Sunday, March 30, 2008

Can't be arsed blogging so here's some people who can

It's not always the case but sometimes I wonder if the popularity of blogs is in inverse proportion to how interesting they are.

For example:

Since he decided to stop blogging, this man has never been so busy, which is welcome.

Consistently funny and this is hilarious.

And this is really quite gorgeous:
"There are plenty of blogs that reflect the orthodox left lunacy and ones that use seductively more 'reasonable' language to reach similar conclusions. However, there are two other broad categories of sites that can be found. Firstly, there are those that are firmly anti-totalitarian but have little or no critique of domestic politics. They have made their peace with the establishment and the legacy of Thatcherism. However dramatic their declarations of human rights, they are Tom Paines abroad but Edmund Burkes at home. Whilst the finely tuned English ear is quick to pick up the contented cadences of the privilege of class.

As for the other, it is a, sometimes fractious, cacophony. There are humanist Marxists, left libertarians, social democrats, Old Labour diehards, those who would combine Marx with Mill, querulous liberals, and others who place human emancipation at the centre of an ecological understanding of the diversity of the natural world. It is where I feel most at home and where the more interesting, and idiosyncratic, writing is taking place."
Now wouldn't you rather read stuff like this instead of some fucking liberal making a 'stand' about something? They always stand. Don't they ever get tired? They wear me out, that's for sure.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The truth about teacher blogging

We can more or less say what we want because most of you don't having a fucking clue about what actually goes on in schools. Apart from anything else, quite a large proportion of bloggers, and the assorted visitors to comments boxes, seem to have gone to either private or grammar schools.

So, for example, you can get this:
"It is no secret that some of the most ordinary teachers in the land are in the private sector. Some private school teachers are of course excellent. But simply because they don't have to be excellent in order not to be eaten alive by their children, there are many who are not."
And then this:
"The inner city is the perfect place for mediocrity to fester. And what of those outstanding teachers in the inner city? They eventually leave for the Independent sector."
...from the same author. And no-one notices - because they don't, as I said, have a fucking clue about what goes on in schools. You could make these consistent, I suppose - but it's going to involve a little intellectual yoga. So, anyway - the solution [blog author from the comments]?
"Break the unions of course!"
Over a period of about twenty years or so, discipline has deteriorated, assaults on staff are up, and while it's difficult to measure objectively, I think you'll find that most teachers, parents, and employers would argue that standards have declined. At the same time, the power of central government has increased, as has the power of 'managers', as has the role of the private sector. Now, teachers' unions can be, as I can testify, fairly useless and reactionary - but to cite them as the principal problem? Bollocks!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Miscellaneous education nonsense and some random reflections on liberty

This, for example:
"Head teachers should allow imams, rabbis and priests to offer religious instruction to pupils in all state schools, teachers' leaders have said."
Where to begin? I won't bother because you know what I think already. I want to record my irritation at this expression 'teachers' leaders' though. You're only a leader if someone's following you.

Then there's this piece from the Guardian:
"Schools should return to an early 1980s style of liberal education..."
'Teachers' leaders' again. Jamie K responds:
"I remember the "liberal 1980's" well, under the rule of the Great Earth Mother. It was a free lovin' hippy paradise."
But actually in this case the NUT's argument wasn't silly at all - and neither are Jamie's remarks, which are worth reproducing in full:
"Yet the eighties were more liberal in at least one important respect: there may have been violent disagreements about the government’s role in the economy but there was little urge to make the whole of private life the territory of endless management, incentive and punishment initiatives.

Now I feel like I’m on the wrong end of a political Doppler shift. The general assumption I grew up with was that past in general was always more reactionary. The sixties may have seen a struggle towards greater social liberalism, but that just went to prove the point. We now seem to be getting to the stage where the past – at least, the fairly recent past - is always more liberal because there was a general acceptance of much greater personal autonomy."
Quite so. One could stress that one sphere in which 'endless management' intrudes into our lives is in the workplace. Teachers rightly complain about bureaucracy and target-meeting but forget, or are unaware to begin with, that today almost everyone's jobs are places where you have to fill in forms about what you're going to do - then you do it - then you fill in more forms about what you've just done. We can justly blame Thatcher for this - it's just that the logical conclusion of her ideas, and her centralisation of Britain, hadn't filtered through until the next decade.

