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Nigel Farage and the futility of British values He is grasping for something that doesn't exist

A pint of British values and a packet of crisps, please (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

A pint of British values and a packet of crisps, please (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)


June 4, 2024   6 mins

Why did Nigel Farage change his mind and decide to once again stand for election? What could possibly compel him to return to British politics? He dropped a hint only last week: he was concerned, he said, that young Muslims in this country may not share our British values.

He needn’t worry, of course, since there’s no such thing as British values. No country has a monopoly on justice, tolerance, integrity and compassion. It’s true that some nations are better known for certain values than others: the Arabs and Irish for hospitality, the Americans for freedom, the British for decency and fair play and so on. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any inhospitable Arabs, just as there aren’t many Swedes or Nigerians who believe in indecency and foul play. Cultural differences of this kind shouldn’t distract us from the fact that the most fundamental moral values are universal. Indonesian peasants or Jamaican motor mechanics want much the same for their children as English stockbrokers. They’re no more likely to be lusting for blood or genetically inclined to robbing banks than Fiona Bruce.

Those who doubt this should take a look at world literature. Having spent much of my life reading the stuff, I know of hardly any significant piece of poetry or fiction from anywhere in the world which advocates rape, torture or genocide. This is such a remarkable fact that it passes largely unnoticed. The mythical law of averages would dictate that buried in the millions of novels, poems and plays churned out from every corner of the globe, you would find quite a few pernicious moral agendas. With the odd exception like the Marquis de Sade, however, this simply isn’t true. There are no great fascist novels.

Perhaps this is because the Huns and Vandals were too busy sacking and pillaging to write poetry. It’s also true that there’s a rift between the largely civilised values of Virgil or Horace and the atrocities perpetrated by the empire they served. In the modern era, however, with the gradual spread of humanitarianism from the 18th century onwards, it’s hard to find many people eager to defend crucifixion or mass murder. You might claim that these things are regrettably unavoidable from time to time, but not that they’re inherently good or morally indifferent. This is one way in which the age of Gladstone differs from the era of Caligula. We may not be ethically superior to the ancient Romans, but at least we feel bad about it. We are aware that there can be a discrepancy between what we value and our actual behaviour, a gap which most of us are conscientious enough to regret.

A good deal of political life involves what philosophers call a performative contradiction, where what you say is at odds with what you do. This is more bluntly known as hypocrisy or lying through your teeth; but it’s actually more complex than that, because people can believe that they believe something without actually doing so. (They can also believe something while not knowing they do.) To determine what someone in this situation really thinks, it’s advisable to examine the beliefs implicit in their behaviour rather than rely simply on what they say. If I profess to love white mice but spend all my free time dissecting them without anaesthetic, then it isn’t true that I love white mice, whatever my protestations. Compassion is a matter of what you do, not what you feel. It doesn’t diminish the value of handing a coin to a beggar that you don’t feel a warm glow as you do so.

There is, then, a surprising degree of global consensus about what constitutes sound moral values. As far as I’m aware, there are no political parties anywhere in the world fighting for inequality, injustice and a callous indifference to the suffering of others. Plenty of political organisations promote these values in reality, but we haven’t yet reached the point where they inscribe them proudly on their banners. We have yet to witness the emergence of the Screw the Poor party or Put All Women On the Moon campaign, though this could still happen. There may come a time when the desirability of genocide is once again touted, as it was with the Nazis. In the meanwhile, however, vice pays homage to virtue by denying its own nature and masquerading as a form of righteousness, or at least as an unfortunate necessity.

Surely, though, there are regimes, perhaps autocratic Islamic states in particular, which flagrantly flout much of what we in the West hold dear? There are indeed such set-ups, but we should recall that one of the most regular offenders against so-called Western values has been the West. What of the atrocities committed by the British in Kenya, the Belgians in the Congo, the French in Algeria and the Americans in Vietnam? The list could be extended indefinitely. Some Islamic countries preach intolerance, but those who abhor this bigotry should try being a communist in some parts of the US or a Muslim in some areas of France (one might soon have to add: a Catholic in Ireland).

Tolerance is a rightly limited commodity: Britain doesn’t tolerate those who practise hate speech, or those who blow up children for ideological reasons. In any case, the values of authoritarian regimes are largely rejected by the people forced to live under them, which is why we witness regular outbreaks of rebellion in such places. They are a sign that these men and women are just as devoted to justice and freedom as the citizens of the West, and that many of them, like Alexei Navalny, are ready to give their lives for them. When there is no dissent, it doesn’t mean that men and women are delighted to be locked up and beaten but that they are fearful of voicing their own views.

It isn’t that some people think that mass beheadings are a splendid idea while others don’t, still less that these groups correspond respectively to the West and the Rest. The United States may not celebrate mass beheadings, but it certainly believes in mass electrocutions. The true difference lies in how we justify our values. Almost everyone objects to rape and murder, not just flag-waving British patriots from Hampshire or Sussex, but we can’t agree on why we agree on this. And this is a genuinely novel historical situation, one which would have struck a citizen of ancient Athens or 14th century Florence as bizarre in the extreme. The modern age is the first in history which must acknowledge that we disagree on the most fundamental of questions; that we shall probably never achieve a consensus on these matters; that we consequently have to find ways of peacefully coexisting while radically dissenting from each other’s most cherished convictions; and that this is known as liberalism. Ethics isn’t a list of decrees but an endless argument. Oscar Wilde valued lying, indolence, insincerity, superficiality, extravagance, hyperbole and saying the most outrageous things purely for theatrical effect. The Sussex flag-wavers may find this scandalous, but so-called British values demand that it be given house room.

“The modern age is the first in history which must acknowledge that we disagree on the most fundamental of questions.”

Farage’s targeting of the young is unsurprising, given that Right-wingers like himself have a disreputable history of picking on that particular cohort. The young, and not just those of Muslim persuasion, are more likely to question the conventional mores of the time than the middle-aged, which is why they make a lot of conservatives uneasy.

Maybe national service will get them to shape up. This is really quite a smart idea from a Tory standpoint, since many of the values which young people in Britain are wary of are military in origin. Like hospitality in Arabs, they are cultural traits rather than basic moral values. Loyalty, team-spirit, toughness, honour, character, valour, austerity, self-discipline, leadership, physical prowess: the nation divides between those like the present monarch who consider these values utterly vital, and those who think they have their origin in a tiny, unrepresentative sector of society (the officer class, public schools, Boy Scouts and so on), and stem ultimately from Britain’s repressive colonial history. Why should you conceal your emotions, sometimes with psychologically devastating results? Because if you don’t, you may betray weakness in the eyes of your colonials, and in doing so risk even more devastating consequences.

Finally, there is a curious phenomenon known as family values, which are particularly popular in the US. Families centre on children, and children aren’t supposed to know about sex, so family values really means “no sex”. If children can’t talk about it or be interested in it, neither should we. Family values means a way of life permanently arrested before the 9pm watershed.

