MANY people will have seen the BBC’s television showing of Watership Down over Christmas.

This 46-year-old story about rabbits is a classic. It depicts rabbits which were not prepared to take risks and other rabbits which, summoning up their courage, were prepared to. The story has become a major text for our times.

Despite warnings that remaining where they were was going to prove dangerous, members of warrens which were fearful of change learned the hard way that they had made a deadly mistake in staying as they were. Their warrens were either destroyed, or managed by their enemies. They paid a terrible price for remaining.

The rabbits which took the risk of going forth boldly to found a new settlement had difficulties to overcome. It was not easy but, undaunted, they survived and thrived splendidly.

Watership Down has a clear message for Great Britain: there are indeed times when risks have to be taken, when boldness is our friend.

Yet, as we look about British society, we see so many people who are against the taking of risks.

Free speech is being censored because someone is bound (waiting) to be offended; safe spaces are being demanded in universities (of all places!) because there are students who do not want to hear opinions with which they do not agree; some schools ban children from playing with conkers; they oppose competition (in a highly competitive world) because everyone must win prizes.

Standards are accepted as ‘satisfactory’ (a rather meaningless term) rather than encourage endurance of the discomfort associated with the pursuit of excellence; there is a distrust of patriotism, even dislike of this country and its history (after all, isn’t patriotism the last refuge of the scoundrel? Isn’t nationalism pure evil? Isn’t Britain simply a group of offshore islands which are not capable of governing themselves?).

Nuclear power is rejected out of hand; there is support for the curbing of economic growth because the principal beneficiaries appear to be global corporations and business executives consumed by greed; fearfulness over the dark places to which technological advances are taking us; Remoaners’ fear leaving the European Union’s comforting embrace.

The above is some of the actual evidence – proof in this ‘post-truth’ era – of a society in which so many are fundamentally against taking risks. Hence the panic we witness over the possibility of Brexit in the elite circles of the political, business, ecclesiastical, academic, theatrical, comedic and media worlds.

No society that is against taking risks can prosper in the long-term. Rightly so, because such a society can only be in decline. It therefore deserves to be swallowed up by others: in the case of the UK, a German-dominated EU.

The cabinet and Members of Parliament should learn from the courageous rabbits. It is not too late.

Dr. Peter Lucas

Kirkby Lonsdale