This got me to thinking - who is more free now than they were twenty years ago? I'm convinced that we are less free - both on the trivial level, and on the big building blocks of our liberty. Trivial: when I was at school, pupils - provided they were over sixteen - could smoke. Today, teachers who smoke are out with the pupils behind the fucking bikesheds having a puff (yes, I failed in my attempt to stop). Building block level: in my lifetime the uncompromised right to silence has gone, jury trial has been limited, restrictions on free speech have increased, as have the rights to protest. Then there's the whole detention without trial thing to consider. And fucking ID cards.

It's not that there hasn't been some advances in liberty. In my lifetime homosexuals have become freer - which is good. The consumers of pornography are freer - which is good. Smokers of cannabis are, for the time-being, freer - which is good.

And not all the restrictions on liberty have been bad. Teachers can no longer use corporal punishment - which is good. Dog-owners feel less free to allow their mutts to shit in public parks - which is excellent. Drivers of big fuck off SUVs are getting the vibe that no-one likes them - which is very good. And I'll concede this to you: previously the rights of non-smokers with regards to the old public places hadn't been very well catered for.

But generally we're less free. I certainly feel less free. And legally we're objectively less free - and that doesn't take into account all this shit going on in the workplace that sparked this rant off in the first place. My son's aunt has to record on a timesheet when she goes for a piss, for christsake. I know Paulie a) likes a challenge b) doesn't really agree with this, so I'll invite him to respond to this 10 mark essay question: "The average person is both experientially and legally less free than he or she was twenty years ago and you don't have to be a 'bloggertarian' to be pissed off about this." Discuss.

While we're on the subject...

There was a rather good article in the Scotsman a few days ago about the SNP's - specifically Salmond's - foreign policy posturing:
"If Alex Salmond ever finds himself the leader of an independent Scotland, though, with his own troops to deploy and life-or-death decisions to make, he will find that, for all but the most committed pacifists, these choices are far more complex than most anti-war rhetoric allows.

It is to be hoped that no future independent Scottish government – or, indeed, any future UK government – would ever again be tempted to make the mistake of joining a peacekeeping, or peacemaking, operation without the full sanction of the United Nations. But that clear policy position aside, the act of sending young men and women to risk their lives, in situations where there can never be complete certainty that their sacrifice will do more good than harm, is always controversial, never easy, never without its lingering sense of guilt."
I don't think Scotland will ever be independent to the extent it has its own army but it's still a problem of devolved politics that it, in the hands of the nationalists, allows those who are in power to pose with the convenient innocence of opposition. Oliver Kamm linked to this story a while back where the Iranian ambassador said that Scotland and Iran shared "similar views" on many issues, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and nuclear non-proliferation. What Oliver didn't mention was the response from Salmond's office:
"A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: "The ambassador is doing no more than recognising that the party now forming the Scottish Government was opposed to the war in Iraq – as, indeed, are a majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament."
This clearly isn't all the ambassador was doing and you'd think that the SNP might have done more to resist this rather obvious attempt to use devolution to undermine foreign policy commitments that are matters solely reserved for Westminster. They could have at the very least shown their support for the Scottish troops currently stationed in Afghanistan - given that our present First Minister voted in Westminster in favour of the war. But they didn't - which was rather the point of the Scotsman article:
"I once heard the philosopher Bernard Williams argue that politicians are people who dirty their hands with power on our behalf, so that the rest of us can continue to feel clean. Yet Alex Salmond, though now a very senior politician, still talks of war and peace like a man with clean hands, exonerated from guilt by his very Scottishness; small wonder that to anyone with a feeling for history, that cry of "it wisnae us" often has an empty sound, and never quite rings true."
Quite.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Iraq - five years on

