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Sunday, 31 March 2019

Buzzword





Rod Liddle thinks the lunacy of transgender politics or peak wank as he so succinctly puts it, may initiate a turning point against political correctness. 

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Loud




The other day found us enjoying a pleasant lunch in a local restaurant. Two women sat at a nearby table, one of whom was a talker. By that I mean she never stopped, as if the whole point of lunch was to talk, talk talk. It was all prattle too - all me, me, me. Nothing interesting, no current affairs, no unusual experiences, no insights. And she was loud – strewth was she loud.

She was loud in the way that children are loud because they have not yet learned to moderate their voices and conduct a conversation which is rather more than a series of personal announcements.

Yet in my experience a loud voice can be an asset if linked to a quietly assertive personality but it’s a fine line to tread. I don’t have a loud voice so I don’t need to tread such a line which perhaps is just as well.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Flight along Baslow edge





One of our favourite walking areas. A chap used a drone to make this clip - click through to YouTube for the details.

The subject of this post is in the same area. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Does God exist?



The eternity of truth is inherent in it : all truths—not a few grand ones—are equally eternal. I am sorry that the word eternal should necessarily have an unction which prejudices dry minds against it, and leads fools to use it without understanding. This unction is not rhetorical, because the nature of truth is really sublime, and its name ought to mark its sublimity. Truth is one of the realities covered in the eclectic religion of our fathers by the idea of God.

George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923)

To my mind the question does God exist is easily answered – no. To other people the answer is just as easy – yes. The arguments are so well-known that they have become uninteresting and perhaps that leads us to a much more interesting question – does it matter?

Probably not as far as many modern, right-on progressives are concerned, but who knows? Maybe it would have been socially and politically useful to keep a firmer and more widespread hold of the idea of God before leaping into the divisive and nihilistic swamp of political correctness. Would God have helped us to avoid rootless modes of unbelief which seem so remarkably good at fostering disorientation? Perhaps not but the possibility has to be worth a thought or two because socially and politically things are not going well for the secular world.

God as a transcendental standard of truth does at least remind us that there is an immutable reality reflected in immutable natural laws. A secular reality has no such transcendental reminder. It only has money, politics and rather feeble appeals to integrity.

Here in the West, freeing ourselves from the restrictive embrace of Christianity, however imperfect that embrace might have been, has not been an unalloyed success. Family breakdown, abortion on demand, attacks on men disguised as feminism, attacks on heterosexual norms disguised as sexual tolerance, attacks on indigenous Westerners disguised as anti-racism, attacks on Christianity disguised as attacks on Islamophobia, attacks on free speech disguised as attacks on hate speech, overt sexual display disguised as personal freedom.

It’s quite a list and all are secular trends we cannot easily discuss or analyse because our brave new world promises to be far more intolerant than the one it seeks to replace. With huge irony, secular repression is proving to be even more onerous, even more of a drag on human freedom than perhaps we assumed. Yet we thought we were in control. 

In control? Fat chance. Even our science has not been immune, that dispassionate pursuit of truth which played such as large part in pulling us out of a life nasty, brutish and short. After supposedly climbing from the gloomy depths of superstition to the cool uplands of objectivity we in the West have taken to pseudoscientific fraud in a big way. The scientific method hasn’t protected us from climate fraud but that was just for starters. If lying to children and wasting billions upon billions of dollars on bizarre attempts to control the climate were not enough we have lots more destructive pseudoscientific nonsense in the pipeline. The secular nihilists are just getting into their stride.

For example those who advocate the mantra of biologically identical male and female brains are already trying to suppress extremely well-established scientific work which says otherwise. Common sense also says otherwise but common sense is definitely passé - and no longer common.

In an increasingly rootless Western world, it is perhaps worthwhile to take another look at Santayana’s quote and ponder the possibility that God as transcendental truth may have been our best defence against secular madness. Maybe that was the whole point but we didn’t see it - we allowed ourselves to home in on the religious baggage because it was an easy target. Easy to criticise, sneer at or lampoon perhaps, but the spiritual core is not at all easy to replace because the spiritual core is where the nature of truth is really sublime, and its name ought to mark its sublimity.

