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Toryism has never been more necessary. So we Tories must rise to the challenge of the times. Confronted by global instability on an unprecedented scale, it is time to scrap our concepts, which are probably out of date, while holding firm to our prejudices. The world is in a terrible state of chassis. Try to foresee the future? It is hard enough to predict the recent past. There is only one safe route through the valley of the shadow of chaos: hard thinking in the national interest.

Europe is all-consuming. It is difficult to persuade anyone at a senior level to address his mind to anything else. One can understand why. The EU is our most important market. You do not need to be a closet federast to want to find a way out of the Eurozone's nervous breakdown. But what do they know of Europe who only Europe know?

Which of the following four statements is true?

1) The internet has destroyed the power of traditional Islamic regimes to control the flow of information and thus crib, cabin and confine the possibilities of existence: the scope of ambition. Islam is ready to embrace modernity. 

2) The challenge of Western modernity has created a crisis throughout the Islamic world. It has highlighted the failure of traditional regimes. In response, the jeunesse dore of Tahrir Square prostrated themselves in front of the idols of false Gods. In much of the rest of Islam, the devout young responded by falling back on a harder, harsher, truer version of their faith. As a result, an Islamic reformation is now taking place. Let the world beware.


3) The Assad regime will shortly crumble. About time too. A new Syria is ready to be born. 

4) As the Assad regime disintegrates, the Christians and Jews in Syria are growing nervous. Under the out-going lot, they knew where they were. But what would happen if the Islamists took over?

The answer is easy. All four are correct. In which proportion? No-one can tell. Yet mankind's future may hinge on the answer. That brings us to one of the greatest paradoxes of the modern era: William Butler Yeats.

In the mid 1890s, in West London, there was an endless supply of old women of both sexes who had intellectual tastes without the intellect. Phrenology, the Ouija board, calling up spirits from the vasty deep: every form of briefly modish nonsense had its adherents. Miss Plaintive, Mr Twitter, Lady Witter: they simpered their way from seance to supper-time, and even Max Beerbohm would have found it hard to caricature the already self-caricatured. But here is the paradox, to be pondered by anyone still nursing the illusion that this is a rational species. None of those gatherings was complete until the arrival of W.B.Yeats. He inundated himself in nonsense.

He went on to become the Twentieth Century's greatest poet and to capture its predicament in a few brief lines which achieve a breath-taking fusion of music and terror. " Great hatred, little room" – written about Ireland, equally applicable to Israel/Palestine. "The best lack all conviction while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity." "What rough beast… slouching towards Bethlehem to be born".

Since the Seventeenth Century, a succession of political, intellectual, scientific and technological revolutions has enabled mankind to make a decisive break with the poverty, bleakness and oppression of previous eras. We now know how to live in prosperity and freedom. In a way that the most bloodthirsty of earlier tyrants would have envied, we also know how to destroy ourselves. Those two great rivers, of hope and of destruction, are now in an onrush towards the same estuary. Which will win the struggle: the race to decide mankind's future? Make no mistake. The next few decades will determine the outcome: are we or are we not a viable species?

If mankind loses, which is probable, it is all down to that scourge of modern man: cancer. In 1888, the Kaiser William 1 died, aged 90. His son Frederick was only 56. But he was already dying and reigned for a mere 99 days. Married to Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, Frederick was an Anglophile. Given a normal Imperial innings, he would have moved Germany in the direction of constitutional monarchy and diplomatic harmony. It is likely that the whole course of the Twentieth Century would have been different.

Instead, we had Kaiser Bill, a man of similar temperament to Nicholas Sarkozy. In coping with the wars which the wrong Kaiser engendered, we British exhausted ourselves. In the retreat from Imperial over-stretch, we abandoned Palestine and were unable to prevent the creation of Pakistan, those two peas which no princess's mattress could resist. So cancer and the decline of the British Empire could yet destroy us all.

If we are to avoid that fate, it is not absurd to argue that the British Tory tradition – that unrivalled source of realism and wisdom – will have to play a crucial role. "The fascination of what's difficult': that is us. So, in the current world, are Yeats's next few lines: "Has dried the sap out of my veins and rent spontaneous joy and natural content/Out of my heart". But Toryism is always a hard service; never harder, never more more needed. 

20 comments for: Bruce Anderson: As the world is wracked around us, ditch your concepts – and cling to your prejudices

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