While it seems reflections are obligatory, mine are going to be limited for the time being. One of the reasons for this I gave in my very first post on this subject where I explained why I don't really care to join the blogosphere 'debate':
"But there was a more melancholy reason: I didn't want to be involved in a debate that I've found profoundly depressing at times; lots of jeering and sneering and a really quite unpleasant tendency to impute moral and/or intellectual failure to one's opponents. Often, both camps have carried out what could only be described as a sort of intellectual scorched-earth policy towards the middle ground."
Things haven't changed much - if anything they've got worse. Did you know, for example, that once upon a time the bionically smug Chris Bertram used to describe himself as, "a non-supporter of the war rather than an opponent"? Pretty much the same place, as far as I can tell, as Norm ended up.

It should be obvious that people who like to pretend that those of us who supported the invasion of Iraq imagine it's been a huge success are doing just that - pretending. There isn't any of us who hasn't adjusted their original position in some way. No-one argues now that the way the case was made for war was defensible. And hardly anyone argues that the conduct of the war was defensible.

But that's all I'm willing to concede. I appreciate people will find this inexplicable. I astonished and disgusted many people who know me by my support for this war. I astonished myself. I'm no stranger to self-disgust either but I'd have to say that this never has anything to do with the positions I take on this or that issue. For this is part of a wider problem we have on the left - the idea that morality is a function of the stands we take on big geo-political issues. As if what we think matters a damn, as if this was important compared to how we quit ourselves as men and women in relation to our families, friends, colleagues and neighbours.

But I digress. There are a dozen different reasons why I'm not doing a Johann Hari. I might explain some of them in due course but here's just one: Johann describes himself as having been a 'cheerleader' for the invasion of Iraq and now he feels terribly guilty about it. Fair enough in as far as this goes because I think cheerleading is a fairly accurate description of what he did. But don't invite us all to do likewise because some of us didn't do this in the first place. Some of us were more circumspect. Some of us backed the war even though we knew the outcome wasn't certain. Some of us had misgivings about the whole enterprise from the outset and so felt less need to acquire them after the fact. Some of us were there for the first one and made all the clever anti-war arguments at that time. Then came over a decade of 'containment' over which time we came to the conclusion we'd been wrong. So when it came around a second time, we could do no other but lend our reluctant support. This forms part of the reason why some of us aren't repenting today.

Cross-posted on DSTPFW

Religion and association

Happy chocolate egg day, people.

On this day, we have somebody introducing readers of CiF to the theodicy problem. Here's my take on this ancient theological conundrum: one one hand, it is indeed difficult to understand how one can reconcile the idea of a supreme being who is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent yet allows evil to exist. On the other hand, if I were such a deity, I'd be firing off thunderbolts to many of the contributors to CiF on a regular basis, so if god exists, she's definitely more tolerant than me.

Then there's Theo Hobson. Easy to mock Theo, and worth doing from time to time, but despite the fact that he's written a post entitled, "Why I am a Christian", that leaves you none the wiser, I'm not going to because a) it was a liberal piece and b) it did stir up a couple of thoughts that have been rattling about for a wee while now. He writes:
"My eccentric view is that Christianity can only really be communicated in the context of freedom. The churches attack secular liberalism as a threat to their power bases, but actually it's the ally of true Christian culture. We need a secular state, in which we can develop a new sort of Christian culture that has left institutionalism behind."
Historically, I thought, he's wrong: the spread of Christianity, like Islam, has been achieved through violence and cannot be separated from the subsequent institutions that were put in place as a result of this violence. But then I started to think he might have something resembling a point, which is similar to the one I made here about democracy, what it comes to be associated with and the implications this had for the success thereof.

