If it’s a “better world” you want, why not start with where we are in the present? Surely any responsible citizen would be horrified by the slaughter of thousands of children in Gaza, yet not one of the speakers at the recent Alliance of Responsible Citizens (ARC) conference in London, bannered under the heading of building a “better world,” remarked on– let alone condemned– one of the greatest crimes of our time, the absolute apocalypse of mass murder and destruction unfolding before our eyes.
The refusal to take this on left the conference sounding like air hissing out of a punctured tyre. John Howard was there, talking about country barn dances in the 1960s as if they had any relevance to anything except his fading memory – as if anyone below the age of 50 would even know what a barn dance was.
Baroness Philippa Stroud kicked off the show by referring to the 72 nations from around the world from which each of the attendees had been personally invited “because you are people of courage, vision and transformative mindset.” John Howard, “transformative?’’ Really?
What the world needs, the high-minded Philippa said, is a new mindset to rebuild the foundations of our nation, to rebuild – heading for the real goal – the foundations of our Judaeo-Christian civilisation. There has been an ‘’unravelling’’ of the pillars on which ‘’our society” has been built. The world is facing a geo-strategic threat rooted in the weakness of the west (cue in Russia, China, Iran and North Korea).
What we all need, Philippa urged her audience to believe, is not just faith, courage, vision, conviction etc., but the unlocking of the entrepreneurial power of business, she herself being such an entrepreneur and understanding its power to do good through hedge funds and other innovative financial practices.
Marble and concrete can’t be “unravelled” of course, but no-one stuck their hand up to point this out and Baroness Philippa continued talking into the ether until her call for “a better world” ended with thunderous applause. So, everyone to the barricades but only after the coffee break.
Ayaan Ali Hirsi was there, on the speaker’s platform alongside her husband, the historian Niall Ferguson, who stands alone on the planet for having made a packet out of academic work. When Gaza came up she declared that “I support Israel, no ifs no buts, unequivocally.” This was a “moral choice” based on “the civilisation I adopted after the civilisation I left.” Three weeks in a row 100,000 people had marched in London, not to demand an end to mass murder in Gaza as you might have thought, but “to make excuses for evil.”
John Anderson, the devout Catholic and former Australian Liberal/National party politician followed with his observation of how ‘western civilisation’ cherishes life and goes to great lengths to protect it. In the philosophical abstract, ‘western civilisation’ might cherish life but in reality it is the cultural matrix upon which its standard-bearers have destroyed millions of lives over the past half-millennium and are still ending them in the 21st century. Human nature does not change, according to Anderson, but the aggressive pursuit of secularism has taken it in the wrong direction.
Jordan Peterson, ARC’s co-founder, along with Philippa Stroud, pitched into the mystical foundations of the “better world” waiting for us if we just listen to what responsible citizens like him have to say, unlike the wayward rest of us. There is no mention on the ARC web page of who paid for all of this but one likely source would be the Legatum Institute, funded by the Dubai-based Legatum Group, founded by the investor, hedge fund owner and philanthropist Christopher Chandler.
The “brute alliance” between postmodernism and Marxism is raw power but true power serves truth and we are all beholden to “something transcendent.” What that might be JP doesn’t say or even know but he has been reading the book of Job and Job says we have to face an uncertain future with faith and courage, which most people on the planet are trying to do without needing to be told by Job or Jordan.
Channelling the prophets through the Bible, Peterson repeats their advice to discard our creature comforts and go forth into the world. Stop glutting yourself on beer and pizza and go forth (‘Go forth to what?’ ‘’Don’t ask silly questions. Just go forth’). Take your lead from Abraham, who was born into a “socialist utopia” (What? 2500 years ago?) with wealthy parents and everything provided by mum and dad.
Everything he wanted he could have until God told him to leave his comfort and basically start all over again. This involved being thrown into a furnace but somehow getting out alive and turning up in the land of Canaan at the age of 75, a whiskery teenager compared to the hundreds of years of some of his forebears (Shem 390 or Noah 892). The fundamental problem here is the lack of evidence that any of them existed but why stop when everyone is listening and the Bible is such a great story.
Even better than Job or Abraham, go to God himself –and who among this enraptured bunch would deny that God is a ‘he’? –and his message to Moses to take responsibility for himself. That’s what we all have to do, to serve our nation under God and “tilt the world towards heaven and away from hell” Peterson says, by guiding the divine ship towards the promised shore, with God helping us get there. We are all on Jacob’s ladder ascending from the earth towards “the eternal world of heaven.”
