Saturday 29 October 2016

It's time to melt Salmond's rocks

There is an odd concept in Scottish politics that things that are paid for by someone else are free. The SNP in particular has based much of its populism on providing these “freebies” to their supporters. We now have “free” prescriptions, “free” eye tests, “free” passage over the sea to Skye and of course most famously “free” tuition. Mr Salmond has promised that rocks will melt before he will allow unfree tuition, though quite how he will be able to forever stop these rocks melting now that he no longer even has a seat in the Scottish Parliament is unclear. Can Mr Salmond’s hubris guarantee permanent SNP Government?

But of course none of these things is free. They are all paid for by taxation. Who pays for taxation? Well I do and you do. The shops we go to pay tax and we pay tax on nearly everything we buy. How much of what I earn in the end goes to the Government? This is something they deliberately make obscure. There are so many different taxes: Income Tax, National Insurance, VAT, Council Tax, tax on savings. But how much does it all add up to? According to the latest Index of Economic Freedom “The overall tax burden equals 32.9 percent of total domestic income.” This means that on average everyone in the UK pays nearly 33% of their income in tax. Some people pay considerably more than this, some pay considerable less. But none of us get anything from the Government for free.

In the university where I work it is typical for people who should know better to consider that everything should be free. Nothing must get in the way of academics getting as much as possible from the Government. There must be no nasty considerations about what something costs. Efficiency is considered to be a rather unpleasant word and nearly everyone votes for a party that considers higher public spending to be the solution to everything that is wrong with the world. Perhaps it is for this reason that we have reached the stage where staff are routinely not replaced and where we have a brand new expensive library that cannot afford to buy books.

The funding model of universities in Scotland is broken. It is the SNP that broke it. We have two classes of students, those who pay fees and those who don’t. The fee payers come from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the rest of the world except the EU. Those who have “free” education are from Scotland and the EU. Naturally this means that we have a large number of EU students.

There is a lot to be said for people from all over the world coming to Scotland to study. It makes for an interesting mix and when these people return home they speak fluent English and have knowledge of life in Scotland. In the long run this helps trade. But as a matter of university economics it is preposterous to provide these people with free education.

University education is expensive. Every Scot and EU student who studies for “free” costs the Scottish tax payer. That means you and me. In many if not most cases a university will make a loss from educating these people. Sometimes in the case of medicine degrees the cost to the university versus the fees received is such that the loss is enormous. It costs hundreds of thousands to train a doctor, but the tuition is “free”. Who pays? We all do except the doctor who then demands to be paid as if he were running a top company that makes millions.

Given that the university is not making a profit from its Scottish and EU students how does it remain in business? It does so by charging foreign students. By foreign I mean non-Scottish and non-EU. What this means is that every fee paying foreign unit from China, Africa, England, Wales and Northern Ireland is subsidising the education of non-foreign students from Scotland, France, Germany and so on.

Imagine that there was a pub in Edinburgh which charged people from Scotland, Italy France and so on zero pounds per pint, but charged people from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and China ten pounds per pint. The reason for the price differential was that Scots wanted to drink for free and being fair minded they couldn’t bear that this wouldn’t apply to other Europeans, except of course the English who can’t really be called Europeans at all given their attitude to Brexit. Would you consider this pub to have a fair system of pricing? Moreover, if you were English would you go to this pub?

This situation also means that Scottish universities have to discriminate against Scottish students. The subsidy that Scottish students receive from English students means that it is far easier to get into one of the top Scottish universities if you are English. Only the foreign fee paying units help our universities to balance their books, so if there are not enough one year they will choose foreigners over Scots.

One of the benefits of Brexit for Scotland is that we will no longer have to give EU students “free” tuition at Scottish universities. Scottish tax payers will no longer be burdened with paying for people who may not contribute to the Scottish economy. It is folly to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to train a doctor only for him to return to Spain. Moreover, few indeed are the Scottish students who receive a similar benefit from studying for free in the EU. How many Scots are doing degrees at the University of Warsaw? How many EU languages do you speak to a level at which you could study at university?

Perversely however the SNP are planning to keep paying the fees of EU students even after they no longer have to. We all know that Mr Swinney is a very nice man. We know that the SNP are keen to portray themselves as good Europeans, but the Scottish economy is in deficit to quite a considerable extent. We should not be spending tax payers’ money when we don’t have to.

The whole system of “free this and “free that” in Scotland is founded on a lie. It is not free. Moreover it is isn’t even Scots who pay. The only way that our economy isn’t bust is because every year we receive billions of pounds from the UK Government. People in other parts of the UK then are paying Scotland to have “free” services that they themselves can’t afford. The parents of an English student are in fact paying twice. They are subsidising the Scottish student through general taxation and they are then subsidising him because their child has to pay the fees that enable the Scot to study for free. This is usually described as beggar they neighbour economics.

Discriminating against your fellow British citizen because of where he comes from is obviously wrong. While treating him as if he were a foreigner at the same time as you treat other foreigners as if they were from Scotland is grossly unfair.  Why do the SNP dislike people from other parts of the UK so much? It couldn’t possibly be xenophobia could it? 

Using Scottish taxation to fund foreign students when you don’t have to and when you are running Scotland at a loss is mismanagement. The SNP are using a divide and rule strategy. It is as if they want people in the rest of the UK to say “Good riddance”. This might be their greatest chance of achieving independence. Why would Scots vote against such a cosy arrangement?

Nothing is free. There is always a cost. The cost of SNP folly over education is that our universities are becoming second rate and our system of “freebies” depends on taxes we don’t ourselves raise and discrimination against those who do. 

Gaelic is for nationalists

I was born in a small village in rural Aberdeenshire and grew up speaking both English and Doric. It was natural for me to do so because these were the languages that were used in daily life. My father worked in the oil industry and so for a while we lived in an even smaller village in the West Highlands. It could hardly have been more remote and it couldn’t have been further west as it was on the coast. But I only spoke one language there: English.

None of my friends spoke Gaelic although their parents usually could and their grandparents frequently did. My school took part in Gaelic singing contests, but we learned the words to the songs without understanding them. It was, no doubt, a reasonably good imitation of singing Gaelic as our teacher knew the language and could correct pronunciation. But it was the sort of imitation that a parrot makes when it swears at you in English. The parrot doesn’t know what it is saying and neither did we.
When we left this village and returned home to Aberdeenshire I knew less than five Gaelic words. There is only really one way to learn a language. You learn it from your parents, your friends and your lovers or not at all. You can’t really learn a living language from books or from teachers. It ends up being a dead thing like Latin, or like Gaelic. You might try to resurrect the corpse, but resurrection requires a miracle and without it you still just have a body that is gradually decomposing. I can shout “Gaelic come forth” in as loud a voice as I can manage, but unlike Lazarus it remains stuck in its tomb. I lack even the words to tell it that it can leave.

