Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Islamophobia becomes the enemy, not terrorism

A Muslim fanatic took hostages in a Sydney cafe and murdered two innocent people yesterday. Someone on Facebook posted this comment:

Thank God the gunman has been positively identified as Sheikh Man Haron Monis: Well-known to the Australian authorities as a professional lunatic who delights in writing mocking, sadistic letters to the families of dead soldiers. The commentariat can now move on from the "his motives are unclear" phase to the "all religions have their extremists" phase. Proceed.
Soon the story became Islamophobia. Breitbart, which I'm starting to find a very valuable website, has this rather marvellous article by James Delingpole about how this happened. How the far left hijacked the news story for its own ends and how a woman called Tessa Kum sent a hashtag  
that went viral. 

Ideologies often breed hatred. In the 1930s hatred of Jews and hatred of the bourgeoisie were not polar opposites, as they seemed, but parallel currents of thought with quite a lot in common. Goebbels agreed: he said that it was because the Nazis were socialists that they opposed Jews. Miss Kum seems, from the evidence James Delingpole marshals, to dislike white people - as oppressors. She doesn't see that this is really the same as disliking black people. Because from an extreme left-wing point of view it isn't. One is the equivalent of the class enemy, one the revolutionary class.

After the beheading of Drummer Rigby on the streets of London by Muslim fanatics, very many of my Facebook friends (not a disproportionately left-wing bunch) seemed much more worried by the EDL (English Defence League) having a 15 minute heavily policed march near the scene of the crime than by the killers. I said on someone's wall - she was explaining the 'context' of the killings in terms of America's wars - that maybe we should try to understand the 'context' of EDL as well and she unfriended me. 

She wasn't left-wing, by the way. She just wanted to protect the underdogs. 

How decadent the West has become.

Even Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister, who is usually so splendidly unbothered by modish ideas and cant, felt moved to deny any connection between these murders and Islam, in words that David Cameron might have used.

The point I keep making is that the ISIL death cult has nothing to do with any religion, any real religion. It has nothing to do with any particular community. It is something to which sick individuals succumb....
The idea that, you know, ISIL is somehow spawned by any particular religion, frankly, it’s probably even less true than saying that Catholicism spawned the IRA.

Victor Ponta gives up his doctorate

As Metternich said when he heard of Talleyrand's death, 

"What did he mean by that?"

Jokes are dangerous

Evelyn Waugh said that we choose our friends not because of their ability to amuse us but because of our ability to amuse them. Yes, but I like best the friends whom I not only amuse but who most inspire me to be amusing. 

I had lunch with an old friend like that yesterday and we laughed continuously. Is any happiness comparable to conversation that makes you laugh, especially if you are the one making the jokes?

Carlyle didn't necessarily think so. He despised Sydney Smith for his everlasting efforts to be witty. But this was because Carlyle felt that Smith's wit was contrived and, if it was, I understand Carlyle. Nothing is worse than witty things that have been prepared. Humour should be a bubbling up of the subconscious mind, but the subconscious mid is a dangerous thing and so is a sense if humour. 

Smith's famous jokes like the one about heaven being

like eating fois gras to the sound of trumpets

were not dangerous at all, but charming rather than funny.

Immigration and the American Dream

An article from Breitbart summarises the interesting ideas of Professor Gregory Clark, as set out in an article he wrote that is available only to subscribers to Foreign Affairs. He writes that though the
 "United States seems to cherish an image of itself as a country of opportunity for all, a country that invites in the world’s tired, its poor, and its huddled masses," 
the nation 
"can perform no special alchemy on the disadvantaged populations of any society in order to transform their life opportunities." 
He concludes that 
"the American Dream was always an illusion" 
"blindly pursuing that dream now will only lead to a future with dire social challenges."
He also says that 
"there can be no doubt that immigration is widening social inequality in the United States." 
Clark contends that 
"America has no higher rate of social mobility than medieval England or pre-industrial Sweden" 
and the ability of individuals to rise up the economic ladder is made worse when there is a flood of low-skilled immigrants. 

But a dream does not have to be realistic to be important. America has always combined egalitarianism with huge inequality and I am not sure inequality is a problem.

I am more interested in culture than economics. Culture determines economics, not the other way around. WASPs are the core of American culture and I wonder if this will continue and if not what the consequences will be.