America is, of course, an intensely Christian nation, unlike Godless Britain, which makes its love of the family rather puzzling. The New Testament is consistently hostile to this institution, a fact which seems not to have been noted in Delaware or Wichita Falls. It begins with a sexual transgression on the part of God himself, who enters the womb of a Palestinian virgin. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is a parody of a regular domestic unit. Jesus answers his parents sharply after he is lost in the temple, and gives a similarly abrupt response to Mary when she asks him to perform a miracle at Cana. When he is told that some of his family are waiting to speak to him, he tells them brusquely to wait. A woman who cries out that his mother should be blessed also gets the rough edge of his tongue. He has come, he declares, to set one family member against the other, pitting son against father and mother against daughter. It doesn’t sound at all like the kind of thing that would go down well at a Trump rally — let alone a party organised by Nigel Farage.


Terry Eagleton is a critic, literary theorist, and UnHerd columnist.


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N Forster
N Forster
14 days ago

Eagleton carries on that great British tradition of over educated smart a**es who hate their own country. Eagleton is indeed a living breathing, typing stereotype. But then, Eagleton probably prefers to identify as Irish or European rather than what his passport says.
The first thing every self hating xenophile like Eagleton has to do is to deny that Britain has any values. Even better, deny it has a culture. In doing so you can legitimise the deconstruction of society and sneer at anyone who disagrees with you. That is the process – find a word, pick it to bits, elevate yourself, denigrate others, mock and sneer.
The only thing that truly matters to Eagleton and his ilk is that this desire is continually satisfied. It is from this he gains and maintains his sense of self. Without it, he ceases to exist.
I suppose we should be grateful to Unherd for giving him the occasions gig just so we can be reminded how childish and ignorant the Left are.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
14 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

Could have titled this essay “Eagleton and the futility of left-wing academics”

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
13 days ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

The problem is he is not futile. Eagleton and his kind are a cancer

Robbie K
Robbie K
14 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

The irony of course is that he will read your comments and be delighted.

General Store
General Store
13 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

Rhymes with anchor

Pat Thynne
Pat Thynne
13 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

not sure you actually read the article – he is not saying we have no values but just that most everyone, everywhere espouses exactly the same values. Britain, for a start, isn’t one country and the culture has never been universal. All we share is an address. We never were, and definitely are not now, superior in any way. We are just rather dull and middling and it is about time we stopped fooling ourselves that we are in any way “world beating” and then we might actually be able to focus on making life better for the majority of our residents instead of pretending we matter in the world.

David Harris
David Harris
13 days ago
Reply to  Pat Thynne

afaik Farage doesn’t say that ‘British Values’ are specific to the UK, just that many on the Left (including many current Tory MPs) have lost sight of them. Reminding voters of this fact is his way of saying enough is enough.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
12 days ago
Reply to  David Harris

Many on the right have also lost sight of British values, for example Boris Johnson.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
12 days ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Being a charlatan and a conman is perfectly compatible with being British. Nobody saying that British people can’t have people who behave badly. However it is simply j
absurd to suggest that the values the developed in this country over centuries are the same as for example those of the Chinese or Muslim States.

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
13 days ago
Reply to  Pat Thynne

he is not saying we have no values but just that most everyone, everywhere espouses exactly the same values.

Why, of course they do! Which is why every country in the world is run on the same principles and values, and there is no conflict, anywhere!

David Giles
David Giles
12 days ago
Reply to  Pat Rowles

Do you include Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, North Korea and Russia in your statement that “every country in the world is run on the same principles and values”?

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
12 days ago
Reply to  David Giles

Was Pat’s comment not irony?

Peter B
Peter B
13 days ago
Reply to  Pat Thynne

The fact that most of us commenting here emphatically don’t share Terry Eagleton’s values rather exposes the fallacy of his argument that everyone, everywhere shares the same values.
Anyone who’s been to Korea or Japan will recognise that there are fundamental cultural (that’s “values”) differences between those countries and the US or UK. Just as there clearly are between Russia and Western Europe.
Denying reality seems to be a speciality of a certain strand of the left. It’s pretty much foundational for Marxism.
And your argument that we aren’t a nation is just as poor. You implictly accept in it that the separate countries of Britain have different values (which may or may not be true). People who make this argument are quite happy to pretend that there’s some sort of Scottish nationality and common set of values – and yet in the same sentence deny this could be the case for England or the UK. It’s absurd.
Quite where you get this idea that British people all consider themselves to be “world beating” is beyond me. However, it’s still possible to believe that your country is a better place to live than somewhere like South Africa or Russia without arrogantly believing you’re somehow “better” than everyone else.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
13 days ago
Reply to  Pat Thynne

If that’s what he is saying then that’s the point of The Abolition of Man, and more simply put, Mere Christianity. The Law of Objective Value I think it’s called. I did read the article and was a bit puzzled by it. The point is, surely, most agree on the difference between right and wrong but all sorts of things get in the way of us choosing the right thing.

Angus Douglas
Angus Douglas
13 days ago
Reply to  Pat Thynne

If not “world-beating”, Britain is at least in the premier league of nations; and incomparably better than almost any country in Africa, for example. This is surely a meaningful fact that we need to explain before we deconstruct the whole business of nationhood and culture.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
12 days ago
Reply to  Pat Thynne

It is simply not true that most people everywhere espouse the same values – this is completely ignorant and a ludicrous claim. I’m a gay man I’m rather grateful to be living in the West we gradual social change has been possible (today with a great overreach). I wouldn’t be quite so happy living in any Muslim or African society, or the vast majority of the rest of the world. Of course in the Islamic paradise of Gaza I’d be chucked off a building.

Last edited 12 days ago by Andrew Fisher
Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 days ago
Reply to  Pat Thynne

Doltishness is often found on the lips of atheists.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
13 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

He describes his problem initially. He needs to get out more instead of burying his head in literature.
Has there ever been an article with so few likes and so many dislikes?

0 0
0 0
13 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

That’s because there’s a wide variety of reasons to find it inadequate not just one.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
13 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

Very true. I stopped reading this soi-disant ‘article’ exactly at the sentence that solemnly proclaimed that there were no British values. What an embarrassment!
(And, as it is clear from my name, I am not even British. And more so, haven’t even lived in the UK for a long enough time. Still, I found this bit absolutely infuriating.)

Last edited 13 days ago by Vesselina Zaitzeva
Jimmy Snooks
Jimmy Snooks
13 days ago

Bless you, Vesselina Zaitseva.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
13 days ago
Reply to  Jimmy Snooks

Thank you 🙂

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
13 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

The great mistake that Eagleton and others of his make is that they assume that, whilst everyone else is motivated by base class or self-interest, they are not. In fact, of course, that is exactly what drives them. They are just able to bamboozle themselves with more elaborate rationales for what is, essentially, just petit bourgeois snobbery and trahison des clercs..

simon billing
simon billing
13 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

And your point is…? Not a single rebuttal of anything Eagleton has written, merely a puerile, ad hominem rant. You seem to view xenophilia in a pejorative light – love of your fellow man as a bad thing. ”
British values” are about as meaningful as the “mission statements” that clutter the web sites and annual reports of large, bloviating corporations. By all means, do try and articulate a single “value” that is uniquely British (and I suspect by British you mean English).
In any case the apparent imperative to love or revere the piece of geography you happened to be born on has no logical basis whatsoever. It’s simply the product of propaganda down through the ages, designed to command the obedience of useful idiots.