Why are Americans more religious than Europeans? You could argue that Americans are simply more simple-minded than Europeans but that would in itself be a simple-minded argument to make. More likely it is a result of the fact that this nation of immigrants, many originally fleeing religious persecution, formed a constitution that forbade the marriage of religion and the state. This has meant that religion for many Americans has never had the association with state-sponsored bigotry, superstition and segregation - to say nothing of pogroms and persecutions - that it does for many Europeans. This relationship between religion and its association with state power arguably goes back much further: I dimly remember it being argued by some church historian that one of the reasons Ireland took to Catholicism with such enthusiasm was that unlike elsewhere in Europe, it wasn't something that could be associated with empire (although I'm not sure about this because it wouldn't explain Poland).

This is why, I've argued before, in the present situation it is essential that Islamist theocracy has to be seen to have been tried and failed, rather than its defeat being precipitated by external forces, if at all possible. Because the religion and association thing works the other way too, as far as we can tell. Just as Bismarck's Kulturkampf proved from his point of view to have been rather counterproductive, the suppression of Islamist organisations Egypt-style is unlikely to work in the long-run. Secular dictatorships in the Middle East are bound only to give negative associations to the very idea of secularism. Hmmm, could be construed as a neocon observation to make so this being around the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, cue the sinister mood music and get ready to boo and hiss just like y'all have been doing for the past five years.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Little by little

The ability to predict the future has not been given to men. Not by God, as the failure and humiliation of those who claimed to be his prophets, like those who climbed hills dressed in white awaiting apocalyptic redemption, shows. Not by science either. When I was at university, 'social scientists' everywhere were in a melancholy, sceptical, circumscribed frame of mind. It was right that this should have been so: the memory of their spectacular failure to predict the fall of the Berlin wall was only a few years old.

Now to the micro level, today:
"Primary school children should be eligible for the DNA database if they exhibit behaviour indicating they may become criminals in later life, according to Britain's most senior police forensics expert.

Gary Pugh, director of forensic sciences at Scotland Yard and the new DNA spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said a debate was needed on how far Britain should go in identifying potential offenders, given that some experts believe it is possible to identify future offending traits in children as young as five."
Fear the government that gives ear to the 'experts'. The reality of universal and compulsory education is that tomorrow's thieves, rapists and murderers have to go to school somewhere - and I think I've seen a few of them. No, I know I've seen a few of them because the parochial tabloid news tells me so.

Sometimes, though, the future confounds your worst expectations. Someone you thought destined for a life of crime gets himself a girlfriend, and a job, and turns out to be someone who just didn't like school very much. Nor his parents. Nor himself - but he grew out of it.

Dangerous, then, to make judgments based on 'potential' - since these can be nothing other than subjective, prejudiced and by definition speculative. One would have thought, therefore, that whatever resources are available might be better used to catch those whom we know have actually reached their potential to commit crime. But such advice falls on deaf ears in an age where it is seldom understood that in a free society prevention is never better than cure.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

In Enoch's footsteps

What a charming man the Bishop of Motherwell is:
"ONE of Scotland's most senior Catholics has launched an attack on the "gay lobby" in Scotland, claiming there is a "huge and well-orchestrated conspiracy" against Christian values.

The Rt Rev Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell and president of the Catholic Education Commission, said gay rights organisations aligned themselves with minority groups, such as Holocaust survivors, to project an "image of a group of people under persecution"."
Words fail me. He wiped the spittle from his chin and he continued:
"In this New Year's honours list, I saw actor Ian McKellen being honoured for his work on behalf of homosexuals, when a century ago Oscar Wilde was locked up and put in jail. It's a very small group of people, but very active and organised – and extremely indulgent. The opposition know exactly what they're doing. We don't."
It was left to Calum Irving, the director of Stonewall Scotland, to point that that the Catholic Church has rather more wealth and political influence than the gay rights lobby. One such example would be the fact that while Stonewall doesn't actually run any schools in Scotland, the Catholic Church - aided and abetted by the tax-payer - does. Here the bishop has previous form. He is also president of the Catholic Education Commission and co-author of the Charter for Catholic Schools in Scotland [pdf]. In this capacity he has expressed 'unease' with gay teachers:
""Being openly gay would not at all be compatible with the charter."

