Underlying causes which led to Brexit

john-gray

The philosopher John Gray argued on BBC Radio last week that Brexit will have a greater impact on the EU than it will on the UK. And he predicts the British experience is likely to be repeated across much of continental Europe over the next few years. 

There is much that is compelling in his analysis.One of the most salient points he makes is that the underlying causes which led to Brexit are not to be found in England – or in Britain – but in the EU itself. This is a project which, by overreaching itself, will unravel disastrously unless these are honestly addressed and resolved.

I think what he is saying is that it is time for the promoters of the European project to stop dreaming of a superstate and become more pragmatic. Then we can all get back to living real lives and feel free again.

That this feeling of freedom has evaporated and left  a sense of loss of sovereignty in a number of European countries is dangerous. The do-good idealism inherent in the European project has failed to translate into reality in the hearts of Europeans. Failures like that are often not just unfortunate. They can be dangerous. The resentment generated by failed well-intentioned experiments can be the seed-bed of very dangerous reactions. The theory of this project is not enough, no matter how confident its champions may be that it is working in practice.

Is there at work here an example of  what Tolstoy wrote in War and Peace? He was commenting on the German, General Pfuel, fighting for the Czar. He described him as “one of those hopelessly and immutably self-confident men, self-confident to the point of martyrdom as only Germans are, because only Germans are self-confident on the basis of an abstract notion – science, that is, the supposed knowledge of absolute truth.”

At first sight, Pfuel, in his ill-made uniform of a Russian general, which fitted him badly like a fancy costume, seemed familiar to Prince Andrew, though he saw him now for the first time. There was about him something of Weyrother, Mack, and Schmidt, and many other German theorist-generals whom Prince Andrew had seen in 1805, but he was more typical than any of them… 

A Frenchman is self-assured because he regards himself personally, both in mind and body, as irresistibly attractive to men and women. An Englishman is self-assured, as being a citizen of the best-organized state in the world, and therefore as an Englishman always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct. An Italian is self-assured because he is excitable and easily forgets himself and other people. A Russian is self-assured just because he knows nothing does not want to know anything, since he does not believe that anything can be known. The German’s self-assurance is worst of all, stronger and more repulsive than any other, because he imagines that he knows the truth- science- which he himself has invented but which is for him the absolute truth.

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Surely this is a sentiment not too far from that of General Pfuel?

Could it be that this self-assurance of Pfuel – or Martin Schulz – is what permeates the European project for “ever-closer union” and that a growing number of those living within the borders of this block are now beginning to feel repelled by it – because they know that it is as ill-fitting for them as the Russian uniform which Pfuel found himself inhabiting? Might it be that the citizens of the best-organized state in the world, paraphrasing Tolstoy,  always knowing what they should do and knowing that all they will do as  Englishmen will undoubtedly be correct – have made the right call on this?

Triple tragedies of our times

The great tragedies of the 20th century are commonly accepted as Marxist Communism and National Socialism. No one should be so naive as to think that we have seen the end of either. But we can regard them as contained. But there was a third tragedy which may prove to be far more lethal. It is all-pervasive and is destroying societies across the globe. It is the elevation of sexuality as the most important element in life.

Think about it for a minute.

First of all, from its impact on lives. The combined body count of civilian deaths under the Nazis and under Stalin is about 20 million, according to Timothy Snyder, the author of the highly-praised 2010 book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. But according to the World Health Organization, there are about 40 million abortions, world-wide, every single year.

Second, from its impact on politics. In 2012 the most powerful nation on earth goes to the polls. The world is facing the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression. The war on terror enters its tenth year. And what are the issues which divide Americans most? Same-sex marriage and abortion.

Opinion polls on the American presidential election show once again that the issue which concerns most people is the economy. Nevertheless, what is being highlighted by the Democrats is not the economy. Social policy issues, what they call human rights issues and personal attacks on their opponent’s characters – back down as far as schoolyard misdemeanours – seem to be their main concerns.

