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The man who saw wokeness coming 230 years ago

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WE LIVE in troubling times. Decency and common sense are overturned by the pervasive cult of political correctness in high places. Every week witnesses yet another example of its insanity.

Who would have imagined Trevor Phillips being suspended from Labour party membership for being a racist and an Islamophobe? An acclaimed champion of minority rights, he is now ensnared by the ritual abuse of the terms ‘equality’ and ‘rights’ by the purist pedants of the Left. (Why am I reminded of Stalinist Russia and the culture of denunciation of the denouncers by ever more frightened sycophants?) 

‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’ means nothing to the atheistic hard Left running the Labour Party today. Why? Because the truth is not to be assessed by reference to reality or to Christian morality, but by reference to a materialist ideology as interpreted by its most zealous adherents; they are armed with a definition of ‘Islamophobia’ designed to catch out every conceivable transgression. Ideological purity will be enforced!

This mindset is not new, however. It is in fact over two centuries old. It was first identified and exposed by the founder of modern conservative philosophy, Edmund Burke. He raised the alarm in his classic 1790 statement on conservative doctrine, Reflections on the Revolution in France. In it, Burke called the phenomenon of political correctness ‘atheistical fanaticism’. What is more, he identified ‘a regular plan for the destruction of the Christian religion’ by the apostles of Enlightenment thinking. 

Far too many conservatives today are under the misapprehension that our tradition of liberty derives from the Enlightenment of the late 18th century. It doesn’t. The English tradition of liberty derives from Magna Carta of 1215 and from the constitutional settlement of 1689 and the Bill of Rights. Yes, that’s right, a Bill of Rights was passed by the English parliament an entire century before the French Revolution and its Declaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen. A Bill of Rights passed by the ruling Establishment of a country in which the Protestant Christian religion determined the moral framework and culture of our country. A Protestant Christian religion which taught the fundamental truths of what we are and provided the psychologically pertinent and effective guidelines for personal and social behaviour. 

Today, however, our religion is Rights and Wants and Materialism. Man is the centre of a universe of his own making. Just look about you to see the consequences for our liberty and our quality of life. Ever more rules and regulations to oblige our conformity to an ideological vision of society inspired by rampant materialism. We are no longer to be trusted to police our own hearts and minds as responsible and free citizens. No, the State will do that for us and will oblige our unquestioning obedience. 

Edmund Burke saw all this coming, and he sounded the alarm in his Reflections on the Revolution in France. That is why I have published a new edition of his renowned work.

Because his original text was written as a continuous letter and not as a book, it is inaccessible to all but the most dedicated reader. I have therefore allocated paragraph numbers and created a contents page. To introduce and explain his work, I have provided an introduction, a 10,000-word summary or ‘edited highlights’ of the political philosophy he set down, and I have distilled his doctrine to three Strategic Principles and ten Key Tenets.

Burke diagnosed all today’s erroneous assertions about ‘rights’ and ‘equality’, and he describes the PC mentality perfectly. What he saw, however, was in its early stages. Today we witness its triumph and suffer the damage it is doing to our heritage of liberty. This is why I have put his work back into the public domain with an appeal to read it – and pass it on! The book is called Core Conservatism: Edmund Burke’s Landmark Definition. It is published by Westbow Press and available here.

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Ray Catlin
Ray Catlin is the editor of the Right Wing Institute.

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