Philip Pullman

Friday, 17 July 2009

OH has posted about Beatrix Campbell's verbal attack on the author, Philip Pullman. Campbell's article in the Guardian is another example of what Labour do best - they smear and deride those who go against their orthodoxy.

Pullman's article was pulled from Times Online within a day of being published earlier this year but it's still available, online. Here is his powerful prose, in full, and this is why he's feared; this is why they try to discredit him. Read and weep for our loss and for the uphill struggle ahead:

Are such things done on Albion’s shore?
The image of this nation that haunts me most powerfully is that of the sleeping giant Albion in William Blake’s prophetic books. Sleep, profound and inveterate slumber: that is the condition of Britain today.

We do not know what is happening to us. In the world outside, great events take place, great figures move and act, great matters unfold, and this nation of Albion murmurs and stirs while malevolent voices whisper in the darkness - the voices of the new laws that are silently strangling the old freedoms the nation still dreams it enjoys.

We are so fast asleep that we don’t know who we are any more. Are we English? Scottish? Welsh? British? More than one of them? One but not another? Are we a Christian nation - after all we have an Established Church - or are we something post-Christian? Are we a secular state? Are we a multifaith state? Are we anything we can all agree on and feel proud of?

The new laws whisper:

You don’t know who you are;
You’re mistaken about yourself;
We know better than you do what you consist of, what labels apply to you, which facts about you are important and which are worthless;
We do not believe you can be trusted to know these things, so we shall know them for you;
And if we take against you, we shall remove from your possession the only proof we shall allow to be recognised.

The sleeping nation dreams it has the freedom to speak its mind. It fantasises about making tyrants cringe with the bluff bold vigour of its ancient right to express its opinions in the street. This is what the new laws say about that:

Expressing an opinion is a dangerous activity;
Whatever your opinions are, we don’t want to hear them,
So if you threaten us or our friends with your opinions we shall treat you like the rabble you are.
And we do not want to hear you arguing about it;
So hold your tongue and forget about protesting;
What we want from you is acquiescence.

The nation dreams it is a democratic state where the laws were made by freely elected representatives who were answerable to the people. It used to be such a nation once, it dreams, so it must be that nation still. It is a sweet dream.

You are not to be trusted with laws;
So we shall put ourselves out of your reach;
We shall put ourselves beyond your amendment or abolition;
You do not need to argue about any changes we make, or to debate them, or to send your representatives to vote against them;
You do not need to hold us to account.
You think you will get what you want from an inquiry?
Who do you think you are?
What sort of fools do you think we are?

The nation’s dreams are troubled, sometimes: dim rumours reach our sleeping ears, rumours that all is not well in the administration of justice; but an ancient spell murmurs through our somnolence, and we remember that the courts are bound to seek the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and we turn over and sleep soundly again.

And the new laws whisper:
We do not want to hear you talking about truth.
Truth is a friend of yours, not a friend of ours.
We have a better friend called hearsay, who is a witness we can always rely on.
We do not want to hear you talking about innocence;
Innocent means guilty of things not yet done.
We do not want to hear you talking about the right to silence.
You need to be told what silence means: it means guilt.
We do not want to hear you talking about justice;
Justice is whatever we want to do to you,
And nothing else.

Are we conscious of being watched, as we sleep? Are we aware of an ever-open eye at the corner of every street, of a watching presence in the very keyboards we type our messages on? The new laws don’t mind if we are. They don’t think we care about it.

We want to watch you day and night.
We think you are abject enough to feel safe when we watch you.
We can see you have lost all sense of what is proper to a free people.
We can see you have abandoned modesty.
Some of our friends have seen to that.

They have arranged for you to find modesty contemptible.
In a thousand ways they have led you to think that whoever does not want to be watched must have something shameful to hide.

We want you to feel that solitude is frightening and unnatural.
We want you to feel that being watched is the natural state of things.

One of the pleasant fantasies that consoles us in our sleep is that we are a sovereign nation, and safe within our borders. This is what the new laws say about that:

We know who our friends are
And when our friends want to have words with one of you
We shall make it easy for them to take you away to a country where you will learn that you have more fingernails than you need
It will be no use bleating that you know of no offence you have committed under British law
It is for us to know what your offence is.
Angering our friends is an offence

It is inconceivable to me that a waking nation in the full consciousness of its freedom would have allowed its government to pass such laws as the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), the Crime and Disorder Act (1998), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000), the Terrorism Act (2000), the Criminal Justice and Police Act (2001), the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2001), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Extension Act (2002), the Criminal Justice Act (2003), the Extradition Act (2003), the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2003), the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004), the Civil Contingencies Act (2004), the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005), the Inquiries Act (2005), the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005), not to mention a host of pending legislation such as the Identity Cards Bill, the Coroners and Justice Bill, and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.


And those laws say:

Sleep, you stinking cowards,
Sweating as you dream of rights and freedoms.
Freedom is too hard for you;
We shall decide what freedom is
Sleep, you vermin.
Sleep, you scum

I think 'Albion' has woken since Pullman wrote this. Perhaps, with just a little more effort, we can finally roll the boulder to the top of the hill and down the other side.


7 Responses to “Philip Pullman”
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JuliaM said...

I was wrong, on the last Pullman thread. Forget JK Rowling.

The government's man used to discredit their opponents is current Children's Laureate Anthony Browne, who misunderstands (or more likely, deliberately misunderstands) the whole point of the argument.

17 July 2009 at 17:05
Catosays said...

Powerful writing that. I've taken the liberty of re-posting it on my blog...with hat-tip of course.

17 July 2009 at 19:33
GCooper said...

It does anyone know why, or by whom, it was pulled?

17 July 2009 at 19:41

No, GC - just that it disappeared suddenly without acknowledgement from Times Online. It really is a powerful piece and I'm glad the internet can preserve it. Pls keep a copy somewhere.

17 July 2009 at 19:57
GCooper said...

Good grief! In which case it stands as a work of prophecy, as well as of great sense.

So much for 'The Thunderer'!

17 July 2009 at 21:16
banned said...

I remember this and had previously saved it having passed it on to a few American friends. I had not realised that it was by the same Philip Pullman who is in the current 'furure ' about the Independent Safeguarding Authority ( ISA ) which comes on stream this year.

17 July 2009 at 21:43
Fausty said...

Great find, GV. Duly saved.

17 July 2009 at 21:51