Archive for the ‘Morality’ Category

Academic Historian T.O. Lloyd on the Legalization of Homosexuality and Abortion in Britain

August 8, 2022

Homosexuality and abortion have once again become vital, controversial issues following the outrage in America and in this country against Drag Queen Story Hour and trans issues, and the US supreme court overturning the landmark ruling of Roe vs. Wade, which demanded federal legalisation of abortion in America. Lloyd in his book Empire to Welfare State: English History 1906-1986, 3rd edition, (Oxford: OUP 1986) has a paragraph about the legalization of these two issues in Britain by the Labour government of the late 60s. He writes

‘Private Members introduced two Bills, also inspired by J.S. Mill’s type of liberalism, to legalize homosexual acts between consenting adults and to allow abortion when it was justified on medical, psychological or social grounds. These Bills were handled in the previous Parliament: the government did not commit itself officially to supporting them, and issued no party whip, but it allowed enough parliamentary time to make sure that both of them were passed despite attempts to ‘talk them out’. Outside Parliament the changes seem to have been welcomed by public opinion; surveys showed majorities in favour of both pieces of legislation, and the opponents of change seemed either to be apologetic about their position or to be unreasonable-the calm, commanding central position which in the past had been held by the supporters of a restrictive morality was now held by the advocates of a libertarian approach.’ (p. 413).

This states that the legalization of homosexuality, or rather, its decriminalization, and the legalisation of abortion were both popular. This suggests that the Tories are going to have a fight on their hands if they try to remove these rights.

Decoy Voice Asks: Why Are the Chinese Making a Robot that Eats People?

July 12, 2022

And now for something a bit lighter, if by ‘lighter’ you mean people designing and building the type of machines that really could bring about the robot revolt. Decoy Voice is, I think, a Chinese-American YouTuber. In the video below, he comments on the way the Chinese seem to have revived their old EATER robot programme. This was an attempt to build a robot that could go on powering itself through consuming biomass. It was cancelled a few years ago, presumably because it worried too many people by designing machines that would eat plants and presumably animals instead of running on electricity. But now the Chinese have released footage of some kind of robot vehicle with a scoop at the front, appearing to scoop up a bewildered looking chap lying just in front of it. This looks like they’ve revived the EATER programme, and this poor fellow was intended to show how it could also consume biomass. Or, as they are more usually known, people.

Decoy Voice compares this with Boston Dynamics Spot robot dog, seen in multiple videos doing everything from press-ups to dancing. Except that it was designed for military use and can carry a proper military gun turret, as well as the robotic arm it can also be equipped with. The Chinese have used it to police the Covid lockdown. The Hawaiian cops were using to keep an eye on vagrants and the rozzers in New York also used them to patrol certain districts. Except one of these American forces had to stop using them as they made the residents nervous.

Along the way, Decoy Voice comments on how his channel seems to be followed by any number of Chinese bots. He’s suddenly acquired a following of young and beautiful Chinese ladies, all with their own personal trainers, glamorous lifestyle and internet monickers ending in the numbers 12345. Oh yes, and despite clearly being young, attractive and rich, they only have five internet followers each. Decoy Voice jokes that this would be more credible if he was also stunningly handsome, and demonstrates how he would have to use various photoshop-style picture techniques to make himself look like a Hollywood hunk.

It’s a great video, but there’s a very serious point to this. Scientists are worried about the development of sentient AI operated war machines. Kevin Warwick, the head of cybernetics at Reading University, was so worried because he was genuinely afraid that the machines really would take over. By 2050, he predicted in his book, March of the Machines, most of humanity will have been killed off. Only a tiny remnant would remain as the neutered slaves of the robots, or as scattered free people living in terrain to hostile for machines. Both Ukraine and Russia are using military robots, those are, they say, under human control and will be only be used to transport military equipment to human troops. The British army has launched a recruiting video with the slogan that only human squaddies can do things that robots can’t. Well, part of his is that robots don’t have the moral judgement of humans. Warwick gives the example in his book how a robot fire extinguisher in his department could be turned into such a war machine. All you have to do is change the fire extinguisher the robot carries for a gun, teach its computer network to target people with blue eyes and blond hair, and set it loose. It would then carry on shooting people with that complexion and eye colour until it ran out of bullets, not distinguishing between soldier and civilian, those who have surrendered and active combatants.

There’s a very old science fiction story I remember reading when I was 13. It was called ‘Flying Dutchman’ and it was about a robot bomber plane, that is automatically reloaded and refuelled to carry on its mission. But no humans are mentioned in the story, either as operators, soldiers, civilians or victims. None at all. I think the story’s implied message is that all the humans have been killed, but the machines don’t realise it. They just keep following their programmes and carry on fighting a war that has effectively ended long ago with the death of the human race.

I like robots. I’m fascinated by them. But I also recognise that there are dangers and moral and social problems connected with them. And that some of the people manufacturing the military robots should have read and watched a few good Science Fiction stories. Dr Who’s ‘The War Machines’ and ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ would have been a good start. or The Terminator, and Karel Capek’s Rossum’s Universal Robots.

Or the grandmother of them all, Mary Shelley and Frankenstein.

Tories Ashcroft and Oakeshott Demand Privatisation of NHS Hospitals

May 23, 2022

A few weeks ago Private Eye carried a review of Michael Ashcroft’s and Isabel Oakeshott’s book on the supposed failures of the NHS in its issue for 29th April – 12th May. Ashcroft is, I believe, the Tory donor now resident in Belize, and Isabel Oakeshott his pet journo, responsible for the otherwise uncorroborated claim that when he was at Oxford, David Cameron poked a porker. Now the two have written a book, Life Support, giving their critical analysis of the NHS and their suggestions for its improvement. The pair examine two hospitals, St. Mary’s in Paddington and King’s College Hospital in Camberwell, which they describe as being in run-down areas. St. Mary’s Hospital is in a dingy backstreet off the lower Edgware Road between the railway station and a long strip of burger joints, pawnbrokers and shops selling cheap luggage. King’s College Hospital occupies a neighbourhood where drug and gang crime are rife, and is filled with the victims of gang warfare.

