Tuesday, 8 July 2014

What would Lord Curzon have said? A stick-in-the-mud reads the English newspapers


The Guardian is beyond parody, is its own parody. Here George Monbiot worries that extending life expectancy will favour the rich and not the poor. 
'Longevity science may divide us into treated and untreated.' 
It would make a dog laugh. Scientists are making strides to keep us all alive much longer and Mr. Monbiot thinks it might be unfair. 

Already, on this planet of finite resources, rich and poor are locked into unacknowledged conflict, as hyperconsumption reduces the planet's capacity to sustain life. Grain is used to produce meat rather than feed people directly; the safe operating space for humanity is narrowed by greenhouse gases, industrial pollutants, freshwater depletion and soil erosion. It's hard, after a while, to see how this could produce any outcome other than a direct competition for the means of life, which some must win and others must lose. Perhaps the rich must die so that the poor can live.

This continual worry about 'fairness', which dominated thought in the West thirty years ago, when I was at university, is a very powerful and morbid intellectual  paradigm and has given birth to a thousand bad things. We have to be conscious of it and argue against it. It is the not so distant cousin of egalitarianism, puritanism and socialism. It is one of the various things that has taken the place of the sacred in Western people's lives.

Then Messrs Hague and Osborne want a statue of the overhyped Gandhi in Parliament Square to go with Nelson Mandela. (Mandela was for years a Communist and was  always on the extreme left but at least Mandela was not England's enemy, if only because white South Africa had been given its independence from Britain before his time). By agitating for independence from Britain, which would have happened at some point in any case, Gandhi must take some of the blame for the bloodshed at partition, when up to a million people were killed in intercommunal violence. That puts the Amritsar massacre, which made Gandhi lose trust in Britain, into perspective. Like Ireland, India was only ever united under British rule and when the British left both countries partition was inevitable .

I prefer to think of Lord Curzon's attractive statue in Carlton House Terrace, which I know well. What would he think of Gandhi and Mandela outranking him? I imagine Curzon would say it was 'ghastly', said with his characteristic short Midlands 'a' sound. He considered the long 'a' middle class. (Gladstone, by the way, also used a short 'a' - we know this because of his famous assertion, 
All the world over I back the masses against the classes.
He clearly said 'classes' to rhyme with 'masses'.)

George Washington, a traitor who fought an unnecessary and unjust war against his king, is in Trafalgar Square, for some reason. I try to avert my eyes from him and instead look affectionately at the statue next to his, of King James II. New York is named after James II but New Yorkers do not seem to care about him. Cromwell, shamefully, stands in front of the Houses of Parliament across the road from Parliament Square, erected at Lord Rosebery's personal expense. The statue pleased the Nonconformists and made the Irish Catholics, rightly, furious.

Finally, yet another story of high-minded people being persecuted for refusing to provide their catering services for homosexual marriages. In this case, some brave bakers refused to make a cake saying, 
Support gay marriage. 
This is about free speech, about an Englishman's (in this case a Northern Irishman's) right to write what he likes (or not write what he does not like) on his cake. Freedom of speech, however, is not given much protection in the UK. It is another illustration, if one were needed, of the truth of A.J. Balfour's observation,
Society is constantly persecuting.
It is too late to say that the UK is, by law, a Christian country, and, anyway, it is not true: this incident took place in Northern Ireland, whereas it is only England and Scotland that have established churches and are therefore officially Christian. The Churches of Ireland and Wales were disestablished a long time ago. Still, until very recently, say the 1980s, Christianity was the basis of British public culture. Now, as far as the question of homosexuality is concerned, it is actually almost illegal to uphold what was until the late 1970s unquestioned Christian teaching in all the churches. This is a remarkable development that has been little remarked.


  1. I was right with you until the mention of Washington, at which point I couldn't stop my eyes from rolling. And I would say that antipathy to homosexual union owes more to long-held cultural bias than to anything Christ said. Tim

    1. Fair enough. I sought only to vent my feelings.Still, free speech goes for cakes as much as newspapers.

  2. Not sure I would agree to call the bakers 'brave'.

  3. Curzon said..."We must put an end to anything which brings about any Islamic unity between the sons of the Muslims. As we have already succeeded in finishing off the Caliphate, so we must ensure that there will never arise again unity for the Muslims, whether it be intellectual or cultural unity." ..Paul Wood says...'A new caliphate arises in the east'..Islamaphobia in a nutshell. A lesson learned 90 years later? I doubt it, politicians are hedge fund managers or social anthropologists mired in the minutae of their calling, defintely not Historians.
    Obviously this 'Caliphate' fantasy is yet another in the long and unfortunate line of 'religious' zealotry that is always phallocratic, and a lot to do with sexual frustration. What a con, those 72 virgins in burquas will all have halitosis and moustaches.

    1. I usually have a good nose for false internet quotations. I didn't think it sounded likely and found this http://sturdysarissa.com/2014/05/21/lord-curzon-on-the-caliphate/