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The Need for Roots by Simone Weil (Book Review)

Born in Paris on the 3rd February 1909, Simone Weil was the youngest of two children born to an intellectual and non-observant Jewish family. Stricken by appendicitis as an infant, Weil suffered from ill-health throughout her short life. Academically brilliant, intense and morally uncompromising, Weil intimidated and bemused those she encountered – her tutor, Emile Chartier, dubbed his otherworldly charge ‘the Martian’. Restless, and intent on understanding life outside of her natural, bourgeois, milieu, Weil spent time as a factory worker and fighting (briefly and ineffectually) for the anarchist CNT/FAI during the Spanish Civil War. Following a series of mystical experiences, Weil found herself drawn to the Catholic Church, though it is unknown whether she allowed herself to be baptised.

Exiled from her homeland during the Nazi occupation, Weil worked for the Free French in London, and there is reason to believe she had been accepted for training by the Special Operations Executive before ill-health intervened. In 1943, weakened by tuberculosis but refusing to eat more than was permitted to citizens of occupied France, Weil succumbed to cardiac failure in a Kentish sanitorium. Her resting place can be found in the Catholic section of Bybrook Cemetery, Ashford.

Weil’s writings have found enthusiasts as ideologically diverse as Albert Camus and T. S. Eliot. Her detractors range from Susan Sontag (for whom Weil was ‘fanatical… ridiculous…’) to her boss Charles de Gaulle, who derided her as ‘crazy’.

L’ENRACINEMENT

In 1942, the Free French invited Weil to submit her thoughts on the regeneration of France, post-liberation. Weil’s paper outlined her vision for the spiritual reinvigoration of her homeland, and is her most systemic treatise on political issues. Published posthumously as ‘L’Enracinement’ in 1949, the book was translated into English in 1952 with the title ‘The Need for Roots’. Originally published by Routledge, it appears in a new translation by Ros Schwartz, under the Penguin Classics imprint.

The Need for Roots is an eccentric and uneven work, too baggy and unfocused to offer a blueprint for political action. Like the best of Weil’s writing, its strength is in the originality of her thought – even where she is wrong Weil is wrong in interesting and original ways. Weil’s analyses, and her critique of the social cost of modernity – rooted in an organicist conception of society – will be of interest to the kind of conservatives who read The Mallard.

RACINEMENT AND DERACINEMENT

‘Roots’ and ‘rootedness’ – ‘racines’ and ‘racinement’ – enjoyed a vogue on the French right before Weil. Maurice Barrès, author of Les Deracines, outlined a republican vision of ‘la terre et les morts’ – the mystical bond shared by a people living on, and working, the land in which their ancestors enjoy their eternal rest.

Weil, ironically perhaps, understands roots in less mystical terms:

‘Human beings have roots by virtue of their real, active, and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape particular treasures of the past and particular expectations for the future.’

For Weil, roots arise organically among people thrown together by circumstance, and are multifaceted – anchoring the individual in, for example, a community, a nation, a professional milieu. Through these spontaneous bonds of language, culture and place the individual finds identity and meaning.

When roots are severed, the individual feels himself estranged, and is deprived of an opportunity to participate in the pursuit of a Good beyond himself. Enracinement provides the individual with meaning – imbuing his everyday relationships with eternal, even supernatural significance.

At a political level, roots give the individual ‘a sense of personal ownership’ of ‘public monuments… and the lavishness displayed in ceremonies’. The rites and rituals of civic religion orient the individual toward the Good, as his culture understands it. The individual witnesses a great ceremony of state – a coronation, or a military parade – and understands that the rite is just as much an expression of his identity as, for example, Sunday Mass at the village chapel. Through racinement, the individual understands himself to be a participant in his culture, and feels that he has an interest in the spiritual and cultural health of his community and nation.  

Deracinement, then, is a spiritual malady, an alienation from one’s culture and the conceptions of the Good that have shaped it. Uprootedness on a grand scale can be occasioned by revolution, military conquest or population displacement. It is interesting to speculate on what Weil would have made of the mass immigration that has transformed Europe in the post-war era.

ROOTS AND NATURAL ORDER

Empathy, for Weil, is the soul of patriotism. It is easier to feel empathy for people with whom one shares bonds of language, culture and place. It is from these bonds of trust and social solidarity that, in a healthy society, order arises.

For Weil roots are the basis of order. Order is the pre-eminent human need – the guarantor of all subordinate needs. In a healthy society, order flows from the bottom-up; a product of ‘compassion’ and trust. This naturally-arising order is distinct from the ‘top down’ constitutional politics of liberalism.

Freedom, like order, cannot be imposed upon a people, rather it must emerge from among them. This is perhaps Weil’s most important lesson for the contemporary right. No western libertarian cites Somalia and Haiti as an ideal for his society to follow, despite both countries’ longstanding traditions of limited (or at least, weak) central government. It is not sufficient to simply limit the reach of the state. Rather, certain social preconditions, principally a culture of mutual trust, must exist if a free, orderly society is to flourish.

Whereas man under liberal democracy understands his relationship with the state formally, in terms of ‘rights’, through ‘enracinement’ the individual understands the interrelatedness between his rights and the obligations that he owes his fellows:

‘A right is not effective on its own but solely in relation to the obligation to which it corresponds.’

LEFTISM: A POLITICS OF ROOTLESSNESS?

Liberalism, founded on a universalistic conception of human nature and the absolute sovereignty of the individual, is hostile to rootedness, and thus the organic ties of heritage, culture and place in which healthy identities are founded. And, as Weil observes, uprootedness has the dangerous quality of propagating itself.

Marxism, Weil suggests, is not merely driven by uprootedness, but seeks its universalisation – the reduction of everyone to the status of the proletarian. For Weil, uprootedness was exemplified by the industrial working class of her day; condemned to repetitive and physically exhausting labour, and forced to live in unlovable slums.

Industrialisation elevated the material standard of the common man, but did so at tremendous spiritual cost. The lot of the peasant was hard, but he at least enjoyed the consolations of meaningful labour and a life lived among natural beauty – often on land worked by his ancestors. The proletariat, by contrast, are inescapably aware that they are interchangeable cogs in an economic machine.

The strange revival of Marxist (or at least Marx-ish) politics in the post-Soviet era can be understood as a manifestation of alienation. It is not that Marxism offers a compelling alternative to the current order; rather, Marxism retains an enduring appeal to the uprooted. When people feel estranged from their culture, they desire its destruction. It is not enough for the Communist to triumph over the old order, he must destroy all vestiges of the past. Witness the mad vandalism of the Cultural Revolution, or, in our time, the toppling of statues by those who have been taught to consider western history as uniquely shameful.

In our era ‘deracinement’ manifests in many ways. Witness the proliferation of bizarre sexual subcultures; notably ‘trans’ and ‘non-binary’ identities; among educated left-leaning whites. Ersatz identities such as these provide a sense of belonging and an opportunity to pursue imagined ‘Goods’, in the form of liberation and ‘social justice’. But they thrive on angst and guilt – and propagate the dangerous idea that fulfilment is impossible without radical transformation of the self and society.
   
Contemporary uprootedness takes other, less dramatic forms: a tendency (found on both left and right) to confuse one’s personal and political identities, for example, or an exaggerated identification in the struggles of peoples very unlike one’s own. Alienated from their own political culture, Zoomers often fail to appreciate the cultural specificity of foreign issues – or, conversely, to map American racial politics onto their own (this writer recalls one especially pathetic incident in which demonstrators in London, protesting the homicide of George Floyd, an incident that occurred on another continent, chanting ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ at unarmed constables of the Metropolitan Police).

The European right, too, is tainted by the uprootedness of the modern world. Witness the awe in which post-war ‘conservatives’ have held America, a land of uprooted individuals, where history is shallow and order proceeds from the top down in the form of a Constitution and a Bill of Rights.

WE NEED ROOTS

Weil’s most important lesson for the conservative movement is that man has needs beyond the economic. She stands against an era in which:

‘money and the state have come to replace all other bonds of attachment.’

An authentically conservative politics should define itself against the reduction of people to mere economic units; and towns, regions, countries as mere places. We are the custodians of the institutions and traditions that we have inherited. The triumph of capitalism over feudalism has undoubtedly improved life in material terms; but capital, unchecked, uproots peoples from traditional ways of life, destroying communities and cultures. As Weil argues, the destruction of the past is ‘perhaps the greatest of all crimes’, for, once destroyed, the past can never truly be recovered.

The ills that Weil identified in her own age have grown more acute in the post-war era, thanks both to the moral revolution of the 1960s and the triumph of the market in the 1980s. It is a sad but inescapable fact that ‘conservative’ parties, today dominated by different flavours of free-market liberal, have played their role in accelerating this process of deracination.

Conservatism – authentic conservatism – offers a politics that understands men as more than the sum of their appetites and ambitions. Weil’s prescient vision of European revitalization deserves a new audience on the right. It is time for conservatism to rediscover its roots.


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Mania by Lionel Shriver (Book Review)

Lionel Shriver’s latest novel, Mania, imagines a world in which the concept of intelligence has become taboo. ‘Dumb’, ‘stupid’, ‘moronic’ and every other synonym that might adequately describe the mentally deficient have become unspeakable terms of offence, while IQ tests and entrance exams alike are outlawed on the grounds of elitism. Idiots are not a protected class, however, because the prevailing ideology posits that idiots simply don’t exist. In this egalitarian utopia, everyone is equally smart. To suggest anything to the contrary is to commit a hate crime punishable by professional ruin and social ostracism.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because Mania is a pointed parody of the socio-political logic of what Shriver, in a recent piece for UnHerd, described as the ‘collective crazes’ of the last decade: transgenderism, #MeToo, Covid lockdowns and Black Lives Matter. Her journalism has tackled each of these movements individually and collectively, but Mania is her first work of fiction to deal with the twin forces of political correctness and cancel culture head on. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that her recent novel, The Motion of the Body Through Space, featured as part of its subplot a diversity hire whose incompetence leads to the breakdown of the transport system in Hudson, New York – which landed Shriver in hot water during a promotional tour of the book. But critics will struggle to condemn Mania as offensive. For while the novel is implicitly critical of radical progressive politics, the Mental Parity movement is a squarely fictional creation. Even in the fragile political climate of 2024, the foolish remain fair game as an object of ridicule.

Mania’s characters are recognisable archetypes of any cowed and paranoid society. Plucky, witty and dangerously opinionated, Pearson Converse is one of Shriver’s most autobiographical protagonists, mirroring everything from the author’s overbearingly religious upbringing to the rebellious mentality it imprinted on her. Her defiance in the face of the Mental Parity movement makes Pearson a black sheep in polite society, but stems from a desire to protect her two eldest children, a pair of prodigies who in any other age would have a bright future lined up for them. It is the third child, Lucy, who, having grown up in an age in which Mental Parity has become the mainstream, constitutes an unlikely antagonist, blackmailing her mother and policing her language and behaviour. It is telling that Lucy’s ideological and cognitive equivalents throughout Mania are the teachers, politicians and television presenters, and that perhaps the only other thing they have in common is an unmerited power over those who dare to speak out.

But the real conflict that rages like a dynamo from Mania’s first pages to its dramatic conclusion is more nuanced, more complicated than a simple black-and-white battle between critical thinking Davids and knuckle-dragging Goliaths. Despite Pearson’s career as a university professor, the book focuses less on the shadowy cabal of academics pulling the strings of Mental Parity than on those who are complicit with the regime, or merely undecided. It is complacency that drives a wedge between Pearson and her comparatively apolitical husband, Wade, whom she accuses of ‘sit[ting] this whole thing out on the sidelines, watching, or declining to watch.’ Far more sinister is the character of Emory, Pearson’s lifelong pal, whose position on the whole thing is not neutral but ambiguous. What makes Emory particularly villainous is not that she is a believer, but that she is a non-believer, prepared to manipulate the burgeoning climate of paranoia for her own gain, advancing her career as a talkshow host by producing disingenuous op-eds on microaggressions or thought crimes and thereby embodying, by Pearson’s account, ‘the intelligent face of stupid’.

As Emory rides the coattails of this movement, Pearson’s own career – not to mention her family life and reputation – begins to spiral. Her first brush-in with the tyrannical power of Mental Parity comes when she assigns her literature class a novel that the self-anointed censors have exorcised from the Western canon. The scene is reminiscent of the opening of last year’s American Fiction, in which Monk, a black professor, writes on the class blackboard the name of a Flannery O’Connor story, only for a blue-haired white girl to object that she finds the title – ‘The Artificial Nigger’ – offensive. Monk is laid off from his job as a consequence. Pearson doesn’t quite lose her job for assigning Dostoevsky’s The Idiot to her class, but the stunt earns her the resentment of colleagues and students both, as well as a stern warning. What leads to her eventual dismissal is her later deployment of the word ‘retard’ during a tirade in class. Typically, the scene is filmed by every student in the class and uploaded to the internet. 

Pearson is not even safe within her own home, which she considers a sanctuary of normality – only for Lucy to report her to social services. As a result, Pearson is required to take a six-week Cerebral Acceptance and Semantic Sensitivity class, with the aim of weeding out elitist language from her vocabulary: 

Considering that ‘grasp’ could convey mastery some people lacked, we should instead ‘grip’ or ‘seize’ our coffee mugs. ‘Command’ could also mean an unjustifiable sense of intellectual dominion, so in a position of authority we should issue an ‘edict’ or ‘direction’. Admiring classifications such as ‘savvy’, ‘scholarly,’ and ‘erudite’ couldn’t help but imply the existence of benighted characters who exhibited none of these qualities, so if we were hell-bent on acclaiming colleagues, we should keep to wholesome, simplesorry, uncomplicatedcompliments such as ‘I like you’ or ‘That is good.’

If the attempt to jettison every contaminated word in the English language seems overkill, recall the institutional scramble only a couple of years ago, in which colleges across America issued ‘harmful language’ lists to students, singling out problematic obscenities such as ‘field’, ‘blackboard’, ‘straight’, ‘American’ and – you guessed it – ‘stupid’. Shriver herself conducted a highly entertaining takedown of this phenomenon for the Spectator. One gets the sense that this sterile dumbing down of the English language is what irks her the most, since the straitjacket of minimally offensive newspeak could not be further from the vibrancy and elasticity of the author’s own style. The unfortunate fact for her enemies is that Shriver is one of the most capable writers around. Her insights are profound and her prose is lucid, every sentence an immaculately crafted marvel of colloquial lyricism.

There is a disconcerting familiarity to the events of Mania, which echo some of the more maddening episodes of the last few years. From Sherlock to Columbo, films and TV shows which are seen to promote the notion of ‘cleverness’ are taken off air and removed from circulation. And a campaign to rename the city of Voltaire gains traction, since the views espoused by the author of Candide are no longer in step with those of its residents. 

In a conversational aside we learn that the rest of the world thinks the West has lost its marbles. It’s clear that Shriver has borrowed liberally from the events and controversies that have defined the zeitgeist, but Mental Parity is a creation all her own. Indeed, the titular mania is such a powerful force that it has the effect of sidelining all other social justice movements. Anders Breivik receives public sympathy after murdering 69 members of the Norwegian Workers’ Youth League for exhibiting ‘less than spectacular intelligence’. Not only is the concept of Islamophobia absent from political discourse, but Western society’s fascination with race itself has become blessedly passé – to President Obama’s detriment. ‘Nobody gives a crap anymore about his being a black president,’ Emory states, when the Mental Parity movement is still in its infancy. ‘He’s a know-it-all president. It’s death.’ His replacement is the ‘impressively unimpressive’ Joe Biden, acclaimed for his ‘delectably leaden’ speaking style. But when even the doddering ineptitude of a potentially demented president proves insufficient to satisfy voters, the Democrats find a new champion in the form of Donald Trump. Across the pond, meanwhile, the UK’s decision to leave the EU becomes a win for progressivism, given the tendency of many Remainers to demonise Brexiteers as stupid.

