Monday, 15 February 2021

 The world of today:

I love words and I love the English language, but one of my weaknesses is that I will always use a long word where an apposite diminutive would suffice. This makes me a stranger in our modern worlds where language seems to have suffered a reductio ad absurdum. The reductio arguments though are essentially fallacies and it is possible that “reductio ad txt-speak” or many of the other internet driven, often US inspired, changes in language use are developing a more international form of the English language, which is fine by me as long as I can still read Tolkien or Conan Doyle. One example of this that irritates me far more than it should is the now common-place use of the phrase (please excuse the capitals here.) “Train Station.” It is a Railway Station, a railway premises run by a railway undertaking for the purposes of railway operation. The train is a transit medium! But language moves on, as do the ideas that it describes. Today’s Transport for London “Tube Map” now displays not just the undergound of Harry Beck’s original 1931 idea, but the overgound and the south London Tramways. This is progress as they all “transport” people. And so to a sentence full of ludicrously long and complex words that refer to the ideal of thought and belief that almost everyone believes that they understand, but the more one examines this concept, the more it becomes apparent that almost no-one can describe it adequately, let alone demonstrate understanding.

I
have long pondered upon one of the ultimate philosophical or metaphysical concepts surrounding epistemology, the concept that underlies the simple English word “truth.” I do not wish to do more than mention in passing the ecclesiastical concept of truth, for I fear that has largely disappeared from contemporary life. I fear that modern “devout” men, such as Jacob Rees Mogg will find the eye of the proverbial needle forming the idealised gates of heaven that they one day hope to pass. Nor am I concerned simply with the factual truths of basic science or mathematics, they are largely fixed and understood, except that the definitions tend to fray at the edges when examined too closely. We also have concepts of legal truth, but the ancient British concept that “Law” is the will of God, by the hand of the Monarch through the power of Parliament exercised by an impartial judiciary, has been hard strained recently with a Prime Minister specifically suggesting that the law should not apply to Parliament. That Parliament is the law. Welcome to our new dictatorship. Will any repeat of the “Cummings goings” of 2020 result in a 10-year prison sentence for breaking lockdown rules? Or do “rules” only apply to the masses? The hoi polloi, perhaps including the bourgeoisie? They certainly do not appear to apply to our political elite. In 2019 we lived in a state that we thought of as “normal.” The etymology of this word would appeal to the Freemason as the Latin origin normālis is from the carpenter’s square, the nōrma, but has grown to be understood as conforming to a type, standard or pattern. If examined, we might be surprised at just how unusual this perceived normal of 2019 was. A decade earlier, the first Android smart-phones were coming onto the market a couple of years after the slightly earlier but highly expensive iPhone. Today, virtually all active members of society carry one everywhere. I am rather glad that in my youth one had to obtain a camera and film to record activity, not pull a high definition video camera out of your pocket. So where is the “normal” there? The concept of “something accepted by custom and tradition” has taken on a different meaning in the years of our current century. I was a fairly early adopter of the internet, long before Tim Berners-Lee had gifted us the World-Wide-Web, I used Cix and Compuserve, I used IRC, or internet-relay-chat regularly from the mid nineties. Windows 3 had begun in Seattle in 1988, but not until the 1992 release of Windows 3.1 did home computers with networking become available. Not until 1994 did Netscape release their web-browser, Bill Gates then responded a year later with Internet Explorer. Our “world” is less than a generation old, a mere 25 years. Granted that a mere fifteen years before I was born, England was enjoying a warm summer that would end with “The Austrian Corporal problem” one that changed, not only the world order, but the nature of Britain when in 1945 our illustrious war leader, without whom things might have been very different, was given such a sound thrashing in the General Election that Atlee was able, between 1945 and 1951 to implement the Welfare State, including the National Health Service, dramatically reform education, although that had been passed into law in 1944, it was his administration that laid out the free secondary education of all children up of the age of 15, to be extended to 16 as soon as reasonably practicable. This, of course, removed the idea of a boy, for there was societal sexism of a much more rigid kind universally in force, would leave school at 14 to enter into an apprenticeship to come of age at 21 as a journeyman worker. No-one really thought much about the girls, although the Colleges of Commerce were given a new lease of life. The industries, often heavily war damaged, were nationalised, the railways, the coal-mines, the energy and water services and much, much more. Rationing was to remain in force until after I was born by a week or two, but malnutrition became much rarer, milk was served in school, cod-liver oil and orange-juice distributed to mothers and young children. We gradually recovered the British spirit and got our industries going, but in retrospect, the Germans built new industry, we struggled on with the pre-war factories and practices. This was simply because the Nazi Luftewaffe bombed London and other cities with bombs ranging from 25kg to 250kg or 500kg, a heavy raid dropping just over 5,000 tonnes of ordnance. This caused widespread damage. By 1944 we had thousand bomber raids raining 10,000 tonnes of ordnance onto the city of Berlin every night and the USAF continuing through the daylight hours. This caused almost total destruction. Then, come the mid-sixties, the post-war world became the “swinging sixties” and Britain’s black and white post-war existence became full-colour modernity in a social revolution that lasted from roughly 1967 to 1972, by which time one Margaret Hilda Thatcher was Secretary of State for Education and soon to become leader of the Conservative party. Moving into the seventies, the country had also joined the Common Market and for many life was at least tolerable, although inflation rates in the teens of percent per annum was no joke. It was not decimalisation that doubled prices, this piece was penned on the fiftieth anniversary of decimal coinage, it was inflation, accompanied by devaluation of the pound, that brought us kicking and screaming into the Thatcher eighties where, although industry was forced to modernise, fiscal stability improved. It was now economics that drove the country not production. So how many “normals” have you lived through? How different will our post-pandemic world be? Will it be a “new normal” or will it be a new different, just as the post-war welfare state was?


