More about madness – denying reality

A denial of reality, and of the truth outside self

In the war being waged across the territories occupied by the remnants of what we call Western civilisation there are relatively few legacy media organs fighting on behalf of the forces of common sense. One of them is that venerable old – but still fresh – war-horse, The Spectator. If you are on the side of Common Sense you should subscribe – not to fill its coffers but just in the interest of preserving your own sanity in the face of the bewildering lunatic theories about everything by which we have been trying to live for most of our lives.

On the battlements of this citadel you will find, to name but a few, the likes of Fraser Nelson, its editor, the redoubtable Rod Liddle and Douglas Murray – not to mention Isabel Hardman and Mary Wakefield. It is in fact Mary Wakefield’s column in this week’s edition which has prompted me to make this appeal to your common sense. I take the liberty of giving you the full text of her piece where she sharply but respectfully suggests that elements in the Catholic Church should be more engaged than they are in the defence of reason and common sense.

She writes:

I’m used to waiting for the Catholic church to make sense. I’m a convert to Catholicism, and Catholic ideas sometimes take a while to become clear. I start from a position of suspicious distaste, but if I sit tight, I’ve found, the strangest things come right. It’s in this spirit of patient confusion that, since the beginning of the year, I’ve been waiting for the Catholic bishops of England and Wales to speak out in defence of the word ‘mother’, and to state the simple, unremarkable fact that only biological women give birth. Out of America, out of universities, from the HR department of every big business has come this push against ‘gendered language’. The reflex response is that you’re a fascist, or definitely ‘far right’, if you push back.

I think it’s for the clergy to hold firm on this. I don’t see how it can’t. Mary is our mother, we’re told. ‘Behold your mother,’ said Christ to the disciple John. The word ‘mother’ is the central pole on which the Catholic church hangs. Without it the whole circus tent collapses.

Perhaps the church stays silent because it hopes that the fuss will just evaporate on its own. But as of this year, the push for ‘gender neutrality’ comes right from the top. The US President’s ‘house rules’ now include using ‘gender inclusive language’, which means changing ‘mother’ and ‘father’ to ‘parent’ etc for fear of upsetting gender nonconformists. Joe Biden, a Catholic, has changed the law so that the prohibition on discrimination against women now covers discrimination against anyone who identifies as a woman as well. This week, some American bishops have taken issue with Biden’s position on abortion (against, but for choice). In my book, his casual collapsing of the gap between biological sex and self-chosen gender is worse. It’s a denial of reality, and of the truth outside self. It means that other people, the focus of Christian life, become indistinct. It means we’re living in a world of female penises now, God help us.

Well, there have been many millions of words written about this. There have been cancellings and counter-cancellings, and simultaneously, a weird meta-war about whether the culture war exists at all. But where, in the UK in particular, is the church?

In February, the Brighton and Sussex Hospital Trust decided to use gender-inclusive language for its maternity services. Breast-feeding became ‘chest-feeding’; mother became ‘birthing parent’.

The papers, which feed on identity politics, chewed over the issue for weeks. But not a peep from Bishop Moth of Arundel and Brighton — and Moth isn’t usually slow to speak his mind. He’s chair of the Bishops’ Conference Department for Social Justice and he’s been loudly outraged about the Do Not Attempt CPR orders issued for people with learning disabilities during Covid. He’s campaigned for mothers to be kept out of prison for the sake of their kids, so why no defence of mothers in general?

The first draft of the government’s maternity leave bill took its lead from Biden and referred to a ‘pregnant person’ rather than a mother. I’ve scoured the internet, but not a word from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, on the subject. Instead it was left to the Lords to defend women and children. Baroness Noakes said: ‘It is a biological fact that only women can be pregnant and give birth. That is why the laws that relate to maternity issues have in the past routinely been drafted using the words “women”, “she” and “her”.’ Are the bishops too scared of being thought right-wing to speak up for their church?The word ‘mother’ is the central pole on which the Catholic church hangs. Without it the circus tent collapses

