Month: January 2023

Notes From the Bleak Midwinter (Magazine Excerpt)

The weather has been rather dreary in what little of this year has transpired, so it is almost logical that my first article of the year for this publication might be similarly pessimistic. I was invited specifically to write about my expectations for 2023, so I invite readers to prepare to be depressed over the next couple of pages.

In short, 2023 will probably be a continuation of 2022 in many ways. For example, the war between Ukraine and Russia will remain an orgy of bloodshed and hysterical moralising with no end in sight. Ergo, Western political actors will continue to exploit the war for global brownie points, weakening their militaries and frittering away their citizens’ taxes to keep the useful distraction to the burden of responsible governance the war has provided since last February. That said, the overwhelming worldwide focus on that war should stop some (but not all) flashpoints elsewhere from becoming all-out conflicts, notably in Taiwan, Kosovo and the Aegean Sea. Not all proxy sponsors are in the right places to give a space where armed conflict could occur, but it might end up a different story for the possibility of Turkish intervention into northern Syria and of Azerbaijan into Armenia.

Speaking of domestic politics, the picture is not much rosier. Yes, Rishi Sunak might fulfil his “promise” of falling inflation through simple laws of economics at the bottom of a cycle, but his inevitable attempt to take credit will undoubtedly ring hollow with the masses. One cannot read inflation like poll numbers, meaning the price rises are already embedded into economic reality alongside the below-inflation wage growth. Consequently, the strikes will rumble on for at least the first half of this year as the trade unions try to extract a victory from kicking a government when it is down. It has seemed to me that Mick Lynch and company want to re-enact the ‘Winter of Discontent’, but the reduced scale of unionised workers in proportion to the overall workforce will not make life as holistically dysfunctional from striking alone as it was during the mass strikes of the 1970s. I guess their ambitions, borne out by romanticised period role-playing, are at least typical of the present time. After all, similar fantasies which only the children of later Cold War politics are capable of conjuring drives the foreign policy situation I discussed earlier.

This is an excerpt from “Provenance”. To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.


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It’s Over/We’re Back or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Rollercoaster (Magazine Excerpt)

In short, the year started badly but was peppered with good moments. By mid-2022 it was going excellently, and I thought I was finally past the worst of what this year could throw at me. My hubris was rewarded with some of the worst few months of my life so far. I know that, in the grand scheme of things, I should be thankful for all that I have, and I certainly recognise that I have it much better than most people. It helps to remember that, but it doesn’t change how I felt and acted at the time.

I suppose that that is the nature of life and hindsight. At the time, these moments seemed to mean everything. They either crush your soul and spirit or bring you to the highest heights. I think that this sentiment is expressed quite well in the ‘it’s over/we’re back’ memes that have propagated themselves across my twitter timeline for the past few years. We outright refuse to recognise our own mundane victories and losses, and instead focus on the peaks and troughs – this is natural of course, we would go completely insane otherwise.

I don’t think it is bad to allow these experiences to hit you. Part of the human experience is to be hit by these ups and downs. It is the dwelling on these events that becomes a problem. Holding on to fading hurt and fleeting success instead of moving on in some sort of twisted nostalgia for our best and worst moments can lead us down a very dark and dangerous road. It makes us forget who we are and who we can be. Our lessons learnt, we should embrace the change and simply move on. It is in these moments that we grow and mature as people, and become a better version of ourselves.

For me personally, this year has been an absolute rollercoaster of highs and lows, and that has been very hard to deal with. Things seem to be better now, however, and I am filled with enthusiasm for what the new year can bring me. I think that 2023 will be an amazing time for personal growth and development. I still have a lot of weight to lose, but I am steadfast in my determination to see it through this year. Coming to terms with my situation and state of mind will not be easy, but life is not supposed to be easy. Nothing worth doing is easy.

This is an excerpt from “Provenance”. To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.


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Predictions for 2023 (Magazine Excerpt)

The 2022 midterms should have been a bloodbath. It should have been a huge sweep for the Republicans, relegating the Democrats to the depths of minority rule. Instead, the Republicans managed to win the House only respectably, whilst the Dems kept the house. It’s widely believed that better candidates could have kept the house.

Good candidates do exist. Ron DeSantis managed to make gains in Florida. Glenn Youngkin flipped Virginia. Brian Kemp safely won re-election in Georgia. Unfortunately, there were also many poor candidates. A competent Republican could have beaten John Fetterman in Pennsylvania. Somebody else could have beaten Katie Hobbs.

The same is true for Presidential elections. The Republicans have only won one election in the 21st century outright, with both the Electoral College and popular vote – George W. Bush in 2004. 2000 and 2016 both saw Electoral College wins but popular vote losses. Whilst external events came into play, it’s not a great look.

That being said, it almost seems that the Republicans like losing. They’re not making any real attempt at winning. Whilst they might choose decent candidates, there’s a high chance they won’t.

This is an excerpt from “Provenance”. To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.


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Avatar: The Way of Water Review (Magazine Excerpt)

It has been almost 12 years since the release of one of the highest grossing films of all time – that being 2009’s Avatar, James Cameron’s sci-fi epic.

There has been a running meme for the last couple years that despite the first Avatar film’s wild success in the box office, it isn’t a memorable film. The characters aren’t memorable, the storyline is a copy and paste of 1990’s Dances With Wolves, and that its success hinged on the technological breakthroughs in CGI and 3D film that were a staple feature of the film.

In retrospect, the running joke isn’t far from the truth. Avatar is a film that hasn’t held up for casual viewers on its own merits, but rather through nostalgia of a time that has long passed – a time before the insanity of the last 10 years in the social and political scene, where most people were more concerned about the film’s core messages; that being a deeply environmentalist film, a critique on colonialism, and the insatiable appetite of human discovery wreaking havoc on innocent and more noble creatures.

While there are aspects of the original film I enjoy, such as the detailed world-building that Cameron is known for, and the cutting edge visual effects, it still failed to resonate with me the way it has with many other viewers.

The preaching was exhausting when I watched it the first time in 2009, and it is still exhausting today. I get it. Humans are bad, save the trees, the military industrial complex is so evil, etc, etc.While the second installment Avatar: The Way of Water certainly delves a little deeper into the lore and ups the stakes for the protagonists, it still carries the same bare-bones environmentalist sermon that has become all too exhausting in this day and age, especially when we have Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil cronies ruining fine art and causing general inconvenience to all those around them in our current reality.

This is an excerpt from “Provenance”. To continue reading, visit The Mallard’s Shopify.


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Democracy: A Means, Not an End

What do Communism, Nazism, and liberal democracy have in common? It’s the tendency to deify the system of government and turn it into an object of worship. The system is not simply a means to an end or a pragmatic choice, taking due cognizance of its merits and demerits. It is an ideological presupposition and an intrinsic moral good.

This undue reverence was recently demonstrated on November 3rd when President Joe Biden tweeted:

“Democracy is more than a form of government. It’s a way of being. A way of seeing the world. A way that defines who we are, what we believe, and why we do what we do. Democracy is simply that fundamental.”

It’s difficult to dismiss the quasi-spiritual overtones of what effectively functions as a profession of faith, in much the same way a Catholic would profess the Nicene Creed during each mass. There are two things to take home here.

Firstly, man’s innate religious impulse will be satisfied, in one way or another. It is delightfully ironic that a product of the Enlightenment — liberal democracy — has laid bare one of its fundamental errors. True political neutrality, in the sense of being untethered to any collective belief system, is impossible. A system can reject God, and even the supernatural altogether, and still function as a religion. This was particularly true of Soviet Communism, where there was scarcely anything which the regime’s ideology wasn’t woven into.

Secondly, why are these professions becoming more frequent and fervent? Is it because they feel that the system is on the verge of collapse and that they might soon have to abandon any pretence of being democratic? This isn’t happening because of some neo-fascist uprising, as the neo-liberal establishment would have you believe. For a democracy to function, the ideological differences between the parties must be circumscribed by a common cultural and moral framework that transcends politics. Remove that, and you have chaos. The losing minority would never submit to the majority because the winning party is seen as an affront to their values. Moreover, how is any common framework possible if democracy — at least in its liberal form — fosters adversity between citizens and conditions people to view everything through a partisan lens?

Liberal democracy rejects such constraints. In the United States, this has resulted in a situation where no side is willing to accept defeat without contest. Donald Trump is infamous for refusing to concede the 2020 election to this day, but scant attention is given to the Democrats’ less-than-graceful concession in 2016 and their role in the now discredited “Russian collusion” narrative. Furthermore, rioting, and political violence have also become so commonplace, that shops in Washington DC and elsewhere were boarded up just days before the previous presidential election. Across the pond, a healthy democracy is also impossible in Ukraine, at least within its current borders, because its pro-Russian citizens in the East would never accept a pro-Western government, and vice versa. Their identities and aspirations are simply too incongruous for a single political system to support.

Appeals to “our democracy” and the imminent dangers to it are increasingly employed by politicians to discredit upstart rivals, particularly ones who dissent from the neo-liberal world order. Is this just a rhetorical tool, or does it reveal something about the way they view their political opponents? In a literal and objective sense, it would be hard to apply this to anyone, as despite the cacophony of left-wing doomsaying following a conservative victory, or even the possibility of victory, anywhere in the world, Adolf Hitler has yet to be reincarnated in any shape or form. So what do they mean by “our democracy”? Potentially, it means that only like-minded people, or people with whom they can reconcile their differences, can be valid participants in “their” democracy because it’s contrary to human nature to bargain with something perceived as being evil or immoral.

