Surrendering on the playing fields of Eton

The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, but would be surrendered if the relics of the Blairzeit now in command had their way. If they remain, the school’s reputation will not. The school famed worldwide for bringing boys up into the best of men is now committed to turning them into pathetic milksops. The boys may have other ideas of course.

I have always enjoyed the metaphor. The officers at Waterloo and at many battles over our long imperial history have been solid men, wedded to hardship and duty. A background of wealth might have dried up the manly qualities in ease and dissipation, as it did in many disgraced dukes, but places like Eton ensured the inculcation of those qualities of understanding and character on which a nation could be built, and those are the qualities which cool-headedly shepherded thousands in precision at Waterloo through hours of cannon, musket and lance, and drove the French back to Paris.

(There is actually room to fit a major battle on the playing-fields of Eton, if not one the size of Waterloo: so extensive are the collage’s lands that you can walk for an hour and still not be at the end of them.)

The character of a man is wrought through endeavour and experience, and more endeavour, but the seeds may be sown in his first experience of organised society, amongst his school-chums, and where he learns that there is more than himself in the world

And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat.
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
“Play up! Play up! And play the game!”

The actual scandal at Eton now has been reported in enough fora, erupting from a pretty unexceptional video put up as part of the College’s ‘Perspectives’ course, and the Headmaster’s desire to suppress it (with the result naturally that thousands more people have seen it in just a few days than were ever supposed to be aware of it).

The Tribunal hearing which must come will turn on dull legal grounds rather than the worthiness of the video in question – it would have been interesting to see a tribunal’s terrified chairman trying to consider socio-political doctrine opposed to truth, but a way will be found around that; that the master in question, Will Knowland, was dismissed for the fashionable ‘gross misconduct’ presumably for refusing an order, but behind it is a deeper conflict.

The Headmaster (so I read) has framed his reasoning along the lines of avoiding embarrassing the College, but the infamy of his intemperate action has dragged the College’s name through the mud publicly, and publicised the very material he sought to suppress. With such maladroit strategic insight, it is as well that his sort were not commanding at Waterloo. The boys are not so daft.

The outrage, or perhaps confected outrage, is that the video, “The Patriarchy Paradox”, has a straightforward denial of two concepts in cultural Marxist theory: the idea that the only differences between men and women are culturally determined, and secondly the concept of the oppressive ‘patriarchy’. Both those ideas are so comprehensively wrong that it should take upholding them is generally a sign of idiocy, blind ignorance, malice or (most common of all) fear. Granted the ‘patriarchy’ concept is a matter of perspective and emphasis: its root failing is that it is a development of the Marxist class-struggle narrative and clings to the same pseudo-science. However that is a minor subject. The main issue of the video is the differing characteristics of women and men.

That men and women are (as statistical averages) different psychologically is practically universally accepted by all serious experts in the field. There was a book out recently by a feminist denying it by claiming all the countless experiments and mountains of data had inherent flaws, but this libel upon the scientific community is not a serious study, and was politely torn apart by Simon Baron-Cohen soon after publication.

Essentially, to proclaim the idea that there is no gender dimorphism in psychology and that apparent differences are culturally imposed is as ludicrous as teaching such past pseudo-scientific ideas as “scientific racialism” or phrenology or astrology: to do so make you a laughing-stock.

Yet the Headmaster (apparently) took the view that the law requires that specific doctrines, blatantly false though they are, must be taught in what used to be the country’s most prestigious school. I have read the Regulations cited, and there is no such idea, not even hinted at. Does the Headmaster of Eton, of all places, really think that the law is so stupid? Who has advised him?

Let us be fair: the Headmaster of what was until his time the most respected school in the land is no fool: he is an intelligent, educated and no doubt erudite man. Many are who seem to bow to the fakeries arising from cultural Marxism but the most common reason is fear: fear of being ostracised and removed by unseen hands whom no one has elected and who has not been given such authority. He should in that case have thanked Mr Knowland for leading resistance, and shown some Eton spirit himself.

