I'm extremely pleased that Radio has devoted several evening programmes this week to celebrating the life and work of Dame Janet Baker. She has been my favourite female singer since I first discovered her singing on the legendary Barbirolli recording of Gerontius, in my teens. There's something quite unique about the quality of her voice, but it's not only that that makes her great, it's the total commitment and incredible intelligence of the singing. I still think her recording of Mahler's Ruckert Lieder with Barbirolli is the single most perfect vocal recording I know. I am glad I was lucky enough to hear her live a few times – I particularly remember her in Gerontius at the Proms, with Peter Pears and John Shirley-Quirk, and Boult conducting – that was a memorable night. And I was at her last appearance in opera, Handel's Julius Caesar, at the Coliseum. Heady days! There's no-one like that around now, and I defy anyone to say otherwise.
'A neo-conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality'
– a quote from Irving Kristol, one of the early academic exponents of neoconservativism in America. This is perfect, succinct and witty description of a state of mind which I now realise is exactly mine. Nearly all of us of my generation in our youth were enamoured of the whole liberal-left, utopian, 'revolution' thing – we were all going to form communes and everything would be simply lovely – boy, have we been 'mugged by reality' since then! I have been reading the Douglas Murray book further, and have decided I simply have to define myself as a neoconservative, however pejorative that term may be on some people's lips, because that is the view of the world that corresponds currently with mine. We must get away from the curse of relativism – cultural, moral, aesthetic and otherwise – which is at the core of the rotten-ness, cynicism and defeatism of western society. If not, we are finished – we will lapse terminally into a cess-pit of drink, drugs, thuggery and philistinism under a dysfunctional but vicious 'pc' socialist police state, after which we can look forward finally to enforced Islamicisation and/or slavery under 'sharia' law, and religious tyranny – the latter is clearly is the only dynamic, totally self-confident and ruthless force in the world today, if the west doesn't re-discover both the importance and vulnerability of liberal democracy and start standing up for it and its true values with all its might. I am not hopeful, but at least we can clarify the issues and try to sound a warning to people to wake up before it's too late.
I will say right away that I would not and will not ever vote for the BNP, as their whole philosophy is clearly based on crude racism. The distinction they make between 'race' and 'culture' is a true one, but tehy are insincere when they make it. However, I can't help feeling a small degree of satisfaction at the the dismay of New 'Labour' and other mainstream parties at the way that white working-class voters are turning to the extremists. It is a real challenge to the smugness, self-delusion and 'pc' head-in-the-sand attitude of the rulers of this country in arrogantly ignoring the real concerns of a large proportion of the population. A wake-up call, indeed. I will quote from Migration Watch UK, on the results of a representative poll of 2000 British citizens issued on April 23rd:
'The public have comprehensively rejected the Government’s ‘no limits’ immigration policy and instead have called for an annual limit on numbers.
By 76% to 10% they strongly agreed (50%), or agreed (26%), there must be an annual limit to the number of immigrants allowed to come to Britain (only 4% strongly disagreeing), in a survey out today for think tank Migrationwatch. (View Survey)*
And in the same survey, only 10% said that the Government was listening to their opinion on an issue which the public ranks second only to crime as the most important issue facing Britain today. '
Any further explanation needed? So how can we solve this dire problem which we have created in Britain? Here is what Migration Watch UK suggest:
'What should be done?
We should be clear about the facts, frank about the problems, and constructive about the solutions.
A major step must be to limit the scale and pace of further immigration as clearly implied by the Government’s own cohesion panel. They reported that "the pace of change (for a variety of reasons) is simply too great in some areas at present". An annual limit is essential to restore public confidence in the system.
The introduction of such a limit would be a considerable task and would take some years to be made effective.
The ideal would be to achieve a position where the numbers of people entering Britain was similar to the number emigrating.
Thereafter we should encourage more explicit nation building so as to integrate the minorities we have. This should involve language teaching, skills training and assistance in finding employment.'
Which of the mainstream political parties is advocating this eminently sensible approach? Answer: none. BNP support will continue to rise until politicians come to their senses and start listening to people.