Jimmy Snooks
Jimmy Snooks
13 days ago
Reply to  simon billing

Thank you (not) for that naff, cringe attempt at a take-down of N Forster’s very good post.
It kind of proves his general gist, strangely.

simon billing
simon billing
13 days ago
Reply to  Jimmy Snooks

Mr. Snooks: Your fact-free critique proves my point (or general gist if you must) admirably. Thank you.

N Forster
N Forster
13 days ago
Reply to  simon billing

Engaging directly with every false premise, fabrication and error in Eagleton’s writing demands more time than I care to give him. And to what avail? It won’t cure him of his self hatred any more than it would yours.
Likewise, in this context, even trying appease someone who says “Give me one example of such and such” plays into their hands – it allows them to play the game as I described:
…find a word, pick it to bits, elevate yourself, denigrate others, mock and sneer.”
Precisely what you are doing now. 
The only thing that truly matters to Eagleton and his ilk (and in this group you can include yourself) is that this desire (to mock and sneer) is continually satisfied. It is from this he (and you) gain and maintain your sense of self. Without it, you ceases to exist.
In any case the apparent imperative to hate the piece of geography you happened to be born on has no logical basis whatsoever. It’s simply the product of propaganda down through the ages, from one middle class smart ar** to the next, designed to command the obedience of useful idiots.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
13 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

Well put.

A J
A J
13 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

Excellent.

simon billing
simon billing
12 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

I have to assume from your vague response to quite specific questions that in fact the entire concept of “British values” simply does not stand up to rigorous scrutiny. So let’s call it what it really is shall we: dog whistle bloviating intended to appeal to the baser instincts of people you deem more stupid than yourself. A wholly dishonest and nefarious approach to politics employed by extreme reactionaries who have no ideals beyond acquiring power, like Farage (himself a slavering lickspittle of Trump who is the master of the technique). The fact that Farage has even a scintilla of support in the wake of the unqualified catastrophe that was Brexit is beyond comprehension. Little Englanders battling to make England littler yet.

N Forster
N Forster
12 days ago
Reply to  simon billing

It would seem that your time would be better spent dealing with your own rather base instincts. Your hatred for your fellow man, those with whom you disagree serves no one.
There is an old fashioned British Middle Class value which has fallen to the wayside since the advent of social media and comment sections – that of keeping your nasty class hatred to yourself, or at least restricting it to coded dog whistle conversations with like minded types.
You’d do well to revive it.
Your mental health would benefit greatly, as this bitter indulgence in oikophobia benefits no one. 

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago
Reply to  N Forster

Exactly!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
12 days ago
Reply to  simon billing

Propaganda is not the right term in this context – cultural values have been passed down from parents to children. We could say that perhaps that the British state has issued some mild propaganda, especially in wartime, but the values have mostly been benign and in any case the efforts completely dwarfed by the efforts of most countries – China and Russia being the most obvious examples, but modern India too. Who are you comparing the British to? The failure to make any comparison is a common failing of those people who endlessly criticize their own society an extreme and unbalanced way. Your comment also has the usual conceit that you somehow immune from propaganda but everybody else is a some sort of dupe.

You are trying to prove your case by demanding the identification of a single value that the British have that no one else has to any degree,. which is rather a high bar. However a high degree of tolerance of other cultures was indeed a very noticeable feature of British culture, – this is often pointed out indeed by migrants this country who I’ve spoken to (obviously it’s not shared by most people to go to university today who are taught to dislike British culture). It is one reason we have so many people from so many parts of the world in this country – if it was so hostile here they wouldn’t come. This is simply not the case in Japan, Saudi Arabia, China and most non-western societies. Zimbabwean migrants are not welcomed in South Africa.

Were you to spend any time living in North Korea Russia or Saudi Arabia your claim that there are no differences between British values and there’s would be exposed rather quickly.

Last edited 12 days ago by Andrew Fisher
Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
14 days ago

And with the wave of a hand another intellectual proclaims all cultures have pretty much the same values.

Only they don’t.

Not all cultures have democracy (complete with outcomes that leftist intellectuals don’t agree with).

Not all cultures have the death penalty.

Not all cultures believe men and women have equal value.

Not all cultures encourage strapping an explosive device to themselves and then detonating amongst women and children.

Not all believe you should be ruled by religious leaders.

I could go on. But why bother.

The reason Farage exists is to counter balance utter clowns who write articles like this.

0 0
0 0
13 days ago

The reason Farage exists gets less and less clear. If TE doesn’t achieve much in this piece, he does show that Farage and ‘ British Values’ are incompatible. Because the was Farage operates is to make it impossible for Britain to share any values at all. Deliberately. Because he kniws that would put him out of business.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
13 days ago
Reply to  0 0

Why?

Paul T
Paul T
13 days ago
Reply to  0 0

Do you even exist?

Evan Heneghan
Evan Heneghan
14 days ago

I appreciate that unherd confronts me with many opinions that differ from my own, but there are limits.

What a completely useless, intellectually dishonest essay from a man who seems to believe with a clever turn of phrase here, or just the right witticism there, one can negate the entirety of human culture and the deep incompatibilities therein.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
14 days ago
Reply to  Evan Heneghan

It’s not so much about ‘limits’ as having access to the thought-processes by which so-called progressive liberals seek to dissemble. Deconstruction in this manner takes us back to student debates, which is pretty much where Eagleton has been stuck since his late teens.

This becomes instructive to us all and is therefore worth publishing, if for that reason alone. Thanks Terry, you’re doing a fine job of defining the problem.

Arthur King
Arthur King
13 days ago
Reply to  Evan Heneghan

I’m not renewing my subscription because they give voice to such nonsense.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
14 days ago

“As far as I’m aware, there are no political parties anywhere in the world fighting for inequality, injustice and a callous indifference to the suffering of others.”

You haven’t looked far, have you Terry. Also from todays Unherd.

“Iranian regime whose Supreme Leader has described “death to America” as his official state policy.”

The same leader may not “put women on the moon,” but does require them to wear space suits, as do many of his co-religionists here in the U.K.

