The Swift Winds of Change

Since I finished writing my Corona Diaries at the end of May, the world has already moved on apace.

As the first day of summer’s late-to-bed setting sun crowned the cardboard cut-out of a moorland Tor, I walked slowly through the old village towards the medieval church.

St Michael’s is endowed with an 85 foot tower, built in 1485. Last year, I climbed the steep, winding steps to the top and enjoyed the unique views that this little piece of local history gave me.

I wondered then how much the landscape had changed since the first feet had stood there and the first eyes peered out over the giddy parapet. Whatever had happened in the village and whatever had been dug and built, demolished and rebuilt between then and now, I thought, I could still be confident that the moorland horizon has remained almost unchanged.

That evening, I watched the swifts swoop and dive overhead in mock aerial battles, screaming and whistling as they hunted for insects, in what I imagined to be, a glimpse of old England; a kind of ancient dance that had delighted the eye of medieval and modern man alike.

A maddening mistral wind has blown through my world these past few weeks. Rarely stilled, it has ruffled parasols, shaken dead leaves through the laurel and swayed the field maple hedge that borders my usually peaceful garden. Twigs have fallen from the Ash and my much anticipated quiet enjoyment of summer’s long evenings has been roughly disturbed. 

I suppose It hasn’t been helped by my embarkation on a 2 year course of immunotherapy, comprising of three weekly infusions, being stuck like a pin-cushion by the points of endless needles and irradiated by frequent body scans.

There is a depressing list of common side effects as long as a grime artist’s rap sheet or the column inches spent on Meghan Markle and Harry’s series of nauseating announcements since they decided to break from royal duties and the national papers. Everything has been turned upside down and blown to smithereens. 

And this disruptive Mistral seems to have coincided with a period of political and cultural turbulence, the like of which I have never known before.

Now, even the England I thought I knew a few short weeks ago is in doubt. She had been so sure of herself and her past and that would steady her course as a force for good into the future, or so I thought.

Isn’t that what England is, after all? Didn’t she stand against the horrors of fascism in the last century, spilling the blood of her young men for the security, freedom and peace we have since enjoyed in abundance?

When I was born, oblivious, in pretty 1960’s England, Chairman Mau was threatening to out-do even the murderous fascists of the Third Reich with his ‘great leap forward’. Tens of millions died for such totalitarian tyrannies. 

The red guard tried to tear down every element of Chinese history prior to the 1960’s to produce the ‘new man.’ But surely this couldn’t happen in England? We already know that governments do not make man.  It is when a few men try to impose their will on other men the problems begin. 

Bodies heaped upon bodies, it seems, still cannot convince the Western intellectual to avoid the temptation to revisit the horrors that Marxism always brings, or whatever term it is fashionable to call it these days.

The event of a new virus emerging from communist China has kicked down the door of our democracy and those who would take it upon themselves to decide what is good for us have made their move.

No one invited them or agreed to their policies but then no one stood up to them either. 

I say, no one invited them, but our mainstream media seems awfully complicit in the way it offers no criticism of China and its policies but will gleefully denigrate and diminish our own country and its people at every opportunity. I will keep my thoughts about the reasons for that to myself for today.

Although the identity politics game has been played for some time now, a perfect storm was created with the death of George Floyd at the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis, U.S.A. and everything changed.

Regardless of the fact that this happened in the United States where the history of racism is a festering sore, skin colour has become the the only talking point here too. 

Don’t be fooled by the faux concern of mainstream media; This is not about racism at all, but rather how this tragic incident may be used as a tool of division and control to facilitate a change about which ordinary folk have not been consulted.  One only has to casually examine the news media to see it. 

The endemic racism that had barely been an issue under two terms of Barack Obama had now reached a tipping point under Trump in an election year. 

And the dreadful death-toll of young black boys through gang violence here in the UK, which no one wanted to discuss, could now be embraced within one catchy slogan: “Black Lives Matter.” 

That way we can avoid difficult and entrenched issues without expending any more effort than the mere utterance of a simple sound bite. And it is much easier to demolish and tear down than it is to build up, that’s for sure.

“Black Lives Matter” is the wrecking ball which began a series of violent protests in the US and here too.

