A More Perfect Union

Joseph Chamberlain

A More Perfect Union

by Stuart Millson

Within minutes of the Brexit transition period ending on New Year’s Eve – the moment when the United Kingdom finally left the economic jurisdiction of the European Union – the leading lights of the Scottish National Party appeared on our television screens. Their purpose was to remind the Government at Westminster that a majority of Scots had voted, in 2016’s referendum, to remain part of the EU – thus providing the devolved administration in Edinburgh with (as they saw it) the right to (a) call for a second referendum on Scottish independence and (b) for Scotland to rejoin the European Union. Speaking on Sky News just hours before the UK finally severed its EU ties, SNP MP, Dr. Philippa Whitford – ignoring the agonising four years of grinding negotiation that had finally extracted us from the Brussels superstate – spoke hopefully about “… finding a way back to the EU” – an astonishing statement, even for “pro-Europeans”, most of whom now recognise the once-and-for-all ending of our membership of the (former) Common Market.

Dr. Whitford, as a Scottish Nationalist (and admittedly, an excellent parliamentarian) will see things somewhat differently from those for whom Great Britain, the Union, the Island Nation etc., are their guiding lights of politics and history. For once it might be helpful to try to see the matter from her perspective. Until 1707 Scotland was an independent country– the year of its binding together with England under the Act of Union – and it was said that on the morning after the dissolution of the old Scottish Parliament, the bells of Edinburgh churches rang out with a mournful peal of bells: “Why am I so sad upon my wedding day?” Since the Second World War (despite the Tory Party’s once pre-eminent electoral position in Scotland) many calls for devolution and independence have been made – the SNP’s Winifred Ewing igniting the debate in 1967, with her stunning by-election victory propelling Scottish independence to the centre-stage of British politics. And with the re-creation of the Scottish Parliament during Tony Blair’s premiership, it seemed inevitable that a revived nationalist consciousness would sweep the country – although it has to be said that for an avowedly “nationalist” party, the SNP is remarkably metropolitan and internationalist in its outlook, eschewing much of the ancient, ancestral Scottish identity in favour of multicultural concepts such as “the new Scots”.

Alex Salmond, the charismatic First Minister of Scotland, took Caledonian nationalism to its high-water mark with an independence referendum in 2014. It seemed that 300 years of the British union would be reversed. And yet, despite a surge in support for Salmond, the people of Scotland voted to remain within the Kingdom; the referendum producing some unexpected trends, such as the revelation that Gaelic, SNP-voting Highland and island regions had cast their votes for the Union. Following the nationalists’ defeat in 2014 and Salmond’s resignation, a gradual new impetus for secession has been nurtured by his successor, Nicola Sturgeon – a more technocratic politician whose stock has risen hugely as a result of her leadership during the continuing Coronavirus crisis.

Using the Scottish electorate’s 2016 vote for continued EU membership, the new First Minister seems to have made a strong case for that “hoped-for” return to the Brussels fold – notwithstanding the fact that in the Brexit referendum the entire jurisdiction of the UK voted as one; with every vote, from Dorset to Dundee of equal value, and no region outweighing the other. But the real question for Scotland is not – “shall we be independent again?” – but rather, is the SNP really offering independence at all? It is one thing for Scots, as part of the UK, to vote to stay within the European Union; quite another to say that they would vote unilaterally, as one of Europe’s smaller countries, to rejoin a much-changed EU, with the prospect of abandoning sterling for the Euro-currency.

Even the SNP’s slogan of “independence within Europe” is a contradiction in terms: the EU, as witnessed by statements by the Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, now clearly seeing itself as a “sovereign” body – its member-states beholden to the will of the central bureaucracy. Would Scotland-in-the-UK – with its own Parliament and Government in Edinburgh and a high profile at Westminster – really abandon such a unique position of power, in favour of a reduction in influence at the “heart of Europe”? The reality is that there is no such thing as self-government in the post-Brexit EU –and the likelihood is that the all-powerful Commission will take further steps in the coming months and years to ensure that member-states, large or small, will march to its tune.

