It’s sometimes uncomfortable for me, not being a traditional tribal right-winger, being in a right-wing party. In the old world, the left was revolutionary – for democracy, the ordinary working folk and the dispossessed against established elites – while the right was conservative – maintaining the existing order of wealth, privilege and authority, along with the institutions which kept the masses brainwashed and in their place – the monarchy, the military and the church. To me the old-fashioned left-right paradigm is simplistic and now obsolete.
To have gravitated over the last 30 years from the Socialist Workers’ Party to UKIP, one might expect I had changed my political opinions on almost everything. Well, I have changed my opinions on some things. On others it has been more a case of some tendencies coming to the fore while others have receded. What strikes me though is how many of my attitudes have stayed the same. I am still for democracy and hardworking people and against entrenched elites and the means by which they try to brainwash the public. I am still a revolutionary, but now fighting against a differently constituted elite with a different ideology.
It therefore sometimes seems strange to me to be rubbing shoulders in the same party as traditional right-wingers who haven’t been on this journey and have always been fierce defenders of the old institutions. Sometimes I see it as building bridges and opening myself to the worldviews of those I may have dismissed in the past. At other times I wonder just how far I can go long this road being allied with people I have some quite fundamental differences with.
My parents were, at least by the late 1970s, Daily Mail-reading supporters of Margaret Thatcher who had come to detest the moral lecturing of leftist do-gooders and lament the deterioration of Britain over the previous 20 years. Many of the issues they complained about are the same as those UKIPers complain about today, or have striking parallels. Some have made an aggressive comeback.
We were however also a non-religious, even to the point of being an anti-religious, household. My father was fond of Marx’s description of religion as the opium of the masses. My mother was interested in astrology and resented the slight from the pious that it was satanic. We were taught of the hypocrisy of politicians and churchmen who endorsed religion while presiding over war, cronyism and lining their own pockets. We enjoyed comedians like Dave Allen who could at long last poke fun at religious authority. Add to this tales of the Spanish Inquisition and Bloody Mary and it’s no surprise that my relationship with my first girlfriend, who was a church-going convert, wasn’t going to last long.
One of my attitudes which hasn’t changed over the years is that I jealously guard my right to think for myself and arrive at my own conclusions based on my own reasoning. As I said in Part 1, I do not submit to unquestioning faith, peer pressure or moral browbeating. I used to like to describe myself as atheist fundamentalist, but in actual fact I’m very much an agnostic. I’ve gone through phases of being interested in yoga or new age ideas, but while it’s interesting for a while, I’m not committed to it. While it might be appealing to think there may be other dimensions or an afterlife, scientific evidence suggests that the supernatural is just wishful thinking.
There came a point in my life – slowly around the age of 25 – that I realised that the struggle against the Church for freedom of thought was that of the previous generation. The clergy had mostly realised that forcing their religion down people’s throats was counter-productive. That, along with much of their old power having drained away, meant it was no longer the Christians trying to morally browbeat me and threaten me if I didn’t live according to their rules.
No – it was now the left, with their finger-wagging schoolmistress tone. First it was vegetarianism, then feminism and eventually the whole politically correct agenda that I felt alienated and marginalised by.
I realised that the parallels between leftism and religion at its most intolerant and dogmatic are striking & disturbing. They have blind faith, their own mythology, their own saints and demons, and a simplistic battle between good and evil. They proselytise and dream that the world will be perfect once everyone believes the same thing as them and the infidels are forever vanquished. They even have their own apocalypse prophesy in the form of climate catastrophe.
Leftism is a religion in all but its own admission – and in its failure to admit this it has even less self-awareness than other religions.
Religious freedom is a relatively recent European notion arrived at after centuries of religious wars. Previously religion was The Law. There was no choice in the matter and those who did not comply were punished. We see leftism now follow this age-old model, along with its close ally Islam, which never bought into the freedom of religion idea.
It should be no surprise that leftism mimics religion. The modern left didn’t grow out of mass working class movements, but the campaigns of the middle class Christian do-gooders of the late 19th century. Leftist morality is Christian charity and self-shame on steroids.
It’s no wonder the clergy now find common cause with the left. After all, they have so much in common.
I support the rights of the religious not to be forced to do things which go against their faith, but why should faith have this special protection? What about rights of all of us when it comes to speaking and acting in accordance with our reasoned opinion?
I find myself today on the same side as those Christians who want to put up a fight to bear witness by the word of the Bible and stay true to their traditions – those who will not turn the other cheek to the evildoer and love their enemy when faced with the forces intent on the destruction of their faith and culture. That doesn’t mean I want to go back to the bad old days. I want to stride forward to a new freedom from dogma – except for those who willingly choose it.