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Political Mental Map: Young Britain Version

Here’s a comment from a young reader in London:

Born 2001, so I’m still very much in my formative years. Britain is very politically volatile at the moment (Brexit, Corbyn) but insofar as I can claim to have a coherent political worldview, it is one more influenced by my personal circumstances than my perception of ‘events’.

1. My ethnic and geographical background. I was born in Japan to a white British father and an Anglo-Indian mother. My parents really loved Japan, and still speak Japanese to each other, eat Japanese whenever they can and constantly watch sumo on the TV. They moved back to Blighty so my brother and I could have a proper education, but I think they both left bits of their hearts behind, and associate modern Britain primarily with shabbiness, materialism and debased sentimentality (as evidenced by the Princess Diana sobfest and bullying of public figures who prefer to maintain ‘stiff upper lip’ like the Queen, McCann family or Theresa May) in contrast to Japan’s respect for tradition, excellence and self-discipline. I feel I’ve inherited that perception, but at the same time watching my parents’ despondency has awakened me to the futility of the ‘global citizen’ lifestyle. Moreover, the fact I’m the son of a white man means I have zero time for ethnic-minority journalists and intellectuals who spend their lives whining about ‘white privilege’ etc. My mother’s family didn’t come to England to impose Indian culture on native folk. If anything, they came to escape it. My grandfather still doesn’t hide his view of India as a cesspit of bigotry, corruption and misogyny. He and my mother are infinitely grateful for the privilege of living in Britain, for all its flaws. So I’m not exactly keen on multiculturalist paeans to ‘diversity’ and cultural relativism.

2. My education. I go to a great private school in London, where I’ve received a proper education in the humanities. I’ve been particularly influenced by the Irish head of history, who’s a lovely man and an authority on Victorian Catholic intellectuals. He’s introduced me to Russell Kirk, Joseph Ratzinger, JCD Clark and other Catholic-Right thinkers, for good or ill. He’s a neocon, not a paleocon, so there’s some deviation between our worldviews. He’s certainly no fan of Brexit. Equally, though, I’ve been affected by the negative influence of young left-liberal teachers in other departments. There are a lot of humanities teachers in my school who constantly lecture their classes on inequality, diversity, elitism etc. without ever acknowledging their own unforced decision to spend their lives teaching modernist poetry or the Aeneid to mainly white upper-middle class boys in a fee-paying school. They’re all nice people and great teachers, but the main consequence of my contact with them is that I associate the left-liberalism which dominates political and cultural discourse in Britain with hypocrisy and an unlovely lack of self-awareness. If your general opinions contradict your life choices, that cancels your opinions, not your choices.

3. Corbyn. That sensitivity to leftie hypocrisy has accentuated my disgust at the present Leader of HM Opposition. Jeremy Corbyn speaks endlessly of the need for a ‘kinder and gentler politics’ and the boundless badness of ‘the Tories’, but it’s a matter of objective record that he has spent the greater part of his life producing vile apologia for Third World dictatorships (Iran, Venezuela, Russia) and terrorist groups (Hamas, Hezbollah, the IRA). He’s also spoken fondly of blood libellers and 9/11 conspiracy theorists and appeared alongside deniers of the Holocaust and the Srebrenica massacre. So a nasty piece of work, all in all. This summer Russian military-intelligence officers attempted to kill a political dissident on British soil with a chemical weapon. Whilst Theresa May (and, to his credit, Donald Trump) rallied the international community against this despicable violation of basic standards of morality and sovereignty, Corbyn publicly entertained wackjob conspiracy theories. Consequently, I guess that for all the Tories’ incompetence and unseriousness, I’ll happily queue to vote for them as soon as I can.

Let me take this opportunity to invite readers who live outside the US to offer your own stories of how your political mental map was formed.

25 Comments (Open | Close)

25 Comments To "Political Mental Map: Young Britain Version"

#1 Comment By H On November 8, 2018 @ 3:33 pm

“If your general opinions contradict your life choices, that cancels your opinions, not your choices.”

Man, do I hate it when such young people are so much more perceptive and eloquent than I ever will be. Hah!

Seriously though, great comment from this young man. I’ve thoroughly been enjoying these mental map posts.

#2 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 8, 2018 @ 4:05 pm

Corbyn. That sensitivity to leftie hypocrisy has accentuated my disgust at the present Leader of HM Opposition.

I think I really surprised a girl I was out on a date with when I was in England last year- she was complaining about English politicians, and I said something like, “Actually, it’s unusual for me to say this, but I really quite like both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, and if I lived in England I’d probably feel that either of them could make a fine Prime Minister, and I’d be happy to vote for either one.”

