Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

Video on Archaeology’s Challenge to Enlightenment Accounts of Origins of States and Inequality

December 8, 2022

This is a fascinating video I found on Novara Media’s channel the other day. In it, host Aaron Bastani talks to archaeologist David Wengrow about the origins of the state and the development of social inequality. Wengrow argues that the evidence from archaeology challenges assumptions that prehistoric and preliterate peoples were incapable of rationally deciding for themselves what kind of societies they wished to live in. He gives examples from prehistoric Europe and North and South America to show that ancient and indigenous peoples not only did decide on the kind of societies they wanted, but were perfectly capable of reversing trends in their societies towards authoritarianism. One of the examples of this, which I found truly jaw-dropping, was one of the city states the conquistador Hernan Cortes made alliance with against the Aztecs. Unlike the Aztec empire, that state city was a democratic republic. He also talks about the influence on Enlightenment critiques of western society of a Huron Indian chief in Canada, who was an intelligent conversationalist able to hold his own in conversations about the nature of society to such an extent that French, British and Dutch colonial authorities invited him to dinner to talk this matter over.

Wengrow starts off by stating that modern political theory about the origins of society, as taught in politics courses, is completely divorced from archaeological accounts. The theory is based on the speculations of foundational Enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes and Rousseau, who admitted that they were speculating. But these accounts are now taught as fact. Archaeological research, however, is overturning previous ideas about the origins of urban society. For example, it was believed that agriculture and urbanisation were linked and appeared together as part of the Neolithic Revolution. But this is not the case. Excavations of the ancient city of Catalhuyuk in Turkey show that while it was an urban centre, although Wengrow hesitates to call it a city, show that its people were still hunter-gatherers, living by foraging rather than agriculture. And the same is true of the settlement at Amesbury at the time Stonehenge was being built. The people then had given up agriculture, although they retained animal husbandry. It appears they had tried growing crops and then rejected it in favour of foraging.

He then goes on to talk about the Huron Amerindian chief. He inspired a colonist from New France, who had been expelled from the colony, to write a book based on the chief and his dinner conversation when the colonist was penniless in Amsterdam. This became a massive Enlightenment bestseller, and inspired other books by Voltaire and others in which Chinese, Tahitians and other outsiders criticise European society. Wengrow states that the Indian societies surprise western Europeans because they were much less hierarchical than they were, and contact with these societies and the indigenous critics of western civilisation did influence European political philosophy. We easily accept that Europe took over many material products from these nations, but are much less ready to accept the idea that they influenced our ideas, even though the Enlightenment philosophers said that they had.

He also talks about Cahokia, a great pyramid and city state in the Mississippi valley in America. This appears to be another example of a society, in which people rebelled or simply walked away from authority and hierarchy. It was also another indigenous monument that was ascribed to everyone else but the native peoples when it was first discovered, and is now disrespected by having a road driven through it. When it was constructed, the local society seems to have been hierarchical. At the top of the mound is a structure from which all of the city could be viewed. But sometime after its heyday it was abandoned. The traditional reasons are that the climate changed, but Wengrow finds that unconvincing. What seems to have happened instead is that people simply got tired of living in such a society and walked away.

Tenochtitlan, one of the great cities in ancient Mexico, is another example of a strongly hierarchical society that underwent profound social change and became more democratic. Wengrow states that it’s a massive state, and they owe a debt to the French scholar who produced detailed maps of it. When it first emerged, it was hierarchical but then the nature of society changed. People started living in high-quality, single-floor homes. These were so good they were originally thought to be palaces, but now it appears they were villas occupied by ordinary citizens. At some point, the people of Tenochtitlan decided that they wanted a more equal society, to the extent that some scholars believe that there was a revolution.

Then there is the case of the democratic city state Cortes encountered. This really was democratic, as there are accounts of the debates in its assembly. This astonished the conquistadors, as there was very little like it in Europe at the time, except some of the Florentine republics. This all challenges the notion that once society develops to a certain extent and becomes complex, inequality also emerges and is very difficult to challenge or remove. These cases show that indigenous peoples could and did. He also argues that the same may have been true of slavery. The only successful slave revolt that we know of is Toussant L’Ouverture in Haiti. But Wengrow suggests there could have been thousands of other successful slave revolts in prehistory of which we are unaware. Slavery came about, he argues, from the expense of laying out offerings for the dead. In order to leave food and drink for the dead, the bereaved had to have access to the foods themselves and so they became indebted and dependent on the people who owned those resources.

He also talks about the problems in describing some of these urban centres as cities. There are huge sites in the Ukraine, but archaeologists are hesitant about calling them cities with some preferring other terms such as ‘mega-sites’ because they aren’t centralised.

Bastani asks him at one point about the problem of pseudo-archaeology. I think this came up because Graham Hancock is currently fronting a series on Netflix claiming that way back in prehistory there was an advanced society, but that it was destroyed in a global cataclysm. Wengrow states that quite often pseudo-archaeology is based on old and discarded idea, such as Atlantis. The people involved tend not to be anyone who’s ever been on an archaeological dig, and view archaeologists as spending their lives trying to hide some momentous secret from everyone. But it can act as an entry for some people to archaeology, and he doesn’t really like the sneering attitude of some archaeologists towards it.

Wengrow himself is an interesting character. He didn’t want to be an archaeologist originally, but came to it from acting. He also worked in the BBC Arabic service. He decided at one point he wanted to get a degree, applied to the best university he could, Oxford, and sent reams of applications to its various colleges. They turned him down. Then he was told that he should apply for a place on a course that was just being set up. One of the colleges was just setting up an archaeology course, so he did. When it came to the interview, he told the interviewer that he had always wanted to be an archaeologist. At which point she held up all the previous letters he’d written. But they admitted him, and he has now had a career teaching and excavating in places like Egypt.