I have a great empathy with a Welsh word and concept of hiraeth.” It is a concept of loss and memory, homesickness and nostalgia, but is, at the same time much more than any and all of those emotions. However, the current situation in Britain, I’ll leave the Republic and the Province out of this ramble, requires something a little more forward thinking, something less reflective. The Danes, who are quite private about their language, apparently, most speak English and German but dislike people trying to learn Danish, have a complex word relating to the concern for society being greater than individual concerns. Samfundssind appears to be the antonym for whatever moral framework drives most British politicians of the current era. They would no doubt twist the translation to suggest that the party comes before the people, which, I suspect, is far from the meaning most Danes would understand in the word. In Britain’s new and less than splendid isolation, it may be that we require a different Scandinavian concept, the Finnish idea of “sisu.” To those familiar with the web-comic “Scandinavia and the World” this is instantly recognisable in the stern and insular personality of the Finland character. To quote Urpu Strellman, a literary agent from Helsinki, as Finland became independent from Sweden, whose language was used by the state, the legal profession and the elite, and from Russia, the not-so-friendly bear that it shares important borders with, it represents the creation of a Finnish stereotype as “stern, modest, hard-working, God-obeying people who get through difficult times, taking upon them whatever [fate] throws their way. These are features that relate to honesty very closely.” Finns are too honest for the minds of many countries, especially the British who have been quoted, by Johannes Kananen of the Swedish School of Science at the University of Helsinki, as saying that “In English there is a saying that the truth is so valuable, it should be used sparingly. But in Finland, people speak the truth all the time.” I need to add a couple of riders to the preceding ideas. Firstly, the God that the Finns “obey” is unlikely to be the one that the Archbishop of Canterbury follows and secondly, a truly truthful Finn would probably question any information given by a Swede! “Sisu” describes the concept of grit, resilence and hardiness, probably reinforced by the vast rural landscape and the dark Arctic winters that control the lives of those outside of Helsinki and the handful of cities with population upwards of 100,000, cities the size of Aberdeen, Canterbury or Chelmsford.