The book claims that hospitals ” are badly run by management teams that tolerate waste, allow patient safety standards to slip”, whose bosses “prise over a culture of bullying and cover-ups and fail to grip budgets”, which is “terrible for taxpayers, terrible for NHS staff and potentially fatal for patients”. They also claim that the NHS has a code of omerta similar to the Sicilian mafia.

So what are their solutions to this crisis? Well, get rid of foreign doctors and health tourists, sell off a few hospitals, have people transform themselves into cyborgs and lose weight. They are suspicious of Indian doctors, because there is less regulation and greater corruption in their country of origin. When they start working in the NHS, they have a paternalistic attitude towards patients.

As for the health tourists, they gave as an example a Nigerian woman who flew in from Lagos so that she could have her triplets delivered by the NHS, complaining that ‘Part of the problem is that most healthcare professionals believe they have a moral duty to help the sick,, wherever they are from.’ After demanding the privatisation of a few hospitals, there’s a chapter, “Cyborgs: Futuristic Medicine” in which they encourage people to turn themselves into the real-life equivalents of Dr. Who’s Cybermen. But they claim that ‘Nobody is suggesting that thousands of patients will go to such lengths and attempt to become ‘full cyborgs'”.

They also attack the various fashion brands and social media influencers who they claim have made obesity fashionable, which they state is grossly irresponsible. Despite all this criticism, however, the book says precious little about the Covid pandemic, which has cause a crisis in the Health Service. The Eye’s reviewer states that it’s commendable that Ashcroft and Oakeshott are donating the profits from the book to NHS charities, but concludes

‘Any suspicion that the authors set out to slag off the NHS across 400 pages of ill-informed vanity-published guff but then had to bung some Covid stuff in the intro as events unfolded is surely nonsense’.

Let’s critically examine some of their recommendations. Firstly, many NHS doctors are foreign. During my illness, I’ve been treated by a number of South Asian doctors, as well as those from the Far East and eastern Europe. And I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever. I can’t speak for others, but I believe that they, and the other British and foreign staff gave me excellent care. I am not aware that NHS doctors from India have been found to be any less competent than others. This looks to me like a bit of racism on Ashcroft’s part. As does the bit about health tourists and the Nigerian woman. with triplets. I don’t blame the woman for wanting to give birth over here, than trust herself and her unborn children to medicine in her own country. And I thought it was a fundamental position of modern medical ethics that everyone has the same right to care, regardless of ethnic origin. Besides, Nye Bevan was aware that there would be people coming from less developed parts of the world to take advantage of the NHS, and considered that the Health Service would be more than capable of dealing with them.

There are indeed some very cool and advanced artificial limbs being developed, but some of these – the most advanced – cost tens of thousands of dollars. And despite the invention of dialysis and heart-lung machines, I am not aware that anybody has come close to creating mechanical counterparts of the kidneys, heart and lungs that can be implanted in the body. The idea of people turning themselves into cyborgs is, at present, Science Fiction.

Dr. Who’s Cybermen – the future of patients cutting costs for the NHS. From the Dr. Who Monster Book.

As for the demand that hospitals be privatised, this is obviously what Ashcroft as Tory donor and capitalist clearly wants. But it’s because of privatisation that NHS administrative costs have mushroomed and standards of care declined because of massive funding cuts. And as we’ve seen, privatisation actually leads to few hospitals and doctor’s surgeries as the companies running them close them down in order to maximise their profits. This is bad for taxpayers, who are having to fork out more for poorer service, as well as staff and patients. And it would also be a massive step towards the transformation of the Health Service into one operated through private healthcare companies and funded through private health insurance, like America.

But this is what is happening under the Tories and Blair’s New Labour, as these right-wing Thatcherite politicos seek to enrich themselves and their corporate donors in the private medical industry. Ashcroft’s and Oakeshott’s book are the latest in the propaganda campaign to tell you this is a good idea.

A Small Family Sex Show in Bristol Cancelled Because of Petitions and Death Threats

April 26, 2022

As a Bristolian, I feel I have to add my fourpence worth about this controversy. One of the arenas of the culture war is over sex education in schools and especially sex education, with particular concern about the teaching or promotion of homosexuality and transgenderism. Parents and politicians are concerned about proper age-appropriate teaching of these subjects. The controversy seems to be particularly acute in America, where various, mostly right-leaning journos, activists and media pundits like Michael Walsh have criticised videos posted on TikTok of teachers coming out to young pupils and announcing that they’re gay, non-binary or trans. There have been instances where primary school children have been asked about which gender they identify with, as apart from their biological sex. One teacher proudly announced the ‘gender closet’ in which children can get changed into the clothing of the opposite sex when they want to keep it secret from their parents. There have been very sexually explicit books published for schools about gay and gender issues, containing the kind of imagery that once upon a time only used to be found in hard porn. And schools have also been told that, if a child trans, they should not inform his or her parents. As a result, there have been meetings of outraged parents confronting their local school boards in various towns and cities across the US. The Republican governor of Florida,, Ron de Santis, has just passed his so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ act, which forbids the teaching of anything about sex and sexuality, including heterosexuality, from ages 5 – 9. The Disney corporation and various LGBTQ+ employees have been particularly incensed by it, and have tried to mobilise opposition against the bill. This was in conjunction with a leaked video showing some of its top brass saying that they want half of all their characters to come from ethnic minorities or the gay community. As a result, right-wing Republicans like Walsh are calling for an end to Disney’s autonomy in the state and its tax exemption. I have to say that this shows a somewhat skewed morality. As a massively profitable global enterprise, Disney should pay its fair whack of tax like the rest of us proles. And especially because conditions for its workers in China are so dire that they’ve had to install suicide nets in their factories to stop the wage slaves toiling over their merchandise from killing themselves.

