Virtue, virtue everywhere…

Last month the now mandatory alumni magazine arrived from my wife’s old college. The usual requests for money were inside, but the cover sported a photo of an athletic-looking black chap in rugby strip standing in front of the familiar architecture.

This only excited our interest for two reasons. The first was that, since the place was founded as a College for Nonconformist Calvinist ministers, and evolved by our day into a teacher’s training college for young ladies, rugby was not high on the agenda in my wife’s time, though she majored in PE. Since then, however, it has become just another generic co-ed degree factory, so a male football player clearly is thought to represent its academic excellence.

The second reason, to be frank, is that we have become so sensitized to corporate virtue-signalling, that we both (independently) came to the conclusion that the cover was probably making some point about inclusiveness and diversity, according to the new Established Religion.

And so it proved. The big news in the mag was that the new Principal of the College is to be a black man whose former career has been as a diversity and inclusiveness adviser to government (not the bloke in the picture, as far as I know). It wasn’t clear from his CV that the education of children has been a big part of his experience. But that’s par for the course now – such positions are now a supplementary reward to knighthoods and OBEs for those who support the political establishment. My own college is another case in point, though at least our current Master attended the college before he became a minor Labour Minister.

Yesterday, a similar news bulletin was e-mailed from my old Grammar School, a stop-press in between issues of the glossy magazine. It was breathless to tell me that in the light of the murder of George Floyd, it was initiating a big drive to focus on combating racism.

Now, in my day, those of dark skin were few and far between at the school for simple demographic reasons: there were very few black immigrants, and fewer descendants thereof, in Guildford in the 1960s. In fact I knew one of the few through church, a shy guy named Norman whose father had actually run the marathon for Trinidad in the Olympic games, and who had an enviable Prog Rock record collection.

If those labelled as ethnic minorities (“BAME” in the newly-discarded old money – the C of E seems to prefer “UKME”: both terms are biologically racist and stereotyping) are under-represented there now, it is most likely because the school became independent and fee-paying after I left. In theory, underprivileged black parents could not afford to send their kids there, except on a scholarship (such as my father won as a working-class kid back in 1926).

Nevertheless, group photos in the last copy of the school alumni mag show a representative selection of non-white faces, and in a feature applauding all the Old Boys working on the NHS front-line against COVID, 17% (7 out of 41) had non-white faces and non-English names. That is, if anything, an over-representation of the population, since the census figures for 2011 show that “non-whites” accounted for only 14.8 of the population in the south-east. The NHS has historically been skewed towards those with ethnic origins in south-east Asia, which may explain the slight bias: in some of my hospital jobs, white colleagues and superiors were uncommon.

So unless the school knows of ethnic bullying in their midst and are keeping quiet about it, it would appear that their campaign is to fight the racism of those unenlightened oiks outside the walls. Although I fear that if, like Eton, they have bought into the whole Critical Race Theory package, they may be planning unconscious bias training for the poor kids themselves. Experience shows that this would most adversely affect the Asian-origin boys, since they have to grapple both with being the victims of racism from whites, and the perpetrators of racism against “real” blacks.

It’s all a far cry from our founding charter from King Edward VI in 1552, under the prompting of Bishop Nicholas Ridley, “for the education and bringing up youth in virtue and learning and godliness.” That’s godly virtue, not public virtue-signalling.

But whatever the case, it is a fact that none of those leaving this suburban English school are ever likely to end up as policemen in American cities. So the relevance of George Floyd’s case (in which neither legal team ever raised the matter of racism) is as questionable as the support for black slavery attributed recently to Jane Austen’s drinking her tea with sugar.

As I have said here before, it is only constant repetition from schools, colleges, football teams, corporations, Anglican bishops and every other institution that makes racism appear in the least plausible as the central moral problem in the world. When all is said and done, critical race theory is a recent human philosophy, and a hollow and deceptive one at that (Col 2:8). Like psychoanalysis it makes the most important human motives invisible except to an initiated priesthood, and like the witch craze of the seventeenth century it uses that esoteric knowledge to harm those deemed guilty of unspeakable things. And, it has to be said, like twentieth century fascist anti-semitism or Bolshevik revolutionary justice, it causes harm on a population-wide scale, and undermines the real moral fabric of society.

One telling example – the attempted cancellation of Jane Austen for drinking tea over 200 years ago has been spread entirely on social media, using mobile technology dependent on actual child slave labour in Africa and China now. But the virtue-signallers reminding us all about American cops dealing with violent criminals, and somehow linking that to long-dead female English novelists, are entirely and willfully blind to their own hypocrisy at the expense of the genuinely poor and oppressed. If Jane Austen was guilty, they are more guilty because the information about Chinese racism and Congolese child abuse is available on their slave-phones at the touch of a button. And unlike Jane Austen, they have a vote to change it,if it bothered them.

The trouble is, it’s all but impossible to escape the influence of the “vain philosophy.” I received a prayer letter (local) asking us to pray that, now there has been a murder conviction in the George Floyd case, there will now be peace and progress on the racial front. As in the case of my school, one has to question the applicability of a contretemps in Minneapolis to life in rural East Devon (though the finances of BLM in the US are proving as opaque as those of “Black Lives Matter (UK) Ltd” ).

More importantly (since we are certainly called, and wise, to be concerned about world events as Christians) the prayer request reveals ignorance of what the issue is actually about. One might as well pray for wisdom and justice in how the Chinese camp guards re-educate Uighur Muslims. Critical race theory is not about redressing particular, verifiable, wrongs and returning to peace: it is about the revolutionary re-reordering of society ideologically. And Christianity is one of its main ideological targets. One legal victory can only increase, not moderate, the revolutionary fervour and rioting. Within a day or two of the conviction of Derek Chauvin, the progressive racists found another incident to milk for further division and false victimhood in the case of Ma’Khia Bryant. Needless to say, this hides the true causes of social breakdown, causes that would be addressed better by faithful preaching of the gospel of repentance and forgiveness than by the new religion of the Immutable Evil of certain classes of people.

But it doesn’t help when the false religion is propagated by the very schools and colleges that were founded to promote true religion.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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