Shedding Enlightenment

Ron, run and reason.

Patrick West
Columnist

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Wrong on Ron

The language police have been in robust form in recent days. Newspaper proprietor Richard Desmond has been castigated for making some ‘jokes’ about the Germans; the English National Opera has informed staff not to call each other ‘darling’, for fear of causing offence; the campaign to deport Abu ‘Captain Hook’ Hamza has stepped up a gear; and most notoriously, football pundit Ron Atkinson has lost two jobs after being overheard making a racist remark about one of Chelsea’s black players.

It’s interesting to note that in our current ‘war on terror’, which ostensibly aims to protect cherished Western values, the principle of freedom of speech is being treated with increasing contempt. I have no reason to defend the aforementioned collection of berks, bigots and clowns, other than that people should have the right to say stupid things. The reaction to their utterances has been over-the-top, and in the case of Atkinson, somewhat sinister.

‘The Ron Atkinson case is a good example of how anger can reveal prejudice’, said Dr Nilanjana Dasgupta of the University of Massachusetts. ‘Everybody can be Ron Atkinson under the wrong circumstances.’ Conveniently, Dr Dasgupta and a colleague at Northeastern University have recently finished a study examining subconscious prejudice. No prizes for guessing their conclusion. Of course, we are all subconsciously racist.

This is both a true and meaningless conclusion. The subconscious is a repository of forbidden thoughts – thoughts that we rightly try to block out. For instance, lots of people have dreams about incest. This does not mean they literally want to have sex with members of their family; it merely indicates that the dark recesses of the mind are working overdrive, filtering out that which our conscious mind knows to be wrong. Similarly, people who are scared of heights often explain that they do not like being at the top of buildings or bridges because they fear that in a moment of unreason they will hurl themselves to the ground. This does not mean that they are ‘institutionally suicidal’; they are merely a bit neurotic.

It was interesting to see that of the few characters who came to Atkinson’s defence, they were overwhelmingly black people who knew him. The ever-erudite Garth Crooks was spot on when he pointed out that Atkinson’s ostensibly racist remark was inconsistent with his admirable non-racist track-record – Atkinson being renowned for promoting black players in the 1970s.

Football is an ultra-masculine and highly competitive discipline, in which players get into a habit of uttering anything that they know will upset their opponent, or put him off-guard. Ron’s outburst, as Crooks pointed out, was the product of this culture. To say Atkinson’s words reveal deeply felt racism that beats in the heart of all white Britons is akin to saying that someone who has a heated argument with their sister or mum and calls her a slag is ‘institutionally sexist’. In the heat of the moment, people will utilise that which they know their adversary (face-to-face or not) will find most hurtful. After that moment has passed, you apologise for something you literally did not mean to say.

What is more, the way this whole Atkinson hoo-ha has been whipped up by people in the press (most of whom know nothing about football) gives the impression that football remains today a hornets’ nest of racism, when people who actually go to games will tell you the opposite. If you went to a game in the 1980s and started a racist chant, depending on which ground you were at there was a good chance you would get fellow fans joining in. Try the same today and you will be rounded on by fellow supporters telling you to shut your mouth.

The over-hyped reaction to Atkinson’s words will serve only to deter ethnic minorities from coming to games. It is thus counterproductive. But then again, this wouldn’t be the first time professional ‘anti-racists’ have served only to keep us all in a state of fear.

Run, don’t walk

I see one of the latest popular gadgets is a pedometer, which measures how many steps you take in a day. My mum has recently got one, and I think it’s a good idea, being a keen walker myself.

My only worry is that it’s not the kind of thing you should be seen wearing in Portsmouth or areas of South Wales. Running, rather than walking, would be the order of the day if you got caught by a mob screaming ‘paedo’ at you.

Shedding Enlightenment

This will be my last regular column for spiked. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank readers for their kind, and often unkind, words. My gratitude also goes out to the people that write spiked for letting this old reactionary humanist share his prejudices (surely ‘opinions’? – Ed) with a wider audience.

spiked often confounds people who are capable only of comprehending issues purely in terms of Left v Right – which is probably why it occasionally encourages elements in the UK press to make barmy and conspiratorial accusations about it. But I think its philosophy is simple, and it can be summarised in one phrase: the Enlightenment.

In our postmodern era, characterised by nihilism, relativism, miserablism, self-pitying identity politics and an all-pervasive mood of misanthropy, it is more important than ever to resurrect the sunny, optimistic spirit of the Enlightenment, a movement whose fruits have proved so bountiful.

In my mind, spiked stands for reason, progress, for bettering the human race, for elevating rational thought above emotionalism. Thus it is not contradictory that someone like myself, a right-wing libertarian, can share a platform with left-wing libertarians. If I may sound pretentious, we are all children of Voltaire. And if you can’t understand that, then frankly you’re a bit of a thicky.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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