Monday, September 21, 2015

Pass It On

Nowadays, the Conservatives have a tree as their emblem, symbolic of the countless trees to be felled thanks to them and their allies (Labour, FibDem, even Green) as the urbanisation of England rolls onwards.  The emblem used to be a flaming torch, the same symbol that used to warn motorists of a school ahead, before two running children took its place.  In both cases – conservatism and education – the implication was that the purpose of the exercise wasn't to fawn over spectacle and novelty but to pass on accumulated wisdom.

Traditions, if they’re to be of any use, do need to be challenged though.  Their deepest value lies not in constraining innovation but in acting as a reminder that the present state of things has an origin and can therefore be replaced by something different, perhaps something more in keeping with those origins.  It can mean one tradition, long repressed, triumphing over another that has ceased to have anything relevant to say.

The unfolding of Corbynism is an example of that.  The traditional politics of the Left has been taboo for a generation, because that which is taboo is crucial to understanding.  The Left understands this, of course.  It’s why the Left in the UK has a far more horrific record of seeking to restrict freedom of speech than the Right.  The Left uses the negative might of the State to silence its critics; the Right just relies on the fact that most of the money and the media are on-side, able to drown critics in positive argument.

So what are we to make of the trip down memory lane?  Nationalisation back on the agenda?  Military top brass muttering about mutiny?  The flares and the platform shoes should be along any time now.  The key is indeed memory.  The victors of 1979 have been able to dominate the narrative ever since.  Hyper-inflation.  Strikes.  The Winter of Discontent.  You don’t want to go back there, son.  Believe me, I was there.  (Or at least, I’ve read what the tabloids said about it, then and since.)

The controllers of that narrative are ageing and departing.  There’s another narrative that’s been sidelined, for 36 years, and won’t be repressed any more.  The ‘socialist nightmare’ wasn’t characterised by the appalling extremes of wealth and poverty now read as the unavoidable fallout of a motivated society.  Young folk were the future to be valued, not burdened.  Most students lived on grants, not loans, and university tuition fees didn’t exist for them.  Those who weren’t able to buy their own homes didn’t need to, nor were they at the mercy of unscrupulous private landlords: council housing was an option for all, not just the poorest of the poor.  Education and housing were run by elected local councils, not unaccountable academy chains and housing associations.  Some nationalised industries – such as electricity – were commercially very successful.  They couldn’t have been sold if they weren’t.  Others could have been more successful, given sustained investment, but they spent the majority of their existence under governments at best sceptical about that existence and so it was investment they never got.

If Corbynism is to fly, it will be due to the historians as much as to the politicians.  The vilification of the post-war consensus that began to grow in the 1970s thanks to Milton Friedman and Keith Joseph will have to be replaced by a far more balanced assessment.  And we do mean balanced, because in many ways Labour got it wrong.  Badly wrong.  Why were the nationalised industries placed beyond effective Parliamentary scrutiny?  Where was the workplace democracy?  Where was the accountability to local communities?  Who set the accountancy rules and why?  The Forest of Dean coalfield was burdened with its share of a national budget for research into firedamp, a problem that for geological reasons that coalfield never experienced.  John Osmond’s The Centralist Enemy paints a painful picture of the price paid for uniformity when the gas industry moved from a regional to a national basis of organisation.

Can Corbyn simply put back the clock, now that devolution has created an alternative focus for accountability?  Can the nations and regions of Britain not be trusted to run their own power and water grids, trains, buses, and all the rest?  If the answer is yes, and it surely is, then nationalisation needs regionalisation, as much for Wessex as for Scotland or Wales.  Labour shows no signs of developing the imagination needed to move beyond tokenistic, compass-point regionalism, because Labour has always viewed devolution as something to fear, never to champion.

Today, when the Conservatives used the power of the British State to guarantee an investment by the Chinese State in the Wessex electricity industry, with the French State as its operational partner, private enterprise was conspicuous by its absence.  That requires some explanation.  There’s a new consensus emerging out of panic.  The UK has under-invested in infrastructure for decades, preferring to draw the dividends rather than plough back the profits.  It has a lot of catching up to do, which is why Corbyn won’t find it impossible to find business backers.

For the most critical Leftists, Labour is simply that tool of capitalism let into power whenever something needs doing that’s vital to economic success but not profitable enough for the private sector to justify getting its hands dirty.  Taxation – which doesn’t touch the super-rich – can pay for it all instead.  Our predecessors in Common Wealth were arguing, even as Attlee was legislating, that nationalisation, on its own, is not socialism.  It did provide a lot of generals with good jobs though, which probably took their minds off fomenting a coup.

