The broken fence

There’s a broken fence nearby. Nothing spectacular – just a stretch by the path pulled down by weather and neglect. It belongs to no one as far as I can see, or if it does it is lost in the deeds.

It was put up when the new houses were built on the other side, as a boundary for the development. A stout wall stands at the mouth of the new road to proclaim it as a desirable place to raise a family, as no doubt it is, but round the side, where it is seen by no one except those walking the public footpath, is just a wooden fence.

The fence is not part of the house standing by it – that has its own garden fence beyond which stands tall and solid with fresh creosote, proudly maintained by the householder, a sentry proclaiming ownership around his snug family home. Between that fence though and the outer edge of the development site is a patch of unmaintained scrub. It might have encouraged the first buyer of that house to know there is a bosky cordon sanitaire between his neat garden and the public path so he would not get drunks hurling beer bottles over or spray-painting obscenities on his private fence (like that wall behind the houses out on the way to the other place), but when the developer had built all the houses, when last hod was packed away and the keys handed over, that neat spinney was abandoned to revert to nature. Drunks still do not hurl bottles, but every malicious weed known to man is thriving and hurling its thistledown over.

Now the outer fence is broken, by the wind. It is a nice village and we hope there are no junkies forcing their way in to colonise the vacant plot, and it is left to nature, but the fence is still broken. It is not becoming unbroken.

If the fence belonged to the householder, he would have been out at once, raising it straight again, shoring it up and maybe adding a buttress to each compromised post, and the smell of creosote would follow his steps. But he does not.

Whatever you may be tempted to think, the local council is not the workman of last resort, tending to every bent plank that does not have a name to it. They did deal with the steps in the woods nearby that they had put in those years back, but they may not touch so much as a splinter of a stranger’s timber.

There are those who do not tire of telling us that some things about us in our environment should really belong to everyone, which means belonging to no one, and that some endeavours are not for private gain but for all society, which means for no one. But the fence remains fallen, and bowing further with every new wind, the rain digging out at the untreated fissures. It creaks. The failing fence proclaims the truth of an old observation:

That which belongs to no one is cared for by no one.

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The fearsome state of manhood

I stepped out of a door just as she did, and walked in the same direction. She started walking faster. I was just behind her through the same thread of narrow back-streets. Something in her step showed measured alarm. A man was following her – purely by coincidence as it was my usual route to the station, but she could not know that.  I dropped back as far as my frame allows (I am incapable of walking slowly).

As we both approached the main, crowded thoroughfare, she crossed the road and turned off and I could break away.

I have walked that route many times, so why was my progress defined by the fears of another?

If ever I comfort myself that men and women have reached equality, these little incidents come to mind.  If a woman follows my way behind me it is of no import and I would not even notice, but if she is in front of me, she is alert to the position and feels a threat, even though there is none in reality, and I am alert to the impression it may give.  A lamb may follow a wolf, but a wolf behind a lamb is very different.  I am a man, the predator.  I am taller, physically stronger, more naturally aggressive.  I have never known what it is to live in fear of the step behind me.

There is no ‘#MeToo‘ movement for men, protesting against unwanted overtures from women – it can be brushed off as somewhat embarrassing, but not an invasive threat. It is not the same the other way round.

Today we plead for equality between the two sexes; I certainly do. However this disjunction is there, and in those societies which have achieved most equality, the behavioural difference between the sexes has increased.

From time to time things have stopped my comfortable ideas in my tracks.  I can walk through dark alleys or parks at night and past huddles of boisterous youth with not a flicker, and often do. A woman would not. She should be able to – she should be able to walk in safety and assurance wherever she pleases – but it does not happen like that. I have seen a woman I had hardly noticed ahead of me in an alley flee in panic simply because a man was behind her, and that in the heart of a most respectable part of town. I want to say there is equality of opportunity, but I can walk where a woman will not.

I generalise too much and there will be many a woman who will tell me they have no fears walking in dark places, but if I have to generalise I will repeat my observations as the general rule.

I really wish it were not so – that all woman could walk boldly anywhere without fear. Equality is real and must be fundamental to the relationship of one to the other, and differences across the population are far greater than the statistical differences between the average man and the average woman. That dark alley though looks different through different eyes.

What then is a man to do in his position? He could bundle up his physical strength and emotional detachment and abuse them to harm those weaker than himself, and the worst crime we know is for a man to abuse those under his protection – his wife or other woman, or children. There are instead duties which come with strength, and we all know them. This means living up to what is expected of a man (which may be why differences between the sexes increase when the outward signs decrease).

What a fearsome position it is though, living up to all those expectations, with unattainable role models around us and throughout our literature. The best will seek to emulate and be the best they can. Others, for there is a wide variety in humanity, feel they are incapable. Some may hide. Some may even pretend they are not men at all in order to escape those fearsome expectations, which I think is to misunderstand them. It is tough, and no man can be perfect. The effort though, that is the thing.