I meant it, too: I don’t have a lot of respect for most US politicians (less for Republicans than for Democrats, but very little on either side of the aisle), and I’m certainly aware that England has its share of problems (and its share of lousy politicians), but I think overall their politics are healthier than ours. Theresa and Jeremy both have their flaws, and both have been dealt tough hands to play, but I think they’ve both played them pretty well. Both of them strike me as fairly reasonable, principled and responsible people, in spite of (or maybe because of) all the flak they get from people who disagree with them ideologically.

#3 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 8, 2018 @ 4:14 pm

it’s a matter of objective record that he has spent the greater part of his life producing vile apologia for Third World dictatorships (Iran, Venezuela, Russia) and terrorist groups (Hamas, Hezbollah, the IRA). He’s also spoken fondly of blood libellers and 9/11 conspiracy theorists and appeared alongside deniers of the Holocaust and the Srebrenica massacre

In other words, he says what he thinks and hangs out with who he wants to hang out with and doesn’t care what anyone else things of it?

Good for him.

Theresa May’s party is part of the same Euro Parliament group as Law and Justice in Poland and the Dansk Folkepartei in Denmark, not to mention the Sweden Democrats and the True Finns. There are a lot of people on the SJW side of the aisle who would, and do, call that ‘hangng around with racists’. I don’t consider either L & J, the DF or the True Finns to be objectionable for their views on race (SD is a little different), and if I lived in (say) Poland or Denmark I would probably vote for them myself, but more importantly, I should hope that if someone called out Theresa May for this guilt-by-association nonsense, she told them exactly what she thought of them and stuck to her guns. And the same goes, on the other side of the aisle, for Jeremy Corbyn.

As the internal contradictions of the liberal capitalist order become more and more apparent, we’re going to have to spend more and more time listening to serious critiques of liberalism. Sometimes that’s going to come from people that you might find objectionable, whether you consider them anti-Semitic, anti-white, racist, communist, third world dictator, or whatever. That isn’t a good reason to stop listening: it might be you can learn even from people you think are objectionable.

#4 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 8, 2018 @ 4:21 pm

Young Reader in London,

In spite of the acerbic tone of my criticism, let me say that I think it’s really cool you are commenting on this web site as a 17 year old! Your intellectual curiosity is commendable, and I hope you continue to be part of this virtual, uh, “community”.

#5 Comment By Tunbridge Wells On November 8, 2018 @ 4:29 pm

Rod, this is a great topic. We should all support anything that gets people talking to each other and explaining where they come from and why they are who they are.

I was born in 1976 in Toronto, Canada and spent most of my life there. I bounced around the Pacific in my 20s. I now live in Northern California.

1. Toronto multiculturalism.

I’m the child of immigrants and most of the kids I grew up with were immigrants or second-generation Canadians from all over the world. I went to a publicly-funded Catholic school (yes, Ontario has those) which was still ethnically diverse. Having classmates that were Polish, Filipino, Chinese, Portuguese, British, Afro-Canadian, etc. was a mere fact of life, we largely got along just fine (and still do to this day as adults), and notwithstanding the diversity you would be hard-pressed to find any of them not identify as Canadian. This experience with diversity might not be as easily replicable elsewhere but on this ground I reject arguments that “diversity doesn’t work”.

2. Canadian universal social welfare.

Health care and higher education are paid for by government. When I went to the doctor, my parents would show a card, I’d get treated, and that was it. The ideas of pre-existing conditions coverage, co-payments, medical bankruptcy, and the like were utterly alien. As well, the idea that a year of university tuition would cost as much as a household’s entire annual income also made no sense. Because these and other programs were for everyone of all social classes, there was no stigma associated with using these programs. This was at the cost of somewhat higher taxes, which is a reduction in individual freedom, but it was (and still is) generally understood to be an acceptable price to pay for public services that benefitted me and everyone else.

The importance of public goods (like health care and education) supporting freedom is grossly understated. A reduction in freedom from higher taxes increases your freedom from worrying about paying for health care or your children’s higher education. Yes, it is redistributive, but redistribution is the point. Civilization does not function without public goods.

3. US economic and cultural dominance.

There is no escape from US influence in Canada and Canadians understand that the influence is effectively one-way, regardless of cultural similarities and the integrated continental economy. I felt and understood whatever would happen in the US but, as a foreigner, not be in any position to do anything about it.

4. The Cold War and its end.

For most of the 80s I was in constant terror of the world ending in nuclear war, even as a kid. Being Canadian and therefore not having much influence over superpower politics didn’t help, nor did growing up Catholic and reading about Revelations, the Virgin Mary apparitions in Fatima, or anything end-times related. The end of the Cold War was a huge relief.

5. The near-breakup of Canada in 1995.

The Quebec separation referendum of 1995 was a national trauma. 54,000 votes out of nearly 5 million would have ended Canada. This was an object lesson that states and political institutions are far more fragile than one might think.