What is a thing? If you want to answer this question you need to ask another. What is it for? What is a language? It is a means of communicating. Why do I learn foreign languages? I may do so because I want to read texts. For this reason I know some Hebrew, Ancient Greek and Latin. But I cannot speak these languages though I some idea of how they are pronounced. I have never had a conversation with someone in Ancient Greek, because unfortunately I don’t have a time machine. Learning a language to read texts is useful, but the language remains rather a lifeless thing. This creates a barrier between me and the texts of the dead language because I only know the words from my teachers or from my dictionary. I don’t hear how they were used in everyday life and so I miss the nuances and the naturalness of speaking is forever lost to me. I understand, in a way, but something is lacking, something has been lost.

The foreign language I speak best is Russian. Why should this be so? The reason is that my purpose in speaking it is to communicate with others. If I am in Russia I can speak to people who don’t know English. In the end that is the main reason for learning any language. People in Britain rarely speak a foreign language fluently. They think that they can’t. But this view is mistaken. Anyone can learn a language. You just need a reason to do so. But it has to be quite a powerful reason, for the effort involved is considerable. This is why most of us get nowhere with French at school. But if you lived in France you would soon speak French quite well.

But this is why learning Gaelic has no purpose. Where can I go in Scotland where I need to know Gaelic in order to communicate? Find me a Gaelic speaker who is not a three year old who doesn’t also know English.  The purpose of language is communication, but I can communicate everywhere in Scotland perfectly adequately if I know English and perhaps also a form of broad Scots. There are no monolingual adult Gaelic speakers in Scotland. When this happens to any language, it can effectively be declared dead. When the purpose of learning a language is not communication, it is safe to conclude that there is no purpose. Why then should I learn Gaelic?

The reason I should learn Gaelic, of course, is political. Why is it that certain Scottish nationalist web sites occasionally have articles in broad Scots or in Gaelic? It isn’t because they want to communicate? Writing in Scots is a hindrance to communication. I have no idea how to write Doric apart from phonetically and I struggle to read lowland Scots as the words and the pronunciation are different to those we use in Aberdeenshire. We say “Fit” and “Foo” and “Far” for “What” and “How” and “Where” but people from Glasgow don’t speak Scots in this way.

Writing in Gaelic is even more of a hindrance to communication for the simple reason that only 50,000 people out of five million can speak Gaelic. How many of these speak Gaelic fluently? I have no idea. The census question is always deliberately vague so that anyone who has learned a little Gaelic can claim to be a Gaelic speaker. On the same basis I can claim to be a Spanish speaker because I can order a glass of wine there. But anyway even if 50,000 people in Scotland speak Gaelic fluently, how many of them are interested in articles about Scottish nationalism? So of course the purpose of writing like the Broons or in Gaelic is not about communication, it’s about making a political statement.

Language is political for the simple reason that borders in Europe are most frequently determined by who speaks what language. There are complexities to this of course. There may be historical or geographical reasons for a border existing. But nationality is connected with language. Someone is a Hungarian because he speaks Hungarian.

In most cases where there have been historical independence movements there is a clear and distinct difference between peoples. This difference is geographical, linguistic or religious. When people share the same geography, language and religion it is rare indeed for them to seek independence? What for? Western Hungarians don’t want to separate from Eastern Hungarians because there is next to no difference between them.

The reason why some people in Quebec wanted independence was because they spoke French. The reason why some Catalonians want independence is because they speak Catalan. The reason fundamentally why the Republic of Ireland became independent is because the majority of people living there were Catholics.

But people in Scotland speak the same language as people in England. We share the same small island. If we have a religion at all it is likely to be a sort of Protestantism. Why separate what is the same? What quality does Nicola Sturgeon have that Theresa May lacks which should make some people so desperate that they live in different nation states? I have never heard an answer to this question that doesn't assume what it is trying to prove. 

There is no real difference between people in Scotland and other parts of the UK. This is why Scottish nationalists are so keen to emphasise both Gaelic and broad Scots. It creates difference. It's worth remembering however that historically "Scottis" referred to Gaelic while the language of the lowlands was called "Ynglis" or "Inglis". But Scottish nationalists usually have a poor grasp of history. They think of Scotland as if it were still independent, while campaigning for it to become so. They ignore that we have shared a country and an identity with our neighbours for centuries and only focus on ways to divide what is similar.  Anything therefore that is different about Scotland from other parts of the UK must be emphasised and if possible increased. Ludicrously this means that some Scottish nationalists try to write on Twitter as if they were the Broons.

I don’t object to people speaking Gaelic. But I do object to ever more public money being spent on something as it hastens its way towards becoming the next Pictish or Anglo Norman French. Should people in the Middle Ages have campaigned to keep those languages alive? If only we'd had Pictish Television we'd never have had to import Gaelic from Ireland in the first place. But we need neither Pictish nor Gaelic to communicate. In the end what other purpose does a language have? 

As the possibility of travel in the world increases we are going to see more minority languages die out. This is natural. It is also a good thing. One thousand years ago in Britain there were a huge number of different languages and dialects many of which were mutually unintelligible. There was conflict for this reason. It is progress that we all can now understand each other. The same goes for most of Europe. We started off as hostile villages and tribes, but gradually came together and ended up speaking French, or German or Italian. It is far better that we did so rather than remain stuck speaking words that only a few of our neighbours could understand. In time the world may even overcome the legacy of the Tower of Babel. When all can understand all there will be no need for nationalism. Scottish nationalists however regret that we speak a world language and would prefer that Scots could only talk with themselves in a language understood by no-one else. Above all this is because they want to divide. 

It is natural for languages to die out. In Scotland today nobody speaks Pictish and nobody speaks Anglo-Saxon. Where I come from there were Vikings, but no-one anymore speaks Old Norse. These are just as much a part of our heritage, but no-one puts up signs in Norse. My university has been forced by the SNP to adopt a Gaelic policy. We now have signs in Gaelic. Who are these signs for? Who do they direct? A sign that does not communicate isn’t even a sign. It has no purpose whatsoever.

