Will Drakeford demolish the castles?

There seems no stopping wokery in the Welsh administration, even as it is being discredited and driven back elsewhere. Its iconoclasm has personal approval from Mark Drakeford, or he is playing coward in the face of its demands.

He has not yet said that he will demolish the innumerable castles of Wales, but logically, if he is consistent, that would be his next step.

Had it been just been that he let the statue-toppling activists run amok and make fools of themselves on paper, that could be dismissed as a weak but harmless bit of virtue-signalling. Instead he actually, unbelievably, seems to be taking them up on it. The activists’ report came out in November 2020 (to outrage from all sides in society the length and breadth of Wales). Then Drakeford scraped back in at the election in May 2021, and has published a government programme that includes a pledge to “Address fully the recommendations from the Monuments and Street Names Audit”. That suggests he actually means to do it.

If you employ a committee to find ‘problematic’ street names and monuments, there are two consequences:

  • Those putting themselves forward to sit on the commission will be the most virulent of activists;
  • They will do the job with glee – they can hardly come back with “there is no problem really”.

“This is not about rewriting our past or naming and shaming”, they say in the report. Actually, that is exactly what it is about. Listing names and placing against each your condemnations is literally “naming and shaming”; and obliterating the memory of heroism and nobility in favour of narrow criteria for condemnation, then effacing the knowledge of the honour of the subject is literally rewriting our past.

The list of those named and shamed could be torn apart easily enough: Nelson condemned by a forged letter; Gladstone, the arch liberal, because he inherited money; Iolo Morganwg condemned not for being a forger and fraud but again for mere passive inheritance. Many are the examples. Intellectually it is so defective, so void of method that it would be scandalous if meant in earnest. Still, if a committee is paid to find names, it will scrape the barrel for them.

If the issue is eliminating the symbols of division, and even street names must go, how can the castles stand?

Welsh castles are monuments to division and hatred and brutal feudalism. The Middle Ages were a ferocious time: rival petty princes ravaged Wales, wasting villages and valleys for personal gain or feud. Norman or Cambro-Norman lords joined them in the mêlée of continuous civil war. This age is portrayed by habit of oversimplification as struggles between Welsh and English, but that is a nonsense, not least because the distinction between the two identities was unreal, lost by generations of intermarriage and adoption of shared customs.

Yet the castles stand, portrayed as a collective monument to tribal war and hatred. The ‘historic’ presentations available in print and on video about each castle cheer or boo and portray the English (however defined) as ruthless invaders and despoilers. It is a ridiculous, sub-Marxist way of looking at it, but this portrayal is widely believed: you will not speak for long amongst Welsh political activists before one tribe is accused of being an eternal oppressor of the other. That is division and hatred at a massive scale.

If therefore a social problem in the far off United States is enough to demand that statues be torn down here and roads people live on be renamed, because of an off-chance that someone will choose to be upset, what of those great stone legacies that, by socialist interpretation, breed tribal hatred? They surely must go.

The castles can be portrayed however you wish. The Iron Ring of King Edward’s castles was constructed to bring peace, by force if necessary, and it did, ending feudal wars so that for the first time the farms and towns of those lands could flourish.

Others see them as symbols of oppression, and a longer lasting one than that in distant islands, a more direct one than the chance of an honest man’s inheriting some money from a slaveholder. Logic then would add every castle in the land to Drakeford’s hit list. They need protection from this madness.

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Some statues must fall

Some statues are a worthy historical memory. Others are a cruel past threatening the current generation. That is their purpose. We can be disgusted at pampered, middle class protestors vandalising a statue here, and I am, but we cheered a mob dragging Saddam Hussein’s idol from its plinth in Baghdad.

The distinction is too fine a one for those with a cause and a bee in their bonnet and testosterone surging. I will defend statues, but I recognise what they are, and it is uncomfortable. Seeing what they are, one may conclude that felling all statutes and melting them down is the unavoidable philosophical conclusion.

Statues are a form of constructed immortality, not for the characters portrayed but for those who erect the statue. Every generation passes away, but its monuments stand in an open attempt to impose the dominance of the dead on the forthcoming generations. The ubiquitous image of Lenin in the pose of hailing a cab was erected all across the Soviet Union as a mark of domination, a constant reminder in the fabric of you home town that it belonged to the Bolsheviks. When the Communists fell, so the statues had to fall.

