Imagination – it’s an Illusion

Imagination – it’s an Illusion

Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope, Justin Welby, Bloomsbury Continuum, 2018, 300pp. Hardback, £16.99., reviewed by EDWARD DUTTON

The Rev. Dr Malcolm Johnson, Rector of St Botolph’s, Aldgate, once remarked, ‘I see the Church of England as an elderly maiden aunt. Most of the time you’d like to strangle her, but she comes into her own at Christmas and Easter and she’s there when you want her’ (quoted Caroline Chartres, 2007, Why I Am Still Anglican, Bloomsbury, p.104). Dr Johnson’s metaphor piquantly summarises the feelings that many English people have (or used to have) about the Anglican Church: she’s eccentric, unworldly, embarrassed about sex . . . but, deep down, she’s loving, reliable, and she holds the English family together at times of crisis. She reaches back, beyond living memory, into English history – perhaps her fiancé was killed at the Somme – into rituals our ancestors did, something vaguely eternal and ineffable. Somehow, with her, all will be well in the end.

It is, therefore, fascinating to a read a book by an Archbishop of Canterbury, the incumbent the Most Rev. Dr Justin Welby, which reflects the way in which a very different model has taken over the Church of England. The elderly maiden aunt is, alas, a bit too old-fashioned for the new head of the clan, because he – and like so many in senior clerical positions – is essentially a Multiculturalist in a mitre. The ideology of Multiculturalism traces its ideological roots to Marxism, wherein ‘the revolution is eternal’ and History unfolds according to the Hegelian Dialectic. There is always a ‘Spirit of the Age’. Whereas the elderly maiden aunt represented something eternal and unchanging, Dr Welby embodies this chaotic Zeitgeist.  

For the revolutionary, we always live in what Dr Welby calls ‘turbulent times.’ No matter how peaceful life is, we are constantly engaged in a struggle, in a revolution. In some periods, this is genuinely true. As Dr Welby rightly argues, the period after World War II can be understood as a ‘turbulent’ period in the UK, in which the national-bonding of the War extended into the Peace, with the development of a highly egalitarian society. However, he argues that this is also true of Brexit. This is such a dramatic change, claims Welby, that it requires us to ‘reimagine ourselves;’ to alter the ‘story’ of who we are and reassess the ‘values’ – apparently ‘health,’ ‘housing’, ‘education’, welcoming diversity and being sufficiently confident in ourselves to do so – which, apparently, holds us together. And the Church of England can help with this by being ‘constant and flexible’ in this ‘turbulent’ context and by ‘living in love’ (p.4) so that we can, together, create some kind of utopia where everybody, no matter what their religion or class or aspect of LGBTQI+ness, gets along just fine.

Welby makes a few fair points. He observes that a worldview based around the importance of wealth is fundamentally flawed, not least because people are more concerned with their relative wealth. He explores the importance of solidarity in society and he discusses the belief that a society is a contract between generations: the past, the living and the future (p.8).

But these points aside, this is one of the glibbest books that this reviewer has ever read. Most obviously, how can anyone even try to compare the trauma of Britain’s experience of World War II with Brexit, in which we peacefully voted to leave an economic and political union? We didn’t have to ‘reimagine ourselves’ when we joined, so why should there be a need to do so when we leave?

The ‘values’ which Dr Welby believes hold us together are similarly unpersuasive. Is he seriously saying that the French or the Finnish don’t care about ‘education’? Unless we uniquely care about ‘education’, it can hardly be central to our ‘story’. Welby may be onto something when he suggests that Britain has a long history of being open to foreigners, but, then, it also has a long history of anti-immigrant riots. Some countries, focused merely on survival often in a very inhospitable climate, tend not to be open to the world. Britain is more open to the world – hence its exploration, Empire, and acceptance of refugee groups like the Huguenots – but it cannot be extrapolated from this that multiculturalism is a British value. Any society needs to maintain a balance between closed and open. Too closed and it will stagnate and fail to benefit from highly intelligent migrants; too open and it will Balkanize. Britain, perhaps unlike some countries, has historically got that balance right. Note also that the Huguenots were intelligent, diligent and genetically similar to the British. This aspect of our ‘story’ is irrelevant to modern-day Islamic immigration.

Dr Welby claims that the Christian value of ‘living in love’ will help to ensure that all people living in Britain – be they of other religions or of none – will be fulfilled. But surely, for this to work, a minimum percentage of the population must be Christian; or Christianity will not be able to influence enough people. So, there must be limit to ‘welcoming diversity’ after which Britain will degenerate into a very bad place to live. What percentage of the English must be ‘Christian’ for Welby’s plan to work and what would he do about it if we dropped below this percentage?