Culture determines economics and what determines culture? Lots of things, from history to genetics and climate, but it seems to me that the biggest determinant is religion. Scandinavians are not very religious but it is Lutheranism that makes Scandinavia prosperous. Norwegians may not believe in, or even be interested in, God but they are Protestant agnostics.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Tourism as a disease

Gerald Durrell who grew up in Corfu and wrote about it in his immortal 'My Family and other Animals' said revisiting it after 50 years 
“was like paying a visit to the most beautiful woman in the world suffering from a terminal case of leprosy, commonly called tourism”.
That was thirty years ago. 

Tourism is indeed a horrible disease. Still I am glad the Greeks are now selling off islands. The Emir of Qatar has bought a very small one on which to build a palace. Part of me feels that  the Greeks should sell them in the sense of letting the islands become sovereign Qatari or Chinese territory. Perhaps the Turks would buy one or two. But on consideration this would be a destabilising factor in the Eastern Mediterranean.

What is very sad though is what is happening in Corfu - details here.

Here is Patrick Leigh Fermor in his great book, Roumeli, talking in 1966 about the advent of tourism in Greece.

One's first reaction to this new windfall is delight: Greek economy needs these revenues; one's second is sorrow. Economists rejoice, but many an old Athenian, aware of the havoc that tourism has spread in Spain and France and Italy, lament that this gregarious passion, which destroys the object of its love, should have chosen Greece as its most recent, most beautiful, perhaps its most fragile victim. They know that in a few years it has turned dignified islands and serene coasts into pullulating hells. In Athens itself, many a delightful old tavern has become an alien nightmare of bastard folklore and bad wine. Docile flocks converge on them, herded by button-eyed guides, Mentors and Stentors too, with all Manchester, all Lyons, all Cologne and half the Middle-West at heel. The Athenians who ate there for generations have long since fled. (Fortunately, many inns survive unpolluted; but for how long? The works of writers mentioning these places by name should be publicly burnt by the common hangman.) Greece is suffering its most dangerous invasion since the time of Xerxes.

..In dark moments I see bay after lonely bay and island after island as they are today and as they may become … The shore is enlivened with fifty jukeboxes and a thousand transistor wirelesses. Each house is now an artistic bar, a boutique or a curio shop; new hotels tower and concrete villas multiply.

My first job in the summer of 1981 was working for a British Member of Parliament and one of my tasks was to read all the newspapers for him and precis them. I remember my astonishment when I found in the Daily Mirror an advertisement for package holidays in Greece. I had associated holidays in Greece only with archaeological cruises. 

I wish I had bought one of those holidays and gone to Greece before the deluge though it sounds as if the deluge began earlier. Now, Greece for me is ruined by modernity and affluence. I very much prefer Albania and, of course, Romania.

One travels to foreign countries to explore ones unconscious mind and to travel in time, not in space, but nothing is more up to date than tourist spots. They all seem to be the same, restaurants with the same check tablecloths, towns with similar histories of violent religious bigotry. The people one meets are the same people that one left ones country to escape. Instead of discovering something hidden, all these places seem to be the same place, touristland. But you know all this. 

I start to wonder if Malcom Muggeridge was right when he said

Travel, of course, narrows the mind.

Tismana Monastery

Tismana Monastery is the oldest monastic establishment still in operation in Romania, dating from 14th century. Unfortunately it was largely rebuilt in 1855 but the church though restored still has very old and fine wall paintings.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Altar girls

I went to the Catholic Mass today at the Bărăţia church (the Hungarian church as it is also known). The chancel was full of altar girls, one with long brown tresses reaching almost to her waist. I wonder what St. Paul thought, looking down from heaven. 

I should prefer to attend the Orthodox Mass but we Catholics are required to go to Mass at a Catholic church and I am too frivolous to go to Mass twice in a day. So I put up with altar girls and the sign of peace. But, actually, the Mass in Romania is beautiful and dignified - and, which is very important, sung. In St Joseph's Cathedral the singing is sublime and Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, etc. are sung in Latin. It has a really very good choir. It's the nearest you can get in Bucharest to a Latin Mass. 

It would be better, of course, if the celebrant stood with his back to the congregation.

