Any Artist Worth Their Salt Should Abhor The Insidious, Antidemocratic EU

Save EUYO - European Union Youth Orchestra - Propaganda

The British artistic and cultural community’s almost reflexive support for the European Union and disdain for reclaiming our democracy should be a source of great shame

Like this blog, the Telegraph’s Allison Pearson is surprised that a conclave of the nation’s most successful creative types seem to prefer the dull conformity and supranational managerialism of the European Union to the democracy and freedom which could potentially flourish outside the EU.

Pearson writes:

What they really love, then, is a platonic ideal of Europe, of solidarity between friendly nations with each other’s best interests at heart. Marvellous idea, darlings, until you look at Greece. Punished, fearful and running out of medicine, the Greek people had to be sacrificed for the greater European ideal. Orwell was right. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Why do all these senior cultural figures support the rotten EU status quo when they should be leading the revolt against it? Munira Munzi, who was in charge of cultural policy in London under Boris Johnson, claims that many arts people agree with Brexit, but “they are worried about their careers and what people might think of them. They assume that everyone who wants to leave the EU must be anti-immigration”.

Still, not all creative types are too mushily politically correct to understand what’s at stake on June 23. Take the actor who said: “There’s so much in the 21st century that’s stymied by bureaucracy and mediocrity and committee.” His name was Benedict Cumberbatch.

The “platonic ideal of Europe” – that’s exactly it. Not the reality.

There are two factors at work here. First is the immense groupthink and social pressure within the cultural elite to hold right-on, progressive political opinions, and the potential ostracisation (or worse) which could befall particularly young artists and actors trying to make professional connections, build a network and establish their careers if they associate themselves with a movement lazily assumed to be all about xenophobia and nationalism.

Many of the key people and institutions are rabidly pro-EU beyond all reason. Classical Music magazine spent most of Friday pumping out endless “Save the EU Youth Orchestra” propaganda on Twitter, regardless of the sentiments of their readers about the coming referendum, and utterly oblivious to the fact that moments like these are precisely why the EU funds orchestras and the like in the first place – so that they have a guaranteed praise chorus ready to spring into action as soon as the hand which feeds finds itself threatened, in this case by Brexit.

(The EUYO is under threat because of a recent withdrawal of funding from Brussels, and not specifically because of Brexit).

Say you are a young orchestral musician and a supporter of democracy. Knowing that a majority of your colleagues, the trade publications and the key influencers with the ability to help your career are all passionate defenders of the EU, are you more likely to say “the hell with it!” and publicly campaign for Brexit anyway, or quietly swallow your political feelings and go with the crowd? And who could blame such a person from choosing the latter, quieter path?

The second factor leading to the infamous Britain Stronger in Europe letter is good old fashioned woolly thinking – the idea that the warm, platonic ideal of Europe in the minds of the EU’s supporters in any way actually resembles the snarling, antidemocratic beast which exists in reality.

I took this apart yesterday:

This referendum is serious business. So can Remainers please stop projecting whatever they desperately wish the EU to be onto an organisation which has never really been about friendly trade and cooperation, but is actually all about slowly and inexorably becoming a supranational government of Europe. And which is not going to abandon that long-held goal just because the British are now expressing a few doubts.

Right now, too many of our cultural leaders and elites are letting short term financial greed and/or wishful thinking about the EU’s true nature get in the way of their responsibility to think and act as engaged citizens.

Sure, if one buries one’s head in the sand and ignores the stated intentions of the EU’s founding fathers, the trajectory of integration since the 1957 and the imperative for further integration if the euro is to survive, one might successfully convince oneself that the EU is just a harmless gathering of countries who come together to trade, tell jokes, save the Earth and advance human rights. It takes near Olympian levels of denialism or apathy to maintain this self delusion, but clearly a great number of our most prominent actors, directors, producers and musicians are willing to do what it takes.

Pretending that the EU is a benign club with no pretensions or aspirations to statehood is ridiculous, and increasingly untenable. But even more unforgivable than that is being willing to overlook this reality in the grubby pursuit of grants and funding from EU bodies, or out of a desperate desire to appear forward-thinking and progressive.