The president of the Catholic Education Commission added: "It would cut across the whole moral vision enshrined in the charter and it would be offering a lifestyle that is incompatible with Catholic social teaching.

"Being openly gay could well affect promotions.""
There was a rather good response in the letters' page in the Scotsman, from which I took the title of this post:
"Forty years ago, Enoch Powell delivered his "Rivers of Blood" speech, in which he blamed moves towards racial equality for what he considered to be the impending destruction of British society. Powell's blatant racism was, thankfully, rejected by mainstream politics and he was consigned thereafter to the back-benches.

Bishop Joseph Devine has followed Powell's example and sought to blame moves towards equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Scots for what he imagines will happen to society as a result.

Like Powell before him, Bishop Devine must be challenged by all Scots who believe bigotry has no place in today's Scotland. The bishop seems to believe the SNP government may be more ready to follow his lead. Alex Salmond and his colleagues must swiftly and decisively make it clear that Bishop Devine speaks only for a bigoted minority and not for Scotland as a whole."
Before I went into teaching, I used to be in favour of allowing 'faith schools' to remain open in a woolly-liberal 'let's celebrate the gorgeous mosaic of our diversity' sort of way. Not any more. Piss on Bishop Devine - and piss on his charter. 'Unease' isn't the word to describe my feelings for him. I despise Bishop Devine and his festering ilk - with their buttoned-up appetites and their diseased minds. I count them mine enemies.

Via

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is homophobic abuse "endemic in schools"?

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers thinks so:
"More than 70% of teachers have heard put-downs in their school or college that refer to sexuality, according to a survey of 268 teachers by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. In particular, teachers report that pupils routinely use the term "gay" in a pejorative manner."
The other 30% have their heads up their asses. But Zoe Williams reckons the ATL are being a tad literally-minded:
"I do not for a second pretend to know what's going on with today's yoof, but I do know this: when schoolchildren call one another "gay", they do not mean homosexual. Or maybe they do sometimes, but not always. The word, paradoxically enough, having been appropriated by homosexuals in the first place, has now been seized back by homophobes to mean "rubbish" or, on some occasions, "broken"."
Some terribly earnest Liberal Democrat lady takes issue with this:
"Zoe Williams manages to reduce bullying and prejudice to semantics. Yes, language changes and I'm all for a living vibrant language. But changes in language do not happen by coincidence. I think the fact that gay, in the playground, now means rubbish, crap or broken is as a result of homophobia. What about those teenagers who are gay and hurt by these insults being thrown around? What about the gay teachers and adults around them? Did Zoe Williams consider them when she suggested that we all give up because teenage 'yoof' culture will win out in the end."
If you read both pieces, I think you'll agree it is unfair to accuse Zoe Williams of reducing bullying and prejudice to semantics.

Here's some observations of my own:

The use of 'gay' as a pejorative term is indeed widespread - and obviously it has a homophobic origin. Nevertheless it is true to say that when it is used it does not always, or even usually, refer to sexuality.

It does not follow from this that it is acceptable - although I don't think this is what Zoe Williams was saying exactly. The thing is, I think it's the Lib Dem here that is reducing prejudice and bullying to a question of semantics because while homophobia is indeed prevalent in schools, the use of the term 'gay' as a term of abuse is not indicative of its increase. Bad enough being a teenager, even worse being one who is a bit different, and I'd imagine pretty nightmarish being a gay teenager in a Glasgow school. However, it remains the case that there is a much greater toleration of homosexuality amongst teenagers than there was fifteen or twenty years ago.

But what do I know? More than any of the people linked above, that's what. But this is part of a wider issue: concerns over the language people use should not be dismissed as political correctness - but it is a mistake, I think, to imagine that you can alter people's attitudes simply by policing what they say.