What is needed in the United Kingdom is for a properly worked-out system of equal federalism (British in tone) to prevail – in effect, a Home-Rule Britain, the vision of Joseph Chamberlain; with Westminster and the UK retaining responsibility for defence, foreign policy and the setting of a benchmark for the economy. We have heard much during the pandemic of a so-called “four nations approach” to health and other policies, but due to there being no specific role for England, the UK Prime Minister has, in effect and by default, emerged as the English part of the equation. Such a state of affairs cannot be right and perhaps the SNP and Plaid Cymru in Wales might ponder Scotland’s and the Celtic nations’ pre-eminence over England, in terms of autonomy and political power.

To restore the stability and integrity of the Kingdom an innovative form of Unionism needs to emerge, one that is woven into the new fabric of our devolved political system; one that honours the kinship of the UK and its natural, borderless brotherhood of countries. Outside the nation-denying EU, a proud and independent Scotland would flourish – alongside its natural allies on the island and islands of Britain.

Stuart Millson is QR‘s Classical Music Editor

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Locked Down then Locked Out

Mysteries of the Horizon, René Magritte, credit Wikipedia

Locked Down then Locked Out

by Ilana Mercer

AS A COINAGE GOES, DEEP TECH is superior to the term Big-Tech. It better captures the deforming power and tentacular reach into state and civil society of the high-tech monopolists. That reach notwithstanding, many libertarian-minded and “small-government conservatives” (a contradiction in terms, considering the national debt is $28 trillion) have been stalwart defenders of the rights of Deep Tech to deploy unprovoked financial force to kneecap those users who don’t conform to its monolithic image of the ideal citizen.

LET DISSIDENTS EAT CAKE

David French, writer at the Dispatch—and one of the many political dwarfs tossed periodically at Donald Trump by Never Trumpsters (hey, dwarf tossing is a cruel sport)—emphasized the immutable right of private platforms to de-platform (limit and throttle) “millions of Americans who engage in wrongthink,” the president included. Let the disenfranchised—those of us who’re routinely blocked from being able to grow our appeal and peddle our intellectual products, now fearful that our books will be digitally burned—create platforms of their own, exhorts French, from the comfort of his conformingly banal, pixelated perches. “Find other off-ramps,” exhorted affectatious podcaster David Rubin. Coming from the conformist mediocracy that runs Conservatism Inc., this cynical suggestion is the equivalent of, “Let them eat cake,” which, in practice means, let political dissidents go dark or resort to a barter economy. Continue reading

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Mendicant Order

Doré, Inferno, credit Wikipedia

Mendicant Order

by Bill Hartley

There is a large restaurant in Leeds city centre and at the side of the building is a fire escape. The doors to the fire escape are blocked and given the prominent location it might be assumed that this would attract the attention of the Fire Service. After all there are penalties for blocking fire escapes.

In fact the Fire Service is aware of the situation but chooses to do nothing. The blockage consists of a tent; one of those igloo type designs commonly seen at Everest base camp. It is occupied periodically by a ‘homeless person’. A police officer who patrols the district is acquainted with this middle aged male and says he has been offered accommodation but prefers life on the streets. The officer would like to remove the tent but is forbidden from doing so because it is occupied and its removal would contravene local policy. In fact, there are various agencies in Leeds who prefer to play pass the parcel, even to the extent of ignoring a breach in fire regulations.

The sight of people begging on the streets, particularly in our larger cities, is common these days. Begging is of course illegal but it goes on and how it is dealt with varies from place to place. There is a tendency to hang the label of ‘homeless’ on those seen begging. As we shall see there are many beggars who take advantage of this. Like the man blocking the fire escape homelessness may be hard to define and officialdom finds it convenient to roll all street people into the same bundle to become a problem which is being ‘managed’. Continue reading

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MAGA Patriots, in the House

Donald Trump, by Gage Skidmore

MAGA Patriots, in the House

by Ilana Mercer

Why repeat hackneyed phrases about annus horribilis 2020? Recall the opening paragraph of “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens. Interspersed in that epical introduction are countervailing, sweetness-and-light words. Excise these—and you get 2020:

“… it was the worst of times…it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch…of incredulity, it was…the season of darkness… it was the winter of despair. … we had nothing before us.”