Scottish nationalists think that they will win independence on the back of people speaking Scots or Gaelic. But they will fail. The reason my young friends in the West Highlands didn’t speak Gaelic was because their parents wanted them to speak a language that they could use outside the Highlands. For the same reason my parents made it clear that it was fine speaking Doric in the playground or in the street with my friends, but I had to be able to speak Standard English too. I am very glad that they did, because if I try to speak Doric even in other parts of Scotland no-one understands me.
We have a huge advantage living in the UK. The language that most Scots speak is used all over the world. But foreigners can’t understand either Gaelic or Scots. The SNP will keep pumping money into the Gaelic body. But Gaelic hasn’t been spoken in much of Scotland for hundreds of years and in some parts never. This will not change no matter how much money you waste on signs that no-one ever reads.

The purpose of language is not to help nationalism and it is not to preserve culture. I have no reason to learn a language for this purpose unless I am already a nationalist. People who try to learn a language for any other reason than communication will not get far. It takes an enormous effort and without the reward of communication it just isn’t worth it. This is why Ireland still speaks English despite a heroic attempt to force Irish down the throats of their schoolchildren.

Let us hope that Scotland never gains independence or we would all have to sing Gaelic songs parrot fashion and learn languages that hinder us from communicating with the rest of the world. We could then describe this as being internationalist. We could then feel good about how progressive we are in erecting a new language barrier with our neighbours. But above all we could delight in the fact that we no longer spoke English.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Let the SNP wait ....and wait....and wait

How do we respond to the latest threat from the SNP to break up our country? We must respond in a variety of ways. One of them is humour. The gorillas are on the loose again beating their chests and drinking epic amounts of Ribena. This naturally makes them a little hyperactive. We must laugh at the little gorilla that keeps crying wolf. We have always laughed at such people. And yet we also always take seriously threats to our country and act accordingly. Too few people in the Scotland and especially in other parts of the UK recognise what the SNP are trying to do. It may be a little paradoxical, but truth lies in the combination of opposites. At the same time as we laugh we must also stiffen our resolve and be prepared to counter all threats. This is the British way. This has always been how we see off such people.

It is vital to learn from mistakes, both those that were made recently and those that were made long ago. Britain made a long term strategic error in 1916 that is still with us today. It didn’t happen on the Somme, which, by the way, was neither pointless nor a defeat. Rather our error occurred a little earlier. In response to rebellion in Ireland we executed the rebels. We were quite justified in doing so. They were traitors. Any country has the right to fight rebellion especially during war time. The people who decided to use 1916 as the moment to stab Britain in the back when we were struggling desperately to liberate both France and Belgium were cowards and opportunists. I would not wish that my country had such founding fathers. But it was our error that made them such. They might now be forgotten if we had put them in prison for a few years and the incident might be a detail in history known only to specialists.

Nothing in history or indeed in the future is inevitable. There need not have been a First World War. The conditions that gave rise to it were already easing and by 1916 the world might have been safe. It was contingent and all the causes you learned about at school might have had a different outcome.

The British response to rebellion in Ireland was a long term strategic error. It is quite easy to imagine a scenario where Ireland remained a part of the UK. If I could go back in history, I would only have to change a couple of things to make that so. But it wasn’t only Britain that made an error. By rebelling in 1916 the Irish put themselves on a historical path that one hundred years later is not turning out so well. They divided their island. They had fifty years of poverty. One hundred years of continued emigration including my family. They had thirty years and more of terrorism. Worst of all perhaps, after one hundred years the English speaking people in the Republic of Ireland are going to end up in a different trading bloc to the English speaking people of the UK. Long term this is going to harm the Republic of Ireland. Choosing the Euro and the EU and people who don’t speak your language and who in the end are neither your friends nor your family looks like a long term strategic error which began in 1916 in Dublin. The Republic of Ireland strove to avoid precisely this fate when it joined the EU only at the same time as the UK did. But there is no use complaining about a potentially hard border and damage to trade between the UK and Ireland. When countries choose to have an international relationship they inevitably lose the benefits of being part of the same country. This didn’t have to happen. This is what you chose.

But it is crucial to remember that the loss of Ireland in the 1920s was not existential. We were the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. We remained a United Kingdom. What we lost was merely something following the word “and”. People who have read my work know that I have always supported the right of the British people in Northern Ireland to remain a part of the UK. I hope that they do so forever. But if history had turned out differently and Ireland had not been partitioned this too would not have been an existential loss for the UK. It would still have been something after the word “and”.

We in Britain care about our fellow Brits wherever they are from. We will forever defend Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and the Falklands. No sensible country wishes to lose territory. But when I see the leader of Gibraltar siding with Nicola Sturgeon I think it is worth reminding him that we would still be the UK even if Gibraltar once more became a part of Spain. The loss would no doubt be painful, but it would not be existential.

What is the UK? In essence it is the sovereign independent nation state that is situated on the island containing England, Scotland and Wales. To lose any part of this is to lose the UK. This would be an existential loss. Far too few people in the UK are aware that Scottish independence means the loss of our country and the loss of our flag. There could no longer be a UK without Scotland, just as there could no longer be a UK without England. We stand and fall together.

Algeria until 1962 was a part of France. But the loss of Algeria did not entail the loss of anything essential to France. There are still some faraway places that are treated as parts of France. But the loss of Saint Pierre and Miquelon (some islands near Newfoundland) would I imagine barely be noticed in France. Losing Burgundy or Brittany would be something else again.

No French person would contemplate giving up any part of French territory without a fight. It is therefore pure folly that some English people appear to welcome the loss of Scotland. What would you even call your country? You couldn’t keep calling it the Rest of the UK (rUK) because there wouldn’t any longer be a UK. Would you call it England, Wales and Northern Ireland? It doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue. What then? Who would take this rump seriously? What would happen to international confidence in the economy of such a place that doesn’t even have a proper name? Who would view its armed forces as being worthy of consideration. If you think Brexit will be a shock, try Scottish independence. Every citizen of the UK would lose his country. The flag that we have fought under for centuries would be no more. How could there be any blue in it? Wishing good riddance to Scotland is wishing good riddance to yourself. Scotland is just as much a part of what you are as it is a part of what I am.

We have always been willing to defend our country against existential threats. Why are we unwilling now? Even if we had lost in 1940, it may have been possible in time that the UK would have won in the end. After all France came through the years of occupation and remained France. But if Scotland ever became independent, the UK would be “no more than a dream remembered” something to be found only in books.