In criticising materialism, the author stresses the need for a ‘moral’ society in which people care about each other, focus on the good of society, and which keeps economic inequality to a minimum (p.169). There are many places in the world that are still like this; Iceland is an example. Evolutionary theories of cooperation predict that people create such societies if the gene pool is very small (meaning that they are all one big family), they are religious and of the same religion (meaning they feel that God is watching them and they trust this is true of others), they are culturally homogenous (meaning few conflicts) and there are few foreigners to whom co-ethnics could defect.

We become less trusting of each other if there are foreigners among us (see Edward Dutton, in press, Ethnocentrism, Arktos Publishing). Egalitarian Iceland is a case in point. It is genetically homogenous, overwhelmingly of one denomination (Lutheran), it is culturally homogenous and there are few foreigners, with even its growing tourism industry now leading to a backlash. The Icelandic are not held together by the ‘fairy tale’ (p.5) which Dr Welby – with his frequent comparisons to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe –believes can hold together the English, let alone one that is ‘constant and flexible’ (p.2). They are held together by things which are ‘constant.’ And this includes this intergenerational ‘contract’ which Welby is breaking with relatively recent ancestors when he talks about ‘perceived foreigners’ (p.13). These ancestors would have been quite clear that Englishness is a matter of blood, plain and simple.

Poor Dr Welby is conflicted. He wants an Icelandic-type society but he also wants to virtue signal about the need for diversity. Perhaps he should look to how the early Christian communities created such societies. They tended to be of the same ethnicity, they followed strict cultural rules and they had a strict code of belief. Perhaps Dr Welby might consider reading a certain book which includes letters to these communities.

Just how seriously did Dr Welby take writing this book? There is an abundance of sloppy editing. He talks about Brexit from the beginning but only on page 9 does he tell us that Britain’s leaving the EU is ‘a process known as Brexit’ (quite why he feels the need to explain this at all is unclear). He initially refers to ‘LGBT’ but this later becomes LGBTQI+ (p.261). Amazingly, he writes, with regard to cohabiting couples in the UK on the 1951 census: ‘The figures for 1951, by contrast, were too small to be statistically significant’ (p.66). Statistical significance is a way of assessing, based on your sample size and effect size, how likely a difference between two groups is to be a fluke. If it is 5% or less likely it is not a fluke and it is ‘statistically significant.’ The 1951 census was not a sample; it was the entire population. So either the Archbishop of Canterbury does not know what statistical significance is (unlikely, as he used to work in the oil industry) or he’s trying to sound profound by using a scientific term even though he knows he’s misusing it (again, unlikely). Or perhaps this part of the book has been ghost written and edited by a scientific illiterate and Dr Welby has only given his own book a quick once over. None of these scenarios reflect well on the Primate of All England. Also, the second half of the book is padded out with tenuously relevant analyses of Biblical quotations.

Those who miss the ‘maiden aunt’ – or who are currently looking after her in an old house in Tunbridge Wells or some such place – should read this if only to better understand what they are up against. To wit, a combination of virtue-signalling, self-contradiction, Marxism, scientific illiteracy and plain sloppiness.

Dr Edward Dutton is the author of How to Judge People by What They Look Like, Thomas Edward Press, 2018

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Two Tribes, Part 2

Poussin, Dance to the Music of Time, detail

Two Tribes, Part 2

By Mark Wegierski

Many of Canada’s problems derive from the fact that the country consists of “two nations warring in the bosom of a single state”, to quote from Lord Durham’s famous Report of 1840. The “two nations” are, of course, English-speaking and French-speaking Canada. Oft times, English-speaking Canada tried to pretend that Québec simply did not exist; then it moved, probably too late, into a stance of extreme accommodation; and finally, when English-speaking Canada became ideologically liberal, it moved to oppose Québec in the name of so-called universal rights, and in view of Québec’s “illiberalism”.