Once every year or so I go to the English language Mass at the French church as a penance for my many sins and there at a certain point the altar is surrounded by American children, taking part in play acting of a sort that must insult their intelligence, at the direction of a British nun.

(British nuns, I have come to suspect while living here, are often left-wing and even feminist. Romanian nuns are the reverse.)

What I almost never do but mean to is go to Mass at one of the Greek Catholic churches, prised with difficulty from the hands of the Romanian Orthodox Church which was given them when under Stalin the Greek Catholics were suppressed here and in Ukraine. They are part of the Roman Catholic Church but following the Orthodox liturgy.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Things that seem strange to a foreigner about the Romanian presidential election

Why were the opinion polls in the Romanian election so very wrong, with one exception giving Victor Ponta
the PSD (Social Democratic Party) candidate a very healthy lead throughout? 

I have not heard any convincing explanation. Presumably, people are reluctant to say that they are going to vote against the PSD. I wonder if this is in case this information is used against them in some way. The PSD is the reinvented Communist Party, after all. But are there better explanations?

The one rogue poll was published by CCSCC two days before the vote and showed the candidates exactly equal. It was dismissed by almost everyone because it was a telephone poll from a no-name company. That poll was nowhere near the final result, but it was a lot closer than the rest of the polls.

Why did Gabriela Firea attempt to claim moral superiority for Victor Ponta over Klaus Iohannis just because he didn’t have children? Klaus Iohannis, by the way, is a Protestant who is deeply religious, according to his childhood friends, didn't plagiarise his doctoral thesis and didn't leave his pregnant wife for another woman.

Why were Mircea Geoana and Marian Vanghelie expelled from the PSD, rather than the people who were responsible for losing the election - Victor Ponta, Liviu Dragnea, the campaign organiser, and Adrian Nastase? (Nastase's friends, it is said, did not get out the vote because he wanted to get even with Mr Ponta for allowing him to be sent to gaol the second time.) 

In an old-fashioned Western the baddies always start fighting among themselves at the end of the film. It's like that after the PSD lose elections too. 

As Mircea Geoana said,

I lost the presidential election by a very few votes and I got expelled from the party. This guy lost by a lot of votes and I got expelled from the party again.
Mr. Vanghelie was expelled, even though he commands a faithful following of gypsy voters and is very rich. He is considered (fairly accurately) to be a semi-literate buffoon and could be described as the Romanian gypsy equivalent of Tony Blair's deputy, John Prescott. I am told Mr. Vanghelie was expelled 
because he has a big mouth
and so he certainly has, but this should have been a reason for  keeping him in the team. Instead he has been telling us all sorts of things the PSD doesn't want us to know. (I am sure it is not by chance that evidence of corruption is surfacing in the papers about Mr. Vanghelie exactly now.)

Actually, I know the reason why Messrs. Geoana and Vanghelie were expelled, in very rough terms. It was because they were a danger to Victor Ponta. I am told Mr. Geoana compounded his fault by telling Mr. Ponta after the result was known,

At least I believed I was president for a night.

However Mr Ponta's action makes him look weak, not strong (rather like Harold Macmillan's Night of the Long Knives). And those who live by the sword die by the sword.

People allege that over a million fraudulent votes were cast by 'electoral tourists', people bussed from area to give multiple votes for the PSD candidate. The same thing was said in the election of 2004. I don't, of course, know the truth. Nor does anyone for sure. Why were no investigations made then or now? 

Readers who are not familiar with Romanian politics are, I hope, shocked to learn how the votes are rigged and manipulated here. Even so, what is much more shocking is that Romania is, on the whole, a much freer country than England, even though a less democratic one. Western Europe is becoming less free week by week. Romania will one day, I hope soon, get clean elections. She will never have clean politicians, but she will presumably in time have the same restrictions on freedom that, for example, the British and Dutch have.

Four quotations

Private faces in public places
Are wiser and nicer
Than public faces in private places
W.H. Auden

About two years ago, a letter arrived from a solemn young lady telling me how much she enjoyed reading my experiment in space mythology, The Martian Chronicles. But, she added, wouldn’t it be a good idea, this late in time, to rewrite the book inserting more women’s characters and roles.... The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian / Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist / Zionist / Seventh-day Adventist / Women’s Lib / Republican / Mattachine / Four Square Gospel, feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse... The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule.

