Populism

As events unfold in England, I find my comments columns becoming very symptomatic of the polarisation now occurring all over Europe. Most of us are too parochially-minded to see things clearly, not that I have any pretensions. We are sucked up into a vast “movement” that makes us increasingly suspicious of that very word.

Are we returning to the 1930’s? The Guardian article For hard-right revolutionaries, Brexit is cover for a different end is quite frightening in the bewildering swirl of allegations about big business and manipulation by demagogues. One such person to watch out for is Steve Bannon,

Steve Bannon is being talked about a lot. This gentleman is President Trump’s former strategist, ousted from his White House post. Over the years, especially from 2015, I have been noticing collusions of events in the world. It is the old thesis-antithesis-synthesis dialectic of Hegel as we were flooded with news about war and atrocities in the Middle-East, leading to large numbers of Muslim immigrants into most European countries, but some went to the Americas. We were told all sorts of things about them. Then there was Daesh aka ISIS who began to take the world back to the era of Vlad Dracul the Impaler, and many terrorist attacks in Europe. The ironic title “religion of peace” was coined and we all found it increasingly difficult to distinguish between ordinary Muslim people and the Jihadists and terrorists. I was no exception in the movement that led to Donald Trump in the USA and Brexit in my own country. I was mercifully spared from voting by the “15-year” rule that takes suffrage away from Brits who have been out of the country for more than fifteen years.

Two years after the election of Trump and the referendum in England, the dots begin to be joined, and what we see is quite ugly. We live in a world of smoke, mirrors, Trojan horses and lies. Here in France, we learned of some very severe tax hikes in diesel and petrol prices, and that the gilet jaune would be the symbol of the protest against this policy aimed at punishing the population for the use of motor vehicles instead of public transport. The gilet is the safety vest all motorists are required by law to have in their cars in the event of a breakdown and being visible on the road in poor visibility conditions. The problem is that we don’t all live in Paris. Those of us living in the country depend on vehicles for work and everything until such time as there will be a viable alternative. An ecological reasoning become opposed to the social condition of ordinary cash-strapped people. Battery technology isn’t yet well enough advanced for electric vehicles to be viable in these conditions. Perhaps in 2040 but not yet. It seemed to be a social movement with which I solidarised by putting the gilet on my dashboard. I mention this movement because of the way far right-wing people rode on it piggy-back, or even initiated it anonymously. They started blocking traffic and committing acts of violence. My gilet is now back with my toolbox and safety equipment kit in the back of my van!

President Macron seems to be a strange mixture of Thatcherite capitalism and resistance to the new populism. Much as we don’t like being made to pay more for things, I see many signs of good sense in this young man’s ideas. He represented a break from the old post-Gaullist centre-right and centre-left oscillation, and faced off Marine Le Pen in the final televised debate before the May 2017 election. If you understand French, here it is:

For you to judge… I found it very revealing. Macron is obviously trying to satisfy the populist cravings of French people whilst refusing the excesses of nationalism and populism.

Different parts of Europe are reacting differently to the populist challenge, as are the United States of America and countries like Brazil. How concerned should we be? Asking the question differently, are we all enthused about a political philosophy that defines everything in terms of The Enemy? If we suggest that we are going back to the 1930’s and the rise of Hitler, people will poo-poo us and accuse of being victims of Godwin’s Law. We are not returning to that era, because the historical circumstances are not the same, nor is the popular culture or use of technology. It will not be the same. This is why future demagogues will not have a Charlie Chaplin moustache or yell at the crowds in German with an Austrian accent! We must move beyond appearances and analyse the essential philosophical and ideological characteristics. Propaganda will not be crude like that of Josef Göbbels, but would use the latest technologies of targeted advertising and psychological manipulation.

The extent of populism is quite alarming, and has entered mainstream politics in some countries. It is at its strongest in eastern Europe, Sweden, Greece, Austria and France. Mainstream parties have had to adopt populist rhetoric to be able to compete, as Sarkozy tried to do against Marine Le Pen and her father.

