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Friday, September 19, 2014

The two black wings of self

I wished to believe myself angry, but really I was afraid; fear and anger in me are very much the same. A friend of mine, a bit of a poet, sir, once called them ‘the two black wings of self.’ And so they are, so they are...!
 John Galsworthy – A knight (1900)

Crude it may be, but to my mind the Scottish referendum is well summed up as a battle between fear and anger - the two black wings of self. The Yes camp was angry with Westminster and the No camp fearful of change. Both strove mightily to stoke their emotional engines but fear always had the edge. We live in a fearful age.

The AV vote referendum was much the same and there is no reason to suppose an EU referendum would be any different. The establishment knows how to use the endless subtle pressures of fear, knows too well how potent they are.

In any event it isn’t easy to whip up anger over abstractions such as democracy, accountability or even lying and corruption. For one think, angry criticism is being choked off by the pervasive pressures of political correctness. An intemperate outburst could have the police knocking on your door, an association of ideas which is surely deliberate. Expect more of the same.

So angry words are being squeezed from our language. Not primarily because they offend, although that is the official narrative, but because anger has far too many political hazards for a morally corrupt establishment. Anger rocks the boat - fear doesn't.

To a large degree I think we have the BBC to thank for this deplorable state of affairs. That and our collective laziness. Fear of change saturates BBC output. Not overtly, but covertly in an endless unwillingness to engage with anything genuinely radical.

Comedy and satire are fine as long as they don't quite hit the target, but any serious challenge to the status quo is always beyond the BBC pale. The abode of extremists. A fearful place where decent folk never go. Room 101.

To my mind the important message is one we knew already. It is better to vote against the big three parties than to expect Cameron to deliver a fairly contested referendum. He knows the value of fear and probably knew he was unlikely to lose Scotland. He also knows he is unlikely to lose the EU if voters are foolish enough to trust him. 


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