The statues seen across British cities are important to remind the doubtful in this weak piping time of peace that greatness, that nobility of mind and strength of arm resides in each of us. There was purpose behind the rash of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian statues, raised in gratitude at the memory of a man (who could obviously not see it). Their purpose was to reflect an appreciation of his qualities and give a lesson to the upcoming generation. (It did become too much of a habit, particularly in London, which begins to resemble a graveyard.) If they are worthy fellows portrayed, the number and weight of them all the same shows how our nation can be great.

The statues of our cities are then an inspiration, deliberately teaching the qualities that built a nation and empire: insulting them feels like an insult to all of us who recognise the lesson they teach. Those who attack them know that, do it specifically to topple not the man but the qualities they represent. To defend the monuments is not to defend the ghost of the man or woman portrayed but the qualities which uphold society.

America is different. There are statues which have called to be dragged down. The Confederate hero statues in some southern state capitals are not all contemporary with their subject, the spontaneous expressions of gratitude: they were not erected after the Civil War but long after, in the age of the Jim Crow laws in the early twentieth century. Maybe they were to restore the dignity of communities, but it is hard to see them other than a way to put down a marker. The grey-coated soldiers fought against the United States, to preserve the Old South and slavery, and their statues were erected so as to mark territory: ‘this state belongs to the white man, to segregation and to the Democratic Party which upholds those principles’.

The Americans have plenty of worthies to celebrate, whose lessons should be appreciated. Some monuments though may have a sinister purpose.

Our Neolithic ancestors would understand; they who erected the first stone monuments in the same spirit that we do today. The reasons for even the most ancient ones are no mystery, because man is man and stone monuments do what they have always done: they lay down ownership and demand respect by virtue of their immortality. From an ancient stone circle to a likeness on a plinth, it marks ownership of the future.

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Too much statuary becomes habit-forming and worse: as one worthy is memorialised, another’s champions must demand equal celebration. It has becomes a competition. Today it is more clearly a battle of ideology, that ideas must be represented in order that another ideology may not dominate. Therefore it follows that all contrary ideas must have their bronze markers toppled. Statues defend values into future generations, and are therefore on the front line of the culture war. There is continuity between Saddam Hussein on his plinth and Nelson on his column, and a moorland stone row marking the generations of long a forgotten Neolithic tribe.

I do not like an excess of statues. Any statue is distasteful to my first reaction. The Second Commandment speaks loudly:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

We do not imagine that some spirit of the person or a godlet lives within the cold stone the way the pagans did, but we see an idea elevated to divine heights. That is still dangerous, still a graven image. A metal statue of a man nine feet high is worrying, and so is the idea of treating him as a perfect model in bronze apotheosis.

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Whom are you serving?

You are being used, and they will spit you out when they are done. You may gather at a school to make your feelings felt, and you may end a good man’s career this time, and believe that this means you now have power to force society to bend more to your preferred norms, but you are being used. You have no more power than an atheist mob permits to you.

It was a different world in 1989, before the Wall fell.  As the year opened, protests burst out upon the streets of many countries against a Whitbread Prize-winning novel few then had heard of. In Bradford, Muslim elders hung from a stick a book they had never read and burned it in protest – they made at that time no threat against people or property, but all of respectable opinion in Britain was against them. When Persia’s spiritual chief issued an actual death sentence against the author, not just British opinion but that of the world was repelled. It was a turning point, but not in favour of the freedom proclaimed from all ends of social opinion: it was a turning point against free expression.

The shock at that fire in Bradford was not the act itself, burning a book – it is a very good book, but it is only paper. It was the sudden discovery of a new political identity within the population. Before Bradford there were Asians, undistinguished amongst their tribes and sects for most of us. Now there were Muslims.

It was a rollercoaster year, 1989: the Satanic Verses, the invention of the World Wide Web, Tiananmen Square, and the collapse of European Communism, ushering in a new order to the world. The Wall fell, old, oppressed nations began to rediscover themselves and the thrive anew in freedom: except in the first to turn, Algeria, which fell to Islamicists. In the West, socialism was openly disgraced but a backlash began in quiet corners, and the events of Bradford were too good an opportunity to miss.

