The word ‘revolution’ evokes dramatic images drawn in lurid broad strokes.
One sees palaces and prisons stormed, Charles I and Louis XVI decapitated, chaps in beaver hats sniping at the Red Coats, Nicholas II butchered with his whole family. Asked to widen the view, most people will mention murder and imprisonment by category, civil wars, fiery oratory, new constitutions.
Most of such pictures will be true to life. But they are only the stage set of a revolution, not its dramatic essence. And that has little to do with the outer manifestations I’ve mentioned.
For all those things can also happen as a result of a more localised event, such as a coup d’état, some kind of insurgency or peasant revolt. A revolution is different.
To merit the name, it has to occur not in city squares or battlefields, but in people’s heads. These have to be emptied of old certitudes and filled to the brim with new ones.
Revolutions brag about creating the new man, which is an overclaim. But they definitely create new orthodoxies.
This may be preceded by violence or followed by it. Or there may be no violence at all. The necessary and sufficient characteristic of a revolution is just that: new orthodoxies for old, introduced, canonised and enforced.
This shouldn’t be confused with new ideas. I can’t think offhand of any revolution that generated truly new ideas, rather than plucking old ones out of the air. But they are all in the business of hatching new orthodoxies.
An idea is always up for discussion, doubt, objection or disagreement. People who subject ideas to such scrutiny are called opponents. They are to be argued with. But those who take issue with an orthodoxy aren’t opponents. They are heretics.
Opponents could be persuaded; heretics, only shoved aside. Depending on the orthodoxies, this action may or may not involve violence. But one way or the other, an orthodoxy will remain inviolable and unquestionable. It just is.
Hence you’ll know a revolution not necessarily by bullets pumped into recalcitrant skulls, but by the multitudes shouting, or at least implying, “You can’t say that!”. Whenever a perfectly reasonable response to an orthodoxy is met with those words, and when such orthodoxies endlessly multiply, you know a revolution has occurred.
The current non-violent revolution by stealth is like any other: it’ll allow some dissent at the periphery. Yet its core is always sacrosanct, off limits to even the mildest of doubts.
Thus, speaking specifically of Britain, it’s possible to express concern about, say, the way the NHS is run or about the incessantly growing amount of money it costs.
Rest assured that, after tomorrow’s budget announcement, many a pundit will point out that the NHS now accounts for 40 per cent of social spending, with no appreciable improvement in service compared to 20 years ago, when it was merely 10 per cent.
Yet no one will say that the NHS is so inefficient, expensive and poorly run because it’s based on a fundamentally corrupt egalitarian idea. The idea, fully nationalised medical care, is now an orthodoxy. Hence any heretic in government or the media will lose his job, and a private heretic will be hushed down. In all cases, the sacramental phrase “You can’t say that!” will be either uttered or implied.
The same goes for global warming, which too has become an orthodoxy. Hence one can bemoan the official estimate of a trillion pounds it’ll take to get Britain down to “net zero”. And one can even be allowed mentally to multiply that figure by three, which factor is borne out by the history of such estimates.
But it would be all a politician’s or journalist’s job is worth to argue publicly that the whole climate hysteria is an anti-capitalist, anti-Western swindle. You can’t say that and expect to [get a better job or keep your present one, get re-elected, be promoted] – no matter how much scientific evidence you’ll produce in your defence.
Everywhere one looks, orthodoxies lie thick on the ground, like landmines to be avoided on pain of death. If you don’t believe me, try saying in public that homosexuality is morally wrong and transsexuality an exercise in freakery, or that people of any race or either sex shouldn’t get preferential treatment, or that it’s a fallacy to seek their proportionate representation in any institution.
Can you hear the chorus of “You can’t say that!”? I can.
Or, if you really want to test the system to breaking point, say that Darwin’s theory is just that, a theory, meaning it hasn’t been sufficiently proved, certainly not in its loftiest claims. That, when it comes to the origin of man, that slapdash hypothesis is like the flat-earth theory in its level of scientific proof. That’ll be a destructive test, and it’s you who’ll be destroyed.
Step by stealthy, gradual step three revolutions fused into one, socialist, social and cultural, sneaked in with no one any the wiser. Few people cast a backward glance to even 20 years ago to see how many things deemed utterly impossible then have become orthodoxies now. Secular orthodoxies discourage retrospection.
No palaces have been stormed, no heads chopped off, no prisons demolished – but Britain (along with most of the rest of the West) has become – or is within a whisker of becoming – a thoroughly socialist country.
Old orthodoxies have fallen by the wayside, new ones have been chiselled in stone, and it doesn’t matter which party, blue, red or yellow, is in power. They all pray at the same secular altars.
A bucket of red has been added to the Tory blue to turn it purple. The same addition to the LibDem yellow has made it orange (not in any religious sense of the word). Since the red dye keeps dripping in at a growing flow rate, all three will become an identical crimson in this generation.
Many Tory voters will look at tomorrow’s budget and wonder how it is that their party now out-taxes and out-spends every Labour government in history. Or how it commits itself to beggaring the country by chasing the climate pie in the sky, knowing in advance it isn’t there or at least ignoring the scientific evidence to that effect. Or, once they are on that track, how one recent Tory PM considers the legalisation of homomarriage his great achievement.
No doubt some will vent their concerns to their family or friends. But no such vibes will be emitted by our powers that be. They are securely hidden behind an impregnable wall bearing the sign “You can’t say that!”