We must recognise the SNP for what they are. They want to destroy the UK. Don’t cooperate with them. Far too many political parties in the UK appear willing to work with the SNP. There is talk of progressive pacts. Let’s be absolutely clear. There is nothing progressive about trying to destroy our country. The SNP have one aim and one aim only. Only fools work with them. Nobody who cares about the UK should vote for such fools.

How should we react to SNP threats? The crucial thing is that we must do all that we can to nullify them. For this reason I believe Scottish politicians like Ruth Davidson have made a long term strategic mistake. After the EU referendum she argued that the UK Prime Minster should not block a second Scottish independence referendum. I understand why she is doing this. She doesn’t want to inflame the situation. She doesn’t want Britain to make the error that we made in 1916. She thinks that if Theresa May blocked an SNP request for a referendum this would increase support for independence in Scotland. All of these things are legitimate concerns. Nevertheless Ruth Davidson is mistaken. Nicola Sturgeon was delighted by her intervention. I have a lot of time for the Tory leader in Scotland, but she must remember above all the maxim "Always do what your opponent least wants".

Never tell your opponent anything. Why help them? It seems to me that Theresa May is doing well. She always argues that the issue of Scottish independence has been settled. She correctly points out that the SNP do not have a mandate, nor indeed do they have a majority. She reminds them that just over two years have passed since the last independence referendum. She is right not to refuse. Why refuse when you haven’t even been asked? But it is vital Pro UK Scots make absolutely clear that we think in the end Theresa May ought to refuse a second independence referendum so soon after the last one.

Strategically I think David Cameron made a major error in allowing a referendum on Scottish independence. He should have said to the Scottish nationalists, the UK is one nation and it is indivisible. In this he would have received the support of the whole world. This is exactly the line that United States would take with regard to secession. It is the line that is taken by every country in the European Union.  What is the point of fighting off existential threats to your country throughout its long history if you can be defeated by separatists? Which of our historical enemies would we give a vote? Would we allow Napoleon to vote on whether he could conquer Britain?

There is no universal right to secession. It is perfectly democratic for nation states all over the world to prevent citizens who wish to conspire in the destruction of their country from doing so. If blocking separatists is undemocratic, then Spain is undemocratic and so is the USA. If the SNP think they do have a right to secede, let them test it in the court of international opinion. How many members of the Security Council would side with secessionists? Russia has fought a war against secession, so has France, so has China and the USA. Why on Earth out of all the countries in the world does Britain alone allow these people to threaten us?

I am heartily sick of the continued threats from the SNP. Must we live our whole life continually in a state of anxiety about our country? What if the SNP had a second referendum, would that settle anything? No of course not. If they won, that would be it. We would never get a second chance. But if they lost within days they would want another go. Anyone who thinks that a second referendum would kill off the SNP is mistaken. What if they got the same result as last time? Do you really think they wouldn’t want still another chance? Anyone who thinks we would win easily is also mistaken. No-one can predict what would happen. Politics is very strange at the moment. Moreover in Scotland we are getting to the stage where we are beyond rational argument. Another campaign would just inflame passions still further. The SNP only have a fundamentalist argument. They want independence come what may. How am I supposed to argue against this? I might as well debate with creationists.

Scottish independence would destroy the country of 65 million people. Why should 5 million have the permanent right to do this whenever they choose? The concept of something being reserved means that there is the right to say “No”. There is a good reason why constitutional matters are reserved and that is what we voted for when we got the Scottish Parliament. The whole country voted on leaving the EU. But we can only make a success of Brexit if the whole country remains intact. We face a time of challenge when we must negotiate the future of all of us so that we get the best deal possible. Why should the SNP be allowed to continually interfere and make life difficult for the UK? Why should they be able to undermine the choice of millions of UK citizens just because they disagree with it? This is not democratic. A Scottish vote is worth no more than any other person's vote in the UK. Why should Scots think we have a right of veto?

The SNP would put Scotland at a long term disadvantage. They would partition Britain and put themselves in a different trading bloc to the other English speaking people on our island. There is no rational case for doing so other than identity politics, ancient history and a dislike of our larger neighbour. Theresa May must be careful. It is crucial that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. She must say to Nicola Sturgeon. I’m sorry Nicola but you will have to wait. When we have a new Prime Minister after Mrs May departs, he or she must likewise tell the Scottish nationalists that while there may be an other independence referendum some day in the mean time they should "wait in Edinburgh, and wait...and wait...and wait."  

Saturday 15 October 2016

It's Scottish nationalism that suffers from xenophobia

Whichever fat fingered BBC technician “accidentally” substituted some film of a psychotic rampaging gorilla for the latest film of Nicola Sturgeon making threats deserves some sort of award. Give that man a Nobel Prize for services to humour. There is a long history in Britain of turning people like Sturgeon into a figure of fun. Throughout our history we’ve been coming across little people who like to give us ultimatums.

They usually look rather funny even when they try to look stern and serious. They gesticulate as they whip up a crowd of adoring worshipers. Sometimes they bang their shoe on the table as they tell us that they will bury us. Other times they simply underestimate us. Britain will have its neck wrung like a chicken in three weeks said some little man who has now been forgotten by history. “Some chicken … some neck” said a man who hasn’t been forgotten by history.

Since June we have all been waiting for disaster. The least Polish sounding man in history Donald Tusk keeps making threats. Perhaps someone on the BBC could push the wrong button again and show a clip of a rampaging elephant in a kilt. EU politicians keep telling us how they will make an example of Britain by showing that anyone who dares to leave the EU will be punished. It’s like a re-run of the Grexit crisis of 2015. Stern Angela Merkel wasn’t willing to give anything to Greece and although the Greek people were brave enough to say No their Government wasn’t. But then Greece has a long history of being a vassal state and hasn’t done anything of importance since Aristotle. Somebody should remind these people that Britain in not Greece.

If the EU is a prison with guards who are ready to shoot anyone who dares to leave, this is not a reason to stay. This is a reason to start digging tunnels called “Tom”, “Dick” and “Harry” and once more show our European friends that there is a way to escape tyranny.