Maybe we will hear more in the tribunal, if the Chairman indulges the claimant with allowing him to put his case. Perhaps we will hear an attempt at justification of the Headmaster’s position: I would love to hear it. If the tribunal corrects a misconception of the law, all the better for the rest of us. If they decide that falsehood is indeed the law, then there is an opportunity to change the law, and remove those who try to change it back again behind the scenes, and those who try to intimidate Headmasters.

There is more than one master at Eton, and the boys may know more than a distant manager. It is vital for boys to learn robustness and duty, and if they have then this idiocy will wash over them: a middle aged trying to tell a boy what it is to be a boy is like a snail teaching a hare how to run. That Eton spirit is not so easily lost.

The ideologues talk of ‘toxic masculinity’ which is an insult to all men; anyone who talked of ‘toxic femininity’ should be horsewhipped as a fool and no gentleman, but somehow half of humanity has to be insulted (in revenge perhaps for the misdeeds of some men in past generations). If that ‘toxic masculinity’ consists in the qualities for which Eton was once famed, for courage, steadfastness, duty, perseverance, the instinct of the warrior and of the gentleman, then let the world be wrapped in its toxins, for those are half of the qualities which the world needs; the other half are the characteristics of womanhood, which men are less able to achieve. The two together, equal and complementary, are needed to make a world.

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Nicola’s Muzzle – 2

Since I last wrote of Nicola Sturgeon’s Bill to ban speech, more immediate events have seized the attention, but on this bandwagon runs. In that time yet more voices have risen against it. Yet Nicola controls in a presidential manner all the levers of state, and weak MSPs ready to do her will. The threat is very real. I chose to leave writing this until I was out of Scotland and outside her reach.


The ‘Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill’ is kept relatively short. It has been promoted as a measure against ‘hate speech’, but goes far beyond even the measures Tony Blair left us with.

I previously wrote about the opening, which has been little commented upon, forcing sheriffs to act outside common sense and conscience. The meat of commentary is on Part 2: ‘Offences relating to stirring up hatred’. Now, for a such a Bill to be promoted by a political party built entirely on stirring hatred up against their fellow countrymen, this is chutzpah indeed. The provisions are beyond humour.

It will be a crime to behave in a threatening, abusive or even merely insulting manner, or to communicate insulting material to another, if with the intent to stir up hatred against a defined racial or national group or even if with no intent if it is likely that ‘hatred’ will be ‘stirred up’. It does not say that SNP branch meetings are exempt, but I would not want to be the constable to tries to arrest the unbridled tongues that do just this at every one.

The clause would ban the Daily Mail and half a dozen other papers from distribution in Scotland, as soon as someone alleges that one of their leading articles has stirred prejudice against foreigners. Stirring hatred against journalists or political opponents is not covered.

Secondly, it will be a crime to behave in a threatening or abusive manner, or to communicate abusive material to stir up hatred, or be likely to, against a number of listed identity groups. It does not here say ‘insult’ here, but that will be added later, the moment an advocacy group in receipt of taxpayers’ money claims it is a hole in the legislation. In any case, ‘abusive’ may mean exactly the same.

The groups covered include the usual suspects, including ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘transgender identity’.

It would be a defence (at least in the initial draft – this may come out) for a person charged to show that their behaviour was ‘in the particular circumstances, reasonable’: that is undefined and I pity the advocate who tries to argue it, in professional terms and also because of the hate mobs who would besiege his chambers afterwards. ‘Reasonable’ by whose standards, or to achieve what? This may be interpreted, in the spirit of the Act, that no behaviour may be adjudged a reasonable infringement of the presumptions the Act contains, leaving no defence.