As regionalists, we’re especially sceptical that nationalisation of anything produces results that benefit the regions.  However attractive it could be to put British Rail back together – and it’s a mightily popular policy, even among Tory voters – priorities set in London will be London’s priorities.  More high-speed lines, not re-opening the Somerset & Dorset or any other Wessex-focused priority.  Service patterns designed around the age-old competition between Paddington and Waterloo, not the unified pattern that Wessex Trains was pioneering before its untimely demise.  Integrated transport remains a wonderful idea but it won’t be delivered without a regional dimension that links the national – and now European – rail network to local travel needs.

Nationalisation may not be socialism but it’s very much anti-globalisation.  Naomi Klein, in This Changes Everything, notes how it was used worldwide from the 1950s onwards to take wealth away from banks and multi-nationals and use it for the benefit of the oppressed.  Mosaddegh and Allende were overthrown because of it; Nasser and Perón fared better.  For decentralists, local and regional control matters more than picking ideological favourites: a region might run its own services, devolve them to local government, or let them be run by private enterprise or by co-operatives or guilds.  What we all oppose is the totalitarian liberalism that defines the global free market as the only permissible solution and seeks to impose the financial and legal fetters that will keep it that way.

It was the very best of timing that saw Jeremy Corbyn elected Labour’s leader just as the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain loomed.  It handed him the opportunity to not sing the national anthem.  Disgraceful.  How disrespectful to those who served King and Country in the nation’s darkest days.  Or so it goes.  The best response came from an RAF veteran who said he didn’t mind politicians not singing the national anthem but he did mind them selling guns to tyrants.

It’s that official narrative again.  The one that says the post-war economic and social consensus never really worked.  It has an equally evil twin, the one that asserts that the war was fought for what we know as the establishment, the royal family, the top brass, the ones who wrote King’s Regulations.  It asserts that the ordinary soldier, sailor or airman was always as true blue as Churchill.  The awkward fact is that they were the ones who voted him out, just as ever since the Levellers the rank-and-file have been notoriously the ones you need to watch.  In the debates of the Cairo Forces Parliament in 1944, Labour had to face criticism from others on the Left, ranging from the Communists to Common Wealth, for whom Labour’s programme was timid and unappealing.  Hidden history again, that needs to be recovered.

Well done that man for not singing an anthem whose sentiments he doesn’t endorse.  Wessex has not one but two regional anthems he might like to sing instead.  One is the Wessex Anthem itself, ‘The Very Neame o’ Wessex’, commissioned by Wessex Society, with words by Dorset dialect poet Devina Symes set to music by Gloucestershire composer Hayley Savage.  With its references to the vision of King Alfred and St Ealdhelm it looks to a historical and cultural understanding of Wessex.  There’s another anthem, ‘The Wessex Flag’, perhaps more stirring, with words by our very own Jim Gunter, set to the well-known tune of ‘The Red Flag’.  May it one day exceed it in fame.  Pass it on.

“Our ancient flag is deepest red

It fell to ground o’er Hastings’ dead

Now it’s time to shed our yoke

And proudly stand as Wessex folk

Let’s raise our scarlet standard high

Within its shade we’ll live and die

We’ll all rise up and never tire

We’ll keep the Wyvern breathing fire”

Thursday, September 17, 2015

All Washed Up

Andrew Parker, the head of MI5, told BBC Radio 4 listeners today that the service could do with new surveillance powers to tackle the terrorist threat.  That’s hardly surprising, according to the cynical view that you never let a good crisis go to waste.  If necessary, you create one.  We face a toxic combination.  On the one hand, the consequences of an aggressively interventionist foreign policy pursued for the benefit of US interests, not ours.  On the other, disaffected youth of south Asian heritage liable to identify strongly with at least some of the victims of that policy.  The Government is working on plans for ‘Extremism Disruption Orders’, to target not so much terrorists as anyone who exercises their supposed right of free speech in ways that this Government – or any of its successors – decides it doesn’t like.

We won’t let counter-terrorism measures interfere with our lifestyle.  Of course not: that would be letting the terrorists win.  Even though that’s precisely what’s happening, as the threats continue to proliferate and so too does the apparatus supposedly designed to contain them.  If we can feel that, on the outside of government, what’s the atmosphere like on the inside?