The Tobacco Factory, one of Bristol’s many theatres, put its collective feet firmly into this mire of controversy last week when they announced they were hosting ‘A Small Family Sex Show’ by theatre company ThisEgg. The show was described as woke, Queer and feminist, ,and intended to teach children about sex, using personal experiences, covering sexual orientation, gender identity, boundaries and so on. The show was described as suitable for children of five upwards, and included a section where the performers were free to take their clothes to the extent they felt comfortable. This could be total nudity, or else the removal of bottoms but not underwear, or even just simply staying clothed. The content included teaching children about masturbation, touching as well as other, much more dubious and extreme practices. Quiet-voiced Benjamin Boyce, an American YouTuber who discusses topics like gender identity, went through the description of the show’s contents on their website. This also included various explicit drawings. It was a weird mixture of sex with information about theatre, such as pointing out that the areas to each side of the stage that are hidden from the audience are called the wings. It also promised to teach children about White privilege and supremacy. In the video introducing the show, it’s producers introduce themselves with their pronouns and a description of their race, complexion, hair colour and so on. They seem to have been White, and Boyce wondered why they thought such descriptions were necessary when everyone could see what they were like. But it was the sexual subjects they show intended to teach which naturally attracted Boyce’s astonishment and disapproval. Again and again he wondered aloud how it wasn’t grooming. And others wondered too, on both sides of the Atlantic, with many being very firmly convinced it was.

Karen Davis, a gender critical Black American YouTuber, covered it on her channel. She was concerned that it was aimed at a time when children were only just learning to differentiate between fiction and reality, and that you could not like people while still being civil to them. She was also concerned that it would break down barriers about sex between children and adults, barriers that children naturally have for very good reasons. She was concerned that it was teaching kids not to believe their own eyes and feelings about whether an adult presented a danger, and would so make them vulnerable to predators. Davis has very strong and uncompromising views on the trans issue and she goes further in her opposition than some other gender critical folks. But in this instance her views seem to be very well grounded. She frequently cites the medical and academic literature to support her opinions, which are also informed by her work as a special needs teacher for children. She has also previously worked in centres for people with mental health issues. She knows whereof she speaks. And one of her concerns was about the theatre companies name. ‘Egg’ apparently is trans slang for someone on the verge of being trans, who needs to be ‘hatched’. I wondered if the name wasn’t inspired by a cult BBC show about a group of graduates living in London called This Life, one of whose characters had the monicker ‘Egg’. The show claimed it had the support of one of the organisations charged with protecting children, but a glance at that organisation’s website – it might have been the NSPCC – showed that the show was in conflict with the organisation. This said on their website that one of the signs that a child was being abused or near to a child who was, was sexuality explicit talk.

There have been any number of people on YouTube in Britain and America tearing into the show. Meesh Makeida, a Black British mother, covered it in one of her videos and made it very plain that she definitely would not take her five year old to it. Karen Davis in her video about it compared it to the real, grubby sex shows for adults. Unfortunately, these have been about in my city. The city council voted a few months ago to shut down the, er, ‘gentlemen’s clubs’. And the tone of Park Street in Clifton went up when the strip clubs there closed down in the 1980s.

A large number of Bristol’s citizens also made their opposition to the show very plain. There was a petition against it, which garnered 38,000 signatures. There were also threats of death and violence against the theatre and ThisEgg. This resulted in the show’s cancellation. The producers have claimed that they were forced to pull the show due to the threats, and that these came from a small minority of extremists.

I don’t agree with making death threats, and sincerely hope that those sent did come from a small minority. But the 38,000 signatures on the petition definitely don’t come from a small number of people. I don’t know how many people were actually aware of the show’s existence – I haven’t seen it mentioned on the local news. But offhand I can’t think of anyone who would be happy at such a show being performed in front of children and especially not five year olds.

And grooming is a real and legitimate issue with this play. It appears to be informed by Queer Theory. This, in the view of scholars and critics like James Lindsay, explicitly wishes to break down the barriers between adults and children in matters of sexuality and sexual identity. It’s based on the theories of Foucault, a postmodern philosopher and paedophile. Foucault and other intellectuals tried to get the age of consent reduced to 12 or there about in France in the 1970s, and Foucault himself used to go to North Africa to take advantage of the prostituted boys. One of the issues here is that the gay rights movement in its early stages included many paedophiles and civil rights activists who mistakenly believed that it should be legalised. The gay movement in Britain began making headway when the gay organisations purged the paedophiles from their ranks and made it very plain that gay very definitely did not equal paedo. There are thus fears that the paedophiles are trying to come back in through Queer Theory and the kind of sex education that it produces.

Graham Linehan, the writer of Father Ted, Big Train and the IT Crowd and a very firm opponent of the trans ideology, also discussed the play with American gender critical feminist Kara Dansky. I think Linners believed that ThisEgg were genuine in their concern that children received proper information about sex, just misguided. Dansky, on the other hand, suggested that the company really may have been deliberately grooming children. I hope not. They seemed sincere, but terribly, destructively wrong in my opinion.

When the news that the show was being staged a week ago, some of the commenters on various videos had a dig at Bristol. The city’s terribly ‘woke’, you see, and somehow it’s all the fault of the University. Well, certain parts of the city are very left-wing. People joke about the ‘People’s Republic of Stokes Croft’, for example. Other parts are more moderate or Conservative. And the various initiatives taken by Bristol University, such as lowering admissions for Black and Asian applicants in order to encourage more of them to apply don’t come from a long history of left-wing activism. They seem to be initiated in order to dispel criticism that the university is too elitist and White. But of course, there are left-wing lecturers there, just as there are Tories and others, who keep their political views quiet.

As for theatre in Bristol general, the city has a number of excellent venues. The Hippodrome tends to stage West End musicals like Cats, Return to the Forbidden Planet and even, every so often, the Rocky Horror Show. The Theatre Royal in King Street is one of the oldest in the country, and has produced many of this great nation’s leading thesps. It’s had everything from one man shows by Michael Bentine and John Mortimer, to performances of Into the West, from the film starring Ron Moody as a villain. It also staged more challenging performances about the Vietnam War and its legacy. Another theatre venue, Quaker’s Friars, has staged great plays, one of which was by one of the great 18th century French playwrights, as well as a production of the Hollywood classic Key Largo. And before it decided to put on A Small Family Sex Show, the Tobacco Factory had also put on several excellent plays, including puppet shows for children.

I think it’s excellent that the show has been cancelled, but I’m also acutely aware that children do need proper sex education. There was a time when it was not taught in school, and so children were really ignorant about their bodies, the changes of adolescence and reproduction. We should very definitely not go back there, whatever opposition there is to it by right-wingers like Peter Hitchens.