The good thing is that this imagined mania is so much worse – and therefore more entertaining – than any of the real manias currently afflicting the Western world. Thanks to the Mental Parity movement, food produced in the US is no longer safe to eat, nearly all fatalities in the armed forces are caused by friendly fire and a brain drain has left America stunted, handing China and Russia the keys to world domination. 

But while Mania is funny, razor-sharp and extremely readable, it’s also eerily realistic. For the seeds of Mental Parity may already have been sewn, and not just in the soil surrounding the R word. Universities are increasingly eschewing standardised examinations, while columnists wage war against the very idea of meritocracy. What’s more, in a further affront to the English language, last month it was announced that a new version of Scrabble was being released with simplified rules, in order to make the game ‘more accessible for anyone who finds word games intimidating’. If Lionel Shriver’s alternative history becomes the actual future, this fine novel will be the first for the chopping block. Read it while you still can.


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On Science and Conservatism: Is the Relationship Dead?

Why have conservatives have turned against science? This question is a fundamental mischaracterisation of the relationship between science and right-wing thinkers. As a young scientist and a conservative, I find myself straddling this so-called divide and in the unique position to offer analysis on the state of the relationship between the right-wing and science. It is true that today, with issues such as climate change and vaccine efficacy, right-wing criticisms of the scientific elite have overwhelmingly dominated the discourse on scientific distrust. But if one is to truly interrogate the disconnect between modern day conservatism and the scientific mainstream, you must also consider the converse; why has science turned against right-wing thought? Or perhaps more notably, how have left-wing idealogues used science against conservatives?

The left-wing bias of modern academia is well documented, with one recent study published by Nature revealing that only six percent of researchers self-identify as conservative and less than ten percent of academic political donations support conservative candidates. With this troubling trend of progressive overrepresentation in scientific circles, the left has used their advantage to co-opt and manipulate science for its own political ends. This threatens to undermine the very principles of intellectual freedom and academic integrity upon which scientific inquiry depends.

With the left having such a hold over modern science, the tendency on the right has, somewhat justifiably, been outright rejection of scientific thought and practice. This seems a self-defeating proposition. Sustainable prosperity will only be practically achievable if we look to make technological progress within our own borders. To do this we must address some major flaws which have become inherent to scientific thinking, causing both alienation of conservative thinkers and degeneration of the scientific practice.

Suppression of Dissent

Central to the ethos of scientific inquiry is the freedom to question the prevailing orthodoxy and challenge established thought. Yet, in recent years, the left has sought to suppress dissenting voices and enforce ideological conformity within the scientific community. This manifests itself in two ways, firstly through the development of a culture within academic institutions which is antithetical to conservative viewpoints and, perhaps more importantly, through political discrimination in grants and publication, prohibiting conservative viewpoints from being spread in scientific literature.

An often-understated consequence of the leftward shift in academia is the comprising impact on peer-review. Peer-review is the process which underpins science. Academics review the work of other researchers to assess the scientific validity and rigour of their experimentation and argument before the work can be published. Whilst a noble concept, it is easily victim to confirmation bias. If only six percent of academics identify as conservative, how likely is it that the handful of reviewers of a grant proposal or paper will be ideologically conservative or even supportive of controversial proposals? This fear is not merely the musings of a scorned conservative scientist but a reality backed up by research. Half of academics would mark down a right-wing grant application. Four in ten American academics admit they wouldn’t hire a Trump supporter. A third of British academics would not hire a Brexiter. Not only does this inhibit the volume of conservative scientific literature, but it restricts a conservative’s earning capacity from grants and promotion, and therefore their academic influence.  What this leads to is the self-censorship of conservative thinkers looking to progress their careers, thus creating a spiral of worsening conservative intolerance on campuses and in academia.

One striking example of this phenomenon is the case of postdoctoral researcher, Dr Noah Carl. Dr Carl graduated from the prestigious University of Oxford with a thesis titled ‘Cognitive ability and sociopolitical beliefs and attitudes’ and was subsequently awarded the Toby Jackman Newtown Research Fellowship at St Edmund’s College in Cambridge. For early-career researchers, such a postdoctoral fellowship is invaluable in gaining a foothold in the cut-throat academic industry. Yet Dr Carl was never able to assume his position as he was dismissed by St Edmund’s College for his alleged association with far-right figures. This so-called association involved attending a conference also attended by race researchers and publishing in a journal with a controversial editor. He advocated for free inquiry into how stifling debates around race can do harm and his research examined common stereotypes. Even a cursory assessment of this reasoning shows how Dr Carl was only guilty of challenging the left-wing orthodoxy. The University had no issue with his research when they appointed him, but guilt by association was sufficient to effectively end a young researcher’s career after left-wing student backlash.

Another case is that of esteemed Professor of Public Law at Macquarie University in Sydney, Andrew Fraser, who published a letter in 2005 in his local newspaper calling for restriction of African immigration, due to its effect on increasing crime rates. Macquarie University initially defended Fraser’s right to free speech, but after pressure from the local Sudanese community, Fraser was suspended, with the University citing how Fraser had affected the university’s ability to operate and offering a public apology to those who were offended. Again, absent from the response was any criticism of Fraser’s scientific rigour. Fraser has long been a proponent of the role of immigration in increasing Australian crime rates, the evidence for which remains strong to this day.

Regardless of your own views on these issues, its inarguable that both scholars faced vilification and professional repercussions for conducting research and providing comment which deviated from the left’s ideological agenda. The cancellation of scholars like Carl and Fraser serves as a chilling reminder of the dangers of ideological conformity in scientific discourse. By stifling dissent and enforcing orthodoxy, the left undermines the very foundation of scientific inquiry, to question and hypothesise, thus relegating it to a tool of political expediency rather than a genuine quest of understanding.

The Rise of Scientism

Perhaps the most insidious aspect of the left’s control over science is the rise of scientism,a quasi-religious belief in the infallibility of scientific authority. In the eyes of leftist ideologues, science has become not merely a tool for understanding the natural world, but an all-encompassing worldview that supplants religion and morality. There is no phrase I personally detest more than, ‘Trust the science.’ This phrase has become a mantra of progressive politicians, but it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of scientific practice. In trying to project science as objective truth, they are committing a major offence of scientific thought, presenting a theory as fact. The scientific method is built around making hypotheses and proving them wrong based on observation and evidence. Anyone that tells you science can prove truth is lying to you. It is fundamentally impossible to prove truth by using the scientific method, as more evidence can always be uncovered to refute any such assertion. In the leftist zeal to elevate science to the status of an objective truth, they conflate empirical evidence with ideological principles, compromising the integrity of the scientific process.

Science was never intended to replace religion or morality but rather to complement and enhance our understanding of the world. Renowned scientist Isaac Newton, for instance, integrated his Christian faith into his exploration of natural laws, aiming to inspire others to appreciate the beauty of divine creation.

“When I wrote my treatise about our system, I had an eye upon such principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a Deity; and nothing can rejoice me more than to find it useful for that purpose.”

– Isaac Newton

Modern scientists are increasingly unravelling new frontiers, from artificial intelligence to genetic modification, prompting profound ethical questions. But unfortunately, as science has progressed, secularism and scientism have gained traction in intellectual circles, causing the influence of religion on scientific discourse to wane. This trend has left a moral vacuum within the scientific community at a time when it is most needed. As we look to address the ethical questions of new scientific frontiers, the increasingly fervent belief in the infallibility of science among the elite is a dangerous precedent to set in our quest for knowledge. 

How do we fix it?

It was easy during the Covid-19 lockdowns to argue against science, as it was used to justify draconian government laws. But now this period has passed, such a trajectory is self-defeating. Countless right-wing figures have continued to prosecute against science, yet they largely remain excluded from serious political discourse. Clearly though, a total embrace of the scientific establishment ignores a long-standing hostility and prosecution of right-wing thought.

As we look to wrest control over our own countries back from the leftist elite, conservatives and nationalists ignore science at their own peril. Across the Anglosphere we see conservative parties stagnating. Young people are disengaging from politics. Idealogues are pursuing their agendas. If a truly right-wing presence is going to be felt in politics it must champion cultural revival, national progress, and self-reliance. By leveraging national resources and driving scientific and technological innovation, we can build a future focused economy to our own benefit. Importantly, science can be reclaimed from leftist control by promoting independent domestic research to replace our current bureaucratic institutions, prioritising the protection of conservative thought in academia and rebuilding confidence among the right-wing populace.

So, is the relationship between conservatives and science dead? From suppressing dissenting voices to the promotion of quasi-religious faith in scientific infallibility, the left’s agenda threatens to degenerate scientific practice and undermine its capacity to investigate the world around us. But this should not catalyse right wing rejection of science. Science may have turned its back on right-wing intellectuals, but in a constantly evolving world it would be counterproductive for conservatives to concede science to the Left. It’s only with the input of conservative thinkers that truly free scientific endeavour can help lead us away from regression and embrace a vision for right-wing progress.


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On Repression in Communist Hungary

The Hungarian People’s Republic (HPR), a communist puppet state which lasted between 1949 and 1989, is sometimes characterised as being propped up solely by Soviet military intervention. However, while Soviet intervention proved decisive during flashpoints such as the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the HPR’s existence was largely due to its intricate systems of internal repression.

In this article, we shall explore the HPR’s methods of social and political repression by looking at its three pillars: dismantling the Hungarian nationality, restrictions on speech, and political infiltration.

Dismantling the Hungarian Nationality

Nationalism directly contradicted Marxist-Leninist ideology, since loyalties to national identities were incompatible with global solidarity between workers. The HPR, like many Warsaw Pact nations, thus saw nationalism as an existential threat to its continued existence.

Rather than merely tackling the political manifestations of nationalism, the HPR sought to undermine the concept of a distinct Hungarian national and ethnic identity. By eroding the Hungarian identity, the HPR would eliminate any kinship ties that could challenge Marxist-Leninist universalism or be fed into nationalist political movements. Removing nationalistic feelings would also reduce domestic resistance to Soviet military and political interventions within the HPR during times of crisis.

The most important part of this strategy was the HPR’s project of educational “reforms”, which systematically undermined the historical basis of the Hungarian people. The regime rewrote school textbooks and university curricula to promote the idea of Hungary as being a ‘nation of migrants’ from its very outset. Rather than being founded in the 9th century by semi-nomadic ethnic Hungarians, this new history claimed Hungary was originally a ‘melting point’ of varied European, Eurasian, and Middle-Eastern peoples – one that was forcefully subjugated and “colonised” by a new elite that fabricated the Hungarian ethnicity.

The first Hungarian ruling dynasty, the Árpáds, was a particular target for HPR censors and “educationalists”, given its role in Hungarian ethnogenesis. As part of its efforts, the HPR claimed many historical figures were of foreign extraction: for example, HPR state media frequently portrayed King Saint Stephen (who reigned 1001 – 1038), as being an Ethiopian originally sent by his land’s Orthodox church.

Along with undermining the historicity of the Hungarian people and state, the HPR’s anti-Hungarian project also saw the state work to rapidly erode the presence of Hungarians across civil society. The HPR invited hundreds of thousands of migrants from the USSR and other Warsaw Pact members, initially justified on the grounds of replacing dead or missing Hungarians from WW2. Along with offering heavily subsidised social housing for these migrants, the HPR instituted quotas and incentives for these migrants across the economy – along with granting them preferential access to institutions like universities. Through quotas and subsidies, the HPR nurtured a non-Hungarian class in rapidly obtaining outsized influence across society and key institutions. Along with eroding the presence of native Hungarians in relevant institutions, these new arrivals were used by the HPR to justify its claims that Hungary was a “diverse melting pot” to the public.

Restrictions on Speech

It’s well-known that the HPR did not tolerate anti-communist or anti-state speech in public or private life. However, speech controls in the HPR expanded well beyond the remit of clamping down on challenges to the ruling party. Rather, restrictions on speech within the HPR largely were based on defending “Hungarian Values” – an undefined set of principles that roughly corresponded with support for egalitarianism, internationalism, and anti-nationalism.

The HPR was notoriously staunch in its defence of “Hungarian Values”, to the point that it would summarily arrest even senior functionaries for public utterances that were at tension with them. Decorated public careers could be brought to an end with even the vaguest nationalistic sentiments, with the courts fiercely prosecuting “racially aggravated public order offences”.

The HPR’s pursuit of “Hungarian Values” extended to the policing of private correspondence. Citizens were convicted, fined, and jailed for sending letters that included off-colour jokes about migrants or ethnic minorities. Suspected Christians were arrested on the spot for standing within a hundred metres of abortion clinics, under suspicion of silent prayer. Proto-nationalistic sentiments expressed in work canteens were reported to functionaries, who promptly forced workers to attend “diversity and equality training” – sessions which, in practice, required workers to explicitly announce their full commitment to “Hungarian Values” or face destitution.

Non-political newspapers and radio were often shut down based on non-conformity with “Hungarian Values”, via the HPR’s culture and propaganda ministry. Arts councils required productions to build endorsements of inclusivity, diversity, and other key state values into scripts from the outset. Even sports matches and their respective commentators were required to open and close games with pronouncements about the importance of “Hungarian Values”, with players and fans berated if their commitment was felt to be wanting.

Political Infiltration

So far, we have touched on how the HPR manipulated Hungarian society to preclude the existence of political opposition. However, the HPR also devoted considerable resources to defusing organised political opposition throughout its existence. The HPR’s secret police used whatever legal and extralegal means they had available to stop any serious political movement from gathering momentum.

The HPR did not simply “disappear” political dissidents on discovery. Instead, the HPR adopted a policy of “controlled opposition” via the infiltration of dissident political groups. This approach offered some significant benefits – the HPR could keep tabs on dissidents, and also draw out “extremists” who may have otherwise remained nonpolitical if there was a complete crackdown. Infiltration also ensured that dissident groups, no matter how large, directed their energies towards ineffectual and embarrassing ends that often served great propaganda value to the HPR.

For groups that were not sufficiently infiltrated but at risk of attracting popular support, the HPR employed a hands-off method to destroy them. One of the most notorious cases was that of the Hungarian National Party (HNP), a small nationalist group rapidly growing in popularity. The HPR destroyed the HNP by stealing a copy of its confidential membership list and “leaking” it to state media. Rather than the state having to arrest HNP activists, the movement simply imploded as most members found their employment abruptly terminated, and financial contributions ceased.

Conclusion

In this article, we have explored the three pillars of the HPR’s system of political and social repression.

  • How the state deliberately eroded the idea of Hungarian nationhood through mass migration and the rewriting of Hungarian history.
  • How an insidious concept of “Hungarian Values” was used to coerce speech to a degree impossible through brute force alone.
  • How the secret police engaged in widespread infiltration of opposition political movements, with economic and social ruin being a resort when infiltration was insufficient.

At this point, I must now make a confession: the above article doesn’t describe Hungary. At least, not entirely or without occasional and selective embellishment. It describes the Britain of 2024.


Photo Credit.

A Brief History of US Student Politics

‘Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?’

These chants outside of the White House haunted Lyndon B. Johnson throughout his presidency. He would sit in the Oval Office with his head in his hands as the chants wafted through the walls. When his son-in-law Charles Robb sent in a tape from Vietnam, Johnson buckled against the table and looked as though he was in tears. For the loud Southern Jackson, who took great pleasure in towering over and intimidating others, this seemed like quite a big deal. 

This is not about Johnson, however. This is about the students who protested him and the Vietnam War. This is about the students who protest now and any time.