If democracy collapses in the West, it’s because we have removed Christianity from the equation and appointed the state or party as the arbiter of moral truth. Christians should not submit to neo-liberal dogmas about the role of religion in politics, but unflinchingly proclaim their faith as a source of inspiration and an antidote to the tumultuous future ahead. The wisdom of Pope St John Paul II comes to mind:

“Democracy cannot be idolized to the point of making it a substitute for morality or a panacea for immorality. Fundamentally, democracy is a ‘system’ and as such is a means and not an end. Its ‘moral’ value is not automatic, but depends on conformity to the moral law to which it, like every other form of human behaviour, must be subject: in other words, its morality depends on the morality of the ends which it pursues and of the means which it employs.”

— Evangelium Vitae, 25 March 1995.

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The Problems with Euthanasia

“Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.”

Psalm 71:9

I, like many others, am no stranger to a family member who has suffered an undignified death. To see a loved one who previously beamed with vitality and independence to go out in a certain manor is inconceivably hard. At one point, I did think would it not be best if my loved one and the loved ones of many other people, have the chance to die with dignity. That is what it comes down to for many people who are in favour of euthanasia – giving dignity to those who have lost it. I have no doubt that many have good intentions when it comes to euthanasia. What I fear and wish to highlight however is that in our desire to bring dignity to those who are nearing the end of their lives, we’ll be exposing a great many more people to an even worse indignity.

We see this indignity play out  in real life – most notoriously – in Canada. Perhaps the most famous example came in February 2022, when a Canadian Woman by the name of Sophie (from Ontario) ended her life after she was unable to secure affordable housing because of her chronic illness and was unable to live with her meagre disability payments. This is far from an isolated case either as there have been other Canadians in a similar position who have felt they’ve had no choice but to end their lives. When discussing bringing about greater indignity – we’re not just talking about on a personal level for these poor individuals. As tragic as the individual cases like Sophies are, the question must be asked what are the structural problems within Canadian society that cause such tragedies such as these to happen?

It should be no surprise to anyone that Canada has some of the lowest spending on social care out of any developed nation; with waiting times being unbearable. Palliative care is also only being available for a select few. It is no coincidence either that this deteriorating situation in both sectors comes off the back of Canada’s liberalisation of euthanasia over the past several years. The numbers suggest this to be the case. Before the 2021 Bill C-7 entered into force, Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer published a report about the cost savings it would create. Whereas the old system (based around the 2016 C-14 law that legalised euthanasia in the first place) saved $86.9 million per year – Bill C-7 would create additional net savings of $62 million per year. Healthcare, particularly for those suffering from chronic conditions, is expensive; but assisted suicide only costs the taxpayer $2,327 per ‘case’.

Why – with the obvious financial advantage outlined above that euthanasia brings – would the state in Canada have any incentive to fix the serious issues with its healthcare system? For that matter, why would any state that legalises euthanasia do so either? Simply put, if the state finds it cheaper to simply let you die, then it will more often than not allow for public services to deteriorate. This is what creates the indignity for the greater number of people. It creates indignity for those who can’t proper healthcare, it creates indignity for the disabled who can’t get the care they deserve, it creates indignity in general for the vulnerable in our society who quickly become viewed as a nuisance and would be better if they simply went away.

This is ironic considering that since – for most of Joe Public at least – euthanasia is propagated on compassionate grounds. That compassion is almost out of a sense of social duty towards our fellow man that they should be able to die in a dignified way. What cases like in Canada should demonstrate however is that there is a massive difference between the principle and practical implementation of euthanasia. I would argue however that the practical implementation of euthanasia demonstrates a much more sinister motive amongst our ruling elite. One utilitarian in nature.

Jeremy Bentham is not a widely known philosopher – at least not when you’re referring to Joe Public. He’s not as widely recognisable as say Marx or J.S.M. He is arguably however one of, if not the most consequential philosopher in modern history. The basic premise of Bentham’s philosophy is that society and the state should base its decisions on creating the greatest good for the greatest number. Whatever serves the majority interest is in of itself correct. Euthanasia is arguably the purest embodiment of the utilitarian method. As we see with Canada, Canadian law makers see euthanasia (or MAID, as they call it) as a means of saving money and gradually emancipating themselves from the responsibility of looking after the most vulnerable in society. The greatest number in this case is the Canadian tax payers and the greatest good is saving them a load of money. From a purely utilitarian point of view, this is perfectly fine; but I would argue that this is far from the moral thing to do.

Again, utilitarianism may be not a well-known philosophy but it is one of the most consequential in human history. From the workhouse to the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century – many of the evils in recent human history have based their understanding on the basic utilitarian premise: providing the greatest good for the greatest number. This is not to say that any application of the utilitarian method is bad. It is to say however that you cannot base policy purely on this method – whether it is in the benevolent desire of allowing people to die with dignity or whether by the more sinister application of ridding society of its undesirables. Any application of the method should always be tempered by a strong moral value system.

For Those who have read ‘A Brave New World’ would know one of the things that makes the world of that book so dystopic is its prolific use of euthanasia. Once one reaches the age of 60 in the book, citizens are – whilst not explicitly mandated by the state –heavily encouraged to end their lives. Once you reach past that age, you are seen as more of a burden to society; so it’s best for everyone if you died. This highlights another consequence that will arise from the legalisation of euthanasia. Not only (as highlighted above) would euthanasia encourage the state to rid itself of its duties towards the citizens it governs over but it would make society more brutal in general. A new zeitgeist will form amongst the public, where the value of life is greatly diminished. People will also lose their sense of duty towards their fellow man and start thinking why they should their tax money be spent looking after the most vulnerable in society when they can so easily be disposed of. If the state doesn’t have the idea first, then I should imagine that the state will face grassroots pressure from the public to negate its duties towards the vulnerable. Far too many aspects of A Brave New World have already become a reality in our modern society: I would rather if this didn’t become another prophetic part of our everyday life.

Arguably though, the greatest philosophical/moral argument against euthanasia is that death in of itself is undignified. As a close friend of mine working in policy said to me, there is no dignity in dying. Ever. Dying is always a great humiliation; which can only be alleviated by a clear conscience, family, friends, and having your affairs in order. Death is a sentence passed on all of us: it is the great equaliser. Whether you die soiled and limp or die through sedation and euthanising drugs; the result is ultimately the same: death. As such, euthanasia is a trick to con people into thinking they have agency over that humiliation, but they don’t. That is the great lie that is propagated.

But do we have reason to believe that many of the real world and theoretical issues associated with euthanasia would become a reality in the UK? Yes, the precedent is there in spades unfortunately.

Possibly the most notorious example in the UK is the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP). Created in the late 1990s in order to provide good palliative care for those reaching the end of their lives, the LCP was initially well received. It became clear by the early 2010s though that things were seriously wrong. There were multiple scandals of malpractice; including purposefully dehydrating patients for days or leaving them sedated, meaning they were unable to ask for food or water. The Pathway was announced to be ending by July 2013 by ministers but by December 2013 it was clear that the programme was simply being rebranded. What’s worse is that the new draft guidance from 2013 stated that any patients unable to swallow could be denied food and fluids by tubes unless a hospital team decides it is in their “best interests” to have them. This goes further than current laws which only allows such practices for patients assessed and found to lack mental capacity. One eery similarity that was found with the LCP and the Canadian experiment is that it was found in 2012 that many patients were sent to the LCP without their or their families consent in order to save money.  An additional financial incentive to encourage patients to end of life care has also been present since the 2001 Palliative Care Review, where hospitals get more funding if they put more patients on end of life care.

This is not even mentioning the NHS’s history of ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) orders. Around the same time when the LCP was unravelling, there were scandals with NHS Trusts misusing said DNR orders. From May to December 2011 for example, eight Trusts were warned because of such malpractice. University Hospitals Birmingham were warned twice in the previous two years alone and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – one of the hospitals that came under the Trust – was found in June 2011 by the CQC of not always involving patients or relatives in DNR decisions.

Perhaps one of the most famous and tragic cases of the NHS’s misuse of DNR orders is the case of Janet Tracey in 2011. Janet Tracey had been diagnosed with lung cancer and had fell and broken her neck in February 2011. She died 16 days later. Her husband David Tracey launched allegations that the medical staff at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge where his wife resided, unlawfully issued DNR orders without his wife’s consent – cancelling the first DNR order after she objected and days later adding another to her medical notes without her consent or any discussion. David Tracey took the hospital to the Court of Appeal and won in 2014, with the court ruling that the hospital acted unlawfully. The Tracey judgement did set the precedent that hospitals/Trusts had to inform patients if DNR order has been placed on their records but that judgement doesn’t seem to have been respected fully. Recently during the COVID-19 pandemic, 508 DNR’s were issued from March 2021 to March 2021; ignoring the legal precedent set by the Tracey case. Only last year did a long-term anti-war and peace activist Eric Levy pass away from a double tragedy of having a DNR placed on him and him being put on a rebranded Care Pathway.