I’m also not entirely convinced that there’s been this controversy about it just when Bristol is facing a referendum over the elected mayor. At the moment it’s Marvin Rees for Labour. Now the mayor and city council generally have had nothing to do with the show, and no-one has said they have. But I’m afraid that the controversy over the play and the constant statements by the right about it being the product of the ‘woke’ left will lead some people to mistakenly connect it to Labour.

Bristol’s a great city, with great theatre. A Small Family Sex Show isn’t one of them, and shouldn’t have been booked.

Children do need proper sex education, given at suitable ages and using appropriate material. They cannot be left ignorant, but should not be exposed to material that is too explicit either. Especially when there is the danger that real abusers could use to approach children, no matter how well-intentioned the people behind such material are.

Glasgow Council Report Criticises Statues of Livingstone, Peel and Gladstone for Slavery Links

April 5, 2022

GB News and the Heil carried reports a few days ago attacking Glasgow council for a report compiled by a highly respected Scottish historian about the city’s historic involvement in the slave trade and its statues commemorating figures connected with it. The council felt that, unlike Liverpool and Bristol, and the city had not faced up to its history as one of the other major British centres of the slave trade. It compiled a list of seven statues that were particularly questionable because of their subjects’ links to the trade. These included the missionary and abolitionist, David Livingstone, Robert Peel and William Ewart Gladstone. The reports concentrated on the criticism of Livingstone, as the man was a fervent abolitionist and it demonstrates how ridiculousness the iconoclasm by the anti-slavery activists is. According to reports by GB News, the Heil and the Glasgow Herald, it’s partly because Livingstone started work at age 10 in factory weaving and processing slave-produced cotton from the West Indies. They make the point that as a child worker, Livingstone had absolutely no control over what the factory did. I doubt very much that he had much control, as someone who could be called a ‘factory slave’, over his choice of employment either. Later videos from GB News and further down in the articles from the Herald and the Heil is the statement that he also defend the cotton masters, believing that they were paternalistic. He may well have done so, but this hardly discredits him because of his life’s work in Africa.

Livingstone had a genuine, deep hatred, as many British Christians had at the time, of slavery. He travelled to Africa to spread Christianity and to combat slavery as its sources. He was also a doctor, and had worked hard after work to educate himself. One of the guests on the GB News debate about it was a right-wing historian of Africa. He pointed out that Livingstone is still very much loved in Africa, and there are plaques to him in Malawi, Zambia, Tanganyika and three other African countries. I have no doubt this is absolutely true. A few years ago I took out of Bristol’s central library a history of Malawi. The book was even-handed and objective. It did not play down massacres by the British army committed when we annexed the area during fighting with the slaving tribes. It described how, under imperialism, White Malawians tended to look down on the indigenous peoples and the dissatisfaction with imperial rule that resulted from the use of forced labour. But neither did it omit or play down the enslavement of indigenous Africans by the other native peoples. These included the Yao, Marganja, Swahili and Arabs, who preyed on the other tribes for the Arab slave trade, sending their captives to Zanziba, Kilwa and across the Indian ocean. To gain their victims’ trust, they’d settle down with them for a year, working alongside them as friends before finally turning on them. They also set up a series of forts to defend the slave routes. One of these, set up by Zarafi, one of the most infamous slavers, had a palisade on which were impaled 100 severed heads. As for the akapolo slaves used in the local economy, they were made very much aware of their status. They had to work with broken tools, and eat their meals off the floor. The chiefs, meanwhile, seemed to have spent much of their time relaxing and having their hair done.

Livingstone, whatever his faults, hated all this and his settlement became a refuge for runaway slaves. As did many of the other settlements he or his followers founded for this purpose. These settlements have since expanded to form some of Malawi’s towns.

William Ewart Gladstone was the leader of Britain’s Liberal party, serving as prime minister, in the latter half of the 19th century. The scandal here is that Gladstone’s family got its money from slave estates in the West Indies. I know Conservatives who genuine hate slavery, who despise Gladstone because of this. So it isn’t just ‘leftists’ that have issues with the Grand Old Man, as Gladstone’s supporters dubbed him. But Gladstone is immensely important because of the social legislation he enacted. He was an Anglican, who, in the words of one historian, ‘became the voice of the Nonconformist conscience’. He wanted the disestablishment of the Anglican church at a time when Christian Nonconformists were still required to pay it tithes and other duties that left them disadvantaged. He also wanted to give Ireland home rule. Of course this faced immense opposition, and I think it was one reason why he failed to win elections as the century wore on. But it seems to me that if he had been able to enact this policy, then perhaps Ireland’s subsequent history may not have been quite so bloody. One of the surprising facts about Irish history is that there was in the 18th century an alliance between Roman Catholics and Protestant Nonconformists. This was before Roman Catholic emancipation, which legalised it and granted Roman Catholics civil rights. At the same time Protestant Nonconformists were tolerated, but still suffered deep political disabilities. As a result, one of Ulster’s historic Roman Catholic churches was build with donations and subscriptions from Ulster nonconformist Protestants. This surprising fact was included in a BBC Radio 4 series, Mapping the Town, which traced the history of British and UK towns through their maps.

I don’t know much about Robert Peel, except that he introduced free trade as a policy for the Conservatives, or a section of the Conservatives. But what he is primarily known for is founding the metropolitan police force. I’ve got a feeling he might also have been responsible for reducing the 100-odd crimes that carried the death penalty to three. These included murder and treason. It might be because of Peel that we’re no longer hanging people for stealing a loaf of bread or impersonating a Chelsea pensioner. But long before Glasgow council decided he was problematic, there was also a demonstration by masked protesters in London demanding that his statue should be removed. And last year the right were also getting in a tizzy because one of Liverpool’s universities was removing him as the name of one of their halls. The student union replaced him with a Black woman, who was a Communist and teacher. She is, no doubt, perfectly worthy of commemoration, but hardly in Gladstone’s league.

Part of the problem is that iconoclasts want to judge everything by a very strict, modern morality. Slavery and the slave trade was an abomination and was rightly abolished. Good people have been continuing the struggle against global slavery since then. But not everybody, who was connected to the trade, is such a monster that they should be blotted out of history in the same way Stalin’s historians removed all mention of his opponents.