So while I try not to lose myself in a hiraeth relating to our lost European neighbours, I suspect that a British, or possibly, quite soon, a little England, version of sisu will be required to steady our course across the dim windblown uplands as we try to construct a new type of society post-pandemic. Hopefully, one that contains some of the ethos of of the Danish samfundssind. A society where the well-being of all comes before personal glory and hopefully one where politicians will encompass at least a little of the Finnish respect for simple truth
born of sisu.

I’ll get my coat.

 It is several years since I have contributed to the Scriptorium.  there have been many reasons for this, the social and political environment of the past five years has been, frankly, poisonous and we now live in a world dominated not by the Venture Capitalist that replaced Karl Marx' Industrial Capitalist, who replaced the Feudal Lord, but by a barely living strand or two of  Riboneucleic acid encased in a microscopic virus particle.  Thus reflecting upon the fact that the Lord's economy could be run by a water or windmill, the Capitalist Industry was run by steam mills, but the Venture Capitalists world revolves around the mills and factories, not to mention workers, of far distant countries and more importantly, the squirreling away of huge personal wealth in tax-havens, it does not produce, it strips assets.  However, the world and its economies have revised their priorities over the twelve months of 2020, realising that the old order could be on the way to being swept away before a tide of newly important real-world events.  This fear is somewhat enhanced by the removal of The UK from the European Union, more in my mind like a rotten wisdom tooth than the drive for bright sunlit uplands.

It is with that in mind that I publish the following set of ramblings.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Contemplating a change of name

As I am no longer active in any sort of ministry, I think it is perhaps time to change the name of this blog to something which reflects where I find myself in terms of writing, living and all the things that go with it. In truth, the last few years have been a challenge in several ways as I have tried to get my writing refined, my books selling and juggling home, family, writing, and publishing demands. Then there is research, developing ideas and plotlines, promoting the books in print and, of course, pulling my weight around the house.

The Shelties definitely think I should devote more time to them, but that means less time to write ... A nice little balancing act I think.

So, what do I, in my alte ego under my own name, plan for 2018 and the future? First of all there is a new Harry Heron story in the process of publication. It will appear (all things proceeding smoothly) in early July. Harry Heron: Savage Fugitive is the fo urth book in the series. It will be followed by at least two more. I want to pick up some of the characters I created in A Baltic Affair and Limehouse Boys in some new stories set in the 19th Century, and I have been playing with a few other ideas as well. The biggest problem is devoting the time writing demands to the task. Sir Terry Pratchett once said that writing is the most fun you can have on your own, and he was right. The problem is there is a fine balance when one is married, has family and other responsibilities ...

So, my solution at present is to try and find a way to make more use of my blog and my website, Harry Heron, to market my writing. I hope it will allow me to use this blog as a sounding board to discuss the books and share my thoughts on writing fiction and, perhaps, occasionally to share my thoughts on other matters. For now, I will leave the blog name as it is while I think up something more appropriate. And that will now have to wait while I make a brief visit to family and friends in my former stamping grounds.

Inspiration may be triggered there!

Monday, 7 May 2018

Reviving a blog

So much seems to have been happening lately that there has been little time to attend to small matters like blogging. Certainly having now published six books in the field of fiction, and two more of a technical nature, plus having two Shelties "taking me for walks regularly", I am finding time sort of runs away ...

So, as an opening shot to get this blog up and running again (would you believe I've actually lost the email I used to log on with!), I have decided to try a different approach. The politics around the world is just far, far too depressing at the moment, so here goes with some upbeat thoughts on my books. As you can see from the sidebar, I now have three of the Harry Heron series on sale, and the fourth will be in the second half of this year.


To be titled Harry Heron: Savage Fugitive, it follows on from Harry Heron: No Quarter. The big task early last year was to finally get my fictional biography of St Patrick published. Magnus Patricius, The Remarkable Life of St Patrick, the man, took around seven years to finally reach a publishable version, and even longer to research. I'm very pleased with the outcome.


Encouragingly the sales are steady, which at least means the books are getting read!


