When sane people look back at history we are frequently amazed, amused and often horrified by some of the attitudes which prevailed at various times. In the seventeenth century we see Witch-finder Generals, like Matthew Hopkins, killing innocent women, ostensibly as a result of absurd accusations of witchcraft, which were believed by so many, despite the fact that we know that we now know that there are no such things as witches. Of course there was probably much hypocrisy involved, as many of these Puritan officials no doubt enjoyed benefits in the form of financial bribes, and sexual favours from accused women, to direct their attention elsewhere.
The anti Catholic persecutions did at least have some excuse, in that sixteenth century Protestant England was under siege from the great Catholic powers, yet the Recusancy Acts, making it a legal obligation to worship in the Anglican faith, dating from Elizabeth's reign, were not amended significantly until the late eighteenth century and the Roman Catholic Relief Act, which removed the most substantial restrictions on Roman Catholicism in the United Kingdom was not passed until 1829, nearly fifty years after the anti Catholic riots inspired by Lord George Gordon. In pre Reformation days religious fanatics often listened to so called child saints, and were much given to believing the stories of those claiming to have witnessed miraculous events.
Of course one of the worse examples of prejudice in England, shared across Europe, was the manner in which Jewish people were treated, massacres taking place in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, culminating in the expulsion of all Jews by King Edward I in 1290. Amazing they were not allowed to return until 1656. A particular characteristic of medieval English antisemitism were conspiracy theories and religiously inspired rumours, such as the infamous blood libel, the accusation that Jews would kill Christians, including children, to use their blood for ritual purposes.
So, as we look back smugly from what we believe to be our moral superiority to the unenlightened population of the past, how do we measure up? Do we abhor racial and religious prejudice, do we favour reason, and moderation, over hysterical emotion, do we debate and discuss calmly, and are we prepared to take a measured approach to solve the major problems of the day?
Unfortunately the answer is that we haven’t really changed all that much. We can at least claim that only a vanishing small minority believe in witches as actual agents of the devil, but on so much else attitudes and reactions are little better than those of our ancestors. As far as Catholicism is concerned I, as a practising Catholic living in Southern England, do not feel that my personal beliefs are under threat, but one can still find places, particularly in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where this is not true. However, despite the horrors of the Holocaust, virulent anti Semitism is still present, particularly among those on the Left, as evidenced by the clashes that took place in the Labour party before the last election. I doubt that many believe in the more ridiculous accusations regarding blood libels, and the like, but still a poisonous prejudice exists among a significant minority, made worse by an age old animosity between Islam and Judaism.
However, on a number of the most contentious issues of our day, hysteria, hypocrisy, and blatant unreason are to the fore, magnified by that curse of the modern age, social media, where the most unintelligent, and ignorant have found a platform from which they can shout about their insane ideas. These issues are climate change, sexual politics and the rise of woke ideology.
To take these matters in turn, the questionable reality of anthropological global warming imply that a direct causal effect between such and industrialisation exists, and that it is not open to debate. Quite apart from the fact that the climate alarmists have been shown to be basing much of their case upon things such as the famous discredited hockey stick graph purporting to show an uninterrupted rise in temperature, they also ignore the publicised attempts by certain academics to conceal the fact that the actuality did not coincide with their claims.
The industrial revolution is now being pictured as a bad thing, when in fact it eventually made possible the replacement of a life described in 1651 by Thomas Hobbes as being "nasty, brutish, and short", by one which has seen living standards, longevity and health improved out of all recognition. I doubt that the youngsters now shouting about the supposed evil let loose on the world by Britain would be happy to be living the life of a mediaeval peasant. It is also noteworthy that these young zealots attack others for their supposed environmental sins, but react very negatively when told that their use of IT on their beloved mobile phones and tablets, plus their love of items such as trainers, are contributing a significant amount to the pollution they decry.