One of the things you are taught, or at least were taught, in history at university level is not to play ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ with historical figures. There is no set outcome to the historical process. If events had been different in the past, then modern society would also be different. If, horribly, Wilberforce and the abolitionists had lost, then slavery would still be unchallenged today. At the same time, you need to use the historical imagination to understand why people in the past behaved as they did, and why good people by the standard of their times were capable of attitudes that are deeply morally repugnant to us.

The great British philosopher, Sir Isaiah Berlin, was an admirer of the 17th-18th century Italian historian Vico. Vico believed, as Berlin later did, that there were no objective moral values. He noted how they changed over time, and that to properly understand a past epoch, you needed to understand also its art and culture. I don’t think he was a cultural relativist, however. Berlin certainly wasn’t – he believed that while there were no objective moral values, there were certainly those which acted as if they were. He was fiercely anti-Communist, partly because his family were Lithuanian Jews, who had seen their logging business seized by the Bolsheviks and had fled the Russian Revolution. He was a major figure during the Cold War in establishing western contacts with Soviet dissidents like Nadezhda Mandelstam, who wrote moving accounts of her experience of the gulags under Stalin.

I don’t share Berlin’s Conservatism and strongly believe in the existence of objective moral values. But I strongly recommend Berlin’s books. He wrote a series of potted intellectual biographies, including on the early Russian revolutionaries like the 19th century anarchist, Bakunin. Even though he hated what they stood for, his books are notable for his attempts to see things from his subjects’ point of view. So much so that some people, according to Berlin, though he was pro-Communist. They’re fascinating and highly readable, even if you don’t agree that someone like the French utopian socialist Saint-Simon was ‘an enemy of freedom’.

There are statues of slavers and the people connected with the trade that deserve to be torn down. There had been calls for Colston’s statue to be removed since the 1980s. It was highly controversial all those decades ago, though many Bristolians would have defended it because he gave away most of his money to charity. But other historical figures deserve to be still commemorated despite their connections to the ‘abominable trade’ because of their immense work that has benefited both Britain and nations like Malawi. And I believe that some of those, who find figures like Gladstone objectionable, could also benefit from reading Vico and Berlin. In the meantime, it should be noted that Glasgow council has no plans to tear any statues down.

Slavery is a great moral evil. But historic slavery should not considered so grave and unforgivable, that it is used to blot out the memory of figures like Livingstone, Gladstone and Peel, whose work has so helped shape modern Britain for the better.

A Black Conservative’s Demand for the Return of Traditional Morality and against the Condescencion of Affirmative Action

February 27, 2022

Shelby Steele, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era (New York: HarperCollins 2006).

Shelby Steele is a Black American literature professor. A conservative, the blurb states that he is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University and contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine as well as a multiple aware winner. This is his view of the failure of the movement for Black uplift, ultimately caused by the loss of traditional, conservative values through their association with White supremacy after the ending of segregation. It’s also an account of his journey from childhood growing up in the south under segregation, to angry student radical, disaffected employee, and finally conservative intellectual. During his time he also worked on the Great Society programmes initiated by Lyndon Johnson in some of the worst Black communities and become increasingly disillusioned with them and succeeding programmes as they failed. This last week we had a mixed-race footballer demanding the inclusion of ethnic minority culture and history in the British school curriculum. But Steele rejects this and another initiatives, arguing that despite the implementation of such policies in America, Blacks are still performing poorly at school and elsewhere. Worse, the American public school system, which he boasts was the greatest in the world, has been destroyed by them. What Black America needs, according to Steele, is a return to the traditional capitalist, bourgeois virtues, such as entrepreneurialism, as well as stable two-parent families and a genuine meritocracy, where people are rewarded according to their talent rather than the colour of their skin. In short, he wants Blacks to stand on their own two feet and argues persuasively this is possible. Black children perform badly at school, despite affirmative action programmes to help them and the lowering of academic standards in their favour. But they excel in sport, music, literature and entertainment, where there are no such programmes and only the best is required of them. Thus, leading Black sportsmen emerge through long, demanding practise on the baseball pitch, for example. Great Black musicians come about through kids practicing long and hard on cheap keyboards in their rooms, demanding the best of themselves. But the Black community has been deprived of this spirit of initiative and excellence when it turned away from the liberalism of rights and personal freedom to demand positive measures by the state through exploiting the guilty feelings and loss of moral authority experienced by Whites as they ended segregation and came to terms with the history of racism and Black oppression.

But this has not just damaged Blacks. It has also damaged general American moral authority. White guilt helped the 60s counterculture to emerge and flourish, as well as the new feminist and environmental movements. He states at various times that the attitude now is that if you fail to be properly environmentally concerned, you must be some kind of racist. He’s fully behind the Iraq invasion, which he genuinely believes was an attempt to liberate the country and create a genuine, liberal, democratic order. But it has been hamstrung through comparisons to past American imperialism and exploitation. He celebrates George W. Bush and the new American conservatives, who at one level seem liberal. Bush is comfortable with ethnic minorities and has appointed a number to positions of power. But they are not encumbered by White guilt, and so can exert the traditional moral authority America needs and used to have when White supremacy was unchallenged. As for the inclusion of Black writers on school syllabuses, he feels that the current policy of promoting them simply because they are Black is damaging. It means that genuinely talented writers are put in the same category as the mediocre and so discredited by association, simply because they’re Black. He also condemns a system that imposes higher standards on poor White university applicants simply because of their colour in favour of children from rich Black families. And throughout the book there is a feeling of outrage at such affirmative action measures because of their patronising attitude and apparent condescension.

He also argues that Black anger and militancy was due to the collapse of White confidence and authority due to the end of segregation. During segregation peaceful protests, intended to show Black moral superiority, such as the civil rights demonstrations led by Martin Luther King were the only way to stand up against it. And in cases where nothing could be done, because that was just the way society was, the only things Blacks could do was move on. Such as when he tried to get a job when he was a youngster for an all-White baseball team as their batboy. He was eventually dropped because he couldn’t travel with them to segregated matches. But, as disappointed as he was, by the next day he had moved on to other things as there was absolutely nothing he could do. This is contrasted with the situation a few years later when he led an angry delegation of Black students into his college principal’s office to make what he now regards as outrageous demands. He showed his own personal disrespect by dropping cigarette ash onto the principal’s carpet. The principal received them graciously and gave in, despite appearing initially shocked an angry. This happened because he had lost his moral authority along with the rest of the traditional American order, tarnished by its link with White supremacy.

