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The Plymouth Council for Racial Equality claims on its website to “value diversity,” but only, it appears, up to a point. Ultra-liberalism expressed in political correctness in the end eats its tail and becomes perfect intolerance.
IT IS HARD TO know where this is going to stop: Oliver Cromwell committed racist-religious genocide in Ireland, but for the present at least there seems to be no move to prevent pubs being called the “Oliver Cromwell.” There is even a famous Oliver Cromwell jazz festival which would probably have made Cromwell turn in his grave if he had one. (At the Restoration the English dug up his remains and destroyed them with curses.)
If there is a free market in ideas the landlord who names his pub after a controversial figure surely takes his chances that, if the name is so unpopular that people actually care, they will go elsewhere. And, after all, the members of the Council for Racial Equality don’t actually have to go to the Hawkins pub themselves. Behind a quasi-official body opposing naming a pub after Hawkins it is assumed, of course, that there is no free market in ideas.
Further, this complaint indicates the particular direction of the culture war: it is aimed against things with associations in British history of patriotism and daring. There is not much danger that Britain will start slave-trading to America again, but it possibly does need to be reminded of the patriotic and daring men in what a poet called its “rough island story.”
The Plymouth Council for Racial Equality claims on its own website, in words I can hardly better apart from their Newspeak clumsiness: “Culture could be defined as the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, and knowledge, which constitute the shared bases of social action or the total range of activities and ideas of a community.”
THE ATTACK ON Hawkins seems to be part of an attack on the whole concept of Britain’s historic identity, on a par with the decision by authorities at Winchester to down-grade its associations with Alfred the Great. Eloise Appleby of the Winchester Tourist Board was quoted as saying: “King Alfred represents the past. His image is not forward-looking enough for today’s cut-throat commercial market place. Winchester is a town with many creative artists and new buildings and Alfred doesn’t tell the whole story.”
In fact, many people came to Winchester precisely and solely because of its associations with Alfred, Arthur, and other figures of high and heroic chivalry and romance. That wouldn’t do, so King Alfred’s College, Winchester, adopted the colorless lackluster name “University College, Winchester,” in 2004, later changed again to Winchester University.
The work proceeds apace: a recent survey of 1,400 British school-children indicated one third of them believed that Winston Churchill was a fictional character.
A few months earlier a poll of adults revealed that a quarter of those questioned also thought Churchill never existed. They believed he had more to do with the TV advert for Churchill insurance — which features a nodding dog of the same name.