It is unfortunate that we now have a toxic combination of those who have always been of an apocalyptic frame of mind, together with that section of the chattering classes who hate their own country, plus the vociferous ignoramuses of social media, creating a perfect storm of hatred directed at the West, while absolving others, such as China, from taking any blame. These people even have their child saint, in the form of Greta Thunberg, who is treated as some sort of prophet come among us, rather than a little girl exploited by others with often sinister agendas.
There can be no harm, and much to gain, if the direction of travel is towards a greener, and more sustainable world, but the problem lies in the ridiculous haste the activists insist upon, not being prepared to allow technological advances to make changes possible, without totally disrupting our societies. Contrary to the claim by some that to question a supposed consensus is unacceptable, it is essential that any initiatives which have the potential to comprise our way of life should be subject to informed debate, not based upon the views of Scandinavian teenagers and Twitter bullies.
Turning to the absurd politics relating to sexual matters, I leave it to acknowledged feminists such as Germaine Greer, and J K Rowling, who have suffered abuse at the hands of a tiny minority of transsexuals to respond, as indeed they have. The fact that women have been assaulted by men who have self identified as women, allowed into what should be female only environments, such as hospital wards, tells us all we need to know about the insane politically correct idiots who decide upon such things. It is the latter who are to blame, even more than those who purport to be discriminated against.
I do not intend to once again list the totally deranged activities of the ‘woke’, as everyday one may read about them in the press. Suffice it to say that they have departed from the land of the sane, and now shout at us from behind the looking glass. However, they are a real and present danger, in that they are, via social media, establishing a Thought Police, which is threatening peoples employment, and indeed safety, in the name of a nonsensical ideology. Just two thoughts: American Generals are now concerned that, as their armed forces are being brainwashed by these idiotic ideas, they suffered a major defeat in war games against our own Royal Marines, who are thankfully not yet victims of these mentally deranged idiots; while I condemn racism I notice that the BBC has started to refer to the ‘P’ word in relation to the Yorkshire Cricket Club furore, yet I remember when Harry, Prince of Woke, used exactly the same word about one of his army colleagues. He also went to a party wearing a Nazi armband. It seems that some can be forgiven for lapses, but others must be hounded, even when they apologise. One law for the heroes of woke, one for everybody else!
The final point to be made is that the stench of hypocrisy is everywhere. Not only do the Duke and Duchess of woke take private jets (21 times in two years), as they rush around lecturing us, but so did all the ‘great and the good’ who turned up for the COP26 talking shop in private jets, with the American President taking dozens of cars to every summit, while America’s climate envoy John Kerry, is reported to have taken 16 trips this year alone in his private jet. Our own political, and chattering classes, have excelled themselves recently, with Professor Neil Ferguson’s much publicised visit to his lover in lockdown, Dominic Cummings ignoring his own rules, and Matt Hancock failing to keep a safe distance from his own aide / lover. The treatment of Owen Paterson, based on a system which allows one person to be investigator, judge and executioner, and which has no right of appeal, despite the claim that the matter was decided before any evidence had been examined, contrasts with the fact that Keith Vaz, suspended for bullying, paying male prostitutes, and supplying the latter with cocaine, is apparently proposing to put himself forward for parliament once again, and a senior SNP figure in Westminster recently reportedly earned over £3,000 per month for eight hours work per quarter. Labour MPs who like to claim that they represent a gentler, kinder form of politics responded to the PM’s reference to the suicide of Owen Paterson’s wife Rosie in the Commons with mock “ahs”. If anyone deserves the appellation made popular by Labour’s deputy leader, ’scum’, it is those who derided a man’s loss in that way.
In conclusion, on so many major issues, there is no more reasoned debate evident now than one would have found in the Middle Ages, mobs which would once have filled the streets, are now shouting on social media, and innocent people are being condemned with no evidence. In truth we haven’t changed at all! Nihil sub sole novum (Ecclesiastes - there is nothing new under the Sun).