An American Education

Harvard University was founded in 1636 and is classed by many as the oldest institute of higher education in the United States. Throughout history, the Ivy League colleges (Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth and Cornell) have been considered the most elite, though others have made quite the showing. Between them, the Ivy League colleges have educated fifteen US presidents. They’ve also educated many Supreme Court Justices, Governors and members of Congress.

Throughout early American history, the Ivy League and other elite colleges were almost exclusively for white, wealthy men. Colleges for women did exist, such as the female equivalent of the Ivies, the Seven Sisters, though they came far later. Colleges for African-Americans also came later, such as Howard and Tuskegee.

Cornell began to accept women in 1870, but it took until 1983 for all of them to admit women, with Columbia being the last.

Minority men were able to attend earlier and more frequently, with Yale being the last to accept black students in 1964.

Despite more diversity in terms of the student body, Ivy League colleges see students of the wealthy 1% overrepresented. One in six Ivy students have parents from the top 1%, and they are 34% more likely to be accepted than students with the same scores but from less wealthy backgrounds. The children of these parents are also more than twice as likely to attend elite universities- the Ivies, Stanford, MIT, Duke and Chicago.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Whilst protests and activism were not unknown prior, the 1960s saw an explosion in it.

The decade was one of great social change, perhaps the greatest since the 1860s. Firstly, there was more of a focus on youth. TV, radio and movies began to cater to teenagers. Bands like the wholesome Beach Boys and sassy Beatles saw teenage screaming along. As incomes expanded, college enrollment doubled between 1945 and 1960, doubling once again by 1970.

There was also less social and cultural hegemony than before, something that Richard Nixon and his Silent Majority sought to exploit. The Civil Rights movement was at an apex as students sat at segregated café counters and took integrated buses to register African-American voters in the Deep South. Second-wave feminism saw women demand access to birth control, abortion and equality in the workplace. As students moved away from their generally conservative homes, many became embroiled in a more progressive political atmosphere.

Perhaps most impactful in terms of lives was the Vietnam War. Action in the Asian nation had significantly escalated, particularly after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964.

Students in particular were opposed to the draft. College students could receive deferments, but they were in the target conscription demographic of being young and healthy and unmarried, though the marriage deferment ended in summer 1965. One of the most notable forms of protests saw students burning their draft cards.

They were also active in the protest movement as a whole. College campuses became hotbeds of political activity. Students also joined protests and demonstrations.

There were varied reasons as to why students in particular were opposed to the war. Some echoed the popular sentiment of many that it was war thousands of miles away that did not have anything to do with America. Others believed that American soldiers were killing innocent civilians. Some thought that the money would be better spent elsewhere or that war in general was wrong.

One college that became a centre of counterculture politics was UC Berkeley. The California university became a hub of activism and protests regarding Civil Rights, free speech and Vietnam.

Most of the decade saw passionate but peaceful protests in the area, but this changed. In April 1969, students at Berkeley set up an informal encampment in People’s Park, scuppering a plan to turn it into a public space. On the 15th May 1969, police arrived to turf the squatters out. This, combined with a nearby college protest, saw around 6,000 people turn out at the park. The police eventually opened fire, killing San Jose resident James Rector as he watched from the roof. Many others were injured; one man was blinded. California Governor Ronald Reagan called in the California National Guard.

There had been a notable protest at New York’s Columbia University a year before. Black student protestors had asked white protestors to protest separately, which they did, segregating it on racial lines. Some of the students occupied the administrative Hamilton Hall, holding Acting Dean Henry S. Coleman hostage.

In another protest that year, students at Morehouse in Atlanta held the board of trustees. One of those students was a young Samuel L. Jackson.

Sixties Assassinations

Adding to the students’ cynicism were the assassinations of four famous men, all of whom were generally admired by students.

The first was John F. Kennedy in November 1963. Kennedy had been a proponent of college education and had been a point of fascination for young people, mainly due to his relative youth compared to other politicians.

The second was Malcolm X, the firebrand minister for the Nation of Islam and advocate of civil rights. He was slain in February 1965.

The third was Martin Luther King Jr, the well-known minister who advocated for civil rights via peaceful means. He was killed in April 1968.

The fourth and final one was Robert Kennedy in June 1968. He had entered the Democratic race for president as an anti-war and liberal alternative to unpopular incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson.

Death At Kent State

One of the most tragic events of the student protest movement came in May 1970.

The Sixties was over and new president Richard Nixon had promised law and order. Meanwhile, America was expanding military operations in Vietnam by entering neighbouring Cambodia. This caused immediate controversy in the anti-war movement. Several hundred students at Kent State in Ohio were protesting this. Residents and police officers had been concerned about potential repercussions in the community, and the Ohio National Guard was called.

The National Guard attempted to disperse the crowd through tear gas and other means, but this failed. Protestors began to throw rocks and other projectiles at them before being herded away. Near a hill, some of the officers started to open fire. Four students- two men and two women- were killed. Nine others were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralysed.

Images of the event, including the famous picture of a horrified teenager standing over one of the bodies, caused even more riots and protests across the nation. 100,000 people marched on Washington a few days later, leading to Richard Nixon famously talking to protestors in the middle of the night at the Lincoln Memorial.

Post-Sixties

Whilst the chaos of the 1960s gave way to a relatively more peaceful 20th century, activism and protests still remained. College Democrats and College Republicans have both been popular hubs for the partisan-minded students. Politicians regularly attend speeches and rallies, especially when they’re supported by the students.

As a rule, colleges tend to be on the left of the spectrum, in both faculty and students. Exceptions to this tend to be religious institutions like Bob Jones and Liberty University.

Issues that have arisen include the Iraq War, climate change, school shootings, race, gender, sexual assault and rape and military engagement in general.

The Current Protests

On the 7th October 2023, Israel was surprised by an attack by Hamas. People were murdered, missiles were fired and civilians taken hostage. In response, Israel had gone all out on Hamas. As a result, there have been numerous deaths and injuries in Palestine. Many people have been made homeless or have needed to evacuate from their homes. Some have flooded into neighbouring Egypt. Neither Palestine or Israel are safe.

Sympathy for the deaths of innocents have been widespread, but there is a huge difference in opinion regarding Israel. Protests have happened in major cities across the world, with the pro-Palestine side occupying most of that space. London for example has seen weekly protests since October.

The issue has become a massive one in America. Historically, the American government has been a strong supporter of Israel. Joe Biden has given assistance to Israel, but seems to want incumbent Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu out. Internally, there is debate amongst the legislative branch. Pro-Palestine and anti-interventionist politicians have come together to stop aid to Israel. Others wish to help it more.

It’s also been dynamite for college campuses. Coast to coast, north to south, university students have been protesting non-stop since October. The Ivy League colleges have been the centre of the protests, but other elite and notable colleges such as Stanford, Berkeley, Northeastern, NYU, Ohio State, and Emerson have seen student activism.

Students have been calling for an immediate ceasefire in the area. Regarding their own colleges, they ask for the institutions to break all ties to Israel, especially regarding financial gifts.

The protests themselves have been controversial. The shouting of ‘from the river to the sea’ is seen as a call to action against Jews, as well as the calling of a global intifada. Flickers of anti-semitism have allegedly been seen in these protests, despite the bulk of participants proclaiming they oppose Zionism, not Jews. Some Jewish students have participated in the protests, whilst others feel unsafe. Classes have been called off and students have been forced to study online.

Encampments have been put up on several campuses. Some have been cleared by police whilst others remain. These encampments are made up of tents, donated food and other communal activities, all of which are subject to rules. Whilst the protests remain mainly about Israel and Palestine, they tend to bend towards anti-capitalism and progressive ideology.

New York’s Columbia University has been the establishment most in the news. On the 17th April, a number of Columbia students started an encampment. Whilst the encampment was torn down by police the next day, it was rebuilt and protests continue. Students report difficulty getting to class. Arrests and suspensions have also been made.

Student Kyhmani James became the subject of media attention following comments regarding the murder of Zionists. He filmed a video of himself talking to the administration in an attempt to get his views across. Unfortunately for Mr. James, he has been kicked out of Columbia.

The Response

America’s 1st Amendment is very strict on the freedom of speech and assembly. That being said, law enforcement and university officials are more than a little tired of it. Students have been arrested, suspended and even expelled. Three college presidents have sat before Congress- Mary Magill of UPenn, Sally Kornbluth of MIT and Claudia Gay of Harvard. Magill resigned in December 2023, and Gay followed in January 2024 after a plagiarism scandal.

Some presidents have been tough. The University of Florida sent out a very clear letter to protestors telling them which behaviour was appropriate and what would get them kicked out. Florida State turned on the sprinklers. Northeastern University got the police to clear the encampment, saying that the use of ‘Kill the Jews’ crossed the line. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis promised to expel any protestors who joined mobs. Even Columbia, the home of the most infamous protests, allowed the police in to tear down the encampment.

It doesn’t look like this is going to go away anytime soon. What some call a win for free speech is what others call going ‘too far’. As parents look away from the Ivy League to less elite but still reputable universities, one wonders if it’s a case of rich kids with too much time on their hands and no problems of their own. Is it that or a genuine example of solidarity with Palestine? Whatever the case, America’s campuses remain on metaphorical fire.


Photo Credit.

The War on Pubs, Part I: Taylor’s Conquest

The war on British pubs is as old as the British pub itself, so much so it can barely be classed as an emerging tendency. The government’s dislike of the pub is a fact of life and measures to undermine its prosperity and role in society are widely disliked but are rarely contextualised in political commentary beyond the Covid pandemic, relatively recent demographic changes, and the last fourteen years of government.

After the end of WW2, Britain seemed to be largely self-sufficient when it came to producing ingredients for beer, something it hadn’t achieved for the best part of a century. Protectionist measures enabled near-autarkic levels of barley production whilst wartime reserves of hops were sold for cheap on the domestic market. Of course, post-war economic pressures made investments more necessary and demanding, whilst imports (especially from Denmark, the Netherlands, and Ireland) were set to become more frequent. Nevertheless, an end to rationing, combined with the implementation of tax cuts in the mid-to-late 50s, one of the few helping hands to pubs since the birth of Modern Britain, which contribute to an increase in beer production and consumption. All things being far from perfect, Britain’s pubs could’ve expected much worse coming out of the most destructive war in history.

Indeed, Britain’s flourishing post-war beer market hadn’t escaped the notice of Edward Plunket Taylor. Famously a breeder of racehorses, coming to be recognised as a major force behind the development of the Canadian horse-racing industry, the tycoon’s family also owned Brading, a brewery in Ottawa founded in 1867. Using the loosely coinciding repeals of prohibition throughout various parts of the US and Canada as a springboard, Taylor merged Brading with another Canadian brewery to form Canadian Breweries in 1930. In pursuit of sheer scale, Taylor consolidated several smaller plants into a handful of larger plants and standardised his line of products, whittling his number of brands down from roughly 100 to six. By 1950, Canadian Breweries controlled 50% of Ontario’s beer market. Having subdued most competition at home, Taylor was well-positioned to turn his focus to foreign conquest.

Being well over 200 years old at this point in history, criticisms of the tie system weren’t new, and they weren’t to vanish in the coming decades, but it did provide an initial barrier to Taylor’s imperial aspirations. As pubs could only sell beer produced by the brewery they were tied to, Taylor realised he’d have to infiltrate Britain’s breweries before he could infiltrate its beer market. Aiming to acquire a 25% stake in every publicly traded brewery in Britain, Taylor sought to gain a foothold in the same way he had come to dominate the Canadian market: through the purchase and merging of smaller and unprofitable breweries. In 1967, Taylor merged Bass Brewery and Charrington United to form Bass Charrington, then the largest brewery in Britain with 19% of the beer market.

Taylor’s aspirations and manifesting success sparked a merging frenzy not seen since the relaxation of beerhouse regulations in the late 19th century and the emergent ‘Beerage’, leading to the rise of ‘The Big Six’, Britain’s six largest brewing companies: Allied Breweries, Bass Charrington, Courage, Scottish and Newcastle, Watney Mann (also known as Grand Metropolitan), and Whitbread.

Whilst Taylor had managed to upend Britain’s brewing market, the tie system continued to incentivise against territorial trespassing between brewers. As such, the mergers occurred largely (albeit far from exclusively) along geographic lines. Allied Breweries and Bass Charrington were more concentrated in the Midlands and the North, both having central breweries in Burton-upon-Trent. Courage originated in Southwark with properties across the South, whilst Watney Mann originated in London with clusters in and around the capital. Fittingly, Scottish and Newcastle were based in Scotland and the Northeast, especially Edinburgh and Newcastle, whilst Whitbread originated in central London, maintaining a sizeable presence in the West End, stretching off into the southwest and much of Wales.

Counterbalancing the instinctual desire to compare The Big Six to feudal barons, their pubs were more clustered than rigidly delineated. Indeed, each brewer was a national entity and desired to expand their control of the overall market. Still, it was the emergence of these large-scale brewers which sparked concerns among small business of a cartelised industry, one in which independent brewers were fighting for an increasingly austere slice of the market.

Initial attempts to curtail the growth of these large brewers lacked momentum. Both with the government and most of the public considering the size of these brewers to be a non-issue. At the very least, it was ‘small beer’ compared to other matters which directly affected pubs and breweries in more gruesome ways. A survey carried out by the Consumers Association showed only 1% of consumers factored in beer prices when it came down to choosing a pub. Simply put, pubs were (and remain to be) more than economic hubs of rational decision-making, but markers of communal identity which provide a sense of place and evoke a sense of loyalty; something to support in a period of inept and lacklustre political leadership.

As for pub owners, many valued The Big Six (and the tie system more generally) as a way of ensuring a steady supply of beer, business, and a livelihood. Far from a barrier to entry, it was seen as the exact opposite, acting as an extension of the quasi-paternalist system which had existed prior to Taylor’s landing on English shores.

Nevertheless, the fears of independent brewers were far from unfounded. By the 1970s, roughly 80% of Britain’s beer supply was controlled by The Big Six, along with roughly 75% of brewer-owned retail, and 85% of ‘loan ties’ – arrangements in which pubs that aren’t directly owned by a Big Six brewer exclusively stock their products and other supplies for discounts and loans. By 1989, the top five best-selling beers had 20% of the total market whilst the top ten had a comfortable 30%.

Also, it became increasingly clear to many pubs that large, cut-throat corporations were not spiritual successors to small, local, historically rooted breweries. The sense of mutual dependency which existed between pubs and the latter was practically non-existent between pubs and the former. Needless to say, an individual pub had more to lose from being untied than any one of The Big Six.

Inflated beer prices were a direct consequence of this arrangement. Between 1979 and 1989, beer prices increased by 15% above the retails’ price index and the tax cuts of the immediate post-war period had long been offset by some of the highest beer duties in Europe. Even if the price of beer was comparatively less important to consumers than the social element of pubs, the financial pressure on customers to buy beer from their local’s tied brewer was far from ideal in a period of stagnating wages and rising inflation.

Pubs which weren’t tied to The Big Six were also routinely shafted by predatory pricing, in which the major brewers would temporarily lower their prices to undercut and destroy independent establishments before increasing their prices to consolidate their financial dominance in particular area. This practice was especially harmful to rural pubs, which were more likely to be independent and less economically secure than urban pubs, courtesy of a continuing trend of rural depopulation.

However, whilst the cost of beer wasn’t a pivotal concern, the wavering quality of beer was a growing source of frustration for pubgoers. Practically impervious to market forces, The Big Six were able to push less-than-appealing products onto the consumer through advertising backed by a steady and plentiful flow of cash. Courtesy of organisations like CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), Watney’s Red Barrel became shorthand for the extortionately priced yet wholly unremarkable (if not always terrible) concoctions one could expect from companies perceived as too big to care about the quality of their products.