6. The economic rise of China and the rest of Asia.

I spent much of the late 90s and early aughts in Asia where I saw first hand the extent of rapid Asian economic development and the economic and cultural effects of globalization from outside of North America. This experience underscored just how economic trends and events far away affect people here and vice-versa. It also made me understand the limits of a local, state, or national government’s abilities to regulate an economy or promote growth.

7. The tech boom and inequality.

Tech, in significant part, brought me to Northern California. The economic inequality stares you in the face – it’s literally in my neighborhood. If you have some skill that the tech economy or anyone peripherally connected to it thinks is valuable, you could stand to make a lot of money. If you do not, you may be thrown onto the economic trash heap. If trends continue, we will have a dystopian economy where the owners of the machines are obscenely wealthy, the people who work for the owners of the machines might live just fine, and the vast bulk of people are excluded and in abject poverty. One of the central issues of our time is how to stop this from happening.

#6 Comment By Sands On November 8, 2018 @ 4:32 pm

I read this in the other thread, and I was hoping Rod would highlight it. I hope he stays around. It would be nice to get a Generation Z perspective from across the pond on a regular basis.

#7 Comment By Brian T On November 8, 2018 @ 4:46 pm

I’m Irish, born in Dublin in 1981. I would say that the things that most formed my views of politics were three things that happened here in the 1990’s: the divorce referendum, the Northern Irish Peace Proces, and Ireland’s economic boom.

Divorce had been illegal in Ireland. The 1995 referendum to introduce it passed by the narrowest of margins, something like a quarter of one per cent. I was 14, just beginning to really follow the news, and I well remember how high passions ran. What took me aback about the referendum campaign was that it showed what a chasm existed between our cultural elites on the one hand, and people like my parents and grandparents on the other. My grandparents were devout Catholics, like many of their generation; my parents were practising Catholics (not super-pious, but entirely solid by today’s standards). They all voted ‘No’to divorce. When I was 12 or 13 my dad told me what “liberal” meant. “It means [he put on a weak, whiny voice] “just do what you like!”” I decided there and then that I didn’t care for liberalism.

The media were very much on the liberal side in our culture wars, and fanatically backed the ‘Yes’ side in the divorce referendum. When you are a little kid, you associate the media with the world of your parents. The newspaper is something your dad buys on his way home from work, or leafs through on Sunday afternoons. The television news features serious people in suits talking about other serious people in suits, and your parents watch it in the evenings with grave attention. In that sense, the media are something safe and familiar. The divorce referendum campaign showed me for the first time that the media actually contained a lot of people who were spitefully, shrilly opposed to the world my parents represented. It was an unsettling jolt, like realising that someone you had previously considered a friend was in fact a deeply nasty piece of work.

These days, of course, you would be hard-pressed to find *anyone* in Ireland who honestly thinks divorce should be illegal. But in 1995 half the population voted for precisely that, in the teeth of fierce propaganda from the other side. I myself would not favour a ban on divorce, now. That I innocently did so at the age of 14 makes me oddly wistful, nostalgic for an Ireland that has disappeared.

Then there was the Northern conflict. If the Irish media were strongly hostile to conservative Catholicism, they – especially the ‘Sunday Independent’ newspaper, which my parents occasionally bought – were also fiercely hostile to Irish Republicanism. I’ve never considered myself a hardline nationalist. But there was, again, something jarring about how the weekly anti-republican diatribes of that paper contrasted with the ‘faith and fatherland’ ethos that I had imbibed at my Christian Brothers primary school. Once again, it was a coming of age, a seeing of the world in a clearer but less comfortable new light.

Nevertheless, by the time I was in my teens, the Northern conflict, while not yet over, was definitely on the way out. My parents’ view of Irish-British relations – and Catholic-Protestant relations- was, and remains, more hostile than mine. To them, Irish Protestants are … not an enemy, exactly, but definitely an Other, to be treated (at best) with a cautious respect, but really to be kept at a distance. That is not true of my generation at all. When I became involved with evangelicalism as a teenager, my parents were horrified. (As for my grandparents, they were not even allowed to know.) My parents’ opposition was not so much theological (they would not have cared anything like so much if I had become an atheist) but tribal. “Those people *hate* Catholics!” my father would fume when I came back from a service or Bible study, KJV in hand. For me this attitude, while understandable given the recent history that my dad remembered better than I did, would just not do. If the Baptists whose church I visited really hated Catholics, after all, why would they want to show them the way to heaven? Without at all wishing to be condescending (my parents are wiser poeple than I am in many ways) I do believe that I’ve transcended that tribalism of theirs. I would never vote for a politician who was “sound” on the question of the national territory but wrong on a bunch of other important things. They would, and sometimes do.