The Swiss Army has carried out two exercises in recent years related to migration and its consequences.  The first dealt with a stream of migrants that was out of control.  The second took things a step further.  It assumed a breakdown of public order in France, the fragmentation of authority into local fiefdoms and a consequent need to resist looting expeditions onto Swiss territory.

Why France?  France has a large population of North African and Middle Eastern extraction.  Religion is deemed irrelevant.  France’s secularism has moved on from being a policy to being a blindfold, so it doesn’t collect census information on religion.  For a true picture, consider that France’s top Mahometan official recently offered to take over the country’s redundant Catholic churches to meet a demand for 5,000 new mosques.  The problem facing the security services is not the proportion of his followers who may be terrorists.  That proportion may well be unchanged, year on year.  It’s that as the absolute number behind that proportion increases, so the strain on the security services also increases.  It’s a statistical certainty that militants with potential or actual Jihadi sympathies are entering Europe every day.  The security services now have far more potential Jihadis on French soil than they’re resourced to keep under surveillance.  Managing that risk is, well, risky.  It’s not polite to mention it, but it’s there nevertheless.  A spectacular 9/11-style attack on France is now regarded by some experts as inevitable.

Government-by-advertising is starting to fail.  The idea that well-placed words and pictures can get us out of the domain of reflection and into that of sentiment has worked in every previous crisis, but…  An increasing number of people are now questioning whether their ruling elites are taking care of their best interests, and whether the taxes they collect are legitimate.  Psychoanalyst Sally Weintrobe described the legacy of the failed 2009 Copenhagen summit on climate change as the realisation that our "leaders are not looking after us... we are not cared for at the level of our very survival".  No, you guessed right there and don't sound so shocked.  So do we want a State that from Brussels downwards regulates everything but the fundamentals, neglecting the real issues of movement and resources and ideology that underpin our security?  A lot is written about the accumulating critical mass of terrorists in Europe but much less about the accumulating critical mass of ordinary folk who are asking such questions.  Once it forms, things could get perhaps too interesting.

Military exercises cost money.  Even if your priority is to spend the budget rather than ensure it’s spent well – and that’s an insider criticism of the Swiss military – you’ll still pick exercises that usefully focus minds over ones that don’t.  So if the Swiss think a scenario in which France falls to pieces is worth considering, so should we.  (It’s an off-the-shelf scenario, by the way, which anyone can read in Guillaume Faye’s Archeofuturism: European Visions of the Post-Catastrophic Age.)  In which case, while we’ve been pondering the fate of boat people with names like Yusuf or Maryam, we may be failing to spot the longer-term possibility.  Which is that communities on the south coast of Wessex should get ready for boat people with names like Joseph and Marie.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Valuing Europe

As tens of thousands flock in renewed hope to join the Labour Party, much of the last Shadow Cabinet has walked off in disgust at the thought of actually having to believe in something.  Yes, British politics is about to get much more interesting.  Jeremy Corbyn though is no friend of Wessex.  So long as his party remains implacably opposed to proportional representation it continues to block the road to real reform.  Democracy is still defined as an election that Labour wins.  And there will be no more devolution.  Corbyn’s primary loyalty is to the tribal organisation that is Labour, even though Labour, a 19th century, British nationalist relic, is wholly unsuited to 21st century challenges.

A sign of the times is Corbyn’s suggestion that segregated, women-only train carriages might be re-introduced, to assure the safety and comfort of female passengers.  No-one dares call to account the men who make the female passengers unsafe and uncomfortable.  Europe, nasty old colonial Europe, has lost the will to set moral boundaries against wrong-doers and to challenge any crossing of them; in these besieged circumstances its only other possible response is to retreat from its aspiration of inclusiveness into the formation of physical barriers, safe spaces, gated communities, panic rooms, to roll out the barbed wire along its borders again.  Labour’s next idea for the protection of women will doubtless be compulsory headscarves for them all.

Corbyn’s first act as leader was to attend a rally in support of refugees.  Should that be “refugees”?  Quite possibly.  Some are undoubtedly genuine – at least in intention if not necessarily in definition – while others can be matched to those Bangladeshi and Pakistani passports found flung over hedges in Serbia.  The whole country-shopping world wants to be Syrian now because to be Syrian is the stated path to becoming European.  The Germans this week started unpicking the Schengen Agreement, having belatedly realised that they’ve bitten off far more than they can chew.  Frau Merkel’s Bavarian allies, with their own regional parliament and politics – a kind of German Scotland – are among those now breaking ranks.