This is not to claim that believers are more truthful or more sane than everyone else because quite a few are decidedly loopy. But the loopy aspect tends to come with the baggage rather than the core monotheism. Whether God exists or not and whether this is a valid question or not, it may well be that some kind of unadorned monotheism would have provided a spiritual defence against the crazy excesses of secular political rhetoric.

Suppose we move on and conduct a thought experiment. Suppose we imagine a UK which is as solidly religious as it was a century or more ago. In addition, suppose we tidy up our thought experiment by sidelining sects, schisms and doctrinal intransigence in favour of a simple pared down monotheism. This would be a theism which does not seek to compete with a scientific standpoint but bases itself on a much more moral outlook. Even a moral cosmology.

Completely impossible of course because human nature would not allow it. The baggage would accumulate from day one, but this is merely a thought experiment so we may set aside the baggage issue, insurmountable though it is. Given the impossible nature of the thought experiment any conclusion is mere daydreaming anyhow, but even daydreaming may be interesting.

In which case it may be suggested that a simple monotheism may well have protected us from a number of malign social and political trends. Not only that, but it seems likely enough that it would also have left Western societies and cultures with the confidence to remain as coherent societies and cultures in the first place. It would have left the roots intact.

It may be that atheism and agnosticism are aspects of collective intellectual decline, not the intellectual progress they seem to represent - and I write that as an atheist. It may be that God’s existence isn’t the point but some degree of transcendental truth, moral authority and cultural continuity was always the point. A point now all but lost.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

HOW BBC BIAS WORKS





Quite long but worth watching. The institutional bias of the BBC by journalist and former BBC insider Robin Aitken.

It is much as a BBC outsider might expect, but worth saying, partly because Robin Aitken saw it from the inside and partly because as suggested near the end of the video - change is in the air.

Additional
Mr Aitken wrote this article in the Daily Mail back in 2007 giving more details of his career in the BBC.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Blue lagoon





Dene Quarry near Cromford in Derbyshire - we skirted the quarry on our walk today. A sense of scale is indicated by parked vehicles towards the top left of the photo.

Whenever we walk by this quarry I have a sense of unease at the size of it and what it says about our demand for raw materials. It is easy enough to put aside such thoughts because if asked are you prepared to do without x, y, z then my honest answer would be no thanks. But the sense of unease remains. 

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Antique Heseltine for sale



Hemswell Antiques Centre has what appears to be an interesting dummy Heseltine for sale, complete with leather carrying case. A talking point perhaps? Maybe it could be made to explain the advantages of the EU in Greek. It seems to be complete apart from the wig.





Thursday, 21 March 2019

Two women



The other day I noticed two women sitting together in a cafe enjoying a coffee and a natter. Both seemed to be about the same age. Mid sixties would be my guess but in their outward appearance they were quite different.

One was slim, grey-haired and neatly but quietly dressed. She looked like a retired head teacher.

The other carried much more weight, had long wavy hair dyed black, wore lots of makeup and jewellery and managed to look like a pantomime dame.

In other words one carried her age well while the other did not. It doesn’t matter in the sense that nobody really bothers anyway and for all I know the well-groomed lady could be an undetected mass murderer.

Yet it is impossible to avoid the thought that some people do not see themselves when they look in the mirror. No doubt in our heads we all gild the proverbial lily when we gaze at our own reflection, but surely we do at least see something resembling reality. Don’t we?

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Cyclists' hearts





Not sure what to make of this. We all know that major sports stars have to be dedicated but this feels more like madness than dedication. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Terrifying hours



An article in Tablet by David P. Goldman is interesting. As we know the world is changing rapidly and Chinese technology, money and ambitions are driving much of the change.