Nicola Sturgeon desperately needs taking down a peg or three. In my local SNP shop you can buy framed Sturgeon portraits to hang on your wall. The cover of the last SNP manifesto consisted entirely of a picture of her. This is outside the normal conditions of British politics. How many Labour supporters had posters of Harold Wilson? How many Liberals had posters of Joe Grimond? For goodness sake few indeed were the Democratic Unionists who had posters of Ian Paisley. A person with a framed picture of Margaret Thatcher would be considered an obsessive even by Tories. We laugh at such people. We prick their bubbles. No one but a deluded fool commissions a monument to themselves with one of their quotes attached to a rock that will endure forever. It won’t last by the way. It’s no more permanent than the Ed Miliband stone. These people always build monuments to themselves but they end up in the graveyard of statues. "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone". Nicola’s supporters may be tempted to rename Irvine Sturgeongrad, but these sorts of names don’t last.

How many of her red lines have been crossed since June? Firstly she was tempted to hold an immediate referendum on independence because Scotland voted one way while other parts of the UK disagreed. But she didn’t. Then she said if Scotland didn’t get to stay in the EU, she would hold another independence referendum. But she didn’t. Now she says if Scotland doesn’t get to stay in the single market she will hold another independence referendum. But she won’t.

But you must take me seriously cried the little gorilla. This time I really did see the wolf. OK I confess the last few times I was making it up, but this time you I’m really, really serious. I imagine the wolf may struggle with actually swallowing this gorilla, but then again this isn’t actually a problem because there isn’t really a wolf. There never was a wolf, just a little gorilla that keeps crying "wolf".

There was quite a lot of rather ludicrous fuss on the news about Nicola Sturgeon’s latest threats. But what it amounts to is this. She is going to start consulting about a bill over which the Scottish Parliament cannot debate because it is outside its competence. The Scottish Parliament likes to have debates about things it doesn’t control. Just like Nicola Sturgeon it loves to wave its arms around making gestures, looking stern and talking big. The correct response to this is laughter. It is for this reason above all that Nicola the gorilla is the best peace of political journalism I’ve seen all year.

Figures of fun keep saying funny things. It is this above all that makes them figures of fun. But what is it that makes something funny. It is above all contradiction. The picture of a priest caught glancing back at a pretty woman in a mini-skirt is funny because of the contradiction between what the priest should be thinking and what he is actually thinking. The humour in Nicola Sturgeon’s speech is her portrayal of other people in Britain as xenophobes. The humour is the contradiction between her opinion of herself and her own values and what they are in reality. The essence of Scottish nationalism is xenophobic by definition. For a xenophobe to complain about xenophobia in other people is always in the end humorous. Once more the correct response is to laugh.

Nicola Sturgeon just like every other Scottish nationalist cannot bear to live in the same country as people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If this isn’t xenophobia what is? What is it about these people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland that she so dislikes that she cannot bear to share a country with them? It is that they are not Scottish. Again, if that is not xenophobia, what is?

What is the nature of Nicola Sturgeon’s complaint about the EU referendum? Essentially she is complaining about being outvoted. But this complaint only works on the assumption that the people in other parts of the UK are not like her. If Scotland became independent, I might be outvoted. The region in which I live, for example Aberdeenshire, might be outvoted. So being outvoted is not really Nicola Sturgeon’s problem. After all this is a feature of all democracies. Nicola Sturgeon’s problem is that Scotland should be outvoted. Why should this matter? The reason they always gives is that Scotland is my country while the UK isn’t. I am Scottish, but not British, they say.

The essence of Scottish nationalism is that people from other parts of the UK do not have a shared identity with me. If they were to accept that other British citizens had a shared identity with Scots, then there would be no more problem for Scots to be outvoted in a UK wide election than for Scots to be outvoted in a Scotland wide election. The reason that Nicola Sturgeon cannot bear being outvoted is because these people outvoting her are not Scots.

Moreover she is saying that she cannot bear to live in a country where these non Scots can outvote her. She would have no problem at all if only Scots could outvote her. Why do people like Nicola Sturgeon so dislike Westminster? The reason is because Westminster is elected by people from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Well what is the problem with that? The problem is that these people are not Scots. Again if this isn’t xenophobia, what is?

At Appomattox Court House in 1865 there was a famous conversation. Robert E. Lee on discovering that one of the Union officers present Ely S. Parker was descended from the Seneca tribe remarked “"It is good to have one real American here” to which Parker replied “We are all Americans”. General Grant forbade any cheering on the grounds that “The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall”.

Perhaps it was this moment that lead to peace in the USA such that now it is unimaginable that there should ever more be secession. It is the refusal of people like Nicola Sturgeon to accept that she has a shared identity with her fellow citizens that means for her the war is never over. Imagine if she had another referendum on independence and she lost it again? Would she then accept that she had been defeated finally? How many days would it be before she was demanding another chance? Referendums only have a point if they can decide an issue once and for all. If they cannot do this, they only cause division. The UK has had far too many referendums. I voted to leave the EU, but I would gladly stay if the condition for doing so was that there would never be another referendum in the UK.

The UK is a nation state of around 65 million people. Scottish nationalists are saying that we want the nation state we live in to cease having a population of 65 million people and instead to have a population of 5 million. But this in effect is to deport 60 million people. Nicola Sturgeon in effect wants to banish 60 million Brits in order that she can only live with Scots. If this isn’t xenophobia, what is?

But why can’t she bear to live in a nation state with 60 million Brits. The reason is because they are Brits and she is a Scot. At bedrock this is Nicola Sturgeon’s problem with the UK. She is Scottish, while they are British. This is identity politics at its worst. But then all nationalism at root is always about identity politics.

Scottish nationalists like to try to hide the roots of their philosophy. They have all been carefully taught to describe themselves as civic nationalists.  But this is a mere fig leaf. It is very easy indeed to test the limits of civic nationalism.  How would it be if a few hundred thousand people from other parts of the UK decided to move to Scotland? By the standards of civic nationalism they would all immediately be Scots. But what if these people continued to feel British too? What if they opposed Scottish independence because they felt the same identity as people in other parts of the UK? What if these few hundred thousand people put Scottish independence beyond the reach of the SNP forever? Would you really still be so welcoming?

No-one became a Scottish nationalist because of the idea of civic nationalism. Scottish nationalists vote for the SNP because they feel patriotism only about Scotland and not about the UK. If you felt patriotism about Britain you thereby would not feel outvoted any more than someone from Vermont feels outvoted if he votes for one presidential candidate, but this candidate loses. You only feel outvoted if you think that these others who outvote you do not share your identity. If you thought that people in other parts of the UK were your fellow countrymen you would not complain about the EU referendum. It’s only because you think they are not your fellow countrymen that you complain. But what is someone who is not a fellow countryman. He is a foreigner. What is someone who complains about being outvoted by foreigners? He is a xenophobe.