The major trap hidden in the formulaic words is in the key line ‘as a result, it is likely that hatred will be stirred up against such a group’. Consider it for a moment: it does not say how much hatred is t be engendered by the actions in question: it might be one mad, tinfoil-hatted nut on Facebook who reads words and feels hatred growing in his heart, and that has stirred hatred. Had the words said ‘in a significant portion of the population’ it would be bad but not as bad as this: had it said promoting violence against members of a group that would even seem acceptable, but stirring any hatred at all, that is unavoidable in social commentary.

It is worse than the apparent aim of the wording: it can catch anyone with views someone else does not want to hear. Hatred has to be directed at a group – but the Bill does not say that the speaker had to have that group as a target: he might be a Christian preacher with nothing but love in his heart but by saying something that an angry Woke mob does not want to hear, he has stirred the hatred of the mob against him and against Christians, and so he is guilty, and looking at 12 months in Barlinnie.

So much more could be said, and will be.

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A new muzzle from Nicola

It is as bad as they say. Nicola Sturgeon’s SNooPy has long gagged the press by denying access to those deemed unfriendly, and is now about to enact a muzzle on speech for everyone, in the ‘Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill’.

Many a column has discussed and condemned the changes, and I cannot dissent from this: it is a truly sinister Bill. The main charge is that it will gag free speech – and it will do so in ways more effective that the cold wording of the Bill suggests. There is more to it than the gag too.

The defence of the new proposal has been a familiar one, that the law will only prohibit ‘hate speech’ and with the implied threat that to oppose it is to support hatred, but anyone who has not been asleep for the last twenty-odd years will know the reality of such accusations.

Before the gagging provision comes a gentle introduction: Clause 1 of the Bill takes the familiar provision that a crime motivated by racial prejudice should attract a higher sentence and takes it to a new level: it now covers a long list of prejudices and alleged prejudices, and applies if the offender evinces “malice and ill-will based on the victim’s membership or presumed membership” of a group in the long list; even if there is no specific victim. But then it says that “Evidence from a single source is sufficient to prove that an offence is aggravated by prejudice” – not sufficient evidence to suggest but to prove, so if a victim claims mendaciously that the thug who attacked him called out “oi, you [whatever epithet fits]”, that is that. Then Clause 2 gets serious: it is not enough for the sheriff to take this into account while thinking privately “well, he just said a bad word in the heat of the moment”: the court must state the matter in sentencing and say how much lighter the sentence would have been had the bad word not been uttered. Judges, it seems, are not to be trusted. Virtue signalling is something that must not only be done but must be seen to be done.

The main issue though is Part 2: ‘stirring up hatred’, and empowering the police to raid homes and seize unPC material. No one is sage (well all right; no one without the right political connections is safe, and even that can be withdrawn, as Alex Salmond found).

The whole of Part 2 needs a more fulsome description. In essence it will make a criminal offence any insult addressed by reference to any of a long list of characteristics. (That would make every conversation I have ever heard in Glasgow a crime.) It covers actions, publications, mere speech. It specifically targets plays, making the producer guilty, and the actor too. It covers websites anywhere in the United Kingdom.

There are two savings for “Protection of freedom of expression”: religion and sexual orientation, but they are so limited as to be meaningless: the exemption for religion is simply freedom for proselytising (including promoting atheism) and discussing or criticising religion. It does not however permit actual religious teaching, so quoting the Gospel (or the Koran, which I understand can be rather unPC) will still be a crime if the passage in question is insulting to a privileged group. Neither does the Bill contain any licence for scientific examination or for papers which are deemed insulting by self-appointed representatives of the listed groups

It is the actions of these self-appointed representatives which are the danger: they are the insulters and the haters, but they are to be protected while they accuse others, using a damning Act which will effectively allow no defence and will demand heavy retribution.

The breadth of the Bill belies its subtlety in squeezing out all defence. That needs a longer look next week.

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Oh the things we said in dark corners….

I blush to think of those long yarns in college rooms or the corner of a pub, of all we said and did not think, of the ribald, the shocking, the plain disgusting, geeing each other up to exceed the heights of sick-mindedness.