Huawei is employee-owned and its highly-incentivized employees put in terrifying hours. Its founder, Ren Zhengfei, owns a reported 1.4 percent of the company, valued at $450 million. His executives and workers own the rest. The Huawei campus covers 500 acres and makes Stanford University look dowdy. The executive dining center features an enormous artificial waterfall, young women in traditional costume playing ancient Chinese instruments, and three-star quality Cantonese food (or so I’m told; I eat kosher). We dined in a small private room with a Huawei executive, whence a guide escorted us to the exhibition hall. We passed thousands of Huawei workers returning from lunch. “They all have a futon under their desks,” said our guide. “They take a nap after lunch because they work until 10 o’clock.”

The Huawei tour took three hours. It might be the largest technology museum in the world, bigger than the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, or the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, except it shows only new things. One exhibit consisted of a 4-by-6-yard wall map of Guangdong City, glistening tens of thousands of small lights. “Every one of the lights is a smartphone,” said our guide. “We can track the location of every phone and correlate position to online purchases and social media posts.”

And what do you use this information for, I inquired? “Well, if you want to open a new Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, this will help you to find the best location,” said the guide. Yeah, right, I thought. The Ministry of State Security knows where everyone is at all times and whom they are with; if the phones of two Chinese who posted something critical about the government are in proximity, the State Security computers will detect a conspiracy. That was before China installed high-definition video cameras with facial recognition software powered by Huawei chips at 100-meter intervals in major cities.


There is much more context than Huawei - the whole piece is well worth reading.

Mr Happy





When a man is very happy, his brain, as is well known, is not very active.

Ivan Turgenev - The Diary of a Superfluous Man (1850)

Monday, 18 March 2019

Sunday, 17 March 2019

A career in oppression




And she suddenly, facing the ormolu clock and the peacock screen with her eyes upon them as though they might, with their color and decoration help her, had a revelation — dim, misty, vague, and lost almost as soon as it was seen — that it wasn’t really anyone’s fault at all — that it was the system, the place, the tightness and closeness and helplessness that did for everybody; that nobody could escape from it, and that the finest saint, the most noble character, would be crushed and broken in that remorseless mill— “the mills of the gods”? — no, the mills of a rotten, impoverished, antiquated system....

Hugh Walpole - Mr Perrin and Mr Traill (1911)


The subject of Walpole’s novel is a fictional boarding school presided over by a furtively sadistic headmaster. The school is the rotten, impoverished, antiquated system which crushes the spirit of its teaching staff and their families.

It also highlights the vexed question of free will and the difficulties we so often face in actually exercising our free will to escape from the system, the place, the tightness and closeness and helplessness that did for everybody. We have free will, that much seems obvious, but do we use it as often as we could? No we don’t. That much seems obvious too.

Yet petty and not so petty forms of oppression are part of life and always have been. Not only that, but today a major middle class function is to operate and expand those remorseless mills on behalf of the governing classes. As it was with Walpole’s fictional headmaster, oppression is a career often suited to those with middle class aspirations but no more than an average dose of talent. Sometimes less. Sometimes none at all.

Today oppression offers a far wider career choice than was the case in Walpole’s day. From the EU to climate change, from petty motoring offences to over-complex taxation, from recycling to official dietary harangues, from misgendering to islamophobia, from sustainability to hate speech, the sheer range of oppressive activity is almost too vast to comprehend. That too, that vastness is also oppressive. It is not difficult to see that in the medium to long term, the scale of modern oppression will evolve into the tightness and closeness and helplessness that did for everybody.

All these myriad modes of oppression are the result of huge numbers of middle class people shaping their own careers and the careers of like-minded professionals. Democracy seems to have no antidote for it. Academics, journalists, politicians, scientists, celebrities and many more all have a vested interest in furthering oppression and their professional role in those remorseless mills which are the inevitable outcome of their professional self-interest.

Almost as if the middle classes of the developed world do not have enough to do. As if modern automation, information systems, monitoring systems, databases and communication systems have largely finished to job of hollowing out traditional middle class careers. As if the impact of the electronic age on traditional employment cannot be offset by new and equally productive forms of middle class employment.

