is something else I have come to expect: the pathetic weakness of non-Muslim response to Islamic ideological imperialism. Our authorities handicap themselves by their creed of political-correctness. They cave in. They roll over. They accept the Muslims’ version of events. For the authorities and the “liberal zealots” in the press and the BBC,  the prospect of being dominated by an alien culture is preferable to the consequences of being regarded as “racist” or “Islamophobic.”

Incidentally, “Islamophobia” is a word to which I can attach no meaning at all. A phobia is an irrational fear. But there is nothing irrational about a natural apprehension in the face of the prospect of Sharia and all the other aspects of an alien cultural and ideological imperialism. I do not want my country to be dominated by that culture and that ideology.

But it will be – because we are betrayed by our own side in these culture wars. A century ago, T.E. Hulme explained how our defeat comes about:

“We have been beaten because our enemies’ theories have conquered us. We have played with those to our own undoing. Not until we are hardened again by conviction are we likely to do any good. In accepting the theories of the other side, we are merely repeating a well-known historical phenomenon. The Revolution in France came about not so much because the forces which should have resisted were half-hearted in their resistance. They themselves had been conquered intellectually by the theories of the revolutionary side. The privileged class is beaten only when it has lost faith in itself, when it has been penetrated by the ideas that are working against it.”

11 Apr

Audible Fog

This morning I found myself in a cloud of audible fog. This phenomenon was produced by Glenys Stacey in an interview on The Today Programme. Ms Stacey is the Chief Regulator at the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (OFQUAL), one of the many quangos which managed to escape David Cameron’s promised “bonfire of the quangos.” OFQUAL is meant to ensure that the  qualifications awarded in state edukashun are up to scratch or, as they say, “to deliver standards.” Out of the fog there came the Chief Regulator’s intonation, suitable for the dreariness of the subject and the earliness of the hour, on a bureaucratic monotone. Not surprising since Ms Stacey is a career bureaucrat with impeccable credentials. She has been Chief Executive of Standards for England, held high place at Animal health and the Greater Manchester Magistrates’ Courts Committee as well as on the Criminal Causes Review Commission.

Grief, you need stamina for a career like that…

Time was when we were possessed by the idea that teaching in English schools ought to have some connection, however tenuous, with the English language. But Ms Stacey speaks English only as a foreign language. She talked of “meaningful thresholds” and about students as if they were inanimate objects, saying, “We need people that can go into a lab…”

My interest thus stimulated, I stepped over the threshold and into OFQUAL’s website and discovered that the whole department is illiterate – thus representative, you might say, of the edukashun “system” which it oversees. Among the myriad infelicities and desecrations lurking on their site, I found that they are keen on “driving up the standards” in a milieu where certain things are “different than.”

OFQUAL’s site says, “Governments make education policy.”

Quite: that’s the trouble.