Thursday, 22 June 2017

We all Know the Answer

Five tower blocks in Chalcotts Estate, Camden found to be covered in similar cladding to Grenfall House. How the did cold-hearted, arrogant, evil, wicked, uncaring, insouciant, unfeeling, callous, scaly, horned (that's enough expletives. Ed) er, Labour Council ever think this was acceptable in the, er... 21st century? And what did famous Tory Benjamin Disraeli do about it? I think we all know the answer.

Paedophilia: a Doubtful Mind

Perhaps the obsession with paedophilia can also be explained in this way. If paedophilia is widely agreed to be an incontestable evil ( a kind of immoveable moral touchstone) it offers an opportunity for defining oneself against it and endowing one with the "right" credentials? Again, it's not the victims of paedophilia which really interest those who use it in this way it's the credentials and integrity it appears to supply them with. Thus the attraction and thus the inordinate and, ultimately, self-serving preoccupation with it. It's a way of reassuring oneself and others that one is "safe" and one of the good guys in this respect. It's a bit like making doubly sure that one is one of the pitchfork-carrying village mob rather than the Frankenstein's Monster which they are hunting. Perhaps one's attention should be on other things than this strange quest to insure oneself against such eventualities. It suggests a doubtful mind.

"Weaponising the Poor"

Last night C4 News ended with a group of Grenfall survivors being interviewed, seated in a church, by Jon Snow. Towards the end a Muslim man who had lost five family members in the fire attempted to say that we should be concentrating on those who died and not trying to politicise the event. He struggled to be heard amidst interruptions and being ignored.

Later, on R4’s ‘The Moral Maze’ on the same subject one of the panel summed up, talking about how the poor and the victims had been “weaponised” to serve a political end.

Victims and the suffering often become fodder for righteousness, a pretext for indignation which isn’t really interested in them per se. They are merely a means to and end, the end being the imposing of a political agenda on events ((with the permission to hate that this affords)) and the endowing of the imposer with the credentials of bravery, caring, solidarity and outrage which they so desperately seek. Why they need to project such an image is a mystery – perhaps they are trying to assuage a form of guilt.

There is a curious form of selfishness in this in that the projected image sought by these ‘champions’ of the poor matters more to them than the poor themselves whose predicament they presume to espouse. The poor are stepping stones on the road to justification.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A Problem with Anger?

The de rigueur anthem to be sung right now is Oasis’s “Don’t look back in anger.” The girlfriend of a man butchered in Borough Market, obviously seething with rage, spluttered that she mustn’t be angry because her boyfriend would not have approved. It is a strange spectacle when one has to disown and repress one’s most powerful feelings as if they are not to be trusted and can only lead to further disaster. For me it’s a kind of unhealthy self-loathing that will lead to passive aggression because aggression is not given its head and has to come out somewhere. It also informs the self-loathing of the left in political discourse. We all have to be perfect pacifists all the time because it's 'common' or unsaintly (like we all aspire to be saints!) to be aggressive.
How about experimenting with the opposite side of the coin? Let’s assume that this kind of feeling arises inside one because it is perfectly justifiable for it to arise. Someone slaughters an innocent man in the street and you feel angry. Where’s the problem? Why do we have to be scared of ourselves? Perhaps because we are too high falutin’ to admit that we have such feelings. Aggression is too base. Perhaps such feelings might, however, inform one’s resolve and the resolve of those responsible for conducting a response. In a fight it has been suggested that aggression can be useful in winning that fight. The anger of some drinkers in Borough Market provided the adrenaline that enabled them to fight back against the knifemen. The story goes that being peaceful in all situations, however blood-spattered, is the more civilized option. Sometimes this is simply the preciousness and moral fastidiousness of people too concerned with their reputation for purity to get their hands dirty. It’s excruciating to watch the contortions of those who won’t “own” their own feelings and speaks of our embarrassment confronted with the blessing of our full humanity. It has also been suggested that anger is one of the chief creative forces in the world.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Killers of Debate

Conversation with a Liberal

Having a perfect ownership of truth
They lay a trap for me.
Wrong answers given, the jaws snap shut,
I’m cast from purity.

Behind square bars I rattle my cage,
My character is lost,
I bear my sin of repugnancy
And all that that will cost.

They seized the truth before I came and cornered
They sit on high-built platforms, fingers raised,
Demanding I confess.

Pretence of interest in my words,
A lure to lead me on.
A means to castigate my thoughts,
And confirm them on their throne.

Debate lies dead beneath their dais,
Stretched out in bloodless hue,
And they prevail impregnable,
Corralling all that’s true.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Momentous Implosion of the Liberal Enlightenment in our Time

In this election we are witnessing the gradual and continuing implosion of the Liberal Enlightenment begun in the 18th century. The belief that, through the use of scientific rationalism the future can be bought and harnessed with the judicious use of the “right” Science, the “right” equations and the "right" data.
An early symptom was the depressive bully, Alastair Campbell and his belief that the ‘control’ of the News by politicians and arrogant Spin Doctors could really be achieved until Iraq proved him wrong. It moved through the 2008 banking crash, where it was demonstrated that human folly and rapaciousness in the markets could not be controlled by economic forecasting. From there to the failure of the pollsters to manage the outcome with Brexit and Trump and, now, the all too explicit meme in use in the data-generated mantra chanted to the voterbots of “Strong and Stable” when there is no such politician anywhere on the horizon.
The rationalist belief in control of the future presumes to replace reliance on stout moral character in the face of an always unpredictable future. For how can the future, by definition, ever be anything other than unpredictable?
It is Churchill replaced by an insulting algorithm and humility replaced by the illusion of perfect control achieved through science and a God complex. Hubris begins to meet its nemesis.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Jihad and the Church Militant

In Christian theology the church militant consists of those Christians alive right now who are engaged in the battle with Sin and the Devil. One thinks of “Onward Christian Soldiers!” and the Salvation Army. In medieval times this was interpreted more literally and the spiritual crusade became the real Crusades with real armies and real swords. Wresting Jerusalem from Islamic control was usually the prize. Such literalism is now largely, and literally, a thing of the past. The last Crusade took place in 1272 although there were great defensive battles against the Ottoman Turk Muslim navies and armies in 1571 at Lepanto and in 1683 in the Siege of Vienna. This is even more the case given that we have largely moved on not only from literalism but, to a great extent, from Christianity and religion itself into a secular society. This is not to say that our secular western culture is not shot through with assumptions and moralities deriving from Christianity.

