I owe my (new) life to David Lammy

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I owe my (new) life to David Lammy

Sean Walsh thanks David Lammy for the gift of a new life and for helping him escape the clutches of Nazism.

From a recovering addict.

My name is Sean and I am a Nazi. There, I’ve said it. I feel better already. Step One of any recovery program is that we admit that we are powerless in the face of the disease. I need help. My life has become unmanageable due to my obsession with the fact -if it is a fact- that 17.4 million is a bigger number than 16.8 million.

But thank you David Lammy! For gifting to me the possibility of new life. And so close to Easter!

For a while, too long, I thought I had it under control. Yes, there was the occasional temptation to clap approvingly at a Farage speech (if I was alone obviously), or to think that Redwood was talking sense (ditto). But I put these down to occasional lapses, to infrequent and therefore forgivable moments of weakness. Now I know I was deluding myself. The Nazism already had a grip on me- like smack in the soul of a protagonist in a William Burroughs memoir- and even though it only presented itself as the odd disposition to fascism (like when I voted UKIP in 2014) that was just the illness telling me that I was really fine and that when we got a proper Tory leader I’d be able to give it up, just like that. But it’s never that easy. Not for people like me. Casual fascism, in our case, will inevitably devolve into unleaded Nazism.

Thinking back, the signs were always there. As a kid I’d joined the Scouts thinking that it was a way to tie cool knots and swim widths in a swimming pool. Who was I kidding? It was the uniform -the fact that there was a uniform- that attracted me. I see that now. True I was kicked out of Scouts after three weeks because of the incident, but almost immediately I took up cricket – swapping one uniform for another, when you think about it. Later, as a student, my favourite episode of Father Ted was the one in which  Ted is accused of being a racist by the Chinese community on Craggy Island.

I don’t need to tell you where my sympathies lay on that occasion. Shame on me.

They say that before you can begin to get better you need to hit rock bottom. For that reason, I am grateful to David Lammy. The other week on the Andrew Marr show it was almost like he was talking to me when he announced that a decision to vote “leave” in 2016, augmented by a determination to implement that vote, is a logically sufficient Nazi indicator.

I admit I was confused at first. In my illness I’d believed that the European Union comprises a set of totalitarian structures which express a specific teleology: an end state in which the nation is dissolved but the state preserved as a super-national, technocratic centre. I’d thought that it was a project to create a country a priori out of a set of political institutions and -in my inverted and corrupted thinking- this had seemed to me to be the wrong way around. I’d somehow got it into my Nazi-colonised head that this was the real fascism.

That’s how ill I was.

(It’s helping to get this out, so I’ll carry on if that’s ok).

I owe it to you to admit that the Nazism had interfered with my faith life. In retrospect it’s undeniable that my Christian discipleship had become compromised. I had come to believe that an aggressively secular institution, predicated upon an assumption that history was “on its side”, had thereby attached itself to some form of heresy. And that God, having a sense of humour, would laugh at that conceit. As if I was justified in arguing that He has a sense of humour simply from the fact of Michael Gove! I’d fallen into the trap of believing that the Christian obligation included an active orientation of the soul in the direction of the transcendental. I came to prefer the superficial speculations of the patristics over the beautiful liturgy of the standard EU directive (especially as translated into the deeply enriching language of the UK Statutory Instrument).

But Donald Tusk, it seems to me now, is clearly on the money: there is indeed a special place in Hell for people who practise such scepticism. Probably in the eighth ring of Dante’s Inferno, with Judas as near-neighbour.

All of that only covers one side of my dysfunctionality. Just as the illness had turned me into an EU-hating proto-Goebbels so had it cultivated in me a sort of ersatz Roger Scruton worldview (are we allowed to mention him anymore (Scruton not Goebels)?). I contemplated the United Kingdom not as an appropriate proxy for the self-serving edicts of a democratically remote elite but as the distillation of a specific history underpinned by (but not directed by) a system of law. I even thought that maybe contained within that history was an insight that could be a source of consolation: that we should be governed by those we elect and that this national capacity generates a form of trust that those elected are not permitted either to confiscate or give away.

How bang-on crazy must I have been at this point in my “development”? I’m lucky my driving licence wasn’t taken off me.

Until David’s intervention I’d always thought I was tolerant. Why wouldn’t I be? I fall into a minority group myself, or so I thought. I like books; I have a keen interest in 20th Century philosophy of mind; I listen to Radio 3; I have distinct views about the transphobia in Shakespeare’s 20th Sonnet. How much more minority can you be?  But as Mr Lammy explained to Mr Marr, spittle settling happily on upper lip (that’s David’s lip, not Andrew’s), the European Union is not the Europe of Voltaire, Mozart, Titian or Chaucer but the Europe of the acquis communitaire and common protocols on Perspex transparency criteria. This is the Europe my grandfather fought for: he wasn’t fighting Nazis qua German Nazis butthe fascist bigots who would one day resist the development of a common trading area into a liberty-sucking administrative behemoth.

But now I’m getting better by not being a Nazi one day at a time. I’m not yet ready to commit fully to the European idea – I’ve only just found a sponsor after all. But I know that in order to keep this gift I have been given I must learn to give it away in the form of helping my fellow suffering Nazis. I’ve recently enrolled for a postgraduate course in mathematics. My thesis is already gestating in my newly-cleansed mind: The Role of Hitler in the Development of Comparative Arithmetic: how 16.8 million is more than 17.4 million. I’ll post it up here later (£).

Sean W is a grateful recovering Nazi.

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  • Sean Walsh
    Sean Walsh
    Sean Walsh is a former university teacher of philosophy. He has a doctorate in the philosophy of artificial intelligence and his current research interests are in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics and the philosophy of religion. He is also interested in philosophical issues around addiction. He lives in Wiltshire and works with addiction and recovery agencies, and with a homeless charity. He runs a lot.
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