Are we all Britain haters now?
Here in the UK, the Daily Mail has got itself a lot of publicity for printing an article last Saturday entitled “Man Who Hated Britain”. The article was about the late father of Ed Milliband, who is the current leader of the Labour Party (and could therefore be our next Prime Minister). For the avoidance of any doubt, I must declare that I think such an eventuality would be a disaster for Britain. However, I digress…
Basically, the Daily Mail’s argument is that, if for no other reason than that he died in 1994, many people may not realise that Ralph Miliband was a passionate believer in the political philosophy of a certain Karl Marx (oh and, yes, he was Jewish as well). Choosing to ignore the fact Milliband senior joined the Royal Navy and settled down to married life here after the War, the Daily Mail based its entire article on something he wrote in his diary when he arrived here as a refugee from the Nazis (at the tender age of 17).
Despite asking for and being given a right to reply, Ed Milliband has had to put up with the Daily Mail refusing to apologise and – indeed repeating its criticism of his father. In essence, therefore, the Daily Mail’s position is that you cannot love Britain if you are a Socialist. However, this is nothing new; this has always been the position of the Daily Mail – they have just never found such a blunt way to say it before. The Independent newspaper has helpfully summarised the whole story in this article yesterday.
Unfortunately for the Daily Mail, this is an easily falsifiable argument; especially when you consider that the newspaper routinely uses xenophobic headlines to attract readers: It does not matter whether the subject is radical Islamic preachers, environmental protestors, or climate scientists – according to the Daily Mail they all hate Britain.
With regard to radical Islamic preachers in Britain, I agree it does seem somewhat hypocritical to criticise the country in which you have chosen to live. However, to be entirely fair, they have chosen to work here; and they are living here in the hope that they can turn the UK into an Islamic state. Does this mean that they ‘hate’ Britain? No it does not; it just means they don’t like it the way it is.
Exactly the same logic applies to environmental campaigners and climate scientists. To label them as anti-British (anti-Western or anti-progress) is grossly unfair. They are not anti-British – they just believe Britain would be better if it was not at war with Nature.
So what is the Daily Mail up to? I think it is essentially peddling xenophobia. This may well have originated as an evolutionary survival mechanism. However, today, in the absence of any predators, xenophobic tribalism is essentially a maladaptive coping strategy: It is a method of absolving oneself of responsibility for anything; and shifting the blame for everything on to somebody else.
This is essentially what climate change denial is: Many of those of a religious persuasion tell themselves humans cannot be changing the Earth’s climate (because God won’t allow that to happen). Many of those of a humanist persuasion tell themselves that we are not changing the Earth’s climate (because that would require us all to admit we have made a mess of things).
Seen in this light, we would all appear to be planet haters now. If we can admit this to ourselves and to each other; I think that this might be the first step on a long road towards doing something about it.
In the meantime, my response to those who think there is still something inherently evil about Communism is as follows:
It is amazing how so many – who no doubt consider themselves to be very much right-of-centre politically – forget that the first people to be called “Christians” would today be described as Communists.* So, I think a little less contempt is called for; and a lot less hypocrisy.
Marxism is essentially Industrialism without the Capitalism. Whereas Marxism prioritises production; Capitalism prioritises consumption. As such, both are deeply mired in the unsustainable delusion of ‘growthmania’. It may be that Capitalism has proven itself far better at wealth creation, but, neither system has proven to be very good at providing equal opportunity for all.
* The Bible makes it clear that, in the very earliest years at least, Christians formed a self-supporting community of people within which property and food were shared. Therefore, those who think there is something inherently evil about Communism have got stuck in the past: McCarthyism never did do anyone much good; and it is now at least 50 years out of date.
Having said all that, I am still not a ‘Watermelon’ (i.e. green on the outside but red on the inside). I remain a (non-financial) supporter of the Conservative Party and, as such, I live in the hope that one day soon it may stop allowing ideology to prejudice its attitude to science; and accept what climate scientists are telling us will happen if we do not take radical steps to decarbonise our economies by 2050. For goodness sake, even business leaders are now saying we must do this. What the hell are we waiting for?
UPDATE: On 1 October 2013, in a welcome attempt to put the record straight, The Daily Telegraph has re-published its very fair-minded obituary of Professor Ralph Milliband from its edition of 7 June 1994. (H/T Roger Davies [@4589roger] on Twitter).