Scottish nationalism is grounded in xenophobia. Fundamentally it is grounded in dislike for our large neighbour. The UK in fact is one of the least xenophobic countries in Europe. We are not threatened by parties of the far right like those that exist in many European countries including France, Austria and Greece. Most Brits welcome people from elsewhere and we are willing to share our identity with them. It is not xenophobic of course to want to limit immigration, otherwise there would be no such things as borders. But like it or not ever Scot is a British citizen. To be unwilling to share your identity with someone who is a fellow citizen is clearly discriminatory. To act towards your fellow citizen as if he were a foreigner on the grounds of where he lives, or the accent that he has is clearly a form of prejudice. To make a speech describing others as xenophobes while leading a movement that is itself inherently xenophobic is comical. It’s really is high time Nicola Sturgeon became a figure of fun.

Saturday 8 October 2016

Gone, gone the damage done

There is a reason I’ve been writing so much since the EU referendum and with perhaps a higher intensity than before. I returned from holiday in early July only to find one of my friends and colleagues in absolute bits. I remember that whole period of uncertainty leading up to the EU referendum as a time of stress. I disliked the campaign that both sides were running. Remain ran Project Fear Two, which is why they lost and deserved to lose. But I thought some of the claims made by Leave were clearly ludicrous. I don’t expect the NHS to get much more money because we are leaving the EU. But then I don’t think the NHS should get more money. The problem with health in the UK is not lack of money. If you give the NHS more money it will go on inflated salaries for doctors, who now think they should be paid as if they were merchant bankers. It will go on administration and it will go on waste. We have a health service with a methodology from the 1940s and an ideology that has been discredited the world over. Is it really a surprise that it doesn’t work? Socialism doesn’t work and nor does socialised medicine.

I came out on the Leave side of the argument. This has partly to do with my contrariness. I have always been a Tory because in part it was so much more fun being a Tory in the 1980s when absolutely everyone I met just loathed Margaret Thatcher. Well this time around the whole establishment plus nearly all the academics, plus nearly all the students thought that voting to leave the EU was not only thick, but vulgar. This is especially the case in Scotland. So naturally I looked at the arguments and found myself coming down more and more in favour of Leave. Perhaps I will be proved wrong. No-one can predict the future. But I have not been proved wrong yet. My side keeps winning the referendums. Long may this continue. 

But have you noticed something. Britain is healing from the wound that was inflicted by the EU referendum. Most people have moved on. There is some debate about what sort of Brexit we should go for. But for the most part disappointed Remainers have come to terms with losing and are working with Leavers to help create a better Britain. Compare and contrast with Scotland.

My friend had along with the rest of us suffered a great deal of stress due to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. In the course of the next couple of years she became ever more worried about the downturn in Aberdeen. Her husband works in the oil industry. On top of this she was concerned about the economic consequences if the UK left the EU. What would happen to her investments? What would happen to house prices? The result of the EU referendum was a shock. I certainly didn’t expect Leave to win. I don’t think anyone much expected that. The polls got it wrong, the betting got it wrong, the markets got it wrong. But you know what she was fine. She was absolutely fine until the Scottish nationalists started making threats.

Suddenly Nicola Sturgeon was continually on television adding to the uncertainty. She was stirring up trouble, plotting away. It was too much. All of the memories of the independence referendum came back and my friend found it tough to take. She had something of a nervous collapse and had to have a couple of weeks off work. It wasn’t Brexit that caused this, it was Scottish nationalism.  

I was reasonably relaxed about the result of the EU referendum. Whatever happened I would not lose my country. But if the SNP ever won an independence referendum I would be homeless. The UK is my home and the UK would cease to exist if Scotland became independent.

It is for this reason that I write as I do. This is personal. I have seen the damage that Scottish nationalism does to Scottish lives. The SNP have kept us all in a state of permanent tension. Who can really relax when our country is continually threatened with destruction? Some deal with this stress by writing and by fighting back against the threat. Others find they don’t have this outlet and crack.

I don’t think there is quite this sense of trauma among the Scottish nationalists, though who can tell. I am fortunate in that I don't actually know any Scottish nationalists.  Until around twenty years ago, almost no-one in Scotland expected that there would ever be an independent Scotland. The only party that supported this was tiny and hardly got any votes. It is hardly then traumatic to remain in the country you were born in and to retain the citizenship you’ve always had.

I accept that there was great disappointment on the part of the Yes side. They came closer than they thought they would and for a moment believed that they had a chance, but when they lost they returned to the world they had always known.

But look what the campaign did. This is why it has been so damaging for both sides. Many Scottish nationalists have ceased to have any feeling whatsoever for the UK. Many of them are openly hostile to Britain and want nothing whatsoever to do with being British. They see themselves now as exclusively Scottish. It is for this reason that they get so worked up about flags on packets of strawberries. But we do continue to live in the UK. We are British citizens whether we like it or not. To not feel something that you are is strange. It is like saying I am cold, but I don’t feel it. I don’t think this is so much trauma as dissociation from reality. A German person who hates Germany because he feels exclusively Bavarian is rare indeed. A Catalan who hates Spain is more common. But the truth is that the Bavarian is a German and the Catalan is Spanish. Look at your passport if you are in doubt about this matter. So there is an element of self-denial even hatred of self in the response of Scottish nationalists. I don’t know how they feel about this. Perhaps some of them do indeed find it traumatic. Then again they all maintain how they found 2014 so joyful. So if it is a trauma it is a hidden and rather repressed trauma. That might explain quite a lot.

From the Pro UK point of view things have turned out to be rather different. When I began campaigning I emphasised that I was both Scottish and British and that there was no contradiction in being both. I still think this. I was born in Scotland (not that this matters), I went to school here. I spoke the local dialect fluently. My favourite author has always been Walter Scott. I would wear Tartan from time to time and in a vague way thought that the Jacobite cause was just and that the Hanoverians were usurpers. What this means is that I took the Tory side of history. I felt mild patriotism about Scotland and still milder patriotism about Britain. I dislike flag waving. I dislike flags.