Thursday, 4 January 2018

Destiny and Change


An article in today’s Guardian concerning objections to a seminar to be held in Oxford to examine the “benefits and costs of Empire” certainly got me thinking. Since retiring and moving to live in Germany I have begun to realise that a considerable amount of what I was taught, have read, and which is popularly believed in the English-speaking world, is, if not actually false, certainly not the entire story. That doesn’t mean I support the removal of statues, the defacing of memorials or the excising of historical figures or aspects of history from public view or from the history books. Far from it, I would far rather see their actions, or the events, examined in context, if possible with the view from “the other side” so that those hearing it or studying it, are in a position to be able to form a balanced opinion.
Far too often I hear people claim that the British Empire brought “civilisation” and “rule of law” (specifically English Common Law) to various places and must therefore be a “good thing”. That completely ignores the fact that many of these places — such as India — already had perfectly good, functioning, civilisations and legal systems. In this version, the "British" had a "manifest destiny" to bring their brand of civilisation, their order of society, their version of Capitalism and their concepts of justice to the rest of the world, and, if necessary, impose it. Yes, in some places we found no formal “civilisation” which had built roads, railways, harbours or even cities. But did not mean they didn’t have a social structure, hierarchical society or a sense of nationhood before we trotted in, shot a few to make them realise how superior we were, and then proceeded to herd them off the land they held so we could put it to better use. Yes, that is a rather cynical summary, especially as I am the descendent of English settlers in Africa. 
I will defend my view by saying that my forebears had little real choice but to leave a Britain where they had little chance of rising out of poverty, and every chance of ending up dying of cholera, tuberculosis or something else in the slums of the British cities at a very young age. In Africa they faced an understandably hostile native population, totally unfamiliar climate and soil conditions and the exploitation of moneyed “younger sons” sent out to build their own estates and grab a share of the wealth available. A short reading of the history of the governments and those “elected” to govern in the Cape is enlightening to say the least. So is a short reading of the history of the development of the exploitation of the nations natural resources, starting with the diamonds in Kimberley and ending with the seizure of the Boer Republics so as to gain full control of the gold reserves. The mines were already in the ownership of Rhodes and his chums, but their monopoly was threatened by the political affiliations and anti-British attitude of the ruling Afrikaaner governments. 
In the minds of those in power in Britain and the brokers of power and wealth, the Boers had to go! Reading how the Daily Mail portrayed the Afrikaaners is instructive, partly because it is how, even now, the Daily Mail and its stable companions in the nationalistic Press portray any people or nation they want to whip up enmity against. Raised on the British version of the Anglo-Boer War it came as something of a shock to learn that the Boer Republics actually had a very sophisticated society. Their legal system was based on Roman-Dutch Law, the judiciary was independent, their lawyers widely read and travelled. Their Parliaments were lively, democratically elected and their Presidents and presidency modelled on the US style executive moderated by a Parliament. Their Public Buildings, and their cities would not have been out of place in Europe. Some of their leading families traced their antecedents back to titled families from France, the Netherlands and Germany as well as Britain.
Yet nothing of that is ever mentioned in the history taught to those of us of English descent. To us the “Boer” was always portrayed as a caricature. A dour Calvinist, living in an ox wagon, shooting buck, herding cattle, and occasionally planting a crop when not beating the natives or trying to take the gold and diamonds away from “Uitlanders”. Ironically, cut off from the Netherlands in 1805, the Dutch Reformed Church drew its post British Occupation ministers from the Scottish Presbyterian Church, from which it gained its Calvinism via Knox! Yet it isn’t as if the history from the Boer perspective isn’t known and available, it just is not mentioned!
Reading the Guardian article it struck me that a large part bon the problem we face at present in western civilisation stems from the Edwardian view that the British Empire was some great civilising force. That we, as the British (by which is usually meant “The English”) have a “manifest destiny” to bring the entire world under our benevolent and superior governance. Since the end of the second world war, this “manifest destiny” has been extended, if not entirely subsumed, by the US, the successor western power to the British just as Byzantium/Constantinople was to Rome. In the eyes of many in the UK and the US, it is our “right” and our “destiny” to shape and form the world. In that view, the Anglo-Saxon/Anglo-American peoples are superior in every sense to every other nation and race. In a large part, reading the news feeds (particularly the rabid commentators on some of them), this slewed version of our history is what has led us to Brexit, to the animosity toward the rest of Europe, and the refusal to be “part of the team” in some quarters. It is also what has led to Trump, to the xenophobia toward anyone “not one of us” and underpins a lot of racism everywhere.
To me that is a rather frightening and dangerous delusion. One that only a real awareness of history taught from ALL sides can overcome. Thus, I hope that the proposed symposium on the study of the history of the British Empire does not simply adopt the usual approaches of “it is all rotten” or “it was essentially good, but with awkward bits”. We have to confront the reality of the bad — like the industrialisation of slave trading, the Irish Famine made infinitely worse by laws to protect English farmers, the massacres of Aboriginals in Australia, Africa, the Americas — and acknowledge what was achieved that has benefited those lands (and there is quite a bit).
What we do have to do, is drop the complete nonsense that it was all about bringing civilisation to anyone else. That may have been a side effect in some instances, but the real purpose was the control of resources and wealth. The world is changing, and we need to change too, to embrace, perhaps, a new destiny in which we recognise that there is considerably more value in being honest about our role in shaping today, and working with everyone else, to shape tomorrow. Then we can celebrate the achievements of the little men and women on all sides who endured, suffered, rebuilt and plugged on after the, to quote Kipling, “Shouting and the tumult dies, The Captains and the Kings depart …”