Even by your standards this is different level drivel.

sal b dyer
sal b dyer
14 days ago

Of course there are British values. In the remote Australian indigenous community where I work there is a system of family and social hierarchical obligations whereby anything that is owned by one member of a family, automatically belongs to every other member of the same immediate family. Thus, if someone brings food home, and leaves it hanging around before eating, it can be claimed by anyone else from the same family- brothers, sisters, grandparents, children etc. The obligations lessen the more distant the relation, eg cousins still have some claim but not as much as first degree relatives. The same goes with raising children- it’s not uncommon for someone to say they have 5 mothers, because their birth mother’s sisters automatically become their mothers, not their aunts. In some tribes they maintain their tradition of insisting a woman “marry” her husband’s brother if the husband dies. Much as it is in other parts of the world. In one hospital I’ve worked in, the nurses allowed one woman to sit inside the hospital during daylight, to prevent the husband’s brothers from claiming her as a sexual plaything, as was their traditional right. It’s complicated and almost incomprehensible to someone raised under Judeo-Christian values where personal property and family obligations are viewed quite differently. It creates endless problems in the justice and social services departments where the 2 cultures stare at each other in bewilderment trying to understand each other. So while strong family ties were often valued highly in traditional societies, probably for legitimate life saving or evolutionary reasons, they lose their sense in modern societies which place more value individual and property rights. Values evolve, are chosen, are enforced, are giving living meaning, and they most certainly vary from culture to culture. They are not necessarily universal.

Michael Cazaly
Michael Cazaly
14 days ago

Having said there are no British values, the author points out that the British are known for decency…in the first two paragraphs! Possibly he didn’t re-read what he wrote, or is suffering from Farage Derangement Syndrome like the rest of the media, either pro or anti…

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  Michael Cazaly

First sentence aside, it took him quite a while to get round to mentioning Farage too.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
14 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Indeed. Probably hoping that we would be suckered into keep reading the article until it came up. It worked on me.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
13 days ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

One could safely say, in my view, that mentioning Farage in the title was a classic case of clickbaiting.
And I admire your patience – for me the “end-of-reading” point came at the very beginning, when the author claimed that there was no such thing as British values.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
14 days ago

” As far as I’m aware, there are no political parties anywhere in the world fighting for inequality, injustice and a callous indifference to the suffering of other”… Um, Hamas? What do you think they did with billions of aid dollars? Fed the poor? Created institutions? Of course not! They treated the people of Gaza like crap. And yes, they are fighting to stay in power and continue doing just that. And yes, a lot of Arab immigrants in the UK hate the UK. Just ask them, and then believe what they say.

Lesley Keay
Lesley Keay
14 days ago

I appreciate that Unheard likes to present a spectrum of views but… Yet again we, The British (I do wonder if he is actually referring to The English?) are being told that we have “no values”. Yet again he reduces said values to intangibles, which he claims are the same the world over. He ignores the cultural heritage and traditions which underpin those values. And yet again we have the straw man argument of atrocities committed by the West, whilst ignoring the fact that atrocities have been committed by ALL ethnic groups against others. The West has at least accepted that these types of actions are wrong. Not sure that equating bigotry of communists in some parts of the USA is the same as what is happening to gay people and Christians in many Muslim countries. Just this week a family of Christians in Pakistan were badly attacked with the grandfather being beaten to death.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
14 days ago

This essay is just one caricature after another


Peter B
Peter B
14 days ago

I think I’ve cracked it – Terry Eagleton is actually the Vicki Pollard Professor of Whataboutery. “Yeah but extremist beheadings … no but the US judicial system has capital punishment”. And so on. Like there’s some moral equivalence.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
14 days ago

If this is the sort of reaction that Farage provokes just by standing in an election, all it will do is make me more likely to vote Reform. I might have had time to listen and debate with people like Eagleton, but no more. Wrong on every level, and anyone who has travelled can see that while there are some core similarities throughout the human race, we are also very different. How seemingly intelligent people can’t grasp that is almost beyond me.

Anyway, go Farage, hope you win.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
14 days ago

The author seems to be dripping in self loathing and the type of manufactured academic arrogance you can only gain from consuming vast numbers of humanities books in your Unis post modernist library.

But in some respects he has a point. I’m sick of hearing of British Values when what we really mean is native, people, culture and religion.

British values is a proxy for NOT brutal ‘third world’ customs or Islamic religious practices. It is NOT being the only white person on a stinking third world bus in London.

It means NOT being happy about being legally and illegally invaded by barbarians with barbaric religions beliefs and base animalistic tendencies.

In reality it is a desperate and anguished cry for salvation from our enforced multicultural hellscape.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
14 days ago

Another progressive so called intellectual who cannot identify, articulate or support core values that have been held by British people for centuries. You sad little man, ensnared in the shrieking Hell of post modern progressive groupthink. You have absolutely nothing to teach, no insight to give. How could you ever recognise values like freedom and liberty when you are trapped squealing in such a dreadful black pit.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
13 days ago

“…Britain doesn’t tolerate those who practise hate speech…”

Excuse me? It most certainly does.

But it’s selective. Provided you want to hate Britain or British people or Christianity, you can go right ahead. To facilitate you, we’ve repealed our blasphemy laws. You want to hate Jews? Fill your boots! We’ll close the streets so you can call for their genocide.

But not Islam. And not Muslims. Don’t you dare say anything nasty about them. And to make sure that you don’t, we’ve introduced special blasphemy laws just to prevent you from insulting Muslims, Islam, or even Islamists. We call them “hate speech” laws.

Mark Obstfeld
Mark Obstfeld
14 days ago

“a sexual transgression on the part of God himself, who enters the womb of a Palestinian virgin” – pretty sure u’ll find she was Jewish/Hebrew. Appropriating history to write certain groups out/delegitimise them?

James Kirk
James Kirk
13 days ago
Reply to  Mark Obstfeld

I wasn’t aware Joseph never got a look in on his nuptials. The relationship may have been a bit tense after the birth.

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
13 days ago
Reply to  Mark Obstfeld

Yes, a cheap shot, and not historically accurate either, since the Romans did not rename the region as Syria Palaestina until after the Second Jewish Revolt in the 2nd Century. She was a Judean.

John Corcoran
John Corcoran
14 days ago

Terry Eagleton, long ago, became a parody of the intellectual Liberal Left.
Him and his ilk have been spouting the Gospel of self hate for the past half a century. It hasn’t aged well. Terry, however, has done rather well out of it over many many years. 10 out 10 for brass neck.

Last edited 14 days ago by John Corcoran
Dr Illbit
Dr Illbit
13 days ago
Reply to  John Corcoran

10/10 for self-hatred

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
14 days ago

From “There are no great fascist novels.”, Terry deduces that there are no fascists. Pre-WWII fascists used film (has Terry never heard of Leni Riefenstahl?) and today’s islamofascists use video clips as their artistic medium of choice.

John Murray
John Murray
14 days ago

To be honest, the way a lot of people thought Boris inappropriately eating cake was a resignation worthy affair struck me as something that could only happen in a nation that invented cricket.

Martin M
Martin M
14 days ago
Reply to  John Murray

That is thoroughly British. Back in the day, passing the port the wrong way at the Regimental dinner was a faux pas of gigantic proportions.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
14 days ago
Reply to  John Murray

Tbf, Boris was merely channelling his inner Marie Antoinette. He only suffered the parliamentary guillotine. That’s British values on a plate.