But look at the result of the campaign. This is what the SNP have destroyed. They have taken away our peace of mind. They have also diminished our sense of Scottishness. I don’t know if this is how all Pro UK Scots feel. I think some have been stronger than me and have fully retained their sense of Scottishness. But for me it has diminished and become a diminished thing. The SNP were successful. They won the battle over flags. Now the Saltire is their flag, the Union Jack is mine. Whenever I see a Saltire I think Scottish nationalist. If someone has one in their button hole or on their Twitter profile I immediately assume that they are a Scottish nationalist.

I would never now show any Scottish symbol. They are all lost to me. I would not wear a tartan skirt. I would not go to a ceilidh. I would not go to a Burns supper. I have lost my flag and I have lost a part of my identity. Of course I do not deny that I am Scottish. But I think of Scotland now as the equivalent of Aberdeenshire. I likewise do not deny that I am Aberdonian. But I don’t wear any symbols of Aberdeenshire. I fly no Aberdeenshire flags or wear a Dons strip while walking up Union Street. I rarely now speak Doric. I hardly know anyone who does. It is something from my childhood that is gradually being forgotten. I remember that time when there was no division in Scotland. When we were all just Scots and our identities had not been politicised. The independence referendum changed everything. Before the rise of Scottish nationalism I didn’t question Scotland’s being a country, but I followed through the logic of the argument. If Scotland was indeed a country in the normal sense of the word then it ought to be independent, so I was forced to conclude that Scotland was only called a country. Thank you SNP. Not only did you threaten the UK, you caused me to lose my sense of living in a country called Scotland. 

So I too in a way am in the position of denying myself and denying what I am. Of course I’m happy to say that I am Scottish. After all this is where I was born, this is where I am from, this is the language I can speak and the accent that I have. But it is not something I anymore will ever emphasise. I would put North Britain on my letters if I ever posted any letters anymore. 

We have gone through too much in the last few years in Scotland. Not everyone feels it at all. The Scottish nationalists think of these years as a triumph of democracy and popular engagement with politics. The joy of it that Scotland has not been so divided since the Covenanters. But the Scottish nationalists are no closer to winning. In fact they may be further away. What happens when this mass movement actually realises this fact. How do you reconcile yourself to being British forever when you hate Britain?

The trauma on the part of the Pro UK person is I think greater. We thought for a moment that we would lose our country. We were at no point in the UK’s history closer to doing so than on that September night in 2014. I would rather lose a war than lose my country. And then we had no victory. All sorts of reasons can be given for this. Perhaps the upsurge in SNP popularity was simply because people thought something was possible now that previously they had thought to be impossible. The campaign for independence created a desire for independence that had never been there before. This was David Cameron's mistake. He should never have allowed the vote. But then we should never have created the Scottish Parliament. We should never have made concessions to Scottish nationalism by granting it ever more power. We are where we are. Neither side is happy. But neither side can win. Whatever happens Scotland is divided. Perhaps now we are divided for ever. I used to say that the only solution to the problems of the Soviet Union is to leave. Perhaps the same can be said for Scotland or perhaps we have already reached peak nationalism and now it is already in decline. We shall see. But I think it has become a frozen conflict. No solution is possible, but no peace either. It begins to be pointless even to write about such things. 

But the SNP should be made aware of the damage that they are doing. Neil Young once wrote “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done”. Well when I visited my friend who was struggling mentally because of what Nicola Sturgeon kept threatening I could say I’ve seen the SNP and the damage done. How many people in Scotland have been left traumatised by this never-ending struggle that we are doomed to fight continuously without a chance of reconciliation? How many of us have lost something precious “Gone, gone, the damage done.”

Saturday 1 October 2016

The great leap forward

It is only through writing that I can really know what I think. My views develop and change. The fundamentals don’t normally change a great deal, but the details do. My method is not scholarly. I find most academic writing to be desperately dull and pointless. I rarely now write footnotes. What are they for? I hardly ever read the books or articles that are cited, so all these little footnotes do is show that someone is a scholar and that they play this academic game with success. They are published in journals which no-one reads and write books that are unreadable.

Some good work is no doubt being done in science and medicine, but I rarely come across something that I find interesting in the subjects that concern me such as history, literature, philosophy and theology. The discussion is frequently very narrow and about something that doesn’t matter, an author who ought to have been forgotten, an obscure verse in the Bible or an academic dispute that concerns no-one else. I don’t do this. It is pointless. It is only about being employed and receiving money. I sometimes think that modern day universities have one purpose only and that is to employ academics. The quality of the teaching and the quality of what is written is a disgrace compared to how things were one hundred years and more ago. The reason is that everyone is constrained and dare not say what they think.

Gradually a creeping conformity has taken over nearly every subject that is not grounded in experiment. I refuse to read anything written by Americans. It is simply too dull and depressing. The most original thinkers are tamed and made to conform to the latest political view. The most important issue is not to give offence to anyone. The words and the issues that might cause offense keep growing.  Who knows what will be offensive next.

A person from 1960 would be in trouble if they arrived in the modern world. Much of what they assumed to be unquestionably true would have turned out to be false. Ordinary words that they would use and their beliefs about religion and morality would be considered to be grossly offensive today. An article that I might have published in a philosophy or theology journal in 1960 might get me sacked today. No wonder so much writing is dull and conformist when we are all scared that the western equivalent of the Komsomol will denounce us. They will arrive with their little red books demanding safe spaces and trigger warnings and if we are not careful we will end up in the paddy fields grateful still to be alive. There is a cultural revolution taking place on campus.  No doubt one day it will be considered to be a great leap forward.

At the heart of this revolution is falsity. As ever I return to Dostoevsky in or to explain this. (All quotes from Pevear translation p.44)

At the start of the Brothers Karamazov there is a meeting between the father of the brothers Fedor who is a buffoon and Zosima a wise monk. Fedor continually plays the fool and tells lies. Zosima tells him “A man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he does not discern any truth either in himself or anywhere around him, and thus falls into disrespect towards himself and others” Because of this such a person ceases to love both himself and others and falls into a degenerate state giving himself up to coarse pleasures and eventually reaches such an extremity of vice that it amounts to bestiality.

Why should this be so? I think it can be explained in Christian existentialist terms. Kierkegaard puts forward the idea that the self is relational. A self is a relation that relates itself to itself and in doing so relates to another. This other is God, but also other people. But if a person lies to himself, his relationship to himself is distorted and founded on falsity. This also prevents the person from relating correctly both to God and other people. Because God is the foundation of an objective morality, the person who lies to himself is left with being able to relate to others only in terms of law or in terms of inclination. Whatever feels good to me I will do so long as I can get away with it. The morality that everyone in 1960 took for granted has been undermined by our great leap forward to such an extent that I cannot even describe vice as immoral. If you have a different partner every night it is me that is wrong for being critical of you. I am a “slut shamer”, you are virtuous. People thus can interact in the way that animals do without respect and solely for the purpose of pleasuring each other. The truth that once was universally acknowledged that certain actions were immoral has been discarded. Even to suggest that certain behaviour is immoral is now condemned. The immorality is to suggest that something is immoral.