There’s a wealth of information on the lives of ordinary Blacks under segregation and how, despite its constraints some of them where able to achieve a modicum of prosperity. His father was caught between the unions and his employer. The unions wouldn’t accept him because of his colour, while he had to keep from his employer the fact that he owned his own house. But his father, clearly a man of great entrepreneurial talent, was able to purchase three houses, which he renovated using slightly worn, but still perfectly serviceable furnishings. His parents also set up a free mother and baby clinic. When it came to their son’s schooling, they moved heaven and earth, practically setting up their own civil rights movement, to get him into an all-White school. Unfortunately the area declined due to ‘ghetto blight’ and his father was glad to sell the last one. He describes how, when Blacks travelled to other towns the first thing they had to do was a find another Black to inform them what hotels and shops they could use. This also gave them a kind of secret knowledge and collective identity against that of White America. Some Blacks miss this sense of community and solidarity, hence the proliferation of all-Black groups, societies and professional associations. He talks about working on the Great Society programmes in a truly horrendous town. One morning he woke up to hear the sound of his neighbour trying to shoot his own son in the stomach. Fortunately the man just grazed him. The bookish, nerdy kid, who should have done well at school, and whose mother attempted to protect him from the horror and violence around him by keeping him heavily involved at church, was shot dead in a drive-by gang shooting. The homecoming king at the local school was arrested as a violent thug. His job was to improve this community with the funding they had, but they had no idea what they were doing. They experimented and made stuff up, like the line that Blacks differ from Whites in learning experientially.

But as the years rolled on he became inwardly more conservative while maintaining an outward appearance of left-wing radicalism. Finally this became too much, and he came out as a conservative at a faculty meeting where they were discussing setting up a course on ‘ethnic literature’. Steele, who had already been teaching a course on Black literature, objected. He asks what the label would mean – would it include Philip Roth as well as V.S. Naipaul? He was also angry at being taken for granted when it came to voting, as the proposer of the motion stated she didn’t need to ask him, because she knew he’d vote with her. But he didn’t. He objected, shed his left-wing mask, and came out as a conservative. He now gets abuse as an ‘uncle Tom’ but says he feels better.

In an interview in the back, Steele talks about what got him interested in literature. At his new, all-White school, the English teacher gave him a copy of Kit Carson and the Indians. He was practical illiterate after the appalling education at his former all-Black school. But he so wanted to read the book he spent the next 9 months teaching himself to read. He then moved on to other children’s books, sports stories before tackling Dickens and Somerset Maugham.

Steele is wrong about American conservatism having abandoned imperialism. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was definitely a piece of imperialist conquest, designed to rob the Iraqi people of their oil and state industries. The only difference was the presentation. It was disguised as a war of liberation. But that ruse is almost as old as civilisation itself. When Alexander the Great took a town, he didn’t exact tribute from its ruler. No, what he demanded was ‘contributions to the army of liberation.’ Because he had liberated them from a tyrant. Steele states that the campaigns against sexism and the environmentalist movement are right, but he does have a point when he states that they were also enabled by a reaction against traditional White authority. Some radical writers and activists I’ve come across do seem to present them as in opposition to the White social and economic order carried to the New World by the first European colonists. And I agree with him about the breakdown of the traditional family that came as a result of the sexual revolution of the 60s. This affects Whites as well as Blacks, but is particularly acute among the latter community. 70 per cent of Black American children are born out of wedlock, 90 per cent in the cities. Studies have shown that children from stable families where both parents live together perform far better at school and work. As for education, one of his ideas for Blacks in areas with failing public schools is to open their own in a church or community centre.

I think he’s right about the value of what can also be termed old-fashioned respectability and bourgeois family life. However individual initiative is inadequate to solve all forms of poverty. State action and welfare programmes are still badly needed. But this needn’t be a choice between two alternatives. It means mixing appropriate state support while encouraging people to develop and use their talents. And his examples of Black excellence in sport, music, literature and entertainment do indicate that Blacks can excel by themselves. I found this particularly reassuring after listening to the claims about supposed Black intellectual inferior made by Simon Webb on History Debunked as his preferred explanation for the lack of Black progress.

The book comes from across the other side of the political aisle, but it’s well worth reading and intensely thought-provoking about the continuing, very pertinent problem of Black failure as a consequence of the general failure of traditional morality post-segregation.

Nietzsche and the Government’s Warmongering over Ukraine

February 18, 2022

Our government’s belligerence and sabre-rattling over Ukraine brought to my mind a quotation from Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th century radical German philosopher. Nietzsche hated Christianity and what he called its ‘slave morality’, and instead advocated the philosophy of the ‘Ubermensch’ or ‘superman’, who would live a free and creative life unrestrained by conventional bourgeois morality. I think there’s a line in his best-known work, Thus Spake Zarathustra, which runs

‘They say that a good cause justifies any way. But I say unto you, a good war justifies any cause’. Nietzsche himself was rather less aggressive than his supporters. When his cousin, Elizabeth Forster-Nietzsche, hailed Thus Spake Zarathustra as a work of supreme German nationalism, Nietzsche wrote back to her telling her that she was wrong. ‘It is a book for those who like to sit and think, no more’.

I doubt Bozo or any of the horrors have ever read Nietzsche, and I doubt they’d like him if they did. But they have the same attitude to war, even though I don’t think Nietzsche himself was entirely serious about it when he wrote.

But Bozo and his minions are, and I am afraid they will drag us into dreadful carnage, if not a nuclear war.

Mad Right-Wing YouTube Alex Belfield Is Fact-Checked. But Is He Bovvered?

February 4, 2022

Actually, despite his denials, I think Belfield, the self-proclaimed ‘Voice Of Reason’ was extremely bothered. I know some of you are sick of me giving him and his YouTube channel publicity, but this is hilarious. But there’s also a very serious point to be made here as well.

