By Gavin Ashenden
The link between the mad and the bad is alarming; whether it appears in either politics or religion. It ought to act as a hazard warning or a wake-up call. There are plenty of examples of madness and badness in religion, but this column is more about the madness in politics. Not because balance doesn’t matter, but because politics is more dangerous at the moment.
I was reminded in a conversation I had with a friend a few days ago that all the contemporary ‘isms and phobias’ were a response to the failure of people to fulfil that old religious aspiration of wanting to, or being able to, love their neighbour as they loved themselves.
Religion offers you a reciprocity (God loves you – if you like it, pass it on); but politics sets out to achieve it by social pressure and then legislative force. If you believe in God, you try and share the transforming experience. If you belief in politics, you try to persuade through the ballot box. The problem that politics faces is that too many people want to use force when persuasion can’t be achieved.
A certain amount of political madness reared its head during the march against the ‘cost of living crisis’ in London this last weekend.
A group of young Marxists, faces skilfully hidden by red bandannas, were led by a cantor chanting, with a certain degree of menace, ‘Ho Ho, – Ho chi Min’ – to which the marchers replied ‘Che Guevara, (pause) – Stal-in’.
It was hard to imagine where they had learnt their history. A video of this had been posted on Twitter. Were they ignorant or deranged? To remind them of the historic facts, a Tweeter had responded with a photo.
The photo he used had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960, though I don’t remember seeing it before.
A Catholic priest is bending over a Cuban farmer, who was kneeling in a simple checked shirt on the ground. They are surrounded by swarthy, bearded revolutionaries, all cradling their guns in anticipation. It was only reading the explanatory text to the photo that the anticipation became clear. The priest is giving the kneeling man the last rites. The farmer, who looked resolute but strained, clutches a small wooden cross in his hand. He had been given an ultimatum, to work for Castro’s regime or be killed. He refused, and is about to be shot.
Che Guevara, much beloved by the enthusiastic, white bourgeois young Communists in London over the weekend, had put him on trial. The trial lasted four minutes and found him guilty. He was sentenced to death on the spot, and just before the sentence was carried out, knelt to receive the last rites. That was the moment the photo captured.
But the photo captured more than the moment before this brave man’s death.
It captured the truth about political revolutions, and their homage to power. It captured the truth not only about that particular execution but the execution as an archetype of the scale of death caused by progressive political utopianism.
Did the chanting marchers not know about Stalin’s 40 million casualties? Or the two or three million that Ho Chi Minh’s campaign for a Communist Vietnam led to?
Che killed fewer, but how is it possible that these masked protesters did not know that Che despised a free press and insisted that ‘we must eliminate all newspapers’?
Did they also conveniently forget that the regime that Che co-founded was the only one in the Western hemisphere to have incarcerated gay people in labour camps, just because they were not straight?
We all want a fairer society with less oppression and greater fairness. But political and cultural revolutions come at an appalling price. It isn’t just the deaths of those who disagree, or with a cultural revolution like our present one, the cancellation of those whose thoughts offend.
It’s the way in which freedom is sucked away as force compels compliance.
It always starts in small ways and then escalates. It almost always resorts to the excuse that the ‘ends justify the means’.
But it’s the madness that often gives you a sense of scale of the coming badness.
A striking example of the coming madness was provided by Leslie Sinclair (aged 66) recently.
Leslie is Scottish and lives near Stirling. Leslie is a retired van driver for an engineering company. He is proud of a number of things in his well-lived life, but especially of his generosity as a regular blood donor. His total was 125 pints of donated blood for patients in trouble in hospitals who needed transfusions and top-ups. It all stopped forever last week. He won’t make 126.
In order to help potential donors who suffer from gender dysphoria feel slightly more welcome at blood clinics (a worthy and kind principle, though they are not going to be very numerous), all donors, whatever their biological and medical status, have to fill in a questionnaire, and answer if they have been pregnant in the last six months.
Leslie refused to tick a box on his, since it didn’t apply to biological men.
The blood service refused to take his blood.
Leslie left, never to return. Serious warning. When it gets mad, it’s going to turn bad. Always better to try to love your neighbour as Leslie was trying to do rather than force him, as the Blood Transfusion Service driven by the latest utopianism tried to do.
This kind of politics will end in tears as well as dead patients who can’t get the blood they need.