And the unedifying sight of so many “household name” artists lining up to sing the praises of an explicitly political construct which falsely attempts to take credit for the cultural achievements of an entire continent is, frankly, sickening.

It has been claimed by some people that democracy is killing art. Others claim that it is liberalism which is destroying art. I disagree with both theories.

Though repression can occasionally produce its own kind of tortured beauty (see Shostakovich), generally speaking the extent to which an artist is not free and is required to make their work conform to certain external directives, requirements or purposes is the same extent to which their output falls short of greatness.

Real artists care about freedom, and cannot function without it. Unlike Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir Patrick Stewart, they don’t actively collude in suppressing freedom in order to protect the integrity of their EU begging bowl.

 

EUYO - European Union Youth Orchestra

European Union - United Kingdom - Britain - Flags

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You Wouldn’t Buy A Song Praising HMRC, So Stop Worshipping The NHS

NHS Choir - Harriet Nerva

Buying and praising the NHS Choir’s Christmas single is not “harmless fun”. In fact, anyone who truly believes in improving healthcare should see through this complacent, self-congratulatory piece of propaganda

It’s amazing how easy it is to be published in the Guardian, just so long as you hold the “correct” right-on, trendily left wing views, and have distinguished yourself with some suitably ostentatious act of public virtue-signalling.

Enter Harriet Nerva, junior doctor and newly ordained High Priestess of the NHS. Nerva is one of the principal architects of that sappy piece of virtue-signalling NHS propaganda inflicted on the (sadly often-willing) British populace this winter – the “Bridge Over You” single which predictably made it to Christmas No. 1 in the charts.

I explained at the time why singing hymns to a powerful government monopoly was neither a morally virtuous nor a productive thing to do, and was met with a predictable chorus of criticism and accusations of being a Christmas Grinch. But the argument against this latest piece of NHS-worship needs to be restated and expanded, particularly in light of the failure of other commentators to utter a critical word, and also because of the nauseating victory lap currently being taken by the #NHS4XmasNo1 campaign chiefs.

In her self-aggrandising victory speech, published in the Guardian, Nerva begins by declaring:

As a junior doctor, I started a campaign that united the public, staff and patients in its demand for a free and properly funded healthcare service for all.

Already it starts to become clear that this is all about the Harriet Nerva Show first and foremost, long before any other consideration. The article continues:

Since becoming a junior doctor 18 months ago, I have felt immensely proud to work for the NHS. In particular, I’ve been humbled by how well we cared for one patient in their dying days, and felt privileged to have forged a relationship with this person in the last few weeks of their life.

Again, this is boastful and irrelevant. Nerva isn’t “humbled” by anything, she is proud of her accomplishment – and that’s fine, but not when it is wrapped in the pretence of promoting the NHS, or when the fact that she gave good care to a dying patient is misused as an argument for persevering with one very specific model of healthcare delivery.

Nerva concludes by inadvertently calling the song what it really is – a religious hymn:

This campaign has made it clear that the public, staff and patients are singing from the same hymn sheet. We are united in the belief that we should have a free and properly funded healthcare service available to all in our society, one that values and respects its staff and users. The choir have sung, the public have spoken, and now it’s time to listen.

Meanwhile, the Mirror reports approvingly:

Harriet told Mirror Online: “I didn’t have any links with the choir but what they have produced is a fantastic celebration of the NHS”.

“Seeing the video moved me to tears. The context of it is very powerful. I qualified 15 months ago and I love the NHS, I’m very proud of it. And I feel getting it to Number One would bring to the public’s eye the fantastic service it provides in very challenging times”.

But this reasoning is nonsense. Everyone in Britain already knows about the excellent and important work done by doctors and nurses, and the vast majority support the NHS. It’s hardly as though there is some massive popular revolt against our system of nationalised healthcare.

Most people seem content with our current system when they bother to think about it at all, and (left-wing scaremongering aside) no major politician from any party has serious plans to dismantle what currently exists, let alone end the principle of healthcare free at the point of use.

So, since there is no imminent threat to the NHS (it survived eighteen years of Tory government before 1997, and will do so again), what is this really all about? What really motivated a junior doctor to make us endure this turgid hymn to the NHS?