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South Sudan praying for peace

South Sudan was at birth as a free state in 2011, lapped in the hope of the world. It has become a horrible proof of Hobbes, for without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre. However Peace may be coming, from the remarkable work of the Anglican Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Many new countries claim that their independence was a delivery from ‘slavery’, but in the case of South Sudan that is literally true. Northern Sudan is an Arab region on the Nile, but the south is Sub-Saharan Africa, and Arab slavers even into the twenty-first century raided and burnt its villages to carry off their human booty. How many women and children were labouring as slaves in Khartoum, their husbands and fathers having been slaughtered, we may never know. There are some in bondage in the north still. The South was not governed by Khartoum but tyrannised, until finally a peace treaty could give the south its desired independence to create a government for those abused people where their had been none before, not really since British rule.

When 98.83% of the population voted for independence, that seemed to show national unity and there was reason to hope that the new country would be united in endeavour. One voice though three hundred and sixty years before had warned that would not be so:

Nor is it enough for the security, which men desire should last all the time of their life, that they be governed, and directed by one judgement, for a limited time; as in one Battell, or one Warre. For though they obtain a Victory by their unanimous endeavour against a forraign enemy; yet afterwards, when either they have no common enemy, or he that by one part is held for an enemy, is by another part held for a friend, they must needs by the difference of their interests dissolve, and fall again into a Warre amongst themselves.

We have seen what happened. It was a new state, and there was all to play for, and just one nudge might overthrow one regime and allow another warlord or tribe to take over. It just took a slight, an allegation of unfair treatment by one tribe against another.

if any one, or more of them, pretend a breach of the Covenant made by the Soveraigne at his Institution; and others, or one other of his Subjects, or himselfe alone, pretend there was no such breach, there is in this case, no Judge to decide the controversie: it returns therefore to the Sword again; and every man recovereth the right of Protecting himselfe by his own strength, contrary to the designe they had in the Institution

Common sense, you would think, or fear, would keep national unity, because the country had only achieved independence after decades of bloodshed and it could yet be a fragile independence. Who could know whether the north, Sudan, would look on a power vacuum as an opportunity to move south again and snuff out this resented breakaway state. In fact they have not, perhaps realising that they have no interest there, restricting themselves to holding undecided patches of territory, but it could so easily have been different.

Instead of unity, the country fell into warring factions each after its prize and barely controlled even within their factions.

What price loyalty to an entity which has no history or ancestral call on any one? The Obligation of Subjects to the Soveraign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them. For the right men have by Nature to protect themselves, when none else can protect them, can by no Covenant be relinquished. The Soveraignty is the Soule of the Common-wealth; which once departed from the Body, the members doe no more receive their motion from it.

The end of Obedience is Protection; which, wheresoever a man seeth it, either in his own, or in anothers sword, Nature applyeth his obedience to it, and his endeavour to maintaine it. And though Soveraignty, in the intention of them that make it, be immortall; yet is it in its own nature, not only subject to violent death, by forreign war; but also through the ignorance, and passions of men, it hath in it, from the very institution, many seeds of a naturall mortality, by Intestine Discord.

And yet there may be hope born of the reality of what has been seen here. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.

There is still a memory of peace, of what it can bring. The greatest peacemakers are in the Church. There are more worshiping Anglicans in South Sudan than in the Church of England, and they worship the Prince of Peace. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself went to South Sudan and joined the hands of enemies.

You might not have read of Justin Welby’s heroic efforts to end the war, putting himself into one of the more brutal killing grounds of the Earth, but why would you – the media will report a pre-set narrative and this does not fit that narrative. He as there though, and guns ceased. We have for now seen the beginnings of peace. We have yet to see if at last the swords have been beaten into ploughshares and the spears into pruning hooks, but we now know who will make that peace if it can be: the Christian congregations of South Sudan.

There must be no complacency though but reconciliation and an understanding of the common nature of the undertaking of the commonwealth: the nature of War, consisteth not in actuall fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is PEACE.

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Reason, Error and Absurdity

The Use Of Reason

The Use and End of Reason, is not the finding of the summe, and truth of one, or a few consequences, remote from the first definitions, and settled significations of names; but to begin at these; and proceed from one consequence to another. For there can be no certainty of the last Conclusion, without a certainty of all those Affirmations and Negations, on which it was grounded, and inferred.

As when a master of a family, in taking an account, casteth up the summs of all the bills of expence, into one sum; and not regarding how each bill is summed up, by those that give them in account; nor what it is he payes for; he advantages himselfe no more, than if he allowed the account in grosse, trusting to every of the accountants skill and honesty; so also in Reasoning of all other things, he that takes up conclusions on the trust of Authors, and doth not fetch them from the first Items in every Reckoning, (which are the significations of names settled by definitions), loses his labour; and does not know any thing; but onely beleeveth.

Of Error And Absurdity

When a man reckons without the use of words, which may be done in particular things, (as when upon the sight of any one thing, wee conjecture what was likely to have preceded, or is likely to follow upon it;) if that which he thought likely to follow, followes not; or that which he thought likely to have preceded it, hath not preceded it, this is called ERROR; to which even the most prudent men are subject.

But when we Reason in Words of generall signification, and fall upon a generall inference which is false; though it be commonly called Error, it is indeed an ABSURDITY, or senseless Speech.

