Hitchens vs Benjamin
Forgive me, O Lord, for commenting on The Current Twitter Fight
I’ve always found writing about Twitter induces levels of cringe that I think should result in me being institutionalization. Every second sentence or so I pause and question whether this post is a good idea; it isn’t, but that’s not different to any of my others.
So here we go. God I hope I can look at myself in the mirror tonight.
Howling - as he so often does - into the void of anonymous Twitter users, Peter Hitchens began discussing his oft-repeated belief that Britain’s young should emigrate. ‘Far from being a counsel of despair, the advice to emigrate is a positive and practical plan’, he argued.
Lurking in the replies was the poster formerly known as Sargon of Akkad Carl Benjamin, who asked – in a tone that made me think of Keith Chegwin in Extras – ‘Aren't we simply abandoning our patrimony to communists and foreigners by doing this, though? I can't say I feel very good about the idea.’
What followed was of no interest, to this piece or to people with a functioning pre-frontal cortex anywhere. The debate quickly turned into yet another ceaselessly bobbing jobbie in the open sewer of our public discourse.
Regardless of the quality (or abject lack of quality) in the exchanges, this showed two sides of a debate that’s becoming more and more prevalent to Britain’s young. Should they stay or should they go? Many are likely to sympathise with Gaius Gracchus’ pitiable lamentation; 'Whither shall I, unhappy wretch, betake myself? Whither shall I turn?’
There’s little surprise that emigration is climbing up the agenda again. Britain’s young are giving up hope, as John Oxley writes, and ‘For the more dynamic, emigration seems an increasingly discussed option among the country’s young.’
It’s pretty clear why; their incomes are declining, so too are their chances of owning a home, but inflation is certainly not. Boomers may complain that young people aren’t interested in working hard, but the rewards for that work are looking increasingly measly. As a labour force previous generations enjoyed the benefits of historic economic growth and high home ownership rates. By contrast today’s labour force is asked to insulate an ever growing elderly population - whose earning increases outstrip their own thanks to the Triple Lock – from the economic realities of the coming recession/stagnation.
As a result many of Britain’s more mobile are hearing the siren song of life abroad. There is a whole swath of potentially mobile workers who may find life away from hearth and home more attractive – a particular problem for healthcare, where The Economist reports some startling statistics about Britain’s potential for brain drain;
‘Half of the 10,000 doctors who stopped practising in 2021 intended to go abroad (about 120,000 doctors work in the NHS in England). One in three doctors trained in Britain go on to leave the country, according to a survey by the General Medical Council. Britain has become a temperate Philippines, churning out health-care workers who head elsewhere.’
As David Willets writes in The Pinch, ‘there is no revolution against bourgeoisie values. What is happening is that we are finding it harder to achieve them.’ Certainly that is true in Britain, but not so abroad. Travelling to countries that deliver on those bourgeoisie values with fairer tax systems that incentivise hard work through home ownership, a stake in society and a more equitably shared burden, has never been easier. There is no great wave yet, but each day that the situation doesn’t improve for Britain’s young, the situation grows worse. Every day is another turn of the screw; tiny faults, minute changes, seem to make little difference in and of themselves, and raise little outcry; but these insignificant shifts make Britain more and more likely to lose her brightest and best. ‘A series of incidental irrelevancies, of a multitude of things that do not matter, and there seems no point in arguing about anyone of them individually’, as Solzhenitsyn wrote. The only question is; At what exact point, then, should one resist?’
Interpreting Hitchens, the überdoomposter, is a practice fraught with risk. You can never hold more than two of the same opinions as him, and never for the same reason. In this respect Hitchens is a masterpiece, a Morpheus with outstretched palms both proffering black pills. Regardless, I’ll give it a go; I reckon Hitchens reached his point of resistance years ago. Our answer to John of Gaunt advises emigration because Britain is already too far gone. Born in 1951, his every public appearance is imbued with a sense of the road not taken since then, the future we could have won, regret for the one we have. To his mind, there is precious little left to save and even those with those with the will are denied the opportunity to do so. He, of course, is best placed to put forward his own ideas;
I cannot side with Hitchens on leaving Britain. As I’ve written previously on Doomposting;
‘Howling into the void can’t be an end unto itself. Doomposting is vital and urgent but it must lead somewhere; it can be a prelude to action, but not a substitute. And it needs to lead to the re-establishment of Britain’s future.’
I am for staying, but I can no more side with the frankly Ostrogothically philistine reasons Benjamin proffers for staying than I can Hitchens’ for leaving.
I don’t want to make my home abroad, because that is not my home; I have no bonds of hearth or home outside of this precious stone, set in the silver sea. Nor do I want to stay because communists and foreigners will take over if I don’t; I want to share in Britain’s trials and tribulations because I need it, and it needs me.
Restoring Britain is no overnight task, as Hitchens’ entire career is testament to. The night is long and may never find the day, but ‘I know not under the blue sky, a better little spot for death.’
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