Overall, the relationship between breweries and pubs was less comparable to ‘aristocratic’ noblesse oblige and more akin to the terror of mobsters and strongmen, whose promise of security wore thin as they threatened pub owners with financial ruin should they defy their heavy-handed demands. In Hobbesian terms, they were demanding obedience from people they were increasingly disinterested in protecting. This state of affairs created a seismic reaction which would change the trajectory of Britain’s pub and brewing industry, albeit not necessarily for the better; a reaction not from the market, but from the state.


Photo Credit.

Kino

Is it Possible to Live Without a Computer of Any Kind?

This article was originally published on 19th May 2021.

I am absolutely sick to death of computers. The blue light of a screen wakes me up in the morning, I stare at another computer on my desk for hours every day, I keep one in my pocket all the time and that familiar too-bright glow is the last thing I see before I close my eyes at night. Lockdown undoubtedly made the problem much, much worse. Last year, a nasty thought occurred to me: it might be the case that the majority of my memories for several months were synthetic. Most of the sights and sounds I’d experienced for a long time had been simulated – audio resonating out of a tinny phone speaker or video beamed into my eyes by a screen. Obviously I knew that my conscious brain could tell the difference between media and real life, but I began to wonder whether I could be so sure about my subconscious. In short, I began to suspect that I was going insane.

So, I asked myself if it was possible to live in the modern world without a computer of any kind – no smartphone, no laptop, and no TV (which I’m sure has a computer in it somewhere). Of course, it’s possible to survive without a computer, provided that you have an income independent of one, but that wasn’t really the question. The question was whether it’s possible to live a full life in a developed country without one.

Right away, upon getting rid of my computers, my social life ground to a halt. Unable to go to the pub or a club, my phone allowed me to feel like I was still at least on the periphery of my friends lives while they were all miles away. This was hellish, but I realised that it was the real state of my life – my phone acted as a pacifier and my friendships were holograms. No longer built on the foundation of experiences shared on a regular basis, social media was a way for me to freeze-dry my friendships – preserve them so that they could be revived at a later date. With lockdown over though, this becomes less necessary. They can be reheated and my social life can be taken off digital life support. I would lose contact with some people but, as I said, these would only be those friendships kept perpetually in suspended animation.

These days large parts of education, too, take place online. It’s not uncommon now in universities, colleges and secondary schools for work and timetables to be found online or for information to be sent to pupils via internal email networks. Remote education during lockdown was no doubt made easier by the considerable infrastructure already in place. 

Then there’s the question of music. No computers would mean a life lived in serene quiet; travelling and working without background sound to hum or tap one’s foot to. An inconvenience, maybe, but perhaps not altogether a negative one. Sir Roger Scruton spoke about the intrusion of mass-produced music into everyday life. Computer-produced tunes are played at a low level in shopping centres and restaurants, replacing the ambient hum and chatter of human life with banal pop music. Scruton believed that the proper role of music was to exalt life – to enhance and make clear our most heartfelt emotions. Music today, though, is designed to distract from the dullness of everyday life or paper over awkward silences at social events. He went so far as to say that pop consumption had an effect on the musical ear comparable to that of pornography on sex.

The largest barrier, however, is the use of the internet for work. Many companies use online services to organise things like shift rotas, pay and holidays and the entire professional world made the switch to email decades ago. How feasible is it to opt out of this? Short of becoming extremely skilled at something for which there is both very little supply and very high demand, and then working for a band of eccentrics willing to accommodate my niche lifestyle, I think it would be more or less impossible. Losing the computer would mean kissing the possibility of a career goodbye. 

Lockdown has also sped up the erosion of physical infrastructure required to live life offline as well as accelerated our transformation into a ‘cashless society’. On average, 50 bank branches have closed every month since January 2015, with over 1000 branch closures across the country in the last year alone. It also seems to have wiped away the last remaining businesses that didn’t accept card payments. The high street, already kicking against the current for years, is presently being kept alive by Rishi Sunak’s magic money tree while Amazon records its best quarter for profits ever. It’s no mystery to anyone which way history will go. 

I’m lucky that my parents were always instinctively suspicious of ‘screens’. I didn’t get a smartphone until a good way into secondary school and I got my first – and only – games console at the age of 16. I keenly remember getting a laptop for my birthday. I think my parents gave it to me in the hopes that I would become some kind of computing or coding genius – instead, I just played a lot of Sid Meiers Civilisation III. My dad would remind me that nothing on my computer was real, but that didn’t stop me getting addicted to games. If it wasn’t for my parents’ strong interventions I would likely have developed a serious problem – sucked into the matrix and doomed to spend my youth in my bedroom with the blinds down.

All year this year I have wrestled with my media addiction but been unable to throw it off. I told my friends that I was taking a break from social media, I deactivated my Twitter account, I physically hid my phone from myself under my bed, and yet here I am, writing this on my laptop for an online publication. When I got rid of my phone I turned to my computer to fill the time. When I realised that the computer was no better I tore myself from it too… and spent more time watching TV. I tried reading – and made some progress – but the allure of instant reward always pulled me back.

I’m not a completely helpless creature, though. On several occasions I cast my digital shackles into the pit, only to find that I needed internet access for business that was more important than my luddite hissy-fit. Once I opened the computer up for business, it was only a matter of time before I would be guiltily watching Netflix and checking my phone again. It’s too easy – I know all the shortcuts. I can be on my favourite time-absorbing website at any time in three or four keystrokes. Besides, getting rid of my devices meant losing contact with my friends (with whom contact was thin on the ground already). Unplugging meant really facing the horrific isolation of lockdown without dummy entertainment devices to distract me. I lasted a month, once. So determined was I to live in the 17th century that I went a good few weeks navigating my house and reading late at night by candlelight rather than turning on those hated LEDs.

And yet, the digital world is tightening around us all the time. Year on year, relics of our past are replaced with internet-enabled gadgets connected to a worldwide spider web of content that has us wrapped up like flies. Whenever I’ve mentioned this I’ve been met with derision and scorn and told to live my life in the woods. I don’t want to live alone in the woods – I want to live a happy and full life; the kind of life that everyone lived just fine until about the ’90s. I’m sick of the whirr and whine of my laptop, of my nerves being raw from overuse, of always keeping one ear open for a ‘ping ’or a ‘pop’ from my phone, and of the days lost mindlessly flicking from one app to the other. Computers have drastically changed the rhythm of life itself. Things used to take certain amounts of time and so they used to take place at certain hours of the day. They were impacted by things like distance and the weather. Now, so much can occur instantaneously irrespective of time or distance and independent from the physical world entirely. Put simply, less and less of life today takes place in real life. 

The world of computers is all I’ve ever known and yet I find myself desperately clawing at the walls for a way out. It’s crazy to think that something so complex and expensive – a marvel of human engineering – can become so necessary in just a few decades. If I can’t get rid of my computers I’ll have to learn to diminish their roles in my life as best I can. This is easier said than done, though; as the digital revolution marches on and more and more of life is moved online, the digital demons I am struggling to keep at arm’s length grow bigger and hungrier.

I’m under no illusions that it’s possible to turn back the tide. Unfortunately the digital revolution, like the industrial and agricultural revolutions before it, will trade individual quality of life for collective power. As agricultural societies swallowed up hunter gatherers one by one before themselves being crushed by industrial societies, so those who would cling to an analogue way of life will find themselves overmatched, outcompeted and overwhelmed. Regardless, I will continue with my desperate, rearguard fight against history the same way the English romantics struggled against industrialisation. Hopeless my cause is, yes, but it’s beautiful all the same.


Photo Credit.

What I’ve Learnt as a Revolutionary Communist

This article was originally published in November 2021.

I have a confession to make. 

A few months ago I was made an official member of the Revolutionary Communist Group after being involved as a participating supporter for about a month and a half. The RCG are, in their own words, Marxist-Leninist, pro-Cuba, pro-Palestine, internationalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist and anti-capitalist. They believe that capitalism is causing climate change, which they refer to as the ‘climate crisis’, and that socialism/communism is the only way to avert catastrophe.

They believe that the twin forces of imperialism and capitalism work today, and have been working for hundreds of years, to enrich the Western capitalist class by exploiting the labour of the proletariat and plundering the resources of the ‘Global South’. They publish a bi-monthly newspaper entitled ‘Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!’ which acts as an ideological core around which centre most of the groups discussions.

After two months of twice-weekly zoom calls, leafleting in front of busy train stations and protesting in front of embassies, I was finally invited to become an official member. I rendezvous-ed with two comrades before being taken to a door which was hidden down a dark alleyway and protected by a large iron gate – certainly a fitting location for a revolutionary HQ. Inside was an office and a small library stocked with all manners of communist, socialist and anti-imperialist literature including everything from Chavs by Owen Jones to The Labour Party – A Party Fit For Imperialism by Robert Clough, the group’s leader. 

I was presented with a copy of their constitution, a document about security and a third document about sexual harassment (the RCG has had issues with members’ behaviour in the past). It was here, discussing these documents for almost three hours, that I learnt most of what I know now about the RCG as an organisation and the ecosystem it inhabits. 

The RCG is about 150-200 members strong with branches across the country – three in London, one in Liverpool, Manchester, Norwich, Glasgow and Edinburgh and possibly more. In terms of organisation and decision-making they use what they call ‘democratic centralism’ – a sprawling mess of committees made up of delegates that appoint other committees that all meet anywhere between once every two weeks and once every two years. They’re also remarkably well funded, despite the fact that their newspaper sells for just 50p. They employ staff full time and rent ‘offices’ up and down the country. They draw income from fundraising events, members dues, newspaper and book sales and donations (both large and small).

Officially, the RCG is against the sectarianism that famously ails the Left. However, one zoom call I was in was dedicated to lambasting the Socialist Workers Party who, I soon learnt, were dirty, menshevik, reactionary Trots. We referred to them as part of the ‘opportunist Left’ who routinely side with the imperialists. 

The RCG doesn’t generally maintain good relations with many other major leftist groups. Central to RCG politics is the idea of a ‘labour [small L] aristocracy’ – a core of the working class who have managed to improve their material conditions just slightly and so work against the interests of the wider working class, suppressing real revolutionary activity in order to maintain their cushy positions. The RCG sees the Trade Union movement as the bastion of the labour aristocracy. They see the Labour party also as their greatest enemy – ‘the single greatest barrier to socialism in Britain’.

The RCG takes issue with the SWP specifically over their attitude to Cuba. They believe that most Trotskyists are too critical of socialist revolutions that have occurred in the past and so are not real communists – after all, no revolution will be perfect. The RCG’s issue with the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) is that they resent how the CPGB claims to be the main organisation for communism in this country and uses its coziness with the trade unions as a signifier of legitimacy. However, the RCG believes that this makes the CPGB not much more than an extension of the Labour party, which it despises. 

The CPGB-ML (Communist Party of Great Britain – Marxist-Leninist), on the other hand, are much closer politically to the RCG. They also share the same view on the Labour party. However, the CPGB-ML has recently taken a loud anti-trans position and so the RCG wants nothing to do with them.

Socialist Appeal are a group that has organised with the RCG in London before but the two do not get along due to, once again, the former’s (until recent) support for the Labour party every election. The RCG also shares views with Extinction Rebellion but XR now no longer wants anything to do with the RCG because of the RCG’s insistence on selling its communist newspaper at every event its members attend. The RCG insisting on trying to recruit members at every event it attends, including events co-organised with other groups, is a major source of friction and one of the reasons nobody wants to organise with them. It’s also one of the reasons why the RCG has stopped organising with LAFA – the London AntiFascist Assembly. 

LAFA, I was told, are a chaotic bunch. They staunchly oppose all forms of hierarchy and make decisions on a ‘horizontalist’ basis. In true anarchist fashion, there are no official leaders or ranks at all in LAFA and decisions are made sort of by whoever takes the initiative. Unfortunately this means that those who become unofficial leaders in the group are accountable to absolutely no-one because they are not technically responsible for anything, and naturally issues arise from this quasi-primitivist state of affairs. Ironically, this makes the London AntiFascist Assembly kind of based.

Interestingly, one organisation with which the RCG has never had any problems is Black Lives Matter. The RCG and Socialist Appeal were (apparently) the only two groups out on the streets in solidarity with BLM last summer – BLM even allowed RCG members to speak at their events. The RCG enjoyed quite a close and amicable relationship with BLM right up until BLM decided at the end of last summer to effectively cease all activity, with the reason given to the RCG being just that ‘the summer has ended’. Presumably, the bulk of BLM’s activist base either had to go back to school or just got bored. 

Although the RCG strictly prohibits any illegal activity at any of its protests, one clause of the constitution is ‘a revolution clause’ requiring members to leave their jobs and move house at the discretion of the RCG. I was told this clause has never been invoked and isn’t expected to be invoked for decades at least but is there in case a genuine communist uprising were to take place somewhere in the country and RCG leadership decided that it needed members to move into the area to help. The RCG is intent on staying firmly on the right side of the law for the foreseeable future – supposedly until class consciousness is raised to such a level that the time for revolution arrives. Whether or not history will pan out the way they think it will, only time will tell.  

Perhaps most curious was the group’s confused stance on lockdowns. They are fiercely pro-lockdown and pro-mask, but also highly critical of the government’s approach for reasons that are quite vague. Why a communist organisation would want to place unprecedented power in the hands of a government – a Tory government no less – that it thinks operates as the right arm of global capital is beyond me. When I brought this up, a lone voice of dissent in my branch, I was told I had made a ‘valid point’ and that the group needed to discuss the matter further, but that was it. The only explanation I could arrive at was that unfortunately the RCG, and I think the Left generally, are deep in denial about being anti-establishment.

The RCG’s modus operandi is the weekly stall: three or four communists will take a table and a megaphone to a busy location and try to hand out leaflets and sell copies of the FRFI newspaper. The idea was that people whose values loosely align with those of the groups could be contacted and organised by way of these stalls. The law of large numbers means that these stalls are curiously successful – one two-hour stall at the weekend can sell a dozen newspapers and enlist a handful of people to be contacted by the group at a later date. The process of collecting people and funnelling them down the contact-member pipeline is a slow one with a low success rate, but they’re relentless.

Interestingly though, I believe their decades-old activist tradition is actually one of their biggest weaknesses. Ironically, so-called progressives are stuck in the past. The RCG has a very minimal online footprint – it uses its profiles on twitter and Instagram only to post dates for upcoming events. The RCG have so much faith in their traditional method of raising ‘class consciousness’ (translation: spreading communism) that they’re losing the internet arms race and thus their grip on young people – their traditional base. The fact that the group has a large proportion of older members might have something to do with it.

However, Leftists are good at street activism – they’ve been doing it for decades. Leftist activist groups have ingrained in their traditions social technology – sets of practices, behaviours and attitudes – that have developed over time and that their opponents would do well to familiarise themselves with, like looking at the homework of a friend (or in this case, an adversary).

The RCG believes that it is one of very few, maybe even the only, Leftist group in Britain today committed to maintaining a substantial street presence. One of the conditions for membership, after all, is promising to attend at least one street protest a week. The RCG no doubt take their activism seriously, with a comrade even describing the group to me as being made up of ‘professional revolutionaries’. They believe that they are growing and will continue to grow in strength, propelled by financial and then ecological crises. They are very excited for the collapse of the Labour party, which they believe is all-but imminent, because they think it will cause swathes of the Left to lose faith in a parliamentary means of achieving socialism and take to the streets, where the RCG will be waiting for them.

My time as a revolutionary communist has been challenging but what I’ve learned is no doubt valuable. I strongly encourage others to do as I have, if only just for a few weeks or so. Join your local leftist organisation – pick a sect, any sect! Expand your knowledge, see a different perspective and gain skills you might not gain anywhere else. Speak to people with a completely different viewpoint from yours and learn how they think, you’ll be a slightly better and more knowledgeable person for it.