Clearly no one in their right mind would want to argue with the slogan in itself, but when it also happens to be the name of a neo-Marxist organisation whose stated aims are to defund the police, bring down capitalism and destroy everything good that western civilisation has built for itself, it becomes something else altogether.

Autonomous zones were set up where police were not wanted and crime and killings went shooting up accordingly, mostly taking black lives that the architects of these hellish neighbourhoods pretended to care about.

In Britain too, Antifa thugs, posing as protesters and egged-on by an eager media, fought with unarmed and unprotected police and tore down statues of anyone that might have been linked to the slave trade.

“27 police officers injured in largely peaceful protests,” ran the disingenuous and dishonest BBC headline (The number rose to fifty).

The newsreel was stuffed full of white people, politicians and even the police – kneeling to apologise for their ‘whiteness’ and for the history of oppression to ‘black’ and ‘brown’ people.

It all made me rather nauseous and suspicious as to the motives of those behind it. I’m all for forgiveness and redemption but not like this.

‘You can’t bargain with a tiger whilst your head is in its mouth,’ so says the ancient Chinese proverb.

I was somehow charged with a vague new offence of  ‘white privilege,’ and found guilty without trial. 

True enough, I am privileged to live in England in the 21st century. And it’s true enough that white men enslaved black Africans in the most wicked and dehumanising trade imaginable. It is indeed a shameful stain on humanity that must never be repeated, though modern slavery seems to be prevalent as ever. 

I thought that we had made progress as a nation since then. Just three days before his death, on 29th July 1833, (187 years ago today) William Wilberforce succeeded in his lifelong quest to abolish the slave trade through Parliament.

Just as I don’t hold Germans alive today responsible for the killing of my uncles in the last world war as they fought real fascists, I do expect, at the very least, that I might be given a fair hearing now. And I certainly won’t be called out by so-called anti-fascists using fascistic methods or the hypocrites at the BBC.

I have taught my own children that all men and women are of equal value under God and the law. It rankles somewhat, that a new kind of racism is being fostered under the pretence of anti-racism.

The fact that all humans are capable of such treatment of one another, means that we must all examine ourselves and our prejudices and motives before we begin to start throwing stones or revisiting past wrongs. We must also do it with a the clear head of reason, not with emotions or thoughts of bitterness and revenge.

In fact, this is the reason that I believe in the democratic rule of law. No individual or party is qualified to lead without the threat of their removal. No one, it seems, is beyond corruption or delusions of their superiority and authority to impose their will on others. Why should we suppose the current movement to be any different?

Two things of note happened during this period to raise my suspicions that improving the lives and opportunities of Black people in the UK and US was not the real purpose of a substantial element of the ‘Black Lives Matters’ demonstrations. 

The first is this: 

Although mass gatherings were unlawful under the new covid19 regulations in order to ‘save lives,’ the protests were positively encouraged by our mainstream media, including the BBC, and justified as an exception.

Perhaps they had done a deal with the deadly virus and arranged some sort of amnesty?

Only that week we had been hearing how the virus had disproportionately affected black and minority ethnic communities, so chanting, “BLACK LIVES MATTER!” whilst standing in dense crowds and fighting with British police, seems to be something of a contradiction to that statement.

It seemed particularly off when I am prevented by law from singing in church on a Sunday, as is my habit, and I have been dutifully “staying at home, protecting the NHS and saving lives,” as the slogan told me to. 

Nevertheless my ‘white privilege’, my ‘white fragility’ and my unquestionable guilt, by nature of the colour of my skin is plastered all over the news, night and day.

Overpaid Premier League Footballers and England Cricketers now kneel and raise a fist because they are told to.

Elite Formula 1 drivers, led by the hypocrite in chief, Lewis Hamilton, take a knee too. 

Prince Harry lectures the British People on our privilege from his Los Angeles mansion under Meghan’s watchful eye.

Public propaganda films about the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement rudely interrupt our television screens between back to back episodes of Downton Abbey.

It’s all too much to stomach.

The second incident happened on a sunny evening in a park in Reading, when a jihadist casually walked up to a group of three white, gay men and murdered them by stabbing them in the neck. 

The news of the identity of the attacker and the motive of terrorism was, as always, slow to emerge. The magnitude of this terrible event was quickly minimised and it slipped down the newsreel.