And then there was the economic boom, the ‘Celtic Tiger’ that got going around 1996 that has continued (with interruptions) since. It brought to an end the world of my childhood, where televisions only had six channels and going to a resort in Spain for the family holiday was the height of sophistication and the only non-white people you ever saw in Dublin were a handful of students. It has made many of us wealthier than before, and in some cases more hard-working, but also more stressed and fearful. Tuberculosis is no longer a killer here, but obesity is. Politically, our new weath has brought up issues like multiculturalism and (thanks to exorbitant property prices) homelessness, while old issues like the North have retreated into the shadows. Ireland’s Muslim population doubled between the 2006 and 2012 censuses; it has increased still further since. The company I work for boasts both a “prayer room” containing no crosses but a Q’ibla and plenty of prayer rugs, and an LGBT social club. It’s truly a different country from the one I was born into.

#8 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On November 8, 2018 @ 5:29 pm

I lived my childhood in Italy in the Seventies: a wonderful and sheltered childhood, full of freedom and adventure.
I’m saying that since, as my political mental map was shaped by two great fears, red terrorism and nuclear war, one could think I lived a gloomy childhood. But my early youth was, thank God, a very sunny one.
Especially red terrorism taught me to loathe revolutionaries and leftism. Their unrelenting class hate, their compartmentalized worldview, their inability to acknowledge the worth of individual achievement and of excellence and their shameless worship of the mass taught me, over time, that all revolution must be matched with a staunch Reaction. But this happened much later.
My sort of reaction (I didn’t call it that way, at the time) was, at the beginning, an uncritical adherence to Western liberalism. I was in my teens when I realized that between the enemies of terrorism and the terrorists themselves there was a great grey area of leftist fellow travelers. To me it was a shock to learn that among those were intellectuals and wealthy bourgeois. Those are the very same people who, later on, joined the ranks of postmodern liberalism, favoring all sort of
contemporary degeneracy: abortion, divorce, SSM, etc.
(Out of fairness, I must acknowledge that the Communist Party was among the fiercest enemies of red terrorism, even though in their intellectual ranks many theorized the validity of armed struggle. However, they were faithful to Yalta and determined to obtain power by virtue of Gramscian hegemony rather than through force. Members of the PCI used to be quite conservative about family and sexual mores, even after 1968)
And it took me some time to realize that the terrorists and the postmodern liberals were two branches of the same tree.
Another important experience was, when I was in High School, getting in touch with the homosexual community. My home town was always pretty liberal and tolerant of eccentricity, partly due to an ironic worldview. I witnessed the “coming out” of several schoolmates and friends, which was favored, as I said, by a general non-judgmental attitude. But those were the late 80’s: the awkward admixture of puritanism and perversion that marks the liberals of our time was two decades in the future. At that time, the young gays I knew spoke with frankness about their worldview, and weren’t afraid to act upon it in the open. So, I learned about the pansexualism, the lack of moral restraint, the exploitation and violence that is so common among gays, especially male ones.
The concept of pansexualism requires some explanation. Today, the word is peddled as a synonym of “bisexualism”. Pansexualism is rather the attitude of those who believe that everything is basically a sexual object. Everything: men, women, children, beasts, mere objects. To the pansexualist philosophy, everything is sexually charged and has a sexual meaning.
To be honest, the pansexualist one is not just a gay worldview: it’s the worldview of most sexual liberationists.
I was lucky, then, because nowadays nobody among very those people would dare say the things they used to say. They are too much invested into LGBT propaganda – and even those who are not especially politicized would fear a backlash if they aired their true feelings. But I was there. I saw and I heard, thank God.
After that time I probably spent, as a whole, less than two hours a year thinking about homosexuality. I didn’t care, I only knew that I didn’t share the gay philosophy, having seen it so closely, but I thought it was their business and none of mine. However when in the late 20’s the LGBT movement imported the propaganda tactics and the political aggressiveness from the US, my attitude towards it was necessarily shaped by the political map I built in my late teens.