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Migrant Crisis

I note with interest that the media and various government ministers use the term 'migrant' now to cover everyone trying to enter Britain or, for that matter, Europe. Very occasionally the word 'refugees' creeps into a report, but is quickly replaced in all further references by 'migrant'. What's the difference? In my dictionary a 'migrant' is one who leaves one country/town/ or the land and 'migrates' to find work away from his/her roots or origins. Karl Marx argued for the 'right' of workers to do this, saying in effect that it should be the right of a worker to move to where his work will be adequately rewarded.

A 'refugee', by contrast, is one escaping a war, oppression or some other event which may be a 'natural' one such as a volcanic eruption. But herein lies the rub -- if our media and political masters apply the word 'refugee' to the 2 or 3 million people currently in holding camps in various countries in the EU (800,000 in Germany alone), a whole raft of so-called 'International Laws' will kick in and with them the armies of 'Human Rights lawyers' who feed off contesting any and every attempt to remove those who don't qualify for admission anywhere.

Let's also admit that it is also the case that our various bureaucracies are often biased, frequently unfair, and usually so 'rule bound' as to be utterly uncaring, unfeeling and pretty nearly reduce the people they deal with to a point of being no longer 'human', but just cyphers in the system. An article in The Spectator addresses several of these points, but, as ever, attracts comments from those who see only a threat to their own comfort, have never been in a position where they cannot remain in their homes, and who comment from a perspective of ignorance of the realities of the world. Many of those who have commented on the article seem to have missed the author's point completely. Stephano Hatfield makes the telling point that there is a difference between an 'economic migrant' and a 'refugee', yet Theresa May, the current UK Home Secretary, seems to conflate them, linking 'migrants' from other EU States with the refugees pouring in from the failing Islamic States of the Middle and Near East, North Africa and the Civil wars in several West African states with the undoubted groups migrating for economic reasons.

Then there is the hysteria stirred up by the British Press and politicians, about the 'siege' of the Channel Tunnel, and the migrants trying to board trucks, cars and anything else heading for Britain. This is, it must be acknowledged, in part due to the last Labour government's drive to open the immigration doors to all manner of immigrants from cultures which bear no relationship whatever to that of Europe, much less Britain. What gets lost in all this, is that while the UK goes into an almost ludicrous frenzy over fewer than ten thousand 'migrants' trying to enter the UK by these means, Germany is dealing with 800,000, Italy with another 250,000, Greece (remember the ones with the financial problems) over 100,000 and France with numbers approaching those of Germany. Yes, there is unhappiness about it, but they are dealing with it quietly and efficiently. Yes, it is a political football in most countries, but much less so, it seems, than in the UK -- which is dealing with a fraction of the numbers everyone else is coping with.

