6 MAY 1972, Page 8

On loyalty and betrayal

Enoch Powell

This is a most curious book.* Indeed, as the reader wrestles with it, he begins to wonder if it is, in the usual sense, a book at all. Mr Young, I feel, really belongs with the epigrammatists, from La Roche foucauld to Nietzsche, who made books composed entirely of aphorisms, linked only by reflections which the reader himself could supply musingly, if he were so minded. It is possible, with satisfactory results, to take almost any page or paragraph in this book and break it down into epigrams which stand on their own two feet.

Mr Young has thought deeply about something which millions mutely feel that they perceive: the loss of ' loyalty,' that is, of instinctive cohesion — social, national and culture. He has gone in search of a definition of this phenomenon and attempted to describe it and assign its causes. Many facets of the description are immediately recognisable, and many reflections on possible explanations are penetrating. If the reader does not expect to read the book from cover to cover and be left with a case clearly and consecutively argued out, he will not be disappointed. One of the recurrent themes is the danger and untruthfulness of universals, such as 'man,' 'morality,' freedom.' We have substituted, the author claims, the universals for the particulars: At times we find it impossible to recognise in the words what we feel in our hearts. So far we have coped with the resultant errors largely because of the acceptance in daily usage of the shared European inheritance of custom. There is only the one basic conceptual relationship, that between subject and object as it has been evolving in its specifically Western context.

So the man in the street senses that good and bad have somehow been stood on their heads. A notion of good should bind people—as the word religio implies. It should not separate them. The good ought to mean loyalty. [My italics] Propositions to this effect provide a connecting link between many of the forms which contemporary bewilderment and the breakdown of ' loyalty ' take; for example, the notorious gap on such subjects as immigration and 'race relations,' between the actions and language conventionally approved and imposed by the elite and the media, and on the other hand the realities as perceived in practical terms by the mass of people; or again, the ludicrous contrast between the theory and professions of the United Nations and the actual motives and behaviour which these conceal; or yet again, the whole modern experience of Western Europe in its relations with Asia and Africa — the phenomena of liberation which mocks its authors and of democracy which refuses to take root.

Mr Young asserts that the African, the Asian and the Russian kinds of order (or loyalty ') are essentially different from the European (" the pattern of ideas which delimited European civilisation will not emerge in a second identical form in any time-scale left to civilised humanity "). His aphorisms are at their best in pointing the contrasts: The impact of the Western world may have made Africans more self-consciously and assertively African, but that does not mean that they will find a new satisfying identity in Western verbal concepts.

Asians are subjectively at rest, while with our concern for objects we are objectively not free. As the ideas to which we have shackled ourselves break up, we too shall be dispersed while Asians remain themselves.

Our long-term assessments of Russia's likely future are clouded by our determination to prevent the political dogma of liberalism being submitted to the tests of fallibility.

All this tends towards a predictable conclusion: coherence and 'loyalty' can only be regained within "the shared European inheritance of custom" and can only evolve for us in their " specifically Western context." These are the classic Tory notions; and they bring Mr Young face to face at the end with the classic impasse of Toryism — that what can only evolve cannot, by the same token, be deliberately contrived or prescribed, and that once the magic spell of 'custom' has been broken, there is no known counter-spell which can be pronounced to recreate it. Whether and, if so, in what way coherence and 'loyalty will knit again, is not able to be known or anticipated. The individual who perceives, or thinks he perceives, what is being lost or betrayed does the utmost of which he is capable simply by uttering that perception: he has no foresight or control of the consequences.

This is why it is a pity that Mr Young (or his publishers, perhaps) thought that such a book must end with an optimistic chapter, and with optimistic bathos: Over a century and a half of British history, the Conservative Party has found that once in office it can look to a decade or more of power if its leaders prove themselves as administrators. They have now to be something more. Opportunity is given them to create the institutions within which human attributes can be the stabilising factors in change, when one man in his life can play many parts and serve his fellow-lieges with human loyalties.

That would do very well for the winding-up speech of the chairman at a Sunday half-day CPC conference upon some such original theme as Whither Britain?' or Forward into the 'Seventies.' Mr Young has no business with it, and it is not worthy of anybody who has the courage and perception to write this: Without realising it, Western Europe has reversed the whole proces by which we have advanced from tribe to Rechstaat; and when the wretched British Monarch is obliged by her Ministers to stand up in Westminster and repeat her lesson that we should all become citizens of the world [UN Twenty-fifth Anniversary Celebration in Westminster Halll, she is committing an act of betrayal as heinous as that of King Charles against those who trusted him: for her Coronation Oath requires her to maintain the laws and customs of the land.

*Who is my Liege? Loyalty and Betrayal in Our Time George K. Young (Brian Gentry E3)