It is as if a career in oppression is all that is open to many would-be middle class people. The governing classes of course, they benefit from oppression as it makes government that much easier and creates a large class of voters and mainstream pundits who need to keep things that way.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Appeasement




Amid the politically correct clamour and the harangues which have become an inescapable feature of modern life there is a distinct sense of something else lurking below the rhetoric. Something furtive, creepy and far less worthy than the superficial vanities of virtue-signalling might suggest. To my mind that lurking something is appeasement. The essence of political correctness feels strangely primitive, like a supplication offered to unseen forces, like the prayers of a godless age.

Okay – so who is being appeased?

People are being appeased. People who in some visceral way seem to be more powerful than we are. Or there are more of them. Or they are smarter. Or they are more ruthless than we are. Or more fanatical, more driven, more threatening. Or they work harder. Or our ancestors harmed their ancestors in the remote past and they may be out for revenge. Or they are richer than we are. Or better connected. Or they could dismiss us for being useless. Or they could point the finger at us for simply being what we are.

If so then which is it?

It’s all of them. At the core of political correctness lies a chicken-hearted anxiety that others may not look kindly on our comforts, even our lives, our worthless cringing lives. We are not our ancestors, we are not as they were. Even worse – we have chosen to forget what they were because we can’t possibly emulate their robust outlook and so cannot achieve what they achieved. Or even hang on to it in the longer term.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Money-bags and faddists



You British have sold your souls for something less than the conventional mess of pottage. You are ruled in the first place by money-bags, and the faddists whom they support to blind your eyes.

John Buchan - The Half-Hearted (1900)


Written well over a century ago but things don’t really change much when it comes to the public arena. We still allow faddists to blind our eyes while the money-bags make off with the money.

Where does the primary responsibility lie? With the mainstream media obviously. The media actively support faddists and always have. Faddists breed an endless supply of stories simple enough for headlines, news, articles, campaigns, freak shows, righteous indignation and even some analysis on slow days.

As long as we have mainstream media wedded to drama we are stuck with faddists, nutters, well-connected loons, creeps, charlatans and celebrities because the media need them. Looping back to the Buchan quote - yes we have sold our souls. We’ve sold our souls to the media. Without the media the faddists would be nothing. 

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Peak Idiot



One of the major developments of recent decades has been a dramatic rise in the number of idiots in the public arena. Everyone has come across them because so many infest the media – that’s the uppity aspect coming through loud and garbled.

This unfortunate phenomenon has occurred even though the village idiot is supposedly a creature of the past. Small boys no longer throw stones at the local idiot and there is no longer a tradition of subjecting them to raucous ridicule as in the golden days of yore. However, as with so many other aspects of life we have moved on but in doing so we have inadvertently enhanced the village idiot role.

Now we embrace them and even encourage them to develop the arts of uppity babble. We even treat some idiots as gurus – or at least other idiots do. This occurs when the number of idiots reaches a critical mass otherwise known as Peak Idiot. We are just about there, the obvious consequences are being visited upon us and only the idiots fail to understand why we deserve them.

Just one example should suffice to highlight the Peak Idiot issue.

The House of Commons Speaker may look like a small boy but in line with modern mores and whatever the provocation he does not throw stones at Parliamentary village idiots such as Jeremy Corbyn. It is tempting to count this as progress, but there are times when one is bound to wonder if this really is progress. Even in a limited not-going-backwards sense. Especially if we consider Mr Corbyn’s idiot history as an MP.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Brexit - what next?






As Theresa May treats us to another turn of the Brexit wheel it becomes ever more obvious that those who see all this as deliberate confusion may be right. The reason for sowing confusion is simple enough.

Present people with two options – stay as you are or radical change. Sow endless confusion about the latter option and people will tend to reject it simply because one is confusingly uncertain while the other isn’t. We had Project Fear but that didn’t work so now we have Project Confuse. As that one does not seem to be working either - what next?

Monday, 11 March 2019

Simple slurry solution




And what is the best way to deal with dairy farm emissions? As we saw while out walking today -  one way is to squirt them over the hedge. Simple.