Odd

Old sitemeter's a bit more lively than normal - which isn't saying much. What's odd is that what accounts for all of the increase in hits is Americans typing "woman on toilet seat" into Google and getting to this post from 2006.

What exactly the fuck is going on?

Update: Ah, mystery solved - courtesy of Will.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pupils 'to take allegiance oath'

The suggestion that making school pupils swear allegiance to the Queen would foster a 'sense of belonging' has been rightly pilloried everywhere.

I mean, what the fuck? Neither Orwell nor Huxley in their darker moments foresaw our rulers trying to turn the country into one giant Scout camp, did they?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Metropolitan angst: an election guide

Thank fuck I don't live in London. Not only are you presented with two prize assholes who represent the cheesy and somewhat sleazy celebrification of our politics - you also have to torture yourselves over the choice. Here's David Aaronovitch, for example:
"Clearly, at the empathic level, one prefers the Tiggerish mammal. What is not to like about Boris?"
I dunno but I'd have thought if you even found yourself thinking such things, never mind writing them, it might be worth while asking yourself, "What the fuck am I doing?"

It's not that I don't understand the appeal of Boris. On the plus side, he has:

1) Floppy hair.

2) He's funny - usually unintentionally.

3) He rides a bike.

On the downside:

1) He's a fucking Tory.

So you don't vote for him. Simple.

Seven deadly sins - updated

My god, you have to accept that you're getting old when you find yourself in (partial) agreement with Mary Kenny in relation to the new, groovy, updated and relevant list of 'mortal sins' this present Pope has come up with.

Part of the whole experience of becoming a) more conservative and b) increasingly lazy in my old age is that I expect other people to be traditional on my behalf. I can't be bothered, myself.

I expect Marxists to be Marxists - not come out with convoluted reasons for supporting reactionary and violent religious movements.

I expect liberals to be liberals - not make arguments about how you will be 'really free' if you ban people from smoking, force them to stay on at school, and presume you have the consent to raid their corpses for spare parts unless they say otherwise - the sort of thing you can read over at Illiberal Conspiracy from time to time.

And I expect Catholics to be Catholics - instead of going for all this nebulous crap about 'social justice' and environmental crimes and whatnot. Kenny writes:
"Now, a vague concept of social justice is all very fine and dandy, but one person's social justice may be another's cause for litigation. Drug abuse is clearly a sin against the human body (the temple of the Holy Ghost), but some individuals are afflicted with addiction problems they are powerless to overcome. As for accumulating excessive wealth to the detriment of the common good: well, that's an argument that could go on for hours. Days. Years."
Quite so. Does Ratzinger not understand: he who marries the spirit of this age will become her widower in the next?

See, with the old list there's no doubt - I'm going to hell:

Greed:Medium

Gluttony:Medium

Wrath:High

Sloth:High

Envy:High

Lust:Very High

Pride:Medium



But as for all this hippy tree-hugging shite - who knows?

Silly Test: Via

Btw: Error #80 in the Syllabus of Errors says:
"The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization."
Thought you might like to know that.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