This – I must stress – is not an exercise of trashing the NHS in particular. In fact, it’s safe to assume that many issues the NHS has faced and would face if euthanasia was legalised would be faced by most, if not all healthcare systems across the globe. This being said though, with the prospect of euthanasia being legalised becoming more apparent in the UK, looking at the precedent set within our own healthcare system is vitally important, and if we’re being honest here, the picture is not good. One can talk about the need to implement proper safeguards if euthanasia was legalised in this country – which would certainly be pertinent to do. The problem is that the NHS has – on multiple occasions – failed to implement proper safeguards for patients who were reaching the end of their lives in the past; so what makes one think they will implement the appropriate safeguards when/if it’s legalised? It may sound harsh but it’s far from an unfair question to ask, people’s live literally depend on it after all.

The concerns around euthanasia do not just potentially affect those who are of unsound body but also of ‘unsound’ mind. Turning back to Canada, Canada’s C7 Bill will, by March 2023, allow for assisted suicide for people with a whole range of mental health issues; which include but not limited to depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, personality disorders, or schizophrenia. Unlike in the Netherlands however, there is no need for a doctor to agree that euthanasia is necessary, it’s entirely subjective and based on the afflicted feelings at the time. Even in the aforementioned Netherlands, where the regulations for psychiatric euthanasia is nominally much more strict, the practical checks and balances are sketchy at best. After euthanasia has taken place, the doctors have to submit a report to one of the 5 regional review committees, but the positions on the committees are not full-time roles and they cannot be a specialist in every case, as they have to handle around 6,500 per year (which is not a small number considering the Netherlands size). As a result, the doctor is always right in effect, with there only being one case where a doctor has been prosecuted for breaking the 2002 law. This is in a country that has significant more experience with psychiatric euthanasia and still struggles. One can only imagine the huge amounts of extra bureaucracy that would be needed in the UK to make sure such a practice was properly regulated.

Which poses the question, how do you properly regulate it? Unlike physical illnesses, a medical professionals opinion on mental illness is much more subjective and less definitive. This is a question that needs to be satisfactorily answered because the real world application of euthanasia demonstrates that psychiatric euthanasia will eventually come. I particularly worry about this since we live in a world of millennial/Gen Z nihilism. Sure we like to joke on the internet about it but the sort of satire culture that has emerged around this nihilism amongst the younger generations is based of a genuine feeling of despair much of the time. Legalising psychiatric euthanasia without the necessary safeguards (if the ability to create said safeguards are even possible), along with the growing nihilism and mental health problems arising from the younger generations, is a recipe for disaster. We already see this in part in the Netherlands again where 1 in 5 psychiatric euthanasia’s were not previously hospitalised and a significant minority did not receive psychotherapy. With the NHS being under-resourced as it is currently, I would imagine this ratio could potentially be even higher.

The slippery slope is far from a fallacy. Indeed, I fear that euthanasia, if it is legalised, will initially be legalised based off the desire to allow those in the most incurable suffering to end their lives, but then will gradually become more and more liberalised beyond the original intention of that legalisation. This is not without precedent. With euthanasia this is particularly dangerous because it will potentially mean an industrial scale slaughter of the most vulnerable in our society. We must recognise that whether we are talking about the practical, philosophical, or the moral implications of legalising euthanasia; there are problems at every turn. As such, we must exercise the greatest conservative principle, that being caution, when pondering whether or not we should legalise euthanasia; because once it’s done, it’s done; there’s no going back.


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Andrew Tate: Idolatry on the Right

In recent months, a phenomenon has swept through social and mainstream media, presenting itself as a paragon of masculinity, success, and wisdom against those that would seek to stultify and control the masses. This phenomenon was known as Andrew Tate, and his reach is something that a Westminster MP could only dream of and envy. At the time of writing this, he has 3.7 million followers on Twitter, and has appeared on Piers Morgan’s TalkTV show, GB News, and Fox News in America. But his reach has gone far beyond the chatter of tweets and the flaccid questioning of Mr Morgan, he has a growing following among teenage boys and those who would identify themselves politically on the right. It would seem to be somewhat innocuous that a figure of influence is ostensibly presenting a message encouraging males to embrace their masculinity and to develop their resilience, but is there more to Tate than meets the eye?

Let’s go back to the beginning. For the purposes of brevity and conciseness, I’m going to avoid a detailed biography of the former kickboxer, that’s what search engines are for. After a rather successful career in kickboxing, at one point ranking second best light-heavyweight kickboxer in the world. Tate first entered the media sphere in 2016, as a guest on the reality show Big Brother, during which time he was scrutinised for his comments on Twitter. Later, he created a website offering training on wealth accumulation and male-female interactions. His most well-known venture involved his brother, Tristan, in which they worked together to operate a webcam studio using his girlfriends to manipulate male callers. A venture which, by his own admission, was a “total scam”.

Again, conciseness would prevent me from going through every controversial post or tweet from Tate. But his recent takes on issues from Covid to Meghan Markle have garnered significant attention and support, resulting in those who agree with his positions to view him in a much more favourable light, in spite of previous controversies; seeing his announced conversion to Islam as a kind of Pauline, Damascene transformation that aligns him to those of us who yearn for a preservation of traditions that have previously maximised the wellbeing of men, women and the raising of children.

Christ warned, in the gospels, of wolves in sheep’s clothing- people who will appear righteous in their sayings and public actions but have their own motives beneath the surface (he intended this as a warning to Christians about those who would enter the body of the church with ulterior motives). Too often, the right has easily clung to different individuals who mimic soundbites or present-day talking points. Interestingly, the most recent social media exchange involving Tate and Climate Changes’ equivalent to the medieval ‘Mad Child Saint’ Greta Thunberg, was actually a clash between two idols; one deified predominantly by the left, and one by the right. Battle lines were drawn and electronic foot soldiers on both sides levelled accusations of being uncritical and blindly following  fallible figures; an inexperienced, and scientifically incompetent teenager, and an arrogant, belligerent, and dishonest opportunist.

The truth is that the right is as unaware of its blind spots as the ideological leftists it (rightly) opposes. Our discourse has shifted in such a way that anyone who agrees on talking points of current issues (e.g. race, biological sex, sexuality, etc.), the right’s guard seems to drop and uncritical praise, almost to the point of fawning, is showered on the speaker/writer- for clarity, I’m not precluding the ability to find common ground on these issues, and the right itself is not a monolith. For those of us who are wedded to the philosophy of conservatism, the concept of the ‘Civic Gospel’, and a return to the traditions which were most conducive to social cohesion and unified us under a common, transcendent ideal, there could not be a worse mascot than Tate. His own brand of arrogance, combined with geysers of self-promotion, referring to a nebulous conception of ‘The Matrix’, and a tone that seems as belligerent to those loyal to him, as it is to his so-called ‘haters’- is this really a voice that people think should ‘lead the forces’? This is not to say one should not be sceptical and mindful of actual moves against conservatives, but it has become something of a social-media trope to behave as though we’re aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, jacking in to judo-throw the hyper-liberals, and leap across rooftops evading the political and social gatekeeping agents.

We tend to favour the figure of the ‘strong man’- the individual who will courageously stand by their principles and ideals, fights for and defends that which is good in our world and beats back the foe. Often, people confuse this with the individual that has ‘based tweets’ or will be unafraid of cancellation. If conservatives are to truly win the battle of ideas, it cannot be with shallow social media presences, soundbites, or rallying behind unsavoury characters that cherry-pick conservatism. The blind defence of Tate by certain right-wingers, after his arrest on 29th December, claiming him to merely be a victim of ‘The Matrix’ or some other equally tenuous and incoherent cabal indicates the battle conservatives still have ahead of them- I refer to the battle within.

There are a lot of different ideas and personalities masquerading as conservatism. Some reduce it to merely the contra position to progressivism- to do this is to misunderstand the fact that conservatism isn’t anti-progress, it is merely mindful of progress, to invoke Burke, in the context of the “primeval contract” between the living, the dead, and those yet to be born. I would doubtless be preaching to the converted about the difference between the two positions. Another blind spot on the right is the often-insatiable desire to ‘own the left’. It is in this desire that I think we can find our biggest blind spot. Whether it’s personalities on mainstream/social media, or some other entity, the right has, in recent years often lost sight of its own philosophy in order to score cheap points on liberals/the left; one of the most notable examples being in the struggle against identity politics- I refer you to the appointment of Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister, and the point-scoring with the Tories having the second non-white Prime Minister. It seemed some had forgotten our own history by ignoring the premiership of one Benjamin Disraeli. Granted, there is some catharsis to be had in these moments, but they come at the cost of presenting a mature philosophy that seeks to preserve the best of our society and culture.

To return to the focus of this article, Tate certainly does not represent conservatism in any meaningful way (I’m not arguing for philosophical/ideological purity per se), but he has served a purpose in exposing a ubiquitous blind spot. The Bible refers to the practice of “giving glory to the creature rather than the creator”, the modern obsession with facades, personalities and appearances over thoughts and ideas, I believe, enables this practice. It is clear that if the conservative seeks a ‘model’, it must be someone who transcends the ebb and flow of modern society, or social media soundbites. Even the institutions we venerate can no longer be trusted to be guarantors of the common good, since they themselves are captured by this wave of style and personality over substance. This is why Christian conservatives place Jesus front and centre- a man who stood apart from selfish motives, petty conflicts, but upheld ideals that touched all, while staying true to his boundaries. Whether or not one accepts the metaphysical statements he made, his life and acts, and the culture they inspired should be our gold standard, not the jewellery on Andrew Tate’s wrist.