Ray Bradbury, quoted by Brendan O'Neill

It seems homosexuality has become a sacred thing for the West.

Frank Gelli

Victorian Punch cartoon

Master: Mary, I can write my name in this dust!

Mary: To be sure, sir, education is a wonderful thing!

Few people had heard of the Koran in 1956

N.J. Dawood has died. He was an Iraqi Jew, whose translation 
of The 1001 Nights, published by Penguin, that greatest of British institutions, is one of the very best books I have ever read. An incredibly amusing, absorbing and exciting book. 

He also translated a less amusing book, the Koran. The Daily Telegraph begins its obituary with the words

"NJ Dawood has died aged 87. He was a translator whose English language version of The Koran, first published by Penguin in 1956, remains a classic and has never been out of print. When it appeared in the bookshops, few people in the English-speaking world had even heard of The Koran."

Is this true? I find it hard to believe that educated people had not heard of the Koran but perhaps educated people are very few. 

I remember that long after I had gone down from Cambridge I had a very hazy idea of what Hindus and Muslims believed. I had a lot of general knowledge but didn't know that Friday was the Muslim holy day or that they don't eat pork until I was in my late twenties. Eid I heard of very recently but everyone in their twenties in England seems to know of it.

Friday, 12 December 2014


I've never been in a restaurant I disliked as much as Vacamuuu last night. It was full, the tables are tiny and set very close together and everyone in the restaurant seemed to be shouting to each other to be heard. The ambiance is Spartan and anyway they mostly just serve steak, so what is the point? We had the presence of mind to leave without ordering and go to Divan nearby which felt civilised, not a cattle truck.

These lines of Philip Larkin came to mind:

"Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph: He chucked up everything
And just cleared off, 
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying, 
Elemental move.

The food at Vacamuuu is excellent but it is only steak. The minimalist decor feels international, soulless but good of its kind - but it was so crowded nothing could really be seen at all. It felt like Julian Grenfell's comment on the Battle of the Somme - 

"Oh my dear the noise! the people!" 
Divan is nothing special at all, but human and pleasant and we could hear each other speak and no one was near us. 

Vacamuuu is also overpriced. The menu offers various steaks. The most expensive steak costs RON 400 which is about £70More than a monthly Romanian old age pension.

In Rome restaurants are full of what look like interesting people, some cultured, some eccentric, having interesting conversations. Restaurants in Romania tend to be full of businessmen talking business or courting women - Vacamuuu is business, definitely not courtship. And Vacamuuu is very 'businessman's taste'. So are most fashionable things in Bucharest. I am thankful that nothing in Bucharest is cool but places like Vacamuuu are the corollary.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

If torture is so necessary, why don't they make it legal in the USA?

Disgusting revelations in a US Senate report published yesterday about how the Americans used torture in Iraq.

If many Americans argue that torture is necessary to secure confessions, why don't they make it legal in the US? 

The truth is that they hugely overreacted to 9/11 and the use of torture was just one part of this and not the worst part. The worst part, let us remember, was the invasion of Iraq.

Americans are Wilsonian liberals gone bad. Though, God knows, the liberal 
foreign policy ideals of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were repellent enough from the start. 

If only Britain and Germany had avoided two world wars in the last century we might not have to endure a world remade by the spirit of Woodrow Wilson, but this is an empty wish.

We have to be very glad that it is Americans rather then Communist Russia or Nazi Germany that ruled the late twentieth century world but they will always, I expect, be distinguished by a curious mix of naivete and brutality. They will also always, I imagine, remain provincials and that is in fact their great strength, the reason for their innocence. This innocence or idealism will I hope lead to prosecutions for torture, prosecutions of Americans at a high level. How wonderful it would be if the last president were at least questioned by the FBI, but Americans, because they live in a republic, treat their former heads of state with the deference due to kings.

Although the Senate report does not mention Romania by name, the CIA ran secret prisons in Romania, as well as in Lithuania and Poland — Romania is referred to in the report by the code-word, BLACK.