Quote: Leftists are good at street activism. They have ingrained in their traditions social technology that have developed over time and that their opponents should familiarise themselves with.


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Britain’s Fifth Column

A fifth column is “a group within a country at war who are sympathetic to or working for its enemies.”

We have a problem that is acknowledged but gets little to no serious attention in the official political or media spheres; the growing Islamic base that has been imported into this country. Given the above definition, it might seem absurd to imply that these people are a fifth column, seeing as we don’t appear to be directly at war, but we are. I would not call this a cold war as there are many thousands of victims of its adherents living among us in Britain currently. To do so would be to diminish their experience, something our traitorous state has done more than enough of.

Islam is its own self-contained religion and civilisational structure. By allowing this population to grow, we are fostering an ideology that will only seek to grow and supplant our society because that is what their god demands. Islam has been allowed to run parallel to our society by our cowardly state permitting Sharia courts, turning a blind eye to polygamous marriages, and generally leaving these guests to their own devices as they overtake British cities. While deplorable and deeply distressing, this has so far been contained, not so much any more. The Islamic community is breaking out, it’s establishing a significant voting bloc and this heralds a dark omen for things to come. In a great twist of irony, it seems Labour will be the first to fall foul of this new political development.

Contrary to their minority position, the Islamic community in Britain has a relatively tight grasp on small businesses in corner shops, barbers, hot food takeaways, off-licences, and petrol stations. They’ve also got an increasingly large share in drug dealing, likely facilitated by these interconnect, all hours, businesses, where cash is king and electronic fraud is missed. HMRC doesn’t have the resources to deal with such matters effectively, often fearing accusations of bigotry and being threatened with violence whenever they try to conduct their investigations. This is where Mohammed Hijab’s (a real name I’m told) bizarre TV comments about blasphemy against Islam not being tolerated by “Muslim gangsters” likely come from. We’ve seen this before, from the murder of Kris Donald to the grooming gangs. The community sheltering the vile perpetrators, in my mind, damns them. The religious extremists and the cultural criminals go hand in hand.

The more odious elements of Islam in Britain claim they have conquered Britain – that is, being imported by our traitorous elite and living off welfare. Make no mistake, this is not Mohammed taking Mecca from the pagans, these people are arrogant welfare queens that the state protects and cajoles at every opportunity. Where is this arrogance coming from? Is it their status beyond criticism? The enshrining of Islamophobia as an ultimate crime against “Modern British Values” is certainly a problem. We have Muslim MPs almost brought to tears in Parliament for mean words while White children up and down the country are groomed and raped by adherents of their ideology and culture, fanatic or otherwise; crocodile tears from a vile community that not-so-secretly laughs about the modern woes of the native British.

Muslim gaslighting doesn’t end in Parliament. Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed put out a bizarre video a few years ago in which National Front types went door to door ethnically cleansing Muslims from England. I thought this to be a particularly bizarre thing to do when you consider the terrorism rate, per capita, of the Islamic vs British community. To me this was a tell in his thinking, it acknowledges that fundamentally they are at war with us. Riz also starred in the film Four Lions, which follows a hapless Jihadi’s attempt to carry out a terror attack in the UK. The film, while amusing, does paint these men (other than the grossly unsympathetic White convert) as sympathetic in their idiocy, with Ahmed’s character leading his less bright friends astray. Outside the context of the film, I find this portrayal to be unrealistic. The average second-gen or third-gen Muslim youth sincerely hates Britain, its history, and its people. They’ll prioritise and take the side of foreign conflicts over any domestic issue concerning the British nation. The most they’ll interact with British culture is through the superficiality of sport.

Moreover, there is a bizarre Africanisation of British Muslim culture, Ali G was a send-up of this, but Cohen seemed to back away from this obvious interpretation for whatever reason. Drug culture, speaking in a pseudo-Jamaican patois (to steal from Starkey) mixed with Muslim conventions, producing a particularly unpleasant and idiotic-sounding dialect. A glorification of crime, violence, and importantly terrorism pervades this culture. We’ve seen this play out across the pro-Palestine demonstrations happening over recent months. To quickly touch on drug culture, cannabis is a major drug among this group. People like Peter Hitchens get the relationship twisted. They assume that cannabis is the cause of terror, not that these people engage in drug culture because they are themselves a criminal and subversive element in society. Do drugs exacerbate their hatred? I wouldn’t doubt it, but the hatred is before the imbibing of wicked poisons.

This is all an incredibly dangerous mix that the state and security services seem to barely be able to keep a lid on. Despite their protestations that right-wing terrorism is the biggest threat, this is clearly nonsense. Islamic terror threats outstrip right-wing ones by miles, even with the vast population difference. This can also be seen in the police’s reluctance to police the entrenched Muslim community. What are they so afraid of? My guess is terroristic violence. To cow in the face of such a threat is basically to guarantee you will hand the country to Islamists.

What is to be done about this? Ideas have been floated about banning certain aspects of the religion to encourage them to self-deport but again, this relies on enforcement by the state which it is both unwilling and incapable of doing. I would propose a ban on the production, import, and sale of ritualistically slaughtered meat as that would be the easiest to enforce without confrontation. Businesses would be shuttered, products would be impounded at customs, and we would stand firmly on the side of animal rights. It’s reprehensible to me that Britain should take a step backward in this regard to placate alien desert religions. Naturally, this ban would affect the Jewish community, but that’s a sacrifice we will need to make for the future of Britain. The Jewish community is particularly robust and progressive when it comes to issues of wrestling with God, and I’m sure they’d find a way around our new law.

Less practical solutions have been offered; recently I’ve seen people saying that public prayer should be banned in response to mass Islamic worship in London. This is a nonsense approach that would only affect our beleaguered Christian community and would likely not be enforced fairly. Some have suggested banning cousin marriages. Whilst well-intentioned, the main thrust of my objection to such a policy is that we haven’t had to ban it for it to no longer be practised in this country (outside the Muslim community and presumable other outliers). Simply put, we’d be creating a nationwide law for an imported subset of the population. It’s not the thin end of the wedge of tyranny, but it does point to the ridiculous codification of a multiracial society.

Groups are so vastly different in outlook and disposition that you need to make the detrimental illegal for it to appear to function. Perhaps we should take it as a sign that people who willingly marry their cousins and as such have the largest disabled community in Britain shouldn’t be living among us. Britain does not exist to serve as a eugenic uplift scheme for foreign people who cleave to a religion that orders them to supplant us. On an entirely different and less targeted front, the deportation of economic net negatives would substantially reduce the Islamic population of Britain, but the problem of Islam would remain, albeit at perpetual minority levels.

Approaching last Christmas, we saw the usual warning of terror attacks rolled out for many festive markets and events that are happening across the country. If you attend any of these markets, you will likely notice the ethnic make-up of the security and the broken English with which they communicate. It’s not lost on me that many of these men are of African, non-Muslim, extraction however many are of Muslim origin and I find it entirely insane that threats from Islamic terrorism would be policed by fresh off-the-boat Muslims. We have a growing force of non-white imported security, increasingly used by businesses because they are cheap and a state which seeks to enforce anti-white laws, which is worrying. Their conduct is poor, and their obvious biases and unfamiliarity with Britain can’t be ignored.

In a recent clip, a piano player is aggressively harassed by foreign security. Is the proliferation of such people across the UK security sector related to the housing of fighting aged illegals now being overseen by two of the biggest private security companies Serco and G4S? It’s certainly a question worth asking. It is not without reason that it could be expected for such people to end up in the official police forces of Britain eventually. Standards in policing have been dropping for decades, if things are not reversed, I imagine we will start seeing these people transition into the force within the decade.

To me, this is all part of the plan, the expansion of the police state. Contrary to Telegraph hacks, the police state is already here. This great panopticon of Modern Britain, with its pervasive speech laws coupled with the new ‘diverse’ religiosity, forms a tyranny of leftists and racial mafias over the native population. As with everything in Modern Britain, the “elite” have made a vast miscalculation. Creating such a system will be subverted and controlled by the most vocal, violent, and united community. Without a doubt, that community is the Islamic one. While they are still a minority, they will increasingly wield disproportionate, anti-democratic, power over us all. It’s a horrific reverse colonialism where we, the native British, have been entangled in a web of increasingly complex and restrictive laws that all but guarantee our disempowerment. The Tories are utter traitors and completely politically spent for not seeing this and not doing anything about it for their fourteen years in power. Hopefully, they’ll be destroyed at the next election and a new, vigorous, and unapologetically nationalist force can rise to lift us out of this predicament decades of political incompetence and deliberate malice have brought us to.

I do not believe Islam will take over Britain is guaranteed, I do not believe that things are too far gone. Britain is broken and while Islam is germinating in this environment it’s entirely imported. For the most part, the White British converts we see are the most broken of outsiders, with fringe academics constituting a bizarre exception. Most people in Britain look at the Islamic community with rightful derision. They may not express it openly but in their hearts, they see it as a thuggish religion of petty criminals and child rapists. This is the version of Islam that the immigrants have brought to our shores, the blame is squarely on themselves and they alone shame their Ummah. Indeed, Arab Muslims in states like the UAE or Saudi often wonder why we have let such people settle in our lands, a favour they do not permit to their “brothers and sisters.”

In order to prevent this growing Islamic problem in Britain, we must acknowledge the interconnected nature of this religion, from how drug dealers and home office employees are all working together to advance their faith and racial groups within that overarching religion. We are constantly told to take people on an individual basis, but time and time again in Modern Britain this has shown to be dangerously faulty reasoning. It’s outdated and only conceivably worked when the country was homogenous and dwelt under a Christian understanding. Those days are gone. In an irreligious and deracinated Britain, we are at the mercy of monolithic minorities who use the law to cudgel each other and especially the native population.

I had said in a previous piece that I was unsure of the civilisational war proposed by the counter-jihad movement, and I still hold that belief. I do not believe in siding with foreign interests outside of Europe that seek to interfere in the Islamic world instead of focusing on problems at home. The priority is removing Islam from Britain and more broadly Europe, not fighting Israel’s wars or throwing our lot in with Zionists. The European and Islamic civilisations should be separate and distinct.


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A Brief History of US Student Politics

‘Hey, hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?’

These chants outside of the White House haunted Lyndon B. Johnson throughout his presidency. He would sit in the Oval Office with his head in his hands as the chants wafted through the walls. When his son-in-law Charles Robb sent in a tape from Vietnam, Johnson buckled against the table and looked as though he was in tears. For the loud Southern Jackson, who took great pleasure in towering over and intimidating others, this seemed like quite a big deal. 

This is not about Johnson, however. This is about the students who protested him and the Vietnam War. This is about the students who protest now and any time.

An American Education

Harvard University was founded in 1636 and is classed by many as the oldest institute of higher education in the United States. Throughout history, the Ivy League colleges (Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth and Cornell) have been considered the most elite, though others have made quite the showing. Between them, the Ivy League colleges have educated fifteen US presidents. They’ve also educated many Supreme Court Justices, Governors and members of Congress.

Throughout early American history, the Ivy League and other elite colleges were almost exclusively for white, wealthy men. Colleges for women did exist, such as the female equivalent of the Ivies, the Seven Sisters, though they came far later. Colleges for African-Americans also came later, such as Howard and Tuskegee.

Cornell began to accept women in 1870, but it took until 1983 for all of them to admit women, with Columbia being the last.

Minority men were able to attend earlier and more frequently, with Yale being the last to accept black students in 1964.

Despite more diversity in terms of the student body, Ivy League colleges see students of the wealthy 1% overrepresented. One in six Ivy students have parents from the top 1%, and they are 34% more likely to be accepted than students with the same scores but from less wealthy backgrounds. The children of these parents are also more than twice as likely to attend elite universities- the Ivies, Stanford, MIT, Duke and Chicago.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Whilst protests and activism were not unknown prior, the 1960s saw an explosion in it.

The decade was one of great social change, perhaps the greatest since the 1860s. Firstly, there was more of a focus on youth. TV, radio and movies began to cater to teenagers. Bands like the wholesome Beach Boys and sassy Beatles saw teenage screaming along. As incomes expanded, college enrollment doubled between 1945 and 1960, doubling once again by 1970.

There was also less social and cultural hegemony than before, something that Richard Nixon and his Silent Majority sought to exploit. The Civil Rights movement was at an apex as students sat at segregated café counters and took integrated buses to register African-American voters in the Deep South. Second-wave feminism saw women demand access to birth control, abortion and equality in the workplace. As students moved away from their generally conservative homes, many became embroiled in a more progressive political atmosphere.

Perhaps most impactful in terms of lives was the Vietnam War. Action in the Asian nation had significantly escalated, particularly after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964.

Students in particular were opposed to the draft. College students could receive deferments, but they were in the target conscription demographic of being young and healthy and unmarried, though the marriage deferment ended in summer 1965. One of the most notable forms of protests saw students burning their draft cards.

They were also active in the protest movement as a whole. College campuses became hotbeds of political activity. Students also joined protests and demonstrations.

There were varied reasons as to why students in particular were opposed to the war. Some echoed the popular sentiment of many that it was war thousands of miles away that did not have anything to do with America. Others believed that American soldiers were killing innocent civilians. Some thought that the money would be better spent elsewhere or that war in general was wrong.

One college that became a centre of counterculture politics was UC Berkeley. The California university became a hub of activism and protests regarding Civil Rights, free speech and Vietnam.

Most of the decade saw passionate but peaceful protests in the area, but this changed. In April 1969, students at Berkeley set up an informal encampment in People’s Park, scuppering a plan to turn it into a public space. On the 15th May 1969, police arrived to turf the squatters out. This, combined with a nearby college protest, saw around 6,000 people turn out at the park. The police eventually opened fire, killing San Jose resident James Rector as he watched from the roof. Many others were injured; one man was blinded. California Governor Ronald Reagan called in the California National Guard.

There had been a notable protest at New York’s Columbia University a year before. Black student protestors had asked white protestors to protest separately, which they did, segregating it on racial lines. Some of the students occupied the administrative Hamilton Hall, holding Acting Dean Henry S. Coleman hostage.

In another protest that year, students at Morehouse in Atlanta held the board of trustees. One of those students was a young Samuel L. Jackson.

Sixties Assassinations

Adding to the students’ cynicism were the assassinations of four famous men, all of whom were generally admired by students.

The first was John F. Kennedy in November 1963. Kennedy had been a proponent of college education and had been a point of fascination for young people, mainly due to his relative youth compared to other politicians.

The second was Malcolm X, the firebrand minister for the Nation of Islam and advocate of civil rights. He was slain in February 1965.

The third was Martin Luther King Jr, the well-known minister who advocated for civil rights via peaceful means. He was killed in April 1968.

The fourth and final one was Robert Kennedy in June 1968. He had entered the Democratic race for president as an anti-war and liberal alternative to unpopular incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson.

Death At Kent State

One of the most tragic events of the student protest movement came in May 1970.

The Sixties was over and new president Richard Nixon had promised law and order. Meanwhile, America was expanding military operations in Vietnam by entering neighbouring Cambodia. This caused immediate controversy in the anti-war movement. Several hundred students at Kent State in Ohio were protesting this. Residents and police officers had been concerned about potential repercussions in the community, and the Ohio National Guard was called.

The National Guard attempted to disperse the crowd through tear gas and other means, but this failed. Protestors began to throw rocks and other projectiles at them before being herded away. Near a hill, some of the officers started to open fire. Four students- two men and two women- were killed. Nine others were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralysed.

Images of the event, including the famous picture of a horrified teenager standing over one of the bodies, caused even more riots and protests across the nation. 100,000 people marched on Washington a few days later, leading to Richard Nixon famously talking to protestors in the middle of the night at the Lincoln Memorial.