#9 Comment By Stephen Martin On November 8, 2018 @ 6:17 pm

Good lad! I’m a Londoner of an earlier generation, brought up by working-class Irish Catholic parents, but aided by scholarships and a talent for Classics to study at a (the?) top university. Until I was about 30, my guilt and discomfort at leaving my working-class roots behind to move in more exalted social circles expressed itself in angry levelling Socialism and hatred of the country of my birth.
Becoming a father made me see my responsibilities to the world in a more direct and personal light, centred around my children. I also began to understood my father’s journey, from a closely-stratified society in rural Ireland to the heartless snake-pit of London, where he had the chance to work hard and prove himself as more than the barely literate mountain-man good only for manual labour. While I had hated Mrs Thatcher for smashing unions and letting IRA hunger strikers die, he thanked her for ensuring that the postmen would keep delivering the letters with his new jobs and the cheques that paid for them, for keeping the electricity on and petrol delivered.
The fact that my wife was half-Jewish (though raised in the faith of her Catholic mother) also meant I saw the outside world through different eyes. If people thought my kids were Jews, maybe I couldn’t be so relaxed about antisemitism or the fate of Israel.
Now as a middle aged-dad, I worry more about my kids’ future than my own, but I have seen enough to be more respectful of past structures and less hopeful that changing everything will fix things. I also know that the best thing to do to improve my community is to try to help people myself on a personal level rather than complain about the efforts of others and suggest they do more. I also try to remember that if people don’t agree with me it may because I’m wrong rather than because they’re immoral or stupid.
My only regret is that I completely lack religious faith, as i think it would support what I want to do and become. I can’t summon it up any more than I can dance, unfortunately.

#10 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 8, 2018 @ 6:38 pm

“it’s a matter of objective record that he has spent the greater part of his life producing vile apologia for Third World dictatorships (Iran, Venezuela, Russia)”

Since my worldviews were formed when America was supposedly against dictatorships like the Soviet, while being for brutal despots like the Shah of Iran, I certainly don’t share this student’s inculcated prejudices against the above mentioned countries, which all now hold genuine multi-party elections.

#11 Comment By Cavin On November 8, 2018 @ 10:37 pm

I live in the US, but I spent my early adolescence in Japan, and still have a strong association with the country. Growing up in Japan definitely gave me a both a greater respect for the West and a greater skepticism about its preeminence. As much as I love Japan, I’m definitely a creature of the West. Paris still feels like “home” to me in a way that Tokyo never will, even though Tokyo is my favorite city in the world. In that sense, I am both a creature of the West, but can reflect on the contingent factors that made me so. I love the Christian West, but do so with a fair bit of skepticism and irony. In many ways, I analogize this love to being a Boston sports fan as a result of being raised by parents who hailed from New England.

The book that comes the closest to capturing this for me is “Home” by Witold Rybczynski. My favorite thinkers are Ronald Coase, Douglass North, George Herbert Mead, Thomas Reid, Juergen Habermas, Richard Posner, and Michael Polanyi.

#12 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 8, 2018 @ 10:58 pm

Sounds to me like Britain is in desperate need of a new communist party, to push pathetic pinko social-democrats like Corbyn out of the way. Too bad Maggie Thatcher destroyed the trade unions. My Welsh mining cousins wouldn’t have stood for this intellectual gabfest.

Since my worldviews were formed when America was supposedly against dictatorships like the Soviet, while being for brutal despots like the Shah of Iran, I certainly don’t share this student’s inculcated prejudices against the above mentioned countries, which all now hold genuine multi-party elections.

Point.

Especially red terrorism taught me to loathe revolutionaries and leftism. Their unrelenting class hate, their compartmentalized worldview, their inability to acknowledge the worth of individual achievement and of excellence and their shameless worship of the mass taught me, over time, that all revolution must be matched with a staunch Reaction.

Giuseppe, you are channeling Engels and Lenin. “Their shameless worship of mass” is what Engels called “gazing in awe on the vast posterior of the working class.” Its a disease of educated revolutionaries in search of a mass, as distinct from mass organizers who are embedded in one. They would rather kidnap and kill a prime minister than knock on doors in a working class neighborhood. The Red Brigades had more in common with the Narodniki than with the Bolsheviks.

#13 Comment By Khalid mir On November 9, 2018 @ 3:06 am

Brilliant idea, Rod!

1. Shatila and Sabra:
The night this news broke (on the 9 o’clock news) is etched in my memory. Led, I think, to the first inkling of the idea that there is evil in the world and that it is usually the powerful who promote it. Since then an enduring sense that one must always side with the underdog and the powerless (later, of course, I realized that the Jewish people were the underdogs par excellence, which is why I have so much sympathy for them).

2. NF. The National Front was always there in the back of my mind when I was growing up-and that gave me a sense of how vile racism is. This was reinforced by my experiences of racism (most of it was casual but some of it was laced with the implicit threat of violence and, on a few occasions, actual violence). Growing up in South Wales with white friends saved me from thinking it was about all white people and later I understood that (poor) white men and women themselves could be the victims of abuse and not everything was about race. But at the time (this was also the time where criticism of apartheid was growing) the ‘right’ was deeply associated with racism.

3. Mr Heinz. One of the first black and Muslim mayors of our home town. A gentle soul originally from Barbados became our dear family friend (and since then I’ve always rooted for the West Indies in the cricket!). Too young to fully understand what he was saying but there was a lot of talk about Nye Bevan and Michael Foot (who later became a hero). Since then I’ve always associated the left with decency and sticking up for poor people. The right, on the other hand, represented the interests of the rich and greedy. I still think that.

