Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

The Lotus Eaters Read Out Detransitioners’ Harrowing Stories of Pain and Regret

June 14, 2022

Readers and followers of this blog know very well how I feel about Sargon of Gasbag and the Lotus Eaters. He and they are arch-Conservative reactionaries, fully in support of the Brexit that has wrecked British trade and the agreement that has so far kept the fragile peace in Ulster. They’re fully behind privatisation, but refuse to believe that the Tories are selling off the NHS – even though it’s right under their noses – because they don’t see how anyone would want to buy it. They’re also strongly anti-feminist, believing in traditional sex roles and that a woman’s place is in the home. Sargon himself did much to destroy UKIP, simply by joining it under Gerald Batten’s fuhrership. When he did so, a number of local UKIP parties either disaffiliated from the national party or simply dissolved, and a large proportion of their membership, who weren’t racists, walked away. When this happened, I put up an angry video from one such Kipper who was absolutely livid about Sargon and other figures on the populist right, like Count Dankula and Paul Joseph Watson joining. I also utterly despise their attitude. I find them smug, complacent, and resent the way they continue to push the smear that Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are anti-Semites. Corbyn wasn’t, and we’re not. Especially not the Jewish brothers and sisters who have been abused, smeared and purged simply because the fanatically pro-Israel right hates them condemning Israel’s decades-long ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. As for the Lotus Eaters’ libertarianism, all their arguments in favour of this daft ideology were answer over a century ago by writers like T.H. Green, who supported the New Liberalism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But I have to give Carl Benjamin and his mates credit where credit’s due. On some issues, such as the transgender debate, I think they’re right, or mostly so. Now I shall repeat: I do not support discrimination against, abuse, violence or persecution of people simply because of their sexuality or gender presentation. But there are very serious issues regarding trans ideology, the Queer Theory that informs it, and the medical-industrial complex that supports it. Quite apart from the dangers it poses to women’s sport, dignity and safety. Such as the danger to women in prisons when they are jailed with biological men, often brutal sex criminals, simply because the man identifies as a woman.

And one of the major issues is that there are powerful commercial and ideological incentives to push young people who feel dissatisfied or alienated from their birth gender towards transition. I believe that some people genuinely suffer from these issues, and have benefited from transition. My problem is not with that. My problem is with the attitude that has now emerged among gay and transgender activists that such problems are automatically a reflection of a permanent sexual identity among those suffering them. An identity which it is forbidden to question or to treat with anything but support and affirmation. According to academic research, 60%-85% of teens suffering from gender dysphoria grow out of it. The majority of them becoming gay men or women, but otherwise happy and secure in their sexual identity. And the process of transition itself also carries serious health risks. As has been admitted, puberty blockers like Lupron are not reversible, and their long term effects are unknown. The cross-gender hormones given to those making the transition can damage the heart and other organs, as well as reduce bone density. And the sex-change surgery itself may create complications that require additional surgery to correct.

Medical transition can be immensely profitable for the doctors, surgeons and clinics performing it. In Britain, I believe, there are only a small number of NHS clinics performing such treatment and so there have sprung up a number of private clinics to take over the slack. And private healthcare is all about profit. Decades ago the Beeb broadcast a documentary about the American private healthcare system, revealing the immense number of unnecessary operations that were carried out, simply because they made money for the private hospitals and surgeons. Something like this may be going on here as well.

There is a small but growing number of ‘detransitioners’. These are transpeople, who bitterly regret their decision, and are seeking as far as possible to return to their birth sex. I say small, but that’s in comparison to the people now deciding that they want to transition to the opposite gender. The online detransitioner community numbers about 20,000. Which to me is a lot.

Here Sargon and his co-host read out their stories of deep regret, and as Sargon himself says, it’s harrowing stuff. Most of the stories come from women who transitioned to men, though there is one from a man, who transitioned to a woman. They were all very young when they started to transition, some about 18 and 20 years old. One former woman says that she was 16. All the detransitioners are repelled by their new bodies and regret the loss of their natural, biological gender. One detrans woman says that she is in mourning for it. And at least one of them has serious health issues, including having to sleep for 14 hours a day, because of the treatment.

Transitioning has worked for some, but not these. This is why I strongly believe that when it comes to such radical and life-changing treatment and surgery, the greatest care should be taken to ensure that this is genuinely and absolutely appropriate for the patient.

This is why I strongly oppose the affirmation model and the attempts by trans activists to outlaw conversion therapy for trans people. Because there is the real danger that it is an attempt to ban really appropriate psychiatric treatment for people, who will be harmed, not helped, by transitioning.

