Abide with Me in an Age of Posturing by Peter Smith


At my Anglican church on a recent Sunday the lady giving ‘the prayers of the people’, having delivered the accustomed collective environmental mea culpa, asked that we pray for Palestinians in Israeli jails who were apparently on hunger strike, to thank God for our multicultural and diverse society, and to help us resist hate speech.  She made no mention of Jews killed by Palestinian terrorists, or of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East, or of underage Muslim girls in Australia being wedded off or subjected to FGM.

She brought her political agenda before the congregation and God.  I have political views but there is a time and place to express them.  And the time and place is not Sunday morning in church.  There are standard words that all we Christian churchgoers of different political views can sign up to.  Here is an abridged example, which I plucked randomly from a particular Episcopalian church service:

“Let us pray for the nations and peoples of the world [for] justice, peace, and prosperity [for] those who are sick, those who suffer, and those who struggle and who have died.”

The dissonance exhibited at my church stems from believing that one’s political agenda has moral authority, even godly authority.  It is an extraordinary conceit.  It is delusional.  This kind of delusion is rampant within Christian churches from top to bottom.  It is even more rampant, sans the godly part, among modern-day leftists who dominate public services, the media, universities and schools, and who infest our well-to-do suburbs.

Go back some decades and I doubt that nearly as many people—common sense was more abundant—would have conflated their personal political beliefs with moral authority.  As it is, leftists now put a moral badge on their cockamamie views and therefore regard those who don’t share them as fair game for abuse.  Virtue signalling passes for thinking and spawns deplorable childlike behaviour.

We see conservative speakers being refused venues and shouted down.  And those who would provide them a stage intimidated by violence and threats of violence.  Absurdity flourishes.  Trade union bosses throw their members to the wolves by promoting pointless policies to curb CO2 emissions.

How did we get here? It is hard to say.  The feminisation of schooling may have played a part.  Tongue in cheek I have suggested alien body snatching.  Let me go to something earthbound.  I wonder whether the evolving structure of work has also played a part.

The industrial revolution has profoundly changed the structure of work since 1750 but only in more recent decades has it resulted in the wholesale switch out of manual work.  In the US, for example, Greenwald and Kahn report that from 1970 to 2005 employment in managerial and professional roles grew by 153%, in service occupations by 123%, while employment in traditional manufacturing roles fell by 10 percent.  It is safe to assume that this trend has not abated.

Manual work is grounding.  You see first-hand that materials, power and effort are required to make things.  Now there are far fewer workers down the pit, or on the factory floor, or on the docks; and, correspondingly, large segments of the population have no contact with them at all.  Think of the inner-city latte sets.

In this sanitised world goods just appear, as though out of thin air.  Let me speculate.  The upshot is a cargo-cult mentality among the weak minded; and, more generally, an infantile disconnection from reality.  Thus the wind and sun can replace coal, oil and gas and create millions of clean green jobs.  Here is a mixed selection of more:

Ever more generous provisions of welfare, health and education are ‘rights’, the denial of which on the basis of affordability is unconscionable.

Taxing the rich is a bottomless wallet for making affordable the unaffordable.

Palestinians are willing to live in peace with Israel, even though their children are taught from infancy to hate, despise and kill Jews.

Islam is a peaceful religion no matter how much godless violence is preached and practised in its name; no matter how clear are the violent riding instructions in the Koran and Sunna.

Our Western past is shameful and we must be penitent in the ways of Obama.

All refugees must be welcomed across our open borders and everything will be fine.

Free speech is a right provided no-one outside of white men is offended; in which case it is hate speech.

Traditional marriage, and male and female demarcations, are dispensable affectations of less enlightened times when gender fluidity was not so de rigueur.

The list goes on.

Perhaps that old-style commie Mao had a point with his cultural re-education revolution.  There might be nothing like working in the rice paddies or milking cows at 5:30 AM to refocus and ground the minds of the chattering classes.  As that option is unavailable, it seems all too possible that puerile leftist posturing will go on undermining enlightened Western civilisation.  Waiting in the wings is its Dark Ages replacement.  I have prayer.  My prayer is that God-given reason eventually prevails.


This appeared on Quadrant Online on May 31.  Peter Smith is the author of Bad Economics.

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