Last edited 14 days ago by Lancashire Lad
Gregory Lobo
Gregory Lobo
14 days ago

It’s well enough to give old Marxists incapable of thinking outside of the good/bad binary some space on your platform, but at least exercise some quality control. For example, the fact that some values are universal does not mean that they are not, at the same time, British, just as my own values might be universal, which need not invalidate my notion that they are mine. Nor does the USA engage in mass executions. Nor does Islamic supremacy (which grants others “of the book” all the rights and privileges of protected persons, not even second-class citizens) subscribe to universal values (as recognized by others in the universe, that is to say). These are just some of the problems with this piece (of sh*t piece). TE’s recent articles should never really have made it to “publish” and this one is no exception. It’s just sophmoric casuistry.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
13 days ago
Reply to  Gregory Lobo

These Progressives delight in erasing our national identity. They have been re-born as ‘New Europeans’ in the New Empire of the o0s. All Somewheres who shook off their oiky embarrasing roots in raycist working class Northern families in Blair’s Middle Class Making Graduate Re-education Camps (for a 60k fee), they have bowed fearfully to the Progressive New Gods of universality and Equality and their Hooman Rights Higher Laws – open border anti nationalism and a slightly scary but all powerful multiculturalism which allows the rich metro white kids in…so long as they genuflect to Hamas BLM Greta and any form of discriminatory anti capitalism. Ensconced in the giant Keynsian Blob, what a sad sorry nasty tribe they are. Yet we are poised to enhance their power still further. The war on the nation state and its values is gearing up for the Endgame.

Andrew R
Andrew R
14 days ago

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”.

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking-Glass

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
14 days ago

Aaaaand
 straight to comments. I’ll try and read the article later.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
14 days ago

The comments make more sense to be fair.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
13 days ago

I also went almost immediately to comments. I personally would not recommend you reading the article. There are many other things that could waste your time and infuriate you almost as successfully as reading this errrmmm… text.

Last edited 13 days ago by Vesselina Zaitzeva
Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
13 days ago

I won’t!

Fafa Fafa
Fafa Fafa
14 days ago

This reminded me of Kathleen Stock’s brilliant piece about the weirdness of philosophers. Of course there are British values, as there are Russian values or Greek values (just to stay in a smaller geographic area in order to reduce differenced introduces by racial and other factors). If there were no recognizable (even if not objectively verifiable) British, Russian or Greek values then there were no recognizable differences between these countries. Yes, it is not some precise science. So what’s the point of erecting the straw man of British values as some objective phenomenon, then debunking it with self-important pedantry?. It is like saying “You say there is no love like mother’s love? What mother’s love? Some mothers beat their children!” and then giving statistics.Yeah, yeah, you are right, now go and loosen up a little

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
13 days ago
Reply to  Fafa Fafa

TE is anything but a philosopher.

D Glover
D Glover
13 days ago

Families centre on children, and children aren’t supposed to know about sex, so family values really means “no sex”.

If that is really the level of Eagleton’s understanding he’s really not worth reading, is he?

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
13 days ago
Reply to  D Glover

Yes, I would have given that particular non-sequitur zero marks at GCSE level.
What a pathetic apology for an intellectual this man is.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
14 days ago

“with the gradual spread of humanitarianism from the 18th century onwards”
You mean like the Soviet purges and the Maoist Cultural Revolution? Not to mention the Maoist genocide of the sparrows. If you read chaps like de Jouvenel he says that the modern era is characterized by ruthless Power that utterly dominates the individual. I’d say he has a point.
Sorry Terry. You need to get out of your educated-class bubble. I say that the western educated ruling class is the cruelest and most unjust and most genocidal ruling class in history that makes the Huns and the Vandals look like amateurs.

0 0
0 0
13 days ago

“Try to be a muslim in some areas in France”
Is this for real? Or does Mr Eagleton support the subjection of women should be advertised by the corresponding garb and their exclusion from public spaces?

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
13 days ago
Reply to  0 0

That one struck me too. I’m not sure there’s any human alive who, on an informed basis, would choose to be a Christian or a Jew in an Islamic country ahead of being Muslim in the west.

He didn’t just jump the shark with that line, he shot into the atmosphere at escape velocity heading towards the moon.

Michael Dalgleish
Michael Dalgleish
13 days ago

UnHerd is scraping the barrel with this ‘contribution’. So many errors I stopped reading. Editors: please use your discretion to weed out arguments this poor.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
13 days ago

I profoundly disagree. As per an earlier comment, it’s vital we can all read about how the mindset of progressive liberals works, so as to be better fortified in the cultural battle against such deconstructive faux-intellectualism.

Andrew R
Andrew R
14 days ago

Going by Eagleton’s logic we value the rule of law so much that the rights of murderers and rap1sts surpass those of law abiding citizens. Strange old world.

Jake Raven
Jake Raven
13 days ago

What a load of nonsense, the reason many have values the same or similar to ours is because we taught our values to many other nations. Farage reminds us that many, usually socialists, want to overwrite our values with more ‘progressive’ ones.
As for the comment, “there are no political parties anywhere in the world fighting for inequality, injustice and a callous indifference to the suffering of others“, China, Russia and most Islamic countries do just that.
I would argue Labour and the Tories are going the same way. They share policies that provide inequity for the indigenous population by prioritising the needs of immigrants, There is injustice by prioritising criminals over victims and men in skirts over women, and both share a desire to deprive the population of health, wealth and happiness by their incoherent net zero, economic and health policies.
All in all, a poor article from a sanctimonious lefty.

Last edited 13 days ago by Jake Raven
B. Timothy S.
B. Timothy S.
14 days ago

“The young are more likely to question the conventional mores of the time than the middle-aged, which is why they make a lot of conservatives uneasy.“

Which is exactly why the “conservatives” should be scared of someone advocating Reform.

“The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is a parody of a regular domestic unit
 It doesn’t sound at all like the kind of thing that would go down well at a Trump rally”

Does this man really know absolutely nothing about Donald Trump and his family?

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
13 days ago
Reply to  B. Timothy S.

Aaaaaah, so he also wrote something about Trump, in addition to writing something (just a little bit) about Farage?
(I gave up after the first couple of paragraphs, to be honest)

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
13 days ago

Wise. Garbage in garbage out is a real risk.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
13 days ago
Reply to  Bret Larson

It is, indeed 😉

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
14 days ago

An exercise in ‘whatabout-ery’ and moral relativism of the sort that – if you’re not careful – has you defending (even if only implicitly) regimes and ideologies that you’d definitely not choose to live under.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
13 days ago

I especially enjoyed the claim that there are no political parties anywhere in the world fighting for inequality, injustice and a callous indifference to others. Hamas, the Taliban, IS, the political organisations of the ayatollahs in Iran… Perhaps truth, justice and caring are what they practise in reality, but anti-Islamism propaganda is ruining their reputations.
David Eades

Peter Kettle
Peter Kettle
13 days ago

My comments about the sheer evil of Islam have been removed. I wonder why? When true events are cited, some nit picking puritan thinks we mustn’t alarm anyone by highlighting evil deeds, or seeming to be Islamophobic..

