George MacDonald Fraser, the ruin of Britain, and the possibility of true resistance to liberalism

The British historical novelist George MacDonald Fraser died January 2. On January 5 the Daily Mail published what it calls his “last testament,” entitled “How Britain destroyed itself.” Below is an excerpt from the article, followed by my thoughts about what is good in Fraser’s vision, what is lacking in it, and what real opposition to the forces that have destroyed Britain would entail.

Fraser writes:

My generation has seen the decay of ordinary morality, standards of decency, sportsmanship, politeness, respect for the law, family values, politics and education and religion, the very character of the British.

Oh how Blimpish this must sound to modern ears, how out of date, how blind to “the need for change and the novelty of a new age”. But don’t worry about me. It’s the present generation with their permissive society, their anything-goes philosophy, and their generally laid-back, inyerface attitude I feel sorry for.

They regard themselves as a completely liberated society when in fact they are less free than any generation since the Middle Ages.

Indeed, there may never have been such an enslaved generation, in thrall to hang-ups, taboos, restrictions and oppressions unknown to their ancestors (to say nothing of being neck-deep in debt, thanks to a moneylender’s economy).

We were freer by far 50 years ago—yes, even with conscription, censorship, direction of labour, rationing, and shortages of everything that nowadays is regarded as essential to enjoyment.

We still had liberty beyond modern understanding because we had other freedoms, the really important ones, that are denied to the youth of today.

We could say what we liked; they can’t. We were not subject to the aggressive pressure of specialinterest minority groups; they are. We had no worries about race or sexual orientation; they have. We could, and did, differ from fashionable opinion with impunity, and would have laughed PC to scorn, had our society been weak and stupid enough to let it exist.

We had available to us an education system, public and private, that was the envy of the world. We had little reason to fear being mugged or raped (killed in war, maybe, but that was an acceptable hazard).

Our children could play in street and country in safety. We had few problems with bullies because society knew how to deal with bullying and was not afraid to punish it in ways that would send today’s progressives into hysterics.

We did not know the stifling tyranny of a liberal establishment, determined to impose its views, and beginning to resemble George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

Above all, we knew who we were and we lived in the knowledge that certain values and standards held true, and that our country, with all its faults and need for reforms, was sound at heart.

Not any more. I find it difficult to identify a time when the country was as badly governed as it has been in the past 50 years.

Fraser seems to be what you might call a conservative of the heart. He loves Britain, he believes in the traditional ways and liberties of its people, and he anguishes over their loss. It is eloquent and moving. What seems to be missing in the article is any sense of how and why this destruction of Britain came about, and how it could have been stopped and reversed. In the first part of the article (not quoted here), Fraser goes on at length about political correctness, which for him is the main villain in the downfall of Britain. While he gives many examples of political correctness, he does not define it. Nor does he say what the good opposite of the bad political correctness would be.

The point I am getting at, which I’ve often made before, is that attacking political correctness goes nowhere. It adds up to a catalogue of complaints. Yes, PC makes patriotism an embarrassment; yes, PC suppresses and criminalizes conservative speech; yes, PC suppresses negative truths about the behavior of minority groups; yes, PC takes away the legitimate rights of association and expression even as it gives vastly expanded rights to the libertine, the jihadist, and the thug. The problem with focusing on PC is that PC is not just a collection of annoying attitudes and rules and “double standards.” PC isn’t some weird thing that popped into existence for no reason. PC is the manifestation of an entire world view. PC exists because people believe in the world view that gave birth to it. Therefore we can’t successfully resist political correctness unless we attack and discredit that world view.

