Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Article in the New Statesman by Ed Wallis (Editor of Fabian Review)

Interesting article in the New Statesman by Ed Wallis (Editor of Fabian Review):

Ed Wallis is absolutely right in some of the things he says, although wrong in the conclusions he draws, and ridiculously misguided in thinking the left (which on environmentalist issues encompasses socialists, blairites, toflerists, greens, peoples' assembly syndicalists, millenarian anabaptist anarchists etc) has anything meaningful to contribute to the discussion.

Mr Wallis makes many pithy points:  “…trust in our major institutions is at an all-time low… elites are seen as remote and unrepresentative… an approach to environmental campaigning has focused on elite-level engagement…”

He then puts forward a rather pedestrian four-point plan which is so anodyne that it is hardly worth engaging with.

But he does talk about Place in a way that is interesting:  "...people think of the environment in terms of the place they live and the people they live there with, not carbon emissions and climate change.... People do have a strong attachment to the places they live – but it is as much about human relationships as it is about the natural or built environment...."

Do not underestimate the power generated by "places of memory".  The human relationships talked about by Ed Wallis can be with the historic people of a particular locality as much as with the living residents.  As the recent discussion on British Values demonstrated, a widely valued attribute of British society is a continuity (both real and imagined) with The Past.

One of the most successful (but unrecognised) political philosophers of the post-war period has been the late James Lees-Milne.  Snobbish, dilettante and obsessed with trivia he might have been, but he had an ideological vision of society (the country house as the organising principle of human activity) which he ruthlessly imposed on and propagated through the National Trust.  It is his ideology that has made the National Trust one of the world's most popular and successful conservation organisations.

Another example might be Eton College.  This famous school is successful not only because of the excellence of the teaching and the wealth of the resources, but also because of the confidence that comes from association with a place of memory.  The inspiration generated by the past is as important as the inspiration generated by the teaching staff.

These are both of course elite examples.

But places of memory can be found all around us - we literally have tens of thousands of places of memory in England, and I would contend that any locality contains within itself the ability to generate a profound sense of community conservation based on the ideological application of The Past.

This where the left meets a self-imposed barrier as they cannot accept The Past (apart from a few oddball exceptions like the Durham Miners Parade). 

Like Pol Pot (in theoretical aspiration if not in murderous reality) it is continually seeking to abolish The Past and start again from a modernist-brutalist year zero. 

That is why the future belongs, in my opinion, to the backward-looking Conservatives.

PS I have lived my life looking at places of memory, for instance

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