New Politics’ Review of Frank Wolff’s History of the Russian/Polish Jewish Bund

May 11, 2022

I went on Google the other night to see if there were any books available on the history of the Bund, the majority Jewish socialist party of the former Russian empire and later Poland. I doubt very many people know about it apart from historians of the Jewish communities in those countries. I was therefore surprised to find that there are quite a few, in both English and Yiddish. However, one of the most informative and concise summaries of the Bund’s history is in Marvin S. Zuckerman’s review, ‘The Soul of the Bund’, of Frank Wolff’s Yiddish Revolutionaries in Migration: The Transnational History of the Jewish Labour Bund  translated by Loren Balhorn and Jan-Peter Herrmann, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2022, paperback, 532 pp in New Politics, a magazine for the democratic Left. The review begins with a quote from Wolff’s book from Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who describes how the discovered the history of the Bund through a book about Marek Edelman, a member of the Bund and hero of the Warsaw uprising. In the book, Edelman talks about the Bund, and Cohn-Bendit states that both the Stalinists and Zionists have tried to erase it from memory. Then the review continues thus:

‘Books and monographs have been published about the Bund, in Yiddish and English, German and Polish, and in other languages. Nevertheless, Cohn-Bendit’s remarks remain relevant. To fill the still-existing broad gap in  knowledge of the Bund, before describing Frank Wolff’s book about the Bund, here are some facts that will give some notion of the “forgotten history” of the Bund.

The Bund was the first modern Jewish political party in the Russian Empire, as well as the largest social democratic movement in the entire empire. On the eve of the Second World War, it was also the strongest Jewish party in Poland.

In its early years (it was founded in 1897) the Bund achieved considerable success, attracting 40,000 supporters by 1906, making it the largest socialist group in the Russian Empire. From mid-1903 to mid-1904 the Bund held 429 political meetings, 45 demonstrations, and 41 political strikes; it issued 305 pamphlets, of which 23 dealt with the pogroms and self-defense. In 1904 the number of Bundist political prisoners reached 4,500.

In the 1930s, one hundred thousand Jewish workers belonged to Bundist unions, meaning that one-quarter of all unionized workers in Poland were led by the Bund, giving them enormous power. The Bund held the overwhelming majority in the national council of Jewish Trade Unions, which, at the end of 1921, comprised seven unions with 205 branches, and 46,000 members, and, in 1939, 14 unions with 498 branches and approximately 99,000 members.

Together with the left Labor Zionists, the Bund administered a network of secular Yiddish schools. At its peak, in the late 1920s, its TSYSHO (Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye or Central Yiddish School Organization) maintained 219 institutions with 24,000 students, spread across 100 locations, including 467 kindergartens, 114 elementary schools, 6 high schools, 52 evening schools, and a pedagogical institute in Vilnius.

The Bund also maintained a youth organization, Tsukunft, which numbered 15,000 members on the eve of WW II, and a children’s organization, SKIF, blending scout activities, sports events, and politics; a women’s organization, YAF; and a sports organization, Morgnshtern, the largest such organization in all of Poland, Jewish or Polish.

In 1938, in the municipal elections in 89 Polish cities and towns, the Bund won 55% of the votes cast, more than all the other Jewish parties put together. The Bund thus became communal spokesmen and aggressive advocates of financial aid to all Jewish institutions, including yeshivas and religious institutions.

Most importantly, and as it relates to Frank Wolff’s book, being a member of the Bund meant you lived your life through the Bund—it was your union, your education, your church.’

The review then goes on to describe how the Bund was at the forefront of resistance to the Holocaust, and as Social Democrats, who believed in establishing socialism democratically, they were firmly opposed to the Communists. It also describes their attitude and struggle with the Zionists:

‘The Bund struggled with the Zionist movement for the hearts and minds of the Polish Jews. Looking back, one wonders how the Bund could have maintained that “There where we live (and have lived for hundreds of years), that is our country.” One forgets how chimerical the Zionist dream of a Jewish state in Palestine was. Herzl’s dictum that Palestine was “A land without people for a people without a land” was simply not true. Palestine was peopled by over 1 million Palestinians. In 1914, for example, Palestine’s non-Jews outnumbered Jews by 8 to 1.

The Bund argued that 3.2 million Polish Jews, and the other millions in Eastern Europe, would not pull up and move to Palestine. In any case, the Turks, and later the British, were not permitting Jews to enter. The practical and immediate thing to do was for the Jews in their millions to fight for their civil rights and for social democracy in the lands in which they were living, not dream of emigrating to Palestine.

It is tragically true that annihilation was the fate that befell the Polish and other East European Jews, but that same fate would have befallen the Jews of Palestine if the British army had not stopped the advance eastward of the German army with the British victory at El Alamein, Egypt. The Yishuv in Palestine would have been exterminated and with it would have perished the dream of a Jewish state in Palestine.’