Post-Sixties

Whilst the chaos of the 1960s gave way to a relatively more peaceful 20th century, activism and protests still remained. College Democrats and College Republicans have both been popular hubs for the partisan-minded students. Politicians regularly attend speeches and rallies, especially when they’re supported by the students.

As a rule, colleges tend to be on the left of the spectrum, in both faculty and students. Exceptions to this tend to be religious institutions like Bob Jones and Liberty University.

Issues that have arisen include the Iraq War, climate change, school shootings, race, gender, sexual assault and rape and military engagement in general.

The Current Protests

On the 7th October 2023, Israel was surprised by an attack by Hamas. People were murdered, missiles were fired and civilians taken hostage. In response, Israel had gone all out on Hamas. As a result, there have been numerous deaths and injuries in Palestine. Many people have been made homeless or have needed to evacuate from their homes. Some have flooded into neighbouring Egypt. Neither Palestine or Israel are safe.

Sympathy for the deaths of innocents have been widespread, but there is a huge difference in opinion regarding Israel. Protests have happened in major cities across the world, with the pro-Palestine side occupying most of that space. London for example has seen weekly protests since October.

The issue has become a massive one in America. Historically, the American government has been a strong supporter of Israel. Joe Biden has given assistance to Israel, but seems to want incumbent Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu out. Internally, there is debate amongst the legislative branch. Pro-Palestine and anti-interventionist politicians have come together to stop aid to Israel. Others wish to help it more.

It’s also been dynamite for college campuses. Coast to coast, north to south, university students have been protesting non-stop since October. The Ivy League colleges have been the centre of the protests, but other elite and notable colleges such as Stanford, Berkeley, Northeastern, NYU, Ohio State, and Emerson have seen student activism.

Students have been calling for an immediate ceasefire in the area. Regarding their own colleges, they ask for the institutions to break all ties to Israel, especially regarding financial gifts.

The protests themselves have been controversial. The shouting of ‘from the river to the sea’ is seen as a call to action against Jews, as well as the calling of a global intifada. Flickers of anti-semitism have allegedly been seen in these protests, despite the bulk of participants proclaiming they oppose Zionism, not Jews. Some Jewish students have participated in the protests, whilst others feel unsafe. Classes have been called off and students have been forced to study online.

Encampments have been put up on several campuses. Some have been cleared by police whilst others remain. These encampments are made up of tents, donated food and other communal activities, all of which are subject to rules. Whilst the protests remain mainly about Israel and Palestine, they tend to bend towards anti-capitalism and progressive ideology.

New York’s Columbia University has been the establishment most in the news. On the 17th April, a number of Columbia students started an encampment. Whilst the encampment was torn down by police the next day, it was rebuilt and protests continue. Students report difficulty getting to class. Arrests and suspensions have also been made.

Student Kyhmani James became the subject of media attention following comments regarding the murder of Zionists. He filmed a video of himself talking to the administration in an attempt to get his views across. Unfortunately for Mr. James, he has been kicked out of Columbia.

The Response

America’s 1st Amendment is very strict on the freedom of speech and assembly. That being said, law enforcement and university officials are more than a little tired of it. Students have been arrested, suspended and even expelled. Three college presidents have sat before Congress- Mary Magill of UPenn, Sally Kornbluth of MIT and Claudia Gay of Harvard. Magill resigned in December 2023, and Gay followed in January 2024 after a plagiarism scandal.

Some presidents have been tough. The University of Florida sent out a very clear letter to protestors telling them which behaviour was appropriate and what would get them kicked out. Florida State turned on the sprinklers. Northeastern University got the police to clear the encampment, saying that the use of ‘Kill the Jews’ crossed the line. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis promised to expel any protestors who joined mobs. Even Columbia, the home of the most infamous protests, allowed the police in to tear down the encampment.

It doesn’t look like this is going to go away anytime soon. What some call a win for free speech is what others call going ‘too far’. As parents look away from the Ivy League to less elite but still reputable universities, one wonders if it’s a case of rich kids with too much time on their hands and no problems of their own. Is it that or a genuine example of solidarity with Palestine? Whatever the case, America’s campuses remain on metaphorical fire.


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The War on Pubs, Part I: Taylor’s Conquest

The war on British pubs is as old as the British pub itself, so much so it can barely be classed as an emerging tendency. The government’s dislike of the pub is a fact of life and measures to undermine its prosperity and role in society are widely disliked but are rarely contextualised in political commentary beyond the Covid pandemic, relatively recent demographic changes, and the last fourteen years of government.

After the end of WW2, Britain seemed to be largely self-sufficient when it came to producing ingredients for beer, something it hadn’t achieved for the best part of a century. Protectionist measures enabled near-autarkic levels of barley production whilst wartime reserves of hops were sold for cheap on the domestic market. Of course, post-war economic pressures made investments more necessary and demanding, whilst imports (especially from Denmark, the Netherlands, and Ireland) were set to become more frequent. Nevertheless, an end to rationing, combined with the implementation of tax cuts in the mid-to-late 50s, one of the few helping hands to pubs since the birth of Modern Britain, which contribute to an increase in beer production and consumption. All things being far from perfect, Britain’s pubs could’ve expected much worse coming out of the most destructive war in history.

Indeed, Britain’s flourishing post-war beer market hadn’t escaped the notice of Edward Plunket Taylor. Famously a breeder of racehorses, coming to be recognised as a major force behind the development of the Canadian horse-racing industry, the tycoon’s family also owned Brading, a brewery in Ottawa founded in 1867. Using the loosely coinciding repeals of prohibition throughout various parts of the US and Canada as a springboard, Taylor merged Brading with another Canadian brewery to form Canadian Breweries in 1930. In pursuit of sheer scale, Taylor consolidated several smaller plants into a handful of larger plants and standardised his line of products, whittling his number of brands down from roughly 100 to six. By 1950, Canadian Breweries controlled 50% of Ontario’s beer market. Having subdued most competition at home, Taylor was well-positioned to turn his focus to foreign conquest.

Being well over 200 years old at this point in history, criticisms of the tie system weren’t new, and they weren’t to vanish in the coming decades, but it did provide an initial barrier to Taylor’s imperial aspirations. As pubs could only sell beer produced by the brewery they were tied to, Taylor realised he’d have to infiltrate Britain’s breweries before he could infiltrate its beer market. Aiming to acquire a 25% stake in every publicly traded brewery in Britain, Taylor sought to gain a foothold in the same way he had come to dominate the Canadian market: through the purchase and merging of smaller and unprofitable breweries. In 1967, Taylor merged Bass Brewery and Charrington United to form Bass Charrington, then the largest brewery in Britain with 19% of the beer market.

Taylor’s aspirations and manifesting success sparked a merging frenzy not seen since the relaxation of beerhouse regulations in the late 19th century and the emergent ‘Beerage’, leading to the rise of ‘The Big Six’, Britain’s six largest brewing companies: Allied Breweries, Bass Charrington, Courage, Scottish and Newcastle, Watney Mann (also known as Grand Metropolitan), and Whitbread.

Whilst Taylor had managed to upend Britain’s brewing market, the tie system continued to incentivise against territorial trespassing between brewers. As such, the mergers occurred largely (albeit far from exclusively) along geographic lines. Allied Breweries and Bass Charrington were more concentrated in the Midlands and the North, both having central breweries in Burton-upon-Trent. Courage originated in Southwark with properties across the South, whilst Watney Mann originated in London with clusters in and around the capital. Fittingly, Scottish and Newcastle were based in Scotland and the Northeast, especially Edinburgh and Newcastle, whilst Whitbread originated in central London, maintaining a sizeable presence in the West End, stretching off into the southwest and much of Wales.

Counterbalancing the instinctual desire to compare The Big Six to feudal barons, their pubs were more clustered than rigidly delineated. Indeed, each brewer was a national entity and desired to expand their control of the overall market. Still, it was the emergence of these large-scale brewers which sparked concerns among small business of a cartelised industry, one in which independent brewers were fighting for an increasingly austere slice of the market.

Initial attempts to curtail the growth of these large brewers lacked momentum. Both with the government and most of the public considering the size of these brewers to be a non-issue. At the very least, it was ‘small beer’ compared to other matters which directly affected pubs and breweries in more gruesome ways. A survey carried out by the Consumers Association showed only 1% of consumers factored in beer prices when it came down to choosing a pub. Simply put, pubs were (and remain to be) more than economic hubs of rational decision-making, but markers of communal identity which provide a sense of place and evoke a sense of loyalty; something to support in a period of inept and lacklustre political leadership.

As for pub owners, many valued The Big Six (and the tie system more generally) as a way of ensuring a steady supply of beer, business, and a livelihood. Far from a barrier to entry, it was seen as the exact opposite, acting as an extension of the quasi-paternalist system which had existed prior to Taylor’s landing on English shores.

Nevertheless, the fears of independent brewers were far from unfounded. By the 1970s, roughly 80% of Britain’s beer supply was controlled by The Big Six, along with roughly 75% of brewer-owned retail, and 85% of ‘loan ties’ – arrangements in which pubs that aren’t directly owned by a Big Six brewer exclusively stock their products and other supplies for discounts and loans. By 1989, the top five best-selling beers had 20% of the total market whilst the top ten had a comfortable 30%.

Also, it became increasingly clear to many pubs that large, cut-throat corporations were not spiritual successors to small, local, historically rooted breweries. The sense of mutual dependency which existed between pubs and the latter was practically non-existent between pubs and the former. Needless to say, an individual pub had more to lose from being untied than any one of The Big Six.

Inflated beer prices were a direct consequence of this arrangement. Between 1979 and 1989, beer prices increased by 15% above the retails’ price index and the tax cuts of the immediate post-war period had long been offset by some of the highest beer duties in Europe. Even if the price of beer was comparatively less important to consumers than the social element of pubs, the financial pressure on customers to buy beer from their local’s tied brewer was far from ideal in a period of stagnating wages and rising inflation.

Pubs which weren’t tied to The Big Six were also routinely shafted by predatory pricing, in which the major brewers would temporarily lower their prices to undercut and destroy independent establishments before increasing their prices to consolidate their financial dominance in particular area. This practice was especially harmful to rural pubs, which were more likely to be independent and less economically secure than urban pubs, courtesy of a continuing trend of rural depopulation.

However, whilst the cost of beer wasn’t a pivotal concern, the wavering quality of beer was a growing source of frustration for pubgoers. Practically impervious to market forces, The Big Six were able to push less-than-appealing products onto the consumer through advertising backed by a steady and plentiful flow of cash. Courtesy of organisations like CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), Watney’s Red Barrel became shorthand for the extortionately priced yet wholly unremarkable (if not always terrible) concoctions one could expect from companies perceived as too big to care about the quality of their products.

Overall, the relationship between breweries and pubs was less comparable to ‘aristocratic’ noblesse oblige and more akin to the terror of mobsters and strongmen, whose promise of security wore thin as they threatened pub owners with financial ruin should they defy their heavy-handed demands. In Hobbesian terms, they were demanding obedience from people they were increasingly disinterested in protecting. This state of affairs created a seismic reaction which would change the trajectory of Britain’s pub and brewing industry, albeit not necessarily for the better; a reaction not from the market, but from the state.


Photo Credit.

With Friends Like These…

“We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

Lord Palmerston’s famous adage is typically divorced from its context, especially when used in discussions regarding Britain’s foreign policy, or lack thereof. Delivered as part of a speech in the House of Commons in 1848, the then Foreign Secretary was responding to an argument put forward by one of his most consistent and outspoken opponents, Thomas Anstey, Irish Confederate MP for Youghal.

Over a decade after Poland’s incorporation into the Russian Empire, Anstey maintained intervention in support of the rebels, seeking to establish an independent Polish state, was both a feasible operation and a moral imperative which the government of the day – especially Palmerston, who was still foreign secretary during this period – absconded in favour of non-interference, despite previous suggestions to the contrary. According to Anstey, this amounted to, among other things, a betrayal of Poland and, by extension, their sympathetic ideals.

Accounting for the particular circumstances in which Palmerston was operating, primarily seeking a basic balance of power across the continent, maintaining a preference for less-absolutist models of government without a frothing desire to see them imposed at the drop of a hat, the essence of his shrewd foreign policy stems from the realisation there is no equivalence between interpersonal and international relations, due to the second-order consequences which come with maintaining such agreements:

“…When we are asked why the British Government have not enforced treaty rights in every case, my answer is, that the only method of enforcing them would have been by methods of hostility; and that I do not think those questions were questions of sufficient magnitude in their bearing on the interests of England, to justify any Government in calling on the people of this country to encounter the burdens and hazards of war for the purpose of maintaining those opinions.”

“It does not follow, when a Minister announces in Parliament an intention to perform a public act, that it is to be considered like a promise made to an individual, or by one private man to another, and that it is to be made a reproach to him if the intention be not carried out.”

Indeed, the maintenance of certain opinions under specific circumstances simply isn’t worth it. The opinions we value, whether written in parchment or spoken over the airwaves, and what we are prepared to do to maintain them, form the essence of our political loyalty. Unfortunately for many in Britain’s political class, even its nominally right-wing constituents, their political loyalty seems to lie with Israel. Berating any criticism or lack of enthusiasm as an act of betrayal, the British people are expected to view their interests as secondary to the interests of the Israeli government, all else being unthinkable.

However, much to their aggravation, Britain’s cooling support for Israel has only accelerated these past few days after a convoy of three vehicles, each displaying the World Central Kitchen (WCK) logo, was attacked whilst returning from a humanitarian mission to Gaza through a deconflicted zone; a route agreed with the knowledge and consent of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). The affected British nationals were working as private military contractors tasked with protecting the convoy and providing medical support. By all estimations, not exactly frothing Hamas-adjacent anti-semites motivated by Islamism or Palestinian nationalism. Worse still, the convoy contacted the IDF after the first vehicle was hit, but to no self-preserving avail.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Israelis has taken liberty with the lives of British nationals, although it’s perhaps the first instance in which the disregard of the Israeli government and its supporters has been made so blatant. The IDF’s chief of staff released a less-than-sincere-sounding apology, claiming the attack was an accident, which chef José Andrés, WCK’s director and co-founder, evidently didn’t find convincing, noting the attack took place over considerable distance, never mind in an area tightly controlled by the IDF.

Benjamin Netanyahu responded in a similar vein, stating occasional civilian casualties were part-and-parcel of war and the overarching mission to keep Israel safe. Whilst not technically untrue, it’s also part-and-parcel – even if not an iron law of reality – for states to alter their relations in accordance with their interests, often in unexpected ways; those who are allies one day are rivals the next. As such, I’m sure Netanyahu would be very understanding if Britain ceased all arms exports to Israel, especially if we had a few security concerns, so to speak.

The Israeli government’s sense of entitlement when it comes to Western support is hard to ignore. David Mencer, Israeli government spokesman and former director of Labour Friends of Israel, affectively stated Britain was obliged to continue supporting Israel as doing otherwise would constitute a betrayal of liberal democratic values. In Mencer’s own words: “You’ve got to take our side.”

Indeed, Britain had great sympathy for the Israelis following the attack on October 7th and a military response from Israel was thought to be expected and justified. It is essentially different to claim Britain has a moral and political responsibility to secure the existence of the Israeli state from its enemies, whatever that entails. In any case, this whole debacle suggests two things about Israel, both of which should inform the UK’s future relationship. Either Israel is too incompetent to be considered a reliable ally or too malicious to be considered an ally at all.

However, despite growing suspicion, mainstream criticism of the Israeli government and its agencies has yet to attach itself to the national interest or any loosely-related concept. Sir Alan Duncan’s comments on “pro-Israel extremism” at the highest echelons of government, citing the conduct of various ministers and politicians, resulted in accusations of anti-semitism and a near-immediate disciplinary inquiry from the Conservative Party. At first glance, this looks like one of several increasingly confident pockets of dissent at the heart of the establishment. In reality, it’s the more puritanical believers in the liberal rules-based international order pointing out the internal contradictions of the status quo.