There was no conspiracy – there did not have to be when men of ill-will were thinking the same thoughts and swapping fake outrage in the Grauniad.

The Communist regimes in the East were no longer there. Their failures and brutality had been exposed to the world. Those who had long hated their own society and culture, who had supported the Communists to destroy that culture, were still there though. They saw in the ash from those book pages a new way to attack the Judeo-Christian normality of society.

After Bradford it became a necessity not to offend Muslims, and that sounds benevolent enough – I really have no wish to annoy Muslims unnecessarily. It was a power game though, and the power game is not about benevolence. There were two groups now, in natural opposition normally but working the same way. There were some Muslims who saw an opportunity to push an agenda of their own; to persuade schools to treat Islam as unchallengeable, for example: there are always people like that in any group. However their games are all far less important than the ‘liberal’ offensive, led by others.

Driving Christian references from public life moved on apace after 1989. The tabloids’ favourite is ‘banning Christmas’, but it goes far beyond that. In 1988, Margaret Thatcher ensured that school assemblies be ‘broadly Christian in character’, but thirty-three years later that seems inconceivable. State and society have been secularised from top to bottom, and discrimination laws so interpreted as to keep it that way.

So it was in 2005 or 2006 that I attended a talk on Islam in British life, and was shocked by something I heard from the mouth of a learned judge. The subject of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons had come up and common commentary in that season seemed to be that they were grossly offensive and should be shunned, even banned. An audience member then asked why the cartoons should be banned when we champion the right to free speech by Salman Rushdie. The judge, a renowned liberal and certainly not a Muslim, said that he thought we had got it the wrong way round, and the cartoons were unimportant but the Satanic Verses should have been banned.

How the world had turned in that short time: as Eastern Europe cast off servitude and embraced freedom, Western Europe has cast away freedom.

The result is not what Muslims would have wanted. Would the average Muslim be happy with what was once a religious society becoming enforcedly atheist? Barely any Muslim is bothered by the public celebration of Christmas, but may be greatly offended by the suppression of religious expression.

Those at that school gate in Batley may think they are defending their religion, but it is a game played by the Guardianista liberal, which is the bitterest enemy of all religion.

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Motivations of the Cancel Culture

The ‘cancel culture’ is so ubiquitous, so pervasive, that it needs no description. It is today’s ochlocracy. The two questions it raises are: what to do about it, and why it happens at all. The former has been discussed elsewhere. The latter is more interesting.

Apart from a few half-hearted hits back (or state interventions from Peking and its friends) campaigns to cancel, ban, or sack chosen targets are associated with the radical left. There is something about that psychology which encourages it.

I am indebted to Rob Henderson, who penned a piece of Psychology Today about the motivations driving the Cancel Culture.

A successful ‘cancel’ attack is an exercise of power of the collective effort against an individual or institution. Hobbes looked at motivations that drive our apparently inexplicable actions, observing:

“The Passions that most of all cause the differences of Wit, are principally, the more or lesse Desire of Power, of Riches, of Knowledge, and of Honour. All which may be reduced to the first, that is Desire of Power. For Riches, Knowledge and Honour are but severall sorts of Power.”

Whether the thought behind the eyes of the man or woman who types #canceljoebloggs, or whatever may be a desire for fame if they publicly lead the persecution, or just for the exercise of power: for those who follow sheeplike and type the same, there is a desire to have a share in the exercise of power. However Henderson’s observations are more insightful:

The cancel culture is a social activity.

Looking at how it develops, that appears correct:  it is primarily social activity, like all the local cultural customs we used to have, and perhaps in substitution for them.  It is also an anti-social activity of course, but like a tribal raid on a neighbouring island, it binds the immediate society in enmity for another.

Ours is a big, disconnected, anonymous society, and retreating behind screens leaves us lonelier still, against our every instinct for social interaction. Finding society of a sort in an on-line community is like oxygen to the suffocated soul. As with any social structure, the need for acceptance is the first motivating factor, followed by the desire for enhanced social status. Building this social bond requires the creation of common cultural preconceptions and group identity. This is an electronic tribe, and that tribe will go to war. Any young man knows that being the boldest, the most fearless and the hardest to strike provides status. When the weapon is a keyboard, girls can take part in equality with the boys, or may form their own tribal group.