Fortunately, Jean-Claude Juncker has a cunning plan.  To set quotas and spread the migrants around.  Easier said than done, because the capacity to take in more people is not uniform.

David Cameron has offered to take 20,000.  If the current patterns of refugee allocation continue, just under half will end up living in the north of England.  That’s because the UK’s failure to achieve balanced regional development means it’s cheaper to house them up there.  Since 2012, when the contract for managing the distribution of asylum-seekers was handed to Serco, the number of asylum-seekers in the north-west has risen by 50% but fallen by 20% in London.  Cameron’s Witney constituency has contained not a single refugee since 2008.  Do as I say, not as I do?

Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party has put in a much higher bid than Cameron’s, for 240,000 refugees, based on 2 million Europe-wide and the UK’s proportion of total EU population (12%).  That’s a city the size of Plymouth or Southampton.  It’s roughly 100,000 families, or at 12 houses to the acre, 8,333 acres of farmland, the equivalent of concreting over 2 or 3 whole parishes.  And this is the Green Party?  It’s just so very easy to sign away the environment of others without asking.  Do those calling for more migrants to be accepted think the cities will take them all?  That there will be no consequences for the fields they can see out of the window, fields already under pressure from London overspill as the pampered capital boils over?  Not even Lancashire is infinite.  Germany has a shrinking population.  Its rate of natural increase – the excess of births over deaths – is negative, at -2.87 per 1,000 population.  The UK’s is positive, at 3.01 per 1,000.  That’s why Cameron’s numbers make some degree of sense and his critics’ make none.

Juncker’s agenda has two parts.  The first deals with quotas, on which EU leaders yesterday agreed to disagree.  The second redefines ‘refugee’ to include not only those fleeing war or persecution but those fleeing poverty too.  Now, it should be clear from their mobile phones and credit cards, not to mention the means to pay the smugglers’ fare, that today’s migrants are not as poor as they used to be.  Developing countries have developed beyond the point where such journeys were simply impossible and into new circumstances where they’re now the epitome of ambition.

Nevertheless, relative poverty continues to drive that ambition and Juncker, in pandering to it, has invited almost the whole world to come to Europe.  In doing so, he may have destroyed the EU itself, because a desire for national suicide is not as widely shared as his policy would suggest.  Opening the doors of the European house and fining those countries that keep the doors to their own rooms closed allows the EU to be portrayed not as defending Europe but as orchestrating its destruction.  In the absence of an alternative Europe, one proud of Europe’s achievements and determined, for the sake of the whole world, to preserve them at all costs, the chief beneficiaries of this stance will be the parties of the nationalist Right, opposed equally to the EU and to regionalism.

Instead of naming and shaming the Gulf states whose actions and inactions contribute most to shaping the crisis, the Brussels-Berlin axis is pointing the finger at EU countries defying a European line that hasn’t actually been fully agreed   It’s become an issue of reputation management, as befits a regime of PR men.  What will the world think of Europe if supranational order cannot be substituted for a diversity of national opinions?  Europe’s reputation must be defended, even as Europe itself is not.  No sacrifice by Europe is too great to secure favourable headlines elsewhere in the world.

It’s alright though, because Europe will be destroyed in the name of ‘common European values’.  The chutzpah is certainly admirable.  If countries have to be fined for failing to adhere to these common values, how common were these values in the first place?  What price respect for subsidiarity and national democracy?  Defining common values is always fraught with difficulty, because if they’re common then they cannot just be imposed.  To define European values is to define their counterpart, un-European values, and we’re then into some very familiar McCarthyite territory.  It’s one reason why we won’t define ‘Wessex values’.  We’ll define Wessex Regionalist values – and we have done – and we’ll advocate them, but what’s our choice won’t be everybody’s. 

If we were to seek out Europe’s values today we might find a fusion of classical and Judaeo-Christian ideas, tested and modified through centuries of conflict: religious and civil wars, the struggle against totalitarianism, the ever-changing challenging of perceptions and prejudices.  The result isn’t fixed by any means and there are threads within European thought that if developed further will take us in very different directions.