As far as I can see, it’s only Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury, who sounds the alarm. ‘The church is being called to defend this very truth of the human person,’ Bishop Davies wrote. Davies is right. This is not about sex, or who fancies who; this isn’t about gay rights or even trans rights, it’s about reality. You can’t fix real injustice if you can’t face reality. And the irony of it all is that in eroding truth, and true biological difference, you erode diversity too. In a book last year to mark 100 years since St John Paul II’s birth, Pope Francis pointed out that gender theory has a ‘dangerous’ cultural aim of erasing all distinctions between men and women, which would ‘destroy at its roots’ diversity. ‘It would make everything homogenous, neutral. It is an attack on difference, on the creativity of God and on men and women.’

Every day, the 22 Catholic bishops repeat these words: ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…’ For all it’s a symbol of the patriarchy, the church is by definition gender-­critical. Biological sex is in its bones.

And doesn’t it also have a duty to see things from the perspective of the most vulnerable humans, the unborn? In the spring of last year, the appeals court ruled that a trans man who had given birth could not appear on his child’s birth certificate as ‘father’. Though sympathetic to trans rights, Lord Burnett decided that the right of a child to know the biological reality of its birth trumps a parent’s right to be recognised on the birth certificate in their legal gender. The court also pointed out that under the Children Act, a mother has automatic parental responsibility from the moment of birth. The word ‘mother’ protects the child. It puts the child into her care, though she can, if she wants, act as father in all other ways. Are there really many trans men who’ve given birth, who think this an outrage? I just don’t believe there are.

Being a mother involves self-sacrifice. At the heart of the Christian story, a mother makes an unthinkable sacrifice. From the moment you give birth, it’s about someone other than you.

WRITTEN BYMary Wakefield

Mary Wakefield is commissioning editor of The Spectator.

Getting it wrong – and getting it right

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It can often be fun re-reading publications some time after their sell-by date. Like this example which I stumbled over yesterday.
 “It’s time for me to stick my neck out. The Tory push north will end in failure”
That was Matthew Parris in the 7 December issue of The Spectator.
I suppose he had to write something and the possibility of having a chance to write in the aftermath of 12 December,  “I told you so”,  was too tempting.
He did cover himself somewhat with this: “What follows is anecdotal and my hunches have  often been wrong.”
However, the only accurate phrase in this, from his opening paragraph, which came near to  matching yesterday morning’s reality was “Mr Johnson will win”. He could not foresee any “enduring shift northwards”. That might turn out to be right – but we will have to wait at least five years to find out.
Parris wrote, “Tory strategists’ hopes of surfing a tidal wave of new support from ‘tribal’ Labour voters in the English Midlands and the North will not be fulfilled. Mr Johnson will win this time, but there will be no substantial and enduring shift northwards of Tory support. “
But, I suppose he had a bit of fun writing it – as we have had reading it.

A far more enlightening and hopeful read in the same issue was Robert Tombs’ reflective speculation about the future of Britain – and Europe – in the aftermath of Thursday’s results. Tombs is a historian and knows how to take the long view of contemporary events. This one, he predicted would change “us and Europe, and have an impact on the wider international system.” And that includes Ireland.

That long view contrasted with the actual campaign so much that a sense of reality pervaded the past six weeks. He wrote:

Commentators focus on spending plans and personal foibles, but what will make next week’s vote historic is something else, something so momentous that we draw back from discussing it seriously. The Lib Dems boast of Stopping Brexit, knowing that as things are now they will never have to try.

We now know where that got them – oblivion for at least another five years.

Jeremy Corbyn pleads neutrality: the first leader not sure which side he was on since poor Henry VI in the Wars of the Roses.

Not many people know the sad history of Henry VI. Were it not for Shakespeare many fewer would know it. Unless James Graham writes a companion piece to his “Brexit: An Uncivil War”, even less will be known about Jeremy Corbyn.

The Conservatives, whose hopes of office depend entirely on this issue, downplay its importance: ‘Get Brexit Done,’ ministers repeat, as if it were a tiresome distraction from real politics. Perhaps it is, if ‘real politics’ is only about mending potholes and recruiting nurses. But however much politicians, and perhaps voters, would prefer it all to go away, this election will change us and Europe, and have an impact on the wider international system.

