The title of the last chapter of my book, False Promises (2012, available from Freedom Publishing Books), was taken from Yeats’ poem The Second Coming. It reads: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
The study traced Australian government policy and social statistics for the entire course of the 20th century, and showed that for roughly the first half of the century legislation acted to enforce Christian social principles and all statistics of social wellbeing improved. Then, the Left’s liberation philosophy, with the support of most of the elite population, dismantled these legal constructions and put in place welfare policies that promoted their opposites. Statistics of social malaise rose exponentially, far above their starting point at the beginning of the century.
The explanation I offered for the rejection of the Christian principles that had benefited so many, was that when enforced by law they penetrated too deeply into private life in areas that should be matters of free will and conscience – matters for culture and religion to sanction and enlighten, not law to enforce, thus producing the cultural revolution of the Sixties and thereafter.
But the cultural revolutionaries had their own theory of the good society, insisting on the non-differentiation of human beings and culture, and seeing it as the obligation of law to ensure equal status in life for all, regardless of individual ability and behaviour. (“Everyone gets a prize”.) Society, other people’s malfeasance, is the cause of inequality and suffering, and so must be controlled to eradicate it.
But in a country where equality was already given before the law, opinion and language were now identified as primary forces in creating and maintaining inequality, and the force of law was invoked to control them: censorship not just of public media but of everyday speech if it did not conform to what came to be known, mockingly, as “political correctness”. Its impositions, translated into everyday life, fell most lightly on the elite, whose privileged status largely isolated them from its realities in practice.
I asked then: “Will the left, in both politics and the media, manage to abandon its impulses to impose by law what should be left to informal culture and our moral natures? Or will it force the population into a revolt, undoubtedly different in direction, but as destructive in its own way as that of the sixties?”
There has been no retreat. Rather this impulse has broadened in the leftist elite, with big business and finance taking advantage of it to further globalisation. But it also looks as if the revolt of those whose reality has been over-ridden is now stirring, and indeed in a form those elites fear as a rough beast.
It is laughable to observe the outrage with which elite opinion has reacted to Donald Trump’s challenges. He hasn’t vowed to abandon universal suffrage, introduce torture, suppress the press, execute homosexuals or make any changes to the essential structures of Western democracy. But he has mocked the extravagant and ludicrous posturings of political correctness with its selective imposition on mainstream cultures. Far from being an atavistic idiot, his rudenesses are not random, but nicely aimed at the shibboleths of our self-appointed marshals of the sayable; and nicely demonstrate their essential harmlessness.
When women have been acquitted of murder by claiming they were pre-menstrual at the time, and feminists don’t hesitate to attribute male behaviour to testosterone, isn’t it just a bit of a joke to comment on some mild female irascibility in those terms? As to the infelicity of his looking askance on the claimed heroism of a political opponent having been a prisoner of war, isn’t it time someone took issue with the media’s overuse of the epithet (whereby every member of a winning football team becomes a hero)?
More recently, the public’s response to him has not been without judgement. When his remarks offended against real decency, as in mockery of a disabled journalist and arraignment of the Muslim parents of a fallen army officer, his popularity fell.
His threat to put a wall along the United States-Mexican border to control illegal immigration has already been overtaken by Austria’s and Hungary’s erection of border fences to keep out Syrian and North African refugees. The elitist embrace of free movement of peoples is already emerging as problematic in a culturally diverse but mobile world.
When Trump particularises Mexicans and Muslims, rather than the policy in general, it does not mean special disdain for those cultures, but merely that he sees them as the foreign cultures at present posing the major multicultural discomfort to his country. In England, for Brexit, it was the Eastern Europeans.
The Brexit referendum outcome is also interpretable as a revolt of the masses against the discomforts of diversity and the prescriptions of the dictatorial elite. The referendum gave them their chance. And again the response of the elite shows their contempt for “the man (and woman) on the Clapham omnibus”: that they were too stupid to understand the arguments, not that they put other things first (It’s not the economy, stupid; it’s community).
The last thing the ordinary English or Welsh man or woman wants is to work in France or some other European country, with little knowledge of the language and away from family, friends and culture. Yet this was one of the big arguments made by the Remainers. (It is worth noting that the Labour opposition was unanimous in supporting Remain, while the Tories were split on the issue.)
And, dare I suggest it, might not the upsurge of militant Islamism represent this same phenomenon on an international scale? A non-Western culture roused to defend itself from the spreading degenerate (in the literal meaning of its Latin roots) morality of the liberated West? What rough beast indeed!