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Bureaucracy and Fate

Among those who detest bureaucracy, there is a common criticism. Theodore Dalrymple indicts the British bureaucratic machine with these words:

“… Anthony Blair, with the cunning of the natural born swindler, seized his chance and created a loyal, corrupt, self-seeking nomenklatura class that remains extremely influential and easily able to outwit the blancmange-like David Cameron, who in any case so easily moulds himself to any shape going.”

The idea is simple enough. Bureaucracies represent the interests of the class from which they are drawn. Over time they ossify into a lobby for that class, at the expense of society at large. In Britain’s case, there’s a caste of people most attracted to Blairite ideology, who form the core of the public service. Their predominance explains why Britain is incapable of moving beyond a collection of stale centre-left notions, regardless of the stance of the government in power.

The analysis is a classic one. Aristotle (Politics, 4.1294a; 6.6.1320b18; 6.1.1316bb39-1317a10) and Polybius (Histories, 6.10.4-11; 6.12.4) both see the balancing of different social groups as vital for social justice. It’s not just that there are executive, judiciary and legislative branches of government. These must be staffed with the right combination of groups in order to properly represent the interests of society. If a single class monopolises an institution, the results are bad, regardless of other separations of powers.

But there’s a further perception which, I think, has escaped Dalrymple. Implicit in his criticism is the idea, conscious to him or not, that were British bureaucrats something other than a Blairite nomenklatura caste, that things would be better. That a bureaucracy can be balanced between social groups, just like a parliament, and all will be well.

The training of a bureaucrat necessarily excludes any political virtue. A bureaucrat is a cog in a political machine. His job is to maintain the state’s will despite any turmoil or emergency the country may face.

In this sense the bureaucrat isn’t dissimilar to a soldier. The conservative French philosopher Yves Simon analysed the nature of authority in 1962, sometimes using the army as a metaphor. Much of what he says can be translated over to bureaucracy. Any association of people has a common good and a common action which enables it. The common good of the army is defending the national interest against enemies, so its common action is armed campaign to defeat the enemy. To do this, it must have unanimity: every soldier must know what he’s supposed to do and how to do it.

Now, every soldier is a rational individual with his own opinions and ideas. In an ideal world, each soldier would immediately understand the why and wherefore of an order, and assent to it through reasoned argument. But the reality is that the circumstances of war are so confused, cloudy and ambiguous, that were the army to expect rational assent from every individual to every strategy, nothing would get done. There would always be a cause of doubt; always a valid motive for dissent from a plan. So, there must be a threshold where deliberation stops, and opinion becomes an order. At this point, the soldier substitutes the reasoning of a superior officer for his own. Not because he’s stupid or unable to reason, but because common action demands it.

In the military the stakes are very high: destruction, death, and annihilation. Therefore, the threshold where opinion becomes an order is low, in comparison to other organisations. In a government bureaucracy the stakes are high, if not quite so high: shortage of goods, mass hunger, economic paralysis. This is why, I contend, the bureaucrat isn’t that different from a soldier. The common action of bureaucracy is to keep the country running. Like with war, the task is loaded with ambiguity and unpredictability. So, the bureaucrat is required to frequently substitute the deliberations of superiors for his own.

But this means that an excess of bureaucracy in a country will have similar cultural effects to an excess of militarisation, but without any of the martial vigour. The training of a bureaucrat isn’t to think deeply; it’s to internalise the state’s ideology to keep the country running at all costs. A bureaucrat who thinks deeply is a liability because he’s someone who will constantly express doubts and interrupt the state’s ability to act or respond to problems. So, a society that’s dominated by bureaucrats at every level will be radically conformist, incapable of self-reflection, and unable to undertake serious reform.

The city of Sparta, because it was narrowly focused on warlike virtue, excluded all other virtues and went into decline (Aristotle, Politics, 2.1271b). Sparta made all citizens into soldiers, and so rendered them unable to act as independent rational agents in times of leisure. Once the battle was over, Spartans couldn’t think without orders to follow. Sparta stopped innovating and was outcompeted by her neighbours. Isn’t a bureaucratic state like Britain prey to a similar fate of death by ideological conformity? If the bureaucrat is the model citizen, and not the statesman, artist, philosopher, or craftsman, shall our society not also become a self-regulating idiocy?


Photo Credit.

10 Pages Minimum: A 2022 Book Report

At the end of 2021, I challenged myself to read at least 10 pages of a book a day. I was initially shocked at how difficult I found it to just sit down quietly and read a book. However, within the first month, I found it easier and easier to sit quietly, and enjoy reading. Having been unable to read practically anything for pleasure in the past few years, I am glad that I was able to accomplish this. By the end of 2022, I was able to read 14 books, and I decided that it would be prudent to compile a list of them, and to give a brief review of each one. All of these reviews were written within a few days of finishing the book, so as to give my most accurate opinions of them. This article, therefore, has been a year in the making! I hope that I am able to persuade you to take up this challenge in 2023.

Upon reflection, it has become clear to me that my reviews at the start of the year are not as good as the ones nearer the end of the year. Please excuse me for this, I have had no experience in writing book reviews up until now; but I feel as though this exercise has given me good practice in the area.

Book 1: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

Read from: 01/01/2022 to 14/01/2022

Rating: 5/5

Review:

When I saw this for sale in Waterstones, I chuckled to myself because I have seen the film so many times, and am very aware of all of the references and memes it has generated. I immediately bought it and I am extremely glad that I decided to make it my first read of 2022.

The book is an extremely well-written and unique dive into the horror nightmare land of Yuppie culture in the 1980s through the eyes of an unreliable narrator, Patrick Bateman.

For anyone who has seen and enjoyed the film, you will love this book. This novel fleshes out the character of Patrick Bateman and the accompanying cast and really helps to add the context and depth which would be impossible (or at least extremely difficult) to show on film.

The book is intentionally written in a repetitive and confusing style to try and put us in the head of Bateman, who lives a life surrounded by repetitive and confusing people constantly lost in meaningless conversations over what kinds of socks match with a certain tie, or who is calling up the newest celebrity-owned restaurant to make a reservation. As a reader, you may find this jarring at some points. But I beg you to be mindful of the point Ellis is trying to make. By about a third of the way through you will begin to appreciate the pages and pages of text covering the newest album from Huey Lewis and the News, and Patrick’s running commentary on what he, his girlfriend, his friends, and his victims are wearing.

Please be aware that if you have a vivid imagination, this book can be extremely difficult to read at some points due to the levels of violence and gore it portrays in excruciating detail. (I actually found myself feeling sick at some points, but this just lends more credit to the incredibly descriptive abilities of Bret Easton Ellis).

I thoroughly recommend this book, and I hope that you read it and enjoy it as much as I did.

Book 2: The Art of Rhetoric by Aristotle

Read from: 15/01/2022 to 13/02/2022

Rating: 4/5

Review:

I had never been very interested in philosophy, I had always found it unnecessary for myself to learn it. However, after a few debates and arguments with some of my friends who did enjoy learning philosophy, I decided that I would finally get around to reading some.

As I am interested in politics and public speaking, one of my friends recommended to me the Art of Rhetoric. I bought this book some time ago last year and had never read it, so I thought it would be best to start off my philosophical education with this book… that was a mistake.

I soon came to realise that, if you have never read any of Aristotle’s work, he can appear to be a confusing writer. He seems to love tangents and diversions and references to his own and other people’s work. Whilst it was certainly interesting to read about all of these tangents, it did make it quite difficult and confusing at some points to really understand his point or what he was talking about. One minute he would be talking about the different reasons people debate, and then he would suddenly be discussing the benefits of slave ownership.

Another issue I had while reading the book is that it introduces some new terms and words that I had never heard of before such as ‘Enthymemes’ etc. I had to spend considerable time actually learning what all of these specific terms meant before I could even understand what a large amount of the book was talking about, otherwise, I would have completely missed the context of entire chapters. That is not the fault of the book but a fault of mine (as mentioned earlier this was the first philosophical book I have ever read, and that was my mistake).

The book is actually split into three books (all relatively short). Without spoiling anything, The first two books give a lot of context to the third book which is where the actual ‘art of rhetoric’ is discussed at length. This made the first two books feel very slow compared to the third. It is also worth noting that the first two books are where most of the tangents can be found, whereas the third book seems laser-focused on the topic at hand.

Overall, I found the book very enjoyable. It pushed me to actually learn new concepts and terms I had never heard of before, and gave me new ways of looking at debate and argument as a practice. I would definitely recommend this book to people interested in improving their debate and public speaking skills, however, I would also warn you that, if you have never studied philosophy before, don’t be surprised if you have to re-read a few pages and do some research on some of the concepts Aristotle talks about.

Book 3: Trans-Siberian Rail Guide by Robert Strauss

Read from: 13/02/2022 to 19/02/2022

Rating: 4/5

Review:

I found this book completely by accident at the ‘Barter Books’ second-hand book shop in Alnwick. I saw the cover, saw the low price, took a guess at what it might be about, and decided that I had to have it! At first, I assumed that this would be a simple guide for tourists of the Trans Siberian railway, but as soon as I started reading it, I discovered that it was so much more than that. It is a charming collection of history, anecdotes, and stories about the Trans Siberian Railway; and an assortment of (now obsolete) information about the various ways one could successfully navigate the journey across the Soviet Union to China and Japan (or vice versa) via train in the late 1980s.