Populism is not an ideology, but rather a kind of self-definition in relation to The Enemy, legitimising “the people” and demonising “the elites”. It can take root on the extreme left as well as the extreme right. A populist is any politician who claims to represent the unified will of the people against foreign migrants, elites, “political correctness” and minorities. For the sake of comparison, Hitler was clear in Mein Kampf that “the enemy” was Judaism and Jews. Without the dialectic, it is impossible to build the needed pitch of fanatical fervour. Another characteristic of populist politics is the use of the referendum, which is certainly what certain elements in the Conservative Party manipulated in 2015-16.

Another characteristic is attacking the judiciary and the media. Immigration is a hot-button issue. As a right-wing manifestation, we find nationalist ideology and “Christian values”. We ought to stop and think about this for a moment. I am a Christian myself and a priest. From 1981, I became exposed to traditionalist Catholic conspiracy theories and this kind of dialectical thinking. Was this not Christ’s “you are either for me or against me”, the fundamental choice between good and evil, God and Satan? I bought it for many years, and I came to France in 1982, met men like Dominique Cabanne de Laprade, a nationalist fanatic who participated in an assassination attempt against General De Gaulle. The Roman Catholic Church is still full of it, from Pope Francis’ Peronist leanings to Opus Dei. Whether it was the Society of St Pius X or the officially recognised communities, the ideology was the same, us or them. It was more polite and refined at Gricigliano, and I recognise that Msgr Wach did try to take some of the bitterness out of the aspiration to a new Christendom. Many steps back, and I would discover Friedrich von Hardenburg‘s Christenheit oder Europa, not an apologetic argument for restoring some kind of theocracy, but rather an analogy to promote a form of cosmopolitanism. Before that, I discovered Catholic Modernism, the old Romantic-inspired Liberalism in France, Russian philosophers and other thoughts that began to set me free to discover another kind of traditional Christianity. To this day I grapple with the contradictions between Christian conservatism and populism and a higher and nobler understanding. Hence came my attraction to Romanticism and philosophy in the meaning of searching for and loving wisdom.

Many Christian values are not very Christian in my view. I have been faced with the worst intolerance and bigotry, against which Christ answered Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Mt xxiii. 15). Churches have paid the price, and they are closing down as Christianity no longer represents the least reference in anyone’s life. It happened in the 1790’s, again in the 1900’s and again now. When this kind of abuse is committed, and I haven’t even mentioned the stinking corruption and rank hypocrisy of priests who abuse children sexually and the bishops who cover them up, it does not go unpunished! Myself, I have to look within and find a new way of understanding Christ in order to survive as a Christian believer and a priest. The Christian life has nothing to do with politics, and especially not with populism. I carry on walking in the gloom, confident that God will show me the light.

I leave it to the experts to analyse how populism relates to different cultures in different parts of Europe and the world. I am more interested in examining the ideology and philosophical elements. As I mentioned, there isn’t much of an ideology – just hating your enemy enough to give you a sense of identity and self-worth.

What do populists want to do? We have plenty of examples of revolutions in history. “The Movement” is too diverse to be predictable. Its influence in British politics is only indirect, mainly through business connections. The main single-issue themes is some form of ethnic cleansing, presently by means of deportations and rigorous screening at the frontiers, and blowback against “political correctness”.

Those of us who identify with more mainstream ideas tend to assume that our democratic institutions and liberalism are stable and enduring, but we are perhaps too optimistic. The first victim of such changes is the rights of populations, not only Muslims and homosexuals, but also immigrants from different parts of the world and from the poorer European countries. Political institutions can be eroded and undermined by money, plenty of it. For those in favour of a hard Brexit, the enemy is the European Union and any freedom of movement of “queue jumpers” as Theresa May put it a few days ago.

It is all much more subtle than Europe in the 1920’s and 30’s or South America with its various tin-pot military dictators and coups d’état. We are having to learn to distinguish populism from democracy (though democracy has its limits, because freedom presupposes self-knowledge and nobility of spirit). It is tempting to curtail freedom of religion for Muslims, but would we apply the same laws of secularism to ourselves? We are still at the stage where populism can fizzle out under the weight of its own weakness and incoherence. In some places, it can force mainstream politics to make concessions in regard to some of the desire restrictive policies, but without disturbing the system too much. In other areas, it could mean a situation like the fall of the Weimar Republic between 1929 and 1933 and the rise of Hitler.