In the classical model, common tribal identity is founded on culture, rituals, religion, and is intensified as members pursue “Desire of Power, of Riches, of Knowledge, and of Honour“. The same is true of the hard-left on-line communities, which have developed and enforce internally their culture, ritual and religion.

The pattern of cancel culture activity all follows precisely the essential Stone-Age social model which in in-built in us all and studied endlessly in other contexts of social interaction. The tools are modern and the tools shape a new methodology, and the religion is a nineteenth century one founded by Marx and developed in the twentieth century, but that is as far as modernity breaks in: the online society from which the cancel culture emerges is a tribal structure no different from the immemorial pattern of humanity.

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Five Questions for the new ochlocracy

Tony Benn was wrong on most things, but he was a great Parliamentarian and he had five questions that may be asked of anyone with power:

  1. What Power Have You Got?
  2. Where Did You Get It From?
  3. In Whose Interests Do You Exercise It?
  4. To Whom Are You Accountable?
  5. How Can We Get Rid Of You?

To the Social Justice Warriors, the wokearchy, call them what you will, those questions are addressed. Their formal power is limited, but they infest the governments of Canada and the United States, and influence many others. Elections make little difference ,and that is the issue for Tony Benn’s five questions.

There is point denying that ‘social justice warriors’ have power.  It may not be formal, legal power, except when exercised by those who have inserted themselves into the structure of government, and there is no ‘deep state’, but it is real power with real-world consequences. Each time someone is sacked from a position of authority for denying a doctrine of the New Left; a Christian actress is denied work; a book is withdrawn from sale; a speaker turned away, or banned from a social media platforms for calling a man ‘he’; an academic is demoted; an honest man in public life reviled, mocked and forced to recant some commonplace observation, this is real power, hurting real people. When the police intimidate and record the names of those who transgress social-justice rules that are not laws, this is real power. The examples are well known and innumerable.

It is not just for the ‘new ochlocracy’ to answer these questions, because they will not address them with any honesty. These are matters which need to be considered by those who are meant to have constitutional power, and who are meant to use it to protect British subjects. If they are not doing that basic job, then the Five Questions are addressed to them.

1     What power have you got?

There is power to wreck careers and beggar ones victims, to wreck lives and families, without appeal or redress.

Power is not just exercised by the ochlocracy nor just by those who believe in the woke doctrine: those who sack and decommission may be those who are simply afraid of criticism or worried that they will be next, like those who turned their neighbours in to the KGB for a quiet life.

2    Where did you get it from?

There is formal power which in Britain is authorised by the Equality Act 2010, a lever piece of social justice warfare from the lamentable Harriet Harman. Its honeyed terms start with the principle that no state body nor employer should treat each person fairly without regard to characteristics irrelevant to their job, and that every member of the public should be able to have access to services sold to the public, but it has been a Trojan horse, as many have found to their cost in the Tribunals. The Act is an excuse used far beyond what it actually says.

In the last few years, formal power has been eclipsed by mob power; the ‘cancel culture’. This is power not granted but taken. It arises by neglect by everyone else; fear; activists pushing themselves forward where no one else can be bothered to make such an effort; blackmail; lying to cowards about the rules and about who is watching them; developing a cadre of useful idiots.

3    In whose interests do you exercise it?

The activists’ own interests and amusements; no more.

4    To whom are you accountable?

Accountability is to none. There is no appeal nor mitigation. There is no referral to any accepted law. Even a mugger in the street may listen to a plea or a bargain, but a woke mob will not.

5    How can we get rid of you?

To those with formal positions; your jobs can be terminated, just as you terminated others’ jobs. To those who attack your fellow workers; your Equality Act condemns bullying and intimidation, so watch your own backs. Employers may realise how many valuable staff they are losing and can adopt anti-bullying policies which catch you – and that is a forthcoming article.

For the mob – you have power because cowards permit it to you. That can be withdrawn at any moment. You have taught the rest of the world what are effective tactics for taking down those you do not like, and it may be that at any moment those weapons will be turned upon you.

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