What a curious state of affairs we live in. To end a millennium of English self-rule is “moderate,” and giving a corrupt Italian government license to be more corrupt is “sensible.” To most in the world, President-Elect Hillary R. Clinton would have been the sensible outcome. It would be moderate for this moderate president to arm moderate rebels and followers of moderate Islam to then kill a moderate number of the Syrian Army, and establish a moderate pro-NATO government in Syria (Cheque please!).
The Richmond by-election saw the Pro-EU Liberal “Democrat” candidate Sarah Olney overturn the short-lived, and might I remark excellent parliamentarian, Zac Goldsmith. She won on the promise that she would scheme to overturn the result of the referendum and remain in the European Union despite the referendum result. The Telegraph described it as a “shock win,” but I was not a surprised; Richmond Park, and that area of London is something of a luvvie lair. What also didn’t surprise me was what I read when I turned over the next page of my Sunday Telegraph. In an open letter titled “Tories ignore this message from moderates at their peril,” penned by a collective of self-styled moderate conservative Members of Parliament, was the measured alarm that “Theresa May‘s UKIP-lite approach is alienating moderate Tory voters, who could desert the party.” These voters, they wrote, would rather the government pursue “soft-Brexit,” which sounds safe and undramatic. The way this should really be phrased is so that soft-Brexit, or soft-leave is the same as hard-Remain. If the “moderate” Tory decides he wants a soft-leave he really wants a hard-remain, this would mean a rejection of the dignity of self-governance. It would mean throwing away our own independence from fear of rocking the boat.
When I began to phrase “moderate” beliefs in terms of their opposites, the farce of moderation made itself known to me. Their imagined “moderation” is simply the championing of a radical and unprecedented status-quo. Choosing the perceived certainty of membership of the European Union as opposed to the perceived uncertainty of independence is like choosing the certainty of suicide over the uncertainty of life. “I may be hit by a car tomorrow, so the moderate response is to hang myself today”; this is the absurd reasoning of status quo moderates.
National Socialism was prevented last Sunday, depending on what paper you read. For the Austrian people to reject independence, reject the power to control their own affairs, and reject demographic suicide would not be only be extreme, but absolutely outrageous. It is much better for the Austrians to emulate their sensible German cousins. Welcoming 20,000,000 third world migrants over the next four years is moderate and sensible. Austria’s Italian neighbors acted without moderation in voting against Renzi and the EU last Sunday, because it caused Italy to enter into a period of financial uncertainty.
The second word that has been soundly abused is “uncertainty,” and it is so often confused with “risk.” Indeed, the two are used almost interchangeably. If I’m uncertain, I don’t know the possible outcomes. If I take a risk, I know the possible outcomes and the probability of each outcome. It is always amusing when politicians assume that markets are ever certain. To enter into a period of “uncertainty” makes little sense unless you view markets as inherently stable. The belief that financial markets are internally stable is common, and any financial breakdown is imagined to be caused by “exogenous shocks,” so called, that come from outside the self regulating, equilibrating, financial market. This belief is the primary reason politicians are obsessed with “moderation.” If the markets can only fail when something changes, then nothing should change.
The Italian banks are close to meltdown, and the developed world is now almost at the complete mercy of the financial system. I have already addressed this danger in a previous article. The Italian vote on Sunday could almost be viewed as a vote for either a period of banking stability, or a period of banking instability. The “Si” campaign employed this scare tactic just as fervently as George Osborne all those months ago.
Banks are like horses: they get spooked for absolutely no reason, if one gets spooked they all get spooked, and when that happens they all bolt throwing their riders onto the ground. And there is an element of self-fulfilling anxiety in banking. If you lay on your back in bed and think “a demon is coming for me tonight, I’m going to get sleep paralysis,” it is more likely that your anxiety will be repaid by a visit from the big guy. When politicians and financiers say “the markets will collapse if this political event occurs,” it is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. Since everyone is expecting it to happen, it does, because the market is built on expectations.
I met a director from Goldman Sachs, and I asked him about financial services leaving for Frankfurt or New York. He said to me that the banks will threaten the government about leaving London while at the same time building new offices in London. The autistic screeching from the banks is a ploy to wriggle themselves into a better position; there will be no mass exodus from London.
It is, then, in the career politician’s best interest for him to massage the markets with utterly dull, listless, and ineffective economic plans. Whenever I watch the budget I am always amazed at how purposefully dull the affair is. Treasury economists and civil servants will push existing money around in a circle and the Chancellor must make out that some amazing change to our finances has been undertaken; however, he must also present these superficial changes as though they are both sober and daring, radical and moderate, exciting and dull. The more dull the Chancellor, the more people will change the channel; the more exciting, the more people think the government is actually doing something other than simply managing the status quo.
David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy are both their own national heir-to-Blair. And, in true emulation of Blair, they manipulated language and fact to intervene in the Arab world. First, we were to support moderate rebels in Libya to overthrow an “extreme” dictator, who was a moderate and safe pair of hands only a decade ago in the Blair years. I doubt you have any illusions about the moderate “Muslim Brotherhood” opposition in Egypt which lead the revolutionaries of 2011 to beg a return to military rule. Now they expect us to believe that there are 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria? What makes them moderate, that they only shoot a moderate number of prisoners and only want a moderate number of Europeans to be beheaded. Before someone spams “realpolitik” in the comments, the last time I checked, realpolitik is supposed to be foreign policy that secures a state’s own interests. We have a politic where our foreign policy secures the interests of Saudi Arabia at the expense of our own interests. What would you call that, traitorpolitik?