The AP reported on Romania's role in all this back in 2008. It was suspected but never proven that terror suspects may have been tortured in Romania. AP returned to the story in 2011. When Alison Mutler who wrote the AP story asked President Basescu about it in a press conference a couple of days later he didn't answer and instead rather curiously simply said
‘Ask Nistorescu, he is the person who tells you agencies what to write.’
(Cornel Nistorescu was the Editor-in-chief of Evenimentul Zilei, the least bad newspaper published in Bucharest.) After that, the story, as far as the Romanian press was concerned, died away.

Now the story has come back, thanks to the Americans. As far as Romanians are concerned, it is not a moral issue but an embarrassment and a delicate test of how to retain the friendship of the USA, which is considered vital to protect Romania's security from Russia.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Klaus Iohannis was always going to win

Despite what the Romanian newspapers say, it was not the diaspora queueing all day to vote outside embassies and consulates that won the presidential election for Klaus Iohannis nor their tweets and statuses on Facebook and Twitter. Only 400,000 Romanians voted abroad. The counties from which most emigrants had left, and where their messages had most influence, were the poor counties where the PSD did best. In any case, a 10% majority is not produced by a swing on election day. 

It was not even a swing produced between the first and second rounds of the election. Election campaigns rarely decide elections and they did not this time. Victor Ponta of the Social Democrats (PSD) was always going to lose and Klaus Iohannis, leader of the Liberals (PNL), was always going to win.

My instinct told me the same but everyone I spoke to - almost without exception people who wanted Iohannis to win - and the opinion polls that showed Ponta well ahead persuaded me I was probably wrong. Even so, I woke up on election day half expecting Iohannis to win. 

Why were the opinion polls so very wrong? I have not heard any convincing explanation. My only guess is that just as in England people often do not like to tell pollsters that they are going to vote Conservative, for fear of the young person from the polling company disapproving, so here people are reluctant to say that they are going to vote against the PSD. This, I imagine, is not because the pollster will care but in case this information is used against them in some way. PSD is the reinvented Communist Party, after all.

A tiny number of journalists believed it and so did Klaus Iohannis. He said in an interview with Deutsche Welle that he was always certain he was going to win.

“I was sure from the very beginning I was going to win the presidential elections. I knew something was needed to take place so that the people see a change, a renewal. This idea encouraged me to go on. This very thing gave the certainty that I was going to win.” 
The PSD thought so too which is why Ponta fought a very negative campaign, making play of Iohannis being a German and a Protestant. Only candidates who are behind fight negative campaigns. By 11 in the morning on election day the PSD knew for certain. Ponta was leading in the exit polls but not by nearly enough. PSD voters vote early. The Communist mentality is to rise early and do things early. The anti-Communists and the young people sleep in on Sunday.

I suspect that the vote in the first round was rigged in some way so that renegade Liberal Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, whom Ponta would have chosen as his prime minister, came third, rather than the independent anti-corruption candidate Monica Macovei, though I have no proof of this. The majority in the second round for Iohannis, despite all the fraudulent votes, was too big to make rigging practical. Nor would the Americans have stood for it.

The founder and honorary president of the PSD, Ion Iliescu, I was told by two sources, telephoned Ponta at 3 p.m. and told him he had lost. I wonder what he also told him. I imagine it was not a telephone call that the Prime Minister enjoyed. According to a PSD baron who was present, a furious Iliescu went to the PSD HQ at 8 p.m. and swore volubly at Liviu Dragnea, Ponta's campaign manager, for losing the election. I am told he said, among other things, that
You have undone all that we have worked for for 25 years. Now the voters know that they can change things by an election.
Why did it happen, despite the perhaps one million fraudulent votes cast by 'electoral tourists' (bussed by the PSD to vote several times in locations away from their homes) and an unknown number of other votes that were bought (voters photograph their ballot slips and get paid as a result)? 

Some PSD barons (the men who run the party machines in the counties) close to disgraced former prime minister Adrian Nastase may have chosen not to get the vote out for Ponta. Nastase blames his going to prison the second time on Ponta, because Ponta could have saved him from gaol by ditching his coalition with the PNL. But this factor was balanced by PNL barons who preferred Tariceanu as Prime Minister and Victor Ponta as president to a Iohannis presidency.

