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Inside the United Kingdom Disaster

State of the Union: If the once mighty British state is unable to restore public order, perhaps targeted counter-force from the public will restore equilibrium.

If you have not seen the bloodcurdling video from Trinity College, Cambridge, you should. Everyone should, as it is rare to have a clear glimpse of who the real enemies within our civilization are. An animal in a £1000 Mulberry Cara backpack sprayed and then slashed a 1914 painting of Lord Arthur Balfour by the Anglo-Hungarian artist Philip Alexius de Laszlo. Balfour was the author of the Balfour declaration, which established a national home for the Jewish people in what was then all referred to as Palestine. The “protest,” if one can call it that, was organized by a certain Palestinian Action. The painting is permanently destroyed. There have been no arrests so far. 

I have written before about how iconoclasm and vandalism makes me murderously furious in a way I cannot explain rationally, like the Ancient Mariner with clasped hands unable to express himself. I am a quasi-misanthrope by disposition, and I would save one timeless artwork over a thousand lives by choice. But this goes against pure questions of aesthetics and attitudes. This is a crime against patrimony, and by definition, a crime against civilization itself. Timeless paintings and statues are gifts to society for posterity. Everyone has a right to them, and it is in no single individual’s authority or duty to damage, much less destroy them and thereby act for everyone else. 


It is also a crime against the most conservative virtue of all, order. And finally, it is a glimpse of who has decided to be within the confines of civility and who hasn’t. If you’re not civil, by definition, you’re not civilized. The strict hierarchy is important and has been diluted in the last hundred years. I despise all iconoclasts regardless of their pricey bags or social status. But it is notable that usually both patricians and the plebs are more deferential to patrimony. This, a cancerous movement that started in 2020 and spread across the Anglosphere, is a typically middle-class disease. And there is only one way to treat a cancerous growth: amputation. 

Nothing but counter-force will stop or reverse this. Humans are, at their core, animals, responding to positive or negative incentives. Order, therefore, is fragile, without constant enforcing mechanisms. And when the state is too weak to enforce order, it creates conditions for private violence, or revolutionary chaos and dictatorial ordering. A common liberal framing of disorder is to point out at the material aspect of the norm destroyed—it’s just a statue toppled or it’s just some groceries looted. This is at best flawed, and at worst complicit. If these behaviors aren’t tackled, then we will have no treasure left for the public. Humanity will be relegated to the stone age. 

One cannot reason with feral animals. Animalistic behavior helps no cause. It is pure hatred and envy towards something objectively superior. Inhuman behavior also should not be able to wear the cloak of human rights. 

As Balfour himself once wrote  in The Foundations of Belief,

We survey the past, and see that its history is of blood and tears, of helpless blundering, of wild revolt, of stupid acquiescence, of empty aspirations. We sound the future, and learn that after a period, long compared with the individual life, but short indeed compared with the divisions of time open to our investigation, the energies of our system will decay, the glory of the sun will be dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert, will no longer tolerate the race which has for a moment disturbed its solitude. Man will go down into the pit, and all his thoughts will perish.

It is not illegitimate for elected authorities to restore order through state violence against a vocal and disruptive minority if the majority of the people agrees to that, in principle. But the British state, its guardians, the political parties, the elected representatives, the patrician class, the jurors, justices of peace, the constabulary, and the law enforcement have shown themselves cowering and weak. 

This is a revolutionary condition. If one side can use force to dominate and shape the public choices and directions of a former great power, other groups and people too. If the mechanisms of the state can crack down on one side, and turn a blind eye to the other, then the state itself is partisan and complicit in anything that comes after, from counter-violence to color revolutions. It has been abundantly clear that the responsibility for disorder lies with the British police, the politicians, and the justices. No one else is responsible. If they are unable to reverse the rot, perhaps counter-violence and vigilantism will be more effective. It is, after all, not difficult to identify individuals who destroy art.


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