30 January 2017

Mistaking strength and wealth for virtue

Blessedly, the excellent Peter Hitchens waits a good few cycles before weighing in. That’s a good thing. Because when he does weigh in, he throws the scales with insight, clarity and wisdom in abundance. As he says, quite rightly, ‘Just because a lot of squeaky liberals are against these measures, it does not mean they are sensible or right. Indeed, this must be the wise person’s motto in dealing with all controversies of the Trump presidency.

Hitchens, who has now made quite the career of justifiably saying ‘I told you so’, makes a very careful note of Trump’s willingness to put on the table things which he should not, for ephemeral and self-seeking short-term gain (for example, his critique of NATO and its mutation from a defensive to an aggressive pact – which has since been frittered away for the promise of a sleeping tour of Buckingham Palace) and also his willingness to barter substance for appearance (as in the case of putting an immigration ban on all the wrong countries and none of the right ones). Hitchens waxes nearly Grantian in his ‘pessimistic’ (using the term advisedly, knowing that both Grant and Hitchens would reject such a description) prognosis for our civilisation and for what the next four years impend. ‘As long as the “west” doesn’t rediscover Christianity, it flails dangerously about, mistaking strength and wealth for virtue. It puts its faith in reeking tube and iron shard, in bigger weapons, and in “tougher” “securidee” (which bears the same relation to true security as does “charidee” to true charity), in consumer goods and in its own luxurious hedonism. This will not work.

Hitchens does indeed make note of the places where Trump has sounded the right note. As is the case with him, I have also noted that these sounds are appealing; whether on the question of free trade or infrastructure development or Russia. He also notes where Trump is far less appealing – specifically on the question of torture. And at last he notes why the furore over the ‘Muslim ban’, on both sides of the political fence, is silly and misaimed. After all, it is quite true that ‘crude, ignorant attacks on Muslims themselves naturally make any intelligent open-minded person come to their defence when he can, whatever he thinks of their faith’.

I know that Mr Hitchens may not like the term and prefers to be styled a Burkean, but his High Tory voice of caution and restraint, and his attitudes toward statecraft and culture, are desperately, desperately needed – now far more than ever.

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