The Chess Players, Sir John Lavery, 1929
Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.
What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
I never know what you are thinking. Think.
T S Eliot, A Game of Chess (from The Waste Land)
Here at British Intelligence Towers we do like a game of chess. The long day done, the scribes dismissed, out comes the lacquered, chequered board and the pieces are spilled on the table to take up their places for the coming battle. The four-square rooks wall the city, like a little Avignon, the slightly phallic bishops brush down their clerical vestments, the knight’s horse rears and the king and queen sit on their thrones behind the serried rank of little wooden skinheads, the pawns ready to throw themselves into sacrifice. And battle commences.
Now imagine yourself engrossed in a game, when your opponent announces that, from now on, each pawn will be able to make queen-like moves. You would be confused at first, but may agree to this whimsical change, believing yourself agile enough mentally to adapt and defeat this crazed upstart. But he is not done yet, and has another announcement to make.
Only his pawns. Not yours.
Now you have a reasonably accurate picture of what it is like to argue with the Left. Those of us who are used to argument from the standpoint of Enlightenment reason, which defers to first principles, deduction, empirical evidence, the law of excluded middle (that any proposition is true, or its negation is true, but not both), valid comparison, syllogism (Socrates is a man; All men are mortal; Therefore, Socrates is a man), the awareness of false syllogism (Socrates is mortal; All men are mortal; Therefore, all men are Socrates) and so on and so forth, are constantly stymied when arguing with parties who do not sail under that flag. The reign of the queen-like pawn is upon us.
Take racism, that now-valueless coin rubbed clean of its distinguishing marks through long interaction with other coins. It is clear what racism is, or so it appears. You are black and I am white and I despise and fear you purely because of this difference. This is racist. Now, mutatis mutandis (making any necessary changes to the details of the argument without affecting its core principles), we are entitled to state that, with you being black and me white, your despising me and fearing me because of this difference is also racist. Except, for the Left, it isn’t. The reason is that you lack power and I do not. Welcome to the reign of the queen-like pawn.
Let’s turn to freedom of speech. This has to be cut and dried, surely. Freedom of speech contains its own definition; an agent capable of communication is permitted to say or write anything he or she wishes. For the Left, however, there is an alchemical transformation of this apparently logically sturdy formula. The same agent is free to say or write anything he or she wishes, the only exception being when they are not. Freedom of speech, for the Leftist, has been preserved here, even though – when compared against the ruthless index of the real – it patently has not. Welcome to the reign of the queen-like pawn.
We could go on, but it would merely labour the point. Leftist argument relies on a series of unilateral caveats which are subject to revision at a time of their choosing. With the selective imposition of the queen-like pawn on the game of chess, perhaps there exists some grand-master somewhere who could still beat a beginner playing by traditional rules to the beginner’s revised version, but it would be what sports commentators refer to as a ‘big ask’.
The ongoing Black Lives Matter ‘protests’, which have now spread like this week’s virus to London, are the latest example of the reign of the queen-like pawn. The British people have been subject to a stream of ukases and edicts from a government far more concerned with opinion polls than pandemics, with the result that masks of dubious efficacy must be worn in public, social distancing rules – actually ad hoc laws – apply, and the freedom of movement and assembly so natural to a free people have been severely curtailed.
Except when they haven’t.
So, whereas you have to abide by certain hastily imposed and ill-thought-out restrictions, if you are pretending to be concerned about the death of an armed robber in an appalling country 4,000 miles away, no such restrictions apply. Welcome to the court of the queen-like pawn.
The situation will escalate if, as we desire for our king in the game, it remains unchecked. Just as clapping the NHS moved subtly and almost imperceptibly from a gesture of appreciation to a social requirement, so too the correct attitude to race relations is moving from the response of an educated and reasonable human being to a compulsory code of practice. You will take a knee or you will be out of a job.
And so the two combatants seat themselves across the board, ready for the game. As is traditional in the ancient and venerable game of chess, white moves first.
Or does it?