Thursday, 8 March 2018

Peter Hitchen’s The Abolition of Britain

It is nearly twenty years since the publication of Peter Hitchen’s The Abolition of Britain. This was one of the first books that provided a political and sociological perspective to challenge the prevailing establishment elite’s agenda of political correctness. It was published at a time when the internet was in its infancy, before broadband, when users were subject to slow and expensive dial-up charges. Thus the liberal elite still retained a tight grip on media expression, where most mainstream right wing or conservative writers appeared more interested in promoting the virtues of free-market global capitalism, than challenging the leftist cultural and social orthodoxies that had grown incrementally since the 1960s.

Peter Hitchens, unlike most nationally recognised media pundits, thinks for himself and makes no concessions to group-think or political correctness. Although his blog posts can be verbose and rambling, his newspaper articles and books are much better focussed. He has an uncanny ability for puncturing the pretensions, hypocrisies and idiocies of self styled ‘progressives’. Behind a somewhat pompous exterior and manner he can demonstrate a dry sense of humour and sometimes even flashes of wit. He has however a number of hobby-horses to which his commitment and enthusiasm can sometimes be at the expense of more rigorous and objective analysis. So it is worth taking a critical examination of The Abolition of Britain to assess whether its findings remain relevant to current day political issues.

Hitchens was motivated to write his book by discovering ‘that a whole system of thought and belief was fast becoming unthinkable and unsayable’, owing to ‘the widespread belief that failure to conform with today’s orthodoxy is a moral failing’. Thus ‘any opposition and dissent cannot be simply reasoned, but must result from a flaw in character. He noted ‘the modern Left’s scorn for freedom … which instinctively reaches for an authoritarian solution to every problem’. Hitchens was among the first to voice publicly what many others were thinking privately, but lacked a platform to do so. With the growth of the internet the public has today been provided with a powerful outlet to voice their true beliefs and concerns, unmediated by the dictates of a self styled ‘progressive’ elite.

The book opens with a catalogue of changes that had occurred in Britain between the funerals of Winston Churchill in 1965 and Princess Diana in 1997. In response to accusations that he is living in the past Hitchens has claimed that there has never been a golden age in Britain to which he wants to return. Nevertheless, he appears most comfortable with the traditional conservative society of the 1950s, before such subversive influences as TV satirists, comprehensive schools and easy divorce had begun to make their mark. Thus he contrasts the dignity, grandeur and restraint of Churchill’s funeral as marking the last expression of the old order, with the outpouring of grief and emotionalism that occurred after the death of Diana. In this he is not being entirely fair since Churchill was a very old man whose death had long been expected, whereas Diana was in the prime of life whose early death was almost unimaginable and thus a great shock to millions of people.

Hitchens lambasts the tendency of liberals to either ignore or rewrite history in conformity with their own obsessions. Thus colonialism, religion, patriarchy, patriotism and mono-culturalism are dismissed as outdated and out of keeping with the multi-cultural, multi-racial, internationalist and gender neutral society which the politically correct class has sought to impose on the rest of us. Hitchens is having none of this virtue signalling subversion. Future posts will examine some of the ideas from his book in more detail.

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