Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Letter From the UK (About Sinister Currents)

Thoughts on Mr Trump's New Dawn 

Adrift on a Sinister Current

Peter Hitchens
Daily Mail Australia

Today , for the second time in five months, a left-wing elite paid the price of ignoring, for many years, the warnings of civilised and tolerant conservatives. I cannot tell you how frustrating it has been, when trying to debate politics with readers of the Guardian and the New York Times.

To suggest to them that mass immigration is risky and destabilising; to urge that the married family needs to be supported, not dissolved; to say that education needs more rigour, discipline and selection; to advocate the deterrent punishment of crime rather than its indulgence; to suggest that pornography and swearing may damage civility; to object to attempts to abolish national borders and sovereignty;  to say that violent liberal intervention in foreign countries is dangerous and wrong… any or all of these things has earned me a patronising sneer, a lofty glance, a dismissal as if I am some sort of troglodyte who has got into the room by mistake.

I said (as I recorded here a few weeks ago) to such people that they should listen to me while they could. I was content if they would only listen to me and moderate their policies. I did not even seek to wrest power from them, if they would only moderate their dogmatic revolutionary drive.  I believed (and still believe) that they had made a mistake even on their own terms, that they could not possibly want the consequences of what they were doing.  In the end, this was the Weimar Republic and they were courting a grave risk that they would eventually drive people too far. The response was sometimes personal abuse, sometimes total, frozen indifference, very, very occasionally a brief, fairly uncomprehending attempt to see my point which came to nothing.

Well, now we have what I warned of.
I don’t like these deep and increasingly spiteful divisions. I don’t like the crumbling of old constitutional conventions and the increasing treatment of opponents as enemies. I fear where this might lead. I have no desire to fight my fellow countrymen.

But all I can say is that I told you so.  I cannot see what I can actually do, except try not to make things worse. Actually, my willingness to listen sympathetically to some of the worries of the Remainers has met with total indifference too. I doubt if one in a thousand of them even knows that I disapprove of the Referendum and that I think they had a case at the High Court. Even now they are so self-righteous they cannot imagine any opponent giving them the consideration they would never give in return. People who think their own opinions make them virtuous have the most closed minds of all. But I’ll carry on trying.

Sick as I am of this behaviour, it has not sent me over the edge of rage and into unreason. I refused to be beguiled into supporting Donald Trump, a yahoo and braggart whose views possibly coincide with mine on two or three things. It seemed absurd to be expected to support Mr Trump because I also did not support Hillary Clinton,  a woman lost in a sea of money and liberal delusions, who has somehow persuaded herself that war is good. The same process works backwards. Neither will do.  I have said it before, but it bears saying again. I don’t buy goods I don’t want, just because the shop involved has nothing I do want.

Voting is not a duty in such circumstances. If only people had the sense to see it and act accordingly, not voting is a much higher duty. If neither of these terrible candidates had achieved more than 15% of the vote, how could they claim any serious mandate for the things they want to do. Yet, without resistance, the two halves of America agreed on one thing, That it was better to vote for disaster than not to vote at all.

Disaster? Hillary’s war policy in Syria would certainly have been one. Mr Trump’s economic policy, such as it is, which we don’t really know, and his general lack of respect for the rule of law and the separation of powers, threaten a different sort of catastrophe. I cannot see this ending happily. His other promises may also prove hard to keep.  Those old stories about wicked necromancers raising demons, and then not being able to send them back where they came from, seem to me to be metaphors for modern-day political alchemists who raise huge hopes which they know they cannot satisfy,  so summoning into being crowds which can all too easily become mobs, and will not go home when asked. What then?

Catastrophes happen in real life. I have seen them in Russia and elsewhere.  Jobs gone, homes gone, savings wiped out between supper and breakfast, shortages of everything from milk to electricity.  People survive.  But it’s not very nice. Just because your entire life hitherto has been lived in peace,  stability and security, doesn’t mean this is guaranteed to last forever. It could be you, ten years’ hence, selling your worldly possessions at the roadside (as in the opening scenes of ‘The Third Man’) to stay alive.

Someone has cut the ropes, and we are adrift on a strange, sinister, powerful current  towards an unknown destination which it might be better never to reach at all.  The liberal democracies have exhausted their form of government, which is increasingly using democracy to reject liberalism, but in an angry and impatient way. This, no doubt, is due to the policies pursued by our existing rulers for 50 years.  But I do not think that will make the experience any more comfortable.  Anger  and contempt for your opponents are poor foundations for civilised government.

There is little we can now do to change this fate. It would be like paddling with your hands to fight the force of the Gulf Stream. Maybe Mr Trump will turn out to have been kidding us. Maybe he will surround himself with advisers of brilliance and subtlety, who will prove to have mastered the problems of reintroducing protection in a world governed by open borders and increasingly dominated by China.  Maybe all that stuff about jailing his opponent was just talk. Maybe, despite all those years of, er, locker-room behaviour Mr Trump will turn out after all to be a Christian gentleman in office upholding the ancient virtues. I do hope so. But forgive me if I decline to be optimistic.

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