So whose ‘common European values’ are we talking about here?  Who are they designed to exclude?  In the event of conflict, do the elites plan to side with the natives against the migrants, or the migrants against the natives?  Every elite needs a thug class to implement its orders, one whose roots in society don’t go too deep.  Will assimilation give way to a forced ‘meeting in the middle’, producing a culturally embarrassed Europe in which fear masquerades as tolerance and guilt as inaction?  Or will the natives wise up to the fact that it’s only they who are being asked to forgo their identity out of politeness to their guests?  It may read like a scene from Michel Houellebecq’s Submission but Saudi Arabia has reportedly offered to fund 200 new mosques across Germany to meet the spiritual needs of migrants.  If these are permanent buildings, ‘migrants’ may be the wrong word and ‘colonists’ the right one.

Those elites certainly have a problem.  Gordon Brown’s attempts to define ‘Britishness’ were a joke.  No real, living culture needs a public debate on what it is and isn’t.  It has better things to do.  ‘What does it mean to be English?’ is another angst-ridden query.  If Englishness is that invisible then it’s probably dead.  Chauvinistic answers won’t fool anyone for long.  To be English is, uniquely, to value freedom above all.  Really?  More than the Scots did in the Declaration of Arbroath?  More than the French in ‘Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité’?  More than the Germans in ‘Mit Gott für Freiheit und Vaterland’?  Language barriers often blind us to the essential unity of Western thought.  They also blind us to the fact that there are other world traditions for which liberty has no value, for which liberty, far from being hard-fought-for, is hard-fought-against.

To have no sense of your own values – and of how untypical they really are in the global context – is to assume that everyone is equally nice, no matter what they believe, think or represent.  For the drinker, everyone is welcome to drink; for the person with no culture, or one sunk in a cultural coma, everyone is welcome, with no pressure to fit in.  If you no longer have values, you have no grounds to reject anyone else.  Not even if your society is living at its environmental limits, its quality of life about to tip into the abyss because the safeguards of its culture have been systematically disregarded.

If you stand for nothing, then you fall for everything.  It isn’t the classless society that lies at the end of all differentiation and of every history: only the culture-less society will achieve that.  Common European values are easy enough to define when all they amount to is a vacuum.  And nature, as we used to know, abhors one of those.  Perhaps Europe’s values are best left unspoken, but nonetheless fervently held.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

That Sinking Feeling

In the late 1940s, large numbers of people were forced out of the lands where they and their ancestors had lived for generations, since at least the time of the Crusades.  Their ancestral homes were handed over to immigrants from other parts of the world, who brought their own history with them.  The displaced lived in refugee camps in neighbouring territory, where they were made welcome by those who spoke their language and shared their culture.  Eventually, a concrete wall was built to separate them from friends and family left behind.

Despite all this, they never lobbed missiles into Czechoslovakia or blew themselves up on public transport in Gdansk.  These are not the Palestinians.  They’re the Germans, expelled from East and West Prussia, eastern Pomerania, eastern Brandenburg, Silesia and the Sudetenland.  Many of them were resettled in Lower Saxony.  The total number comes to over 12 million people, equal to 16% of Germany’s 1938 population.  When Chancellor Merkel offers sanctuary to 800,000 Syrians, a 1% addition to the population, we can only assume that the Germans still have the means to organise these things better than most.

Has Angela set an example for the rest of Europe to follow?  Or acted irresponsibly, energising a magnet that draws thousands uninvited across the sovereign territories of others who now have to play along?  To be a euro-cynic one only has to see things from a Brussels perspective, that the Syrians can be the first true European citizens, spread around every Member State, a constant reminder of a common European problem with a common European solution.  Too important a transformational prize ever to be allowed to return to their homeland or encouraged to dislodge those destroying it.  On account of a huge range of internal political anxieties, this is one area of policy where EU unanimity is unlikely to be achievable.

Germany has waived the limits on its legal responsibility to Syrians under the Dublin Convention, but what is Europe’s moral responsibility overall?  How many refugees should it take?  The answer could well be far fewer than it is taking.  Europeans played a relatively minor role in causing the refugee crisis.  One view is that it’s all the fault of an inhumane US foreign policy: a bunch of kids with sticks poking the beehive.  In which case, how many Syrian refugees have the Americans taken in?  About 1,500.

Alternatively, it’s attributable to the rise of Salafism in its most militant form, promoted and funded from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.  Have they opened their doors to the refugees?  They have not.  Yet Makkah and Madinah both host gigantic mosques that could be converted into refugee camps for Syrian Christians.  Why not?  The Saudis would, of course, have to completely re-write their law code so that immigrants feel under no pressure to assimilate.  The ban on church-building would have to go for a start.  Do the Saudis have none of the basic human compassion expected to flow so freely from the ever-malleable Europeans?  How many refugees have the Saudis taken?