According to some articles I read, populism is limited in its influence. I see how careful Macron is being in dealing with the gilets jaunes – keep the police from being too heavy-handed and letting the movement fizzle out in exchange for some compromises. With skilful management, surely levels of support for Le Pen on the right and Melenchon on the far-left will remain tolerable low. The gangs of thugs in Germany and Austria can only make a lot of noise, but the memory of the Nazi regime remains from 1945. Nigel Farange has largely discredited himself and his hypocrisy been demonstrated when it was revealed that his children have obtained German passports to “Brexit-proof” them. One limiting factor is fragmentation and internal conflict. Will the mainstream parties rise to the challenge and find new meaning to their existence other than being run as a business for lucrative ends?

One victim in this new populist movement is the distinction of powers in the modern state: legislative, executive and judicial. No one must be above the law. This is something that went wrong with Sarkozy in France when he and the French Government attempted to take control of the high court in 2007 (Cour de Cassation). My wife knows the legal world well, and has often remarked how badly the legal system was damaged under that government. This is one sign and harbinger of very bad news!

The countries to watch at present are Poland, Hungary, Austria, Italy and Sweden. It may be a wake-up call for the European Union to reform its structures and get its act together. Brexit causes a lot of anxiety across the board, especially if it winds up as a no-deal job next 29th March. Without the EU, what is the alternative? Steve Bannon’s Movement? Might we see a division between central-eastern Europe and western Europe? Revolutions always buckle under the weight of their own instability and lack of any real social philosophy. Much will depend on the ability of the mainstream political scene to reform itself from sleaze, stupidity and other forms of corruption. I am quite chilled by the stupidity and ignorance of most people, or at least a “critical mass” who have been influenced by the demagogues, by fashion and groupthink.

I conclude this little piece with a reflection on the very question of freedom. We all want to be in control of our own lives, and most of us can judge that point where the limit of our freedom is the beginning of the other person’s. Like people under the Hitler regime or in Soviet Russia, we abhor being parts of a machine or tools for an agenda that clearly violates every principle of God and man. Freedom is an insuperable problem at a philosophical level, and it is a reason why I began to explore Nickolai Berdyaev and the German Idealists and Romantics who inspired him. Freedom is a consequence of the nobility of spirit, which comes through self-knowledge and suffering.

I find these themes in the Romantics, in Thomas Mann who faced the totalitarian machine of his country, Oscar Wilde as he struck the wall of Victorian England like a bird hits a window pane. This notion of freedom of perfection, as Fr Pinckaers taught us at Fribourg, is something lofty, noble and inspiring. We will also find a philosophy of the human person in philosophers like Jacques Maritain and Karol Wojtyla. It is the true Christ who is within each one of us. We are free to desire and we desire to be free, free to follow our calling in life and find our purpose. The Machine can only break us and leave us as dead shells of humanity. We get to know ourselves through knowing others, and this is the essential message of cosmopolitanism. This is something the great explorers of old could tell us.

Before going out and disturbing others with slogans and ideologies, we have first to work on ourselves. I will expand on some of these themes in a new article I am working on for the Blue Flower. Self-awareness is a part of that nobility of spirit that comes through the discovery of the divine spark within each of us, which Christ calls the Kingdom within. The Parables in the Gospels bring us nearer to this mystery which is never fully possessed in this fleeting life.

Be yourself! That is the best way to imitate Christ.