He states that sometimes the pseudoarchaeology about a period or culture misses the point about what’s really interesting about it. He talks about the idea that the Sphinx was constructed before the pyramids, and admits that it’s actually a reasonable question. But if you go back to the predynastic period a thousand years before the pyramids were built, you come to the burial sites of one of Egypt’s first kings. This is fascinating, although you wouldn’t know it from the dry way it has been discussed in conferences and museums like the Petrie Museum. Excellent though these are, they talk about highly specialised subjects like pot typography which is excruciatingly dull if you want to know the wider picture. The early king’s tomb is composed of room after room of the bodies of the people and occasionally the animals that were slaughtered to accompany the king into the afterlife.

The interview is based on a book Wengrow wrote with a colleague, The Dawn of Everything. Sadly, after spending a decade writing it, the co-author died just a few weeks after its completion. The book has been widely praised, and has even inspired artistic pieces. He talks about a French woman, who composed a piece of music based on it. He regrets he was unable to attend its performance thanks to jet lag coming back from somewhere, but later met the lady when she came to Britain.

I know a little about some of what he’s talking about to have no doubt that he’s absolutely right. One of the seminars in the archaeology department at Bristol, which I attended, was about how cities like Catalhuyuk were established before the appearance of agriculture. One of the huge Neolithic sites in the Ukraine is discussed in the La Rousse Encyclopedia of Archaeology. The great mound of Cahokia is also discussed in a book I bought years ago on North American Indian archaeology. I wasn’t aware that the people of Stonehenge had given up growing crops, nor of the democratic city states in South America and Mexico. This is fascinating stuff.

He’s right about archaeology contradicting the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers about the origins of society, though I’m not sure how much of a problem this is. The philosophers he discusses – Hobbes and Rousseau – were Social Contract theorists. Social Contract theory is the idea that the state and society were set up when men came together to select an authority under whom they would live, so that their lives and property would be protected. Thus the first kings. These princes are the representatives of the people, and so from the 17th century onwards the idea developed that sovereignty lay with the people, who could revoke the power they had delegated to the prince. This was the view of John Locke. However, subsequent philosophers showed that this was just conjecture, and that it could have happened like that as the people at the time were using concepts that only subsequently developed after the foundation of states and kingdoms. I thought Social Contract theory was dead, and he closest it had to a modern advocate was John Rawls in his Theory of Justice. Rawls argued that if people were just disembodied entities wishing to chose the kind of society in which they would care to live, they would choose one that had the maximum freedom and justice for everyone, as that would also include them. Away from centrist politics, the anarchists have been keenly interested in anthropology and those indigenous societies where there is no central authority.

I’m not sure how well some of this would go down with Sargon of Akkad and the Lotus Eaters. They’ve developed an interest in archaeology, recently posting a video discussing Homo Erectus, along with the Norman Conquest and ancient Rome. But Sargon is a huge fan of John Locke and describes himself as a classical liberal. I don’t know whether archaeology’s findings about the origin of early states would contradict his ideas or not.

Questioning the Supposed Link Between Slavery and Black Obesity

October 29, 2022

Sorry, folks, but I’m returning here to the something my favourite right-wing YouTube historian posted yesterday. Lenny Henry is the co-editor of a book that’s recently been published on the dire state of Black Britain, Black British Lives Matter, and Simon Webb has been reading it. He posted two videos attacking what he considered to be a couple of its untruths yesterday. One was a demolition of a list in the book of Black people, who have supposedly died in police custody. Except that many of them didn’t. One woman in particular, who the book claims died in 1986, really only died in 2011 or so, according to Wikipedia. The other video concentrated on a chapter about Black British health. Four times as many Black mothers die in childbirth as White mothers. Webb states that one of the causes of this is likely to be obesity. The book notes that a higher number of Black people are obese than Whites, who in turn have a higher level of obesity than east Asians. Webb likes this, as it fits in with the Bell curve and the statistical distribution of intelligence between races. Blacks are thicker than Whites, who are in turn thicker than east Asians. Now according to Webb, the book claims that Blacks have higher levels of obesity because they were fed scraps and other bits of rubbish, like molasses, by the plantation masters when they were slaves. Webb criticises this by saying this makes as much sense as blaming the rise of obesity in working class Whites on the highly calorific food working class people traditionally ate. He argues he could use that to excuse himself getting fat, but it’s still within his power to change his diet.

Now I think here he does have a point. I don’t think you can blame slavery for Black obesity, or not entirely, for the following reasons:

