Yesterday I wrote about the clash between our own Andrew Neil and Ben Shapiro, contrasting the former’s civility with the latter’s savagery.
Alas, I got so hung up on matters of style that I overlooked the great historic discovery Andrew Neil made casually, if possibly unwittingly.
For since the 1330s, when the term ‘the Dark Ages’ was first used, historians have been arguing about the temporal boundaries of that period.
Some applied the term to the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the heyday of the Holy Roman one, say from 400 to 800 AD.
Others accepted the first date but argued against the second. The Dark Ages extended well into the fifteenth century, as far as they were concerned.
Thus it was out of darkness that all those Gothic cathedrals shot up, to the accompaniment of Hildegard’s music and words scribbled by Anselm, Albert the Great, Aquinas and Dante.
Still others saw nothing but darkness still enveloping the world in the eighteenth century, when it was finally and irreversibly pierced by the dazzling light of the Enlightenment.
Do you see what I see? This remarkable absence of consensus invalidated the whole concept. I mean, if some historians said that Shakespeare lived in the reign of Elizabeth I and others insisted he was a contemporary of Elizabeth II, we’d be justified in believing that Shakespeare never existed at all.
That’s why we should all be grateful to Andrew Neil for his chronological breakthrough – this, though he never actually mentioned a single date. His discovery, I believe, places Andrew next to such giants of the historical science as Herodotus, Thucydides and Simon ‘Sickbag’ Montefiore.
Trying to nail young Ben to the wall of obscurantism, Andrew slyly inquired about his victim’s thoughts on the new Georgia law, making abortion illegal after six weeks of pregnancy.
To stimulate young Ben’s thought process, Andrew opined that the new law “takes us back to the Dark Ages”. There it was, the great historical discovery – and nobody, not even Andrew Neil himself, realised its magnitude.
For Andrew implicitly equated the legalisation of abortion with the end of the Dark Ages. The inference is indisputable, isn’t it?
Since the Dark Ages are coextensive with the criminalisation of abortion, and since we know exactly when abortion was legalised, we must doff our hats to the Herodotus of the BBC, Andrew Neil.
Thus the Dark Ages in Britain ended in 1965, when abortion was legalised, while in Northern Ireland the Dark Ages are still in full swing because abortion is illegal there.
The US had its epiphany in 1973, Italy in 1978, France in 1979 and so forth. Hence not only can we date the Dark Ages approximately for all of the Western world, but we can now pinpoint them precisely for each country.
Andrew Neil missed a great opportunity to make this abundantly clear by wording his question differently: “Doesn’t the Georgia law take us back to the Dark Ages, which in America ended in 1973?”
One wonders how that whippersnapper would have handled this. Judging by the way he fielded the actual, imprecise question, he probably would have stuck his pen into Andrew’s jugular vein, thereby depriving us of new insights doubtless coming in the future.
If I were Ben, I would have answered Andrew’s question differently. Yes, I would have said, the Georgia law does take us back to the Dark Ages. However, legal abortion takes us back to the even earlier ages of pre-Christian paganism.
In those olden days, children had a strictly utilitarian value. The concept of any human life being valuable as such was alien to the Hellenic world.
Thus the first known letter written by a Greek soldier to his pregnant wife says: “If it’s a boy, keep him. If it’s a girl, get rid of her.” Since in those days it was impossible to determine the baby’s sex before birth, what the chap meant wasn’t just abortion but infanticide (frankly, the moral and physiological distinction between the two is rather blurred anyway).
Romans routinely left unwanted babies, mostly girls, by the roadside, to be devoured by wild animals. Compared to that practice, abortion was child’s play – and fun was had by all.
And then that herald of the Dark Ages, Jesus Christ, appeared and turned out to be a real spoilsport. Any human life, he said, is sacred and the lives of the unwanted, poor and downtrodden even more so.
It took the West the better part of two millennia to debunk that subversive notion, and well-done, ‘right-leaning’ Andrew Neil, explaining it in so few words. Do they give Nobel Prizes for history? I don’t think so, but if they did, I know who I’d vote for.
P.S. I’ve heard of aptronyms, but this is ridiculous (an aptronym is a person’s name appropriate to his occupation). Chromatography was invented by the Russian scientist Mikhail Tsvet (d. 1919). ‘Tsvet’ is the Russian for colour.