Just a couple of days after the police let rioters destroy a statue of the 17th century philanthropist and slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, I saw on the BBC website that the Canal and River Trust, apparently under instruction from the Museum of London Docklands, removed a statue of Robert Milligan that it owns in London, outside the museum.
Milligan died 211 years ago, and was a Scottish Merchant brought up in Jamaica who owned (but did not trade) in slaves, and was commemorated for establishing the West India Docks which made “London Docklands” a thing at all, and London the major 19th century port of the world.
What caught my eye was the statement by the Canal and River Trust:
Milligan’s monument was removed to “recognise the wishes of the community” said the Canal and River Trust.
Note that popular word “community,” emotionally redolent of everyone living together in societal harmony. That subconscious emotional effect is, of course, the whole purpose of all weasel words. The recent riots got all the great and good here in Britain, for the first time I remember, referring knowingly to the “BAME Community,” meaning “black and minority ethnicities.” Who would have thought that all non-whites live together and have the same outlook on life? Does my Christian Indian Dentist really have more in common with Somali Islamists than he has with me, another Christian health-professional living in the same town?
Anyway, as regards “the community” whose opinion condemned Milligan (scarcely a household name, unlike Winston Churchill, William Gladstone and Francis Drake, all of whom are on the Black Lives Matter hit-list) it has been in socially-distanced community-busting lockdown for three months, and so I find it wonderful how the Canal and River Trust managed to organise a democratic vote, count its results, and accomplish the statue’s removal, all in the course of a weekend. Or could it be that by “recognise the wishes of the community” they really mean “capitulate to the mob to avoid trouble”?
I gather that an alternative explanation is doing the rounds on Twitter – apparently Lord Sainsbury (like Milligan and Colston a stinkingly rich businessman and philanthropist) is a major liberal donor to the Docklands Museum. It is at least plausible that he dropped the hint that the statue was ideologically unacceptable to him: “the community,” in that case, should be read as “a rich and powerful individual calling the political shots.”
Now, in reality, communities are not of one mind on any issue, which is why humans invented both democracy and rule-by-consent as alternatives to mob rule. The latter always leads directly on to rich and powerful individuals calling the political shots, whether they be strong men like William the Conqueror and Vladimir Lenin, or the rich philanthropists who fund them, as J. P. Morgan and other Wall Street financiers funded the Russian Revolution, and profited mightily by their benevolence.
To demonstrate this simple fact about real communities, look at the major ways people in your church disagree. Or even consider your own family and its disparate views on politics or religion or climate change, and you can’t get a more basic “community” than that. Margaret Thatcher was deliberately misconstrued when she said that “There is no such thing as society,” meaning (I have no doubt) that bland phrases like “society is to blame” are ways of avoiding the truth that it is individuals who do right or wrong, and whose collective wills and attitudes are the only way of changing society’s ills.
In the same way, I can’t think of many exceptions to the modern use of “community” being yet another example of a buzz-word used by the few to exert power over the many. Hence a black woman who opposes Black Lives Matter, such as Candice Owens, is regarded as outside the “black community” rather than as being a legitimate voice within it. Likewise, an intellect as great as Thomas Sowell, who disputes the simplistic narrative of slavery now fed to us all, is decried as an “Uncle Tom.”
Yet in contrast, as the BBC’s Jon Snow notoriously said of the London pro-Brexit march last year, as I look at the pictures of the Oxford Black Lives Matter demonstration to tear down Cecil Rhodes’s statue in Oxford, “I’ve never seen so may white faces.” White activists may, it seems, force issues on behalf of the “BAME community,” whilst actual ethnic minority members receive death threats for disagreeing (like the Conservative commentator Mahyar Tousi over here).
It may seem that the answer to spurious “communities” claiming to speak on everyone’s behalf is to stress the importance of individual identity. But the activists are trying to tie that up too. Another obscenely wealthy philanthropist, Bill Gates, got some press recently not just for being a major funder of the WHO (supposedly a world “community” venture rather than a tycoon’s instrument), but for pressing the case both for universal COVID vaccination, and for universal digital identities for every person in the world. He’s made a 100% financial return on his vaccination charities, so there is undoubtedly a big potential bottom line to digital identity as well.
Gates is part of a group (of rich and powerful philanthropists – need I even mention it) forming ID2020, whose entirely beneficient aim is to microchip everyone in the world community with an ineradicable identity, “as a basic human right.”
Google it, and you’ll find as many references to the Mark of the Beast as to “human rights,” but it’s not just fundamentalists who want such a “right” as much as they want a one way ticket to a Gulag. That is why peaceful demonstrators in Hyde Park were arrested last month under lockdown regulations that don’t , it seems, apply to violent iconoclasts in Bristol, Oxford or London.
The poor of the world may have no birth certificate, but even they have the true identity of a self, that is known to the other poor people who matter to them as well as to God. They can pick up a coin in the street, bless their Creator, and spend it on staying alive.
The more sophisticated we become, the ultimate sophistication being a digital identity within our own bodies, then the less secure that identity actually is. It is only a matter of time before criminals learn how to reprogram their chips to pass themselves off as as you – and the bank will insist by all that computes that it was you who sent all your life savings to Lagos. Worse still, it only takes a Civil Servant, or a rich and powerful philanthropist who questions your right to membership of “the community,” to delete the central record of your identity. The poor beggar may be invisible on the street, but the deleted digital identity will mean you cannot even exist if the powerful – or the mob – take a dislike to you. There are no coins to pick up in a cashless society.
And so just as the buzz-word “community” is all about subverting the messy human business of living with individual differences and dividing us into power-blocks that may be controlled by the few, so the buzz word “identity” lumps us all into crude categories like “black,” “white,” “cis-male,” “Islamophobe” and so on ad nauseam and elides the complexity of human life. But in its most sophisticated ID2020 form, it provides the means to erase human identity altogether, if the powerful few so decide.
Use such words very carefully, if you have to use them at all. The weasels are all around.