  1. At some point in the 18th century, the plantation masters started giving their slaves plots of land on which they could work on Sundays growing their own food. This was partly a ploy so that they didn’t have to give them so much rations. But it resulted in the development of a market economy in the Caribbean, with the enslaved population producing food which they sold at Sunday markets.
  2. African slaves also took some of their own foodstuffs to the New World. I’ve only read of this in the context of Black American cuisine, but apparently the slaves in the southern US also included food plants from their west African homelands. My guess is that something similar also happened in the Caribbean.
  3. In the 19th century the British deliberately set about improving the slave diet. Yams were introduced from Polynesia and the British government also started laying down regulations on the amount of food the planters had to give their slaves. This consisted of so many plantains, so much fish and ‘farinaceous material’ – presumably wheat and cereals – per week. I’m not a nutritionist, so have no idea whether the prescribed amounts would have been enough. But the legislation is contained in the British parliamentary papers on slavery compiled in the 1820s, and anyone interested could use them very productively as a research tool.
  4. Even if there is a link between slavery and obesity in Blacks, this would only apply to people of West Indian descent. Or rather, it would only have a racist context for those enslaved by the British. It wouldn’t apply to recent African immigrants, unless you wish to argue that they are inclined to obesity because of the diet their enslaved ancestors were fed by their African masters. African societies also owned slaves, the proportions varyiing between 30 to 70 per cent of the population according to culture. And they were fed scraps. In West Africa, people received food in relation to their position in the social hierarchy. The master of the house ate first, and passed his scraps on to his favourites, who in turned passed theirs down to their social inferiors, with the women getting whatever was left. Akapolo slaves in east Africa were also fed poorly, and expected to eat their food off the floor, rather than from pots.
  5. The ideal of beauty in some west African societies is for plump and fat women. In some west African cultures girls are taken to a special hut when they hit puberty where they are fattened up ready for marriage. And if I remember correctly, this has been an issue of feminist concern.

There’s also a class factor at work here, I feel. The British diet traditionally contained a lot of calories and stodge because most people did physical work. Now we live more sedentary lives and so don’t need as much rich, fatty food. This would also apply to people from the West Indies, where much of the work would also have been veery physical, particularly during slavery.

Then there is the question of the amount of healthcare Black women receive compared to those of Whites and other races. Thomas Sowell in one of his books on race debates this issue. He notes that Black mothers have a higher incidence of complications and mortality than Whites, and receive less care than Whites as well. But Mexican mother receive the least healthcare, but have much less infant mortality than Blacks. He therefore argues that the amount of healthcare isn’t the cause of Black infant mortality. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there wasn’t a genetic predisposition towards obesity in Blacks in the same way that there is in people of South Asian origin, who have a higher rate of heart disease than Whites. And if Blacks are genetically more predisposed to complications in pregnancy, in the same way that they suffer higher rates of sickle cell anaemia, then it simply means that Blacks need higher levels of medical care in pregnancy. Or perhaps different kinds of medical care to search for particular kinds of complications than Whites. The fact that Black Americans have higher rates of infant mortality than Mexicans despite receiving more medical care isn’t an argument for complacency and saying that somehow it’s all their fault. Clearly Black women need particular care during pregnancy, and there are initiatives to make sure they get it. There was an article on the local BBC news for Bristol a few months ago stating that a couple of Black nurses had started a scheme to combat the higher rate of deaths of Black mothers. That’s clearly welcome and necessary.

But blaming all of this on slavery is bad history and worse race relations. And it may be doing actual harm by preventing historians and healthcare specialists examining other, possibly equal relevant causes of Black health problems.

Salvador Dali Wanted Materialist Religion to Destroy Christianity and Enslave Non-Whites

September 1, 2022

The Torygraph has published a piece today revealing that a letter has come to light from the Surrealist painter Salvador Dali from the 1930s, in which he reveals just what an anti-Christian, fascist sympathiser he really was. It dates from 1935. Dali had already been suspended from the Surrealists the year before because of comments praising Hitler, amongst other things. In a nasty bit of social snobbery he said that the train crashes he most enjoyed were those in which only third-class passengers were killed. The Torygraph article also states that in another letter in which he claimed that one of the reasons why he was expelled from the Surrealists 1939 was his positive view of the lynchings in America. He loved Hitler, was fascinated by the Swastika and apparently thought the Nazi party were an example of Surrealism in action.

Uggh. Pass the sick bag!

The Torygraph article begins

Salvador Dalí wanted to enslave races he considered inferior and establish a new “sadistic” world religion, a newly-discovered letter has revealed. 

In the letter, which was written by Dalí in 1935, the artist proposed the enslavement of “all the coloured races” as part of a new world order that would be “anti-Christian and materialistic, based on the progress of science”. 

“The domination or submission to slavery of all the coloured races” could be possible, Dalí wrote, “if all whites united fanatically”. He also insisted on the need for “human sacrifices”. 

As Europe was threatened by the fascist regimes of Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy, Dalí’s letter to André Breton, the French writer and co-founder of the surrealist movement, speaks of the need for “new hierarchies, more brutal and strict than ever before” to “annihilate” Christianity. 

“I believe that we surrealists are finally turning into priests,” Dalí wrote.

Scornful of Christianity’s “altruism”, he added: “We don’t want happiness for ‘all’ men, rather the happiness of some to the detriment of others”. 

The letter was recently discovered in the digitalised personal archive of Sebastià Gasch, an art critic from Barcelona who died in 1982. It was published on Thursday by Spain’s El Pais newspaper.’

For the complete article, go to: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/entertainment/music/salvador-dali-wanted-to-enslave-non-white-races-and-create-new-sadistic-religion-letter-reveals/ar-AA11lIAc?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531&cvid=6310a88ab5f4477185b311aaebce1ed5

Dali scarpered to American during the War, returning afterwards to Spain as a supporter of the Fascist leader, General Franco.

