Barbary slaves Square

Reparations Now! – reveals induced guilt is theft

MY SLOGAN for all parties in the forthcoming General Election, other than Scotland’s current ruling one, is this: “SNP? No thanks, I’d rather have the rule of law.”

The problem which this election has revealed is that no party advocates the rule of law as a specific social virtue, even though it underpins almost everything legal that happens in a free society. Without coherent court, police and legal systems, you either have anarchy or tyranny. There is no third way.

I mention this also in the context of the Horizon scandal relating to the Post Office. If the Inquiry is anything to go by, the figure who emerged as the most repulsively self-righteous person involved, was Mrs Paula Vennells, the now disgraced head of the organisation.

That is not just because of what she did, but the sort of person that she is. In one sense, she is like Mrs Murrell-Uddingston of evil memory. Both were reduced by consciousness of failure to blubbing in public in circumstances which bear comparison with Hitler’s famous breakdown on 22 April 1945 in the Führerbunker in Berlin.

That was described by Gerhardt Bolt, an eyewitness, in Hitler’s Last Days. “It is all over. The war is lost. I shall shoot myself,” Hitler blurted out while “he sobbed like a small child… For almost five minutes the [generals] watching stood in bewildered silence.” (p. 122, Sphere edition) Self-pity had finally defeated self-righteousness.

Much the same happened to Mrs Murrell-Uddingston—or Muddingston for short—on the witness stand at the Covid Inquiry when cross-examined by Jamie Dawson KC and brought face-to-face with her own self-righteous hubris. Equally hubristic was the approach of Paula Vennells to the victims of the Horizon software in sub-post offices. She, too, burst into tears when confronted with the results of her own egocentricity.

Both women’s hanky time was, I suspect, provoked by the inner consciousness of the principle of reciprocity which, in a free society, can never be suppressed. It destroyed their previously impenetrable self-confidence. Reciprocity between the rulers and the ruled is the core information flow which tyrants try to destroy and which the rule of law exists to preserve.

A final point on the twa corbies: Mrs Muddingston at least had the grace to be nasty to people she considered enemies of her dream of universal power forever, whereas Mrs Vennells was a priest and a member of the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group. There is almost nothing in the moral universe more ugly than holy people promoting unholy schemes. Ordinary people who lose their moral compass are usually more to be pitied than condemned but those who know the rules yet continue to behave like tyrants ought to be committed for life to a closely guarded asylum.

I say all this because the book under review is a Vennells-like tract in which the self-righteousness of the author causes him to lose all sense of reality. Britain’s Slavery Debt: Reparations Now! was written by Michael Banner. He is, like Vennells, an Anglican priest but he is also Fellow of, and Director of Theological Studies at, Trinity College, Cambridge. He has sat on a hundred committees with titles like Ministry of Defence Scientific Advisory Committee on the Medical Implications of Less-Lethal Weapons. Most involve environmental or quasi-medical ethics of some sort. For ten years, he was Director of the Genomics Forum and Professor of Ethics and Public Policy in Life Sciences in the School of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, University of Edinburgh.

You get the picture: Banner a brainy specimen whose virtue shines in committee.  Yet he has managed to produce one of the stupidest books I have ever read. I did so only out of curiosity about the subject, which is the “moral” case for massive reparations for one aspect of past slavery. Banner gives vent to the completely mad idea that morality should govern British foreign policy in isolation from the rest of the world. Like F.E. Smith (Lord Birkenhead), it could be said of him that his brains have gone to his head.

Banner is a cocky speaker and, both in person and in his book, he radiates the type of perverted moral certainty that led Paula Vennells to perdition, and would get Ms Muddingston past the Devil’s bouncers too if she had a moral centre to pervert. Perhaps it is that rather blank certainty which has resulted in the one unquestionable virtue of Banner’s book—beyond the always excellent production by Oxford University Press—which is that it is clearly and concisely written (only 160 small pages). A fast reader could get through the whole thing in the course of a single decent traffic jam on the A9.

Banner’s headline conclusion is that Britain should pay to the often corrupt governments of the Caribbean between £105 and £250 billion (p. 117) in order to wipe the slate clean of our collective guilty over chattel slavery and its effects from the seventeenth century to now. According to the IMF, this is approximately three times the current GDP of all Britain’s former colonies in that area.