In an attempt to have Québec accede to the new Canadian Constitution, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney negotiated the Meech Lake Accord in 1987. A strange kind of fury seized English Canada, in opposition to the legal recognition of Québec as “a distinct society”, albeit an obvious historical and social reality but a blow to absolute individual rights, as well as to the notion that so-called “group rights” are normally afforded only to visible minorities (a term of official usage), as well as to Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The Accord failed in 1990, when it was rejected by the recalcitrant legislatures of two smaller English-Canadian provinces. Continue reading

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All Greek to Me

Pallas (Athena) with the Parthenon

All Greek to Me

Exhibition, Rodin and the art of ancient Greece, The British Museum, 26th April to 29th July 2018; Rodin and the art of ancient Greece, a publication that accompanies the exhibition, reviewed by LESLIE JONES

“…we possess intellectual and moral faculties [for whose] origin we can only find an adequate cause in the unseen universe of Spirit”, Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwinism

In Auguste Rodin’s bizarre marble and plaster bust entitled Pallas (Athena) with the Parthenon (1896), the goddess of wisdom and truth has given birth to the Athenian temple  – from her head. The two figures, one falling, in Lamentation on the Acropolis, sometimes known as The Death of Athens (1902?), also bespeak Rodin’s neo-Hellenism. They have collapsed onto a rock that supposedly represents the Acropolis. For “In Rodin’s day, the Parthenon represented the summit of intellectual and artistic achievement….” (quotation from Rodin and the art of ancient Greece). But not only in his day.

Rodin’s interest in the Parthenon sculptures pre-dated his first visit to the British Museum in 1881. Before 1870, he executed a superb series of sketches from casts and/or engravings in the Louvre. His study of Youths preparing for the cavalcade, from the North Frieze, is particularly fine. So too are the sketches of horses and men with a chariot (Parthenon North Frieze, before 1870), and of men driving cattle. Continue reading

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Postscript on St Paul’s “Anti-Semitism”

El Greco, St Paul

Postscript on St Paul’s “anti-Semitism”

by Darrell Sutton

In two previous papers I introduced a letter of the Apostle Paul to Christians in Rome. The letter was written in the first century AD. Some of the recipients may have been former partisans of Judaism; others of them were converted from non-monotheistic faiths. The letter was a theological tract. Paul’s observations were perceptive even where his viewpoints were not wholeheartedly accepted. However, his points of view on the beliefs of ancient Jews, and their status among other religions, have recently come under fire. One book after another asserts that he was bigoted and spurred the Christian faith in wrong directions. These published conclusions are mostly based on revised notions: contemporary scholars have superimposed modern lexical meanings on ancient ideas.

Jean-Paul Sartre published his Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate in 1944. An essay of over 100 pages, it transformed debates on attitudes toward Jews and how Jewishness could be understood. Other writers broached the subject, but few intellectuals of his day were as influential as Sartre. Biblical studies were not unaffected. Since the late 1940s, many books and papers have been issued on the topic of “anti-Semitism” in the New Testament. The analyses were rarely formed through rigorous studies of lexemes. Contexts were re-imagined and re-interpreted in accordance with the latest critical theories: sociological and psychological methodologies were employed.
The end result was a recasting of personality traits of characters affiliated with New Testament documents. Primarily the focus has been on the Pauline corpus of texts. There are a variety of consensuses among scholars today regarding him. Many modern commentators entertain the notion that Paul in fact was anti-Semitic. I disagree, and set out my reasons below. Still, it is only natural that observant Jews might feel this way. They find certain remarks by him distressing; but they are no less distressed when people of other faiths bring up the Old Testament stories of Israelites waging war in Canaan land, of brutal activities, all of which may be considered to be kinds of anti-Philistinism, anti-Hittitism, anti-Moabitism and so forth. Continue reading

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The Yankee Mindset

John Brown, by Ole Peter Hansen Balling, 1872

The Yankee Mindset

By Ilana Mercer

I recently traveled to Texas to speak about South Africa, at the Free Speech Forum of  the Texas A & M University.

To travel from the Pacific Northwest all the way to College Station, Texas, without experiencing more of the “Lone Star State”, was not an option.

So, after driving from Austin eastward to College Station (where I was hosted by two exceptional young, Southern gentlemen), I headed south-west to San Antonio. There I lingered long enough to conclude:

The Republic of Texas is a civilization apart.

Ordinary Texans—from my brief travels—tend to be sunny, kind and warmhearted. Not once did I encounter rude on my Texas junket.

On the Pacific Coast, however, kindness and congeniality don’t come naturally. Washington-statists are generally aloof, opprobrious, insular. And, frankly, dour. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, May 2018

A story from Hindu mythology

Endnotes, May 2018

In this edition: a revelation from Roussel; Elgar, choral and orchestral music, reviewed by STUART MILLSON

The music of Albert Roussel makes only the occasional appearance in British concert programmes or recording catalogues, with French 20th century music dominated by Debussy and Ravel. Yet Roussel’s works continue the shimmering, symphonic impressionism of those defining 20th-century masters – with the Gallic dry wit and nervous energy of Milhaud or Ibert also figuring in the idiomatic cocktail.

