THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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Of Englishness and hijab

I spent the weekend pleasantly at the southern stronghold of Clan Paine; a fifteenth-century coaching inn in Berkshire owned by my cousin. It is built partly of oak reclaimed from Royal Navy warships of the Age of Sail. No more English place could be imagined. It has been in her branch of our family all my life and it was there her father - then the owner - made the teenaged me a tifoso and today's me a Ferrarista.

My Sunday walk in the Berkshire woods

Elders visiting from the North told of a rare visit to London. Two ladies dressed in what they called a burka (but more likely an abaya or chador combined with a headscarf) got into a lift with them. They admitted to feelings of fear and were concerned this reaction might be 'racist'.

I feel sorry for older Britons. Most have strived their whole lives to be decent, kind and polite but now live in danger of being told they are wicked because they have not grasped the latest sociological nuance.

In our culture, I told them, fear is a normal psychological response to masks. Long ago, rehearsing a youth theatre production, my drama coach warned me that I must be careful where I fixed my masked gaze. People, she said, find it 'disturbing'. Another masked actor and I (there being nothing crueller than male teenagers) would stand in the wings during each performance selecting the prettiest girl in the audience. During a scene in which we stood for twenty minutes, masked and immobile, we would fix our gazes on her. She always cried. She always left. None lasted more than five minutes.

In other cultures things are different. I assured them that the ladies in their lift had not meant to scare them. I said their reaction was not 'racist', but a cultural response that the routine presence of ladies in hijab would eventually change. They were reassured. They had not thought they were 'racist' and had not wanted to be misperceived.

Someone else suggested Britain should follow the lead of France and ban the hijab. I jokingly replied that if they chose to dress in public as Superman or Wonder Woman they could expect strangers to laugh, neighbours to think them barmy and their friends to tell them so. But, very properly in a free and tolerant society, they would not expect the police to intervene. A lady dressed in hijab was entitled to expect the same reactions from her non-cosplay neighbours; no more and no less.

On my daily constitutional today I wondered how a hijab-wearing Muslim would view my advice to these elderly relatives so keen to respect her culture. Does she know that in our culture her mask inspires fear? Does she care? If she is not prepared to respect the cultural sensitivities of her neighbours, is it fair to expect them to work so hard and so fearfully to respect hers?


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Was that grandmother also one of the stupid and talentless masses?


How can the sandwich I eat today be made by my grandchildren?

If this were possible, given the continued development of machinery and techniques and the correspondingly higher productivity which will exist in the future - it would be an absolutely marvellous idea to have them make as much stuff as possible for us.

Sadly, anything we consume today must have been made in the past - I would like to ask anyone reading this to examine how much of their work has been sent back in time to feed pensioners from the 50's recently - so the real costs of our consumption will always fall on those alive today and those who came before.


If you are talking about the concerned Elder Paines, one was. If you are talking about the ladies in hijab, so the Elder Paines thought but I don't know if they were simply assuming.


But were they female?


I think we just need to define our terms. You're talking about when they were born in which case you are right. I was talking about when they were politically-active. I was born in the 1950s but don't remember them and have never thought of myself as part of the '1950s generation'.

As devised the Welfare State was underfunded from the outset (inevitably, as the Daily Mirror had the famous picture of a man who had not paid a penny in waving his pension book on the very first day ). The presentation of it as an insurance scheme was an outright lie. Yes, people thought that having 'paid their stamps' they were only getting what they were owed. In truth Cabinet Papers now in the public domain show that the election promises were completely unsustainable and that rather than tell the electors they had lied, Labour sent Maynard Keynes as an emissary to the despised (by them) capitalists in America to borrow massively. This was not publicised. In effect it was concealed in our enormous debt to America for funding WWII (rather as Stalin muddled the numbers of people he murdered with Russia's war-time casualties). This we finished repaying only during the premiership of Tony Blair. Arguably - given our current enormous National Debt - we even then simply re-financed it. 

The generations that took more out than they and their predecessors had paid in did, as you suggested, effectively dump the costs of their benefits, pensions and healthcare onto those currently in work and our children and grandchildren. But they didn't know they were doing it. Labour lied and faced with the electoral horrors of being the 'cold Tory bastards' who closed the whole sham down, so did Conservatives. Even to this day, if every elector in Britain read this comment, all but a handful would call me mad or a lying Tory ****. Our democracy is based on untruths too 'sacred' to be challenged. 

It's very hard to persuade voters of hard facts, when they are used to soft lies. But the lies are catching up with us now. The day will come when our credit is exhausted.

On a more positive note, I absolutely support your right (and therefore that of a muslim woman) to dress like a damn fool. Though I dress conservatively myself I applaud all who dress eccentrically. I am sorry to have been born in an era when menswear is so boring. Victorian gentlemen were better dressed as well as more sensible about the relationship between owt and nowt.


With respect, I think you are wrong as to which "generation" devised the Welfare State.

Whilst implemented immediately after WWII and in the 50's, surely it was devised by a previous generation-the generation born in the late Victorian and Edwardian era?

Subsequently the Welfare State was "enhanced" by later generations of our rulers, who sought to buy votes and power with our own money.

I understand that as originally devised the Welfare State was nothing like what was actually implemented.

But even as devised, it almost certainly suffered from the arrogance inherent in a generation growing up believing that Britain was, and always would be, wealthy and powerful. Wealth only needed to be re-distributed, not created.

The current problem is that there is indeed never "owt for nowt"-but people or their families have paid into the system for decades now. They therefore naturally consider that they have given rather more than "nowt" and feel entitled to the "owt". Who wouldn't?

With regard to dress, I am horrified by those who would ban the burqa-usually those who would object to being told what they personally should wear.

In England, it has always been a mans right to dress like a damned fool if he so chooses-a right I am told I exercise far too often!


The WWII and 50's generation respectively devised and implemented the Welfare State that ran up the debts to bribe the Baby Boomers that have impoverished the current generation. There are good and bad people in every generation and far more - IMHO - of the former. The single greatest evil of our time is the undermining by some, sadly accepted by many, of grandma's wisdom that 'there's no such thing as owt for nowt'.

People really don't seem to understand any more that the human lot is only advanced by the intelligence and creativity of the few and the hard work of the many. Those humans who possess the first two or are prepared for the third must be fairly rewarded and encouraged to enable that advance for the benefit of all; including the majority who are stupid and untalented, the minority who are physically or mentally disabled and unable to support themselves but **not** ever for the more substantial minority who are lazy.

I am horrified that people who look and sound intelligent and have been expensively educated (state education costs a lot too) reveal through their expressed opinions and voting choices that they think wealth is just paper printed by governments to be generated and allocated at will.

I was equally horrified to be told by an academic at a conference last year that my life's earnings were all a matter of my luck in being bright and articulate and that it was my duty to work for others as, in effect, their slave. I realised at that moment just how profound is the moral degradation of the British Establishment. They are, in effect, slave-drivers and have no compunction about it at all.

I could have told him he had a duty not to be a parasite and actually to make some economic contribution to the common good, but he would have merely sneered.

Tim Newman

I feel sorry for older Britons. Most have strived their whole lives to be decent, kind and polite but now live in danger of being told they are wicked because they have not grasped the latest sociological nuance.

Sure, but they are fast being replaced by the asshole baby boomers who brought about this state of affairs, made themselves rich, and are now pulling the ladder up after them. The WWII and '50s generation I feel sorry for, those who came later...not so much.

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