Toby B
Toby B
13 days ago

This is like a ludicrous caricature of how intellectuals think:
“From reading a lot of books I’ve concluded X. Despite the fact that not-X is actually going on in the real world all around me”.
Is this just a deliberate wind-up?

AC Harper
AC Harper
14 days ago

A Collectivist, who I expect would prefer a collectivist government, decries collective values.
Obviously you can make it up.

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
13 days ago

Families centre on children, and children aren’t supposed to know about sex, so family values really means “no sex”.

ï»żIf there isn’t a picture of Terry Eagleton in the dictionary next to the word “specious”, there really should be.

Chipoko
Chipoko
13 days ago

Farage’s targeting of the young is unsurprising, given that Right-wingers like himself have a disreputable history of picking on that particular cohort.

ï»żAn arrogant assertion – but not surprising coming from a Marxist academic. What about Left-winger Starmer’s idea of reducing the voting age to 16 – etc., etc. Or the Lenin/Stalin regimes that recruited young children to spy and report on their parents, sending many of them to the Gulag or execution?
I normally don’t both to read anything written by Eagleton as he is so dully predictable in his prejudiced worldview. But on this occasion I was intrigued to find out how he would rubbish Fararge. His article proved to be a yawn as anticipated.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
13 days ago

‘I know of hardly any significant piece of poetry or fiction from anywhere in the world which advocates rape, torture or genocide.’ Well, there’s the fictional Old Testament and the equally fictional Koran, both of which justify, and in places advocate, all those things.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
13 days ago

‘the fact that the most fundamental moral values are universal.’ They might be, in some way, facets of human nature, but human nature is readily overwritten by the certainties of ideology, especially religious ideology. Those ‘reformed’ religions which now accept doubt may have given up crucifixion and burning at the stake, but those which haven’t, and adhere to their fundamental certainties celebrate the murder and rape of non-believers exactly as the originators of those religions did. Not trace of pity, tolerance, sympathy, or conscience there.

Saul D
Saul D
13 days ago

Terry forgot to mention that many universal values are drawn from British values, in the sense that the British (English) introduced them to the world. Slavery was endemic, until the British took umbrage and applied military force to stamp it out. Legal system were always biased by powerful individuals and family connections – the divine right of kings and all that. The British (English) raised the law above the person and created systems of consistency and universal practice – many countries still use ‘fair play’ when discussing the English approach to law and justice. The English took affront against honour killings and sati (wife’s being burnt with their husbands) and the idea of owning women. They introduced the concepts of rights and limits to the powers of authority (Magna Carta and Bill of Rights). They recognised that the power of the law rests on the people (reasonableness and principle over the letter of the law). They didn’t try to impose religion by force but showed tolerance was a more effective approach. And they showed that freedom of speech was more powerful than censorship (cf Marx a refuge from censorious Europe). So if there are no uniquely British values it’s partly because they have been borrowed and copied across the world. And if you want an example of what happens when British values disappear, take a look at Hong Kong…

Mona Malnorowski
Mona Malnorowski
13 days ago

So, let me get this straight: there are no such things as “British Values”, but then again there are, because they’re the same as everyone else’s values, because everyone is as tolerant, politically liberal etc. as we are, and also National Service is quite a good idea, Arabs are famously hospitable and the Virgin Mary was a “Palestinian” refugee who got trapped in the hostile anti-family (and presumably misogynistic?) hell of a Christian belief system… Did I miss anything?

On reading this article, I correctly guessed what the majority of reactions in the comments section would be. Anything I was going to add about the wrongheadedness of many of the author’s assertions has already been said, though I will once again question whether an article like this belongs on a site like UnHerd… The author’s point of view seems to me to be pretty much identical to what you’d read in any given Guardian Opinion column. Not really “unheard” and not really “un – herdlike”.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
13 days ago

My word this is silly. No British values because others share them is missing the point. British values are not a shopping list. They are a recipe. A set of values in a particular mix and presented in a certain way.
Terry’s argument is akin to saying that there is no such thing as a roast beef dinner because Lasagne also contains beef and Gnocchi contains potatoes. But we all know the difference and pretending that Gnocchi is just like roast potatoes is pointless sophistry.

Peter Kettle
Peter Kettle
13 days ago

Mr. Eagleton; you do not mention the huge scale atrocities committed by Islam across the Middle East, and sub Saharan Africa; the persecution, torture, burning alive that are daily occurrences in Northern Nigeria. There is a massive ignorance among news services; no coverage at all in fact. There is a fundamental difference in Islam and the rest of us. It is worse that Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao. But then I am assuming you are a bit of a Marxist Christian and therefore you see no difference between what decency lies at the basis of the Western democracies and the very basic horrors of Islam fundamentalism.

Neiltoo .
Neiltoo .
13 days ago

It’s hard to know where to start with this turgid rubbish!

“ Farage’s targeting of the young is unsurprising, given that Right-wingers like himself have a disreputable history of picking on that particular cohort.”

Does the author really expect anyone to take this seriously? It’s the left that are currently marching through our education system poisoning young minds.

Robert B Macdiarmid
Robert B Macdiarmid
14 days ago

The UK Conservative Party may as well be wound up.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
14 days ago

They’ve been winding us up for quite some time.

Philip Buscombe
Philip Buscombe
13 days ago

Rubbish

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
13 days ago

A thoughtful article – but it only takes a minority of extremists to control the agenda – which may be why democracy and human rights are so rare in Muslim countries . Your ” moral equivalency ” argument ignores this – and ignores that Britain is actually the origin of many of the values that much of the world now espouses .

Chris J
Chris J
13 days ago

Of course Eagleton doesn’t recocognise that the only “value” that all countries share to a greater or lesser degree, is that men are the best and woman should know their (lower) place and shut up.
For a while the West allowed woman a say but recent so called “culture wars” have shown the actual attitude is pretty much the same though actioned differently.
For Eagleton and the left “woman’s issues” whether wanting to retain rights they have fought for in the West or the desire to have agency over their own lives in many other countries are irrelevant and bourgeois.

Andrew R
Andrew R
14 days ago

As useless as saying there are such things as universal human rights or nuclear free zones but we profess them anyway when they are of limited value in the real world.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
13 days ago

If all places have no culture, why do people sit in dinghies and travel across oceans to get there?

Steve Crowther
Steve Crowther
13 days ago

What a very odd rant. I really struggled to find a consistent positive point being made, in vain. This seemed as good an example as any of the rantiness luge falling over sideways under the weight of the chip on its shoulder:
“It isn’t that some people think that mass beheadings are a splendid idea while others don’t”.
Really? Was he asleep during the ISIS horror-show?