4. Thatcher. In the 1980s there was no escaping her. She represented all that was terrible in capitalism: selfishness, a shallow form of individualism, crassness, ruthlessness and competitiveness. Where I lived there was a lot of job insecurity. People hated her with a venom. Rightly so in my opinion. To this day I detest the Tories (who aren’t conservative in any real sense). [I know you like to talk about the dangers of the ‘cultural left’-and probably with good reason-but the real seductions and the real destruction of the social fabric came with the right].

#14 Comment By Anne (the other one) On November 9, 2018 @ 9:25 am

@Khalid mir at 3:06 am.

Shatila and Sabra was the killing of between 460 and 3,500 civilians, mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites.

In 1983, a commission chaired by Seán MacBride, the assistant to the UN Secretary General and President of United Nations General Assembly at the time, concluded that Israel, as the camp’s occupying power, bore responsibility for the violence.
The commission also concluded that the massacre was a form of genocide.

In 1983, the Israeli Kahan Commission, appointed to investigate the incident, found that Israeli military personnel, aware that a massacre was in progress, had failed to take serious steps to stop it. The commission deemed Israel indirectly responsible, and Ariel Sharon, then Defense Minister, bore personal responsibility “for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge”, forcing him to resign.

#15 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 9, 2018 @ 9:51 am

My mother’s family didn’t come to England to impose Indian culture on native folk. If anything, they came to escape it. My grandfather still doesn’t hide his view of India as a cesspit of bigotry, corruption and misogyny. He and my mother are infinitely grateful for the privilege of living in Britain, for all its flaws. So I’m not exactly keen on multiculturalist paeans to ‘diversity’ and cultural relativism.

It’s really interesting you say this, because my (mixed, and conflictual) relationship with my ethnic heritage has gone in precisely the opposite direction. I’ve gotten a lot more conservative and reactionary about the merits of immigration, cosmopolitanism and ethnic diversity in the last few years, and more sympathetic to people (in Europe, and in Asia and Africa, and elsewhere) who resent seeing their ethnic group become a minority in their native land. At the same time I’ve gotten a lot more critical of European colonialism and neocolonialism, a lot more cognizant of the damage it did to places like India and Africa, and at least somewhat more in tune with my ethnicity and heritage (I’m Tamil with a slight admixture of English five or six generations back, which is to say I’m a bit more English than Liz Warren is Cherokee).

I don’t think these two intellectual journeys are in conflict with each other. Quite the contrary. I think colonialism, and the Crusades, and the conquest of the Americas, and the formation of the British Empire were evil precisely because I think distinct peoples, tribes and nation states deserve to develop along their own lines, for good or for ill, and because I value national sovereignty and tribal sovereignty a lot more than I value Christendom, or ‘western civilization’, or trade, or the railroads, or the abolition of widow-burning, or any of those other supposed blessings that the Brits and the Spanish and the Angevins brought in their wake. And I’ve come to realize that whether or not I speak Tamil (I don’t), or cook South Indian food at home (I rarely do), or any of that other stuff, the Tamil nation is like any other nation, like the Polish or the Danish or the Japanese, an extended family united by ties of kinship and heritage, and I’m part of that whether I want to be or not, so I might as well own it and recognize it. The tribe is an extension of the family, and people who mock other people’s families, and say “our family is better than yours” are even more pernicious and harmful than people on the other side of the aisle who refuse to recognize that family ties matter and aren’t arbitrary or malleable, and want to dissolve the boundaries of kinship and unite us into a formless tapioca pudding.

#16 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 9, 2018 @ 9:59 am

The Red Brigades had more in common with the Narodniki than with the Bolsheviks.

It’s worth pointing out that the phenomenon Giuseppe describes here (I don’t share a lot of his normative views on it, but descriptively he’s right) is not limited to Italy. The Communist Party of Cuba opposed Castro when he was fighting in the mountains (he took over and purged the party once he’d won), the Communist Party of Nicaragua opposed the Sandinista insurrection, and the various Communist Parties of India opposed the Naxalites.

#17 Comment By Sid Finster On November 9, 2018 @ 11:03 am

Russia is not a Third World country, and neither Russia nor Iran nor Venezuela are “dictatorships”.

Someone get his news from Marvel Comics.

#18 Comment By Khalid mir On November 9, 2018 @ 11:43 am

@Anne

That’s true but other countries have done a lot worse. I think it’s unfair to single out one country and demonise them – and one can’t escape the possibility that some of the criticism is really driven by anti- semitism rather than a concern about injustice.