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16 Responses to Populism

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    “Asking the question differently, are we all enthused about a political philosophy that defines everything in terms of The Enemy?” I have not yet listened to (a translation) of M. Macron’s 18 November Bundestag address, but hear tell he made more than one reference to (unspecified) “powers that want to eliminate us, attack our democracy” – who are these ‘Enemies’? Not (I would say, curiously) the “Islamic Republic” of Iran, apparently, if we are to judge by M. Le Maire’s interview with the Handelsblett as presented there by Thomas Hanke on 11 November, in which, among other things, he says, “Die Völker Europas haben die Nase voll von allgemeinem Geplapper in Brüßel. Sie wollen jetzt Taten sehen.” Is that merely “adopt[ing] populist rhetoric to be able to compete”, or a very arrogant, impudent, odious ‘populist’ pretension in its own right? His solution is striking: in answer to the question, “Sie sprechen vom Kampf einer ganzen Generation. Warum?”, he replies,”Weil es darum geht, daß Europa eine Art Empire werden muß, wie China es ist. Und wie die USA es sind. Aber ein friedliches Empire”. This immediately reminds me (among other things) of Denis de Rougemont’s observations on the German State’s constant harping, during his three years there, about how utterly peaceful it and it’s intentions are, in his Journal d’Allemagne (1938). Dr. Merkel seems to be much of the same mind in saying at the 21 November Konrad Adenauer Foundation event in Berlin, “Nationalstaaten sollten heute bereit sein, Souveränität abzugeben”. A Pax Europaea under the Sovereign ‘Empire’ with the help of its grand new European Army… The prospect of “Solitudinem fecerunt, pacem appellant” (to quote Calgacus’s speech in Tacitus’s Agricola)?

  2. Neil Hailstone says:

    A Populist is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘A member or adherent of a political party seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people’ It seems to me that the liberal elite are using this term as being synonymous with fascism. I do not belong to any group or political party which is associated with the far right. I do understand that ordinary people including myself are utterly out of sympathy with the status quo in the political system here in the UK. I think that this is also the case in Europe and the USA.

    Writing as an Old Catholic Christian I am not a racist or a bigot and to be such would be denial of faith. What I want to say is that the impact of mass virtually uncontrolled immigration has had a seriously detrimental effect on the existing population. Problems for example with the costs of accommodation and wages being undercut by large international companies importing cheaper labour. There is also the question of community cohesion and problems with the provision of health and social services.

    It seems to me that the present political systems in quite a few countries are no longer serving the interests of ordinary people. To avoid the slide into authoritarian far right rule surely current politics needs to be reset to serve the needs of ordinary people. In fact given the resurgence of marxism here in the UK I would extend my comment to include rule from the authoritarian left.

    I had better not go on too much but another matter troubling people is globalism and tax avoidance by huge global companies.

    I can see clearly enough the reasons why ordinary people are turning away from the centrist legacy parties. I would like to see the Centre left and the centre right parties changing their policies to take better care of ordinary citizens rather than policies designed for the liberal elite or the global companies.

    I’ll offer one more opinion if I may. I note the growth of Independent candidates on County and town Councils and also the rise of small regionally based political parties. Personally I vote for non party Independent candidates for the PCC elections to the Konsyl Kernow (Cornwall Council) and the Konsyl an dre Essa (Saltash Council), When the next national election comes as things stand I am undecided. There is of course the possibility of abstention. We need change from the present way of doing politics!

  3. Neil Hailstone says:

    After my entry above I sat down to watch a Christmas movie which unfortunately was very boring.

    My thoughts turned to another reason for the growth of populism. I know that many like myself who voted to leave the EU did so because of the undemocratic nature of the institution. There is certainly a feeling here in this pro independence part of the country that the governance of the EU is very remote and we are unable to influence political or economic policy which applies to us.

    I think what many people want is to vote for the politicians who make the laws under which they live. If the politicians get their policies wrong then the voters want to be able to throw them out at the ballot box. The very nature of large federal states surely leads to a sense of national and local powerlessness. Factors in the demise of the USSR and the Yugoslav Federation. A current factor in the growth of anti EU political parties often described as populist.

    This was thought through in depth fairly recently here on Sarumuse. I won’t start on that now but had I been involved in that thread I would have commented on the political structure of the EU being essentially undemocratic.

    To sum up my two posts I make the point that the support of 1 in 4 of European citizens for Populist parties results from the failure of conventional politics.

  4. Forgive me if I am being dense, father, but I am not sure that I fully understand your position. Are you arguing that things are fine the way they are and that change of the status quo, whether from the left or right, is just reactionary and dangerous? You also seem to suggest that people who voted leave in the 2016 referendum were manipulated by populists like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson. That may be true of many “leavers” but my vote to leave can be summed up by me, and me alone, thus: I want to be governed by my own consent, and by my own Queen and Parliament; not from Germany, and not from Brussels.