Keith Johnson
Keith Johnson
9 days ago
Reply to  Steve Crowther

Leftists like Eagleton seem to live in some kind of parallel world that the rest of us know doesn’t really exist. As such, they seem immune to common sense and incapable of observing reality when it diverges from their ideal. I’ve noted in the past that a common feature of people like this is their inability to foresee the consequential effects of their simplistic ideas. So whenever and wherever extreme socialism/communism invevitably fails, they always claim this is because it wasn’t implemented properly, and dig their heels in further. They are like the medieval doctors who, when they saw the treatment wasn’t working, called for more leeches.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
13 days ago

Well I’ve read some codswallop in my time – but this beats all of it.

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
13 days ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

Unheard is becoming unreadable. This article is even more ludicrous than NET Zero policies, and just as fanciful.

Keith Johnson
Keith Johnson
9 days ago

But it’s good that Unherd gives these fools a platform from time to time, as it gives us a space to shoot them down. This is the true value of free speech for all.

James Kirk
James Kirk
13 days ago

A few minutes of my life I’ll never get back. USA carries out mass electrocutions indeed. Au contraire I hear the young are flocking to Farage, the unbrainwashed cognitively non dissonant that is.I hope he’s not paid for writing this.

Keith Johnson
Keith Johnson
9 days ago
Reply to  James Kirk

It’s interesting to note that in France and much of continental Europe, the young people support the right wing, not the left. The latter seems to be a uniquely British disease.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
14 days ago

“There are no great fascist novels.”

Well there may be some fascists who disagree. It might be that fascism doesn’t attract great writers, and that makes me wonder if a great non-fascist writer could write a great fascist novel if they felt like turning their hand to it.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
6 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Yes, that was a particularly silly comment. Are there any great communist novels? Any great Tory novels? Political theories are one thing and literature is another.
Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson is arguably a great novel by a fascist, or at least a fascist sympathiser – but it’s some good because it leaves the fascism on one side, luckily.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is I think a great crypto-fascist novel.

tom j
tom j
13 days ago

“Finally, there is a curious phenomenon known as family values, which are particularly popular in the US. Families centre on children, and children aren’t supposed to know about sex, so family values really means “no sex”.”
This couldn’t be more wrong. The people who have regular sex are married couples with children. Where do you think the children come from, Terry!?

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
13 days ago

The problem with this polemic is that it lacks any sense of proportion, historical context or intent. It’s as disingenuous as claiming an equivalence between Hitler’s progrom and a speeding driver who kills a pedestrian.

Compare:

‘With the gradual spread of humanitarianism from the 18th century onwards, it’s hard to find many people eager to defend crucifixion or mass murder’ (Eagleton)

with:

‘One death is a tragedy. One million is a statistic.’ (Stalin)

Compare:

20,000,000 innocent Ukrainians deliberately starved to death in the Holodomor

with:

1588 US guilty first degree murderers executed since 1970, each after a decade of publicly funded legal pleadings failed to exonerate them.

Terry Eagleton is either stupid or he’s trying to draw an equivalence between deliberately murderous tyrannies and countries that feel obliged to kill a tiny number of criminals guilty of the worst of offences.

Since he’s not stupid, the only conclusion is that he hates the West in a sort of 1960s ‘four legs good two legs bad’ sort of way.

This sort of blind rush from judgment and Orwellian anti-patriotism almost makes one feel nostalgic


j watson
j watson
14 days ago

A teasing article from Tel. He knows the audience will take the bait.
Scanning the comments one can see an abreaction to Author’s implied contention that British Values aren’t quite the nostalgic mythology we’d hope. But who actually sets out what they mean by British Values? V few of course because it’s quite difficult. Easier to hide behind certain over simplifications and not be drawn on detail.
Nonetheless, and perhaps because getting old, I do think there is a useful national conversation on core values, and I’d actually support something akin to the US ‘naturalisation’ test. It requires the applicant speak decent English too. Quite why the Right has not pushed this sort of thing more v odd.

Dr Illbit
Dr Illbit
13 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Perhaps it has not pushed it because it is in bed with big business, which depends on cheap labour to operate. No difference with Labour on this front either.

Even if it were interested in naturalisation in any meaningful way, such a policy would have a terrible result in revealing the cultural errosion in the native population once immigrants turn up and pass a test, understandably expecting their new found values to help them get on with the natives – only to find a pervasive lack of self-belief in the general population once they settle down.

Last edited 13 days ago by Dr Illbit
Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
13 days ago
Reply to  j watson

“I’d actually support something akin to the US ‘naturalisation’ test.”
It’s called the British Citizenship Test and it’s been around since 2002. Do try and keep up.

j watson
j watson
13 days ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Yes but we don’t make it a requirement for all legal migration and nor do we link it to accessing other UK benefits. I think c190k tests last year, yet 690k legal migrants? Pass rate I understand is c70%, but no data on what then happens to the failures. You can retake as many times as you like.
One could debate all day what’s in the test, but that aside we don’t use it as firmly as we could nor publicise it to the wider public that many migrants will have been through this. In US you risk deportation without formal citizenship of which the naturalisation process key including the tests. Here that’s less likely to happen. This is where we could have a broader national discussion because our demographics will inevitably mean reliance on some migration but it’s how we ensure core values are not diluted.

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
13 days ago

Mr Eagleton should concentrate on his literature and not judge the Gospels according to the ‘curious phenomenon’ of family values if he neither understand them nor Scripture.
The idea of God entering the womb of a Palestinian virgin is being as distinctly literal as was the Master of Israel who was criticised by Jesus of Nazareth for being the same. As if the Holy Spirit literally blew up the skirt of Mary.
People may have pictured God the Father having a beard but no one, not even Muslim scholars, ever thought of Him as having a male member. The God of Israel isn’t, after all, a god of the Greeks. Mr E’s resort to an extension to absurdity doesn’t conceal his distain.
Far from being a parody of the domestic unit, the Holy Family eventually included John to whose care Mary was entrusted by her Son as He was dying. The ‘blended’ family. And indeed, families of this period included everyone in the household, slaves as well.
As for setting daughter against mother-in-law, Jesus prefaces this with the declaration that He has not come to bring peace. Not the peace as it is arranged in this world. A peace that is achieved by subordinated women, or male dominance, or easy divorce. Not the peace as it is achieved by armies, governments, economies or bureaucracies. Peace being far more than an absence of conflict or war.
The New Testament is hardly ‘hostile’ to the family when the Apostle Paul gave advice in its support. Nor can Jesus be said to be hostile to the family when he described it being founded by a woman leaving her parents and being joined to her husband, ‘one flesh’.
As C S Lewis observed, Jesus defined a married couple, not as two people who had undergone a ceremony, nor as two who were in love, but simply as two who had had sexual intercourse.
Even as literature, the poetical nature of the language of the King James Bible gives it its power.
As for the Romans, without the influence of centuries of Christianity on the peoples of the British Isles and Europe, and on their custom, habit and law, we would be distinctly different people from what we are today.
The Romans, like many ancient peoples, practised infanticide on an huge scale. The Romans thought that a person was more valuable the more beautiful, brave and intelligent they were. There was no equality among ancient peoples.
As for Christianity at a Farage party, Mr F did write in one of his earlier books a mocking opinion of St Paul. To the effect that the vision that Apostle to the Gentiles had was provoked, rather like Scrooge, by an indigested matzo. Of course, much later at a Ukip rally he did modify that to say that he was a lapsed Christian.
Mr E’s claim that if children can’t be interested in sex, neither should adults, is particularly ill-thought out. If adults are interested in each other because of sex, what should prevent adults being interested in children in the same way?
Family life is a life permanently arrested at the 9pm watershed? It means no sex? A person young in years is only a child because they are separated from the adult world. A separation achieved by denying people young in years knowledge of sex, the use of swear words, cigarettes and alcohol. And of course, paid work. Without that concept it would be impossible to get hot under the collar about children working in the mines. A concept that has only arisen in the last four centuries.
British values are really a shorthand for defining a polity. Perhaps that is the real irritation.

michael harris
michael harris
13 days ago

No political parties standing for genocide these days,Terry? Reported on every day, Hamas advocates openly for the killing of all Jews and did the best it could last year to make good on that pledge.

