The ‘Gay’ vote

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The Democrats, like most leftist political groups, like to think collectively, and in an age of identity of politics we have ‘the black vote’, the ‘hispanic’ vote, the ‘latino’ vote, the ‘women’s vote’ and the ‘gay vote’. You’ll note we don’t have the ‘men’s vote’ – not even the Left is silly enough to imagine men can be categorised as voters by their gender. That doesn’t stop it thinking of the other groups as ‘brands’ whose loyalty can be secured by offering concessions. As Neo was saying the other day, the assumption is that the ‘gay vote’ is mainly Democrat. Historically there is good reason for that, as it was the political Left which was in favour of lifting the various legal discriminations from which gay people suffered. Want to get married to another woman? The Right said ‘no’. Some part of the Right were quite nice about it, large parts weren’t, and no one really likes those who call them ‘dykes’ or ‘faggots’, it isn’t nice. So when it comes to voting, hey, vote Democrat or Labour.

In the UK our last PM, David Cameron, annoyed the heck out of some of his supporters by allowing gay people to get married; but he detoxified the Tory party for gay people. Because under that label, most people whose sexual preference is for someone of their own sex are just as diverse as straights. There is no intrinsic reason why a gay woman or man would instinctively vote for a party that wanted high taxation and more state interference – once the discrimination stuff is gone, gay people are free to vote the way their own instincts and political preference leads them – and many will favour free-market economics and the chance to make a buck or two.

This is hard for the Right, at least the Religious Right, as the Bible is quite clear on homosexuality. But the Bible is pretty clear on lending at interest, divorce and a whole set of things the political Right has managed to absorb and get past. As it does so on this issue, so it frees up people to vote according to their interests. A person who identifies as gay is always liable to put their civil rights at the top of the list, and if, in the past, that meant voting Labour of Democrat whilst holding your nose at the rest of the programme, so be it. Once that ceases to be so, as it now is in the UK, then all those other interests, and identities, come into play. A politics which makes people identify by their sexual preference or skin colour, is a crude politics which works for the crude only when most voters are of one skin colour and one sexual preference. In our pluralistic societies, this is no longer a vote-winner. Trump, who is nothing if not a pragmatist, gets it, and I hope others will too.

All those ‘interest groups’ that the Left targets are part of a wider society, and they can easily be disaggregated by political groupings who do the simple thing of appealing to the common public good. If that means that people of colour get the same rights as white people, well, frankly, great, and not before time; the same is true of the other groups, including gay people. As the slogan goes, some people are gay, get over it. Of course, in church, it is different, but here we’re discussing the political sphere.

‘Mad as hell’?

Mad as hell

There is a palpable anger in our politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Here in the UK, one Labour MP was shot recently, and others have been threatened. This verbal violence is happening in the Labour Party, which preaches equality and social justice. It did not happen under Miliband, Brown and Blair, but it does under Corbyn, who, of course denounces it, but seems incurious about why it is happening on his watch, and quite unable to stop it. One of the problems with being a social justice warrior seems to be that the end justifies the means; demonise your opponents, and then you can treat them as demons; it is not a good way to do politics. There were some ugly scenes and the RNC last week, and there will be at the DNC this week. Meanwhile across the Channel, there have been attacks in Nice, Munich and other places, and the authorities, presumably trying not to stir things up, play down any religious motive in them, which, alas, simply makes ordinary people even more suspicious about what is going on. All of this increases the sense many ordinary people have that politics has become a place where the elites enrich themselves at our expense – and to steal a phrase, it makes many ‘mad as hell’ and they ‘don’t want to take it’.

In the UK the opinion formers and the media were confident that ‘Remain’, their side, would win, and as a ‘Remainer’ I hoped it would. But they ran an ugly and negative campaign, mainly around economics, warning us of the consequences of failing to vote the right way. What they failed to understand was that millions already feel penalised by the system, so they didn’t really see it getting much worse for them personally; the alienated, the simply fed up and grumpy, and the ardent ‘leavers’ were sufficient to overturn conventional wisdom and the predictions of the pollsters, and so the ‘Remain’ side lost.

