No, the word in question isn’t ‘socialism’. It’s not ‘capitalism’ either. Nor is it ‘economy’. It’s not even ‘atheism’. And no, it isn’t ‘government’. I’ll give you a hundred guesses and you still won’t come up with the right answer.
I’m sure each of the words I’ve mentioned will have its champions, as will any of the hundred guesses you may make. But none of them will have the impact and poignancy of the simple preposition ‘despite’.
This unprepossessing word, as used by The Times, is worth a thousand pictures. But I shan’t hold you in suspense any longer. Here’s the sentence, or rather the sentence fragment, in which this voluminous word appears:
“… Jacob Rees-Mogg, once considered for levelling-up secretary despite [!!!] his Eton education and southwestern constituency…”
My emphases may be a bit over the top, but I can’t let your attention wander away from the two syllables spelling one civilisational disaster.
The implication is Mr Rees-Mogg would be a good candidate for a cabinet post if he had better educational and geographical credentials. Now, any British reader would be alert to the implications, but the outlanders among you may want some elucidation. A quick look at Wikipedia won’t help.
It’ll simply tell you that Eton is one of the oldest and best public (meaning private) schools in Britain. As my friend Will Knowles, who was sacked by Eton for teaching that some differences between men and women do exist, will testify, the school has gone woke.
But then what school hasn’t? In relative terms, Eton still has a good claim to being the best boys’ school in the country.
Moving on to the geographical reference, Wikipedia will probably tell you that Mr Rees-Mogg’s constituency is in a rather upmarket rural part of Somerset. At the risk of venturing a guess unsupported by statistical evidence, I’d suggest that most Britons would rather live there than wherever they reside at the moment.
So where does ‘despite’ come in? If anything, one would think ‘because’ would be the more appropriate preposition.
Anyone who’d think that is deaf to the triumphant shouts of a victorious modernity. The word ‘despite’, as used here, is the smirk on the face of a victor accepting his enemy’s capitulation in the class war.
Had Mr Rees-Mogg grown up at a council estate in the depressed Toxteth area of Liverpool, gone to the local comprehensive and ended up representing some inner-city ghetto in Parliament, he’d be unobjectionable. As it is, he may be considered as a candidate only ‘despite’, not ‘because’.
It has to be said that Mr Rees-Mogg does nothing to offset his unfortunate CV. He looks as if he was born with a Savile Row suit grafted onto his skin, and he sounds the way a Savile Row suit would sound if it could talk.
Even worse, he doesn’t bother to conceal his pious Catholicism, which is wrong on more levels than one finds in a Toxteth tower block. You see, it’s perfectly fine – possibly even preferable – for a government official to be an atheist, provided he is a Protestant atheist.
Of the 55 prime ministers Britain has had, just one was a Catholic, and Boris Johnson only converted because he was besotted with his latest bride. (Tony ‘Anthony’ Blair converted to lapsed Catholicism only after the end of his tenure.) Unlike Rees-Mogg, he isn’t known as a devout Christian of any kind.
So yes, going to Mass every Sunday ushers in another ‘despite’. Doesn’t Rees-Mogg know that a church is strictly for hatching, matching and dispatching? No, evidently he doesn’t.
I am pretending to have fun here, but this is only what Gogol described as “laughter through tears of sorrow”. A nation is moribund where a well-educated, cultured and wealthy politician is deemed suspect specifically because he is well-educated, cultured and wealthy.
One would think that our political class is so teeming with talent that it can afford to introduce any idiotic selection criteria and still have an effective government. It can’t.
In the recently published list of the prospective candidates for the likely Truss cabinet, Rees-Mogg was the only white man. The rest were women, ethnic minorities or both.
I’m not saying that such groups can’t produce great statesmen – of course they can. But the likelihood of this heads down towards zero if they are chosen strictly, or even mainly, because of their sex or race.
Since Mr Rees-Mogg is untested in a top cabinet post, I don’t know if he has the makings of a statesman. He may or may not, and there is only one way to find out.
But if I knew nothing about British politics and still had to appoint a cabinet on general principles only, I’d say that men like Rees-Mogg are a better group to choose from than any other.
But then I’d choose my leaders because of their culture and education – not despite it.