The idea that left- liberalism ( that sounds like an Americanism..I can’t imagine any British person using that term) dominates political discourse is highly contentious given the role of Murdoch. Given the dominance of neoliberalism over the last 40 years it would be quite remarkable if outside some universities that were indeed the case.

#19 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On November 9, 2018 @ 11:50 am

Siarlys

Sounds to me like Britain is in desperate need of a new communist party

Unfortunately I lost touch many years ago with a dear colleague who was one of the last members of the CP in the UK. Incredibly smart and ironic guy. He could quote Gramsci by heart. His father had bequeathed him a champagne bottle to be popped open at the death of Maggie Thatcher (a bit naughty, this one, I must admit…)

Giuseppe, you are channeling Engels and Lenin. “Their shameless worship of mass” is what Engels called “gazing in awe on the vast posterior of the working class.” Its a disease of educated revolutionaries in search of a mass, as distinct from mass organizers who are embedded in one. They would rather kidnap and kill a prime minister than knock on doors in a working class neighborhood. The Red Brigades had more in common with the Narodniki than with the Bolsheviks.

Possibly yes. They were (are) the same sort of bourgeois revolutionaries, with a veneer of Marxism.

#20 Comment By George_The_Stray On November 9, 2018 @ 11:56 am

1. I grew up in what could best be described as a traditionally middle-class background. I’m lucky enough to have had two parents, who are still together. My environment was basically stable, being a medium sized village with a relatively prosperous population. I was lucky to have this stable foundation, because it meant that I had something to fall back on when times were harder. This also goes for my extended family. Both sets of grandparents were war generation. My father’s father fought and was wounded. My mother’s family worked for the government abroad. I was set proper boundaries for behaviour, which was enforced by both example and instruction. I was also lucky in that I was brought up Christian, with a knowledge of scripture.
2. I was born with a rare genetic condition, which impacts my life in many ways. This presented a huge challenge growing up, and still does. I don’t want to sound like one of the identity-politics obsessed SJW’s, who see everything political and otherwise through the prism of their identity, but I can’t pretend that it didn’t have an impact on my character, and by proxy, political formation. Encouraged by family, my temperament tilts towards determined, and sometimes contrarian. The fact that my disability has been limiting in many ways has impressed on me the finitude of existence, not taking things for granted, and valuing those good things that we are fortunate enough to have, to be given or achieve. Good things are often fragile and bought through struggle, and should be cherished. They are easily destroyed. This view also partly stems from my melancholic worldview, which is influenced by the physical reality of my condition, ultimately life-limiting as it is.
3. I became sort-of socialist during Autumn 2014, when the problem of inequality in Britain really blew up. It didn’t seem right that a million people relied on food banks for instance. I read left-wing thinkers like Danny Dorling who presented thought-out, data driven arguments that couldn’t be immediately discounted. I even made it half-way through Piketty’s book. There was something niggling me though; the Left didn’t seem very good at calling out Islamist terrorists, either when they hacked a soldier to death on London’s streets, or when, in the guise of ISIS, they took over what seemed like half the Middle-East and perpetrated a genocide. None of that had anything to do with Islam apparently. The world seemed to be teetering on the edge. Then Charlie Hebdo was attacked. The Left caved before the Islamist theocrats and equivocated about freedom of expression. In their eyes, the cartoonists abused the Muslim community so they deserved the bullets. The Left, long the allies of freedom of expression and conscience had a chance to make a stand and most of them cowered. The procession of leaders through the streets of Paris, followed by a million people sealed the impression; lots of people were apparently Charlie!. Except they weren’t, holding pencils instead of the magazine’s cover. Having become much more aware politically aware, my views and ideas began to evolve, and still are. I read Tyler Cowen and saw the Left’s economic theories as pretty flawed. At the same time, I was put off by his libertarianism; I was disturbed by his blasé acceptance in Average is Over of the dystopian future awaiting, described in American terms as mostly ‘decent slums’ with tacos on tap and endless virtual entertainment. The show, Uncommon Knowledge introduced me to many interesting right-wing thinkers (oh, Thomas Sowell, where were you in my life?), while magazines like The Spectator provided food for thought.
Then, the migrant crisis of August/September 2015 happened, and things seemed to go out of control. Doing a history degree at the time, the prospects for integrating a million people, while Europe is wracked by existential guilt and anomie, seemed precarious. Then there were the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015, Brussels in March 2016, and then the Summer of Terror over summer 2016. The Left were totally unwilling to look at what was going on with honesty, burying themselves in denial, handing the issue to the right-wing. We then had the Brexit referendum in June 2016, the surge in Corbyn popularity, the interminable Brexit fallout and negotiations. The 2016 US election felt particularly apocalyptic, with each side adopting an ‘act nor or all is lost’ tone. Both sides seemed an awful choice. I also came across Jordan Peterson, and listened to him from late 2016 through 2017 to today; his message was an affirmation rather than a revelation, but his ability to articulate things I already knew in an inchoate form was a relief. In 2017 in the UK we had 3 terror attacks in 3 months, soldiers on the streets of London, a right-wing reprisal attack against Muslim worshippers, and a disastrous general election where Corbyn nearly won.
4. In the end, my political map would lead me to say that I’ve ended somewhat of a Scrutonian/Red-Tory. I would have to say the thinkers that have sparked my mind have been those like Roger Scruton, Melanie Phillips, David Goodhart, Natan Sharansky (Defending Identity), Yuval Levin, Douglas Murray, Mark Steyn, Thomas Sowell, Yoram Hazony, John Gray, Ryszard Legutko, Pascal Bruckner, Larry Siedentop, Patrick Deneen and Frank Furedi. I’m sick of hearing so often from the libertarians, who take economics as the be-all and end-all of life. Their views are impractical, and result in an excessive emphasis on individualism which tears our society apart. Right-wing libertarians indulge in an economic free-for-all, while left-wing libertarians indulge in a lifestyle free-for-ll. Both sides grow out of the fundamentally flawed liberal conception of human nature. Meanwhile, I’m also tired of the interventionist right, who seems to think that another war is always the answer and that invading somewhere is never the wrong thing. They never learn from their mistakes, and provide ammunition to the populists. I’m attracted to the thought of traditionalists like Kirk, Weaver, Nisbet, Scruton etc. However, none of the three groups has succeeded in the culture war, and are continuing to be routed today. Like you, I’m a sort of a contradiction; I don’t like over-powerful, tyrannical authority which can kill off freedom completely, but neither do I like the chaos that often comes from the People having too much control. I think I am arriving at a position where I’m culturally conservative, economically centrist and am interested to see the new post-liberal thought that’s developing during Trump’s presidency.