    • I have been doing a lot of reading, and continue to try to find a synthesis of real knowledge plus informed opinion. I don’t fit into the “all or nothing” or “them and us” or “everything is fine with Brussels and not with what Brexit might prove to be”. I am as afraid of the unaccountable elite as of a kind of populism that can mutate into authoritarianism with the “right” organisation and leadership. On the face of it, all politics should be populist – ie. concerned for the well-being of the people. So many words are euphemisms and mean the opposite of what they say.

      My Bishop also voted “leave” and he assures me that it was not because of being deceived. I have to respect him for making an informed decision, as anyone else. I think I would have voted leave at the same time had I not been prevented from voting by reason of living outside the UK for more than 15 years.

      The big problem now is that it is a choice between a dog’s dinner or a can of worms on the menu. According to mainstream news sources, the new deal Mrs May has obtained with the EU will be rejected by Parliament. A no-deal Brexit is likely to lead to chaos and perhaps a revolution in the UK, or a conflict between two kinds of populism, because the Brexit agenda is also run by billionaire elites. The structures are not in place to manage trade, transport, customs inspections, etc. The consensus is that there will be chaos. The only alternative is to cancel Brexit.

      Staying with the EU? Is that going to be Orwell’s 1984 dystopia? Perhaps. But, it gives us more time to understand the issues better and for lobbies to work for getting the EU to show transparency and accountability. Both “sides” are biased. Who is right?

      Perhaps we have reached the end of the period of “peace” following World War II and the collapse of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. We move to a new feudalism or a 21st century version of Hitler’s Nazism, to “1984” or “Brave New World” in their updated versions. I’m nearly 60 and I imagine I’ll die with my memories of another world, just like the generation before me, and my grandparents’ generation. They lived through two world wars. No one can give us any guarantee that it won’t happen again – either with nationalism as you advocate or the EU or NATO.

      Could the EU be going through a stage of its life that would be comparable with the demise and implosion of the Soviet Union? I have read the idea expressed? What then? Then European countries will have to manage on their own, go to war against each other or form another kind of grouping or federation. Countries would learn from each other. Presently, the UK seems little more than The Mouse that Roared. Even Italy, Greece and Hungary aren’t leaving. There must be a reason there.

      One thing that taught me a lot was my experience with Archbishop Hepworth and the TAC. I saw things in their terminal state, but I only left the TAC in the spring of 2013 when I resigned from the Traditional Anglican Church of Great Britain and joined the ACC. I left the TAC because it left me. Archbishop Hepworth was refused by Rome and was asked to resign by the TAC College of Bishops. The Bishop in England is / was kind enough, but I saw no evidence of very much remaining. Perhaps the UK should go it alone if / when the EU is on its last legs and not before.

      We’ll just have to see what happens. I guess that the fun is over and it’s “back to work”.

      • Dale says:

        Dear Fr Anthony, several times you have insinuated that populism will lead down the slippery slope to fascism, but can one not just as easily state that the global internationalism of the EU will lead to Stalinism?

      • Certainly. Either way we’re in big trouble. What we have to get clear is what the word “populism” means.

      • Stephen K says:

        Dear Father, I think you’re sitting on the fence, and the only outcome will be a pain in your behind.

        Dale is urging Brexit. You have some fears about this. You have intimated you would have voted for Brexit but have since become uncertain, leading to a view that, on the whole, Brexit would be worse than non-Brexit. Am I right?

        To the extent that you think your view will not be crucial to the outcome, you can perhaps indulge in uncertainty. But we come back to the age-old controversy: should Christians be involved in the world or are they called to act as if the world doesn’t exist?

        I venture to say no-one is consistent in this. But be that as it may, what is your answer? If you take the “purist” (so-called) Christian way to its extreme, you should be able to say it doesn’t matter to you whether (a) Brexit occurs – (b) the EU collapses – (c) fascism/Stalinism re-emerges. If you take the “pragmatic”(or humanist ) way, you should be able to say it definitely matters whether (a) Brexit occurs- and (b) the EU collapses, so I b- well better have a say!