This time last year we were confidently being told Trump would not survive the summer; then it was the autumn he wouldn’t survive; then it was ‘Super Tuesday’ that would bury him; then it was an agreement among his challengers which would finish him off; then he became the nominee. The media don’t ‘get it’. He does not follow the Clinton playbook. We shall see, with Hillary whether that one still works, but it does not work with the millions who are sick to their back teeth of self-serving, venal and lying politicians. Sure, Trump’s a load mouth, sure he’s rich, but the Americans have never minded rich men, it is politicians enriching themselves to which objection is taken; Trump’s riches mean he can’t be bought; if Hillary were a listed company she’d have a who board of directors running her.

Here in the UK, the new PM, Theresa May, came in talking of her sense of public duty and acknowledging that many people felt they were being left behind; these are good words, but they need to be followed by delivery. There is a palpable sense that the anger currently felt begins to threaten the system itself. The political system is not an end in itself, but it seems to have become one for the politicians and the lobbyists; unless it begins to fulfil the ends for which it exists – the public good  – the public may decide to end it – and if that happens, it won’t be pretty. We need to rediscover a sense of duty and morality in public life – we have gone on too long as though those were mere words – well words alone no longer suffice.

5 years on Neo

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The blogging world is, as Neo and I have often had occasion to comment, an odd one. Posts on which one has laboured hard go down poorly, ones where less perspiration has been expended, go down a bomb, and anything controversial will get comments. But inspiration sometimes flags, and when I look back to who was active then and now, one notes with some sadness that some good blogs have come and gone, and with pleasure, new ones arrive, and flourish. But I think 5 years in the blogosphere, not least for what is essentially a one-man (and occasionally his moll) blog, is an achievement worth noting and a milestone worth celebrating.

And what a five years! Back then ISIS was an ancient Egyptian goddess, Donald Trump a reality-TV host and property mogul, and ‘Brexit’ a word no one had heard of. There were hopes that after four years of Obama, the Republicans might get their act together and take back the White House – but they didn’t. Now there are hopes they will and stop Bill Clinton’s third terms by proxy; no one s holding their breath.

Across the world the conservative and Christian values this blog has always stood for continue to be under attack. Sometimes directly from Islamists, sometimes indirectly from pressure groups and lawyers in the West. Our politicians seem keener to pay homage to religious minorities than to our Christian heritage, and the shared culture which once underpinned our society is less and less shared. Relativism is all. If you say you are a woman you’re a woman, and the entire social media world will attack you with Twitterforks if you dare dissent. Freedom of speech is at a discount.

That’s where, for me, blogs like this and others play an important role. They are not afraid to challenge the dominant media narrative, nor are they afraid to tell it like it is. It is like the militias in colonial America – small battalions of citizens who will continue to arm themselves (with knowledge) to challenge the powers that be in the name of freedom. Freedom comes with the price of eternal vigilance. It is not free, neither is it easy, and a quiet life can be had on the teat of the State. But America was not founded on such values or by such people. It is a rough, tough and sometimes quarrelsome place, where clamant voices struggle against each other; it’s called freedom of speech. Increasingly we are trammelled, told we can’t say this, that, and especially the other – and then the media classes wonder why Trump gets votes; which part of ‘we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any longer?’ do they not get?

In the UK we have seen this robust Anglo-Saxon spirit reject the EU and the scare stories of the media and the establishment. People had had enough of being told what to do and what was good for them and how it was, not least by unelected legislators whom they could not throw out – so they threw out the bathwater (and the baby too perhaps) because that was the only thing they had a choice of doing: in or out, said the establishment, with many threats about what would happen if we voted ‘out’. Well, Neo could have told them it isn’t a good idea to threaten a stubborn people of Anglo-Saxon stock. Our favourite poet, Kipling, knew this and put it best in the words of the Norman baron to his son:

The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow – with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, ‘This isn’t fair dealing,’ my son, leave the Saxon alone.

And that is Neo’s creed. In the words of the great Duke, John Wayne:

“I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”

So – happy anniversary Neo – and we’re glad you’re here.

The politics of disaffection

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Satire is usually a form of controlled anger, and underlying my satirical post yesterday was something of that feeling. Here there seems little doubt that the vote to leave the EU was, in large part, a vote against the political establishment – even if it is going to take members of that establishment to negotiate our way out of the EU. A spasm of anger is fine, even cathartic, but it is not very constructive, and it seems clear that a large part of the Brexit vote wanted to give the politicians a good kicking. That’s a great way, not doubt, of expressing anger; but what next? When the red mist clears and the person you have hit is lying on the floor, what then? Perhaps it was their fault for provoking you? Perhaps they will be OK? Perhaps you shouldn’t have lashed out? But you did, and they are lying there – what now?