All with smiles on our faces, and meaning not a word of it. I don’t recall any either, and was not meant to. How many wars we declared on innocent countries for minor slights or just to smash-and-grab I cannot remember, and how many tyrannical laws that would make Genghis Khan quiver. Maybe someone lauded eugenic slaughter at one point (I’d rather not think about it) just out of audacity to turn our stomachs, or spoke of race theories that not even the worst nutcase believes, against his own race (though maybe that’s not far off modern identity politics).

You will have to believe me when I say that not one of those foul-mouthed souls has in his matured life celebrated South American culture by decorating his house as he said with shrunken heads still warm, nor declared war on Greenland for having a dishonest name, nor urged the reintroduction of suttee to reduce the social security budget, nor the introduction of slavery based on IQ tests.  Not one of them has married three wives at a time, each for a service in a different room of the house, nor introduced a punitive sliding scale of income tax for taxpayers with dissenting political leanings, nor built gulags in the ice of South Georgia. Neither have I thought again about any of the things I might have advocated in jest, thank goodness.

Are the French lucky that we conspirators have not, as we plotted, invaded their land and seized back Calais and Normandy, and Brittany while we are about it?  Somehow, no.  What is spoken in a confidential circle of friends playing the young idiot for all it is worth shows no more intent to follow the words spoken and no more belief in it than Jonathan Swift really thought of having Irishmen eat their children.

So why do young men speak that way in dark corners? For one word they do believe: Freedom.

We are bound by decency and politeness and the opinion of others. It is stifling. Soon we will be grown and given new responsibilities, and seeing that coming there is a burst to claim one last freedom, to speak nonsense unrestrained. It is a joy to be free at last for an evening to act and speak with no responsibility nor need to carry through. It means nothing beyond that circle. Who can begrudge that of young men when they can?

It may build strength and resilience, and joy in the moment and fills that sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, and that is exactly what a man needs to shoulder the burdens of manhood in later life, when the shutters have come down. I slept and dreamt that life was beauty; I woke and found that life was duty. So it is to be a man maturing to bear his load.

We had the sense of course and decency not to record any yarning we made, and what is spoken in dark corners strays not a yard from those corners. It is not a thing for social media nor a blog – which is why all the examples I have written are entirely fictional and very mild compared with what was actually said, even if I had remembered it.

You can see where this is leading: offence-mining, a curse of the age. Too many careers have been felled by it, for words which harmed no one and had no intent to do so. The real harm is done by those who seek to destroy those who have spoken too freely. I can tell you that the pen may be mightier than the sword, but even the sharpest tongue is no more than flaccid flesh. It is not though about offence, is it? It is about power, about keeping away from all influence those who disagree, and any excuse will do. The Long March is not to be turned back. They know, these social-justice warriors, that a provocative tweet is no more that a word hurled in the darkness, but that is not the point.

Then there is the Pelagian Puritanism about which Dr Giles Fraser wrote recently.

Really though, are the open discussions of Momentum types any different? There are discussions involving mass theft from unfavoured classes, destruction of nations, gulags and ‘re-education’, criminalisation of dissidents, praise of mass-murderers, dismantling the whole nation. I have even read serious suggestions of inducing deadly epidemics to reduce the population. The difference is that the speakers of these free ideas are in deadly earnest. That is what should frighten us. Thankfully there are some of us still left to stand against it from our own histories of speaking shocking twaddle.

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Proud man, Drest in a little brief authority

There is nothing I can ever say on any subject of import concerning mankind which Shakespeare has not said better. All the clashing claims of authority, from state or PC establishment are shamed before his observations, so I can hardly do better than to read to them a passage which has illustrated its own wisdom this last week.

O, it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant.

. . .

Could great men thunder
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne’er be quiet,
For every pelting, petty officer
Would use his heaven for thunder;
Nothing but thunder! Merciful Heaven,
Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt
Split’st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak
Than the soft myrtle: but man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep; who, with our spleens,
Would all themselves laugh mortal.

Measure for Measure, Act II Scene II

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Books