Guest Notes

Identarian notes

30 September 2017

9:00 AM

30 September 2017

9:00 AM

It is hard if not impossible to express my sympathy for Neil Brown adequately having taken full note of his recent harrowing piece in these pages.

Not only did Neil temporarily flee the land of which Percy Grainger is putatively still the major composer in the hope of hearing and seeing Wagner’s sublime operatic cycle at Bayreuth but was met by the kind of idiot, ideological production which has strong, if thus far unobvious links to the findings of Douglas Murray’s excellent book The Strange Death of Europe.

What on earth will the imbecile minds of identarianism wish to destroy next? Europe’s recent rulers have already effectively sentenced the greatest civilisation in human history to imminent political, social and religious oblivion and have now added total cultural collapse as the icing on their cake.

If Wagner is Neil Brown’s greatest cultural hero, Diego Velazquez is equally way up there for me since no greater painter has ever walked this earth. Velazquez was and is the ultimate painters’ painter and I was lucky enough to see a definitive selection of his works at the Prado in 1990.

Huge queues of ordinary citizens, often with children, waited for hours in the weak sunshine simply to pay tribute to Spain’s absolute finest. The show itself was simply but very tellingly presented and I still retain its catalogue as one of my most prized possessions.


In those distant days when I still taught regularly I often gave a short lecture to newcomers to the business of visual art called Heart, Head and Hand which broke down an artist’s input into three essential areas. Fairly obviously Velazquez excelled in all three aspects and ultimately crept ahead marginally for me only through the unbelievable dexterity of his painterly touch. Velazquez versus his almost exact contemporary Rembrandt? We could debate such an issue forever as well as truly enlightening ourselves in the process. This is the kind of ideal field in which a youthful aesthetic critic could operate today – if any such unlikely person were still encouraged to exist.

Identarianism tends not just to deny that such skills exist but simultaneously paints them as utterly irrelevant and invalid even if they do. On the occasion of the ultimate interview I had with an arts editor in this country I was informed that my putative skills, even if they were recognised elsewhere, had no relevance or place whatsoever in Australia today since ‘they fail to be based on Marxist analysis’.

Probably just as well to know about such apparent national rulings. Would Albania, in fact, have proved a rather better option for me as a place to work – at least among countries beginning with ‘A’?

What then is identarianism? Happily, I have contributed regularly to intellectual journals not just here but overseas throughout my years and am therefore able to offer this brief excerpt from a recent offering by a brilliant mind: ‘Identarianism (or identity politics) has had a huge influence over politics in Western countries for the last three decades…(it is) not a fuzzy warm principle of being nice to people and treating others equally – quite the contrary. It demands people be treated unequally. It divides people into subsets, classifies individuals’ worth minutely with matrices of privilege and social status, undercuts individuals’ autonomy and discourages individuals from forming personal taste. It is incompatible with Enlightenment humanistic values. It accommodates factional interests and dehumanises opponents. It seeks to suppress free speech and free thought. Identarianism is dictatorial and dehumanising to its core; as an ideology it is riven by contradiction, hypocrisy and double-think…It nurtures a culture of self-hatred, guilt and contempt for Western civilisation even – especially – among middle-class white people…look at the groups removing ‘politically objectionable’ statues. Look at university student mobs which shout down or assault public speakers. Look at student bodies which demand “safe spaces” and ban any discussion as “hate speech”. Here is identarianism in its purest form’.(Alexander Adams in the Jackdaw, UK.)

Something extremely unfortunate has invaded the minds of contemporary students in virtually all higher levels of education while at junior levels they are similarly assaulted now by similarly doubtful and untested theories of sexuality and ‘gender fluidity’. Even quarter of a century ago almost all of such theorising would simply (and rightly) have been dismissed as insane. Indeed, to suggest that almost all Western countries have become culturally degenerate sounds today increasingly like a polite and deliberate understatement.

Another journal to which I contribute regularly contains an article this month which illustrates precisely where St Peter and St Paul were imprisoned in Rome prior to being put to death. I know quite a lot of ancient Rome reasonably well but not that hugely significant detail.

In Australia Christianity is often brushed aside now as though it were some vaporous myth or often inconvenient fairy-tale. It was therefore entirely appropriate that John Howard reminded us of a vital part of our past in relation to the vexed issue of SSM. Those with little or no understanding or knowledge of history are generally among the most anxious to disregard its lessons. Since fashionable urban people often know fifteen other people who agree with them in almost every respect they often carry an unfortunate impression that their views are somehow universal or worse still ‘right’.

Should you need a reality check, arrange to accompany a dairy farmer sometime on his pre-dawn milking procedures. Amazingly even today Sydney’s Chippendale and Newtown do not represent the limits of the known world.

Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator Australia for less – just $20 for 10 issues


Show comments
Close