NHS Choir - Christmas Single - 3

By prancing around with her Twitter hashtags and handwritten signs, Harriet Nerva isn’t just saying that she shares our presumed love for the NHS or has a strong devotion to providing healthcare. What she is really saying is that she is a better person than you, because she A) works for the NHS, and B) organised a huge act of public NHS-worship.

“Think you’re a good person just because you like the NHS?”, Nerva is saying. “Well I’m ten times better than you, because I got the British people to collectively sing a hymn to the NHS on Christmas Day. I love the NHS so much that I made this extraordinarily extravagant public gesture. What did you do?”

And of course short of sacrificing ourselves on a huge pyre as a burnt offering to the NHS, there is nothing that we can do to better her accomplishment. Harriet Nerva wins.

But this is noisy, shallow virtue-signalling, and nothing more. I’m sorry if it sounds harsh or seems unpleasant to rain all over what first looks like a harmless act of charity, but the NHS Choir’s Christmas single is so much more than that. And so much worse. It is yet another part of the vast tapestry of reflexive NHS worship which smothers Britain, and prevents us from looking critically and dispassionately at one of the most important issues in our society.

And we need to wake up, stop patting ourselves on the back for the accomplishments of previous generations, and recognise that singing hymns to an outdated healthcare delivery model from the 1940s is going to do nothing – nada, zilch – to ensure that Britons enjoy the best healthcare in the world in this century.

NHS Worship - London Olympic Games 1

It is therefore heartening to see a few other brave souls also now daring to stick their heads above the parapet and call the NHS Christmas single what it is – emotionally manipulative propaganda.

My Conservatives for Liberty colleague and Creative Director, Paul Nizinskyj, also picks up on the pseudo-religious undertones beneath this latest act of NHS-worship:

This was encouraged by a message on the music video, which urged people to “Show how much you #LoveYourNHS” by buying the single. Well, this is a concept I struggle with, because I have no love for a catastrophically flawed system of healthcare which seriously fails its patients, despite the best efforts of its frontline staff.

But that distinction – between the structure of the NHS and the people who work for it – is one we seem to struggle with in this country. So, instead of a conversation about why the NHS continues to fail the people who pay for it, we again exalted it as an infallible deity, this time in a kind of Christmas Day papal coronation.

One of the Left’s greatest successes has been to conflate “Our NHS” with “healthcare” in the minds of the British people, so that the two concepts effectively merge to become one and the same. This was a war of words, and the Left won a total victory – now, even those people who are naturally sceptical of government monopolies often speak of the two terms interchangeably, and carve out an illogical exception for the NHS when they extol the virtues of competition and privatisation.

But as Nizinskyj points out:

I’m certain dedicated health professionals would be dedicated and professional under whichever system of healthcare they were working, but the results of that hard work often depend on whether the system is working with them or against them. And, when it comes to the NHS, I’m afraid it’s working against them.

This is the point which continually eludes the NHS priests and their congregation of grateful but uncritical Britons. Yes, of course the doctors and nurses who saved your life / delivered your baby / cared for your dying relative did an amazing job. But that is a reflection on them, not on the system in which they operate.

Lives are saved, babies are delivered and dying relatives cared for in healthcare systems all over the world. Many of these other healthcare systems do the job very well, if not better, than the NHS. Many of these other healthcare systems are also free at the point of use. Very few of them are like the American system, which is always cynically held up as a bogeyman to scare British voters and shut down debate. And yet mysteriously, none of these other healthcare systems copy the NHS model.

Think about that for a moment. Every day, people are treated with love and dedication in hospitals and healthcare systems around the world, and in many cases receive comparable or better care without being stuck with a bill that they can’t afford. Yes, poor people actually receive medical care in other countries, not just Britain. And yet we are not able to even look at these other systems or ask ourselves the question whether the decision we made as a country in 1948 is still the best choice in 2016.

Why are we not able to do this? Why can we not look at best practice from around the world and strive to emulate and build on these ideas so that we have the very best healthcare in the world, rather than being satisfied with an ebbing and subsiding parity? Because of people like Harriet Nerva, and the closed-minded viewpoint of legions of others like her.

