Friday, July 1, 2022
HomeNewsDon’t call him Boris – he’s not your pal, he’s a cult

Don’t call him Boris – he’s not your pal, he’s a cult

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I WASN’T particularly interested in ‘Partygate’, save as a symptom of the more pernicious evil of lockdown.  

Nor am I anything other than amused by the typical and everyday Westminster self-indulgences, examples of which have recently included confidence votes, expense accounts, leg-crossing, the resignation of an ‘ethics adviser’ (which is sort of an oxymoron) and leadership speculation.  

It’s all the usual political navel-gazing in which the protagonists don’t seem to appreciate that they are not political leaders, but bad actors in a particularly tedious soap opera. Albeit one which they force the rest of us to watch.  

The last two years have seen the Establishment sew a patchwork of trivia. The UK political to-and-fro has confirmed a disengagement from a wider global agenda. From the globalist perspective, the obsessions of the UK political classes amount to little more than a concatenation of useful, localised distractions. Some of us see that as obvious; many are inhaling the sand.  

The Field Generals and puppeteers of the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organisation smirk with condescension on the Captain Mainwaring manoeuvres of Johnson and his cohort of Cabinet mediocrity.  

But there is one question – a significant one – which has been a constant throughout the miserable tyranny of the last two years: By what dark alchemy has Prime Minister Johnson suckered the country into calling him ‘Boris’? How has he managed to generate this expedient and fake familiarity with the UK public?  

It’s all in the name.  

Names – in particular Christian names – have an intrinsic philosophical resonance and an etiquette which governs (or used to govern) their application.  

In the second chapter of his beautiful intellectual autobiography Gentle Regrets, Roger Scruton writes about ‘how I found my name’, which he recounts as a genuine voyage of intellectual discovery.  

He notices that your name doesn’t just allow you to be picked out in the world, but can shape both your response to that world and the world’s response to you. To change your name, to write under a pseudonym, to anonymise yourself – all of these involve subtle manipulations of how you wish the world to see you. Your name is a matter of constant review, he suggests.  

To fiddle with your name verges on pride. It’s a form of manipulation. Manipulations seldom come without moral and ethical consequences.  

You need look no further than the cesspool of social media to see this. People who can be perfectly engaging in ‘real life’ become proficient in the construction of alternative selves. The Clark Kent who sits benignly at the breakfast table consults, making sure the kids have completed the homework, his Twitter feed and is transformed into a malign online Superman.  

Your name is precious because it is a gift.  

And like all jewels it requires constant protection. We now inhabit a world in which strangers feel free to help themselves to that gift. How many times have you met the following? A stranger, often in a position of some authority, reaches into your private life and plucks out your Christian name. Uninvited.  

A civil society is one based on civility. Civility is a complicated thing. It involves varieties of intangible attachments. It requires manners. These are not matters easily defined, but because they are beyond the scope of language it does not mean that they are unimportant.  

The point about manners is that they are felt, not codified.  

The casual appropriation of the forename by a stranger is an act of aggression. It serves to unpick the settled order. Not because your name is private, but because it is personal. And it’s up to me to offer it, not you to grab it.  

Johnson has reversed the etiquette and has made of the entire country a vulgar familiarity. That we call him ‘Boris’ (not that I do) has allowed him to develop a cult of personality, one which masks what I suspect is a deeper dysfunctionality. It suits him that you pretend you know him.  

But you don’t know him. And every time you call him ‘Boris’, you distance yourself from the real Johnson and facilitate his slow-motion coup against the rest of us.  

So next time you find yourself calling him that, I urge you, as we Irish say, to ‘catch yourself on’.  

Our politicians should never be familiars. They need holding at arm’s length.  

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Sean Walsh
Sean Walsh
Sean Walsh is a writer.

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