A J
A J
13 days ago

Two word take down: honour killings.

Dr Illbit
Dr Illbit
13 days ago

1.) God would not be God if He was capable of transgression.

2.) As usual, a fabulously predictable line of argument from Eagleton.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
13 days ago

The sovereignty of the UK is expressed in the formula the Crown in Parliament. No power stands over this. What makes the UK are habits and laws accumulated under this umbrella. You accept them or you should run the risk of punishment. The formula’British values” is useful to those who wish to make the UK conform with their prejudices-garage’s prejudices are that the Crown in Parliament becomes real. So Eagleton’s is a circuitous argument.

Andrew F
Andrew F
13 days ago

What a disgusting article.
Just looking around the world instead of reading rubbish Marxist books, it is clear that not everyone supports Western values, especially Muslims.
The only good lefty is dead one.
Till we remove Muslims and enablers of Muslim invasion of Europe like Eaglelton from society we are facing cultural and ethnic genocide.
We need leaders like Franco and Pinochet with clear understanding of what is required and will to act accordingly against enemies of the West.

Jimmy Snooks
Jimmy Snooks
13 days ago

What a load of postmodern boomer twattery. It makes me embarrassed for my generation.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
12 days ago

I’m actually reaching the conclusion that Terry Eagleton is an absolute idiot, because you simply doesn’t engage with any of the many arguments about how human societies vary and why human beings treat others “badly”. The very notion of “badly” in that sentence has to be questioned in terms of the values of societies. And it is utterly ridiculous to say that British society did not develop very different values from French yet let alone the Chinese – yes I would agree there are limits to this because we all human beings and that they were not genetic differences but nonetheless they were very significant.

Eagleton entirely ignores the fundamental difference between societies influenced by Christianity, and those which were not. The debate about slavery and injustice to native Americans started almost immediately with the Spanish conquest of the Americas as one well known example. Of course it wasn’t much help to the people who were enslaved that moral commentaries were made about it. However a slavery was eventually abolished which it was not by the Romans, or indeed Islamic States, which maintain slavery for this day, who considered it completely right and natural that the conquered could be enslaved and had no qualms about it whatsoever.

And it is completely ludicrous to suggest that there’s immense concern about the suffering for example of homosexuals in the Islamic world. How ludicrous yet again go for the McCarthy Island trope this well worn massively exaggerated story from about 70 years ago! Some people in the 195Os US were indeed treated unfairly they lost their jobs – but this was rather tame stuff compared to the pogroms, massacres, show trials etc which were such a feature elsewhere. Few were thrown off tall buildings to their deaths.

Suggesting people just fundamentally want to be “nice” to each other is a fundamental flaw of the left-wing imagination (I presume excluding the nasty white supremacists and capitalists from this encomium to humanity). Human beings can be extremely cooperative within their in-group and as almost all anthropological evidence shows very suspicious at best and hostile at worse to outsiders, even when there has been ongoing contact for decades or centuries.

Iain
Iain
13 days ago

We all know what values Farage has in mind.This long winded article proves nothing

Last edited 13 days ago by Iain
Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
13 days ago

Line missing from the end:

…. But I’m afraid I was very, very, drunk at the time….

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
13 days ago

Have rarely read such rubbish.

William Amos
William Amos
12 days ago

Family values means a way of life permanently arrested before the 9pm watershed.

Does this sort of strawman stuff still pass as ‘edgy’ in Christminster these days?
Then again, I suppose if I was (as Mr Eagleton is) twice divorced, with children by both women, I might also want to undermine the idea of family values myself.
I believe Marxists such as Eagleton would argue it was in ones ‘objective material interest’ so to do.

Last edited 12 days ago by William Amos
Diane T
Diane T
13 days ago

Saw the author and didn’t need to read further
.

Hugh Thornton
Hugh Thornton
12 days ago

There used to be a great British value of live and let live that was already being destroyed before Islamists came along and made it worse. People would calmly go about their business and nice people who were better off in terms of money or health and energy would help those less well off. Nobody cared too much about anybody’s religion or sexuality as long as it wasn’t thrown in our faces as it is now. Even mass demonstrations like the Aldermaston marches of old were polite and orderly. But now we have mass perversion and hate for those who disagree. Look at the Palestinian hate marches which are quite beyond reason and fomented by people with no connection to the Middle East other than a hateful version of the same religion. I think the dignity of Jews in this situation is an example of the British values we once had. We used to have some sort of work ethic with people realising they needed to work for a living. We now have more and more people willing to live at other people’s expense.
I should point out that your portrayal of the New Testament is beyond parody and absolutely disgusting. It also betrays your utter ignorance. Or do you think you are being clever? Really pathetic.

Hugh Thornton
Hugh Thornton
11 days ago

If you are totally ignorant of Christianity and completely misunderstand it, it is better to keep quiet., As Mark Twain said ” Better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than open it and remove all doubt”. I imagine you think being moronic is clever.

Last edited 11 days ago by Hugh Thornton
Chris Hayes
Chris Hayes
11 days ago

Blancmange. I was going to say intellectual blancmange, but this is an opt-repeated and rehashed argumentative technique: reductio ad blandum.

Last edited 11 days ago by Chris Hayes
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago

I couldn’t disagree more with this article if I tried!

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
10 days ago

World literature, Mr. Eagleton’s life-long speciality, is not the same thing as reality. Also, there are no “mass electrocutions” in the US. One could pick further bones.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
13 days ago

Absolutely brilliant tongue in cheek wind up which judging by the content of most of the BTL comments has worked a treat!

Andrew R
Andrew R
13 days ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Yeah, of course that was always his aim. We should have just accepted all the nonsense at face value (eye roll).

Last edited 13 days ago by Andrew R
0 0
0 0
13 days ago

Unwinds its initial self assurance about broadly humane shared values to recognition of fundamental value conflict in the Britain of today and yesterday. The real reason why Farage’s values can’t be British is that they’re framed to break Britain into bits and impose some over those who are Othered.