If that is the UK, then you have the same phenomenon in the USA. Mr Trump is a great lightning-rod for the disaffected. Quite how a billionaire businessman who has profited from globalisation and cheap labour gets to be the champion of the disaffected is, itself, an interesting topic for Pol Sci 101, but that is undoubtedly the case. Here, as in the US, there are many of us who, reading what Director Comey said, can’t join up the dots and understand why Mrs Clinton isn’t being indicted; we kind of think if she’s be someone else, say General Petraeus, she would have been. That’s the kind of thing which makes people disaffected – one law for them and one for us. That feeling lies behind the ‘black lives matter’ phenomenon; no point saying its is being utilised by activists, of course it is, but it is the fact they have something to agitate that should concern us all.

It occurs to me that to a large extent this is the fault of the politicians themselves. They have encouraged us to think they have the answer to all our ills, and some of us, at least, have fallen for that. Old-fashioned conservatism isn’t very popular or an easy sell. It says things we don’t want to hear such as ‘you are responsible for your own actions’, and ‘politics is simply a human activity engaged in by flawed humans, so don’t expect utopia’. Modern liberalism is so much more fun, with its uplifting talk about ‘hope’ and slogans such as ‘can we do it?’ (To which the only real answer is ‘probably not’). It gives you a great adrenaline rush, makes you feel good and even virtuous. Yes, we can do it, we can make people virtuous by legislation – we can force people to be free. What’s not to like if you are a Social Justice Warrior? What’s not to like is the coming down after the high. Reality is stubbornly resistant to liberal idealism. People are people, flawed, broken, messy, not easily managed, and prone to resentment, anger and disillusionment if they are promised lots of new toys and they don’t get them – a bit like kids really.

We want a Good Society, but as a society we can no longer agree on the morality of what ‘good’ might mean. When we are offered 70+ ‘gender identities’ on social media, and that most basic of consensuses – that we are male or female – is contested, it is little wonder that our politics lacks consensus. But who is going to be honest and say to us ‘look guys, there really isn’t too much we can do, but we’ll give it a go’, when the opposition is blathering on about ‘hope’ and a brave new world? No one, for obvious reasons. So, sadly, however disaffected we are, our own tendency to believe the rubbish the politicians are saying, contributes to the problem. Horrid thought though it is – what if we really do get the politicians we deserve?

The politics of chaos

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To think it was only a few months ago the British were shaking their heads sadly and wondering how on earth it had come about that America, the greatest country on earth, was facing a choice for President between a permatanned mogul with a comb over and a woman who couldn’t even sort her emails or recognise truth from fiction! How times change. Now, thanks to asking the voters a silly question, and them giving a silly answer, we’ve declined from the fifth to the sixth largest economy in  the world in two weeks, sterling is at par with a brass washer, and we are in political turmoil.

Of the leading Brexiteers, Nigel Farage has retired to spend more time in Europe (or something), Boris Johnson was knifed in the back by his friend Michael Gove, at the same time Gove managed to shoot himself in the head. It’s like the last scene in Hamlet, just about everyone is dead. That leaves only a woman no one had heard of a few weeks go, called Leadsom, who may or may not have been a prominent banker, but whose resume says she was, even if no one can remember her, and who seems to think that only those who are mothers have a real stake in the country. Oh, and she’s never been a Cabinet Minister. Obviously just the person to undertake the herculean task of disentangling us from the EU – well, at least if she gets it, she’ll be the one Brexiteer having to face the music. By ‘it’ I mean the premiership. Yes, thanks to the peculiarities of our political system here, the next Prime Minister will be chosen by about 140,000 members of one party – average age over 55. Perhaps they haven’t heard what most voters think of ex-bankers with dodgy resumes? Perhaps they are all bankers with dodgy resumes? Who knows?