Banner assumes that this money will be paid out of general taxation, which would mean that my neighbours, a Latvian married to a Moldovan, will help pay Britain’s debt, as will all recent immigrants from—yes, you guessed it!—the Caribbean. I doubt even Paula Vennells at the height of her pomp and hubris would dream up a scheme as idiotically counter-productive as that.

Nonetheless, £200-odd billion seems paltry when compared with the sum computed by two Americans as owing to African Americans by their own government for the “cumulative economic effects of white supremacy”. On their figures, Banner concludes that the total owed to “10 million black households” for “reparations” is “$7.95 trillion—which, just to be clear is $7,950,000,000,000, or, in UK terms, £6,600 billion ($7,950 billion).” (p. 108)

That implies a payment of $795,000 to each of the 10 million households currently considered “black” in the US. Since that is supposed to cover all the wrongs visited on African American by whites since the first slave was brought over from Angola in 1619 (in a Portuguese ship and sold by Dutch sailors at Jamestown, an English colony), that too seems to me a pitifully small sum.

Recently, the journalist E. Jean Carroll’s reputation was valued by a US court at $83 million, which Donald Trump has to pay as a result of some disobliging things he said about her after she alleged he had raped her. In that context alone, $795,000 for due to an entire family seems laughable, mean, almost immorally so.

The 12 million blacks who were transported to post-Pocahontas America lost a great deal more than their reputations—and many were actually raped. The same applies to their children and descendants who suffered equally. If there were 100 million people affected, and if you value their lives at the price of E. Jean Carroll’s reputation, you come to a sum of $8.3 quadrillion, which is almost as much as it will finally cost the Scottish taxpayer to finish the two Port Glasgow ferries.

The madness of Banner’s attempt to reduce the moral damage done in the past to money compensation in the present is an example of the revolting moral authoritarianism of the “woke” left in modern Britain. Banner appears to have a serious “left hemisphere” problem, to put it in McGilchristian terms. He is unable to see the context, even when he quotes it himself. For example, he says “in 1785, 75% of the world’s population was enslaved in some form or other.” (p. 128) Yet he makes no argument in defence of his own position that only Britain should pay, and only the Caribbean should receive compensation.

What about those who enslaved the Africans that were sold to the salve traders? What about the other Africans who were enslaved but not sold? What about the native Americans who kept each other in slavery, or who bought Negro slaves? What about Arab slavery in east Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East? What about the Barbary corsairs’ use of European slaves? (Illustrated above.) What about Russian serfdom, which was tantamount to slavery after Peter the Great? What about China and the Far East? Come to think of it, what about the Nazis, the Gulag, or even Mauritania today…?

These issues seem to pass Banner by. He is only interested in our guilt, that is in people he can force into hardship in order to achieve personal moral spotlessness. How very Protestant of him!

I make the point about self-obsession because the drive for power over others, which is the impulse that animates slavery in general, is a peculiarity of people like Banner, just as much as it is of the Reverend Paula Vennels and the Non-Reverend Nojob Muddingston. They cannot enslave citizens of a democracy so they resort to moral aggression. This is a feature of the “woke” aristocracy, a fact which is illustrated in the deeply bogus, “climate change” debate.

It is a “chiel that winna ding” that China, India, the Third World generally, along with many of the Catholic countries in Europe, South American and elsewhere, do not accept the lies behind the invented “crisis” surrounding global warming. Essentially, this is a Protestant cultural issue, with guilt and gross egotism at the back of it—vide Great Thunberg, the twenty first century’s Private Frazer: “We’re all doomed, Capt. Mainwaring.”

Michael Banner is a guilt inducer, a kind of woke-worthy rain-maker. It is his sort who persuade governments in countries with a Protestant cultural hinterland to vote enormous sums of your money and mine in order to assuage his own sense of guilt. Reciprocity is the opposite of imposed guilt. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon said “all property is theft”; Hamish Gobson says “induced guilt is theft.”

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Hamish Gobson lives on the Hebridean isle of Great Todday (Todaidh Mór) and features in Nicola Sturgeon: the Years of Ascent (1970-2007) – A Citizen’s Biography of a Driven Woman in a Drifting Parliament (Ian Mitchell, 2022) – available on Amazon and also reviewed here by Tom Gallagher.

Also written by Ian Mitchell is The Justice Factory (second edition): Can the Rule of Law Survive in Twenty-First Century Scotland? which considers the future of liberal democracy, taking Scotland as an example.

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Photo ‘The Slave Market’  (1910) by Otto Pilny – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57412164

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