In what does the lie consist? In my view it consists in denying that the person has a relationship to God and that he has a soul. Each of us feels free and unconstrained when we act in our daily lives. But the foundation of modern science is to suggest that we are all in essence animals. The great leap forward is the attempt to explain and reduce human nature to biology and the universe to atoms. This is not how I experience the world. The basic feeling I have is that I am free. But science would tell me that this feeling of freedom is an illusion. All is determined. But my ordinary consciousness tells me that I am not matter and atoms causing each other to do things. It tells me that I am something qualitatively different. Science’s attempt to deny my most basic experience means that if I accept this reductionism, I am forced to deny the foundation of my existence. If science is correct, then everything I know about myself is untrue. But this requires that I deceive myself and lie about my everyday experience of freedom. The conflict between the scientific world view about my existence and my own everyday experience means I must either be authentic as a free spiritual being or else lie to myself and deny that I am what I am. It is a desperate situation if a person’s whole existence is founded on a lie. The reason for this is that I lose the authentic relationship I have with myself. I lose the grounding for any sort of objective morality which depends on God (if God does not exist everything is permitted) and I treat everyone else in terms either of what I am legally obliged to do or in terms of my own self-interest. No wonder this ends in bestiality because science tells us we are indeed beasts.

There is something else on which this whole lie depends. Let us return to Zosima. He says “A man who lies to himself is often the first to take offense. It sometimes feels very good to take offense. Doesn’t it?” The whole essence of our great leap forward is that we take offence. When I was a student in Cambridge no-one even noticed the old statues. I didn’t know who they were and I didn’t care. I had more important things to concern me. But now someone somewhere takes great pleasure in being offended. First they object to a statue of Cecil Rhodes. If this succeeds they take pleasure in objecting to someone else. Likewise someone finds that a novel from the past has ideas or words that are not current today. Someone must be offended. There are whole industries devoted to people being offended or alternatively to those who want to show that they are so liberal that they always use the currently fashionable term.

I write in a provocative fashion, because it is how I develop my thought. I want to write original articles that contain challenging thoughts. I will no doubt sometimes offend. But the Christian message itself is “offence to the Jews and folly to the Greeks.” This is the nature of truth. The deepest truths cannot be thought. They involve going beyond the bounds of reason. You climb up the ladder and then you throw it away. Truth therefore is folly. Moreover, telling someone he is wrong will always lead to him finding it offensive, especially if he wishes to remain in the wrong. In order to challenge the established way of thinking I therefore have to write things that will sometimes appear strange, (folly), and may also appear to be offensive. This is especially the case if I argue well.

But what we have above all is manufactured offence. Again Zosima describes the person who lies to himself “And surely he knows that no one has offended him, and that he himself has invented the offense and told lies just for the beauty of it, that he has exaggerated for the sake of effect, that he has picked on a word and made a mountain out of a pea”. I come across this so frequently that it has become the essence of our great leap forward. Someone picks out a word in one of my blogs and shares it on social media. Suddenly hundreds or indeed thousands of people tell me how offended they are by this word. They describe me in the worst possible terms. They find ever more innovative ways to show how much they hate me. But not one of them is really offended. It’s all completely inauthentic and false. They want to score points. They dislike my politics. They want to find a way to stop me writing. But not one of these people is really, genuinely offended. They are all the equivalent of the five year old who tells teacher that little Johnny was doing something wrong. The five year old is not offended by Johnny she just wants to suck up to the teacher and get Johnny into trouble. This is the essence of lying to yourself. It is self-deception. It damages you. It doesn’t touch me.

How many words have I written in my 200 plus blogs? Perhaps half a million. Yet still someone may point to a single word that I wrote two years ago and try to use it to condemn me. He only condemns himself.

We have reached the stage where the slightest slip on social media can lead to a storm of protest. But this inhibits all of us. We each have to watch what we say in case we say the wrong word. Suddenly a word that all of us have used without a problem becomes problematic. Who knows what it will be next week. I never once thought the word “Jock” was offensive. But now it may be added to the long list of words that cannot be said. But this is all founded on a lie. The person who objects to the word “Jock” doesn’t really do so. He just wants to be offended.

Whole areas of academic life are now controlled by this false sense of offence and it makes it almost impossible to write freely. It is such good fun for an 18 year old student to scare an elderly professor half to death because he fails to use the latest term for something. Fifty years ago nice people described black people as “coloured”. But that term is no longer fashionable. Fair enough. I too can see the problem with it. We all have a colour after all. But if someone who has not kept up with the fashion inadvertently uses this obsolete term is there any reason to take such an offence? Of course not, but it gives people such a warm feeling inside to condemn others. Look at how they apologise and abase themselves because they made a mistake. There is no greater joy than seeing a sinner repent.

The person who feels continual offense “likes feeling offended, it gives him great pleasure, and thus he reaches the point of real hostility”. The hostility is this. There are lots and lots of people who go about trying to ruin other’s lives because they happen to say something that they pretend offends them. An academic may be sacked for the slip of a tongue. An off-colour joke may lead to a criminal conviction. An argument that contradicts the established orthodoxy may lead to a visit from the police. Someone may be banned from speaking publically at a university because he holds a view that was common place in 1960. No wonder so much writing is dull when the consequences of writing in an interesting way can be so devastating.

This is all founded on a lie. First we lie to ourselves. We lie about what we are. We deny our experiences and we reject what is evident to our senses. We reject 2000 years of religion and 2000 years of moral tradition and in the space of 60 years we construct a worldview that would baffle our grandparents. This too is a lie. Then we say that anyone who does not accept our modern world view must be condemned. They are not even allowed to think that this world view may have flaws. Anyone who does so will find themselves out of a job or in jail. We then call this state of self-censorship “freedom of speech”.

But there may be hope. Ordinary people in Britain rejected this whole modern worldview when they voted for Brexit. No wonder the Stepford Students were so angry. It was a step. A first step. We must cease lying and start telling the truth. God help us if we don’t.