Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Reverend Doctor is rather more the concern of the poor to stand up for the laws than of the rich; for it is the law which defends the weak against the strong, the humble against the powerful, the little against the great; and weak and strong, humble and powerful, little and great there would be, even were there no laws whatever. Beside; what after all is the mischief? The owner of a great estate does not eat or drink more than the owner of a small one. His fields do not produce worse crops, nor does the produce maintain fewer mouths. If estates were more equally divided, would greater numbers be fed, or clothed, or employed? Either therefore large fortunes are not a public evil, or, if they be in any degree an evil, it is to be borne with for the sake of those fixed and general rules concerning property, in the preservation and steadiness of which all are interested.
From Reasons for contentment: addressed to the labouring part of the British public, by William Paley Archdeacon of Carlisle, 1792.

If there are still black-coated clergy preaching the virtues of political disengagement and knowing your place to the lower orders, their message isn't getting through to a generation that mostly spends its Sundays in debt-fuelled retail therapy, rather than mandatory contemplation of the divine. These days, elites need different mouthpieces to propagate norms of proper deference and passive conformity. How many people could even name the present Archdeacon of Carlisle? My guess is not many. Who has taken his place in our culture?

Who indeed? Anna Chen identifies one candidate - 'Doctor Who was always a bastion of establishment values when it was created just as the Sixties began to swing, but there was something innocent about it, and you could filter out the stories from the residual politics.' But not any more, she reckons in a blog post which challenges the oft-repeated assertion that that bastion of the establishment, the BBC, is somehow riddled with subversive left-wing bias:
The BBC has calibrated its culture to the norms of business and the military, with more armed forces personnel featuring as protagonists in its drama and documentaries over the past few years than I can remember, while the space to challenge the mainstream political narrative has shrunk to almost nothing. Imposing a reading of the world at odds with people's experience, BBC output not only leaves capitalism and the status quo unquestioned, it's actually reinforced. All those celebrity chefs, big swinging business dicks and talent judges constantly putting you in your place in the New Order, clipping your wings, accustoming you to taking orders...
...Respect hierarchy, genuflect before authority, fall in with militarism under the delusion that you have value as an individual. Forget the proud heritage of the post-war era where the mass of the population enjoyed an unprecedented confidence born of an increasingly (if far from perfect) egalitarian society.