16 May

The Religion of Peace and Love

A pregnant woman in Sudan has been sentenced to be hanged for converting to Christianity. Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, 27, who is being held in detention with her 20-month-old son, had been ordered to abandon her Christian faith and return to Islam. She has also been charged with adultery for marrying a Christian man. The death sentence was given despite appeals by Western embassies for compassion and respect for religious freedom. At a court in Khartoum, Judge Abbas al Khalifa said: “We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged.”

(Courage, Mariam: remember what Jesus managed to achieve in three days)

The judge also sentenced her to a hundred lashes for “adultery.”

I am puzzled by this and I should like to know whether this barbarism is being perpetrated in the name of Islam, or is it only “Islamist”? Actually, I can answer that question myself: the Koran prescribes the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their religion. That is quite definite: the Muslim scriptures are the basis for all Islamic doctrine and legality. Thus this is not a question of “extremism.” It’s in the book, as they say. So any Muslim who does not believe that the death penalty should be prescribed for those who convert from that ideology to the Christian religion is simply not a faithful Muslim. But I do have a further question: If I criticise the judgment of the Sudanese court, am I guilty of “Islamophobia”? But the word “phobia” means an irrational and neurotic fear. And there is nothing irrational or neurotic about fearing a religion which institutes barbarism.

Also today we learn that state schools in Birmingham which are alleged to have established Islamic teaching and Islamic social practices are to be re-secularised by parachuting in “super-heads” from high-achieving schools in the area. Certainly – for the time being at least – Birmingham’s troubles are little ones compared with the fate decreed for Mariam in Sudan. But the authorities will not be able to arrest the Islamic incursions into our national life. The process is entrenched and the speed and intensity of it is increasing. Only be patient, give it time…

I have been looking at the figures produced in the 2011 census and others from the Office for National Statistics. There were one-and-a-half million Muslims in this country in 2001. By 2011 there were 2.7 million. The census further reported that our Muslim population is increasing at ten times the rate of non-Muslims. And there are 100,000 converts to Islam every year.

A friend told me that he has a colleague who describes himself as “a moderate Muslim” – an oxymoron, for there can be no such thing. You are either a faithful Muslim – one who accepts the Islamic scriptures including Sharia – or you are faithless. Anyhow, this man means by calling himself a moderate Muslim that he occasionally eats pork and likes a drink. My friend then asked him, “D’you think Islam will be the religion of this country within fifty years?”

“Of course,” he replied.

Fifty years is a long time to wait. We’re just going to have to be patient.

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.

13 May

Christianist Terrorism?

Yesterday I wrote about the media’s use of two words – “Islamic” and “Islamist” – and asked if they were in any way related. I apologise to coming back to the same subject so soon but it is, I believe, important and there is another aspect to it which I had not thought of yesterday.

Terrible things are happening in the Central African Republic. For instance, a Christian woman had her hands chopped off by a gang of Muslims. This provoked horrific reprisals. It was not an isolated confrontation: such atrocities, and worse, are happening in the CAR every day. The way these events are usually described gives pause for thought. In every report I have read, the Christians’ bloody acts of savagery are described as having been perpetrated by Christians. I think this is fair enough, for Christian is what they are. I decided to broaden my enquiry further and so considered other areas of conflict in which Christians have resorted to violence: in Sudan, for example, and in Somalia – and even in Kenya. In every case the reporting is distinguished by its accuracy and respect for the plain truth. The atrocities were committed by Christians and the reports said exactly that, neither more nor less.

There was no mealy-mouthed attempt at camouflage by euphemism. No use of a spurious and dishonest neologism such as “Christianist.” So when acts of terror are perpetrated by Muslims – something which is not unknown – may we be allowed to say so, and so abolish this lying evasion “Islamist”?

Regrettably, this will not happen. For while, as we know, all religions are equal, some religions are more equal than others.