'Marxism' today

My, how it has changed since my day. I'm not usually one for drawing people's attention to the musings of the more spaced-out individuals on the ultra-left but this car crash I found via Shiraz Socialist really is one of the most bizarre arguments I've read for some time. Take this, for example:
"The very relevant point made by Dr Williams is that religious faith and its entailed commitments are less negotiable than secular ones, as believers hold that they have a sacred covenant with divine law. However, progressive theologians and scholars of all faiths seek to distinguish between those aspects of their religious belief that are fundamental – or in terms of their own belief systems divinely ordained – and those aspects which are a reflection not of divine will, but of social and cultural accident."
So, I can claim my 'commitments' are less negotiable than yours provided I insist they are sanctioned by a deity? The comrade not only finds this acceptable - he actually wants the polity to accommodate these more than it does already. He might even find something 'progressive' in the fact that what you insist are 'divine commitments' have been distinguished from what is mere 'culture' by some theologian. One assumes that the way these 'progressive scholars' make this distinction is with reference to the relevant holy texts. Was this 'Marxist' aware he was articulating a defence of what is 'fundamentalism' by most people's definition? It gets worse:
"It is taken as self-evidently correct amongst most progressives that teaching creationism or intelligent design in schools is reactionary, but is this really the case? Now I am a big defender of science, and of scientific method. But the current situation in schools seems to be that GCSE students are introduced to Lamarkism, Darwinism and in some schools Creationism, and then told that Darwinism is correct, and that is the answer they have to give to get credit. Now of course Darwinian theories of evolution are correct, but there are two important subsidiary issues: i) is it a necessary role of the state to enforce upon all citizens that they accept evolution? ii) does simply telling students that Darwinism is correct arm them with the theoretical tools to distinguish why faith based arguments are excluded from science?"
I'm not sure the cause of scientific education could cope with many 'big defenders' such as this. By this logic, teaching alchemy would be acceptable - nay, progressive - provided at some point it was made clear that it is chemistry is correct. But it's the line about the state forcing people to accept evolution that displays a special kind of insanity. Schools teach science - and this village idiot finds something authoritarian in this? People aren't forced to accept anything. That people are free to reject all the available evidence and insist that the world was created in seven days is demonstrated by the fact that 'creationism' is being discussed at all!

But it was his discourse on 'national culture' that really made my jaw drop:
"To take an extreme example, German and British troops who faced each other in the trenches of the first world war had a near identical experience, and an identical political interest in ending the war. Politically therefore there was grounds for solidarity and internationalism. But culturally, there was no shared community through which they experienced this similar fate - and indeed the shared communal experience was with their own national officer class. Few British soldiers will have read Erich Maria Remarque, few Germans will have read Siegfried Sassoon or Rupert Brookes."
Because we all know that it isn't the shared experience of living with families, working in factories in towns and cities or being members of trades unions that maketh a community. Oh no - as every good Marxist knows, it's reading the same literature that does it.

It's perhaps undignified to rattle the cage of Bedlam in this way but I record this because I was simply so astonished - naivety on my part, I dare say. It's not that I'm assuming the author of this piece is representative of the left. I'm not a Marxist myself and I certainly don't see the left as the repository of all virtue - especially these days. It's just that when someone described themselves as 'Marxist', you used to have a rough idea of where they stood. I may be wrong but twenty years ago it would have been inconceivable for someone to produce such an apologia for the religious right such as this and still claim they were a Marxist. This in itself strikes me as being a significant change that has taken place in my life-time.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Yet another silly test

Try this one.

Here's what I got.



While self-assessment is probably pointless, I'm not sure about this one. Looking at where I am - and knowing myself reasonably well - I'm not sure this test leaves enough space in the green square for Chris Dillow.

Via

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Miscellaneous spleen

Proms not inclusive, says Hodge:
"The Proms attract too narrow a section of society, culture minister Margaret Hodge has suggested in a speech."
It seems to me perfectly natural that the Proms should attract a narrow section of society. I'd be worried if anything other than a narrow section of society didn't find the Proms to be a load of shite. Why have we got a Culture Secretary and why is it Margaret Hodge? She went on:
"But she acknowledged that culture could also be divisive - citing the examples of Jerry Springer: The Opera, which Christians said was blasphemous and Behtzi, a play which depicted sex abuse in a Sikh temple and was cancelled after protests."
But isn't culture intrinsically divisive? It divides those who like a given piece of culture from those who don't. I mean, I wouldn't be seen dead at Jerry Springer: the Opera - not out of any concerns about blasphemy but because Jerry Springer is shite so any opera about it is bound to be uber-shite. I went to the opera once. It was horrible. People laughing at the jokes in the opera as if they were the most hilarious lines they'd ever heard. Bunch of phonies - bet they couldn't even speak Italian. If they could speak Italian, they'd have known the jokes weren't that fucking funny. Still, at least Hodge isn't as big a walloper as David Cameron:
"Tory leader David Cameron said she did not "get it" and said the Proms were a "great symbol of our Britishness"."
So - Britishness has something to do with standing next to a bunch of yahoos waving Union flags and singing Land of Hope and Fucking Glory, is it? Jeez - some of us are unionists but this unutterable tosser of a man isn't exactly helping our case.