This is by no means a history book, however, it is a very dated guidebook that was written for an 80’s audience, and it contains an absolute heap of useless and obsolete information about how to behave properly around Soviet border agents, the addresses of various consulates and embassies for countries which no longer exist, and tips on where best to buy camera film and cheap Hi-Fi’s when lost in Beijing. I found that this added to the charm of the book, and made it more interesting to read about the lived experiences of those bold adventurers making their way across Communist Russia, Mongolia, and China.

What makes this book even more endearing is that, when it was written, the author put out an advert for readers of the Times newspaper to submit their own stories of their travels along the Trans Siberian to him. He features these stories throughout where relevant, which really adds to the human touch of the book.

The book is broken down into 5 parts. Some of these parts are more focussed on the history of the railway and various anecdotes and stories of travelers’ experiences over the last 100 years on it. Other parts of the book are more instructional and list embassies, hotels, hostels, useful numbers for Visa applications, etc. The author, Robert Strauss, does an excellent job of weaving these two very separate kinds of information together to make for a very delightful read.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the Trans Siberian Railway, anyone who wants a brief flashback to the late 1980s, and anyone who is sad enough to spend their time reading pages and pages of completely useless and obsolete information about how to purchase train tickets from the Hungarian Socialist Republic (people like me).

Book 4: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Read from: 20/02/2022 to 08/04/2022

Rating: 4/5

Review:

This book was bought for me as a gift by my girlfriend after I had expressed some curiosity in it (it is her favourite book and I was interested to see why).

This book (sometimes referred to as ‘The Great Divider’) is a tricky one to get through at times, it brazenly challenges you to keep reading it, despite its cruel themes and evil characters. I found some parts of the book particularly difficult to stomach due to the horrible issues which it covers, but I did soldier on through it to the end. This is why it has taken me almost double the time to get through this book as it has to get through other books of a similar length.

The book tells the story of Humbert Humbert, a handsome young European academic who comes to America after the death of his first wife. The story is told in the past tense from his perspective as he desperately tries to convince the reader, using all of his intellectual charm and cultured European graces, that his attraction to young girls is completely fine, and that the rape of his landlady turned wife’s daughter, Lolita, is justified.

It is fair to say that the book is a heavy read, and forces you to stay on your toes in order to not sympathise with him. Humbert Humbert is the king of unreliable narration, and phrases the most disgusting events in ways that can become very palatable to the reader if not considered properly in context.

This is indeed the crux of the book’s appeal, it is astonishingly beautifully written, even if it leaves you feeling sick or sad afterward. The writing style of the author, Vladimir Nabokov, in this book is absolutely impeccable and suits the theme and character of Humbert Humber almost too perfectly. It made the characters feel so alive and real.

My main complaint about the book, and what is stopping it from receiving five stars in my opinion, is that some sections (specifically the road trips) seem unnecessarily drawn out and overcomplicated, whilst other parts (specifically the ending) seem too rushed and simple – it feels as though you waited through a huge build-up over hundreds of pages for an ending that is covered in less than 30! I understand that this is because the book is framed as a retelling of a story from one person’s blinkered perspective, but I would have enjoyed it a bit more if the book spent more time fleshing out other parts of the story, and perhaps cutting back on excessive detail in others. However, this issue did not kill to book for me and I did still find it very readable almost all of the time.

In conclusion, an absolutely fantastic read that I would definitely recommend to anyone bold enough to take on Nabokov’s challenge.

Book 5: Mine Were of Trouble by Peter Kemp

Read from: 08/04/2022 to 13/05/2022

Rating: 5/5

Review:

This book was completely unknown to me until I started being recommended it by various anonymous accounts on Twitter. My curiosity peaked after I had heard the general theme of it; and I must say, I am extremely glad that I took the decision to buy and read it.

This is arguably one of the most interesting, thrilling, and charming books I have ever read, and most certainly is a contender for my favourite of the year. The author, Peter Kemp, has a superb skill for structure, detail, and storytelling that makes it extremely difficult to put this book down. It gives you just enough detail to help you understand the situations he was in without being too heavy-handed and boring. At some moments, ‘Mine Were of Trouble’ reads almost like an adventure book; not because the events are so unbelievable, but because of the great lengths the author went to describe the acts of heroism and horror he saw in real life.

The book tells the true story of the experiences of Peter Kemp (the author), a 21-year-old English law student who was so moved by the stories coming to Britain of the horrors experienced by Catholic priests at the hands of the Republicans, that he decided to join the Carlists (a monarchist faction within the Nationalist army during the Spanish civil war). The book does not read like a diary, and instead is more of a lengthy account of his entire time before and during his service in the Spanish Nationalist military.

The true tales told by Kemp range from the humourous and charming to the horrendous and despicably ugly. At times during the book I was chuckling, and at other times I was almost crying. The book is not attempting to engender these emotions within you, it is simply telling you the story of Kemp’s fascinating journey through the civil war. It serves to remind us all that not all of war is horror; and not all of war is camaraderie, fun, and games.

This book has generated within me a great desire for travel and escapades. I would sincerely recommend this book to anyone interested in the history and politics of inter-war Europe and the Spanish civil war. I would also recommend this book to anyone interested in the concepts of masculinity, heroism, and the call to adventure. Whilst not saying it directly, Kemp touches on all of these topics in great detail. His time and actions in Spain reflect his values of faith, honour, courage, and compassion. This book has served as a great insight for me into all of these topics, and I am sure that it would do the same for you.

Book 6: Convenience Store Woman by Murata Sakaya

Read from: 13/05/2022 to 16/05/2022

Rating: 5/5

Review:

As I was strolling around the Waterstones near Monument Metro Station in Newcastle, my girlfriend and I came across a small ‘Japanese Literature’ section. I have never read any Japanese literature of any kind ever, so I was intrigued by it. I was curious to see what was on offer and, as I was looking at the table, I was passed a copy of this book ‘Convenience Store Woman’ by my girlfriend who said to me that she had really enjoyed reading it in the past. I took her advice and, as it was only £8.99, I decided to buy it. This was a very good decision, and I am very glad that I bought this book.

The book itself is very short at just 160 pages with barely more than 200 words a page on average, so you can get through this extremely quickly. I consider myself to be quite a slow reader and I managed to complete it in just 3 days! I found the book to be very difficult to put down, the pacing was just right and kept you hooked into the story all of the time. I didn’t feel as though the story dragged at any point, and the general theme was one which I found quite relatable.

The story itself centres around Miss Keiko Furukura, a 36 year old Japanese woman who has been working the same part time job at the same convenience store for the last 18 years. Whilst never stating it explicitly, it is obvious that Keiko has autism and struggles to understand the actions of the people in the world around her, except for when she is working in the store. Keiko’s whole life revolves around her job at the store and it seems as though, to her, it is the one thing that gives her a purpose. She sees no reason to keep herself healthy, except for the benefit of the running of the store; she sees no reason to take a shower and shave, except for the benefit of the running of the store etc. This all changes when a new employee, a man name Shiraha, enters the picture.

Both of these characters are outcasts who take a different approach to dealing with the similar situation that they find themselves in. Shiraha is a failure who cannot find a wife. He is angry at the world for forcing him to work and just wants to hide away and do nothing. Keiko, on the other hand, has no anger to the world and just cares about the running of the store. The author does an excellent job at contrasting their opinions and methods for dealing with their problems, and it proves to be an excellent commentary on the expectations that Japanese society places on men and women.

If you are looking for a light and quirky book, this is certainly one for you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I was sad to have finished it so quickly. It has been a refreshing brake from the other books I have read so far, and I will certainly make an attempt to read more Japanese literature in the future as a result of it.

Book 7: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Read from: 16/05/2022 to 24/05/2022

Rating: 4/5

Review:

This particular book was of great importance to me because of how I came to have it. It was given to me as a gift by my English teacher back in 2016 just before I took my GCSEs. I had never read the book and we did not study it at school, I knew absolutely nothing of the plot and I used to ask her questions about it. Instead of giving the answer away, she bought me it as a present so I could come to the answer myself. Well, after almost six years of starting it, stopping it, and starting again, I finally got myself into gear and finished it. This was a great relief to me, as it means that I wont have to read the first chapter over and over again any more.

The book is relatively short but the pacing of the story can make it quite difficult to read at times. I found the start and end of the book to be very slow and drawn out whilst particular sections were very rushed. I’m sure that Fitzgerald was doing this for dramatic purposes, however I felt as though I should have been given more information at certain important moments. Fitzgerald is clearly a master of the English language and his usage of it in the book is interesting and unique. I found that some of the speech patterns in the book are very dated (this is the original unabridged version after all) which certainly gave it a 1920s feel. Whilst I had no problem with this, you do sometimes find yourself re-reading the same lines to make sure you understood what was being conveyed in this older style of writing. If you are not used to certain aspects of 1920s speech patters and history, try and buy a copy like mine which came with context explainers at the back. This helped me in my own understanding of what was going on in certain scenes.

The story is a somewhat reliable narration by Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner come to seek his fortune in New York City in the early 1920s. There he meets his neighbour Jay Gatsby, a mysterious and extremely wealthy man who, by complete chance, happens to be madly in love with Nick’s cousin Daisy, who lives just across the water from him. Daisy is married to the equally wealthy adulterer, Tom Buchanon. The story follows Nick as he is pulled further and further into a disgusting web of deceit, lies, and deception that surrounds Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom.