Facing this ingenue in the lists is Theresa May, ‘a bloody difficult woman’ according to one of her former colleagues; well I warmed to her at that, I have to say, being one myself. But it appears not to be difficult to spot the difference between Mrs May and a ray of sunshine, and she appears to have to charism of a carrot. She also wanted to spy on our emails and failed to restrict immigration – oh, and she (sort of) campaigned for ‘remain’, so is clearly ideally placed to lead us in the opposite direction. I wish I was making it up – but you really couldn’t.

[And just before this was due to be published, we hear that Mrs Leadsom has had a rush of common sense, or realises how hopelessly ill-equipped she is, as she has pulled out of the race – goodness me – those of us with jobs have trouble keeping up!]

Meanwhile, in my bailiwick, Scotland, the UK Independence Party has given a mighty boost to breaking up the UK by allowing the Scottish Nationalists to bank on about yet another referendum on Independence – because, of course, there was one only just over a year ago and it didn’t give them the answer they want – but hey, referenda come and go – perhaps we should make them an annual event?

In the meantime, sensing that the Tory Party might be in meltdown, the Labour Party decided that instead of opposing it, they would oppose each other – might as well attack those you really hate. Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a Bernie Sanders tribute act, is disliked and distrusted by so many of his MPs he can’t find enough of them to nominate him if there is a challenge; but, being a goof socialist, he will sue his own party if they don’t let him stand again. His opponents, meanwhile, have spent two weeks dithering about whether to actually put up a candidate against him – and have finally done so. During this period more than 100,000 youngsters, most of them further to the left than Bernie Sanders, have joined the ‘Labour’ party to support the Bernie tribute act. File under ‘you couldn’t make it up’ – what’s that, we need a new filing cabinet?

See what I meant about changing times?

Tongued with fire

Little Gidding Church

Little Gidding Church

Well, it’s coming up on the start of summer (and it already feels like those sticky hot ones I remember (not fondly) from Indiana. It’s also become quite a busy time for both Jessica and me, and as sometimes happens, that can pull us bit off center. It has me at any rate. One of the things that helps me is to read Jess’ work. I was doing that last night, rather aimlessly, and I found this from last winter, and it helped me to stabilize, maybe it will you too. Neo

While Neo is recovering from whatever fell bacteria have felled him a bit this week, I said I’d do one for today to allow him more time to recover – but first, I am sure you will all join me in wishing him a speedy and full restoration to good health. [irrelevant this time, thankfully. Neo]

We’ve been doing a lot on politics this week, and much of it has been pretty gloomy in tone; that’s the thing about a conservative disposition, it means you don’t get to indulge in ‘happy think’ and delude yourself into confusing your wishes with reality. If we’re gloomy, it’s because there’s plenty about which to feel less than pleased. Partisans apart, I’m not seeing anyone over enthusiastic about the candidates for the Presidency. We’ve seen what has happened on the international stage when the World’s Sheriff decided he had better things to do, and that’s going to leave a legacy which may not be possible to clean up.

Those of us with religious faith are sometimes accused of going to our ‘imaginary friend’ for consolation, but that shows an incomprehension of what religion is about. Everyone of us takes on trust certain assumptions, every one of us tries to find a narrative that makes sense of this world. Science is only one mode by which we try to understand things, and it is not its province to answer the thing that puzzles us most – is there a purpose to our being here? If it is just to continue the gene pool, then whatever way we do that is the best life, and yet, in our era, we have tested to destruction the limits of hedonism  without finding in it a place where we can rest. Like St Augustine of Hippo, we too are restless; for the Christians among us we find rest in one place only – God.

That is easier experienced in transit than in permanency. In this fallen world our broken and marred selves interact in ways which might be designed at times to maximise pain as much as pleasure. We find it hard to hold on to the calm places. Across the last year I have spent a lot of time in those silences and found there a calmness that made me want to stay; but in me there is a restlessness which has made that impossible. But we can, perhaps, try to take those moments of transcendence with us into the wider world. My beloved TS Eliot caught something of that in Little Gidding here:

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.

Reason and will can take us only so far, and that is never far enough for our soul – kneeling where prayer is valid can take us further – if we have the courage, or desperation, to entrust ourselves to it. In the end, the things which politics can deal with matter, but there are more things in heaven and earth than are contained in their philosophies.

[Jessica has been far this spring from those quiet places she spoke of, and perhaps she will also take a bit of comfort from her words, she so often helps me so much, perhaps, my recollection of her words can help her a bit as well. Neo]

 

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