A few days ago Belfield put up a video about how he was fact-checked by Google or another group concerned with what it is acceptable to say on YouTube. They challenged him on his estimate of the number of deaths from Covid. Belfield consistently and loudly opposes the lockdown, arguing that’s it’s unnecessary and harming industry, children’s schooling and people’s mental and physical health, among other issues. The stats he cited, which he claimed came from the Office of National Statistics, were part of this argument. He then declared that this showed the ‘lefties’ devouring each other.

He then stated, firmly and loudly, that he was not bothered about it while, like Catherine Tate’s petulant schoolgirl, sounding increasingly extremely bovvered. It was doing him good, because all the people that hate watch him were nevertheless making him rich by clicking on his channel. He then began yet another rant about Guardian-reading, champagne-sipping, oyster-eating ‘Naga Manchushi’ types. And to show how not bovvered he is, he put up another video for days ago on ‘the factchecking scam’. Well, he’s certainly shown he’s not bothered as so far he hasn’t joined Alex Jones in ranting about the globalists. But it’s a moot point how far Jones himself believed the rubbish he spouted.

Now I’ll get to the serious point. On the same day that he posted this, Belfield posted yet another video calling for the NHS to be privatised because of Boris giving PPE contracts to his chums. They supplied duff equipment at well over-the-odds prices. If they were able to fulfil the orders at all. Belfield wants you to believe that it’s the fault of having a nationalised National Health Service.

He’s talking nonsense, malign, dangerous nonsense. The poor performance of the NHS comes from decades of Tory cuts and the piecemeal privatisation that sees NHS contracts given to private healthcare companies, who are less efficient and provide a poorer service. But hey, it’s all done for the profit-motive, so it must be better. NHS Test Trace, and which has also performed spectacularly badly, was NHS in name only. It was completely private, though the Tories didn’t want you to know that. But Belfield doesn’t want you to know how badly NHS Privatisation is failing and how badly we need it renationalised.

Now Belfield is, as far as I can make out, a lone YouTuber broadcasting by himself or with a bare minimum of people helping him. He’s not Fox News, GB News or whatever. But he has 300,000 viewers, which is, as he points out, larger than some of the news broadcasters he tackles and sneers at. He is therefore not without influence, and therefore deserves to be criticised. Even if that runs the risk of being counterproductive.

Much of Belfield’s output could be called ‘tabloid TV’. It consists of a fair amount of celeb gossip, much of it directed at the antics of Katie Price and her continuing attempts to make money from her body and her disabled son, Harvey. There are loud denunciations of woke ideology, as he attacks the TV companies for throwing experienced, quality, but White broadcasters of more mature years off in favour of minority ‘box tickers’. He also strong criticises some of the mad results of the transgender ideology, as when a Scottish law student was accused of transphobia and investigated by her university simply for saying that women have vaginas. And then there are his rants against the channel migrants or the ‘dinghy divers’ as he calls them, who he claims are being treated better than Britain’s own poor and homeless. Well if they are, it’s because of the Tory policies Belfield so loudly supports.

His audience appear to be the same demographic as those attracted to UKIP: older, socially conservative White people who fear immigration and the new morality. This isn’t exclusively so – when he came down to visit Bristol, among the people he met was a woman of east Asian ancestry. I don'[t doubt that some Blacks also watch his channel. There are Black Conservatives and not all of them by any means are supporters of Black Lives Matter, as you can see from the videos by Black American right-wingers making some very acute criticisms of the movement. And it’s these, largely older people Belfield is catering and lying to.

He’s lying when he gives the impression that everything would be better off if the NHS was handed over to private industry. It won’t. It will be worse run and the British public will have to pay for it through private health insurance. That includes Belfield’s audience, the working class people he appeals to with all the guff about being a working-class boy from a pit estate, sneered at and passed over by the BBC Guardian-reading etc middle class people. These are the people, who will find it especially difficult to get healthcare if the NHS was privatised.

And this is why I call out Belfield on this issue.

And I’ve no qualms about admitting that when it comes to NHS privatisation, I am very bovvered.

Book on Islam and Slavery

February 3, 2022

Jonathan A.C. Brown, Slavery & Islam (London: Oneworld Publications 2919).

This is another book I’ve bought for my reading on non-western forms of slavery. The book’s blurb runs

‘Every major religion and philosophy has once once condoned or approved of slavery, but in modern times nothing is seen as more evil. Americans confront this crisis of authority when they erect statues of Founding Fathers who slept with their slaves. And Muslims faced it when ISIS revived sex slavery, justifying it with verses from the Quran and the practice of Muhammad.

Exploring the moral and ultimately theological problem of slavery, Jonathan A.C., Brown traces how the Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions have tried to reconcile modern moral certainties with the infallibility of God’s message. He lays out how Islam viewed slavery in theory, and the reality of how it was practiced across Islamic civilisation. Finally Brown carefully examines arguments put forward by Muslims for the abolition of slavery.’

Brown is Professor of Islamic Civilisation at Georgetown University, and this is very much an academic book. It begins with a statement of Brown’s argument and a denial that it is an apology for slavery, followed by pages about the very definition of slavery. While many people will feel it’s unnecessary, it’s important to distinguish slavery from other forms of unfreedom, like serfdom. The book then discusses slavery in the Qur’an and Sunna, the traditions about Mohammed which are considered sound and reliable by Muslims. It then examines the Muslim reform of slavery, the influence of previous civilisations, slavery as regulated and defined by shariah. The chapter on slavery and Islamic civilisation discusses issues like the classic slavery zone, slavery and racial intermixing, and the social roles slaves could perform from domestic worker to scholar, saint, poet or elite administrator. Then there’s a chapter presenting the moral arguments against slavery and it’s intrinsic evil, especially as this confronts Americans and Muslims, followed by a chapter on Islamic attempts and arguments for slavery’s abolition. The succeeding chapter is on the Prophet and ISIS, examining issues such as whether Islamic attempts at abolition are successful or morally acceptable, whether slavery in the Islamic world could ever be legalised again and ISIS and slavery. The last chapter is about concubinage and sex slavery, which is obviously the major issue that provoked the author to write his book. There are six appendices, 1, is on a slave saint of Basra; 2 on western Enlightenment thinkers and slavery; 3 on whether the 1926 Muslim world congress actually condemned slavery; 4 on whether Mariya was Muhammad’s wife or concubine; 5 on whether shariah law considers freedom a human right, and 6 on the enslavement Muslim unbelievers or apostates.