I found that the 2013 film adaptation of the book is fairly true to the source material, but it does skip over a large chunk of the relationship between Nick and Jordan Baker. The book does a better job of fleshing out the relationship between the two and it also does a much better job of making the characters less fantastical and more realistic. The film portrays Nick as a clueless do-gooder who just happened to be caught up in rich peoples cruelty whereas the book assures you that he knows what he’s getting himself in to.

In conclusion, a classic book which I would highly recommend. Not too long and certainly recommended if you have seen the film and wanted a bit more from the characters.

Book 8: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Read from: 24/05/2022 to 22/06/2022

Rating: 4/5

Review:

This is arguably the first book of the year that I have read that I went into with absolutely no idea of what to expect. I had never heard of Amor Towles or his works, and this book was more of an impulse purchase after a friend of mine saw it on sale for a ridiculously low price and recommended it to me. I am glad that he made such a frantic bid to get me to but it. I have also just noticed that this is the third book of the year that I have read to be based in New York City (with American Psycho and The Great Gatsby being the other two). I suppose, through the lens of these fictions, I have taken a journey of the history of New York from the 1920’s to the 1980’s.

This book follows the life of Katherine Kontent, a typist at a law firm, as she makes her way through the year of 1938 in New York City. The concept of time passing is a big factor in this novel, the book is structured heavily around the changing of the seasons and the progression of time. It is no surprise that the main story starts on New Years eve 1937 and ends on New Years eve 1938. She, along with her room-mate Eve, meet Tinker Gray, a very curious individual who they both take great interest in. Over the course of the year, this typist is pulled from the bottom of New York society to the top. She becomes close and personal friends with the wealthy and not-so-famous member of society who keep the machine of the city moving along. She seems to find herself both disgusted and fascinated by it, and keeps venturing into it for more.

This book had the ability to trigger a very strong emotional response from me. It reminds us (bluntly in some places and subtly in others) that time is indeed passing and slipping through our fingers, and that we are the total sum of all of our decisions and all the decisions of everyone around us. Fittingly, I found the ending of the book both beautiful and agonising; all of the separate story lines of the small array of characters that Katherine meats neatly come to their conclusions. It left me felt feeling so sad, and I am not entirely sure why this is. Perhaps it is because it reminds that, no matter how eccentric or interesting we try to be, we too are side characters in someone else’s story; and one day, our relationship with those people will end as well one way or another.

The book’s structure is well put together, and it is clear to me that Amor Towles has an incredible grasp on the English language. His writing style is very unique and enjoyable; however, the method he uses to represent conversations (long flows of text rather than broken up sentences with quotation marks) can be quite jarring at times and it sometimes became very difficult to tell who was talking to who. I would also argue that the pacing of the book was a bit strange. The story seemed to race at the start, then slow down toward the middle, and then jump to a breakneck pace at the end again.

In conclusion, this was definitely an enjoyable book and is one which I shall be recommending to others.

Book 9: The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Read from: 23/06/2022 to 23/06/2022

Rating: 3/5

Review:

Due to the nature of this book and my political biases, I think it unfair to attempt to give this book a true ‘rating’, so I have opted to give it a 3 out of 5 – truly, the most neutral of ratings you can award a book (or anything for that matter).

I read this book many years ago when I was only a child, and so I saw that it was high time to read it again. Whilst I do not agree with Marx and Engels, I found the book to be very interesting and insightful into the initial aims of Communism.

I think today in the world of debate, we get very caught up in politicking, good and bad looks, and the humdrum of boring arguments. Sometimes we forget what certain people actually sincerely believe. It was quite refreshing to read straight from the source. I appreciate the fact that there have been many different iterations and interpretations of communism over the last hundred or so years, but it was nice to actually be able to get a grip of what the original idea of it actually was. As we live in the age of gutter politics, Marx is someone who has been warped and twisted beyond disbelief by people on both sides. Rereading this book reminded me that the chap, at the end of the day, was a philosopher trying to make sense of the modern industrial world and make predictions on the upcoming class struggles between proletariat and bourgeoisie.

Has this book changed my opinions on economic and social relations? No. I am just glad to have been given a fresh perspective on what communism is, and what Marx and Engels were trying to put forward. I am curious as to what they would think of the modern world if we could reach through history and bring them to now. I wonder if they would rejoice or shudder at the state of the modern communist movements. I wonder what they would say about the history of the last 100 years. I wonder how they would view the states of China, Cuba, and the like.

In terms of the books structure, it is incredibly short. You can read this in an afternoon if you really wanted to. I found the first half and the last tenth to be the most interesting, whereas the middle of the book was very slow.

In conclusion, it’s a short read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning about the communist movement. I would be interested in reading more of Marx’s material after this as I personally found it very interesting.

Book 10: Silence by Shusaka Endo

Read from: 24/06/2022 to 16/07/2022

Rating: 5/5

Review:

I picked up this book at the same time that I got ‘Convenience Store Woman’ from the Japanese section at Newcastle Waterstones. It is funny as I had not intended to get any books at all and wound up buying two. I have also now purchased this book again as a present for a few friends as it is relatively cheap and extremely worth a read. I loved this book and I am glad that I made the impulse purchase after admiring its cover in the Waterstones.

This book follows the journey of Father Rodrigues as he journeys to Japan in the 1640s with his friend Father Garupe to act as a missionary and to discover the fate of his former teacher, Father Ferreira who has been rumoured to have apostatized and to now be assisting the Japanese government in hunting down and persecuting Christians. The journey of Rodrigues is a sad and miserable one. He starts with, what he believes to be, complete faith in God and the Catholic church. This faith is tested repeatedly by the misery and suffering of himself and the Christians of Japan that he sees around him. He is constantly doing battle with the silence of God when he sees injustice and cruelty done upon himself and his fellow Christians.

The novel’s author, Shusaka Endo, was a Japanese Catholic, and I believe the book itself was an attempt by himself to understand his relationship with God and his Christian faith through the abstraction of historical story telling. I believe, therefore, that this book is a good way of understanding my own faith better and coming to terms with the reality of the world around me and my relationship with God. If you are a Christian as well, I would thoroughly recommend this book.

The book, at just 267 pages, is relatively short and I found it very readable. The author uses letters, diaries, and reports from different sources as a framing device for good chunks of the story which helps to break it up and adds a layer of depth to the various characters that are met along the way. The general arc of the story is good and has a sound progression. Do not go into this book looking for a happy ending, you will not find one. The story does not finish with some grand triumph for any character, it merely reflects on the situations that they find themselves in.

Overall, I would certainly recommend this book. It is a brilliant example of 20th century Japanese fiction and, more specifically, provides an excellent retrospective on the persecution of Japanese Christians in the early Edo period by a practicing Japanese Christian. It is a great shame that the film adaptation by Martin Scorsese (himself a great admirer of this book) was such a commercial flop.

I would like to take a moment, if I may, to reflect on the books I have read so far. It is now the 17th of July 2022 and so much has happened since I started this challenge. Russia invaded Ukraine, I turned twenty-two, Boris Johnson has resigned, I bought my first house, and now we are all suffering through an absurdly hot heatwave and sky-high energy and commodity prices. It has indeed been a strange year for me, Britain, and most of the world. My one constant, however, has been the reading I have been doing. As I mentioned at the start of this piece, I barely read at all in the last decade, and it has been thoroughly enjoyable to burn my way through so many of the books that have been sitting gathering dust in my room.

I did not think, when I set myself this challenge, that I would have already finished 10 books by the end of the year… let alone the middle of July. I am very proud of this achievement, and I am looking forward to carry on reading throughout the year and into the next (and so on and so forth). I have learned so much from these books, not just what they contain, but also the foundations of what makes good fictions and non-fictions so enticing. I also think that my reading comprehension and patience has increased dramatically, and my ability to review the books has improved too.

If you are still reading this behemoth of an article at this point, I hope that you have been finding it of some use or interest. I sincerely hope that it motivates you to pick up some of the books laying around at your house that you’ve been telling yourself you would actually read too.

Book 11: Patriotism by Yukio Mishima

Read from: 17/07/2022 to 17/07/2022

Rating: 5/5

Review:

This book was recommended to me by a friend. I did not intend to read it so quickly but it is an incredibly short book and is an extremely compelling read. It is also the second Japanese book I have read in a row. I am glad that I bought it and I hope that I can convince you to buy it too.

The book is set over a period of three days and follows the story of a Lieutenant in the Japanese Imperial Army, Shinji Takeyama, and his beautiful young wife, Reiko. Being instructed to command troops destined to fight the forces of rebellious officers (many of whom are his close friends), Shinji is faced with the impossible choice of loyalty to his friends, or loyalty to the Imperial Army and the Emperor of Japan. Shinji, instead, chooses to commit seppuku (ritualistic suicide) with his wife as his witness.

The book describes, in graphic detail, the couple’s last few hours together on the night that they will take their own lives. It explicitly takes the reader through the couple making love multiple times before then agonizingly describing every moment of Shinji and Reiko’s suicide. Reading this part of the book was genuinely difficult at some points due to the gruesome nature of Yukio’s writing style.

