Thursday, 27 April 2017
Saturday, 22 April 2017
Don't blame the Frankfurt School
Patrick West on a bold critique marred by conspiracy theories
What Are They Teaching The Children?
Edited by Lynda Rose, Wilberforce, £12
Not a day seems to pass these days without a story in the newspapers about students or universities banning books or speakers for being “offensive”. Invariably, the offending text or person has said something taboo about someone’s gender or ethnicity, something which contemporary students find unbearably hurtful. Modern higher education appears awash with “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” designed to protect today’s students who are at once easily offended and yet alarmingly belligerent in their perceived defence of minorities and the oppressed.
This 21st-century development shouldn’t surprise us, considering the schooling these students would have experienced. For decades now, the doctrines of race and gender equality and non-discrimination have been relentlessly instilled into pupils in secondary schools.
To transgress these articles of faith is deemed to inflict severe mental anguish on the oppressed. The only surprise about our bellicose “snowflake” generation is that it didn’t emerge earlier.
As this collection of essays edited by Lynda Rose elaborates, this cultural revolution – the emergence of equality as a new dogma – materialised in the 1960s. This was a decade that witnessed a sustained attack on Christian and traditional values, with the emergence of socialism as an ersatz, substitute religion.
The associated revolution in education was but one symptom of this cultural shift. As Rose writes: “Education thus became a tool for re-education and indoctrination, ruthlessly replacing the old values with socialist dogma, aimed at emancipating the individual from perceived social pathologies and transferring allegiance to the state.”
“Fairness” has since become the unspoken guiding ideology, which is why in schools it’s deemed important to enlighten children about “equality” and “tolerance” – whether it be towards gays, the transgendered or Muslims.
Yet little comparable generosity of spirit is accorded to Christians, who, quite the reverse, have become objects of hostility. As Edmund Matyjaszek writes here:
“The most ironic aspect is that increasingly – in employment, in education, in public pronouncements – it is the expression of Christian belief that is in danger of being criminalised.” This is because today’s creed of “fairness” only applies to those who are identified or identify themselves as victims – the new dogma excludes those that don’t fit this criteria.
This book is well intentioned, and many will sympathise with the motives of the authors. But while there is much here to inform the reader, What Are They Teaching The Children? suffers from overstatement, and it lapses all too often into the shrill language of conspiracy theory.
“The LGBT movement despises biblical Christianity, following the teaching of Karl Marx and Engels ... and the Church today needs to recognise that the media and government campaigns for the populace to embrace a new morality are just carrying out the mission of radical atheists,” writes Anthony Busk in one chapter. “Their aim is the abolition of the Christian church ... as one more stage on the journey towards fascist and communist totalitarianism.”
Rose herself believes this cultural shift was actually “orchestrated” and “consciously planned” by communists and the Frankfurt School: “The cult of political correctness that we see today is a direct consequence of the organised but covert manipulation devised in post-revolution Russia – and the goal is still the creation of chaos in order to allow the imposition of totalitarian control.”
The book reaches its nadir in the chapter “Indoctrination in Scientism”, where Dr Alastair Noble laments that “evolution is always taught as ‘a fact’.” This is the ironic thing about today’s creationists: they employ the language of relativism that Christians are supposed to deplore: that all narratives can be equally valid.
Hitler and the spectre of the Nazis are invoked more than once in What Are They Teaching The Children? and, as goes one principle of modern-day discourse – Godwin’s Law – as soon as you’ve done this, you’ve lost the argument.
Patrick West is a columnist for spiked-online.com. His new book Get Over Yourself: Nietzsche For Our Times (Societas) is published in August
Friday, 21 April 2017
Tuesday, 18 April 2017
On the Edge
RAFAEL CHIRBES, TRANS. MARGARET JULL COSTA
(HARVILL SECKER, 421 PP, £16.99)
The final novel by Rafael Chirbes, who died two years ago, is ostensibly a bleak portrayal of a Spain ravaged by recession and plunged into despair. It is set in the seaside town of Olba, one of thousands of towns throughout the country devastated by the financial crisis, a land now left strewn with half-finished construction sites, debt and corruption. Laid-off workers sit idle at home on shabby sofas or wile away the time playing dominos in bars, while their wives wonder what they will fill their children's lunchboxes with. Everyone, so to speak, is on the edge.
The main protagonist of the novel, Esteban, was until recently the owner of a carpentry business, but is now penniless and living with his selfish, senile father - now mute and in nappies. The majority of the novel consists in relating his inner dialogue, often in paragraphs that go unbroken for pages, in which he wonders why it all went wrong and who is to blame. It is interspersed with italicized passages from those around him, including those of the staff he had to lay off, each also reflecting on their wretched predicament.
It is an intriguing and entrancing experiment. Esteban's stream of consciousness is rambling and meandering yet lucid: think Finnegans Wake with real words and normal syntax. The prose is thick and relentless, the seaside town is unrelentingly putrid and grubby. There are some wonderful turns of phrase: “Lagoons don’t get a very good press: fever, malaria, filth”; “Work? Only if you want a job digging graves for suicides.” It is a turbulent, tormented affair. “Economics in its purest form,” reflects Esteban, is about “how to stick the knife in the pig’s gullet so that it makes as little fuss as possible when it dies.”
Although superficially a searing indictment of a system that brought a country to its knees, On The Edge is a far more ambiguous and nuanced story than first impressions might suggest. There is the nagging feeling that Estaban believes the town and the country has brought such calamity on itself, what with betrayal and disloyalties exhibited by the characters themselves in response to their plight. Estaban himself is a victim of his own weakness for cheap credit.
If On the Edge is a tale of embitterment, resentment and regret, it is as much Esteban's than the town of Olba or Spain's. His whole bungled life, he feels, has been frustrated by his father's contagious rancour. He reflects on ending as a bog-standard carpenter, unable even to have aspiration. "Perhaps, if I'd had ambition, I would have been even more bitter, would have become impregnated with the bile that has always filled my father". Esteban retreats for the most part into lurid sexual fantasies, before, in the end in seeks refuge in a vortex of childhood memories, to a time before death and money.
(This book review was due to appear in a publication, but for administrative reasons did not)