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The spineless generation

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IN March 2020 the government imposed restrictions inspired by those of communist China. Our rulers lied about the extent and risk of Covid because their ultimate aim was social control, but why were the majority of citizens so gullible and uncritical of this monstrous assault on our freedom? Some commentators have suggested that it was simply due to a lack of intelligence and a disinclination to question government propaganda, aided and abetted by the MSM. True up to a point, but I think the answer lies deeper. We need to consider some of the dominant trends which have infected our contemporary culture. Here are just a few observations.

As a child in the 1950s I attended a rough school for boys. Many of the staff had served in the military during the war, and discipline was strict. Granted there was an over-use of the cane (sometimes administered for trivialities) but the work ethic ensured that pupils were required to make every effort to learn. Feeble excuses were not tolerated. Any pupil taking time off school for a bit of a sniffle or a touch of bellyache was shamed by staff and fellow pupils. We were regaled with stories of courage, bravery and derring-do – such as the inspiring figure of Douglas Bader who, despite the loss of both legs, resumed flying on sorties over Germany. There were many more examples.

Modern so-called ‘education’ has become soft. The growth of the pastoral system in schools has undermined the original purpose of academic learning. Any teacher who makes demands on pupils can easily be thwarted by pastoral officials who support pupils who are, for the most trivial of reasons, considered emotionally fragile or ‘disadvantaged’.  Even some leading universities lower entry requirements for applicants from working-class or ethnic-minority backgrounds who are automatically considered victims of social oppression.

Then we also have the effects of the counselling/psychotherapy culture which has exalted ‘feelings’ above reason. Feelings have become fetishised. ‘Anything you are feeling is fine’ say so many practitioners of the therapy industry, leading their clients into total self-absorption if not self-obsession, urged to ‘explore’ their feelings by simply describing them, rather than by asking questions it is legitimate to ask of any emotion – ‘why am I feeling it in these circumstances and is it justified?’


The cult is one of myopically looking inwards instead of outwards. Not only does this tendency glamorise any feeling whatsoever, no matter how trivially acquired, it has also mischaracterised genuine and justified emotions such as grief at the death of a loved one. Genuine grief is a permanent feature of the human condition, yet it is now conceived as an illness to be treated with pills or counselling. That can lead to the demise of genuine compassion among one’s fellows who are led to think: ‘Here is a case for the experts.’

This fetishisation of feeling is rife in the media. Remember Prince Harry baring his soul to Bryony Gordon during an interview which encouraged him to emote about his victimhood?  Remember also the television presenter Phillip Schofield ‘coming out’ as gay while blubbing to fellow breakfast TV presenters and, despite his watering eyes and trembling lip, being told what a hero he is and how brave to be revealing his feelings and his ‘suffering’. There was a time when such emotional exhibitionism would have been called self-indulgence, but self-pity and sympathy-seeking is the new heroism. Sentimentality rules.

Add to the mix of those destructive obsessions the preoccupation with health. There is nothing wrong with being sensible about one’s health, but health concern is now a religion – an end in itself and the supreme value. TV doctors and the ‘lifestyle’ sections of newspapers attempt to turn so many into the ‘worried well’. Be on the lookout for this or that symptom, eat rabbit food, avoid meat, keep taking your temperature, go jogging and measure your pulse every five minutes – and whatever you do don’t enjoy yourself or take risks. This prescription for cowardice is also reflected in the obstructive, obscurantist, bureaucratic policies of ‘health and safety’ regulations that infect so many of our institutions (even the emergency services, where the ethos of ‘safety first’ can see in principle if not in practice police officers watching a child drown in a lake if the prospect of saving him goes against a ‘risk assessment’).

All those things have contributed towards a culture in which the values of stoicism, courage and independence of thought have all but been driven out, and so many people drift mindlessly with a social tide, like ‘drops within the social river’ (to use Huxley’s satirical phrase). What else could explain why so much tolerance has been willingly given to the most inhuman and evil restrictions I have seen during my lifetime? Imposed upon us by our government dictators (whose own hypocritical booze sessions gave a new twist to the term ‘Conservative Party’).  

What but an infantilised and pusillanimous mentality could have put up with being herded like cattle into a state of mental paralysis –

hiding behind masks, willingly trooping off for a series of jabs of an experimental drug and treating fellow citizens like vectors of disease while they trembled with fear? The Covid fiasco was an experiment in social control. Our lords and masters now have ‘monkeypox’ up their sleeves. I have no more than the faintest glimmer of hope that the next, and probably more severe, blow to our freedom will be resisted.

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Frank Palmer
Frank Palmer
Dr Frank Palmer is a philosopher and author. He was taught by Roger Scruton who was his PhD supervisor and during the 1980s was part of a thinktank of academics Roger formed to fight damaging trends in education. Frank’s last book was Literature and Moral Understanding (Oxford University Press).

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