It has long been my contention that modernity systematically undermines the very reason in whose name it was inaugurated.
Driven by ill-conceived prejudices, modernity has been steadily replacing ideas with ideology, sanctity with sanctimoniousness, morality with moralising and righteousness with self-righteousness.
That degenerative condition has now reached its terminal phase, that of smug triumphalism. This forms a neat package when combined with the tendencies mentioned above. And if one were to put a label on that box, ‘David Aaronovich’ would do nicely.
The whole content of his article Reactionary Right Keeps Getting It Wrong could be expressed in three words: I hate conservatives. There could be no arguing against such a spiffy statement, other than saying, well, I quite like them. End of discussion. Call it a draw.
Had Mr Aaronovich left it at that, he would have found himself on unassailable grounds. But, being a columnist, he felt duty-bound to enlarge on that thesis by adding 1,200 words of explanation, which was a mistake.
For, trying to come up with arguments, he only succeeded in proving two of my innermost convictions: a) that lefties aren’t just misguided but also intellectually feeble and b) there’s no such thing as an ex-leftie, which is probably close to how Mr Aaronovich describes himself.
Leftiness isn’t a matter of philosophical ratiocination but one of visceral and cerebral predisposition. This brands one’s personality with an indelible stamp: hard as a man tries, he can only think and feel one way. He may attempt to jam the square peg of dissenting ideas into that round hole, but the fit will never be snug.
Thus, the logical premise of Historical Inevitability from which Mr Aaronovich proceeds is unvarnished Marxism. This is how it goes: because things happen, they were bound to happen and, because they were bound to happen, they are good – as are those who made them happen.
Conversely, those who resist such good and inevitable things are obtuse reactionaries who find themselves on the wrong side of history – or else in its rubbish bin, to use the phrase coined by Mr Aaronovich’s erstwhile guru, Trotsky. Hence the title of the article in question.
But not to worry: those Colonel Blimps are always forced to realise the error of their ways and jump on the rolling bandwagon of Historical Inevitability. Ultimately, truth conquers all.
As examples of such volte-faces, Mr Aaronovich cites Boris Johnson, Dave Cameron and Charles Moore, none of whom would be happy to be lumped together with the other two.
Johnson first became a reformed truth-seeker by becoming a convert to anti-obesity measures: “Having argued long and hard against the state getting involved in such campaigns, he now suddenly understood their value. Why? Because his own obesity had been a factor complicating his illness.”
However, “the facts were clear enough before Johnson shook one Covid-infected hand too many… But the PM never got round to explaining how he’d managed to overlook them for so long.”
Alas, Mr Aaronovich, his leftie bit between his teeth, confuses two separate issues. The detrimental effects of obesity are indeed facts, but that doesn’t mean the state should dictate how, what and when people should eat. Mr Aaronovich may argue either point, but not conflate them.
There exist many sound practices that the state must leave to the people’s discretion. Brushing one’s teeth twice a day, for example, is a good idea, but not a good state diktat. You understand, I’m simply talking elementary logic here, or rather the lack thereof so characteristic of lefties.
Then Mr Aaronovich points out how Mr Johnson has changed his opinion over the past seven years, from “wind power is rubbish” to “we will be the Saudi Arabia of wind”. Neither Mr Johnson nor Mr Aaronovich specified whether that aspiration involves cutting off the dissenters’ hands, but that’s not the point.
The point is that Mr Aaronovich thinks the PM has had a Damascene experience because he was “proven wrong”. But he hasn’t been proven wrong. He has been proven to be an unprincipled weathervane that turns depending on where the political wind is blowing.
Dave Cameron, Mr Johnson’s dumber twin, is another sinner who saw the light. He “spoke for many Tories in 2013 when he said of his own government’s policies, ‘we have got to get rid of all this green crap’”, a misconception that Historical Inevitability has trampled underfoot.
And it’s not just those lovely wind farms. Because – brace yourself for you’re about to hear something truly awful – “by and large, the people who denigrated wind power were the ones who cast doubt on the diagnosis of manmade global warming.”
Mr Aaronovich doesn’t even bother to explain why such doubts are unfounded. The issue has been decided in Notting Hill, Islington and Hampstead, so there’s nothing further to discuss. Historical Inevitability has spoken, which is good. Conservatives have been shamed, which is even better.
Alas, “in the past five years, the right has been striking back, without being called to account for its U-turns.” Charles Moore typifies this unfortunate tendency, even though Mr Aaronovitch fails to mention any U-turns Lord Moore has made. He’s more generous with a list of grievous errors Lord Moore has committed and will doubtless regret in the future, although so far he hasn’t:
“Moore praised Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical for taking a hard line against contraception and then effectively damned the Church of England for ordaining women because it damaged relations with Rome. HIV/Aids was a purely homosexual problem and it was… liberal hysteria to suggest otherwise; a forerunner of liberal plots such as climate change, the EU and the destruction of British culture.”
To my eternal shame, I agree with Lord Moore on every one of those beliefs. However, I’m glad that Mr Aaronovich is prepared to veer off his comfort zone and engage battle on matters ecclesiastical and theological.
Actually, he doesn’t feel called upon to engage that battle. Having problems with, say, female ordination is so self-evidently dreadful that Mr Aaronovich wouldn’t demean himself by arguing against it. He just gives it as another reason for hating conservatives and welcoming their forthcoming U-turns.
Now, I, and no doubt Lord Moore, would be prepared to give sound theological reasons for opposing female priesthood. Theological arguments in favour are also possible, but that’s not why we have female priests and bishops now.
The Church of England, which both Lord Moore and I have left for that very reason, didn’t decide the issue on theological or ecclesiastical grounds. Its impetus came from trying to cater to every half-arsed wokish fad that comes round the block – thereby hurting, I’m afraid irretrievably, its core business.
Is Mr Aaronovich prepared to join the argument on this level? Of course he isn’t. Nor does he have to: the triumph of wokish fads is Historically Inevitable anyway. So why waste words?
Admittedly, those objectionable conservatives have scored one victory, which they so far haven’t repented: Brexit. But give them time, according to Mr Aaronovich’s prophetic bravura ending:
“Into my head floats an image of 2030, and a podium swathed in red, white and blue and a speech in which the new Conservative leader, Priti Patel, reveals her plan (a lifetime ambition, no less) to revolutionise the European Union – by rejoining it.”
Just to think that The Times used to be a respectable paper. If this is the best talent they can find, it’s not just their problem. It’s everyone’s.