Syntagma Digital
Editor, John Evans

DIARY: Hannan’s Brexit, Modern yuck, What Brussels should know, Advice to the BBC, Poppycock Watch: The Anarchy of Clegg, Profundity of the Week: Bertrand Russell

New helterskelter lookout on Exeter’s Canal Basin

If the Prime Minister needs a blueprint for British withdrawal from the European Union — and he will at some stage — Daniel Hannan has provided the outlines of one on his Telegraph blog: Switzerland is a more attractive model than Norway, but Britain could do better than either

Here’s a short series of extracts from the piece:

[I]t doesn’t seem to be getting through to the BBC or, indeed, to Number Ten [that] almost no British Eurosceptic wants to copy Norway. Our preferred model – with some adjustments – is Switzerland. … Both enjoy full access to the EU’s single market without being part of the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy, the European Court, Commission or Parliament, the shared jurisdiction in the fields of justice and home affairs or the Common Foreign and Security Policy. … But there is a difference. Norway is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) while Switzerland is not. … Norway has had to impose more than 5,000 EU legal acts since 1992. Yet Britain, over the same period, had to apply more than 3,000 every year. … Last year, the Swiss, in population terms, sold four-and-a-half times as much to the EU from outside as [Britain] did from inside. … [The] Swiss offer a useful template.

Beef that up and we have a realistic plan. If the EU gives that deal to the Swiss, they must surely allow much more powerful Britain the same menu.

They will only refuse it to a weak and tentative government and a Foreign Office with a tendency to cave in. A strong, single-minded leader is essential.

Is Dave up to the job?

* * * * *

Anish Kapoor has a lot to answer for.

His lacklustre helterskelter “sculpture,” which dominated the Olympic Park during the games this summer, seems to be spawning copycat versions.

The refurbishment of Exeter’s historic Canal Basin which was promised to be in keeping with its past, has now sprouted what seems to be a lookout point (see picture above) modelled on the aforementioned.

For many of us, the Kapoor monstrosity was in the tradition of most modern art: Tracey Emin’s incomprehensible scrawls and Damien Hirst’s self-indulgent grotesques — his giant pregnant woman with sliced open stomach on Ilfracombe’s seafront is one to avoid.

Kudos then to the BBC’s Arts Editor Will Gompertz for blowing the whistle on the whole gigantic con trick, from Nicholas Serota at the Tate to the rabble of the “modern art” school.

* * * * *

What advice can we find for Brussels and its current woes? Miguel Ruiz is the man.

We each have a personal myth, a story which builds gradually from our parent’s stories, our cultural myth, and many other factors. In this story, we are the main character, other people are secondary characters. They, however, have their own stories, which are usually radically different from ours.

Society is built on resolving the clash of these personal myths. Civilizations are constructed to preserve collective and national myths. When powerful people’s inner stories meet in dissent, whole continents can dissolve into war.

Such is the power of our personal story. Most people are not in command of their story because it’s formed from a ragbag of inherited ideas, and pressures from all manner of influences. This leads us to devalue ourselves and splits us from our essential authenticity.

That is the thesis of Miguel Ruiz, a Mexican doctor and surgeon, who grew up in the tradition of the Toltecs. In his book, The Voice of Knowledge, he distils it into four principles, or agreements, as he prefers to call them. At first sight, they could be taken for a boy scout’s creed : tell the truth, don’t take things personally, don’t jump to conclusions, and do your best. But this would be to miss the point. Used as talismans of action, the Four Agreements become a powerfully transformative path to happiness and success.

1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.

Strongly recommended to all members of the Brussels autocracy.

* * * * *

Who mediates the media? The answer is, in almost all cases, the zealots.

Zealots have a long history. You may remember them from the New Testament. Whatever the purpose, there is always zealotry in there somewhere.

Far from history being driven by “the economy, stupid”, as the Marxist zealots insist, it is in fact powered by all manner of zealousness.

Now, there is nothing wrong with some elements of zeal per se. Without enthusiasm there would be no progress, and probably no fun either. But we must distinguish between zealotry and enthusiasm. The latter is harmless, the former has an unbreakable intent.

Since the media — especially television — will not tolerate anyone who is dull or superficially uninteresting, the zealots have a head start in the race to be media performers, and even controllers of the pipes.

That brings us on to what a zealot does and why zealotry is bad for us.

The present zealotry can be summed up in a few words and phrases: “BBC”, “European Union”, “New Labour”, “carbon footprint”, “green”, “climate change”. Even religion has become the possession of zealots the world over.

Zealots rule. They mediate us from their positions in the media, religion, politics, education and much of current discourse.

If we refuse to follow their harsh prescriptions, they have ways of subtly ostracizing us from society, with weasel words like “right wing”, “eccentric” (once a noble estate in England), “Extremist”, “not one of us”.

In the age of an overwhelmingly powerful media, especially the BBC, we must learn to mediate ourselves or become slaves of the new zealotry.

* * * * *

Poppycock Watch
The “Anarchy” was a period in the Middle Ages when the throne was bitterly contested by the Empress Matilda and her relative, Stephen of Blois — often cited as the “worst Monarch in English history.”

The long conflict between 1135 and 1153 originated in a crisis of succession at the end of the reign of Henry I, when the King’s only legitimate son died. Both Stephen and Matilda held the crown before being toppled in bloody fighting.

The long, bitter civil war of attrition between the forces of the two rivals laid waste the countryside and forced most of the population into grinding poverty. For a vivid description of “the Anarchy”, the Cadfael books give an excellent account of the period, as good fiction often does.

Why is this relevant now? Because ultra-wet David Cameron has given in to Nick Clegg over the Act of Succession. If William and Kate’s first child is a girl, she will become Queen.

Most of Clegg’s grandiose projects eventually unravel, so it’s no surprise that this one is already. Mini civil wars are breaking out in country houses across Britain where the eldest child is a girl. They are demanding that they should inherit the family fortune ahead of their younger brothers, overturning centuries of law.

It will not end well. There will be blood spilt over the profiteroles.

Dave’s impetuous nature and his unthinking attempts at appeasing Nick Clegg even though he has nowhere else to go, will lead to a host of consequences, conflicts and complications that are unpredictable.

It might not be quite as bad as the Stephen/Matilda Anarchy, but my guess is that in retirement he will cite this decision as the worst he made in office.

* * * * *

Profundities of the week
War does not determine who is right — only who is left.
Bertrand Russell

The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.
General Omar Bradley

John Evans

… who is the author of The Eternal Quest for Immortality: Is it staring you in the face? Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.

Coming soon: Mystology: A different way of looking at the world. Also a website,

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