The answer, unsurprisingly, is nil.  The Saudis aren’t signatories to the UN refugee convention, though there are plenty of Syrians present in the country without being recognised as refugees.  The Saudi relationship with ISIS is complicated, because officially the two sides are sworn enemies, so the Saudis are wary of who they let in.  Not forgetting the pro-Assad fighters in disguise either.  In any case, the Saudis are too busy bombing the Yemenis and guess who sold them the weaponry with which to do that.  The flag over ‘our’ Parliament was lowered to half-mast when the bloodthirsty brother and predecessor of the present king died in January.  ‘Our’ Prime Minister almost immediately dashed off to Riyadh to kiss the hand of the new ruler, just in time for the first beheadings of the new reign.  Defence of the regime is considered a vital British interest.  Right.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper argued this week for a clear distinction at all times between refugees and economic migrants.  In the interests of population stability this surely has to involve something along the lines of ‘one in, one out’, which would mean identifying and deporting all those illegally living and working in the UK, below the radar.  In short, zero tolerance of those to whom Labour turned a blind eye not so long ago, so don’t expect it to become that party’s policy.  Cooper’s words are hollow because no-one believes that the distinction she makes will be respected and enforced.  The legacy of past policies has made the suffering of genuine refugees far worse than it could have been.

Cooper’s other repetitive soundbite is the Kindertransport of 1938 to 1940.  It’s a false and distracting analogy for four reasons.  One is that even had the UK embraced the whole of European Jewry, that was a figure ascertainable and not overwhelming for a country that still had a global empire.  Today, according to the International Organization for Migration, there are at least 50 million irregular migrants in the world, over one-fifth of all international migrants.  If migration to Europe occurs on that sort of scale, then Europe will notice the difference.

The second reason is that the flow of refugees is contaminated with economic migrants.  ‘Contaminated’ is a term used here not for effect but for accuracy, because blurring the truly desperate and those just trying their luck will provoke an ugly outbreak of empathy fatigue.  Libya’s boat people include Gambians, Senegalese, Malians, Ivorians, Nigerians, Ethiopians, Eritreans and Somalis.  Afghans and Pakistanis as well as Syrians were camped out in Budapest.  No doubt people-traffickers tell their customers that Europeans are a pushover.  If the people-traffickers are proved right, the flood will have no end.

The third reason is that refugees coming to Europe through already safe countries are not in danger, and so not entitled to come (not even small boys drowning off Turkey).  Escaping from danger doesn’t open up an unrestricted choice of where to live next that isn’t available to others who play fair.  Arguments that ‘this is about human beings’ aren’t designed to save life but to subvert lawful authority.  Hungary’s Viktor Orbán may be seen as applying the political equivalent of ‘work-to-rule’ but this is about more than being a stickler for the regulations.  The regulations are there for a purpose.  If you don’t like the purpose, change the regulations.  Meanwhile, they are there to be enforced.

The fourth reason is that Jews aren’t in open war against European values.  Whatever one may think of their cultural and economic influence, they aren’t waging violent jihad against Europe, as a rather dangerous number of Mahometans clearly are.  The fact that many migrants are apparently fleeing from this violence doesn’t of itself dispel mistrust.  What are the implications of so many being young men of military age, apparently more interested in coming to Europe than in staying behind to defend their beloved homeland against somewhat harder targets than the Hungarian police?  Do they perhaps, so the argument runs, care less about their homeland than about stamping the will of Allah upon the world?  Chants of ‘Allahu Akbar!’ outside Keleti station certainly aren’t the way to win friends and influence people.  When Orbán tells the world that he doesn’t want to see Europe’s cultural and religious character transformed beyond recognition he knows what can happen in such circumstances.  For over 150 years, almost the entire Carpathian Basin suffered a brutal occupation by the Ottoman Empire before the tide began to turn at the gates of Vienna on 11th September, 1683.  The attitude of ‘Old Europe’ to co-existence with Mahometanism is one based on hope.  The attitude of ‘New Europe’ is one based on experience, optimism being too great a risk to take.