MAGA men and women are just that: the best of Jah people in the worst of times. They converged on D.C., Jan. 6, to protest the certification of the Electoral College vote. They, who have “nothing before them,” had come to demand that something be done by those who had “brought [them] forth into this wilderness,” yet sit “by the fleshpots [on the Potomac] and [eat] bread to the full” (to paraphrase Exodus 16:3.) Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, January 2021

Mathilde Wesendonck, by Karl Ferdinand Sohn, 1850

ENDNOTES, January 2021

In this edition: Stuart Millson’s Wagner

The twilight of the gods, the violence and feuds of the great characters of The Ring Cycle, the exploits of knights and Die Meistersinger of mediaeval Nuremberg – these are some of the characteristic stories and settings associated with the music, chiefly operatic, of Richard Wagner (1813-83). Even when translated into the concert hall, Wagner’s contribution to the programmes of the world’s orchestras often consists of “bleeding chunks” from his music-dramas, or curtain-raising overtures – the surging Tannhauser, or The Flying Dutchmen, or the exhilarating prelude to Act lll of Lohengrin. But despite these majestic sequences and the many experiences this reviewer has had of Wagner’s operas (Bernard Haitink at the Royal Opera House in ‘Die Meistersinger’; Sir Reginald Goodall at English National Opera and the Proms in Parsifal) it is Wagner’s understated, small-in-scale, nature tone-painting which arguably constitute his most profound achievement.

Let us turn accordingly to an overlooked song-cycle, written in the late 1850s, with words by the poetess Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of one of Wagner’s supporters. The work consists of five songs, and throughout the sequence there is an immediate sense of introspection – a surprising pre-echo, in fact, of the mysterious and melancholic orchestral songs written by Mahler at turn of the century – the Rückert-Lieder, for example, of 1901. Continue reading

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A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story, Viggo Johansen, credit Wikipedia

A Christmas Story

by ILANA MERCER

Described by one critic as “one of those rare movies you can say is perfect in every way,” “A Christmas Story,” directed by Bob Clark, debuted in 1983. Set in the 1940s, the film depicts a series of family vignettes through the eyes of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker, who yearns for that gift of gifts: the Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.

This was boyhood before the Nerf gun and “bang-bang you’re dead” were banned; family life prior to “One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads,” and Christmas before Saint Nicholas was denounced for his whiteness, and “Merry Christmas” condemned for its exclusiveness.

If children could choose the family into which they were born, most would opt for the kind depicted in “A Christmas Story,” where mom is a happy homemaker, dad a devoted working stiff, and between them, they have zero repertoire of progressive psychobabble.

Although clearly adored, Ralphie is not encouraged to share his feelings at every turn. Nor is he, in the spirit of gender-neutral parenting circa 2020, urged to act out like a girl if he’s feeling … girlie. Instead, Ralphie is taught restraint and self-control. And horrors: the little boy even has his mouth washed out with soap and water for uttering the “F” expletive. “My personal preference was for Lux,” reveals Ralphie, “but I found Palmolive had a nice piquant, after-dinner flavor—heady but with just a touch of mellow smoothness.” Ralphie is, of course, guilt-tripped with stories about starving Biafrans when he refuses to finish his food. Continue reading

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Why Israel isn’t Racist

Marc Chagall, credit Wikipedia

Why Israel isn’t Racist

by Ilana Mercer

The Jewish State, by definition, rejects some and welcomes others into the fold. In “Is Israel Racist?”, a reply to an anti-Semitic interviewer (he bailed), the emphasis was on demonstrating why Israel’s particularism is an extension of the individual’s right as a sovereign, discerning human being, for the freedom to include or exclude is not racist. Rather, it is the inherent right of free individuals, living severally or collectively.

