Monday, July 16, 2007

The blessings of a closed mind

These comments by Anthony Jay make me want to weep with a mixture of frustration and relief:

Jay says:

I think I am beginning to see the answer to a question that has puzzled me for the past 40 years. The question is simple - much simpler than the answer: what is behind the opinions and attitudes of what are called the chattering classes? ...Let's call it "media liberalism".

Frustration because this sort of thing goes on (and on and on and on) and relief that someone on the side of the (in modern UK terms) big battalions has actually owned up to this peculiar closed-minded attitude/world-view/social milieu.
We met over coffee, lunch, drinks and dinner to reinforce our views on the evils of apartheid, nuclear deterrence, capital punishment, the British Empire, big business, advertising, public relations, the Royal Family, the defense budget - it's a wonder we ever got home. We so rarely encountered any coherent opposing arguments that we took our group-think as the views of all right-thinking people.

Part of what frustrates me so deeply about this is that it's like some Fantasy novel. All you have to do to step outside this closed and airless setting is to take an unexpected quarter turn, a half-pace out of step, a dive when the others duck and you're somewhere (very) else. Somewhere where you can talk to a plumber, a policeman, a farmer , a dustman, a labourer, a factory worker, and see them as a human being with opinions and desires and standards and moral positions just like, or (how much more revealing and liberating, much more liberating than organic yoghurt or free-range meat or sun-dried tomatoes) not like yours.

I have a younger colleague who thinks like this. He's extremely intelligent, one of the deepest mathematicians I've ever met, but he can lay down the law from a left-leaning position like some philosopher king without ever, ever having met anybody (apart, perhaps, from me) who challenges his assumptions. In a fit of irritation at some particularly naive political pronouncement, I once asked him- `Jim, surely you must have talked to people like this? Didn't you have any vacation jobs as a student?' His answer simultaneously appalled and enlightened me. He explained that he'd only ever had one vacation job, and it was helping a statistician.

Now that's not his fault, really. However, he lives in the cocoon. Father an academic, mother a pillar of the (old) Labour party. No historical knowledge, no ability to see the enormous, ghastly, evil, vicious, vileness perpetrated by the Left-in-power in so many places for so much of the 20th century for what it was - a giant failed experiment. No context provided by those around him, no one asking him whether, as an avowed empiricist, he might do well to think twice about socialism as a practical means for achieving Man's happiness.

To conclude, I am delighted that Anthony Jay has seen a little bit of the light, but perhaps he could go back and shine some more on the staff of the BBC and The Independent, for a start, as they're some of his spiritual descendants who continue to perpetuate evil by suppressing knowledge of its history.


nick said...

quite, but this phenomenon is not limited to the 'liberals'.

'neocons' read and believe 'neocon' media and comment on 'neocon' blogs....

I consider it a 'game of two halves'. Only that the two teams never cross the middle line but keep practising shots at their own goals...

nick said...

One could also call it wanking..

Clovis Sangrail said...

I agree with your first comment.

Where we would probably part ways is in assessing the relative evils perpetrated.

Far be it from me to claim to be a neocon (I'm not) but I thought the point (for conservatives and neocons alike) was to turn away from rhetoric and to look at what works in the context of imperfect human nature. If that's not the case then they certainly ought to listen to some other people.

nick said...

I was not trying to divert blame, for I am not 'leftwing'. I was just heckling and readdressing the balance because I know my fellow libertarian / conservatives.

...I thought the point (for conservatives and neocons alike) was to turn away from rhetoric and to look at what works in the context of imperfect human nature. If that's not the case...

Exactly this would be the point.
'Liberal' or 'leftwing' politics is based on idealism, sadly unfounded, and ideas of change and revolution.
Conservatism by nature is sceptic towards change and its mechanisms, cynical even.

Thus 'leftwing' policies will by definition perpetrate greater evils
because of the inherent revolutionary element. We only need to look at Socialism's relatives, Fascism and 'National Socialism'....

Having said that, yes, the conservatives or neocons certainly should listen more to other people.
Sadly, I cannot see anyone anywhere who embodies this ideal.

Clovis Sangrail said...

Sorry for misinterpreting/assuming.

Sadly, I cannot see anyone anywhere who embodies this ideal.
You're absolutely right that this is a rarity. Partly a function of the media's influence in modern politics, I think. Any attempt to listen to the other side is treated as wishy-washiness or inconsistency by the MSM.

nick said...

Any attempt to listen to the other side is treated as wishy-washiness or inconsistency by the MSM.

...or as racism in fact.

I left the UK two years ago, after having lived in London nearly six years. Occasionally I tune in to the BBC and recoil in horror at the bias.

When I lived in London I found it oh-so-nice, funny even, that you could get your local council newsletters in eight languages, or an interpreter for hospital visits.

Now of course I realize this was the beginning of the end of England.

nick said...

It's depressing, "innit"?

Clovis Sangrail said...

It is depressing, but I'm attempting of late to be/feel more positive about things. I think there are very small signs of improvement. Nothing massive, but little things which may be the very start of things turning around.

nick said...

What are these positive signs?

Just as I thought it might get better, in France at least, I don't think courting of Hezbollah by Sarkozy counts as positive...

I am not sure the 'counterjihad' movement on various blogs will have much effect until various leftwing governments across Europe, UK included, are voted out.

But who to replace them?!!

Clovis Sangrail said...

The positive signs are much more grass-roots than that. The politicians may be changing their positions but if so it's like turning a supertanker: imperceptible, deniable, micro-shifts in stance. No, I meant the people on the streets, in the buses, in the parks and pubs. Their attitude is definitely shifting while the left-wing becomes steadily more shrill.

nick said...


That's good to hear, but how will they be able to turn the tide back.

Today, the PC nonsense is engrained in all institutions.

Precedent law suits already exist where wishy-washy PC attitudes have lead to incomprehensible rulings. These are here to stay and provide opportunities for those who want to abuse the wellmeaning tolerant attitude of the state toward immigrants, in particular WTR to their rights to excercise their religion.
These have become acquired rights already by stealth.

The BBC will not ever become relatively unbiased unless 90% of their editorial staff were fired.

I fear it is very late in the game to redefine the rules. Rules which should have been defined much earlier.

Turning back now to common sense, and cutting down exaggerated and falsely claimed entitlements to realistic levels will indeed provoke resentment and violent reaction from extreme elements.

But maybe such a temporary surge will be the price we have to pay for previous lenience...

Clovis Sangrail said...

Turning the tide-if it happens-is bound to be extremely messy, as you imply. I still think it's better than the alternative and I still think it may well happen.
It will take some more shocks and blows yet, though.