NHS Choir - Harriet Nerva - 2

There are two forces are at work here. First, there is the British public’s irrational, unshakeable devotion to “Our NHS”, about which a bad word can never be spoken. Sure, you can criticise waiting lists, falling standards or the inevitable winter crises, but politicians question the wisdom of sticking with the NHS model itself at great peril – and so none do.

And secondly, there is the growing phenomenon of online virtue-signalling, fuelled by social media, in which your political stances are worn and discarded like this year’s latest fashion, and where your stance on key social issues is taken to determine whether you are a “good” or “bad” person. Thus thousands of Twitter bios proudly proclaim that the account owner is a “lefty” or that “I voted for Corbyn”, while people looking for love (or something else) on dating sites like Tinder will often have “don’t bother if you are a Tory”, or other dismissive words to that effect, emblazoned on their profiles.

Take the British public’s “pre-existing condition” of an uncritically sentimental attachment to the NHS and add the social cachet and sense of identity which now comes from blaring one’s political views online and wearing political stances like a fashion statement, and this is what you get: people taking selfies of themselves holding up devotional banners praising the NHS, and even more people singing hymns in honour of Saint Aneurin Bevan’s sacramental gift to our nation.

It’s the easiest thing in the world to get swept up in the NHS love-fest. You are guaranteed to get smiles from strangers and likes on social media with every unthinking post and re-tweet of a “Love Your NHS” meme. You will suffer no negative consequences at all for declaring your blind loyalty to this one particular branch of government, and in fact will be praised for doing so. Just by clicking a few buttons and sharing a couple of posts on social media, 90% of the population will think you are magnificent.

But it is not magnificent. It’s self-aggrandising, counterproductive and wrong. It actively detracts from efforts to improve healthcare for Britons, and it stifles and prejudices a much needed public debate before it can even take place.

I’m sorry to be Scrooge this winter, but there’s no other way of saying this: if you bought the NHS Christmas single, you are part of the problem, not the solution.

Christmas number 1 race

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The NHS Choir’s Christmas Single Is Propaganda Worthy Of North Korea

If you buy the NHS Choir’s mediocre Christmas ditty you are part of the problem, not the solution

Imagine that a large, critical government department was gradually but incessantly becoming less and less fit for purpose.

Suppose that (say) HM Revenue & Customs suffered from major failures of management and leadership, an outdated structure, a confused remit and an ever-increasing list of responsibilities coupled with constantly changing priorities. What should be done?

Was your first thought the idea that a group of HMRC employees should get together and release a song with the hope of reaching the Christmas No. 1 slot in the charts? Did you think – in a moment of epiphany – that recording a Christmas song would in any way address the issues with that organisation, or that any public goodwill generated by the song would somehow make the various deep-rooted organisational problems and resource constraints melt away?

Probably not. You would most likely want to see some kind of hard-headed, evidence-based action plan to turn things around, not a cheesy song that pretended everything was great. But this “sing your problems away” approach is exactly what is happening today, not with HMRC but rather with the NHS. And now we are all being asked to allow ourselves to be swept up in the self-deception, mindlessly tweeting our support for an organisation – and model of healthcare delivery – which becomes more out of its depth and more inadequate to our needs with every passing day.

From the Metro:

The Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir are leading the in way in the race for the 2015 Christmas Number one, as the battle to secure the top spot heats up.

According to initial reports from the Official Charts Company, the choir’s track A Bridge Over You – a mash-up of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and Coldplay’s Fix You – is currently ahead of rivals Justin Bieber and Louisa Johnson.

But with the track leading the way by just under 5,000 sales, it’s still looking likely to be a three way race for the top spot.

The NHS choir could also receive a boost following the release of the accompanying video earlier this week.

That video is the one shown at the top of this piece.

Of course, this whole stunt is really more of an opportunity for cheap virtue signalling of our enlightened, progressive credentials than a meaningful contribution to the healthcare debate, or even a sincere “thank you” to healthcare staff working over the Christmas period.

That much is evident from the flurry of self-promoting tweets gathering under the hashtag #NHS4XmasNo1:

But this piece of lazy, self-congratulatory, virtue-signalling NHS worship is nothing to be proud of and certainly not something which any engaged and informed citizen should support.