Jews are to be faulted only to the extent that they deny to other nations the rights they claim for the Jewish ethno-state. Israel’s particularism, moreover, is not race-based, it’s religious. As understood in the U.S., racism is more often concerned with discrimination based on distinct physical characteristics. It’s thus important to understand that Jews no longer constitute a race. [Editorial comment; nonetheless, “…there is a gradient of intelligence in the four [main] ethnic populations in Israel. Intelligence is highest in the European Jews (IQ=106), lower in the Orientals (IQ=90), lower still in the Arabs (IQ=84), and lowest in the Ethiopian Jews (IQ=69)”. Quotation from Richard Lynn, The Chosen People; a Study of Jewish Intelligence and Achievement] Continue reading

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Of Human Bondage

Freiburg, Miner (1310), credit Wikipedia

Of Human Bondage

William Hartley mourns inconsistency

Extracts from John Watson’s Journal, April 19th/20th 1771;

“This morning about seven o’ clock I set forward with Thomas Dodds in order to take four of the deserted men which (by information) now working at Frankland Colliery….got to Durham past ten where I got of Wilkinson the constable…took the men and set homeward”.

Newcastle: “This morning three men appeared before Mr William Locase (whereupon promise of good behaviour for the future) and also gave a promissory note for £3 jointly and separately payable to His Grace [presumably the Duke of Northumberland] on account of the expense incurred for their desertion”. Note Watson’s use of the military term ‘desertion’. These were in fact miners who were ‘bound men’ and Watson’s job was to assemble a posse and get them back and in front of a magistrate.

The British public are currently held culpable for many of the world’s ills. The Guilt Police are examining National Trust properties for associations with slavery. Places in which retired couples could once mooch harmlessly around may have a pall of slavery hanging over them. This must be exposed and confronted before people can view the property in the correct light. Even Chartwell, sometime home of Sir Winston Churchill, is under suspicion. Continue reading

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The Gods of Ancient Greece

Oracle of Delphi, credit Wikipedia

The Gods of Ancient Greece

Albert Henrichs, Greek Myth and Religion: Collected Papers II, Ed., Harvey Yunis, De Gruyter, 2019, Pp.i-xxxvi, 1-606, reviewed by DARRELL SUTTON

Albert Henrichs (1942-2017), Eliot Professor of Greek Literature at Harvard University, was unselfish with what he knew and over the decades he imparted his wisdom to his many pupils. He understood how powerful the positive and negative influences of religion were upon the shaping of the ancient vision. Individuals who were unable to attend his classes can now benefit from his tutelage at a distance. This volume of collected papers on Greek Myth and Religion, the second of four, encapsulates his extensive knowledge of these fields. Twenty-seven essays were selected for inclusion, all reflecting the highest standards of classical research and scholarship. Nine are in German, the remainder in English.

Owing to his erudite contribution to the study of The Cologne Mani Codex, with Ludwig Koenen, and to herculean efforts made toward the issuance of the fragments of Lollianus’ Phoinikika, he was considered a scholar of means before he reached his thirtieth birthday. A tenured academic position soon followed. Early in his career, his wide-ranging scholarly investigations led him in several directions simultaneously, one of which focused on papyrological issues. Through the ensuing years he expanded the range of his inquiries and his studies came to explore various facets of religious expression among ancient Greeks; but he also published on ancient Christian topics and reviewed modern works of biblical scholarship on ancient religious texts. Continue reading

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Is Israel Racist? Part 1

Marc Chagall, credit Wikimedia Commons

Is Israel Racist? Part 1

Ilana Mercer gives chapter and verse

Some months ago, a gentleman who pens anti-Semitic tracts approached me for an interview. I agreed. Being a naïve methodological individualist, I never generalize about individuals. That my interlocutor writes crude anti-Semitic boilerplate did not mean I would not give him a chance to reveal himself as someone other than a crude anti-Semite. After I had already answered his written questions in full, however, he bailed.

Here, then, is my reply to one of many loaded and leading questions I was asked and had answered in good faith. A leading question is one that suggests an answer. Since I am Jewish, I was considered a priori guilty. Of what? Well, you know: “nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more,” as goes the Monty Python skit. In his case, the fact that I married gentiles twice was not enough to clear me from charges of “Jewish supremacy.” I was pelted with uncouth, inappropriate, bias-confirming questions such as, “Do you think that marrying a non-Jew was a mistake and you should only marry another Jew?”

One of the less flighty questions was, “Do you believe Israel is a racist state?” I’ve been deconstructing the concept of racism in my latest columns, analytically showing that, at worst, racism is a worldview, a state of mind—often spoken or written, and entirely the prerogative of a free people, just so long as no corporeal aggression is committed. Continue reading

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