There were no questions about race or skin colour, or the  ideology or motives of the attacker that might have driven him to commit such a crime. There was no in-depth analysis of the reasons this type of incident is becoming all too frequent in the UK and that the media only wants to talk about Islamophobia. The story sunk, causing barely a ripple.

When we compare the two incidents – the death of George Floyd in the US and the murder of three men in Reading- the question is, why should this disparity of media interest be so?

The answer is that one incident was useful to a particular narrative and the other was not.

There was so much talk about race in the run-up to these events that I should have suspected something was afoot. 

It was more than just the usual critical race theorist chatter.

So-called anti-fascists, threw bottles and fought with unarmed and unprotected police, here in England.

Police stood by and watched as statues were torn down or defaced.

Police and politicians ‘took to their knees’ to apologise for the colour of their skin and the new crimes of ‘whiteness’ or ‘white privilege.’

Offending Street names were promptly renamed.

Even a statue of Winston Churchill was daubed with the words, ‘is a racist,’ and had to be boarded up.

This was particularly ironic as the vile racism that produced the holocaust was defeated under his leadership, but what do facts matter, eh?

The right to protest, had suddenly trumped a worldwide public health emergency that had caused us to be locked down in our homes for weeks.

I thought that the very definition of racism was attributing generic characteristics to a group of people because of the colour of their skin, yet it was okay for presidential hopeful, Joe Biden to declare, “If you don’t vote democrat, you ain’t black.”

It was in my recent re-reading of Orwell’s 1984 that I found some of the answers. I was struck by its prophecy and its prescience. Just as Nietzsche predicted the totalitarian horrors of the last century, Orwell seems to have captured perfectly the fatal errors of this, if we aren’t careful.

‘Who controls the past,’ ran the party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’

And the terms, ‘reality control’ and ‘doublethink’ seem to be made for the current stream of headlines.

This passage particularly caught my eye:

‘Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every statue and street building has been renamed. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the party is always right.’

It paints a hellish sort of existence; certainly not one I’d like to be a part of.

There is no doubt that we don’t live in a perfect world or a perfect country. There is certainly room for much improvement, which is only made harder by the tactics of our mainstream media and the divisive and counterproductive identity politics playing out.

Things are not made better with violence, ignorance and lies but through peace, understanding and in truth; not by tearing down, but by building up. And we are right to be worried when racism is being peddled in the name of anti-racism.

There is a middle way between the independence from the state and a focus on individual responsibility of the right and the state reliance and social policies of the left. We don’t have to over-correct and go all the way to either extreme. 

And when we do make decisions, I’d very much prefer that they were joint ones. Not the decisions of elites or quangos or academics, nor of the media, but made fairly and squarely by the ordinary folk who make up this nation of ours, who are most affected by bad governance of any description. 

We need to learn again the ability to speak and listen to one another with respect; to apply our intelligence and reason with compassion and integrity. 

I’m already a guinea pig in one trial and I’d rather not spend the remainder of my days as part of some hideous Orwellian social and political experiment that has forgotten all that it means to be truly human.

Orwell said in his book, 1984, that it wasn’t necessary for there to be a war, only the appearance of it. That has certainly been achieved in the US and some would have it here too. 

But, as his hero,  WInston Smith recognised, ‘if there is hope, it lies in the proles,’ that is, you and me. We don’t have to play the game. 

A squadron of swifts are out over my garden tonight, darting this way and that. From the top of the garden I can see the sun moving towards the moorland horizon where it will die once more, just as it always has. I think I just heard the Church bells carry on the breeze.

I take comfort in that and I hope this bloody wind dies down soon. 

8 thoughts on “The Swift Winds of Change”

  1. Fantastic Jim thank you for yet another brilliant piece.
    You are a true wordsmith.
    Good luck with your treatment buddie.

  2. So insightful and well portrayed with the written word.
    Habakkuk 2:14. The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
    May God bless you and your family.

  3. So true it saddens me. I enjoy reading your posts as they sum up my thoughts. Best wishes for your treatment. Look forward to reading more of your thoughts x

  4. Brilliant piece Jim. Any politician who chose to unequivocally articulate this point of view would receive wide support. I very much regret the moral ambivalence of both main parties in this respect, even though it should sit comfortably with the tories at least.

    BTW. The swifts at ilsington are subject if an ongoing project to house them in bespoke boxes around the village, and thus encourage their full return in greater numbers.

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