12 May

Merci Boko

The Archbishop of Canterbury honed his negotiating skills by successfully inaugurating talks with terrorist predecessors to Boko Haram in Nigeria. This would have set him up nicely for his discussions with the warring factions in the Church of England over women bishops and sexuality. Justin Welby says Boko Haram are “irrational” but  “many-layered” and that some layers might be a little more amenable to talks than others. I have no idea whether he is right about this, but perhaps it’s worth a try if it increases the likelihood that the captive girls might be released.

But I would not describe the terrorist group as “irrational.” They are perfectly rational according to their own lights: and these lights – the lights of experience – have told them that terrorism works. A more accurate description would be “evil.” Unfortunately, that word is not often to be found on the lips of senior churchmen these days who tend to be Enlightenment Progressives and the only sins they recognise are Islamophobia, Homophobia and In equality. All this is well-known and I won’t harp on it. But I do have a question:

The whole of the mass-media refers to this terrorist group (and other such groups) as “Islamist.” What I should like to know, please, is whether there is any connection at all between being “Islamist” and being a devotee of the Muslim ideology? The usual answer given is “Of course not: these terrorists are not representative of Islam which is a noble religion of peace and love.”

Really? Well, if that is the case, then what practical – and, as the Archbishop might say, rational – purpose is served by the neologism “Islamist”? It appears to be meaningless. Or is it being used as a way which helps us not to notice that the members of these terrorist groups are, in fact, Muslims?

09 May

Murder? It’s Killing Innit?

Perhaps to demonstrate that it’s not so dumbed down after all, the BBC is making one of its periodic incursions into the realm of intelligence. There is to be a programme in which it is asked whether there should be a connection between the law and morality. The presenter previewed this item by giving the example of Holland where, he said, there is no connection between law and morality – because the Dutch judiciary takes a liberal line on incidences of illegal drug use and prostitution.

The BBC discussion is to be presented by “experts.” Don’t need ‘em mate. Any first year philosophy undergraduate who couldn’t spot the flaw in that argument should be chucked off his course and advised to try something else: media studies, perhaps.

For the plain truth is that any attitude towards illegal drug use is bound to be a moral attitude. The particular moral attitude which the Dutch take just happens to be a liberal, permissive attitude. It is a moral attitude nonetheless. As strict enforcement of the law against prostitution and illegal drug use would also be a moral attitude. What is it like, this BBC expert’s argument and to what shall I liken it? It’s as if I should say, “Because this wren is not a sparrow, it’s not a bird.” But that’s to put the matter in plain language, such as we speak in the street. Let me translate it into academese, so that the philosophers on Radio Four might better understand it: there is the set called morality; and then there are the subsets called permissive morality, strict morality, utilitarian morality, deontological morality and so on; and all the subsets are parts of the whole set.  

I looked a bit further into this unhappy relationship between the BBC and philosophy – did a bit of research, as they say – and found that the Corporation offers full coverage of philosophical ethics. But things don’t get any better. For example, there is an introduction to subjectivist ethics. Here the subjective view is said to entail the opinion that there are no objective moral values. So far, so good. That is an accurate description of the subjectivist view. But the example the BBC gives us is: “So a subjectivist could never say that murder is wrong.”

Oh yes he could. In fact he must. Because “murder” means “wrongful killing.” Murder is thus distinguished (by its wrongness) from other forms of killing – in warfare, for instance – which might not be considered wrong. This has nothing to do with whether you take a subjectivist ethical stance or some other. “Murder is wrong” remains true in virtue of the meaning of the words themselves.

