As some of you may be aware, even on the western seaboard of the Atlantic, Theresa May is shortly to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, after Andrea Leadsom withdrew from the competition to become next leader of our Conservative Party.

Shortly before this happened, though, Michael Deacon, Parliamentary sketchwriter for the Telegraph, wrote this article, In a world of post-truth politics, Andrea Leadsom will make the perfect PM, which begins:

One day in summer 1999, the comedian Stewart Lee was riding through London in a taxi when the driver turned to him. “I think,” said the driver, “that all homosexuals should be killed.”

Somewhat taken aback by the abruptness of this announcement, Lee asked why. “Well,” said the driver. “Because homosexuality is immoral.”

Politely, Lee suggested that notions of morality are far from immutable. For example, he said, modern Western society derives many of its fundamental principles – in ethics, aesthetics, philosophy and more – from ancient Greece: a society in which love between two men was regarded as the purest love of all.

The driver, however, was unimpressed.

“Yes, well,” he huffed. “You can prove anything with facts, can’t you?”

* * * * * * * *

When Lee repeated this line in his stand-up shows, audiences laughed. Maybe they shouldn’t have. Like all great revolutionary thinkers, that taxi driver was simply ahead of his time. Because, if I had to pick a quote to sum up British politics in 2016, it would be that.

Deacon then goes on to attack Andrea Leadsom as if she were Donald Trump and Sarah Palin rolled into one.  (Does anyone remember ReBoot, and how Megabyte and his sister Hexadecimal were merged into Gigbyte?)   But more general issues are involved here, so I will not dwell on this particular incident in British history: especially, I am not going deeply into the ins and outs, or the shake-it-all-abouts, of homosexuality.

But have we suddenly become a post-truth society?  We (on both sides of the Atlantic) may well be one, but this is hardly new.  In 1931, G.K.Chesterton, near the end of an essay On the Intellect of Yesterday, wrote:

One way of putting it is that this is a psychological age, which is the opposite of an intellectual age. It is not a question of persuading men, but of suggesting how they are persuaded. It is an age of Suggestion; that is, of appeal to the irrational part of man. Men [previously] discussed whether Free Trade was false or true; they [now] do not so much discuss whether Empire Free Trade is false or true, as whether it is booming or slumping; whether it is based on an understanding of Mass Psychology, or whether its opponents or supporters have what Americans call Personality.

Is Ancient Greece such a good example as the comedian Stewart Lee seems to think? A civilization may produce wonderful pottery and lousy poetry, though the Ancient Greeks seemed to have been pretty good at both.  But as the 2003 Iraq war loomed, we were treated to the sight of some exquisite gold jewellery from the ancient Assyrians — but they were a civilization who excelled in cruelty.  And the Greeks had a pretty low view of women, and regarded slavery as natural, which found its way into their philosophy.

So, what about persuading men?  Especially, why should one listen to a comedian in regard to the morality of anything?  The entertainment profession is well known for being the prime target of tabloid (newspaper) scandal.  Our own BBC, in my opinion, scores a succession of own goals by sending comedians as reporters over to places where gay folks are severely persecuted and even put to death.

There has recently appeared on our televisions an advertisement which perhaps gets nearer to the truth about Ancient Greek art than any amount of more serious criticism.  But first, Chesterton’s concluding remark about our modern way of approaching issues:

It is all great fun, and there is doubtless a truth in it, as in other things. But, whatever else it is, it is not a mark of stronger mentality, and any old Scotch Calvinist farmer, who could follow his ministers desolate and appalling sermon to Seventeenthly and Lastly, had an immeasurably better brain.