Dali was a great artist but a revolting human being. He was greedy for fame and money, which is why some of the other Spanish Surrealists nicknamed him ‘Avida Dollars’. Malcolm McLaren presented a programme on him on Radio 4 a few years ago, in which he compared the publicity-hungry, media-savvy Dali with contemporary British artists like Damian Hurst and Tracey Emin. Well, Dali did share with Hurst, Emin and the rest of the Young British Artists the urge to shock as well as the pursuit of fame and cash, but YBAs, for all their excesses can never be accused of Nazism. Dali also wasn’t averse to selling his friends out to the authorities. Dali emigrated to America with Luis Bunuel, who also hailed from Catalonia. The two had worked together on the Surrealist films Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or, both now regarded as classics of cinema. Surrealism was a mixture of Freudianism and Marxism, and many of the Surrealists were members of the Communist party. Bunuel was one of them. On arrival in the Land of the Free, Dali snitched that Bunuel was a commie to the FBI, and made little effort to excuse himself for doing so when Bunuel confronted him on his betrayal. Bunuel himself emigrated to Mexico where he continued to make Surrealist, anti-Christian films.

I’m fascinated by the Surrealists and love Dali’s art, but the man himself is quite a different matter. I can well believe, despite his later conversion to the Catholicism, that at heart he was an atheist with a hatred of the religion to which he nominally belonged. I didn’t realise he was so racist, however. This was definitely against the Surrealist ethos, which was firmly against imperialism, but patronised the world’s indigenous peoples as seeing their art and culture based as based on the Freudian unconscious. This was the respectable scientific view at the time, but modern anthropologists have rejected it. Instead they see indigenous art and culture as the products of centuries or millennia of conscious intellectual development and no more based on the irrational or Freudian unconscious than our own.

As one of the best known of the Surrealists, Dali is a fascinating figure and he painted some of the greatest works of 20th century art. But as this letter shows, he was in many ways a squalid human being.

Uri Geller Loses His Temper with the Spoon Council

August 8, 2022

This is hilarious, and nothing to do with politics. I gather that Uri Geller has raised his head again, threatening to use his psychic powers against Vladimir Putin. Or at least his spoons. I found this video from 2012 on YouTube in which the great psychic loses his temper during an interview with a man from the Spoon Council. Geller wants to talk about his great achievements, while his interviewer keeps reminding him that he became successful in Britain through appearing on TV and bending people’s spoons. Geller gets very irate at this, and throws him out, threatening to call his lawyer. But there’s a shot of his car outside, decorated with bent spoons.

Geller’s amusing, but I seriously doubt that he has any genuine psychic powers. The spoon bending trick, for example, goes back to the 18th century where it can be found in the book Rational Recreations. Which sounds like the kind of book Mr Spock would read for fun. And back in the ’70s, an Israeli judge found against him in a court case brought by a dissatisfied customer at one of his cabaret performances. Geller was at the time Israel’s foremost nightclub stage magician. He advertised his performances as showing undeniable proof of the existence of psychic powers. But an engineering student who went to one said that all he saw was stage magic, and sued. I think it was under the Israeli version of the trades descriptions act. The beak was not impressed with Geller either, and found in the student’s favour.

At his height in the ’70s Geller was working with scientific psychic researchers like Andrija Puharich. He once claimed to have teleported from Israel to the US, although someone punctured this by producing his airplane ticket. He appeared on one American TV show with one of the American astronauts, who had played golf on the Moon. Geller produced the golf ball he claimed the astronaut had hit and lost up there. And back in the ’90s the Mexican government paid him to use his psychic powers to find lost Aztec gold. He looked for it by flying about over the land of the ancient Mexica in a helicopter waving his hand out the window in the hope of getting the vibrations or whatever. Nice work if you can get it!

Back to the spoons, one of Private Eye’s spoof columns for a long time was ‘Me and My Spoon’, in which the magazine spoofed interviews with celebs and politicians with fictional interviews asking them what their opinions on spoons were. These satirical pieces usually ended with the celeb throwing a strop. Geller’s interview here seems straight out of it.

Thomas Sowell on How Migration Can Create Jobs, Not Take Them Away

July 6, 2022

Thomas Sowell is a Black American conservative. I’ve started reading his Race and Culture, whose title suggests it should be some wretched Nazi screed, but which isn’t. Sowell believes that peoples are shaped by their history and the environments in which they were formed, and thus different people can develop different skills and attitudes to education, commerce and so on. These may be retained by those peoples when they immigrate to a new country. In the chapter on ‘Race and Migration’, he describes how various immigrant groups came to dominate particular areas of the economy in places like Latin America, Africa, and Australia. For example, European immigrants came to dominate trade and industry in many South American countries because the indigenous landowning elites looked down on those sectors. Their preferred occupations were in the profession, such as law or medicine, or in government. He discusses how the Lebanese similarly became important in trade and industry in West Africa, and the Indians, particularly Gujaratis in East Africa. He notes that immigrant success in these areas is often resented, as if the industries the immigrants create somehow happened naturally and the immigrants somehow seized control of them over the indigenous peoples. This was the mentality of the Ugandans when they expelled their Asian population in 1972.

Sowell doesn’t believe in ‘political correctness’ or multiculturalism, and states that often the association between an immigrant group and higher crime rates or poor sanitation really isn’t one of perception and stereotype. He is also critical of multiculturalism as it can seal ethnic minority groups off from the skills, education and values of the mainstream society, skills and attitudes that would allow them to successfully integrate and compete. But he also makes the point that immigration does not necessarily mean that immigrant groups take jobs away from the indigenous or host society. Indeed, the may actually create them. He writes

‘In addition to real costs entailed by immigrants, there are often also false charges that they are a burden to the native-born population, in situations where they are not. However, sometimes there are hidden costs which may be different from what is charged, but significant nonetheless. A common charge against immigrants, for example, is that they take jobs from native-born workers. But there is no fixed number of jobs, from which those going to immigrants can be subtracted. More producers coming into an economy mean more output and more demand, which in turn creates more jobs.