The issues they have chosen to fight on are important. Their policies on these issues, however, are leading their society further down the road of multi-faceted destruction through unrestrained individualism, coupled with chaotic and ungoverned sexual license provoking family break-up and educational dysfunction on a scale never seen before in a civilized society. They, of course, call this “progress”.

Where did all this come from? Prospect magazine in its February issue this year carried a short letter from a psychiatrist commenting on a feature on Sigmund Freud in its January issue. In it he rather unceremoniously rejoiced that the father of psychoanalysis was no longer flavour of the month – the idea suggested by the philosopher John Gray in the January article.

“Freud is out of favour because he was a deluded pervert who wrote a lot of idiotic tripe with about the same value as the Book of Mormon. I had to put up with this nonsense as part of ‘a balanced education in psychiatry’ as a medical student in the 1980s.”

Freud may be out of favour but the impact of what he did has remained long after the niceties of his theories on therapy have been forgotten or have been rubbished. He and the sources from which he derived his ideas and popularised them have had a devastating effect on the way a large portion of humanity now thinks about the human condition. The elevation of sexuality as the most important element in the life of human beings, the destruction of the idea of religion as anything other than – at best – a useful delusion, the coupling of science with atheistic determinism, can be clearly seen as a central plank on the platform of 21st century liberalism. This is the liberalism which is now responsible for the holocaust of the unborn; it is the liberalism which is behind the destruction of marriage and the family – with the consequent evils which flow from that. It is the liberalism which has generated the contraceptive mentality, separating the sexual act from its most fundamental raison d’etre, the generation of children.

Gray’s article emphasised the importance of the sources for Freud’s theories and among them highlighted Schopenhauer. He maintains that Schopenhauer

“shaped much of the central European intelligentsia’s thinking at the start of the 20th century. Schopenhauer’s impact on fin-de-siècle European culture can hardly be exaggerated. His view that human intelligence is the blind servant of unconscious will informs the writings of Tolstoy, Conrad, Hardy and Proust. Schopenhauer’s most lasting impact, however, was in questioning the prevailing view of the human mind—a view that had shaped western thought at least since Aristotle, continued to be formative throughout the Christian era and underpinned the European Enlightenment.”

“Schopenhauer posed a major challenge to the prevailing Enlightenment worldview. In much of the western tradition, consciousness and thought were treated as being virtually one and the same; the possibility that thought might be unconscious was excluded almost by definition. But for Schopenhauer the conscious part of the human mind was only the visible surface of inner life, which obeyed the non-rational imperatives of bodily desire rather than conscious deliberation. It was Schopenhauer who, in a celebrated chapter on ‘The Metaphysics of Sexual Love’ in The World as Will and Idea, affirmed the primary importance of sexuality in human life, suggesting that the sexual impulse operates independently of the choices and intentions of individuals, without regard for—and often at the expense of—their freedom and well-being.”

Isn’t that were we are now, whether we accept it or not. If not, why the all-pervasive exploitation of sex in advertising and marketing, in entertainment, and its emphasis in education? Gray argues that

“From one point of view, Freud’s work was an attempt to transplant the idea of the unconscious mind posited in Schopenhauer’s philosophy into the domain of science. When Freud originated psychoanalysis, he wanted it to be a science. One reason was because achieving scientific standing for his ideas would enable them to overcome the opposition of moralising critics who objected to the central place of sexuality in psychoanalysis.”

Of course, the “moralising critics” have not gone away you know. They are still battling against this terrible legacy of Schopenhauer and his disciple and all their descendents. Just now it seems an uphill struggle but it is without doubt one on which the future character of civilised society depends: one where man will either succumb to a hedonistic and materialistic slavery, characterised by the callous destruction of life of the very young, the old and the infirm, or one where he can live a life in true freedom.

(This is an edited and shorter version of an article posted last Wednesday. Part of the original article has been incorporated in the article about Jonah Goldberg’s new book which will be posted later today)