Fortunately the driver kindly stopped spraying while we walked past.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Strewth it's Meghan again



Sitting here on a Sunday evening in front of the fire I happened to peruse an interesting piece by Doug Stokes on decolonizing the curriculum and what seems to be the unstoppable decline of the West through self-flagellating stupidity. Fair enough but blow me - the Duchess of Clich√© manages another appearance. Oh well - it's worth reading in spite of that  - 

The campaign by left-wing student protestors and some faculty to force Western universities to “decolonize the curriculum” has been surprisingly successful. A movement that started at the University of Cape Town in 2015, with the demand that the city’s university remove its statue of Cecil Rhodes—“Rhodes Must Fall”—quickly made its way to the U.K., with student activists calling for his statue at Oriel College, Oxford to be taken down. At its heart, the movement seeks to challenge what it characterizes as the dominance of the Western canon in the humanities and social sciences, as well as the under-representation of women and minorities in academia. It also, like many movements inspired by critical theory, maintains that a person’s beliefs and worldview are largely determined by their skin color, sexual orientation and gender.

To those of us on the outside, academia has begun to resemble a vast asylum where middle class loons seek to outdo each other in rhetorical absurdities far, far removed from real life. Far enough for Meghan to endorse it at any rate.

In a bizarre turn of events, this movement now enjoys the endorsement of the British Royal Family. In February 2019, on a visit to a London University, the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, lent her weight to the movement, having had her eyes opened by a presentation about the relatively small number of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) staff within the U.K. higher education sector...

When presented with evidence about the lack of black and female professors in British universities she reportedly exclaimed, “Oh my God!” One of the organizers, Meera Sabaratnam, said it was “wonderful to see the Duchess standing up for female equality” as many “of the issues around racial equality are similar and it is great to see her embrace this. Change is long overdue.”

Yes - "Oh my God" is exactly what she would say. Forget the quality, forget reality, just emote over the academic tractor stats. The trouble is, the emoting really is based on tractor stats as Mr Stokes demonstrates.

 At Professorial level (the data that shocked the Duchess the most), the report says that among “U.K. academics, the difference in proportions between white professors (11.2%) and BME professors (9.7 percent) was small at 1.5 percentage points.” What the data does show is, in fact, the incredible diversity and richness of faculty throughout U.K. academic institutions, one of the reasons they remain so attractive to some of the world’s best and brightest. This is something to be celebrated and is evidence of the meritocratic hiring practices of our higher education institutions, one of the reasons the U.K. boasts four of the world’s top 10 universities.
  
It's depressing but the whole piece is well worth reading. What one should make of it I'm not sure. In one sense it's just another tale of political correctness dragging us into the mire. On the other hand? On the other hand the meek won't inherit the earth.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Meghan forgets a detail




Meghan seems to have forgotten that her sprog will be a rich feminist. It makes a vast difference as I’m sure she knows even if she’d rather not mention it. All sprog will ever have to do is talk the talk. 

It requires no great foresight to envisage Harry eventually wondering why he married the ghastly woman. 

Thursday, 7 March 2019

A very sacred thing






 For to a girl brought up in the principles of the High Church the truth is a very sacred thing. She keeps it to herself.

Stephen Leacock - Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914)

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Unsporting







Marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe says elite sport could be open to "manipulation" unless tighter rules are applied to transgender women.

"Right now, transgender women are not a threat to female sport," she said.

"We need to protect female sport but we also need to protect transgender women and their rights.

"For all this to advance fairly to everybody, we have to accept it might take a while, work together and stop attacking the other side."


Stop attacking the other side? That's probably not enough - not nearly enough.

Monday, 4 March 2019

An alternative future



source



Bloody hell - only yesterday I took my usual walk along the canal towpath and counted eight dead Daleks cluttering up the canal. It’s not as if the abortive invasion happened recently but what has the council done about clearing up the mess? Sod all as far as I can see. It’s the council’s job to keep this stretch of canal clear.

I know I have a couple of empty Daleks in my garden but that’s not the point. I’m using them as composters but I don’t have enough vegetable material and garden waste to keep more than two on the go. The council should just sort out the ones in the canal and send them off to the Dalek recycling centre as everyone else did.