More worrying is the very point the author of The Spectator article is making with his link to the family of Anne Frank. Vilifying the refugees simply creates an atmosphere in which it becomes easy to isolate them and then turn them into an 'enemy' - which, alarmingly, seems to be happening already if when one reads the UKIP and similar minded parties and their supporters rants and comments. Another Spectator article published today points to the fact that almost 10 million people in Syria are now 'displaced', and trapped because the borders around that benighted land are now closed. The 2 million or so in camps in Jordan are trapped as well. Forbidden to work, families are dependent, children are rebelling and teenagers are defying their parents and sneaking off to join militias 'at home' because that is better than sitting around waiting for the next handout.

To those who argue these folk should have stayed where they were and fought back against the oppression, consider this; if your family home were reduced to a pile of rubble, and the attacker threatens to behead you, your children and rape your wife and daughters - would you 'remain in place'?

We should be concerned at the Home Secretary's deliberate linking of the refugee crisis with the European freedom of movement for workers. The freedom of movement within the EU of workers is NOT the problem, but linking it to the 'migrant/refugee' crisis gives opponents of such movement (and the UK does have a bit of a 'history' there) gives the politicians and the media the chance to whip up antipathy against ALL migrant workers, especially those from EU countries. By calling workers from other EU countries 'migrants' and in the same breath calling those fleeing Africa, the Levant and all the other countries suffering massive conflict or grinding social poverty 'migrants' she is setting them all up to be vilified and hounded out of the UK.

I'm inclined to agree with the latest Spectator article, in that we may have an obligation to 'rescue' people, but we do not have an obligation to house, feed, clothe and employ them here. We do have some responsibility for ensuring they are supported in all efforts to improve the situations which have driven them to flee their homes. In places like parts of Libya and Syria or Iraq, I would suggest there is a need to find ways to make the refugee camps more like functioning societies rather than a 'waiting area'. Why can't the refugees be given employment looking after their own needs in the camps? Why should this be forbidden? Why bring in teachers from the local area, when you have qualified people sitting around idle?

To solve this problem we need to do more to provide something meaningful for those who have escaped, which will encourage them to stay in the camps. We also need to look very carefully at how we can break the cycles of corruption, abuse and conflict which bedevil so many lands and are causing this tide of human misery. Only then can we hope to even begin to deal with it.

Monday, 17 August 2015

War on European Culture

In a recent post I looked at the apparent assault on western civilisation by the forces of fundamentalist Islam. The post, entitled The Assault on Western Civilisation has now received from a reader the following pertinent observations.
While I share all the views you have expressed, an additional matter appears to be the fundamental distinction between Judaism and Christianity on the one hand, and Islam on the other, in respect of the relationship between religion and the secular power. The former explicitly acknowledge a dichotomy ( Caesar and God of the New Testament; the prophets and kings of the Old Testament); while the latter sees only a seamless web. Consequently, the creative tensions of Europe ( Emperor and Pope; Puritans and the Stuarts) do not significantly exist; and politics in the Islamic world is either mimicry ( Nasser Socialism) or the barbaric Gulf states with primitive and confused tangles of religion and secular power. The static ( regressing?) societies in the ME and Pakistan confirm Islam’s stultifying influence, in contrast to the supple societies in India and China, with the capacity to adjust and advance.   
Europe’s fundamental error was to uncouple immigration from culture, because of the lazy reaction on the Continent to Nazism; and in Britain because the country could not break free from the lie of empire (when it was on its last legs) that there was one big rainbow family; and at the end of World War 2 no politician could admit that victory was concurrent with the collapse of the empire, so the rag bag Commonwealth had to be presented as a better, modernised empire. It has to added that the pretence had, of course, the most hideously lethal consequences in Asia and Africa where a premature and botched partition in the subcontinent saw a million die, and in colonies that were not partitioned ( happy families!) the massacres were postponed, as in Sri Lanka. 
As for Africa, colonialism could not have been more destructive than if the powers had set out to re-enact Carthage ( “they make a desert and they call it peace” – from Tacitus’ seems still peerless). Out of the most primitive societies in the world, 19th Century countries were carved which completely ignored organic and fluid tribal perimeters. And out of these, in turn, came independent Bismarkian states, given the apparatus of armies, governments, police and treasuries: for what? As instruments of incompetence, barbaric oppression and confusion on innumerable occasions. In the organic tribal societies the power to create harm was relatively small: the very backwardness of the societies limited damage, and because they operated in a prescriptive framework, the tribesmen were sane, whole ( albeit backward) people with transmitted codes of behaviour.