The likes of Lord Dave and Sir Alan aren’t posturing against Israel out of ‘realpolitik’; they aren’t aligning against the Israeli government for nationalist reasons, but for internationalist ones. In their mind, Britain should distance itself from Israel for the sake of conforming to international law to a greater extent than it already does; it has very little to do with a state being so entwined with a foreign government that it can barely condemn attacks on its own citizens, undermining the most basic interest of any modern state: the protection of its people.

At bottom-level, their understanding is an extension of their bizarre idea of domestic affairs. Parliament amending and breaking the law are one in the same; as an entity, law is stagnant and cannot be ‘constitutionally’ changed, at least not to any political degree. Likewise, the breaking of treaties, for whatever reason, is a violation of international law and therefore necessarily bad. Alas, just as men must tear muscle to build more to gain bodily strength, states must tear laws and treaties to create new ones to gain political strength, at home and abroad.

This line of thought is straightforward and popular enough. In fact, it may explain some of the strongest support for Israel among certain sections of the public; older, Conservative and Reform-voting types with the Union Jack and the Star of David in their Twitter bio.

Accounting for the obvious fact many use support for Israel as proxy for domestic concerns pertaining to the rapid growth of Britain’s Muslim population, doubling as an implicit anti-racist credential by aligning with a historically-persecuted minority group, I suspect a considerable amount of Israelophilia among Britain’s old can be attributed to Mossad’s response to the 1972 Munich Massacre; a 20-year global hunt for Black September soberly titled Operation Wrath of God. Their first impression of Israel, as portrayed by a sensationalist mass-media machine at the height of an international event, is that of a rabidly nationalist state which spares no expense when it comes to pursuing its goal and eradicating its enemies.

The fact Israel didn’t catch the main culprit of the massacre is of secondary importance, what matters is the will and perception of the Israelis was evidently more attractive than whatever the British state was doing. At this time, Britain was enduring some of the worst years of its post-war history, encumbered with economic stagnation, social unrest, and an impotent political class with no perceivable willpower or solution. Sound familiar? As many will recall, similar flickers of admiration were visible following the early response of Israel to the October 7th attack, reigniting a love for a certain determination which our own foreign policy lacks.

Of course, this only accounts for the inclinations of a broadly defined, misguided but well-intentioned demographic of everymen. The political fetishism of Israel among Britain’s centre-right commentariat and policymakers (literal fetishism in some cases) defies any comparable justification. Outside of building the largest possible electoral coalition against Islamism, it seems to be a bizarre fixation.

In short, condemning the actions of Israel committed against our country may feel like a condemnation of the type of politics many of us desire, but it isn’t. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true: it is one of many steps required towards the realisation of a sovereign, self-interested foreign policy.

Palmerston was right, there is no fundamental equivalence between interpersonal and international relations, but there is one similarity worth remembering: trust is the basis of all relations. We trust based on our perceptions of others, our experiences with them and others like them; we make informed guesses, leaps in the dark, as to whether or not we should make ourselves open and vulnerable for the purposes of co-operation and friendship. If our knowledge of another changes, it impacts our ability to trust them. Sometimes this strengthens trust, sometimes it weakens it, and if trust is weakened to such an extent, whether chipped away by routine transgressions or destroyed outright by a single, deeply callous act, one is forced to reconsider their relations.

This is true of both people and states, and following the most severe form of disregard from our so-called ally, after all we felt and done for them, without expectation of reimbursement or lavish praise, it is time we reconsider our relationship with Israel; not towards Palestine, but to our own, independent national interest. They haven’t allowed our co-operation and friendship to disrupt the pursuit of their perpetual interests, it’s about time we do the same.


Photo Credit.

On Conservatism and Art

A few weeks ago, another tweet claiming that it was impossible for conservatives to make art made the rounds of Twitter. Like too many in the mainstream culture, its sender erroneously assumed that because art inherently involves edgy innovation, and since conservatives categorically hate and/or fear both extremes and change, art must be the obvious property of the left. The thread received enough attention that I don’t need to invite more here. The Mallard hosted a Space on the topic—not necessarily on whether its message had merit (quote threads were rife with examples contradicting it, from Dostoevsky to Dali to Stevie Ray Vaughan), but rather to discuss the question of how conservatives could most effectively make art. 

Of course, among other topics we discussed the relationship between art and politics. A point made by many was the fact that, when discussing art and conservatism one should at least attempt to be clear about their terms. Furthermore, as mentioned in the conversation by Jake Scott, one must differentiate between political conservatism and metaphysical conservatism; the confusion of the two has, as the above stereotype shows, led to much confusion on the subject of conservatism and art that, so far as I can, I will attempt to nuance here. 

A refrain one hears, usually from activists on the left, is that all art is political. Such assertions are often met with frustration, generally from convervatives but also from people not explicitly on the right but who just want to be left alone when it comes to politics (and who, for such a response, are subsequently branded as right-wing by those who interpret all of life through an unconditional, against-if-not-actively-for ideology). However, the former are not wrong; all art can be interpreted as political—because all art is metaphysical.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, art is, among other things, a concretization of abstract values. When one looks at a painting, listens to a song, takes in a sculpture, walks through a building, or reads through a novel, one is engaging with the values that the artist has given a local habitation and a name (as always, Shakespeare said it best—MND V.1); this necessarily involves, though it need not be fully bound to, the artist’s metaphysical worldview.  

Consider the two literary schools that dominated the nineteenth century and that can generally be placed within Western culture’s pendulum-like sway between the Platonic and Aristotelian: Romanticism and Naturalism. A Romantic whose work assumes that there are things higher than the material world that give this life an infinite meaning will create very different art from a Naturalist who believes the material world is all that exists and that any attempt to say differently is an artifice that will unintentionally or cynically mislead people into accepting suffering as a value. Nothing in these examples is overtly political, but one can see (indeed, we’ve had over a century of seeing) the different politics that would come from each view. This is because politics, as an expansion upon the more fundamental realm of ethics, begins with metaphysical premises from which the rest flow. Different directional degrees will lead maritime navigators to very different locations; how much more will different primary assumptions about the nature of reality and humans’ place in it?

Let’s look at an example from an author who was cited in that thread as a conservative: Dostoevsky. Rather than counter the rising atheist-socialist egotism of mid-nineteenth-century Russia with a political textbook (which, granted, would have been banned under the Tsar’s censors, who eschewed all explicitly political works—hence why the Russian novel had to take on so many roles), Dostoevsky depicts and undermines the burgeoning philosophy in the character of Crime and Punishment’s Rodion Raskalnikov. 

However, though the ideas in debate had (and are still having) political effects, Dostoevsky is not merely speaking politics in Crime and Punishment. He understood that politics was a function of one’s primary assumptions about reality—about one’s metaphysics—and their effects on one’s individual psychology. He also recognized, as Raskalnikov’s unconventional bildung shows, that one’s stated politics may actually conflict with the metaphysics underlying their beliefs. Hence, for all Rodion’s stated atheistic egotism, he finds himself preventing a woman from committing suicide, giving all his spare cash to those with less than he, and being fascinated with the downtrodden but resilient (because Christlike) Sonia. 

In Crime and Punishment and his other masterpieces, Dostoevsky juxtaposes the new generation’s radical ideas not against other ideas (i.e. on the radicals’ terms) but against the background of the broader Orthodox-Christian Russian psyche. Raskalnikov’s working out of the contradiction between his would-be Napoleon complex and his subconscious worldview (if not the fabric of reality at large—Dostoevsky rarely simplifies the distinction between the two) mimics the author’s own similar progression not only from a socialistic politic to one more consistent with his deeper Orthodox convictions but, in his view, one from madness to sanity. 

While to read Dostoevsky solely through a political lens is to not read him at all, his writing does point to the inherent relationship between an artist and the politics of his or her historical context. The norms, laws, and cultural debates of a given generation are interconnected with the art then produced, which can reinforce, undermine, or, in the case of most pre-2010s consumer art, quite simply inhabit them (which, true to form, the aforementioned leftist activist would accuse of being a complacent and complicit reinforcement). 

However, as this political layer is often based in the times, it usually passes away with them. In the coming Christmas season, few people will read A Christmas Carol with Social Darwinism in mind, though Dickens was, in part, critiquing that contemporaneous viewpoint in Ebeneezer Scrooge. Perhaps works like Dickens’s Carol were necessary to ensure Social Darwinism did not succeed—that is, perhaps their politics served the purpose intended by their authors. Nonetheless, today A Christmas Carol is virtually useless, politically (at least, for Dickens’s immediate polemical purposes), which is the beginning of a work’s infinite usefulness as art. What is left is the more general story that, for all intents and purposes, made modern Christmas. Contrary to what politivangelicals and literature majors who read through a new historicist lens (*raises hand*) might try to maintain, this is not a lessening but an enriching; it is the separation of the transient from the enduring—of the metaphysical from the physical. 

One implication of this view of art as concretized metaphysics, and one which was mentioned in our Space conversation, is that not all art that labels itself “art” qualifies as art. If the explanation of a piece contains more discernible meaning (i.e. is bigger) than the piece itself—that is, if no values have been concretized so as to be at least generally recognizable—then, sorry, it’s not art (or if it is, it’s not concretizing the values its creator thinks it is). Often the makers of such “art” believe the paramount aspect of a piece must be its radical message—the more disruptive and cryptic, the better; this conveniently offers the maker a pretext to skip out on, if not directly subvert, style and aesthetic skill, to say nothing of selectivity. It goes without saying that this is a major part of the oft-lamented degradation of aesthetics in Western culture, from “high art,” to architecture, to animation. Why devote rigor to style and skill when the point is to signal that one aligns with the correct message?

By the way, this merits a general exhortation: if you don’t like a piece of art (a building, a sculpture, a Netflix series, etc), it might not be because you, rube that you are, have no taste or understanding; it might be because it’s simply a pile of shit—which, it bears mentioning, has been tried to be passed off as art. You are under no obligation to concede the inferiority complex such pieces try to sell you in their gnostic snake oil. Because the point of art is to communicate abstract human values, one does not need a degree in art, nor in philosophy, to understand and enjoy good art. Indeed, contrary to the elitism assumed in modern art taste, it may be the mark of good art that the average person can understand and enjoy it without too much explanation; such a work will have fulfilled art’s purpose of bodying forth the forms of things unknown but which are nonetheless universal.

The unintentional defaulting or the intentional subverting of the role of aesthetics in art by the modern and postmodern culture unwittingly reveals a possible door for conservatives who wish to make art. Rather than playing into the stereotype by simply making reactionary art with explicitly opposite meanings, “conservative art” (or, more preferably, conservatives who simply want to make good art) must begin with a return to aesthetic rigor. Just as the early church’s response to heresies was not to accept the premises of the heresies’ mind-body split but, rather, to restore the body-mind-spirit unity depicted in the Gospel and the Trinity, so the current response to artistic heresies—which involve a similar, if not the very same, split—is to reunite the physical and metaphysical. 

We must not ignore the messages of our art, but we should allow them to follow the literally more immediate role of the aesthetic experience. Indeed, we should seek to develop enough skill in conveying abstract themes and ideas through our medium such that little explanation is necessary. As conservatives, especially, we do not need to maneuver things so our audience takes away a certain message. Either the values we are trying to capture will speak for themselves, or we will learn that we need more practice. Above all, unless knowingly engaging in polemics, we should not (or at least try not to) approach art as a sermon. Doing so runs the risk of proving too much, besides turning off audiences who have probably had enough messaging and rhetoric. Instead, use your ethos, pathos, and logos to present their corresponding virtues of Goodness, Beauty, and Truth, and let the aesthetic experience stand as the message. As Jake Scott recently tweeted, underscoring his January article cited above, when making art, forget politics—seek to create heritage.

As always, it’s the conservative’s task to take his or her advice first. While I do currently have a polemical novel in pre-publication process with a clear message against the canceling in academia of Shakespeare and the tradition he represents, in A California Kid in King Henry’s Court, my serial novel for The Mallard’s print magazine, I have tried to focus solely on the aesthetic experience of the story. 

The title is, of course, a throwback to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Mark Twain’s comedy of an American who, having been knocked on his head in a factory, awakens in Arthurian England and subsequently seeks to industrialize the chivalric country, all the while becoming, himself, as much an object of Twain’s satire as medieval chivarly. My semi-autobiographical serial novel takes an opposite tack: a kid from California, having derived from Tolkien and Shakespeare a love for England’s literary past, attends modern Oxford and finds it far different from what he expects. The joke of each episode is usually on the fictional narrator, Tuck. However, though I’m a far less subtle satirist than Twain (really, my work is parody, not satire, since I am starting from a loving desire to enjoy the book’s subject, rather than a satirical desire to debase it), I’ve attempted to do something similar to Twain: unlock the dramatic and comic potential of Americans’ English past while still poking fun at elite pretensions, whether those of the narrator whose knowledge of literary references is irrelevant outside of academia, or of a modern England that keeps shattering the narrator’s romanticized ideas of Anglo tradition. 

While, beneath the parody, one of A California Kid’s thematic goals is to explore the deeper relevance of the English literary tradition, my main objective has simply been to make readers laugh—which, taking a cue from Monty Python’s discussions of comedy, starts with making myself laugh. If readers walk away from the episodes appreciating Shakespeare or Tolkien, so much the better, but it is only a secondary end to the primary one of telling a hopefully worth-reading story. 

Over the past half-century the postmodern anti-tradition has become the predominant tradition. The task of breaking open a way forward from the metaphysical assumptions of that structure—of liberating people from them—is now the job of conservatives, which, yes, does include everyone who does not want to wholly jettison, deconstruct, or “decolonize” the past, however politically or philosophically they self-identify. However, our goal should not be to merely preserve the past against the current attack and atrophy. The left’s view of art as a vehicle for political messaging can be traced back over 150 years to, among other sources, Nikolay Chernyshevsky, literary rival of Dostoevsky and writer of the utopian polemical novel What is to Be Done? As I tell my US History students, if you want to know why a generation pursues certain politics, look at what they were reading twenty or thirty years before; according to Dostoevsky biographer Joseph Frank, Chernyshevsky’s novel was the favorite book of a young Vladimir Lenin. 

Conservatives must take a similarly long view of art. We must strive, as much as we are able, to make works that will last not just for a given generation, but for several. Yes, we must look to the works and artists whose work has aesthetically endured and whose metaphysics have transcended their own times—and then we must create our own. The messages, insofar as they are necessary, will follow, the greatest of which being that the aesthetic experience is the point of the art. This has always been the point, not because of any inherent politics or lack thereof in art, but because it is the nature of art to simultaneously look backward and forward in its concretization and preservation of values. The same can be said of conservatism, which I take as a sign that we, rather than the left, are best equipped to produce the future of art. Like our philosophy, ours is not simply an art of return, but of resurrection and legacy.


Photo Credit.

Cycling Around Japan

In early 2023, I began watching NHK (Japan’s state broadcaster, akin to the BBC) and discovered a breath of fresh air. A news channel that tells the news in English and has no weird politics or stances it pushes onto you. It was from this, that I noticed that a lot of their programs were different documentaries, mostly which were short that depicted various aspects of the nation’s culture and history. These often ranged from showcasing different cuisines to local history and sports from across Japan. It was from this, that I ended up on a show called ‘Cycling around Japan’, a simple show I must admit of individuals as the name would suggest, that cycle around Japan. A typical episode can be found here

Its format is simple: follow a non-native individual on a bike around Japan, watching them interact with and appreciate the different locations across the country. As someone who has never been to Japan, nor bikes, why should I be drawn to such programming especially as it is something that would not attract an individual like myself? To understand that question, we must first look closer to home as to why I do not watch my country’s state broadcaster.