I heard the word “moderate” used around the death of Fidel Castro. Supposedly he “moderated his politics” as he got older. Does that mean he only wanted Russia to launch a moderate number of nuclear missiles at the United States, or that he only wanted to torture his less moderate opponents? The jury is still out, and given the times I expect they will reply, “Maybe.”
It is not only in politics that the word “moderate” is used so loosely. If the political mantra is “moderation for the nation,” the cultural mantra is “everything is good in moderation.” I despise that phrase as it neatly sums up the weakness of our times. Moderate Krokodil or Heroin consumption is not good. A moderate serial killer may kill only four people, compared to some that claim to have killed over three hundred; is it acceptable to only be a moderate serial killer? This pseudo-Aristotelian belief in moderation is a very weak way of rejecting responsibility and the fullness of life. No great acts in life come from the moderation of modernity, which is really pseudo-Stoicism and pusillanimous indecision, they take courage and sacrifice. Asking someone on a date presents a fear in many, a fear that they might say no. And so they are willing to forgo their own potential happiness to avoid potential sadness — this is the product of a dishwater moderation — too scared to risk feeling elated or despairing, preferring instead to never experience anything meaningful in their lives. “Don’t risk leaving your secure job, you just can’t be sure what will happen. You can be sure that if you work in this office for fifty years you will have a pension and a commemorative bowl for your years of service.” If you avoid uncertainty and risk, you can be absolutely certain that you will live an unfulfilled life.
The generations of the Long Peace are a cowardly lot, and are becoming more so as the Long Peace winds down. Millennials have no vitality or sense of danger. They are a generation without consequences, and a generation of coddled adult-babies that have taken their nursery with them throughout their rather sad lives. The traditional rite-of-passage has been elongated so that each milestone is pushed further into the future. They don’t work until 18, they don’t move out of their parents’ house until they’re 25, and they’re not married until they’re 30. My great-grandfather was married at 16 years old and fought in the war when he was 18.
The economy is partly to blame. Expensive mortgages have forced both partners to work and send their children to nursery to be raised by strangers, which will destroy the traditional family if left to continue. Economy is also a significant factor in the prolonged childhood of the millennial generation. A very simple solution to the housing crisis: When the council sells a house, they are forced to build a new house. It is really not that difficult, and if the government stopped this reckless and feckless obsession with inflating house prices, and housing speculation, the problem would be less acute. Oh, and slash immigration while you’re at it. The government’s inaction is not for want of solutions, but for want of political will.
Theresa May and her government want to address the horrific skills shortage of the country by giving local councils the option to apply for funding for a grammar school or technology school if they so choose to. Pathetic, utterly pointless, since the local councils will do no such thing. If she was serious, she would force local councils to erect fifty technology schools, and thirty new grammar schools around the country’s cities. She does not want to rock the boat with a fourteen seat majority, and would rather choose “moderation” and inaction. This is problem that dogs all Western leaders.
Economic considerations aside, the most significant reason for this mindset is the coddling and imposed moderation millennials experience in childhood. Children are not allowed to run, or fight, or play, lest they risk injuring other children. Children are not allowed to shout, or joke, or banter, lest they risk injuring the feelings of other children. When children are taught history, they are told to give one side of the argument, the opposing side, and then conclude with a moderate position somewhere in between. They are taught to moderate and police their language unless they utter an extreme or incorrect word.
There is an interesting book called All Must Have Prizes by Melanie Phillips which outlines the general decline of British education (although this decline was a contamination from American education, and so equally applicable for you American readers) and solutions to reverse this decline. The decline, she argues is from moral and cultural relativism. I agree, and if one culture or opinion cannot be asserted to be any more important than another, then a moderate or middle way where both are “equally valid” is an inevitable consequence. Orwell wrote “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past,” and he who controls the school controls all three. I remember studying Mathematics at A-Level and the teacher would give us practice examinations every few weeks. He would then put every member of the class’ results on the board with 100% at the top and 0% at the bottom. It was a class of all boys and you can imagine how competitive it became. It drove me to actually achieve 100% on my A-level exams in the end, and those at the bottom sucked it up and salvaged their grades on the day. The two books that need to be read by policy makers are Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and All Must Have Prizes.
It is no surprise then, that the Chinese are more able to provide students with basic Mathematics, Science, and Reading skills than America or the United Kingdom (the United States languishes at a dismal 31st).
There have been quite a few books and documentaries on Chinese education. The irony of this documentary is that the so called “Chinese method” is a repackaging of the colonial Edwardian education that the West gave China and has now rejected. So-called “Chinese education” was ubiquitous in England and only survives now in a handful of public schools. You should note in the documentary when the narrator says, “[the Chinese system] is different from Western child-centered learning,” this “child-centered learning” is addressed in Phillips’ All Must Have Prizes. Students are officially “autonomous meaning makers” in the education world, and are to be nurtured so that their special individual flower of self-expression can bloom (someone get me a sick bag…). This hippie nonsense has got to stop. If we reintroduced discipline, hierarchy, and competition in schools we would stop producing generations of limp “moderates” that are frightened of their own shadow, and we would produce a generation of courageous citizens willing to take risks in their own life, and willing to sacrifice their own comfort and security for the good of the state.