Then there's the government's 'Obesity Strategy'. Aren't you sick of hearing about this? It's annoying the shit out of me, and I'm not even fat. Some plank said it was a crisis on the scale of global warming or some such shite. I would have thought it obvious to any half-educated person that it's most unlike global warming. Global warming has to do - if I understand it - with the possibility we'll all melt because of the pollution being pumped into the atmosphere - except in Glasgow where - surprise, surprise - they predict that the effect of global warming will be that it rains more than it does already. Fucking typical. Anyway, the point being if someone deposits toxic green gloop into a river, this is a matter for everyone. Economists call these 'externalities', or something. Whereas if someone's overweight, this is really a matter for them, isn't it? And please don't give me any of this crap about the cost to the NHS. Where did people get this fucked-up idea that the short space we spend on this ball of dirt is to be spent worshiping other people's taxes, for fuck sake?

I'm particularly annoyed that the fat police are upsetting my comrade Peter Ryley. Do you read him? You really should. He writes stuff worth reading - whereas bloggers who get a kazillion hits a day just cut and paste some bullshit they read about Muslims in the Daily fucking Telegraph and invite about a billion comments from complete and utter fuckwits. How did that happen? But I digress... What upset this splendid gentleman was a piece in Comment is Wank from some deranged harpie that writes for Conservative Future (oxy-fucking-moron) where she argues that our nanny state simply isn't nannyish enough for her tastes. Gordy, for example, doesn't go far enough when he says:
"[T]hat people [should] "have access to the opportunities they want and information they need in order to make choices and exercise greater control over their health and their lives".
The thing is, like with our sex-lives, I'd have thought politicians are the last people who should be lecturing us about healthy living. There's not a few of them that don't look strangers to a few extra pounds to me. And Gordon Brown, while not fat, doesn't exactly look like the picture of health, does he? He's sort of stodgy and pallid as if he spends most of his time sitting on the sofa eating white bread with the curtains drawn.*

Ok, dunno about you lot but I feel better after that. See ya later...

This line stolen from here.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Oxford's finest

Are to be offered a thousand quid by Oxford University to teach in 'our toughest schools', according to the Times:
"It hopes that in return the graduates will help to persuade more pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply to study at Oxford and other leading universities.

The move follows research from the Sutton Trust educational charity, which recently found that half of state school teachers would never, or only rarely, encourage their brightest pupils to apply to Oxbridge."
I was wondering how this particular sales pitch is going to go...

Teacher: Be all you can be, reach for the skies - you have the potential for Oxford, m'boy.

Pupil: But sir - you went to Oxford and all you ended up doing was becoming a fucking teacher. Fuck that for a game of soldiers.

Anyway, there's an inspiring tale of how one teacher had, via this sort of scheme, gained "vital life and workplace experience that would be valuable in her preferred future career as a management consultant":
"'In one Year 7 class I was trying to explain electricity', she said. 'They did not respond. So I got everyone to get up and walk around the class as I pretended to push them round. They were the current and I was the energy – the battery – that powered them to move. It worked, they got it.'"
Excellent, excellent. I had a very similar experience myself. In one year eleven class, I was trying to explain trench warfare. They did not respond. So I got them to re-arrange the desks into trenches. Then I got out my Lee Enfield .303 and blew the heads off anyone who stuck theirs above the parapet. It was such a valuable learning experience that I feel a career as a management consultant beckons. Unfortunately I'm now awaiting trial. I intend to plead insanity.
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