Although criticism of the BBC has always really existed, it has become heightened in the last twenty years regarding the content it produces and its lack of impartiality. What the BBC typically used to do well in was its long-form documentaries, we can think of these being narrated by individuals like David Attenborough. Additionally, there are also short formatted programs that showcase the beauty and appreciation for the country we call home. From this great catalog of work, we now look at the BBC and its programs. A recurring trend we have seen emerge is that of the widespread self-hatred that makes up the BBC and often its presenting class. In recent years numerous programming and shows have been produced on the failings and detractions of Great Britain and the British people. Of course, the BBC still does produce great work and shows for all, but the rest of the time it suffers from an oikophobic disease which is particular to the modern West. But NHK does not have/ hold this problem, the programming is largely these very respectful documentaries that promote Japan and its people. 

The real question should be this, why does NHK work and the BBC receive widespread criticism? Well, I would argue it is because of shows like Cycling Around Japan, which we can contrast with other shows. How many times have you watched a show or a piece of media from the BBC, which has either been presented by someone who does not like the country they call home or completely misrepresents the nation as a whole? There is no Afua Hirsch, no David Olusoga and no Kehinde Andrews. I would argue this is part of a wider historical trend of showing only one side of a story, portraying the West/Europe in an ultimately negative light.

So why is Cycling around Japan different? 

Firstly, this is common across all NHK shows. Nearly all the presenters have a deep love and interest in Japan, the subject matter they are dealing with. Moreover, all the non-Japanese who do the cycling speak fluent Japanese, having lived in the country for a decade-plus, possessing an already basic level of respect and appreciation for the culture they are traveling through and exploring. There are times when BBC presenters are not too interested in presenting Britain at all, opting to address their subjects at an arms-length with a slight hint of embarrassment. NHK does the complete opposite. 

A show like Cycling Around Japan, works due to its simplicity and its appeal to traditional life, which for many makes the country a place of envy. From meeting furniture makers and sake brewers, we are constantly seeing and interacting with individuals dedicated to the perfection of their craft. It is this focus and interest in a wide range of activities all across the country, that creates this understanding and love of the little things in life. Combined with the added interest in beautiful scenery, clean peaceful streets, and rich history, we cannot help but fall in love with such a nation. A wholesome slice of life shown to us through the eyes of an English-speaking, non-Japanese person who throws themselves into every interaction and encounter. 

This is partly why NHK works and the BBC does not; its state broadcaster has lost this love and appreciation for the country it calls home and subsequently cannot produce anything like this of substance. What we can observe is something rather achievable, a national broadcaster that produces simplistic but enjoyable content that is not self-loathing. Indeed, content can be as simple as allowing a non-native to cycle around the country, meeting and learning about the nation as they go, and make for an excellent watching experience. Meeting artisans, farmers, and musical instrument makers, we are presented with a truer reflection of the country and its many inhabitants.


Photo Credit.

Let’s Talk About Sex (Work)

This tweet from @GraffitiRadical invoked quite the conversation. Well, as much conversation as you can have on Twitter. Some argued that it is empowering and that it’s a legitimate profession. Others argued that it’s exploitative and damaging. Some refuse to even use the term ‘sex work,’ favouring language such as prostitution. To others, it’s interchangeable.

However, currently and historically, the technical and legal term for sex work is prostitution, something many advocates wish to see changed, arguing the term creates stigma. Opponents of the practice would say this is rightly so, given the nature of the practice.

However angry the arguments, however poor, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s something that exists. It may be tucked away in the shadows of the night or blatantly advertised on OnlyFans, but it exists. They don’t call it the world’s oldest profession for nothing. Pictures and paintings showing prostitution still exist from the times of Ancient Rome. Courtesans could make a lot of money by being chosen by a rich benefactor. The 90s film Pretty Woman showed the profession in a new light.

Whatever you want to call it, there’s still a major debate about the morality and legality of prostitution. One only must look across the world to see how different cultures tolerate the practice-or if they do at all. That being said, laws do not always impact supply and demand. Prostitution exists in liberal secular nations as well as conservative religious ones. It happens in peacetime and in wartime. Prostitutes and clients come from all walks of life.

So, what is it really?

The Whos and the Whats

When we think of prostitution, we often think of ladies in revealing clothing on street corners. That may be true, but streetwalkers aren’t the only type of prostitute. There are those who work in brothels, massage parlours and bars, or as escorts or cam girls. One may think of the window and door girls in Amsterdam. Other forms exist but are rarer.

Statistically, it’s thought that the vast majority of prostitutes are women. According to Streetwalker, 88% of prostitutes in the UK. That percentage is likely applicable worldwide give or take, but we will never truly know given the taboo nature. Sadly, child prostitution is not unheard of and is indeed common, with some areas being tourist hotspots for those interested in that.

Entry into prostitution also varies.

Types of Legislation

There are five types of legislation regarding prostitution.

Legalisation

In legalisation, prostitution itself is both legal and regulated, as are associated activities such as pimping and earning money. Countries with this framework include The Netherlands, Argentina, Turkey, Bangladesh, and Germany.

The Netherlands is probably the most infamous example of legalised prostitution. Its capital of Amsterdam is a hotspot for prostitution, and its red-light district is equally well known. There is strict regulation of the trade as with any ordinary profession, and prostitutes have been required to pay income tax and register with the Chamber of Commerce since 2010. While they are taxed, they may also receive unemployment benefits, though they do not if they work through the opt-in system.

Some limits do exist to protect the vulnerable. The hire or use of prostitutes under 21 is illegal, as is purchasing sex from someone you know, or suspect has been trafficked. 

Despite benefits for the parties involved and protections for vulnerable people, it’s no cakewalk. The Netherlands still remains a top destination for human trafficking due to the demand for prostitution. Most prostitutes in The Netherlands are not native, giving credence to the narrative of human trafficking. Meanwhile, prostitutes themselves feel as though the government is not on their side. The majority of those who apply for registration do not get it, whilst local authorities are closing windows and do not allow prostitutes to book clients online. In response, prostitutes are complaining that the restrictions reduce demand and make it harder for them to find work.

Decriminalisation

New Zealand, Belgium, New South Wales and Northern Territory

Decriminalisation means that there are no legal penalties for prostitution but that it is not legal itself, nor anything associated with it. Countries with this framework include New Zealand, Belgium and parts of Australia, such as New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

New Zealand became a model for decriminalisation following legislative changes in 2003. Prostitution, living off earnings, soliciting and contracts are all legal. The government recognises it as work but does not promote it. Limitations do exist, such as using girls under 18, those on short-term visas entering the trade and non-Kiwis or Aussies owning brothels.

Whether or not this has succeeded in helping prostitutes depends wildly on opinion. Anecdotal evidence varies- the lady in this piece feels much safer, whilst another argues it’s still incredibly dangerous. A report from July 2012 by the New Zealand government concluded that whilst it was far from perfect, it had made steps in the right direction. This report says otherwise.

In terms of advocacy, the New Zealand Sex Prostitutes Collective (or NZPC) is the largest in the country. They help any prostitute and advocate for all types. Their website explains the New Zealand model and their case for why decriminalisation must stay.

Abolitionism

In abolitionist legislation, the act of prostitution is legal, but everything else related to it is against the law. Countries with this framework include Madagascar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Brazil, and Great Britain.

Great Britain has long had an abolitionist model. Like the Netherlands, it’s illegal to have sex with a prostitute who has been trafficked. The age of prostitutes is also set at eighteen, higher than the age of consent of sixteen. All other parts of prostitution, such as living off wages and brothels, are illegal.

Groups both for and against prostitution exist. Both the English Collective of Prostitutes and the Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) support full decriminalisation. Streetlight U.K. and Beyond the Streets. Meanwhile, the safety of prostitutes in the U.K. is precarious. One 2018 article states that the mortality rate for prostitutes is twelve times the national average for example. Those with opposing views are at odds on what would help.

Neo-Abolitionism

In neo-abolitionism, the act of selling sex is not a crime, but buying it is, along with other associated acts. This is often called ‘The Nordic Model.’ Countries with this framework include Canada, Spain, Ireland, Sweden and Norway.

Sweden’s lurch towards neo-abolitionism at the turn of the century was the first of its kind. In 1999, they made the act of selling sex illegal, with everything else remaining against the law.

A 2010 investigation from the Swedish government came to this conclusion:

  • Street prostitution had decreased.
  • The law had acted as a deterrent to prospective buyers of sexual services, reducing demand.
  • The law had deterred trafficking, as criminals had not so readily sought to establish organised trafficking networks in Sweden.
  • The number of foreign women in prostitution had increased, but not to the extent noticed in neighbouring countries.
  • Online prostitution had increased in line with all other sold services since 1999, but not to the extent that it could be said that street prostitution had simply migrated.
  • Exit strategies and alternatives had been developed.
  • There had been a significant change of attitude and mindset in society.
  • Adoption of the law had served as a pioneering model for other countries.

Street prostitution has also decreased by 50% since 1995. A 2021 report also showed that the use of online services has increased, particularly among young people.

As of 2023, prostitutes are taxed on their income.

Unfortunately, Sweden remains a top destination for sex trafficking. The number of those trafficked into the country has steadily increased over the years, particularly children. Sweden tends to be very proactive in combating trafficking, but opponents may point to this as an example as to why their laws do not work.

Red Umbrella Sweden, a group made up of current and former prostitutes, is one example of advocacy. They oppose the Nordic model and push for full decriminalisation.

Prohibitionism

In Prohibitionism, anything to do with prostitution, including the act itself, is illegal. Countries with this framework include Egypt, South Africa, the USA outside of parts of Nevada, China and Russia.

Prohibitionist Egypt actively prosecutes those who partake in prostitution. One can receive between six months and three years in prison for the crime, as well as a fine. All other acts linked to prostitution, including facilitating it and profiting from proceeds can get a person up to three years in jail. Adultery is also a crime, but one that unfairly penalises women more. Women who commit adultery can receive three years in prison, but for men it is six months, and only if it is done inside the home.

One way in which charges of prostitution can be avoided is through a temporary marriage-or nikah mut’ah. It is common in Muslim countries. For a specified period of time, which can be between hours and years, a couple is said to be married. This allows any sexual activity done in this time to be ‘legitimate.’ Payment is often involved, as is a dowry. The length of time of the marriage must be chosen beforehand and the father of the girl must give his consent if she has not been married before. It is said that Arab men often travel to Egypt for the summer and engage in these marriages. Both Western and Muslim feminists argue that this facilitates prostitution.

Arguments For and Against

Prostitution has its supporters and its critics. They make varying points based on personal views, religion, ideas of women’s rights, economics, and other things.

For:

Consenting Adults: Probably the most libertarian argument of the bunch, some contend that as long as it’s involving consenting adults, then what’s the problem? An argument is to be made that so long as both sides are consenting to sex, then it is a victimless crime. One must also remember that they are surely consenting to risks of pregnancy and STIs by this action and are thus unable to complain about said risks. Philosophically, it’s an argument of self-ownership of the body, and thus being able to do with it as one pleases. If we circle back to those involved being consenting adults, then there’s the argument.

Taxation: In Nevada, Sweden and The Netherlands amongst others, prostitutes are subject to income tax. Brothels are also subject to business tax in Nevada. From a purely economic standpoint, some would argue that this is just good business sense. By legalising prostitution, you’re creating an income stream that can be used like any other. Those taxes may go into welfare benefits for the prostitutes themselves, or other things such as schools and healthcare.

Safety and Justice: Proponents argue that if prostitution is legal or at least decriminalised, then prostitutes who have been raped, robbed etc will be able to go to the police. This is the case in New Zealand, as police will respond to prostitutes in distress. Those for legalisation argue that by keeping prostitution underground, those who are in genuine need of help will not reach out due to fear of being arrested themselves. That is, however, assuming police will be of any help. That said, it also could reduce the risks of clients doing anything bad, as they would be aware that there are consequences.

Health: With some prostitutes having been arrested after large amounts of condoms were found on them, some argue that criminalisation may decrease the sexual health of both prostitutes and clients. If a prostitute chooses to have sex without a condom, there’s a potential spread of STIs, both treatable and more serious. Furthermore, if it is legal, then outbreaks can be more easily traced and stopped. One might point to Nevada, with its mandatory testing, condom usage and barring violent customers.

Inevitability: Prostitution is, as has been previously said, often named the world’s oldest profession. It happens in poor and rich countries, conservative and liberal places, and in both peace and wartime. One only must see how widespread it is. Thus, one might argue that seeing as prostitution is essentially an inevitability, it might as well be legal and moderated. After all, centuries of illegality haven’t stopped it. That being said- a lot of things are inevitable.

Against:

Forced Prostitution: There’s no way to determine the amount of prostitutes forced into the job by trafficking, but the amount certainly isn’t zero. Legalisation, even with law enforcement backing, does not necessarily prevent trafficking. There’s a bit of back and forth as to whether legalisation increases or decreases trafficking, but the point stands that it will always be there. By legalising it, it seems almost certain that violent pimps and traffickers will not have more of an imperative to flood the market.

Class and Sex: The vast majority of prostitutes are women. Of those in the trade itself, a number are either trafficked or come at it from an economic standpoint. Those who are most at risk of trafficking or survival sex come from minority and poorer socio-economic backgrounds. This thus puts them at a disadvantage when being put with clients who have the ability to pay for their services. Is that not taking advantage of the most vulnerable?

Normalises: Much in the same way the ‘consenting adults’ justification is a libertarian argument, the next is more conservative in nature. One might say that legalising prostitution might normalise it. For some, normalising it is not an issue. For others, they may not want to normalise casual sex with strangers. This is especially true if the clients are married as it could serve as an outlet for adultery. In a feminist twist on the argument, one might say that it normalises a more powerful person paying for the body of a marginalised one.

Doesn’t Stop the Root Causes: There are numerous reasons as to why people enter prostitution. Some want to simply work at something they enjoy or take advantage of the potentially good pay. Others are victims of trafficking, survival sex, poverty, or addiction. Some argue that legalising prostitution does not get to those root causes. People may still enter prostitution because of those reasons even if it is legal. Would it be preferable to help those most in need?

Doesn’t Stop the Violence: Proponents of legalisation and decriminalisation argue that prostitutes are safer under those methods. Whilst that may or may not be true, it doesn’t prevent violence at all. One might point to the murder of Anna Louise Wilson, a New Zealand prostitute murdered after the client refused to wear a condom. Another might point to the fact a prostitute was murdered in a German brothel, the largest in the world.

What Do We Do?

When it comes down to it, it’s clear that there isn’t much of a consensus on prostitution. Despite the trend towards legalisation and decriminalisation, there are still those who oppose it.

Prostitution isn’t just a woman- or a man- having sex for money. It’s about choice, desperation, desire, and fear. There are those who see it as a job, whilst there are those who were forced into it. Some want to leave. There are pimps, brothels, websites, street corners and clients, not by sheer accident, but because supply is often preceded by demand.

Of course, we must listen to prostitutes themselves. They are the ones with first-hand experience of selling their bodies at great risks and under varying circumstances. Many have been victims of child sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence, and addiction. For those who are comfortable in their trade, legalisation and decriminalisation is considered a comfort. For others, it’s no safety blanket. Indeed, many supporters of prostitution uniformly view prostitutes as consenting participants whilst many opponents uniformly view them as victims of manipulation. Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple.

There are some reading this who will want prostitutes to be able to freely work without governments coming down on them. There are others who may be disgusted at the idea of the state sanctioning it. Whatever the case, one hopes that this article has helped them understand the dimensions of debate which surround this controversial and complex issue.


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