I find his observation regarding the difference of approach to 'government' and human authority particularly pertinent. Having discussed this very point with several Muslim friends, there is a stark difference in their view of 'democratic' government and that of everyone else. When teaching a Leadership course in the Middle East, I asked the students to think of some remarkable leaders in their own history and culture who provided good examples of inspiring leadership. I expected to get at least something on the likes of Cyrus the Great, Saladin and one or two others. I got one. The Prophet, in their view the ONLY valid example of 'perfect' leadership. That should tell us everything we need to know. It should also scare the living daylights out of those who loudly demand the contradiction of 'no religion in public' and simultaneously welcome any non-Christian religion to indulge in full on displays on the grounds it is a 'minority culture'.

Nor is Europe alone in the error of uncoupling immigration from culture. In their haste to prove their 'inclusive' and non-racial credentials post war, many liberal thinkers preached the mantra that mono-culture was evil, that it promoted racism and many other ills. Now they try to promote the concept of a 'rainbow' culture that is all things to everyone, and yet it is not, and can never be. As my correspondent says, it has its roots in the myth, created at the end of the war, to promote the idea that the Empire had been a 'family' and that it was simply changing shape to be even more inclusive as it became the 'Commonwealth'.

But the Commonwealth is itself a game of smoke and mirrors. Recent exchanges I have had elsewhere with what I shall call 'Little Englanders' who wish to sever all ties to Europe, are loud in claiming that 'we have the Commonwealth; we don't need Europe.' It is interesting to note that, to them, 'The Commonwealth' is Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Bermuda and very little more. Mention that it includes Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Zambia and various other basket cases and you get the response of 'Oh, well, they don't really count, and besides, they buy our goods ...' The truth is, that they don't., but that's alright, because we're still part of that great big 'rainbow family' of the Empire. Aren't we?

Almost all of the current upheaval around the world can be traced to Imperial meddling, carving up of land in order to impose European ideas and nations out of diverse and disparate peoples. This is why Turkey has resorted to force against it's Kurdish population, and why the Kurds dream of a nation state of their own that includes territory currently part of Northern Syria, Northern Iraq and Eastern Turkey. It is why Syria is falling apart, and why Iraq is ungovernable.

Studying the history of major population migrations, one quickly realises that Roman culture fell, and their empire failed, when 'migration' reached a point at which there were more 'alien' cultures in their towns and cities than those who followed the Roman pattern. Those who claim that 'Britain has absorbed migrants throughout its history' fail to recognise that the vast majority, until the 20th Century, were European and held similar cultural values and ideals. That is no longer the case, particularly those migrants that 'follow the Prophet'. To them a separation between the Temple and Caesar is unthinkable, so is any 'democratic' decision which flies in the face of their Faith.

History buffs will also know that Byzantium was not conquered overnight, it died by a million small cuts as the Arabic conquerors first learned to manipulate the populace to their line of thought, and then to accept the imposition of a new culture. So it will be with us - thanks in large part to well meant, but hideously misguided, attempts to find simple and pleasing solutions to very complex human problems.

We can but hope that sense, reason and ultimately democracy will prevail.