One of the fads corroding our discourse is the tendency to go over the top with language. Critics of the current proposal to see the U K out of Europe say that it would make the U K into a vassal state of Europe. A ‘vassal’ is a term found in the feudal system that meant ‘one holding lands from a superior on conditions of homage and allegiance.’ The U K is not in that position now, and would not be under the proposal. Still, when people flaunt the term sovereignty in this context, you must expect some loose thought and looser language.
Another example came from the suggestion that we might move our embassy in Israel. Not surprisingly, this suggestion troubles our two biggest neighbours – whose people are of a different faith. But we are solemnly told that we must not let them dictate to us. That is silly. What we are being asked to do is to take their position into account. That is what we should have done before making this rash announcement. My local Post Office has an answer to our unneeded predicament. Pull the embassy out altogether – it is a waste of bloody money.
And while the PM said that his faith had nothing to do with the move, a proposition that seemed more plausible to some than others, we have not heard the same from our high-rise Treasurer who looks like he lives to be photographed by the press.
But then we are told that if the P M backtracks, he will be eviscerated by the conservatives in his own party. This is a shocking abuse or misuse of the term ‘conservative’. As best as I can see, the people referred to are nothing like ‘conservatives’. They look to have the following views.
They are attracted to factions, plots, conspiracies and coups in the same way that little boys like playing with matches. They love rubbishing the elites of the political class, even though they occupy the commanding heights of that class. They think that patriotism is a decent and useful term. They even have a closet hankering after Donald Trump’s Operation Faithful Patriot, because they neither like nor trust migrants, which can lead to problems in a migrant nation. They get misty-eyed about civilisation, but then they get coy about how the epithet Western might qualify the noun. They have never held down a real job. They would not know what a working man looks like. They believe that people without a tertiary degree, even those as useless as theirs, are bloody lucky to have the vote, and that if there is such a thing as a dinkum Aussie, he would be the definitive pain in the bum. They consort with shock jocks and the Murdoch press. If you took away their clichés and labels, they would be stark naked. They hold that it is not right to criticise Donald Trump. They maintain that Israel and its current PM can do no wrong. They think that supporters of Palestinians are Green/Left dupes of the Love Media who are soft on border security and sovereignty to boot. They practise a curious form of faith that allows them to hold that running a concentration camp for children in the Pacific conforms with the Sermon on the Mount. They believe that most experts are frauds (unless they are involved in saving their life or liberty). Science is bullshit and worries about the climate are alarmist (it is bad taste to mention California Burning so near the event – that’s like talking about the dead after another massacre). Thoughts and prayers can cure most ills since by and large God is all that He is cracked up to be – even if you don’t take His word too seriously too close to home. They have bizarre dreams about liberty or freedom that would have led to a fit of the giggles in Edmund Burke or Disraeli. They are relieved that the gorgeously photogenic imports into the House of Windsor comfy rug will save these colonies from the delusional insecurity of Home Rule or independence. They believe – devoutly – that cadres of the IPA are well educated and rational philosophers and economists who have election-winning ideas for the true believers. And while it is both polite and meaningful for them to label others as progressives, it is neither polite nor meaningful for them to be labelled as regressive, reactionary or retrograde.
In short, this motley is a viscerally uncomely mix of the clown, the dunce, and the jerk. They are a dream come true for Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. If you want an example, look out for the unsullied brashness of that boyish senator who looks like his mum dresses him and then combs his hair. Or catch a glint of that Chesty Bond smile of Tim Wilson, M P. And then salute the flag and hum a few bars from the Goons’ classic hit ‘I’m walking backwards for Christmas – across the Irish Sea.’ I wonder if they have their own version of a Masonic hand-shake? And just what condition was God in when he set up this Comédie Humaine?
The saddest part about these falsely named ‘conservatives’ is that they are prone to endorse what is called populism, which is the antithesis of conservatism, and while they bemoan the death of faith in politics and liberal democracy, they are among the principal instruments of that death.
Then I read that a Conservative MP in England said that the current proposal for leaving Europe was not what people in the U K had voted for. That raises two questions. First, how does she know what the people voted for? So much of what passes for debate on this issue is the assumption that the people gave a clear instruction – or worse, a clear mandate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Secondly, if the MP is saying that the people voted for a much better deal than this – a deal that would leave them in no way worse off – then she is saying that the lies they were told were effective – scintillatingly so.
What is the upshot of this exercise in what is called democracy? It looks to me as if there is a majority against the present proposal to leave of about two to one. But there is a similar majority against leaving with no deal. If therefore Europe is to be taken at its word, England looks set to get a result either way that a clear majority does not want. How they resolve that without going back to the source – the people – for new instructions escapes me.
The climate debate has become a vehicle for the promotion of political ideology, civilizational guilt, global wealth distribution, virtue signalling and doomsaying. Alarmism is a prime post-material preoccupation for the prosperous in Western liberal democracies. In an age of identity politics, climate concerns are trumpeted as a demonstration of the proponent’s selflessness and sophistication while its technological edge creates hobbies for those wealthy enough to indulge in electric cars, cover their roof in solar panels or invest in taxpayer-subsidised renewable projects
More voters see themselves as swinging voters. Yet it’s the declining Left and Right activists who dominate parties and the political message we see and hear via the media. It distorts the discussion when the vast majority of voters see politics through an issue-by-issue prism rather than the mindless tribal banality of cheering on one side or the other. As a result, disillusionment sets in for most of us, which soon leads to disengagement from the political process. This exacerbates the problem because the world is run by those who ‘show up.’
The Weekend Australian, November 17-18, 2018
The ‘mindless tribal banality’ of the first citation (Chris Kenny) warrants the validity of the second (Peter Van Onselen).
A pleasant anecdote
While reading again Graham Robb’s Balzac – and it is a great read – I learned that early in his intellectual life, Balzac adopted the view of the Epicureans that the world was created while God was drunk. I do not wish to offend my religious friends, but with the world as I have described it above – La Comédie Humaine – that view gave me a lot comfort. Even if I was surprised to learn that God and Epicurus were on speaking terms.