Modern Islam is at a much earlier stage in its development. Just like the concept of the church militant battling, literally or otherwise, against sin it has the concept of Jihad – justified war against evil with further concepts like Christianity of martyrdom and access to Paradise through that martyrdom. As with Christianity these concepts are described and mentioned in central texts. However, as I say, Islam is at an earlier stage in its history and is, perhaps, more prone to taking the call for Jihad in a literal sense as the medieval crusaders did. The evidence for this is the large number of armed Jihadis present in the word and in our societies today. This may be the case not only because of the earlier stage in its development but also because the Prophet himself was, unlike Jesus, who said “turn the other cheek” and “those who live by the sword die by the sword.” amongst other things, a ruthless military commander famed for his victories and uncompromising demeanor in prosecuting wars against unbelievers. Indeed, he was celebrated for this.

It is not controversial to suggest that Muslim children are taught in the Mosque that many of the values taken for granted in western secular society are the work of the Devil. Among these will number the usury which underpins capitalism, attitudes towards homosexuality, alcohol and feminism – some of the most prominent things in our culture. Muslim children will be told that the way to heaven is by shunning such temptations and that they should be suspicious of them. In this way they are placed in a sort of direct moral opposition to the culture in which they live. My local mosque, for example, casually displays notices directing female Muslims to their special entrance with the words “Ladies entrance at rear” in full view of hundreds of western women every day. The other thing to say about Islam is that it is serious. It means what it says and aims to deliver what is written on the tin. There is no mealy-mouthed Anglicanism about it. One has to admire it for that.

Given the opposition set up between western culture and Islamic culture in intellectual and spiritual terms as, according to the Koran, it properly should be there is bound, at first in purely intellectual terms, to be a struggle in the minds of young Muslims for possession of them. There is a kind of battle of displacement which one side must win because the attitudes each contains are so diametrically opposed that they simply cannot co-exist in the same mind. For example you can’t believe homosexuality and usury are and are not ok at the same time. This being the case how far is it to travel from the concept of spiritual Jihad, the knowledge of the Prophet as a warrior, adolescent problems with identity and the infidel culture projected at young people every day to turn Jihad into a more literal and devastating version? Certainly, throw into the mix a narrative about the rape of the Middle East by the Imperialist Crusader forces and Bob’s your Uncle. You can see how attractive the adoption of such a role is.

I am, thus, suggesting that there is something very distinctive about the very nature of Islam that predisposes a considerable number of youths brought up in it towards adopting literal Jihad. How often do you hear of Buddhist, Hindu or, for that matter, Christian suicide bombers operating in western society? Sure there are the Anders Breviks and the Oklahoma bomber white supremacist types but their motivation is political rather than religious and they number far fewer than the Jihadis. They do, perhaps share with the Jihadis the need for a simple narrative that gives them an identity perhaps.

We can eternally apologise for imperial adventures begun in the 16th century, on which it is ridiculous to attempt, anachronistically, to impose modern liberal values as Jeremy Corbyn would like us to (I personally find it hard to feel guilty for the East India Company or Clive of India I’m afraid as no one thought to consult my views on their actions at the time). However, we should not forget that, in Kuwait in 1990 and in Bosnia and Kosovo in 1998 the West intervened dramatically to protect Muslims and this took place after Lockerbie and before the Twin Towers. Even the poorly thought through intervention in Libya was carried out to prevent a massacre of thousands of Libyans by Colonel Gaddafi in Benghazi. Salman Abedi, the Manchester bomber was one of them. The narrative is definitely not always one of an evil West. We can also apologise for egregious mistakes like Iraq (carried out nevertheless, partly, to depose a grisly dictator who tortured and murdered his own people) but this in no way changes the fact that what we have in western Europe is a displacing clash of cultures who, in a sense, can’t tolerate each other if they are being honest. They can’t both occupy the same intellectual ground. For me this clash of cultures makes the narrative of historical blame pale into a certain degree of insignificance when placed alongside it. It does, of course, give it a historical context and, of course, in this context mistakes are made and bad things happen sometimes. How could they not do so?

To suggest that the main strand in the problem is the essentially militant nature of Muslim spirituality (at first purely intellectually but still so easily becoming literally so) and the fact that, however fastidiously that fact might be veiled, it condemns much of what we are is to speak things that may not be spoken in the liberal west. The only exception to this should be if they are true.

I offer no solution. I am not suggesting that we round up Muslims in Football stadiums and oblige then to stamp on the Koran. I am just trying to look the problem squarely in the face and see it for what it is. I accept that Muslims are only here in the UK or in France because of imperial adventures carried out by our distant forefathers but I don’t see that as a moral weight in the present under which I or we should bend. I can’t see an easy solution and, for the reasons I give above, would expect there to be more atrocities. When they happen I won’t be assuming it is my or our fault though as, perhaps, some of the left would like me to. The West largely defined itself by events like the Siege of Vienna in 1683 when Muslim culture was repulsed in order that Christian culture could continue to flourish. I, for one, am glad that it did and celebrate the fact unashamedly.