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In spite of the general malaise that looms over England like a malignant cloud, there are still a handful of beacon-like intellects shining forth in the darkness. One of these is Niall Ferguson, who recently wrote an article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph in which he asked his readers to imagine what would have happened if the Heathrow bomb plot had not been foiled. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, writing in the same newspaper, has an article entitled " Alas, Civilization Is Built on Physics Not on Business Studies ." Of the two articles, Ferguson’s prophecy of doom hits the target with unerring precision, whereas Johnson’s misses the target by a mile. Furthermore, and although they are on very different subjects, the two articles, taken together, shed light on the fundamental problems facing England (and Europe) today.

Ferguson highlighted the way in which September 11 united Americans, "albeit ephemerally," whereas a successful terrorist attack in the UK would have torn Britain apart, "with the possibility of violent confrontation" in areas of large Muslim populations. He points to the findings of a recent poll in which one in five Britons stated their belief that "a large proportion of British Muslims feel no sense of loyalty to this country and are prepared to condone or even carry out acts of terrorism." Six years ago, less than a third of Britons polled felt "threatened by Islam"; today more than half consider Islam a threat. This sense of alienation is mutual, with more than four-fifths of British Muslims declaring themselves Muslims first and British second. These frightening figures caused Ferguson to conclude, with characteristic candor, that a terrorist attack could be "the trigger for the next English civil war." Since Ferguson concludes his article by stating that he suspects such a terrorist attack as being "bound to happen . . . sooner or later," he is effectively saying that England has a loaded weapon pointed at its head, with the trigger poised.

The polarization of British society into mutually antagonistic factions has forced even the most dyed-in-the-wool secularists to concede that multiculturalism has proved a dismal and destructive failure. Ruth Kelly, a senior member of Tony Blair’s government, suggested that the multicultural experiment "may have resulted in a more fractured society," thereby uttering a truth that would have been considered an unmentionable blasphemy in Labour Party circles until recently. (Since Kelly is a member of Opus Dei, and is therefore, presumably, a tradition-oriented Catholic, her rise through the ranks of the feminist-fuddled ranks of the Labour Party has always been a mystery to me. Perhaps the refreshing sanity of her rebuttal of her own party’s long-standing dogma might have something to do with the deeper creed to which she adheres.)

Heralding what appears to be a U-turn in her government’s thinking, she called for an "honest debate" on "integration and cohesion": "We have moved from a period of near uniform consensus on the value of multiculturalism to one where we can encourage that debate by questioning whether it is encouraging separateness." This is almost Orwellian in its double-thinking convolutions: Multiculturalism, the battle cry of anti-racist egalitarians, is now seen as apartheid! The comrades must be getting a little confused by the political somersaults they are being asked to perform.

Nor was multiculturalism the only long-standing Labour Party dogma that Kelly attacked. Addressing the thorny subject of mass immigration, she argued that to discuss the subject was not being racist. This must have come as a big surprise to most of her comrades, not least because the Labour Party has effectively stifled all debate on the subject of immigration for half a century, on the grounds that questioning the wisdom of large-scale immigration was "racist." How many more eyebrow-raising revolutionary revelations can the comrades be expected to take.

The trouble, of course, is that the comrades, long since disillusioned with Lenin, have adopted Lennon instead. Whereas the old Marxists believed in something, albeit something absurd and dangerous, New Labour believes in nothing; "nothing" as defined by John Lennon in his sentimentally pernicious imagination: "No heaven . . . no hell . . . no countries . . . nothing to kill or die for and no religion too." This is the new hedonism with which the secularists want to unite British society; the new uniculturalism to replace the old multiculturalism. It is perhaps not surprising that many Muslims are unconvinced by this self-centered hedonism in which, to return to Lennon, "all the people" are "living for today." If this is all we have to offer, to hell with it.

And this brings us to the other article: Boris Johnson’s cry that "Alas, Civilization Is Built on Physics Not on Business Studies." His article contains much that is good, much in fact that is very good in his thought-provoking condemnation of the dumbing down of the British education system. The problem lies in the title of the article itself. Pace Johnson, civilization is not built upon physics but on metaphysics, and it is the abandonment of the latter which began the inexorable decline of civilization, until at last we reach the level of the primeval soup of Lennon’s "nothing," or at least nothing but physics.

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