There has always been something ironic about the Republic of Ireland’s stance on the British electorate’s Brexit decision. Tombs saw that essentially Brexit was about British independence. That Ireland, formerly – but no more – ferociously independent  did not sympathise with that psychologically was always a bit of a puzzle. The answer is, of course, on the economic side. Fear of serious economic discomfort trumped psychology. Not so for the British.

Tombs sees the Brexit decision as all about resistance to being driven down a path on which Britain would have become “a subordinate component of a larger sovereign entity” Their independence, as he saw it, was not primarily a matter of the details of European laws and regulations, however voluminous; or of the creation of a common citizenship with 27 other states; or even of the intended future development of EU control in still wider areas of government. It was primarily a matter of psychology.

“Britain voted in 2016 by a clear majority to be an independent state”.

The election he said would show whether or not the British electorate would back away from that decision, “perhaps through fear of the consequences following a constant battering with anti-Brexit propaganda, perhaps through the coming of age of a new generation for whom independent national democracy appears to have little meaning.”

It was a test of stamina. Were the two and a half years of chaoatic politics and the prospect of difficulties to come going to prove too much and lead them to “surrender ultimate control of their destiny because independence was too difficult.”

Writing over two weeks ago, he was optimistic about the outcome.

Despite a humiliating trail of mismanagement, the 2016 vote will be confirmed by an electorate angry at being despised. This means that most of those who govern us — or governed us — in politics, the media, the quangocracy, the business lobbies and the universities will have been defied. Despite their strenuous efforts, they will have lost. What we have seen emerge — as in a bloodless War of the Roses — is a divided elite. On one hand, a national elite that bases its legitimacy on identification with the nation and the majority will. On the other, a transnational elite — far bigger, more determined, and less respectful of our constitution than we could have imagined in 2016 — which draws authority and a sense of entitlement from its multiple links with the EU. Defeat of the transnational elite would be a kind of peaceful revolution; and like all revolutions, its outcome is unpredictable and for some unpleasant. Most, like the Abbé Siéyès, who said his great achievement during the French Revolution was to have survived, will accept the new reality and ‘move on’. Others, like Old Regime nobles who learned nothing and forgot nothing, will go into internal exile and do their best to make trouble.

After reflecting on Britain’s long and fraught – often chaotic – imperial history, in which it often spent as much time escaping from imperial entanglements as acquiring imperial responsibilities, he concludes:

The British have been adept at escaping empires, including their own: Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin predicted that we would be part of a trans-Atlantic empire governed from New York, so the American Declaration of Independence in effect liberated Britain too. We made far less effort than the French to keep an empire after 1945. We seem to be about to escape again, this time from Mr Verhofstadt’s empire. We have long been used to relying on others for support and even to give us a sense of purpose: the empire, the Americans, the Europeans. Now that we have blackballed ourselves from the club, for the first time since the 17th century we may have to navigate our own course. We tend to put off thinking about essentials, and we shall probably vote on 12 December without having done so. But sooner or later we shall have to start thinking about what we have chosen, and what it will require of us.

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Read his full article in The Spectator here.

Poor Enid Blyton – who would have thought it would come to this?

Surely the greatest cultural malaise of our time has reached epidemic proportions? Logic and every kind of healthy self-awareness has gone out the window. Now even the Royal Mint, the heart of Britain’s proud currency has lost its head.

Toby Young, that thorn in the side of of all pompous nutters tells us, courtesy of The Spectator:

Who knew the Royal Mint, of all places, had been captured by the cult of political correctness? According to the Mail, the Mint’s Advisory Committee decided not to put Enid Blyton on a 50p coin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her death because she is ‘a racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer’.

That’s an odd statement, since it suggests that had she been a better-regarded writer, her racism, sexism and homophobia would have been overlooked. Perhaps that’s the Mint’s rationale for not removing Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare from the £10 note and £20 note respectively, in spite of their liberal use of anti-Semitic caricatures.

Read his full piece here