        To anyone born in the decade after WWII, the idea of a co-operating Europe seems to be PEACE 101; to anyone with any sensitivity to the horrible experience of bomb-ravaged England and Europe, it seems like an “At last!” moment. My own country was not so ravaged although the Japanese dropped more bombs on Darwin and made more attacks than many other UK/European city targets, and they even penetrated Sydney Harbour. But as far as I know, the conterminous USA was never attached. So, critics of the EU idea from the New World have to be careful that they do not criticise with ignorance or lack of empathy.

        There is one fact that all Brits have to finally accept: the days of the British Empire are over and have been for a long time, and to the extent that Brexit feeds into any restorationist notions or delusion, it makes no sense.

        Make up your mind – support one direction or the other – or you will live with the legacy of a sense of failure of not having made a decision. Let me tell you: it’s bitter.

      • I’m not sure where you are going with this. I am very loathe to make binary choices faced with less than all the facts and implications and everything else. I don’t think I am sitting on any fences. My way of seeing things has evolved over the last few years, especially having to face the fact that there never has been Christendom, and where it was tried it was most un-Christian by the way it violated the human person. The British Empire was not a Christian endeavour, but purely a way of gathering wealth and power for the sake of England and Co. Ltd.

        Two years ago, I have to admit that I was to some extent influenced by all the stuff about Europe and the abysmal way refugees and immigrants from war-torn countries have been handled and used as propaganda. At the same time, I didn’t take it all very seriously – evidenced by my not having made any applications to the French authorities as I have done now. If I did sit on any fences and got a sore bum, I am no longer doing so. I am always open to other people’s views, I refuse the binary way of thinking that characterises politics and human conflict.

        To answer your binary question about a Christian’s involvement in the world, I take an interest in humanity and our world simply because I am a human being and concerned for some kind of culture that prevents our reverting to our default position of competition for dominance like many species of non-human animals. If I wanted a “pure” Christian way, I would have entered a monastery – and even monasteries have to trade, deal with secular authorities for details like planning permission, bring in enough money to put food on the refectory tables and ensure that monks can have medical care when they need it. At the same time, I am not gifted for politics or a lot of interaction with other people. I however experience empathy for the plight of others (do to others as you would have them do to you), and I see people becoming harmed by the self-interest of politicians who behave as businessmen and not as ministers of the common good. An American in his 90’s, married to an English woman and having lived in England for decades, is about to be deported by our Home Office. This kind of travesty cannot be allowed to happen in any civilised world. I care as much as a human being as according to a Christian philosophy of life.

        Dale has his part to play in this dialogue. On Facebook, one of my “friends” is an Australian antiques trader, quite wealthy, and he expressed an opinion for a hard Brexit “more work but more worthwhile”. I asked him what there was in it for him. He simply answered trade between Australia and the UK. I thought that we as a member of the EU already traded with Australia and everywhere else in the world wanting to buy or sell. Decidedly, questions of freedom of movement for EU people in the UK and British expatriates in Europe are far down the list of priorities. Human welfare and rights are second to money for those who have it and want more.

        Yes, the British Empire is over, and the days of the United Kingdom are numbered. I do not wish for revolution, but I fear that one might happen against the present “business” politics and the incompetence of both the Conservative and Labour parties. It is agonising for me, because it is my country, but we need to belong to a community of nations, and that community needs to be accountable to its members. That is why I am opposed to Brexit, and for working for a better and more just Europe.

        Personally, I am an expatriate and have no prospect of ever going back to live in an England that is only concerned with its wealthy inhabitants and where even hard-working people are dispossessed in various ways, chiefly by not being able to afford to get on the “property ladder”. Many evils were committed in the past (like in the Victorian era) and continue to this day. The same is true in all countries, but particularly in the UK and the USA. It is all too immense for us individual persons, overwhelming and incomprehensible.

        I am not sitting on any fences, but I will not be convinced into any binary way of thinking either.

