Retaking the flag of moral authority from LGBT÷

A divisive issue, positioned as inclusivity, illustrates a deeper governance issue

Look Right Look Left

I recently saw the “Progress Pride Flag” flying above my university college, and objected to the Master via an open letter on the principal basis that this flag is a fringe political movement that is associated with violation of informed consent for minors. I have now received a response, which is revealing by reading between the lines. As I indicated this was a matter of general public interest, I had flagged up that I would be sharing this to my newsletter. Hence I reasonably expected any communication to be couched in Advanced Administrativese.

Dear Martin

Thank you for taking the time to write regarding the College’s decision to fly the progress pride flag during February to mark LGBT+ History Month.  I do appreciate you taking the time to be so honest about your feelings as well as your own experiences, and I deeply regret that this has clearly caused you upset. 

The Governing Body, and I as Master, make every effort to maintain a regular and open dialogue with the current student community and they have expressed their strong wish for the College to use this flag to demonstrate our shared commitment to inclusivity and equal rights.  LGBT+ History month is the only occasion on which the college flies a flag other than the college flag or the Union Jack. 

The flag was chosen for non-political reasons, but it is of course true that no gesture of this sort can exist without attendant political inferences, many of which will inevitably be unwanted and unintended.  It was felt that we should respond positively to the student request to fly this flag, but we will certainly discuss whether another flag may be more appropriate in future.

We are fortunate in Pembroke to have a caring and committed community of alumni and a responsible and thoughtful cohort of students.  I do not take this for granted as I regularly hear from peer Heads of House in Oxford of contrasting situations which they face.  Please know that I have very much taken on board your concerns and I will certainly feed them back in discussions with student representatives.  We do give very careful consideration to all requests for flag flying or similar public statement-making and although not everyone will be proud of every decision we make, they are taken deliberately and with consultation. 

I should say that I am saddened that this issue has caused you to stop your regular gift to College.  Each and every contribution makes a real difference to us and is valued.  I appreciate you sharing your reasons and of course respect these, but I do hope that you will come back to feeling more fully that affection for your old College which motivated you to support us in the first instance.

With best wishes

The Rt Hon Sir Ernest Ryder

My take on this is:

  • He didn’t disagree with my points re the Progress Pride Flag, which is tacit agreement.
  • The existence of a (problematic) political angle is acknowledged.
  • The problem is bigger than himself; his hands are tied by the Governing Body.
  • The solution has to be a community and institutional one, at the Head of House level he operates at.
  • The symbolism of my (small) financial contribution being stopped does matter.

I think it is interesting that it is done under the rubric of “LGBT+” — more accurately seen as “LGBT÷” — which is how ordinary boring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and generally wayward people are divided against their heterosexual brothers and sisters via “labelism”. I look forward to a day when this whole question of who went to bed with whom for what fun frolics is deemed too dull to deserve mass cultural attention in this manner.

Dear Sir Ernest,

Thank you for your considered response. It has provoked a few additional thoughts that may be of help to you when confronting such matters in future.

The first is that the most important door in College is none of the ones I previously thought: not the main entrance, not the chapel, not the hall, not to the vault in the library for precious old books, and not even to your own lodgings. The single most important door, in my view, is the one hardly anyone ever sees, which is the one to the roof. That is because a flag is symbolic of that which is to be glorified and edified, and hence dominates all other concerns.

In warfare, capturing the enemy flag means the battle is over. I suggest that we are in a cultural war at present. Whoever controls access to that roof door, and thus access to the flagpole, essentially is the highest power and sets the entire moral tone for the College. When the student body asks for a change in the symbolism offered, that has profound meaning far beyond the particular issue being promoted, essentially defining the governing authority of the College.

There is a reason why traditions (like only showing the college or national flag) are so stubbornly traditional — change should be undertaken slowly and with due consideration of the consequences. Governance is a process that ought to be located in wisdom, which by its nature is longstanding and unyielding to change. While modifications to murals, paintings, or portraits in the hall are easily reversed if fashions shift, unfortunate precedents in governance are harder to undo.

One possible way of viewing these events is that governance of the College (and the wider university) is being hijacked via the student body, itself driven by social engineering. While it is important to be responsive to student opinion and desires, such a symbolic change is actually a de facto coup against the current governance structure. It puts external cultural, political, and (im)moral forces in a place to dictate what values the institution will follow.

I can imagine that on this specific issue, you personally have been placed in an awkward position. One has to pick battles wisely, and it is hard to go (productively) against an emergent norm like flying the Progress Pride Flag when lacking backing by your Head of House peers and Governing Body, who do not appreciate the ramifications. The true nature of this fringe (but potent) political movement, and its association with violation of medical informed consent for children, is unlikely to have been properly considered by any governing party or even the student body.

While my affection for the College is firm, I have an even more overriding affection for the protection of the young and innocent from mutilation and defilement. I have personally lived the tragic consequences of failed trangenderism, albeit by proxy. When the College flies a flag that is credibly allied to criminal harm to minors, then there are consequences. I suspect this issue is about to take on a whole new dimension with the ongoing alarming disclosures around face masks and Covid vaccines, both lacking proper informed consent.

I am more than happy to donate time to the College, to the extent I have slack. If there is any contribution or conversation I can offer that gives value, then please do not hesitate to ask me.

With best wishes,

Martin Geddes

My guess is that there are more “awake” (or at least “aware and sane”) allies in senior positions than we may realise, and they are biding their time for the right moment to act. In the woke environment of the last few years, the only option has been token resignation or futile dissent that would only result in replacement by a worse alternative. The real issue of the Covid scam, and all that it leads to, is about to hit mass awareness. While national and local government may end up being massively reduced in size, paradoxically good organisational governance becomes ever more of a focus.

I hope these words are useful to you in your own governance battles. Crib them at will!