Why? A couple of reasons:

1. First of all, it’s a poor piece of music making. It’s a bad mashup, even by the low standards of most mashups. It takes one timeless classic (the Simon & Garfunkel) and one decent contemporary song (the Coldplay) and unimaginitively smooshes them together in a way which somehow manages to destroy or obfuscate the best of both pieces.

But of course, we can’t possibly acknowledge this fact, because:

2. Second, the video is emotionally manipulative twaddle, yet more unthinking pro-NHS propaganda of the kind that will ensure Britain’s healthcare system continues to lurch, unreformed, from crisis to crisis for another seventy years. And the fact that the propaganda is produced not by government diktat but by zealous citizens who believe they are working for the Greater Good only makes it all the more insidious.

“Aren’t NHS workers wonderful?”, the video asks us to ponder. Yes, I suppose so, but no more so than those who work for HM Revenue & Customs. Both perform a vital service, and both draw a government paycheque at cost to the taxpayer. And yet we all know that if George Osborne’s Treasury barbershop ensemble released an album of Christmas classics it would already be festering in bargain bins and languishing at the very bottom of the charts.

When it comes to “our NHS” (genuflect), on the other hand, we can’t stop proclaiming our love for it. And doing so very publicly, just so that everyone else can see what a good, progressive little person we are. But by lapping up these hymns to the NHS, we simply encourage people with sinister agendas to create even more of them in future.

Thus, over five tedious minutes of this particular pseudo-inspirational dirge, we are treated to scenes of saintly NHS workers helping wobbly old people stand up from chairs, therapists teaching amputees how to walk again, premature babies being nursed to health, and other everyday scenes of hospital life. Are these heartwarming scenes? Sure they are. Are they unique to the NHS? Hell no.

“What other organisation but the NHS could possibly do any these things?”, screams the message from the video. After all, we all know that old people, premature babies and the disabled are simply thrown into woodchipping machines and disposed of in other advanced countries without an NHS. Only in Britain with “our NHS” (genuflect) do people receive healthcare free at the point of use.

Except that none of that is true. Britain is not an island of enlightened compassion in a sea of cruelty and denied cancer treatments. And precisely zero countries are knocking on our front door and sending in their experts to learn about how we organise healthcare in this country so that they can replicate our system back at home. Shouldn’t that maybe tell us something, and cause us to take a pause from the incessant, self-satisfied boasting?

NHS - NHS4XmasNo1 - Worship - Guilt Tripping
Emotional blackmail / NHS propaganda

 

This isn’t an attack on NHS workers. It’s not even an attack on the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir, even though their unremarkable song no more deserves to be Christmas No. 1 than will the next inevitable re-release of “Feed the World”.

This is an attack on our unthinking, embarrassing commitment to the NHS model, our apparent desire as a nation to worship what is in fact an immensely powerful government department, and the sanctimonious belief that by propelling this mediocre song to the top of the charts in time for Christmas we are making any positive contribution toward the future of British healthcare (beyond the admittedly welcome charitable donation).

We can sing songs about the NHS until we are blue in the face (and the number of songs is growing – how long until they coin an official anthem?), but it will do nothing to change the fact that a centralised model of state-funded and state-delivered healthcare designed in the post-war 1940s is highly unlikely to be the optimal solution in the year 2015.

Singing songs in praise of Aneurin Bevan’s rusting creation will do nothing to address the cold, hard truth that rising life expectancies and the continual developments of new, expensive treatments can only be tackled by an unreformed NHS if there are immediate, dramatic increases in personal taxation. For everyone, not just the Evil Bankers, of whom there are sadly not enough.

But sure, let’s make the NHS Choir song the number 1 Christmas single. Then let’s all sit back and smugly reflect on what right-on, progressive people we are for spurning Simon Cowell’s latest manufactured hit-by-numbers offering in favour of doctors and nurses who sing in their spare time. Let’s keep pretending that we alone, of all nations, stumbled upon the optimal way to deliver top quality healthcare to a growing, ageing population, back when we were still digging ourselves out of the rubble of World War 2.

It’s ironic. The NHS Choir is warbling away about “trying to fix” us this Christmas, when it is hagiographic stunts like this which mean we may never summon the political will required to fix (or replace) the NHS.

NHS Worship - London Olympic Games 1

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