      • Stephen K says:

        …we need to belong to a community of nations, and that community needs to be accountable to its members. That is why I am opposed to Brexit, and for working for a better and more just Europe.

        I guess that’s clear enough.

        As to binary thinking, let me present a scenario: you’re in a paddock, and a bull is charging you, and you have two practical choices: stay where you are or run for the fence. There are all sorts of hypotheticals, including why didn’t someone tell you there was an angry bull there, or why did you go into the paddock, or why don’t farmers install better fences, or why don’t scientists come up with suitable sedatives ……etc. etc. But in the situation we are talking about – and assuming you are not armed – you have two, not more, choices.

        All I’m saying is, there seem to be two binaries confronting Brits about which they have to come down on one side or another: the first is (1) soft Brexit or (2) hard Brexit; the second is (1) Brexit (of any kind) or (2) no Brexit.

        Binary thinking has its place.

      • Indeed, faced with an immediately threatening situation: a mad bull, a fire-breathing dragon or a psychopath with a knife or a gun, it’s him or me. I will only win if I’m a better shot. As many Americans say “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun“. After the conflict, something has to be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If Brexit is stopped in the UK, there would have to be a whole new load of laws about referendums, corrupt politicians, tax evasion by billionaires, etc. There also needs to be dialogue and education about the EU and what it’s meant to do and what can go wrong when checks and balances are not in place, what citizens can do to protest against injustice. The response might have to be binary in the heat of the crisis, but then more nuanced when there is time to analyse and think.

        Indeed, the way things are going: the choice is trinary: May’s deal, no-deal or no-Brexit. I discussed that a few days ago in my posting Revolution?

  5. Caedmon says:

    What is the difference between fascism and Stalinism? They both rely on torture and mass murder.

  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Neil Hailstone writes, “The very nature of large federal states surely leads to a sense of national and local powerlessness.” I wish I knew more of comparative federal (and confederal) history, but I don’t think it is a matter of the “very nature of large federal states” so much as of the actual form of particular ones. But I suspect in practice there will probably be tensions between the states and their federal government.

    Fr. Anthony writes of possible circumstances when “European countries will have to manage on their own, go to war against each other or form another kind of grouping or federation.” Reform of the EU (except in the sense that making it more centralized and less parliamentary/democratic might be a ‘re-forming’ of it – further in its apparent ‘current direction’) would presumably also entail becoming in weighty respects “another kind of grouping or federation”. I can imagine a strong motive for some in voting to leave the EU would be that such reform could better be promoted from outside after the shock of such a formally possible peaceful (if unexpected) departure. I am saddened (should I be surprised?) to see a lot of powers-that(-want-to)-be in the EU ‘doubling-down-‘ rather than reform-minded in the circumstances. That – unless ‘terrorizing’ other members thoroughly succeeds – could eventually lead to further (e.g., Visegrad? Italian? Greek?) departures, I would think.

    • I have been tempted to compare the European situation and populism with the mainstream Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches and the traditionalists and continuing Anglicans. I have often heard the question “Can’t you stay in the mainstream Church and influence it from within?” Of course, the Church is not the State or federation of states. In the case of a “continuing” UK, would it be too weakened to have any such influence? Perhaps not if there is a real moral high road being shown of a “sophiocracy” (Plato’s idea of philosopher kings). I see little sign of that in the present “idiocratic” regime.

      I dream of “continuing states”, but I wonder how long they would remain free of corruption and the worst evils that are presently kept in check by federations and unions. My father often said to me “Stick with the mainstream” – as less would go wrong because of the loose cannons.

      Using the analogy of divorce, it is easier if the divorcing spouse has another person with whom to have a relationship before jumping off the cliff…

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        After learning Dutch, I used to enjoy the newspaper columns of Jérôme Louis Heldring (1917-2013), who frequently returned to the topic of the EU and what de Gaulle meant by a ‘Europe of the nations’. Not so long ago, I saw a post with some interesting quotations from a review written by Angelo Codevilla of a new one-volume biography of de Gaulle by Julian Jackson – but they did not include any attention to this matter (and I have not caught up with the complete review). I have never yet tried to follow the matter up, properly, on my own, but probably ought to…

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