Achieving a ‘glorious death’ was something that the author was very focussed on in his own personal life, so it is easy to understand why he would write about ritualistic suicide so positively. After further investigation, I discovered that the rebellion in the book was a real event that took place known as the ‘Ni Ni Roku’ Incident. This incident, along with many other events in Japanese politics, would shape Yukio’s worldview and drive him further into his beliefs surrounding right wing politics and the future of the Japanese nation and people.

In terms of structure, the book is incredibly short and can be read easily in less than an hour. I would thoroughly recommend the book to anyone interested in Yukio Mishima, this is an excellent way to ingratiate yourself with his beautiful and graphic writing style, and a good way to get a glimpse at his views and beliefs.

Book 12: The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima

Read from: 17/07/2022 to 13/08/2022

Rating: 4/5

Review:

This is the fourth Japanese-authored book I have read this year, the third in a row of Japanese books, and the second from the esteemed author Yukio Mishima. I heard about this book from various accounts on Twitter and have seen it recommended numerous times but I had absolutely no idea what it was about. I am still not entirely sure if I have fully understood the book, but I will do my best to review it here.

The book is set in Japan a few decades after the second world war, and follows the story of the child Noboru and his wealthy widowed mother Fusako. Noboru is part of a gang of self-proclaimed genius boys led by ‘the chief’ who have become radically angered and dissatisfied with the modern world and modern rules and morality. Noboru is obsessed with the sea and ships and, when he is taken by his mother to the docks to actually see some vessels, they meet the ship’s second mate, Ryuji.

Fusako and Ryuji are smitten with each other and they have sex soon after meeting, whilst Noboru watches on from a peephole he has discovered in between his wall and his mother’s. Initially, Noboru is very pleased with Ryuji. He likes the fact that he is connected to the sea and he sees him as perfect. However, after a series of faux-pas on the part of Ryuji, and Noboru’s excessively high standards and non-standard morality, he soon finds himself disgusted by Ryuji.

This book is strange. I very much enjoyed it, but sometimes it was difficult to get into. Yukio Mishima was exploring his own philosophies and ideas on modern morality through the character of an extremely intelligent child, however, sometimes this came across as very unbelievable and annoying. The only truly sympathetic character is Ryuji.

Mishima, of course, uses his masterful command of language and metaphor to create beautiful images in the reader’s mind, especially when discussing sex and violence. This is a theme seen throughout all of Mishima’s work.

In terms of structure, I found that the pacing of this book was actually very good. The book is split into two halves, ‘summer’ and ‘winter’, each having its own distinct tone. The book is quite short at just over 100 pages and was paced in such a way that it never felt too quiet or too busy throughout.

Overall, a good book that I enjoyed. I would recommend it to you if you were especially interested in understanding Mishima’s personal philosophies and worldview.

Book 13: The Obesity Code by Dr Jason Fung

Read from: 14/08/2022 to 25/08/2022

Rating: 4/5

Review:

As someone who has struggled with weight their entire life, this book was a real eye opener. This book was bought for me years ago by my dad, but I never once opened it. I did not know who Dr Jason Fung was, and I had no intention to read what I assumed was just another self help book. Fast forward to a few months ago when a friend of mine suggested buying this book (as it had really helped them with their weight). I realised that I already had it buried away on my book shelf, and I made it my aim to at least try and get through it. As soon as I saw the cover, I realised that this Jason Fung was the same Jason Fung whose YouTube videos I had been watching for the past few months. Given the high quality of his channel, I went in with high expectations, and I was not disappointed!

Firstly, this is not a self help book. Dr Fung uses this book to meticulously and thoroughly dismantle commonly held misconceptions about diet, exercise, and weight loss. His calm and methodical approach to explaining problems with the diet and pharmaceutical industry (especially in North America and Europe) is eye opening and fantastically interesting. I found myself unable to put this book down (hence why I was able to read it so quickly).

I wouldn’t be doing the book justice by trying to fully explain Fung’s take on weight loss, but the general lesson he teaches is that insulin and cortisol are the two hormones that contribute the most to weight gain and obesity; that the post-70s western diet and lifestyle has made us prone to insulin resistance and excess cortisol; and that the standard ‘eat less, move more’ advice so often given out by doctors and government health agencies is unhelpful for people truly trying to lose weight. Dr Fung’s solution to these problems is intermittent fasting, which he claims is beneficial for reducing insulin resistance and being the most effective tool for obese people to lose weight.

The vast majority of the book is spent focussing on his main hypothesis that insulin causes weight gain. He only goes into fasting in the final section. This is why I do not consider this to be a ‘self help’ book. He spends far more time helping the reader understand what the problem is then actually giving specific solutions for this to be thought of as ‘self help’. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is up to you, but personally, I liked it. The book didn’t feel preachy or like quackery.

My only complaint, and the reason I don’t think I can award 5 stars, is that Dr Fung spends a huge amount of time going over the same points again and again. I appreciate that he is attempting to drill an idea into the reader, but it can get quite monotonous after a while.

Since watching his YouTube videos last month and reading his book, I have lost roughly 12kg in weight (about 2 stone/28lbs). This is evidence enough for me that his methods work, and I am fervently carrying on with them. If you struggle with your weight or are just interested in a fresh take on why the world has an obesity problem, I would most certainly recommend this book and his YouTube channel.

Book 14: No Colours or Crest by Peter Kemp

Read from: 28/08/2022 to 31/12/2022

Rating: 5/5

Review:

This book took a much longer time to finish than normal due to personal issues and should not be taken as a slight on the piece of work. This book is the second of Peter Kemp’s three books detailing his activities before and during the second world war (see review number 5 for a cover of his first book ‘Mine Were of Trouble’).

We follow him on his journey after the Spanish civil war, joining the British army as a liaison officer and being sent into Albania to act as a representative of Britain and to gather information on partisan activities in the area. Being parachuted into the country, he is forced to deal with the complex political issues that drown the region in mistrust and curtail any effort to form a united front against the Italian and German occupying forces.

This first section of the book was very interesting to me, Enver Hoxha (the post war Communist dictator of Albania) is a character which I have known about for a very long time, but never seriously investigated and researched. In this book, Peter tells of his regular dealings with Hoxha, along with his other Communist, Monarchist, Republican, and Reactionary counterparts in their desperate bid to repel the invaders and attempt to seize legitimacy in forming a new government for Albania after the war has ended. Peter’s writings about these figures and his travels through Albania showcase the chaos and unpredictability of a small nation at war not only with an outside power, but also itself.

The second, much shorter, section at the end of the book tells of Peter’s brief time in Poland in 1945, and his capture and mistreatment by the Soviet Red Army, who viewed him as less of an ally than a potential enemy once the war was over.

The book is an excellent read for any history nerds interested in the niche fringes of the second world war, featuring a very unique insight and detailed description of war stories not often talked about in Western media. Kemp’s keen memory and light-hearted nature make for, not only a detailed read, but also an enjoyable one.

The pacing of the book can be a bit slow at times. I thought it was a shame that Kemp talked for so long about his time in Albania, but very little about his time in Poland. I appreciate that he was in Albania for much longer, but it would have been nice if he could have been a bit more detailed in his discussion on his time spent in Eastern Europe.

Peter has a distinctive writing style which became more and more obvious as I read through this piece, and I would struggle to define it. He writes memoirs like no other memoirs I have read.

Overall, an excellent read which I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend. I will be reading and reviewing his third book ‘Alms for Oblivion’ later in 2023.

It is the 1st of January 2023 and I cannot believe how much my life has changed since my last writing on here on the 17th of July (just after review number 10) and over the year as a whole. I am now a settled homeowner on the other side of a breakup, I have spent time living in London to escape family drama, and I am 30kg lighter than when I started the year. The war in Ukraine still rages on, and inflation seems to have calmed down just a little bit. I have been totally blown away by the rate of change I have experienced this year, and I am reminded whilst writing this that one of the only constants I have had throughout 2022 was the challenge to myself to read more this year. I am extraordinarily proud of what I have accomplished, and I sincerely look forward to doing it again in 2023, I hope that next year I am able to read at least 20 books.

I hope that these reviews and remarks have given you some encouragement to take up reading this year, it really was one of the best decisions I made at the start of 2022, and I hope that you see fit to make it one of your own resolutions for 2023. 


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Liberalism and Planned Obsolescence

Virtually everyone at some point has complained about how their supposedly state-of-the-art phone, tablet, laptop, or computer doesn’t seem quite so cutting-edge when it either refuses to work properly or ceases to function entirely after a disappointingly brief period of time. This is not merely the grumblings of aggravated customers, but a consequence of “planned obsolescence.” The term dates back to the Great Depression, coined by Bernard London in his 1932 paper Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence, but a practically concise definition comes courtesy of Jeremy Bulow as “the production of goods with uneconomically short useful lives so that customers will have to make repeat purchases.” Despite being an acknowledged (and in some cases encouraged) practice, it is still condemned; both Apple and Samsung have faced legal action on multiple occasions for introducing software updates which actively hinder the performance of older devices. In the face of all this, planned obsolescence isn’t going anywhere so long as there is technology, nor does anyone expect it to. It is, as death and taxes are, one of the few certainties of life.

As the title of this essay suggests, I do not intend to delve any further into the technological or economic ethics of planned obsolescence. Interesting as they may be, I want to focus on how the concept appears in a political context; more specifically, in liberalism.