Sorting the Daleks was fun while it lasted of course but that’s over now and the mess they made should be cleared up. Not that they made much of a mess as we know. They didn’t have time. Talk about useless. All I used was a spade – dealt with dozens of them with that old spade. Whack off the eye stick, whack off the ray gun, stick the spade under it and over it goes. Easy as falling off a log. From what I hear even the army sometimes went in close with spades. It was so easy.

The Daleks couldn’t even get up my gravel drive because the gravel stopped them dead. I had to pull my shoes on and get out there to sort them out while all they could do was sit there on the gravel bleating – “exterminate”. They couldn’t even exterminate next door’s yapping dog. Pity that. Even a kid with a baseball bat could sort a few Daleks. They were so pathetically immobile and that eye on a stalk – well words fail me.

Mind you there was an unpleasant side to the invasion, those details we don’t like to talk about except when we’ve had a few. Like what happened to all those Daleks when we destroyed their silly pepper pot shells? You know – the creatures inside trying to work out why their eye on a stalk suddenly stopped working before they could blast anyone.

Yes we sometimes yanked them out and sometimes left them to rot... Which reminds me, maybe those Daleks in the canal haven’t been emptied yet. Strewth I don’t like that idea. I heard a story about a guy who stuck one on his barbecue but I’m not going into that. Tastes like chicken apparently.

Speaking of which it always amazes me to think back on the reasons behind the Dalek invasion. How did a bunch of interstellar morons manage to invent space travel when we didn’t? I know it is supposed to be all about gyroscopes and whatnot and we should have invented space travel years ago but somehow missed the basic idea. But come on - how come the Daleks worked it out when we didn’t?

Okay I’ve read the explanations but I still think there are questions to be asked. And that canal needs sorting. I’m not doing it.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Was the EU always doomed?



The Brexit debate has revived a number of important questions, one of which is the viability of the EU project whatever the eventual Brexit outcome. Although the Brexit shambles has shown up the mendacity and amateurish cunning of the British governing classes, it has also reminded us yet again of EU deficiencies. Brexit has exposed a deep, dark void within the entire ethos of the EU in the modern world. What is it for?

In recent decades the world has moved on to such an extent that the rationale for a Europe relentlessly squeezed into a decrepit EU mould cannot be sufficient today. The mould is too old. The ideals of its founders, even if we concede that they were ideals, were obviously formed by global conditions which have changed in ways which could not have been foreseen. Europe has also changed as the shadow of World War II fades away into the history books.

In other words the EU is no longer in touch with its original ideals. It has begun to resemble a tired and fractious empire rather than a would-be global superpower. Even the notion that it could be a global superpower seems risible, as if Ruritania decided to build a base on Mars.

A key EU problem is language. There are others of course, but language is a headache too many middle class people are liable to ignore, as if paying attention to it would seem parochial and not at all cosmopolitan. As if we are stuck in the seventies where casual holidays in Europe and a knowledge of French wines are all it takes to be cosmopolitan. As if the language problem is something to treat with disdain rather than the divisive burden which the EU cannot possibly resolve.

Yet it is a simple enough problem to describe - language matters because it is divisive. Subtly unpredictable in its effects, it is a cultural barrier, a national flag, a cultural flag, an indicator of differing values and the need for endlessly tedious negotiation. With its multiplicity of language the EU is more empire than superstate and Brexit has revealed yet again how problematic empires are. Particularly empires lacking inspired leadership, but that's another EU problem.

When the exigencies of empire override national problems then we have a recipe for endless fractious difficulties which cannot be resolved until the empire falls apart. The EU is old and tired - waiting for something it dare not name in any language.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

First kids born in council breeding scheme


A recent headline on BBC's teletext service which for a millisecond or two caused a raised eyebrow. Of course it turned out to be a goat breeding scheme. Phew.



I suppose the briefly raised eyebrow was a Brave New World reaction. Outlandishly preposterous but perhaps not quite as outlandishly preposterous as it should be.