Two responses to the death of Britain: the prophetic and the ironic
days ago, I wrote
an entry, “Britain is dead, long live Britain (some day),” in which I tried to sum up the meaning of recent developments in that country. Robert Bove of the New English Review
and one of his readers commented
about the article, and I replied. My comments have now been posted at NER, but unfortunately without paragraph breaks. Here is the entire exchange in a more readable format.
Robert Bove comment:
Sunday, 25 March 2007
In a post yesterday, Lawrence Auster, in full prophetic mode:
Let’s face it, folks. The British, the great people from which our own country was born, are dead, they are finished, they are kaput. And that goes for their “conservatives” too. Before there is any possibility that they can become a decent and strong people again, they must first be melted down and destroyed as they now exist. A commenter protested the metaphor might be a bit harsh, so Auster added:
You’ve read Ouspensky and Gurdjieff. The British as a people have developed a “false personality” that has taken over and controls them completely. If they are to have any hope of getting back to their “essence” again, their false personality (in Christian terms, their body of sin) must be melted down, which can only happen through tremendous suffering. I read Ouspensky and Gurdjieff in university and actually visited a group of their acolytes to see how they practiced the great ones’ teachings. About as stiff a group of neo-Gnostics as I have ever met. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
What’s interesting is that Auster, an apparent conservative Christian, should lean on those two non-Christian mystics so heavily that they in fact provide him with a critique of the UK’s predicament and an oddly simplistic formula for England’s salvation, one which we have heard over many, many decades from those decrying “the decadent West”.
Still, I think this “suffering solution” sounds like a winner. Therefore, I’ve instructed our broker to buy up shares in Harrod’s, UK, Hair Shirt Division, and dump those lingerie stocks.
Posted on 7:18 AM by Robert Bove
25 Mar 2007
Mary Jackson comment:
Dead, finished and kaput? Melted down and destroyed?
I don’t think I need any more redemption by suffering. Just reading Auster’s purple prose is enough to purge me completely.
Lawrence Auster first comment:
Other than not liking my purple prose, what does Mary Jackson think of Britain’s current state? How would _she_ describe a society in which the government says that any numerical restriction on the number of immigrants entering Britain is racist; where the government constantly whines about the huge and unexpected number of EU immigrants who have arrived, but declines to do anything about it because that would be racist; where the government has just passed a bill making it illegal discrimination for a Catholic adoption agency to decline to adopt to a same-sex couple; and where even the most outspoken conservative critics of this law accept the general prohibition of all discrimination against homosexuals in the provision of goods and services in Great Britain, but only protest the application of that principle to adoption? Does she think such a society (a) is alive and kicking; (b) has ceased to exist spiritually as a nation and people; or (c) is somewhere in between? If her answer is anything short of (b), then she is a shallow thinker who has very little to contribute to the current debate, except to carp at people who are trying to say something. By the way, if Miss Jackson likes feeling superior to my purple prophetic prose, she ought to take a look at what I wrote tonight about Hispanic immigration into the U.S.
Lawrence Auster second comment:
What I said about Miss Jackson could also be said about Mr. Bove. Of all the comments he might have made about my meditation on the moral and national suicide of Britain, what does he pick out for criticism? My passing reference to Ouspensky and Gurdjieff, which he finds to be in contradiction to my position as a conservative Christian. Perhaps Mr. Bove has not noticed that I have also from time to time approvingly quoted such non-Christian writers as Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, Oscar Wilde, and Bob Dylan, writers whose overall philosophies I do not share at all, but who, when they say true and worthwhile things, are worth quoting. I cannot imagine anything more artificially limiting on intellectual life than the attitude that automatically objects to any approving quotation of a writer whose overall philosophy is different from one’s own.
For example, while I am not in any way a Randian, I used as an epigraph for my article, “Guilty Whites,” this sentence from Atlas Shrugged:
“The worst guilt is to accept an undeserved guilt—and that is what you have been doing all your life.”
Now I suppose that if Mr. Bove had read that article, he would, instead of discussing what I said in the article, havecommented:
“I read Ayn Rand in university and actually debated with a group of Randians once. About as stiff a group of neo-Gnostics as I have ever met. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
“What’s interesting is that Auster, an apparent conservative Christian, should lean on this atheist writer so heavily that she in fact provides him with a critique of the white West’s predicament.”
Really deep stuff, right? And really relevant to my article. But that’s exactly what Mr. Bove has done here. All he does is throw cheap shots at the “incorrect” source of my idea about the need for a melting down. Further, in doing so, he goes so far as to use the nihilistic slogan from Seinfeld: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” Talk above inappropriate references by a supposedly conservative writer.
Then, after criticizing my “incorrect” reference to the Gurdjieffian idea that the only way to fix a person who has been falsely crystallized is to melt him down, which I used not to advance Gurdjieffian ideas, but to illustrate to a reader that I was not talking literally about the nuclear annihilation of Britain but rather about the need for the moral and psychological melting down of the present suicidally liberal Britain, Mr. Bove turns around and agrees with my substantive point. “Still, I think this suffering solution sounds like a winner,” he says. But he can’t stay with such seriousness for more than a split second, and he turns that too into an ironic joke: “Therefore, I’ve instructed our broker to buy up shares in Harrod’s, UK, Hair Shirt Division, and dump those lingerie stocks.”
So Mr. Bove, like Miss Jackson, has nothing to say about the substance of the issue I raised: what is Britain’s state? Is Britain still alive as a nation, or has it already given up key attributes of nationhood? If the answer is the latter, what would be needed to turn Britain around and save her? Nope. Such weighty discussions leave Mr. Bove uncomfortable and in need of the saving mask of irony, as though he had suddenly found himself at a “non-U” party and had to negotiate a quick exit.
LA third comment:
Thanks for restoring the paragraph breaks to my reply to Robert Bove.
- end of initial entry -
Also, if Mr. Bove still objects to the fact that I, a conservative Christian, would make a reference to Ouspensky and Gurdjieff, he should take a look at the reading list I have posted at my website. I wonder how many authors on this list, starting with Edith Hamilton’s Mythology which I read when I was 12 and Homer’s Iliad which I read when I was 13, he would say it’s inappropriate for me to recommend and quote, since, after all, they are not “conservative Christians.”
Alan Roebuck writes:
Irony: the universal intellectual condiment of liberalism.
As far as I know, I just made that one up.
Not bad. :-)
Here is another comment that has been posted at the New English review site. Steve Risher writes:
A collective inability to take anything seriously (except, in all too many cases, the tenets of Multicultism) may soon reduce the indigenous English to scattered bands of expatriates—pathetic objects of derision, when they are noticed at all.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 27, 2007 11:41 AM | Send
Hey, if they don’t care why should I? Unending irony and self-mockery becomes very tiresome.