It is an empirical question whether the additional jobs created as a result of the immigrants economic activities equals or exceeds the number of jobs the immigrants themselves take. It is by no means out of the question that native workers may have more jobs available after immigrants arrive. Studies of the large influx of Mexican immigrants into southern California, for example, showed no adverse impact on either the unemployment rate or the labour force participation rate of Blacks in that region, who might be competing for similar jobs. In fact, job trends for Blacks were more favourable in this area heavily impacted by Mexican immigrants than in the nation at large. But while there has apparently been an increase in the total number of jobs, there has been a correspondingly lower pay scale, as the large influx of immigrants has lessened the need for employers to raise wages in order to attract sufficient workers.’ (p,.43).

Which is all very interesting. You often hear the claim that immigrants are taking jobs, and the right are claiming that wages are lower because of foreign immigration. But you don’t hear that immigration can create jobs, and that’s an important omission.

Perhaps it should be made more often in response to the anti-immigration brigade.

Trek Culture on the Discovery of Nano-Scale Warp Bubbles

December 10, 2021

Some fascinating and optimistic news for peeps looking for real warp drives a la Star Trek. Trek Culture is a Star Trek fan site, but in this video host Sean Ferrick talks about a possible scientific breakthrough for the development of a real warp drive. Dr. Harold G. ‘Sonny’ White, a scientist at the Limitless Space Institute, observed the formation of a real warp bubble while researching Casimir cavitation. The warp bubble was on the nanoscale, so very, very small indeed. Nevertheless, his paper has been passed by peer review, and Dr. White hopes to follow this up with an experiment with a microscopically small sphere of a few micromillimeters which produce a similarly small cylindrical warp bubble around it.

Real scientific interest in warp drives began with the 1994 paper by the Mexican physicist Dr Marcel Alcubierre, but this was also widely discounted because it would have needed an extreme amount of energy plus a very exotic form of matter. If I remember correctly, the exotic matter involved may be one in which the force of gravity repulses rather than attracts. Since then scientists have been working to refine his theories. One recent physicist has suggested that it may be possible to create a warp field using a mass ten times the size of Jupiter, which is many times smaller than the masses needed to create such a bubble in Alcubierre’s original calculations. It’s still far beyond any practical application or construction, at least with present technology, but there are hopes that further work will cut the masses needed down still further until warp drives hopefully become possible. I think the Casimir force is a force that squeezes the vacuum energy – the virtual particles zipping into and out of existence at the level of the cosmic foam – out of any empty space at the nano level when two plates are set up sufficiently near each other. Years ago in the 1990s one of the British science programmes reported that it would be possible to use the effect to create a metre-sized wormhole. The drawback was that the plates used would have to be the size of Jupiter. It looks like White was researching similar effects when he discovered the formation of a real warp bubble.

While this is very optimistic, Ferrick stresses that it will be a very long time before we see the creation of a real warp drive. This is so far off that it’s Science Fiction. This is correct. There are problems scaling this such effects up from the nano to the macro scale. Wormholes are believe to form and disappear constantly at the level of the cosmic foam at the smallest level of reality. One method of FTL travel that has been proposed is to create such a wormhole and then enlarge it. However, wormholes are unstable, and so its mouth would have to be kept open with the gravity-repulsing exotic matter. I don’t think anyone know how to make it, nor do I think scientists know how you could realistically enlarge such as wormhole so that it becomes a practical method of interstellar travel. Nevertheless, Ferrick states that a line has been crossed, albeit a microscopically small one, towards making warp drives like those in Star Trek a reality.

This is fascinating news, and even if the creation of a real warp drive is decades off, I hope this will lead to their creation. As Captain Picard used to say in Star Trek: The Next Generation, ‘Number One, make it so!’

And just to remind everyone what has helped to inspire many people’s dreams of space exploration, here’s the titles of the original series:

Mind you, I think if they ever create a real warp drive and test it in space, it’ll be hit by a solar flare, opening up a wormhole that will cast the spaceship and its astronaut into a far distant corner of the universe. He’ll be taken on board a living spaceship, full of escaped prisoners, and pursued by an insane military general, while just trying to find a way home.

Sorry. Wrong series – that’s Farscape.

Star Trek has helped to inspire millions not just with its vision of humanity expanding out among the stars to explore strange new worlds, and find new life forms and new civilisations, but also through its idealistic view of future society. It’s a world where racism and sexism have been banished, there is no starvation or want, and people work to better themselves, not because they need to. The late, great comedian Bill Hicks also looked forward to a similar human future. He used to end his gigs with ‘the Vision’, in which he pointed out that the if the world spent what it does on guns and armaments on peaceful activities, we could solve world hunger. Not one person would starve. And we could colonise space, in peace, forever.

Amen to that. RIP Gene Roddenberry and Bill Hicks – great visionaries and entertainers.

Cartoonist Kayfabe on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ‘Panic Fables’

December 8, 2021

Alejandro Jodorowsky is a Chilean-French film director and comics creator. He was responsible for a number of very bizarre Surrealist films, such as Holy Mountain, one of which features a battle between the Incas and invading conquistadors as enacted by frogs in period costumes. In the 1970s he tried to make a film version of Frank Herbert’s classic Dune, which would have starred Orson Welles as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, his son, Brontis, as Paul Atreides, and Mick Jagger as Feyd Rautha. Concept art was by H.R. Giger, Salvador Dali, Chris Foss and legendary French comics artist, Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud. Dali would also have played the Emperor of the Universe. However, the great Surrealist stipulated that he would only act for half an hour. So Jodorowsky planned to make a robotic Dali to play the Emperor for the rest of the film. The film was, however, abandoned when the producers stopped funding due to mounting costs. Jodorowsky and Moebius weren’t dismayed, and used the material they had already produced for the film as the basis for their comic book, The Incal. Although it was never made, Jodorowsky’s Dune has influenced a number of later SF movies and a film version of The Incal is now underway.