Certainly the way that the Ponta government deterred the diaspora from voting in both rounds made great advertising for Iohannis and certainly a clever social media campaign played a very significant role, but this was not the first European election won on Facebook. Facebook is the messenger, not the message. The explanation must be that it was a large vote not against Victor Ponta, even though he is incumbent Prime Minister and not a stellar candidate, but against the vastly powerful, infamously corrupt PSD itself. Iliescu, if what I hear is true, thinks the same.

The PSD has not won a national election since 2000 - even in 2004 they won the parliamentary elections only in an alliance with Dan Voiculescu's small pocket party, which newly elected President Băsescu cleverly detached, allowing him to form a centre-right government. Unless the President Iohannis and the new PNL do spectacularly badly, a possibility which can certainly not be discounted, the PSD may not be able to win again, at least under its present name and in its present form.

This is a turning point in Romanian history, comparable only with the centre-right election victory in 1996. We shall see if Iohannis succeeds in controlling events where Emil Constantinescu, who was in office between 1996 and 2000 but never in power, utterly failed. My intuition is that Iohannis is made of much sterner stuff than Constantinescu. Unlike Ponta, he looks like a man who knows himself and has a lot of strength of character. But only time will tell. 

Meanwhile we can enjoy the sanguinary in-fighting in the PSD before the President-elect takes office. Few things in life are as amusing or as instructive as watching the PSD immediately after they lose elections.

I have always thought what fun it must be to be a prime minister, but for the first time I am no longer so sure. I am glad I am not in Victor Ponta's shoes these days.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Winter in the Danube delta

There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in making money

Dr. Johnson said that 
“There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money.
Christopher Hollis said this was the most un-Christian remark imaginable (Hollis was the kind of Conservative politician I like) but I am coming round to siding with Dr Johnson. He was being deliberately paradoxical but he was usually right. 

I sympathise with Hollis but working hard is one of the most innocent ways of spending time. 

Another aphorism that I like is:
The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. 
I always thought a knowledge of Dr Johnson and his best lines was the parole of educated men, to adapt what he said about knowledge of Latin and Greek. But a former master of a Cambridge college told me a few years ago that very few Cambridge undergraduates until recently read the 18th century authors. It reminds me of what Johnson said to Boswell: 
“Sir, they [his college friends] respected me for my literature, and yet it was not great but by comparison. Sir, it is amazing how little literature there is in the world.”
He of course was talking about the classics, not English writers.

I suppose Johnson's most famous joke is
"Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all"
but on whether he was right I cannot comment. I only ever heard one woman preach and she did so in Swedish, in Stockholm Cathedral. She was, or believed she was, a bishop - and what surprised me was that she was very beautiful. And a blonde. That I had not expected.

I really cannot see why people read Johnson less than Wilde. Johnson is better, in my judgment, and a better Christian - and his philosophy is manlier and more wholesome. He was also a staunch Tory and a great saint. Though he might have been disagreeable in real life, as opposed to in his writings and in the pages of Boswell. His table manners were appalling. He once spat out an entire roast potato that was too hot on to his plate and told the girl beside him
A fool would have swallowed that.
Fox told his nephew, Lord Holland, that he met Johnson only once and thought he was he was 
A very coarse man. He said 
Talk of pleasure, sir, the greatest pleasure is emission.
On the subject of his philosophy I am reminded of his old Oxford friend, Mr. Edwards, whom he met by chance in Fleet St and who told him
You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but, I don’t know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in.
But to Dr. Johnson stories there is no end, so I stop now. But if you want more, please click here.

If you haven't read Boswell's Johnson, dear reader, you have a great treat awaiting you. A book for a desert island.

We used to think the unions were the enemies within [Great Britain], but it was always the universities

The trade unions did enormous amount of damage to Britain in the 1960s and 1970s. We now know that in the 1970s the two most powerful and famous trade union leaders, household names who were better known than almost all the politicians, Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon, were secretly Communists or, in other words, admirers of Brezhnev's USSR. MI6 knew that they were security risks. So of course were a great many trade union officials and activist - as were many academics. 

The influence of the unions however was limited to (harming) the economy. Academics in the humanities, on the other hand, are what Shelley said poets were, the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.” If you seek their monument, look around you. It is odd that in the 1960s and 1970s, exactly when the working class people decided socialism was out of date, the intellectuals embraced it.

