I’ve argued before that a cultural war is being waged against what I’ll call the UK’s ‘old culture’, by which I mean the culture into which I was born shortly after the end of WW2. Everything is under attack. The British state is in process, it seems, of being dismantled and absorbed into the EU superstate. The British Empire has become something to be ashamed of. Christianity is in headlong retreat. Fox-hunting has been banned. Smokers have been ejected from pubs. Homosexuals can marry each other. Immigration is turning cities into foreign countries. Scotland looks set to secede from the Union. Everything is being turned upside down.
And the extraordinary thing about all of it is that it’s something that is largely being done by our own people in the British government and British institutions like the BBC. There seem to be an awful lot of people who simply hate everything about Britain, and wish to eradicate it entirely, and who are actually well on the way to doing exactly that.
Why is this happening? And why is it that much the same seems to be happening almost everywhere else in Western society?
I think the answer may lie in the event which I’ve just used to date my birth: World War 2. I very much grew up in the shadow of WW2, and its precursor WW1. I grew up with newsreel footage of bombed cities, depth-charged submarines, tank battles, concentration camps, and nuclear bomb blasts. It was like being born into an unfolding nightmare which looked set to soon result in a nuclear WW3 which would see the complete annihilation of absolutely everything. Most of my childhood toys consisted of plastic soldiers, tanks, warplanes, and (working) artillery pieces. And much of the literature I absorbed was graphic War Picture Library cartoon accounts of fictional WW2 battles.
Ours was not an optimistic generation. Many of us did not expect to live very long. The future looked extremely bleak. And we hadn’t a clue what to do about it.
One simple response was to seek oblivion in sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, each of which offered a temporary escape into another world. The music of the time started out sad and sorrowful in the 1950s, and got even gloomier in the 1960s. And at the same time there emerged popular anti-war movements, and anti-nuclear-weapons movements, and a variety of other anti-something movements. For the unifying feature of all these movements was that they were anti- one thing or other: capitalism, environmental pollution, whale hunting, fox hunting, and so on.
And now, 50 years on, all of these anti-something movements have merged into a single unified anti-everything movement that is trying to stop everything. And that’s why absolutely everything is under attack. By our own people.
At some point, while I was being carried along on this tide, I began to want to get off – because the tide didn’t seem to be going anywhere. The music got darker and darker, the drugs got stranger and stranger, the Eastern cults weirder and weirder. If all concerned were fleeing from one nightmare, it seemed to have just led them into another nightmare.
And also I noticed that, although my generation was in despair, my parents’ generation seemed completely untouched by it. They just got on with their lives. They didn’t worry. They smoked cigarettes and drank beer and drove cars and raised families. And they had a much sunnier outlook on life. And that was probably because they’d actually lived through the war, and survived it, and now wanted to enjoy life in ways that they’d been prevented throughout it. They were just glad to have survived. My grandfather, who’d survived both WW1 and WW2, was even more cheerful than my parents, and would even dance little jigs.
And so I started slowly rowing back towards the old culture, the parental culture. I started to see my generation as having gone collectively insane. All their thinking seemed to be rather magical. None of it seemed rational. I gradually got to loathe all their Eastern cults, their diets, their causes, their environmentalism. I think the end came when, after a 10 year absence, I caught up with a very thoughtful and rational friend from my student days. But in the interval it turned out that all his thoughtfulness and rationality had evaporated, and he’d joined an outfit called The Emissaries of the Divine Light, and I sorta immediately knew I’d never ever be going that way.
My route back to the old culture was through science. Or rather, physics. Newtonian physics. If I’ve built my own computer orbital simulation model, complete with all the planets in the solar system and a spinning Earth, plus about 30,000 stars, and now about 11,000 asteroids as well, it’s very much as a conscious and sustained attempt to think rationally. Some people go jogging, and some people do yoga, but I do 3D geometry. And Idle Theory, which I gradually pieced together over about 40 years, is my rational model of the world, and of living things, and of economics and ethics. And that’s just a piece of simple physics too.
And these days I smoke cigarettes and drink beer and drive cars just like my father did. And I think that if he was still around, he’d be as shocked an dismayed as I am about things like smoking bans.
And if that’s happening, it’s because my lunatic, anti-everything generation is now busy smashing the old culture to which I managed to return. And what they all believe is just as much irrational nonsense as it always was. In fact, several layers of extra nonsense has been added since I left. For example, they never used to believe that tobacco smoke was lethal, or that carbon dioxide was causing dangerous global warming, but now they do.
It’s as if I got off the school bus of Ken Kesey and his merry pranksters a long time ago, only to find it’s now caught up with me again, and it’s ten times bigger than it ever was, and ten times crazier, and it’s coming up my street with horns blaring.
My generation went collectively mad. And now they’re tearing everything to pieces. Because they’re now in government, and running the professions, and they can.
I’ve been watching a bunch of lectures about WW1 by military historians. In the one below, Christopher Clark described the outbreak of WW1 as the “primal catastrophe of the 20th century”, from which “all the other disasters of the 20th century sprang”, and which has left the global system “unhinged” to this day. My generation did not escape. They also are casualties of that war. They don’t have missing arms or legs: they have missing reason or missing common sense or missing peace of mind.