Much to my delight, courtesy of the Times, I have acquired a DVD of the charming BBC TV version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. It is so lovely when things you recall from the past turn out to be as good as, and better, than you remember, which is the case with this particular series. And how much in the past – I was shocked to see in the titles at the end of the first episode that it was made in 1975! Over thirty years ago, and I remember it so well – though at the time I would have watched it on a small black and white TV and would not have been able to record it, as video-recorders hadn't been invented, let alone DVD's; and the idea of watching it on a lap-top computer on a boat on the river would have seemed like pure science fiction at the time! I think the last time I even read the book was about 1982, when I was stuck in the rather grotty youth hostel in Athens, with very little money and nothing else to read – it kept me going, reading of windy Victorian moors amod the heat and traffic of the Greek capital, all those years ago. It is an absolutely magical and very touching story, I think, and contains some sort of inner truth lacking on many a more sophisticated literary work; the 70's BBC adaptation is perfect – particularly the child actors – I don't think they could make something as good nowadays, despite modern glossy 'production values', because the essential innocence, the high cultural level assumed in the audience and the faithfulness to the original of that time has largely vanished from contemporary, vulgar and sensational British culture, what's left of it. How I do enjoy living in the past – so infinitely preferable to the present, not to mention the future, no doubt!
I've discovered a most interesting book of that title by a recent graduate of Magdalen called Douglas Murray. He has also contributed to the Social Affairs Unit website; one of his pieces is about 'the problem with Islam'. He talks about the appalling self-censorship which has descended on the 'liberal' arts, with their tradition of 'challenging preconceptions' and free expression, when it comes to anything that even might offend Muslims:
'I know what "controversial" art means in 2006. The anti-Christian stuff is taken as read, and has become (though artists seem not to have realised this) quite interminably dull and passé: modern art-galleries are filled with images which are meant to make us "question", "re-evaluate" and "ask troubling questions of" the Church, sexuality and other pressing issues. Gilbert and George and co. constantly display their genitals, but you don't have to look closely to notice they're not big enough to tackle any really hot issues of the day, such as, say, the tendency of Muslims to kill you if you say something they don't like.
We are currently offered a deal by representatives of the Muslim faith: "Say my religion is peaceful, or I will kill you"'.
How refreshingly honest, for once. It's not that any sensible person sets out to offend Muslims or any other group gratuitously, but as Murray says, sometimes people need to be offended, and that it one of the democratic 'rights' we thought we had in western societies, until our political masters started deciding otherwise (viz. Jack Straw's pathetic cringing on the Danish cartoons issue.)
Theodore Dalrymple is another of the stimulating contributors to the SAU website. He's particularly good on the New Labour regime's latest fascist ban on smoking. Referring to an editorial in, I think, The Lancet, he says:
Perhaps the most alarming thing about the editorial is that it does not see that there is any question of liberty involved at all. It is not as if there is anyone who is ignorant of the dangers of smoking: in more than thirty years since I qualified as a doctor, I have never met anyone in Britain to whom the dangers of smoking came as a surprise. No one smokes in ignorance. Only if you regard a considerable proportion of the population as natural slaves in need of protection from themselves – therefore, who do things only because they cannot do otherwise – can you justify a total ban…
With the downfall of the Soviet Union, I thought we might see the end of the ideological mode of thought, and regain some kind of subtlety. Instead, we seem now to live in cacophonous world of insistent and intolerant monomanias.
Afshin Ellian is an expatriate Iranian who fled persecution by the Islamofascists there, and is now one of the few Muslim writers(Irshad Manji is another) prepared to speak out about the oppressiveness of mainstream Islam and its desperate need for some kind of 'reformation' or 'enlightenment' to come to terms with the modern world. He has been extremely critical of the voilent reaction to the Danish cartoons and also of the Dutch government equivocal response to the 'religious' murder of Theo van Gogh. In one article on the Social Affairs Unit website he draws attention to a clause in the modern German constitution which offers a very effective way of dealing with religious and political extremists and terrorists:
'He who abuses freedom of expression, specifically freedom of press, freedom of education, freedom of gathering, privacy of correspondence, freedom to property, and rights to asylum, against the free democratic legal order, will lose the said basic rights.(…)
This rule is applied against any type of attempt to overthrow the democratic legal order, whether it is by the extreme left, the extreme right, or Muslims. It has to do with the experiences of the Weimar Republic and the Nazi era. And it is, according to the Bundesverfassungsgericht, an expression of streitbaren Demokratie und Selbsverteidigung [self-defense of democracy]. In any case this is not a means of state-tyranny but precisely the means of the self-defense mechanism of the German post-war democracy.'
So why do we not introduce such a law in the UK? Instead of appeasing extremists and falling over backwards not to offend them, why do we not give them the choice between supporting the values and laws of the country they have chosen to live in, or leaving? If the Germans can do it, so can we.