For Error is but a deception, in presuming that somewhat is past, or to come; of which, though it were not past, or not to come; yet there was no impossibility discoverable. But when we make a generall assertion, unlesse it be a true one, the possibility of it is unconceivable.

And words whereby we conceive nothing but the sound, are those we call Absurd, insignificant, and Non-sense. And therefore if a man should talk to me of a Round Quadrangle; or Accidents Of Bread In Cheese; or Immaterial Substances; or of A Free Subject; A Free Will; or any Free, but free from being hindred by opposition, I should not say he were in an Errour; but that his words were without meaning; that is to say, Absurd.

I have said before, (in the second chapter,) that a Man did excell all other Animals in this faculty, that when he conceived any thing whatsoever, he was apt to enquire the consequences of it, and what effects he could do with it. And now I adde this other degree of the same excellence, that he can by words reduce the consequences he findes to generall Rules, called Theoremes, or Aphorismes; that is, he can Reason, or reckon, not onely in number; but in all other things, whereof one may be added unto, or substracted from another. But this priviledge, is allayed by another; and that is, by the priviledge of Absurdity; to which no living creature is subject, but man onely. And of men, those are of all most subject to it, that professe Philosophy.

For it is most true that Cicero sayth of them somewhere; that there can be nothing so absurd, but may be found in the books of Philosophers. And the reason is manifest. For there is not one of them that begins his ratiocination from the Definitions, or Explications of the names they are to use; which is a method that hath been used onely in Geometry; whose Conclusions have thereby been made indisputable.

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Family, faith, flag, freedom

It is a quiet civil war within political parties; less quiet in the nation as a whole. I have to ask though how far apart the sides actually are. It is a yawning chasm between the extremes, but for most it is a matter of priorities. Extremists have no hierarchy of priorities as normal people have.

Were the Kulturkrieg just a time of new opinions being aired and thriving or withering in time, that would be interesting, discomforting for the conservative-minded, but a natural thing for any age. Instead, we find threats and actual careers ended, families impoverished, as a heap of unelected opinion formers try to bang in their own rickety Overton Windows without debate.

I do not want to write, yet again, of the ‘Woke’ idea in this consideration: they are not liberal in any logical sense. They might think they are, but their essence is prescriptive, censorious, regimented, and their prescription is strict laws against freedom. They are extreme conservatives, just for a different conservative philosophy, and with such a departure from sense and reality that those ideas are unworthy of serious philosophical consideration. No: the liberal-conservative divide lies elsewhere.

One aspect on the battlefield is the push-of-pike between socially conservative and socially liberal. The general thrust is characterised on both sides as a fight for freedom. On the liberal side that seems to ring truest, as the essence of the philosophy is that individuals will find their own path without interference from the norms of society, which norms must give way to allow free expression of lifestyle. That is a powerful message, especially to the young finding their feet in the world, wanting to spread their wings.

From a socially conservative viewpoint however, a free, liberal society can only thrive if there is society in the first place. Otherwise freedom is illusion. We need not descend as far as ‘Warre Of Every One Against Every One‘ to see that complete liberty becomes no liberty at all: our security to build and thrive depends on having a structure within which to build and thrive. Fundamental to that are family, faith and nation.

The radical liberal idea speaks to the desire of all to breath free and to be what we can be, without being defined by other’s requirements, or in Hobbesian terms “a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetuall and restlesse desire of Power after power”.

It sounds all very well until you see those cast aside by others’ freedom weeping in the dark corners; children abandoned and falling into neglect or crime; women with no more hope passing from abuser to abuser; the lost cultural understandings; the feral individuals becoming Caliban; the neglect of poor communities because they are no longer communities.

The late Roger Scruton provided a philosophical basis for social conservatism. It was said that he set his face against the economic liberalism of the Thatcher era, but in fact his objection was to treating that economic idea above all, as if free economics would solve every social issue too. It cannot, and there we have a more accurate division between the wings of conservative thought. In that characterisation the two sides, of economic liberalism and social conservatism, are not in opposition to each other in any principle; only in emphasis.

Difference of emphasis is how Jordan Peterson has characterised the psychological conservative-liberal split, and he notes that the two are not so much in opposition as in a necessary symbiotic tension, and by implication that society will ossify or collapse unless both character types and their ideas and are present.

Where we are then in the genuine liberal-conservative divide is not such a division as it may seem. If it is characterised as freedom against restriction, it misses the complexity of positions. Socially conservative Conservatives are most often supporters of free enterprise, free trade and free commercial innovation. It is the social field where paths divide, but even there it is in individual areas. Social conservatism is unpopular in the opinion-forming media, which according to the Peterson thesis is inevitably the domain of creative, liberal types, but it is necessary to defend family, faith and flag for the stability of society on which all else is built.

See also

Some social conservative organisations:

Groups promoting aspects of socially conservative ideas seem to come and go with the tide, either becoming so mainstream as to vanish in redundancy or becoming the-place-not-to-be-seen, or just evaporating as the momentum is lost. Some remain however.