Prince William’s ivory tower

Will’s promise to destroy every ivory artefact in Buckingham Palace makes one wonder if propensity towards vandalism is passed on from one generation to the next.

The prince’s late mother didn’t quite manage to vandalise the monarchy in Britain, but not for any lack of trying. Still, though she failed in the short term, it’s conceivable that the damage she did cause may yet prove destructive over time.

While still with us, Lady Di supported every cause the PC Zeitgeist considered worthy, making even old cynics like me paranoid and insomniac.

Pursued by the nightmares of anorexic, HIV-positive lepers splattered all over the rain forest by land mines, I remember lying awake at night, pangs of conscience rattling through my brain (on second thoughts, it could have been the neighbours playing loud music).

Still, I was thanking God I was quite the opposite of anorexic, didn’t indulge in practices leading to Aids, never went anywhere near a rain forest, and neither laid nor was ever likely to step on a land mine.

Now it seems that the apple that’s Will didn’t fall far from the tree that was Diana. He too is bothering his pretty little royal head with PC causes; he too is showing early symptoms of logorrhoea, prime among which is an urge to speak before thinking.

HRH is opposed to illegal trade in elephant tusks, as is every reasonable individual. In fact, said individual is equally opposed to illegal trade in anything, from contraband cigarettes or booze to guns and drugs.

But from this it doesn’t automatically follow that there’s anything wrong with legal trade in such things. For example, the ban on illicit trade in opiates doesn’t extend to the use of morphine as a hospital pain-killer. We don’t want junkies to mainline heroin, but neither do we want cancer patients to writhe in unrelieved agony.

Legal trade in any commodity may encourage a parallel illegal trade. For example, many drinking establishments sell alcohol obtained through channels that don’t rigidly insist on compliance with trade regulations and things like import duty. That, however, doesn’t mean we should have a Prohibition similar to that existing in America between 1920 and 1933.

Moreover, that unfortunate social experiment (and all social experiments are unfortunate) showed a tendency distinctly opposite to one Prince Will sees in his mind’s eye: the ban on legal trade in alcohol didn’t just boost the illegal trade but raised it to a major industry.

President Obama suffers from the same misapprehension as the prince, and for the same reason. He too openly prays to the PC god – and I’d rather not go into the subject of what other gods he may be worshipping surreptitiously. That’s why he wants to ban all commercial sale of ivory.

However, my friend Barack Hussein stops short of the final solution advocated by Will: he isn’t promising to rip the ivory keys off the White House Steinway. Then of course he’s older and less impetuous.

One problem with curbing illegal trade in ivory is that elephants tend to live in lawless lands. The other one is that the greatest consumers of ivory also live in lawless (in our sense of the word) lands, such as China.

This dialectical symbiosis means that poaching is next to impossible to stop – the hand of demand washes the hand of supply. Yet efforts to do so must be made: poaching is vile. Why, it’s even worse than New Yorkers buying duty-free cigarettes brought from New Jersey by muscular chaps in leather coats.

That, however, isn’t what HRH wants. He wants to destroy priceless art works of which he’s a custodian, not owner. This suggests that what he regards as objectionable isn’t just poaching elephants and then selling their tusks illegally.

Diana’s boy actually thinks ivory, whether obtained within or outside the law, is immoral in se, which justifies illegal vandalism. This is simply nonsensical, falling into the same cloud-cuckoo-land area as decrying the wearing of furs or the consumption of meat.

Just as his late mother was obsessed with anorexics, William is deeply attached to elephants. If their tusks are in demand, he fears, the species will become extinct.

This indeed may happen, but what else is new? Over 98 percent of the species that have ever inhabited the earth are no longer with us, and I don’t think anyone is unduly bothered. Really, Darwin’s book should have been more appropriately called The Disappearance of Species. That way the great man would have stayed in the realm of facts, rather than fanciful hypotheses.

This anthropomorphic affection for animals, cute or otherwise, is recent in origin. It has the same source as the pantheistic adoration of nature in general, one of the gifts we gratefully received from Romanticism (another one is Nazism, but we shan’t talk about that now).

One of the desiderata of that movement was to replace the morality and aesthetics of Christendom with a new vision of the world. This vision did produce some pleasing aesthetic results, mostly in music, but appalling moral ones.

Soppy adoration of nature was one such, and it was animated not so much by the urgent need to hug trees or elephants as by a much more urgent desire to destroy our theocentric heritage. (In that Romantic spirit, the Nazis banned experiments on animals while indulging in experiments on humans.)

That this was how the battle lines were drawn was clear to the contemporaries of the Romantic movement, such as Lord Tennyson who himself wasn’t free of Romantic influences. He wrote: “Who trusted God was love indeed//
And love Creation’s final law//
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw//
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed.”

One day HRH may become the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, provided there will still remain a Church of England for him to govern supremely. True enough, the Church and our whole society are taking giant strides on the road to paganism, but there’s no compelling reason to nudge them further along that way.

HRH had better restrain his youthful impetuosity and think hard about such issues before pronouncing on them. Reading a book or two on the founding principles of our civilisation wouldn’t hurt either.

He should be aware of his limitations, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing to remind himself that he’s still a very young, not particularly well-educated man who just may suffer from compromised intellectual heredity on his mother’s side.

 

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