To relapse into the academese again: “Murder is wrong” is a tautology. And tautologies are always true (for everyone) “on pain of contradiction,” as they say

In future, better stick to the Tellytubbies

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…”

07 May

Job application

To whom it may concern…

I should like to apply for the post of Chairman of the BBC following the retirement of Lord Patten. You will want to know why I think I am the right man – sorry, “person”! – for the job. I must confess that I am motivated partly by fear – the fear that the BBC’s character and  reputation – described by Chris Patten as “precious and wonderful” – might be lost. Particularly, I fear that right wing politicians will use this time of crisis, precipitated by the vacancy at the top, fundamentally to alter the historic and humane socialist ethos of the Corporation. The BBC has a long and proud record of vigorous opposition to Conservative governments and leaders: who can forget the brilliant hatchet job editors and presenters performed on Margaret Thatcher, especially the coverage of her death and funeral? Let us not forget that it was the BBC alone that transformed the image of Tony Benn from loony commissar to national treasure. I fear that this great tradition in political broadcasting might be lost. And of course the BBC is the last remaining champion of the NHS – “envy of the world” – and state education

The BBC is the most reliable and respected news service in the world. For decades It has relentlessly told the truth about Israel: that it is a pariah state operating a system of apartheid against hard-working and peace-loving Palestinians whose only “crime” is daily to fire Kyatusha rockets into Israeli towns and villages. This accurate picture could change overnight if the forces of the right were to use the present interregnum to influence the BBC’s highly ethical foreign policy. And Israel is not the only example of where such a catastrophe could occur. For example, BBC coverage of events in South Africa since the glorious liberation under St Nelson Mandela in 1994 has always offered to the world a true picture of that admirable rainbow nation, with its new-found equality among all races and classes, increasing economic prosperity and remarkable reductions in crime, violence and political corruption. And one of my greatest fears is that, without the BBC’s unbiased “telling it as it is” portrayal of Muslims in Britain, there would be a rapid rise in incidents of Islamophobia. Also the BBC has a noble record of “doing what it takes to stop UKIP.” This must not now be compromised by political interference from the right.

But my concerns are not confined to politics. Art and culture are what define a nation and its people. Again, the BBC has long represented truly democratic and popular taste and resisted a growing trend towards a savage, out-dated and exclusivist elitism. The welcome introduction of pop music into the Promenade Concerts is particularly praiseworthy – though I admit this has not proceeded as quickly as many would like. Nevertheless, there is thankfully never a half hour on Radio Four which does not include its cheerful blast of pop music; and presenters are to be commended for their ingenuity in managing to do this regardless of the subject matter of the news story. The greatest cultural achievement of the BBC over long years of struggle against the reactionary tide of opinion has been the way it has transformed the cultural language itself. For example, in all BBC programming, the word “music” now means “pop music.” And “art” chiefly features the outstanding work of pioneers such as Damien Hirst and Lord Saatchi’s generous sponsorship of the best in modern art. “Poetry” too has been democratised and, although there are still occasional and regrettable mentions of elitist snobs such as T.S. Eliot, poems on the BBC are now almost exclusively and properly used to promote and support a humane socialism. Terrific strides have been made – if not quite, or not yet – in the actual provision of bread and circuses, then at least the Corporation can hold its head high for that it continues to commit vast amounts of effort and money into coverage of such cultural gems as Red Nose Day, The Eurovision Song Contest, the Oscars, the BAFTAS and of course the Glastonbury Festival.

I look forward to discussing these and many similar matters with you at interview. I will close for now by saying that Lord Patten himself is “precious and wonderful” and by re-echoing his characterisation of the BBC as the same.

PS Above all we must ensure there is strong resistance to all moves to abolish the BBC’s income from the universal tax…I mean of course the “licence fee.”       

01 May

Not much life in Llareggub

The BBC are making a great fuss about Dylan Thomas’ centenary. Well, he is their sort of poet: a sort of confused flashiness which causes innocent readers – in Thomas’ and the BBC’s case, more likely to be hearers – a great deal of excitement. C.H. Sisson says of him, “Words are hurled around in a way which does not make much sense, and the confusion is attributed to poetic force. He was boring. A creator of deliberate wonders.” I think we should take Thomas at his own self-assessment: “I’m a freak user of words, not a poet.” The harbinger of much subsequent pretentiousness. One of his most admired stanzas is:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the lig

Upon which fatuity D.J. Enright comments gloriously: “Like saying, ‘Now father, pull yourself together, get out of bed and stomp around the bedroom even if it kills you!’”

So much fuss about…well, Llareggub really.