The meaning of life lies in taking on “the burden of responsibility” and at that point Peterson’s lips quiver and he almost begins to cry, as does the evangelist by the river or in a Texas megachurch when overcome by emotion and passion.
Through responsibility Peterson tells us we can set the world straight and make the desert bloom, a phrase unmistakeably connected with Israel making the desert bloom by getting rid of its native population. Peterson’s own burden of responsibility includes telling the crook and war criminal who is Israel’s prime minister to “Give ‘em hell” in a the Twitter/X message, the truncated ‘em’ being the long truncated Palestinians of Gaza.
If all this is beginning to sound like a revivalist camp meeting by a river somewhere in the American south in the middle of the 19th century, that at heart is what it was, behind the grey suits, pastel ties, rightwing think tank connections and great wealth of the financiers and hedge fund CEOs who have their fingerprint all over ARC.
God was there, in the abstract of course, hovering over the question of how to arrest the decline of ‘western civilisation’ that was the centrepiece of discussion. No other civilisation was even in the picture. When the Catholic icon carver Jonathan Pageau asked how many of his audience were religious believers, almost all the hands shot up; when he asked who had no religion or was an atheist, almost none did.
Christopher Hitchens could not be there because he died shortly after declaring God dead, God clearly taking revenge just to prove that he wasn’t, but otherwise this garrulous collection of rightwing windbags gathering in the trenches to defend a ‘west’ that is the cause of its own decline would have been his people.
US presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy chipped in but otherwise all the skins of the ARC speakers were white. Ramaswamy’s might as well have been, Franz Fanon’s black mask pulled over a white face. His solution to Gaza, as he had told Jewish Republicans a little while earlier, in accordance with the Islamic State’s solution to the world’s problems, was “for the IDF to put the heads of the top 100 Hamas leaders on stakes and line them up along the Gaza fence.”
Moral revival movements such as ARC have their forerunners deep in history, the Protestant
revivalists who took on a corrupt Catholicism down to the stump preachers and camp
revivalists in the 19 th century down to Bishop Fulton Sheen, Norman Vincent Peale, Oral
Roberts, Billy Graham and Jordan Peterson in the 20 th and 21 st centuries. Decline, doom and the advance of the communists were favorite themes as they still are, jihadism and
postmodernism now tacked on to Marxism.
The fairly immediate forerunner of the Alliance of Responsible Citizens was the Lutheran
minister Frank Buchman’s Moral Rearmament (MRA) movement, which ran from the late
1930s until it ran out of steam in 2000 and was replaced by Initiatives of Change.
Buchman believed that the world crisis of his time could only be solved by a moral recovery
that was moral in “every phase of life.” It would depend on the “four absolutes,” absolute
honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness and absolute love.
The one certain outcome of the ARC conference is that it will flicker on but really has
nothing new to offer anyone. ARC hardly has a mortgage on trying to live responsibly. That’s
what even the poorest people on the planet try to do normally. They don’t need to be told by a selection of well-heeled, well-fed and well-financed rightwingers meeting in London and who doesn’t wish for a better world than the one we’ve got?
The problem with the ARC people is that they don’t know what the problem is. Identity
crisis is not the problem but only its symptom. ARC can see the effect but not the cause,
which is people no longer believe their politicians. Young people in particular now have the
social media on their side to help them differentiate between truth and the falsity dished
out every day by the politicians and media. Ayaan Ali Hirsi twists the marches for Palestine
in London into defence of evil, when it was a protest against mass murder and a defence of
the right of the Palestinians to be free. Is there something wrong with that? Apparently
This one issue demonstrates the gulf between ARC and the young people it wants to convert to its western supremacist way of thinking. What ARC cannot admit that the ‘west’ is the architect of its own decline, through its endless wars and political chicanery, the sole source of a loss of faith in what it is and what it does.
It is striking that though Hamas frequently came up, not one person mentioned the thousands of children already slaughtered in Gaza even as he or she spoke. The ‘west’ whose decline the ARC mourns is complicit by its support for a mass murdering government and by their silence so are the ARC speakers. It is hard to think of a greater crime in our time yet not one of them rabbiting on about the supreme good and the better world had anything to say about it. So to hell with their moral responsibility: qui tacet consentire videtur – who is silent gives their consent.