Can Europe be the same with different people in it?  It’s the question posed recently by Christopher Caldwell.  In one sense it’s a misunderstanding, because the people who make up Europe are forever changing as births and deaths occur.  Demographic trends do matter though.  If Europe’s deaths continue to exceed births, as in many countries they currently do, then the future will be formed by substitution, not inheritance.  For the far Right, Europe’s woes are caused by the traitors who let the immigrants in.  On deeper analysis, they’re the result not so much of what immigrants or anyone else has done as of what natives have not done.  ‘They’re taking our jobs!’  (So why aren’t you taking them?)  ‘They’re taking our homes!’  (So why aren’t you taking them?)  ‘They’re replacing our whole population!’  (So why aren’t you replacing it?)  The solution to the demographic winter isn’t a European armed resistance; it’s ‘make love, not war’.

And so the questions continue.  Was it the fault of the Left?  Of feminism, encouraging women to have careers instead of babies?  Of environmentalism, encouraging Europeans to sacrifice themselves for the planet while others multiply like there’s no tomorrow?  Of anarchism, desiring society’s downfall in favour of something a bit more edgy, and potentially much, much worse?  Was it the fault of the Right?  Of consumerism, valuing stuff and experiences over children?  Of individualism, believing that personal choices do not have social, selective, evolutionary consequences for others?  Of economic liberalism, treating humanity as one enormous labour pool that does not come with other, sometimes very illiberal values attached?

In 1973, the French writer Jean Raspail published a controversial apocalyptic novel apparently set in the early 21st century.  Since translated into English as The Camp of the Saints, it records the arrival in the Mediterranean of a vast fleet carrying Third World migrants (hostile or desperate, according to viewpoint), a crisis which finds Europe lacking any concerted idea of how to respond.  The book explores the quandary: What will a liberal society do, or not do, to protect its way of life when confronted with the consequences of its ideals?  Will it allow itself meekly to be infiltrated, overwhelmed and ultimately trampled underfoot because of hyper-liberal trust in the good intentions of others?  In the south of France, an old professor finds his historic home invaded by a hippy, who expounds his hopes that the migrants will trash the place and go on to end European civilisation.  Won’t this mean, asks the professor, that you lose your own identity?  That’s exactly what I want, replies the hippy, before the professor, bored with the conversation and preferring to spend his remaining hours more pleasingly, reaches for a shotgun and kills him.

Europe has plenty of hippies, for whom boundaries do not define home and responsibility, for whom boundaries are no more than the foul scars of history.  Migration is ‘inevitable’, because it’s always happened.  True, it has, but so too has racism.  We have laws to manage migration’s impacts, just as we have hate speech laws and anti-discrimination laws to manage the strife sometimes emerging in response to migration that isn’t welcome.  If the first set of laws are no longer respected, the second set will be the next to go in reaction.  ‘Inevitability’ is a powder keg, more an attempt to frame political debate than a serious objective commentary.

Weston-super-Mare’s derelict lido, once Europe’s largest open-air pool, is currently home to ‘Dismaland’, an exhibition of contemporary art curated by Banksy.  In one of the more overtly political of the themed areas is an image of a butterfly, captioned ‘Migration is Beautiful’.

Is it beautiful to flee for your life, your male relatives beheaded, your female relatives enslaved, your people’s contribution to world culture burnt or blown to dust?  Europe’s jesters perennially miss the point: migration, external or internal, is always a means to an end.  Safety.  Prosperity.  Education.  Retirement.  Re-joining family.  Leaving family, to marry.  The sense of power your followers give you as you ride at the head of a conquering army.  Viewed from the other side there are other ends.  Filling rubbish jobs.  Filling skilled jobs for which we can’t be bothered to train.  Assuaging post-imperial guilt.  Self-loathing.  Getting more interesting sports players, clothes, music and restaurants.  Who is it we really care about?

Folk have indeed moved throughout history, but reasons vary enormously.  To say that you’re for or against migration, regardless of origin and motive, regardless of receiving capacity, regardless of the potential for things to develop badly, is to lump all those reasons together.  That single reason can mean either swamping the boat of your own society or ignoring the genuine plight of those whose own countries have become uninhabitable for them.  So let’s do something really unfashionable.  Let’s not be afraid to draw distinctions, and ensure they’re firmly upheld.  (If we say we’re full, then we do have the right to defend ourselves against those who disagree, otherwise defence has no point.)  Let’s also ask if we can do more as a world to make migration an informed choice, with respect on both sides, and not a terrifying necessity that neither side would wish was happening.