In this video, hosts Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg look through Panic Fables, produced when Jodorowsky was living in Mexico. Jodorowsky had been teaching mime at university, but was now blacklisted. He could no longer teach or make films. He therefore turned his creative talents into comics. Panic Fables describe themselves as teaching initiatory wisdom. This doesn’t surprise me, as I go the impression that Jodorowsky has a very strong interest in esoteric mysticism. However, this doesn’t impress one of the Kayfabers. He’s from Pittsburgh, and so when someone talks about mystic knowledge, it seems to him to be all about separating the rich from their money. The pair are nevertheless impressed by Jodorowsky’s creativity, commenting on his drawing style and unique use of colour in the strips. They also wonder what American influences may have reached Jodorowsky from north of the border, as it was published at the same time the first underground comics were beginning in America, and both Jodorowsky’s work and the undergrounds mark a radical departure from contemporary comics.

Panic Fables are obscure much less well-known than Jodorowsky’s films or his comics with Moebius, The Incal and then The Metabarons. But the video about them give an insight into his considerable creativity during this period, when the Mexican authorities were trying to close him down.

Ex-Army Paz Catches Cold War Paranoia

August 9, 2021

Last week I posted a piece about the right-wing YouTuber, Ex-Army Paz 49, posting a video supporting the letter of the French generals and squaddies threatening Macron with dire consequences if he didn’t get tough on Muslims. Paz is a former squaddie, who has swallowed the right-wing lie that Marxism, Communism and socialism are all the same thing, really. They have never worked, and are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions across the globe.

This is pretty much true of Communism under Mao, Stalin and the other dictators, who turned their countries into vast open air prisons and ruled with fear, artificial famines, purges and the gulag. But Communism was only one form of Marxism. Before the Russian Revolution, mainstream European Marxism supported democratic elections and the expansion of the suffrage to include all of the working class. One of its leading ideologues, the Austrian Karl Kautsky, hated the Bolsheviks’ destruction of democracy and their disenfranchisement and enslavement of the former governing class. He was also cautious about nationalisation, feeling that it should only be done when the natural development of an industry had turned it into a monopoly. Then it should be taken over by the state and run for the good of society as a whole, and not just its capitalist owners and shareholders.

The mainstream European socialist parties, such as Labour in Britain, the Social Democrats in Germany and Austria, were reformists. They rejected revolution for evolution, preferring to introduce socialism through parliamentary reform. They fully supported democracy and included some of the most bitter critics of the Communist one party states and totalitarian rule. Regarding nationalisation, there was a spread of views within these parties from those on the left who wished for more nationalisation to Social Democrats like Anthony Crossland, who believed that nationalisation should be rejected in favour of progressive taxation and strong trade unions, which would deliver the same results. The consensus was for a mixed economy. There was a minimum of nationalisation – the public utilities – linked to state planning and industrial investment. The result was a period of continued growth that lasted from the end of the Second World War to the 1970s.

But all this is either ignored or utterly unknown to right-wingers like Paz, who really do seem to think that Jeremy Corbyn was some kind of Marxist subversive because he urged a return to the post-War consensus. But just as Marxism and socialism have revived thanks to the obviously failing state of Reaganomics and Thatcherite free trade capitalism, so the old Cold War paranoia about THEM has come back. Paz posted a video last week claiming that Black Lives Matter and Trans activism were all being encouraged by an unknown foreign power in preparation for taking over the country. This is based on something a Soviet defector, Yuri Bezmenov, said on American TV twenty years ago. Bezmenov said that the Soviet authorities regarded western leftists as ‘useful idiots’ and encouraged them in order to weaken the West ready for a Soviet invasion. Paz was convinced, as are many other rightists, that this going on right now. It’s just that ‘we don’t know who’.

This is just standard Cold War state disinformation. Yes, Black Lives Matter are a Marxist organisation and the Critical Race Theory that underpins it and much other Black activism is a Marxist ideology. The Queer Theory that forms the intellectual basis of transgender activism is also a product of the postmodern extreme left. Lenin and the other Soviet leaders certainly did see western fellow travellers as ‘useful idiots’. But I see absolutely no foreign influence behind either BLM or the Trans lobby. They seem to be natural development in certain strands of anti-racist and gay rights activism. In the case of Black Lives Matter, this has gained considerable urgency because Blacks and people of colour have been particularly hard hit by the poverty caused by forty years of wage restraint and welfare cuts, along with the banking crisis and now Covid. As for trans politics, I think this has partly expanded because it’s now viewed as the new battleground over gay rights. And I don’t think the mainstream gay organisations in Britain are Marxist. One of the founders of Stonewall here in Britain, apparently, was Matthew Paris, who was Maggie Thatcher personal private secretary until he got sacked for writing a rude letter to an old lady, who had written to her.

