When you see the statues fall, you know the revolution has begun. And like so many revolutions, another sign that we are in the middle of one, is the silencing of critics.
A radio presenter in the Isle of Mann carelessly suggested “all lives mattered.” In any week from the day when electricity was discovered until poor George Floyd was pitilessly murdered, no one would have disagreed. But such is the speed of this present revolution, that Stu Peters was off the air, suspended within hours for asking if white privilege was as universal as his caller thought it was.
He’s not the only person to be asking questions of this revolution of thought. Trevor Philips, himself Black, and a member of the Labour party (by the skin of his teeth though that’s another story) has been challenging the presenting narrative. He doesn’t buy it.
“…these rows aren’t about equality at all. In reality they are a grim struggle for the right to describe the world without your view being queried, contested or contradicted.”
Most revolutions begin with attractive ideals. The French Revolution was a protest against privilege. Who can be against liberty, equality and fraternity? Well, except that fraternity to our reconditioned ears sounds intolerably sexist, and so might have to be recast as “person-to-person-solidarity-of-a-non-biologically-defined-floating-gender-affirmation-experience.” More of a mouthful, but much less oppressive.
But the French Revolution for all its wonderful ideals about redistributing power and privilege, ended up by killing 40,000 people and throwing another 300,000 in gaol. Revolutions fail because they can’t change human nature. This cultural revolution will fail ultimately for the same reason, though it may take a few more statues with it as it goes.
Three of the more serious problems with this latest revolutionary power grab are identity politics, collective guilt and the silencing of dissent.
Identity politics force you to look at people not as individuals, but as members of a very large group. Making people part of a collective is attractive if you want a neat grand narrative to make you argument sound attractive. After all, who can be against the slogan that ‘Black Lives matter.” But large groups are too clumsy to tell us much truth. Can you really coral all all non-whites under the collective umbrella of B.A.M.E? (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) doesn’t really tell much truth about who we are, what we do and how we relate to each other.
Pitching it as black v white keeps it simple. But as Priti Patel pointed out last week, if you are interested in privilege and opportunity how does that help work out what is going on when the educational attainment gap between Indians and Pakistanis is wider than between all black and whites?
Trying to keep track of advantage and disadvantage of privilege and victimhood is a complex business. The people who are performing worst of all in schools at the moment are poor white boys. So, do ‘White lives matter” when they are suffering at the bottom of the attainment heap?
Apparently not. Sir Bryan Thwaites, a wealthy 96 year old wanted to leave some money to establish scholarships for the badly performing, but clever white boys. No chance. White lives don’t matter. It was deemed to fall foul of the equalities legislation.
So one of the hidden problems here is identity politics of course. These boys can’t be judged or valued on their own merits. They are condemned simply by their association, their tribe and their colour. That is of course, for those who can see it both racist and collectivist. You might have thought we were all against racism? But apparently we are only allowed to be against certain forms of racism. Who knew?
Another hidden problem is that no one has learnt much history, so the victimisation narratives can be tweaked to bolster what lies behind this progressive cultural revolution.
Not many people know very much about slavery, and no doubt assume its main elements were white people enslaving black people. All slavery is diabolical. All slavery is the most atrocious repudiation of intrinsic human worth. But the popular focus on what white people did to black people in the Americas distorts the story.
Slavery has happened throughout history. In Africa, for the most part by blacks on blacks.
Europe’s most recent experience of slavery, in the last century, the brutal killing of 6 million people, enslaved by the Germans, was white on whites.
If you haven’t’ familiarised yourself with the exotic history of slavery, look at the Crimean-Nogai slave raids, which captured 3 million whites from 1450-1750. Check out the Ottoman slave trade in Europe. Our white ancestors were terrified by the raids of the Barbary pirates on the coastal towns of Europe.
The Muslim Turks (olive?/white?/shaded)were the real pro slavers in our recent history of course, helped by the fact that Islam sanctions slavery. It was because Christianity didn’t sanction it that white English Christians led by William Wilberforce, led the way to outlaw slavery on the international stage. Do Sir Bryan Thwaites’ poor white boys get any credit by association for that? You know the answer already.
The BLM narrative is one, but only one. It tells part but not enough of the truth. Black truth matters of course. But if you don’t want your truth filtered through a racist perspective while claiming to be anti-racist, then All Truth Matters. And worry about the statues. When statues are toppled, freedom of speech and thought usually wobble in their wake, and fall too.