That world view is liberalism, the belief in equality and non-discrimination as the ruling principles of society. Liberalism attacks all the larger wholes—natural, social, and spiritual—that structure man’s existence, because those larger wholes create differences and distinctions which violate the rule of equality and non-discrimination. Liberalism attacks God, truth, religion, objective morality, standards of excellence, social traditions, the family, parental authority, sex differences, nation, ethnicity, and race. It aims at a world of liberated, equal human selves, with no God above them and no country or culture around them, free to interact on a basis of total freedom and equality with all other human selves on earth. To achieve this universal freedom and equality, the ability of actual peoples to define and govern themselves must be eliminated. Democratic and constitutional self-government must be replaced by the regime of the global elite, a regime that is beyond criticism and democratic accountability because it represents and embodies the very principle of liberal goodness: the equality of all.

That’s the liberal vision. Political correctness is one of the weapons by which this vision is imposed, it is not the vision itself. To complain about political correctness, when the problem is really liberalism, is like complaining about “enemies of freedom,” when the problem is really Islam. If we are to have any hope of defeating political correctness, we must understand the liberalism that begets it. Once we understand the positive vision that drives liberals, once we understand what liberalism has taken away and why it must take it away in order to realize the liberal vision, then we are in a position to start opposing liberalism.

Opposing liberalism means rediscovering, re-articulating, and restoring those elements of true human order that liberalism has delegitimized and suppressed. There is no simple way of summarizing these elements of true order. Each civilization consists of a unique ordering of mankind for the purpose of realizing the good life in a way that is appropriate for the people of that civilization. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not speaking of some Nazi-like tribalism but of the traditional moral order of a society under God.

There is much more to be said, but for the moment these are the basics with which we can begin:

  • There are universal principles of order of human existence.

  • There are particular principles of order for each distinct human society based on its unique history and character.

  • Liberalism, the belief in non-discrimination as the guiding principle of society, wages a relentless attack on these universal and particular principles of order, not ceasing until they have been suppressed and the ways of life based on them destroyed.

  • Therefore there can be no meaningful resistance to liberalism without a grasp of the vision that liberalism seeks to achieve and without the opposing vision of the transcendent and traditional goods that liberalism seeks to destroy.

Once we understand what liberalism is, and what liberalism is not, we can start building up a counter vision to liberalism—the seeds and cells of a new society. Merely complaining about political correctness or the endless idiocies and treasons of liberals leaves us thrashing at the symptoms of liberalism, even as we remain locked within its gravitational field.

- end of initial entry -

Sage McLaughlin writes:

Your summary of the problem of liberalism in today’s post on George Fraser is as eloquent and concise an explication of the issues as I have ever seen. It is simply excellent, illuminating. I’ve sent it to friends and family, and recommended they carry a copy of it for handy reference. I congratulate and thank you.

LA replies (May 5, 2008)

A belated thanks to Sage. What he says about the desirability of having simple concise summaries of traditionalist positions is something that must be worked on.

Vivek G. writes (May 5, 2008):

LA wrote in the initial entry: “There are universal principles of order of human existence.”

I think this is an excellent point. One may generalize it even further by saying that there is a universal order of existence. In light of this, when we confine our attention to what is ordinarily called a purely material existence, we get natural science or laws of nature; while when we focus on human existence we get moral science or moral order. It appears to me that both of these must be special cases of (i.e., derived from) the said universal order.

Accountability of human intention and action beyond mere ordinary bodily existence is central to all traditional moral order. One could have a theistic view that God ordains such an order, or an atheistic view that this order is coeval with laws of nature that are coeval with material existence. There could be debate between these two views, but neither denies the existence of such a universal moral order. [LA replies: I don’t see how an atheistic view which says the only order is that of natural law necessarily implies a moral order.]

It seems to me, therefore, that the central tenet of traditionalism is this universal moral order. It is something that we discover, and do not, as per our convenience, invent, however much the liberals may want us to believe that we do. While the way this discovery is expressed and handed down over generations may vary, the fact remains that it is NOT a human invention but a discovered truth. However, we must also keep in mind that everything that is handed down over generations is not necessarily discovered truth.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 14, 2008 11:31 PM | Send

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