The paranoia about some shadowy foreign power simply looks like the kind of state propaganda put out over here during the 70s and 80s by MI5 and IRD. They claimed that just about every figure on the radical left was somehow in the pay of Moscow. This included the anarchists, the IRA, the PLO and mainstream Labour politicians like Tony Benn, whom they also smeared as supporters of the IRA. It wasn’t true, and some of its targets, like the anarchists, actually found it so wrong to be hilarious. But it was effective in discrediting decent politicians like Benn to a section of the British electorate.

Well, Communism and the Soviet Union fell in the 1990s, though this didn’t get through to a hard line of the paranoid fringe in America. A certain section of the survivalist milieu believed that the USSR hadn’t really collapsed. They had only made it seem that way. In reality the USSR was alive and well, and had secret bases in Canada and Mexico ready to send tanks over the border when the time was right. However, thirty years after the collapse of the USSR, it’s obvious to just about everyone that Communism, except in China and some other minor countries, really has fallen. Hence the fact that Paz and the other rightists are utterly convinced that some foreign power is behind BLM and the trans movement, but don’t really know who.

My guess is that as capitalism continues to fail and discontent spreads, there’s going to be more deliberate disinformation published in the right-wing media smearing the old, traditional left as Communists and Marxists, like they did with Jeremy Corbyn.

Which means there are going to be a few more ultra-patriots like Paz convinced that it’s all being done ready for a foreign invasion, but can’t tell you who. Welcome to the new Cold War.

Short Video on the History of TV’s Panthermobile

February 16, 2021

Okay, I know I haven’t been posting much recently. I’m afraid I’ve been somewhat busy with other projects, and the recent news really hasn’t inspired me. However, I did find this fascinating and fun little video on YouTube which amused me, and which I thought would interest other peeps of a certain age. It’s from the Little Car channel, and it’s about the Panthermobile, a 7 meter long bizarre pink contraption built for the titles of the Pink Panther cartoon show. This was a spin-off from the famous Pink Pather films starring the late, great Peter Sellers, and starring a panther who, in the words of the theme song, was ‘ever so pink’ and a cartoon version of Inspector Clouseau. The cartoon first aired in 1969, and the car cost the equivalent of £330,000 to build. It was designed by Jay Ohrberg and Ed Newton, and built by a number of engineers and mechanics including Ed Roth. The car followed the trend of other vehicles specially built for TV shows, such as the Batmobile and the Monkeemobile, the latter for the manufactured band and TV show, The Monkees. Roth had built a number of other, strange vehicles, such as the Orbitron, a car that had a clear perspex bubble over the driver’s position instead of the usual roof and windscreen.

The driver’s seat of the Panthermobile was in front of the two front wheels and the engine that drove them. This made the thing difficult to drive, as you can see from it swerving about the road slightly in the opening titles. The passenger section featured plush carpets, a carphone and minibar. Because there was no rear view mirror a black and white TV screen was used instead.

In the end the car ended up being used for only one year. In 1970 the cartoon’s titles were changed so that they didn’t feature it. As there was little use for a giant car that wasn’t street legal, it was left to languish until it was bought up by Galpin Autosports. Galpin had also rescued the Orbitron from its place in a Mexican side alley being used as a skip. The company now has the largest collection of Ed Roth cars in existence, some of which are shown in the video. These are quite bizarre and look like that era’s idea of what spacecraft would look like in the future. The video concludes by stating that the company’s engineers were huge fans of Roth, and made a complete restoration of the car, and that it was the product a group of southern Californian dreamers who dared to turn their ideas into reality.

The Panthermobile Story – YouTube

The Pink Panther cartoons haven’t been shown for a long time, but they were classics of their type. The Panther himself never spoke, and even when placed in the hilarious situations of cartoon comedy, like watching as the motorbike he’s riding falls apart, with one half overtaking him, always managed to look amazingly cool. The cartoon was so popular that there was even a Pink Panther chocolate bar, which was also very, very pink. And despite its absence from the TV screen, people still remember it fondly. There was a cartoon about the character a few years ago in Private Eye. This showed two panthers telling the pink one to get out with the caption, ‘Unfortunately the Pink Panther’s parents were homophobes’. It’s funny when applied to a cartoon character, but unfortunately is an experience which all too many gay children have suffered.

I also found this video of the show’s titles, featuring the Panthermobile, on The 1981 Club’s channel on YouTube, so everyone who watched it in the ’70s can relive it and everyone born after the decade can see what epic TV we had then.

The Pink Panther Show Original Opening HQ – YouTube

Trump and the Spectre of Mussolini

January 7, 2021

The big news today has been last night’s attack on the Capitol by Trump’s supporters. They had been fired up to make the assault by Trump’s continued insistence that he is the real winner of the election, but it has been stolen from him by vote-rigging from the Democrats. As Mike himself has pointed out, Trump himself has not been averse to trying to do this himself. Earlier this week it was revealed that Trump had tried to persuade Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, to find one more vote for him in the state more than those cast for Joe Biden. And a week or so ago it was also reported that he had also been considering calling in the army in order to defend his presidency. If he had done so, it would have been a coup attempt.

Microsoft News in a piece they published today about the attack state that among the mob were members of various far right groups, such as the Proud Boys, the Nationalist Social Club and supporters of the Qanon conspiracy theory. This is the bizarre belief that Trump has been secretly fighting a war against an evil covert group determined to take over and subvert America. Last night there had been various messages posted on right-wing websites urging ‘Revolution’ and ‘Civil War’. World leaders have expressed their disgust and condemnation of the attack, though as Mike also points out, there has been no condemnation of Trump himself from Boris or Priti Patel. The attack is ominous, as it shows just how fragile American democracy is.