One of the core tenets of liberalism is a belief in the “Whig interpretation of history.” In his critique of the approach, aptly titled The Whig Interpretation of History, Herbert Butterfield outlined the Whig disposition as being liable to “praise revolutions provided they have been successful, to emphasize certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present.” To boil it down, it is the belief that history is a continuous march of progress, with each successive step freer and more enlightened than the last. A Whiggish liberal is dangerously optimistic in their opinion that history has led to the present being the greatest social, economic, and political circumstances one could hitherto be born into. More dangerous still is their restlessness, for as good as the present may be, it cannot rest on its laurels and must make haste in progressing even further such that the future will be even better. The pinnacle of human development lasts as long as a microwave cooking a spoon, receiving for its valiant effort little other than sparks, fire, and irreparable damage resulting in its subsequent replacement.

The unrepentant Whiggery of the modern world has prompted scholars of the Traditionalist School of philosophy to label it an aberration amongst all other societies, as the first which does not assign any inherent value to, or more accurately, openly detests, perennial wisdom (timeless knowledge passed down through generations) and abstract metaphysical truths. In the words of René Guénon, “the most conspicuous feature of the modern period [is its] need for ceaseless agitation, for unending change, and for ever-increasing speed.” Quite literally, nothing is sacred. One of the primary causes of this is that modernity, defined by its liberalism, is materialist, and believes that anything and everything can and should be explained rationally and scientifically within the physical world. The immaterial and the spiritual are disregarded as irrational, outmoded and unjustifiable; it is, as Max Weber says, “disenchanted.”

To understand this further, we must consider Plato’s conceptions of the two distinct natures of the spiritual and the material/physical world, “being” and “becoming” respectively. Being is constant and axiomatic, characterised by abstract ideas, timeless truths and stability. Becoming on the other hand, as the nature of the physical world, reflects the malleability of its inhabitants and exists in an endless state of flux. Consider your first car, it will alter with time, the bodywork might rust and you may need new parts for it, and indeed it may eventually be handed on to a new owner or even scrapped entirely. Regardless of what changes physically, its first car status can never be separated from it, not even when you no longer own it or it’s recycled into a fridge, for it will always hold a metaphysical character on a plane beyond the material.

Julius Evola, another Traditionalist scholar, succinctly defined a Traditional society as one where the “inferior realm” of becoming is subservient to the “superior realm” of being, such that the inherent instability of the former is tempered by orientation to a higher spiritual purpose through deference to the latter. A society of liberalism is unsurprisingly not Traditional, lacking any interest in the principles of being, and is instead an unconstrained force of pure becoming. Perhaps rather than disinterest, we can more accurately characterise the liberal disposition towards being as hostile. After all, it constitutes the “customs” which one of classical liberalism’s greatest philosophers, John Stuart Mill, regarded as “despotic” and a “hindrance to human development.” Anything which is perennial, traditional, or spiritual is deleterious to the march of progress unless it can either justify its existence within the narrow rubric of liberal rationalism, or abandon its traditional reference points and serve new masters. With this mindset, your first car doesn’t represent anything to do with the sense of both liberation and responsibility that comes with being able to transport yourself, it is simply a lump of metal to tide you over until you can get a more expensive lump of metal.

Of course, I do not advocate keeping a car until it falls to pieces, it is simply a metaphor for considering the abstract significance of things which may be obscured by their physical characteristics. In the real world, the stakes are much higher, where we aren’t just talking about old cars but long-standing cultural structures, community values and particularisms, and other such social authorities that fall victim to the ravenous hunger of liberal progressivism.

The consequence of this, as with all things telluric, material, or designed by human effort, is impermanence. Without reference to and deliberate denigration of being, ideas, concepts and structures formed within the liberal system have no permanent meaning; they are as fickle as the humans who constructed them. Roger Scruton eloquently surmised this conundrum when lambasting what he called the “religion of Rights”, whereby human rights, or indeed any concepts of becoming (without spiritual reference, or to being) are defined by subjective “moral opinions” and “legal precepts.” Indeed “if you ask what rights are human or fundamental you get a different answer depending whom you ask.” I would further add the proviso of when you ask, as a liberal of any given period appears to their successors as at best outdated or at worst reactionary. Plucking a liberal from 1961, 1981, 2001, and 2021, and sitting them around a table to discuss their beliefs would result in very little agreement. They may concur on non-descript notions of “freedom” and “equality”, but they would struggle to find congregate over a common understanding of them.

To surmise, any idea, concept or structure that exists within or is a product of liberalism is innately short-lived, as the ceaseless agitation of becoming necessitates its destruction in order to maintain the pace of the march of progress. But Actual people, regardless of how progressive or rational they claim to be, rarely keep up with this speed. They tend to follow Robert Conquest’s first law of politics: “everyone is conservative about what he knows best.” People are naturally defensive of the familiar; just as an aging iPhone slows down with time or when there’s a new update it can’t quite cope with, so too will liberals who fail to adapt to changing circumstances. Sadly for them, the progressive thirst of liberalism requires constant refreshment of eager foot-soldiers if its current flock cannot keep up, unafraid to put down any fallen comrades if they prove a liability, no matter how loyal or consequential they may have once been. Less, as Isaac Newton famously wrote, “standing on the shoulders of giants”, more “relentlessly slaying giants and standing on a pile of their fallen corpses”, which as far as I’m aware no one would ever outright admit to.

You don’t have to look particularly far to find recent examples of this. In the 1960s and 70s, John Cleese pioneered antinomian satire such as Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, specifically mocking religious and British sensibilities. Now, in response to his assertion that cultural and ethnic changes have rendered London “no longer English”, he is derided for being stuffy and racist. Indeed, Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson, and Sadiq Khan, the three progressive men (in their own unique ways) who have served as Mayor of London since its establishment in 2000, lined up on separate occasions to attack Cleese, with Khan suggesting that the comments made him “sound like he’s in character as Basil Fawlty.” There is certainly a poetic irony in becoming the very thing you once satirised, or perhaps elegiac for the liberals who dug their own graves by tearing down the system, only to become the system and therefore a target of that same abuse at the hands of others.

Another example is George Galloway, a staunch socialist, pro-Palestinian, and unbending opponent of capitalism, war, and Tony Blair. Since 2016 however, he has come under fire from fellow leftists for supporting Brexit (notably, something that was their domain in the halcyon days of Tony Benn, Michael Foot, and Peter Shore) and for attacking woke liberal politics. Other fallen progressives include J. K. Rowling and Germaine Greer, feminists who went “full Karen” by virtue of being TERFs, and Richard Dawkins, one of New Atheism’s four horsemen, who was stripped of his Humanist of the Year award for similar anti-Trans sentiments. All of these people are progressives, either of the liberal or socialist variety, the difference matters little, but their fall from grace in the eyes of their fellow progressives demonstrates the inevitable obsolescence innate to their belief system. How long will it be until the fully updated progressives of 2021 are replaced by a newer model?

On a broader scale, we can think of it in terms of generational divides regarding social attitudes, where the boomers and Generation X are often characterised as the conservatives pitted against the liberal millennials and Generation Z. Yet during the childhood of the boomers, the United Nations was established and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and when they hit adolescence and early adulthood the sexual revolution had begun, with birth control widespread and both homosexuality and abortion legalised. Generation X culture emerged when all this was fully formed, and rebelled against utopian boomer ideals and values in the shape of punk rock, the New Romantics, and mass consumerism. If the boomers were, and still are, ceaselessly optimistic, Generation X on the other hand are tiringly cynical. This trend predictably continued, millennials rebelled against Generation X and Generation Z rebelled against millennials. All of them had their progressive shibboleths, and all of them were made obsolete by their successors. To a liberal Gen Zer in 2021, it seems unthinkable that will one day be the crusty boomer, but Generation Alpha will no doubt disagree.

Since 2010, Apple’s revolutionary iPad has had 21 models, but the current could only look on in awe at the sheer number of different versions of progressive which have been churned out since the age of Enlightenment. As an object, the iPad has no choice in the matter. Tech moves fast, and its creators build it with the full knowledge it will be supplanted as the zenith of Apple’s capabilities within two years or less. The progressives on the other hand are inadvertently supportive of their inevitable obsolescence. Just as they were eager not to let the supremacy of their ancestors’ ideas linger for too long, lest the insatiable agitation of Whiggery be halted for a moment, their successors hold an identical opinion of them. Their imperfect human sluggishness will leave them consigned to the dustbin of history, piled in with both the traditionalism they so detested as well as the triumphs of liberalism that didn’t quite get with the times once they were accepted as given. Like Ozymandias, who stood tall over the domain of his glory, they too are consigned to a slow burial courtesy of the sands of time.

As much as planned obsolescence is a regrettable part of modern technology, so too is it an inescapable component of liberalism. Any idea, concept, or structure can only last for a given time period before it is torn down or has its nature drastically altered beyond recognition to stop it forming into a new despotic custom. Without reference to being, the world and its products are left purely in the hands of mankind. Defined by caprice, “freedom”, “equality”, or “democracy” can be given just as quickly as they can be taken, with little justification required other than the existing definition requiring amendment. Who decides the new meaning? And what happens to those who defend the existing one? Irrelevant, for one day both will be relics, and so too shall the ones that follow it. What happens when there is no more progress to be made? Impossible to say for certain, but if we are to take example from nature, a tornado once dissipated leaves behind only eerie silence and a trail of destruction, from which the only answer is to rebuild.


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