#21 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 9, 2018 @ 1:36 pm

That’s true but other countries have done a lot worse. I think it’s unfair to single out one country and demonise them – and one can’t escape the possibility that some of the criticism is really driven by anti- semitism rather than a concern about injustice

Sabra and Shatila atrocities, of course, were carried out by a proudly Christian army in the service of a Christian political party dedicated to preservation of Lebanon as a Christian Nation, and inspired by similar political parties fifty years earlier all over the Catholic world. It seems to me like Christians should be feeling more guilt (and there’s a lot of guilt to be shared around, it was a horrible event) over what happened in those refugee camps than Jews or Israelis.

#22 Comment By Khalid mir On November 9, 2018 @ 8:57 pm

Hector,

I think you’re missing the point. The massacres were and are largely perceived to have only been possible with the complicity, at some level, of the Israelis. The wider point remains: it seems like a fair number of people are set on the idea of demanding that a whole group or even religion -Christians, Jews or Muslims- bear responsibility for the terrible actions of some people. I don’t think that Christians in general should feel guilty just as Muslims in general shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for the atrocities committed by other people who call themselves Muslims.

In any case, I felt I had to write since there’s so much tarnishing of the left on this site and so very little understanding, as far as I can see, of what it really stands for. Instead: sjw, trans, etc., etc. I’m sure that some of that criticism is justified but I suspect that a fair amount of it is ideologically driven.

#23 Comment By VikingLS On November 9, 2018 @ 10:25 pm

“Sounds to me like Britain is in desperate need of a new communist party”

Or perhaps more speakers of Elvish? Both have about as much grounding in reality

Siarlys and Hector you are grown men! Believing in communism now is like believing in elves. It’s not real and you should have grown out of it.

#24 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 10, 2018 @ 2:28 pm

I don’t think that Christians in general should feel guilty just as Muslims in general shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for the atrocities committed by other people who call themselves Muslims.

I agree, as I was just pointing out with regard to the Asia Noreen case in Pakistan. I think that demanding that all Muslims disavow / apologize for the acts of some Muslims is a pretty dumb enterprise and something that we shouldn’t take seriously.

#25 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 10, 2018 @ 2:32 pm

In any case, I felt I had to write since there’s so much tarnishing of the left on this site and so very little understanding, as far as I can see, of what it really stands for. Instead: sjw, trans, etc., etc. I’m sure that some of that criticism is justified but I suspect that a fair amount of it is ideologically driven.

Agreed, and while I don’t agree with everything you said in your comment, I certainly respect your opinions and always enjoy reading and learning from your thoughts.

Siarlys and Hector you are grown men! Believing in communism now is like believing in elves. It’s not real and you should have grown out of it.

I’m not a big believer in the chronological fallacy. Some of your critics would say the same of Eastern Orthodoxy, surely?