Indeed. Way back in the 1990s there were fears of a similar attack with the emergence of militia movement. These are right-wing paramilitary organisations founded by people, who really believe that America is in danger of being taken over by the extreme left, or the forces of globalism and the one world Satanic conspiracy or whatever. Many of them were explicitly racist with the connections to the neo-Nazi right. At one point a woman claiming to be a senior officer in the movement appeared online urging the various militias to unite and march on Washington. Her call was ignored, largely, I think, because the other militia leaders didn’t trust her and were extremely suspicious of her motives. I got the distinct impression that they suspected her of being an agent provocateur and that the march was some kind of trap by the federal government. There was no armed paramilitary march, and so America dodged a coup attempt, or whatever it was, that time.

But the attack is also reminiscent of an assault on government even further back, almost one hundred years ago. This was the infamous ‘March on Rome’ of Mussolini’s Fascists. This succeeded in getting him appointed as the new Prime Minister by the Italian king, Emmanuel II, and began the process which saw him overturning Italian democracy to forge the Fascist one-party state and his personal dictatorship. Of course, for such coups to be successful, the armed forces, capital and the civil service must be willing to collaborate with the insurgents. Mussolini had the support of Italian industry and the big landowners, as he offered to protect capitalism from the forces of revolutionary socialism. The Fascists also included a number of ex-servicemen, the squadristi, and they had considerable support within the regular Italian armed forces. However, the head of the Italian police had absolute contempt for the Fascists and offered to defend the Italian government from the Fascists. But the king turned him down, and caved in to the future Duce.

There are similarities to last night’s events. Many right-wing Americans do seem to fear that Communism and anarchy are somehow about to overrun America with the violence of some of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in America and the supposed ‘cultural Marxists’ that have allegedly taken over the American educational system. And the fears that there really is a secret conspiracy to overthrow American democracy and enslave its citizens has been around for decades. Bizarre conspiracy theories appeared in the 1970s about the Bilderberg group and the Trilateral Commission, claiming that these groups really ran the world. Then in the 1990s George Bush senior’s statement that he was going to create a ‘new world order’ prompted comparisons with the Nazis, as Hitler had also said the same about his regime. It was also linked to older conspiracy theories about the Freemasons because the Latin version of the phrase, ‘Novo Ordo Seculorum’, supposedly appears on American dollar bills along with various Masonic symbols. These theories claimed that America was being secretly run by a group of Masonic Satanists, who were planning turn America into a totalitarian, Communist state and send Christians to concentration camps. Even the collapse of Communism did not allay these fears. Many of those, who bought into these bizarre theories, thought that the collapse of the Soviet Union was all some kind of ruse. One variety of these myths claimed that the Russians had established secret military bases in Canada and Mexico, and at a given signal Soviet tanks would roll over the border into America. The 1990s were arguably the peak of such beliefs, as shown in the popularity of similar stories of covert government pacts with aliens from Zeta Reticuli and TV’s The X-Files. But such fears have certainly not gone away. There was a resurgence during Obama’s presidency, when America’s first Black president was accused by the bonkers elements on the American right of being a secret Muslim. or atheist. Or Communist. Or Nazi. Whatever, Obama was filled with rage against White Christians. One pair of pastors told the listeners of their church radio station that Obama was going to establish a dictatorship and would massacre even more people than Chairman Mao. Alex Jones was repeating and amplifying similar myths over on his internet radio and TV station. He claimed that Obama was going to invoke emergency legislation under the pretext of impending environmental disaster to force ordinary Americans into refugee camps. Militant feminists and gays were part of this conspiracy, in which humanity was to be transformed into a race of genderless cyborgs. Jones lost a considerable part of his audience when he was banned from various social media platforms thanks to his claims that a Boston pizza parlour was really a front for supplying children to be abused by members of the Democratic party and that several high school shootings had really been faked to provoke popular support for gun control laws. This caused real distress to the bereaved parents, who were accused of being ‘crisis actors’. Jones has nearly vanished from the public stage, though he still appears here and there. Even when he had an audience, many people still regarded him as a joke. But it looks like the conspiracy theories Jones promoted, and the underlying distrust of the government, still have a powerful hold on many Americans.

Fortunately, yesterday was different from 1920s Italy. America’s military has so far shown no interest in coming to Trump’s aid and overthrowing democracy. Black Lives Matter is extremely unpopular in certain areas, but the police, security forces and private industry aren’t backing armed paramilitary units to defend capitalism. American democracy is being shaken and tested, but so far it hasn’t cracked. The problem is, it’s not clear how long this will last. By calling for people to storm the capitol, Trump has struck a blow against democracy. He’s been unsuccessful, but this might inspire a future president with the same inclinations to try again. And they might be more successful.

And we’re not safe from such assaults over here. Mike in his article has warned that the Tories appear to be taking notes from Trump, while Zelo Street points out that the same people, who backed Trump also back the Tories and Brexit over here. He concludes with a warning of who the Brexiteers will blame when it all finally goes bad:

Many Brexiteers believe it’ll be someone else’s fault – Remainers, ethnic minorities, foreign nationals, multinational corporations, those of insufficiently patriotic intent – when it all goes bad. It won’t be Bozo, Ms Patel, Gove, or Nigel “Thirsty” Farage they will be going after.

There is a real danger of America becoming, if not a dictatorship, then a very authoritarian, Fascistic state. And Britain following.

See also: Four dead after Trump provokes US Capitol riot – and the UK Tories are taking notes | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Zelo Street: Trump Insurrection – Next Stop UK (zelo-street.blogspot.com)