'SOAS tops the Which? University Survey

'SOAS, University of London has been ranked one of the Top University for the in the Political Scene scoring 97%.' 

According to the Which? survey (a consumer magazine reviewing universities is appropriate because university education is now a commodity to be bought and sold):
One SOAS student describes their uni as 'a definition of a political university. Spanning from the Marxist to the Anarchist societies, there's a flavour for anyone choosing to be more politically involved... The student body is very aware of the political climate and ways of making a difference.'
Very diverse... but then diversity does not apply to right-wingers. Ask how many conservatives are employed in women's studies or development studies faculties. 

Back in the 1980s and recently Conservative student associations were forbidden to display the Union Jack as it could be perceived as racist. A student at Liverpool who supported the BNP was recently sent down and had his career prospects severely harmed because he criticised a lecturer who justified the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. The lecturer remains there. Ukip supporters are not allowed to speak nor people who oppose abortion. A senior lecturer in Russian studies was hustled out of his jobs for expressing racist opinions to a student newspaper though they had no bearing on how he did his job.

Unfortunately this lack of diversity of opinions is not confined to the student body (in fact most students are always conservative but usually keep fairly quiet about it) but applies to the academic staff too.

In the words of Mark Griffith:

The left-wing rejection of tradition is usually framed as "questioning tradition". But in fact there is no asking of real questions which run the risk of returning an answer that suggests that tradition contains wisdom or virtue or efficacy, so this so-called "questioning" amounts to rejection. This rejection seems to those involved to be invigorating, fresh, daring... it seems to open up new possibilities, but in fact it closes them down.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Disestablishmentarianism and social order

Church and state were not always separate in the USA.

We assume that separation of church and state is explicitly part of the U.S Constitution but the phrase does not appear in it. What the First Amendment states is that 
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Justice Joseph Story of the United States Supreme Court in the 1840s was a devout Unitarian (and therefore not a Christian) who argued that the old maxim of Blackstone's that
 'Christianity is parcel of the laws of England' 
was Common Law and part therefore of US law. He also said that blasphemy was an offence in the USA under Common Law.

Joseph Story came from Massachusetts. Massachusetts was the last American state to retain an established religion, which it did until 1833. Connecticut had separated church and state in 1818 and New Hampshire in 1819. 

Story believed that Christianity was a bulwark to the social order. This idea was taken for granted in England and other countries at that time and had been for centuries.  And indeed it is true. It is also true that America's intense Protestant Christianity is her great strength (and weakness). Even though many of the founding fathers, such as Jefferson, were Deists Protestantism is the bedrock of the USA.

People used to think it important to maintain social order and social hierarchy but now European and American opinion formers seem to be automatically suspicious of both.  - Even though politicians use the phrase social cohesion, they do everything to make society less cohesive and call the result diversity. Human rights is becoming a sort of secular religion - equality is taught in schools in place of scripture lessons - but it is one that does not operate as a bulwark of social order. Rather the contrary. 

Be that as it may, hierarchy and social order are essential and must be accepted and justified if society is to function. Every society has to justify inequality. I am not sure the equal opportunities ideology does this and it certainly leads to a strong sense of victimhood. It also leads to materialism and competitiveness.

The Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council made peace with many of the ideas of the enlightenment and even some of the ideas of the French Revolution and is now in favour of separation of church and state. I still hope that we do not see separation of church and state in England or Scotland or Scandinavia.

Hilaire Belloc said 
'Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe' 
but according to a man I know, who is has a post-graduate degree in Immigration Studies (I dislike the sound of all 'disciplines' which have 'Studies' in the name) and therefore knows, Europe will not be considered Christian in twenty years. I suppose it will be Christian-Muslim-Hindu-secular-feminist-relativist. It is an indescribably sad story.

I am not sure how much of a bulwark against the infidels the Church of Sweden is. The four candidates to be Archbishop of Uppsala were interviewed in front of the media and, among other questions, were asked, 
“Does Jesus provide a truer picture of God than Muhammad?” 
Only one of the candidates said that He does - and, you knew it, that candidate was not chosen. But despite this and a hundred thousand other stories, I still want Sweden and England to retain state churches. We need to preserve every link we can between European public culture and Christianity.