Surprisingly, Karajan recorded the Fourth Symphony with the Philharmonia in his EMI London era of the 1950s – pairing the work with Stravinsky’s Jeu de Cartes. It was arguably during this overlooked period in his recording career that the German maestro set down his most interesting and unusual repertoire, with Vaughan Williams and Britten also making an appearance. Continue reading

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Conservatives and Technology

Art Work for the film “Dune”

Conservatives and Technology

 By Mark Wegierski

[An earlier version of this article appeared in American Outlook, Indianapolis, Indiana: The Hudson Institute, vol. 5 no. 3, Summer 2002, pp. 15-16]

Many of those who demonstrate against the various international and economic summits conventionally define themselves as anarchists or radical Left. Indeed, opposition to capitalism and globalization today is said to belong to the Left. However, all too many of the protesters seem to represent little more than an incoherent, almost aimless rebellion that invariably ends in hooliganism. They pose little substantive challenge to the glibly efficient technocrats of the incipient “Brave New World”. Notwithstanding the admitted idealism and insight of some of their mentors, notably Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky and Ivan Illich, the typical anti-capitalist activist appears to want ever more intensive “political correctness”, even more drastic social and cultural levelling, as well as some of the comforts and licentious lifestyles of the consumer society, with a global government to enforce their values. Continue reading

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Hero City

Volgograd, Stalingrad battlefield memorial

Hero City

by Bill Hartley

Russian television news regularly carries stories covering the exploits of ‘our boys in Syria’. The bombed out buildings and general scenes of devastation are a backdrop as a flak jacketed general explains the situation. On the domestic front, the dividing line between fiction and fact can be rather blurred. We’re all used to American style crime shows which end with the suspects face down, wrists handcuffed behind their backs. Evidently the Russian police have adopted this as standard procedure; the difference being that they take a TV news camera team along with them. As the suspects lie prone and handcuffed on the pavement the camera takes a leisurely sweep along the row of bodies before attempting a close up of someone’s head. The hapless suspect squirms to avoid being seen on the evening news. Still on the subject of television, the Russian station RT has a multi-screen display at Moscow airport. ‘Missed a flight, lost a general election? Then blame us, reads one screen. Another says: ‘find out who we’re hacking next’. Continue reading

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Calling Free Nations

Giuseppe Mazzini

Calling Free Nations

Stuart Millson deconstructs “Remainiac” rhetoric  

On 1stMay, the Daily Mail, the newspaper which the chattering classes love to hate, published some extraordinary despatches from the House of Lords debate on EU exit – their ‘lordships’ having inflicted the latest series of defeats on the Government’s Brexit legislation. Alongside messrs Mandelson, Heseltine and Kinnock, plus another noble peer whose only claim to fame is the manufacture and mass-sale of lager, the anti-Leave cause was spurred on by one, Lord Roberts of… Llandudno. A five-times-defeated LibDem parliamentary candidate, the noble Roberts (no relation, as far as we know, of the great Victorian/Edwardian General) compared the actions of the Prime Minister to those of Hitler. Quite apart from the fact that Mrs. May has demonstrated her liberal credentials on many occasions – her earnest belief in inclusion, in helping the “just managing” and the marginalised – the contention of Llandudno’s finest really cannot go unchallenged. Continue reading

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Beyond Left and Right

Mark Rothko, No. 14, 1960

Beyond Left and Right

by Mark Wegierski

The author grapples herein with the implications of the post-2008 financial and economic crisis. He suggests that there are difficulties with the conventional conceptions of both left and right and that we consider what the so-called “anti-system opposition” holds in common.

The U.S. government has extended over a trillion dollars in aid to the banking and financial sectors. This is a situation in which profits are private, but losses are made up by the public. This system could perhaps be called bankers’ socialism. Evidently, the financial and banking sector is quite happy to be part of the “welfare-state” gravy train.

The strictest competition continues to exist for small-businesses, however – they will not be receiving bail-outs in this increasingly difficult economic climate. Many people – especially in the private sector — are losing their jobs – and without the golden parachutes available to the highest-ranking executives. The current real unemployment rate in the United States has been estimated by some economists to be around twenty percent. Continue reading

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