Friday, 8 November 2013

Somewhere in the corner of a foreign field lies a poppy that has fallen off my coat.

I am astonished at the amount of venom aimed at people who don't wear poppies to remember those who have fallen in armed conflict. I am a patriot, but I thought we were fighting for the right to freedom of expression. Apparently not.

I have not been wearing a poppy because I don't have a buttonhole, or a button for that matter, on my goretex jacket, and it fell off today before I could get to the door.

I happen to have mentioned this on certain forums and been roundly told off. Well, unless they come up with an alternative way of displaying poppies, as opposed to the pin (bronze age solution) or a plastic one with a barb in it, the British Legion may find that interest in their poppies is going to wane. If there are poppies not being worn these days, I believe it is not due to a lack of respect, but a lack of buttonholes.

I shall be attending the Remembrance Sunday service at a local church and I shall wear a poppy in the one jacket that has a buttonhole. What is more important is that I remember how I came to be able to worship freely and express myself in this way. Those who fought for freedom paid a great price. It is therefore reasonable, but not obligatory, to get off my bottom once a year and salute them.

I have never gone in for badges of allegiance anyway. People seem to wear all manner of plastic bands and t-shirts to claim allegiance to something or other. Who the heck cares what you or I think? Actions speak louder than symbols.  It comes to something when people object to the wearing of religious symbols. Are they really offended? But when it appears that not wearing something can cause such recrimination, as the kind I have read about, the world has gone mad.


John Cole, the former BBC political editor has died. Cole was an exemplar of the last time anyone at the BBC attempted to report on a political story without being in thrall to the liberal left narrative that has become obligatory at the Broken Biscuit Company. Ironically, Cole hated everything Thatcher stood for, but you would not have known it. In fact you would not have known much at all because his Northern Irish accent was extraordinarily distracting.


I am currently reading a fascinating book about the Scottish Enlightenment. It is not possible to sum up the scope of the subject here, but a couple of things struck me. The first is that the protagonists met together in taverns and coffee shops, then buildings appointed for the purpose. They formed clubs, one of which exists now as the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Such allegiances were not without danger. Some came into direct opposition with the all-powerful Kirk. The last man to be hanged for heresy was dispatched in Edinburgh, with the connivance of the Scottish Church. Of course, it was all done at a time when they also executed people for witchcraft. It is the sort of thing that still goes on in other parts of the world. Except that we have it here, in the 21st Century. A man, an innocent man, was beaten up and set on fire because he was suspected of being a paedophile. There is no difference. The action was born out of hatred, fear and ignorance.

What these Enlightenment people did was crucial to their thinking; they corresponded with each other and met to debate the issues of the day. That way, they were able to test their theories and arguments with their peers. They dared to say what could not be said and many were denied positions of authority because of it. And this also still happens today. There are universities in this country that will deny recognition to The State of Israel and deny its academics a platform. Enlightenment? I call it a descent into superstition.

There is one more thing. The writer of this book on The Enlightenment explains that what came out of it was a vocabulary of thought. The discourse gave the protagonists a lexicon; words to express concepts that needed form and a common understanding. The writer argues that without this, it would have been difficult for thinkers to arrive at novel propositions or radical ideas, if the words and phrases were not readily available.

In an exposition of 1984, Orwell says something similar about Newspeak. He tells us that the purpose of Newspeak is not to censor thought, but to make it impossible to have such thoughts in the first place.

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