The book appears to be an exhaustive examination of the issue, and I’ve no doubt the vast majority of Muslims were as shocked by ISIS’ revival of sex slavery as everyone else. But unfortunately sex slavery isn’t the only form of slavery that has been revived. The sponsorship system for migrant workers in the Gulf Arab states very much acts as a form of enslavement. During the Sudanese civil war Arabs enslaved the country’s Black population, and since then slave markets selling Black African migrants have opened in the part of Libya held by Islamists.

Of course Islam isn’t the only culture facing a revival of slavery. Way back in the 1990s the book Disposable People examined the persistence of slavery around the world, from enslaved workers in Brazil and the far east to traditional slaves in Africa and slaves brought to the west by their Arab masters in the guise of servants. The book estimated that there were 20 million people enslaved around the world. I’ve no doubt that, thanks to neoliberalism and the global assault on workers’ rights and conditions, this number has increased. Hopefully books like this will clarify the issues and help to combat it so that it can be genuinely consigned to the past.

Vandal Attacks BBC Statue Because of Colston Verdict

January 12, 2022

This evening, a man climbed up to a ledge on the front of Broadcasting House, the Beeb’s HQ, and started to attack the statue of Ariel by Eric Gill. Someone took film of him smashing the statue’s feet with a hammer, and it’s been widely posted and reposted by right-wingers over YouTube. The man was David Chick, and there’s a phone call from him on the channel of someone rejoicing in the monicker ‘Tyrant Finder UK’. Chick and the Tyrant Finder are both men, who can’t utter a sentence without using the F-bomb nor other foul language, but in the phone call Chick makes it clear that he’s attacking the statue because Gill was a paedophile. Indeed he was. During his life he professed to be the model of Roman Catholic piety as a tertiary Franciscan. After his death it was discovered that not only did he rape his two daughters but also the family dog. But Chick also seems to have done it out of anger for the acquittal of the Colston Four. And he’s being applauded by people, who similarly believe, or seem to believe, that the BBC is promoting child abuse with the statue and who are also angry at the Bristol verdict. The attitude seems to be that if the woke can tear down statues, then so can they.

Mad right-wing Youtuber Alex Belfield was one of those who put up an approving video of the attack earlier this evening. He has his own grievances against the Corporation. He claims he was forced out of the Beeb because he’s a poor White kid from a pit estate and not one of the middle class, Guardian reading, university educated Naga Manchushy types, as he calls them. He also has some kind of personal feud with various broadcasters, like Jeremy Vine. He frequently rants against the Beeb demanding its privatisation and the Eric Gill statue is one of the weapon he uses in the attacks. He criticises the Corporation for keeping the statue on its facade, which he seems to claim shows the indifference to child abuse which allowed Jimmy Savile to carry on with his predations unstopped.

Gill certainly was a vile human being, and some of his art does pose a genuine moral problem. A few years ago Victoria Coren discussed him in her documentary, How to Be a Bohemian, which traced the history of bohemianism from 19th century Paris and the Romantics to Britain, the Bloomsbury Group, the Bright Young Things and today’s London and its drag queens. Gill was one of the Bohemians she discussed. She was particularly upset at a bas relief Gill had made of a nude girl. I can’t remember what the sculpture’s official title was, but Gill called it ‘F*cking’. The girl in it was his 15 year old daughter, whom he was abusing at the time. Victoria Coren was talking to a female art expert about the sculpture and the unsettling questions it raised. The expert denied that this was a problem with a comparison to W.B. Yeats and his poetry. Nobody, she declared, objects to Yeats’ poetry because he was a Fascist. Coren replied that they did, and she was particularly unhappy about it. As her father, Alan Coren, was Jewish, it’s very easy to understand why Victoria Coren would have deep misgivings about the poet. It must be said, though, that Yeats was only a Fascist for a short time. If I remember correctly, this was c.1919. He later left them and was very critical about them.

I’m sure most people would be unhappy at Gill’s sculpture of his nude daughter, and would have very strong moral questions against its display. But it isn’t the Ariel statue. And there is still a need to separate the artist from the art. Many of the greatest figures in the arts, literature and science were vile people, or had loathsome views, like Dickens, for example. He’s undoubtedly one of the greatest writers in the English language, but he fully supported General Eyre and his brutal suppression of the Morant Bay rebellion by former slaves on Jamaica. But that in no way invalidates his work, in the same way that Orwell pointed out that Hamlet isn’t diminished by the fact that Shakespeare left his wife his second best bed. I also don’t think you can quite compare the Ariel statue to that of Edward Colston. The Ariel statue is of a character from Shakespeare, used as a kind of mascot by the Corporation. It is not a monument to someone who was a slaver, even if he did give most of his money away in charity.

Those defending and applauding the attacker are wrong on another point. They seem to believe that Colston’s Four’s acquittal has somehow become a precedent, which they can use to defend their attacks. But this isn’t the case. Jury trials, according to Adam Wagner, a lawyer on the Net, don’t set precedents, so Chick could still find it difficult to defend himself if he’s arrested.

I’m deeply unhappy about cultural vandalism regardless of who’s doing it. The attack on Colston’s statue is understandable given that it’s been a subject of controversy and demands for its removal for decades. And now it seems the right have also decided that they are entitled to attack any statues they find offensive, and I’m afraid that this will kick off more vandalism rather than reduce it.

I don’t deny that there’s a good case for taking some statues down, but I don’t support violent attacks on public art, regardless of whether it comes from the right or left. And I think Belfield’s attacks on the Beeb’s statue largely come from his own personal feud with the corporation and the Conservative’s demands for the Beeb’s privatisation and its replacement by a private broadcaster. This hostility partly comes from the Tories’ deep ideological objection to nationalised industries, their loyalty to Rupert Murdoch and his shoddy empire and their hatred of the Beeb because, once upon a time, it used to hold them to account. Some of us can still remember the time Michael Heseltine stormed off Newsnight, tossing his mane after a grilling by Paxman.

Britain’s statues are now threatened not just by the woke left, but by a vengeful, intolerant Conservative right using the outrage it has generated against the offending statue as part of its campaign to silence its critics.