The review describes the book as a social and cultural history, describing the Bund’s tactics in reaching the Jewish masses on one hand and fighting for their civil rights, against their exploitation and attacks on them by real anti-Semites. After the party’s suppression in Poland, the book follows its members as they emigrated abroad to New York and Buenos Aires.

But the Bund, although now long gone as an organisation, still exerts a powerful influence. There’s a quote from the book about Daniel Katz’s analysis of Bernie Sanders first run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Katz believed that Bernie was motivated not just by socialism – he was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, but specifically Yiddish socialism and its tradition of fighting oppression, and especially Bund’s transnational appeal. It was this tradition that was able to enthuse and inspire millions of young Americans. The quote concludes

‘The history of the Bund as a party may have come to an end, but the effects of it cultural and political work and their unifying humanitarian yet activist spirit described here continue to matter today.’

The full review can be read at: https://newpol.org/review_of_yiddish_revolutionaries_in_migration/?msclkid=37292abbd14d11ecacf172187342a816

Bernie would have been an awesome president, and broken the mould of American politics. He genuinely seemed to understand and care about the real problems of American working people. During one of his campaign rallies in a southern community, he was approached by a woman in tears wondering how she was going to support her family. Bernie comforted her as she poured our her concerns. One supportive commenter pointed out how amazing it was that a secular Jew from the north could reach out and appeal to a southern Christian. But that’s because he genuinely championed them against the corporatist political establishment.

It’s a massive shame that Bernie didn’t win, just like Jeremy Corbyn lost over here. Because the two of them in power together would have transformed British and American politics for the better.

E. Nesbit’s Proposal to Tackle Crime: More Schools and Fewer Prisons

May 2, 2022

A few days ago I put up a post about how very relevant some of the concerns and causes taken up and championed by children’s author and Fabian Socialist E. Nesbit are. For example, she was appalled at the poverty and hunger among the children at a local school near her in Deptford, so she organised work parties held every Saturday in October, November and December to make clothing for the children, as well as provide them with a Christmas party. Each child was to have a cake, plentiful bread and butter and a toy. Her husband, Hubert Bland, went to frame legislation, passed by parliament, that provided free school meals for children in council schools. The parallels to today, with increasing numbers of people forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together and the campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford to have schools continue to provide free school meals during the summer holidays to feed needy children are very striking.

But I was also struck by a passage in Eleanor Fitzsimon’s biography of her, The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit where she describes how Nesbit was also deeply impressed by a visit to a jail while staying with Welsh friends. This prompted her to write an article arguing that it would not only be cheaper but more effective for the government to provide more schools with better funding rather than more prisons in order to combat crime.

One of the characters in Nesbit’s book, The Incredible Honeymoon, Colonel Bertram, was based on Colonel Arthur Ashley Ruck Chief Constable of Caernarvonshire and father of her friend, Berta. The book states

‘While she was staying with them, he arranged for Edith [Nesbit] to tour a Welsh prison. This experience appears to have affected her greatly. As she left, she turned to one convict and declared ‘I wish you well’. In ‘Cheaper in the End’, the remarkably progressive essay she wrote for Cecil Chesterton’s magazine, the New Witness, she declared ‘we4 want more money spent on schools and less on jails and reformatories’. She believed education was the key to avoiding incarceration and she explained her reasoning.

‘It cannot be put too plainly that the nation which will not pay for her schools must pay for her prisons and asylums. People don’t seem to mind so much paying for prisons and workhouses. What they really hate seems to be paying for schools. And yet how well, in the end, such spending would pay us! ‘There is no darkness but ignorance’ – and we have such a chance as has never been the lot of men since time began, a chance to light enough lamps to dispel all darkness. If only we would take that chance! Even from the meanest point of view we ought to take it. It would be cheaper in the end. Schools are cheaper than prisons.’ (pp.187-8).

It’s not exactly the same situation as today, but close. Successive right-wing governments, including that of Tony Blair, hate spending money on state schools. Funding has been repeatedly cut, even as the amount teachers are expected to do has increased, and the education privatised as far as possible by the transformation of many state schools into academies, run by private companies for their own profit. The academies are not more efficient compared to state schools, just better funded. Thatcher tried to set up a similar system with her wretched ‘city academies’, but these were a complete failure and we actually being wound up by her education minister, Norman Fowler. Then Blair got in, fished the idea out of the bin, and pushed them through as academies.

But the Tories also haven’t been keen on funding the prison service either. A few years ago there was a crisis in the prison sector with massive overcrowding. So much so, in fact, that they were considering housing criminals in ships, like the historic prison hulks. And like everything else, Blair and the Tories tried to push prisons and jails some way towards privatisation by outsourcing them to such brilliant, superbly performing companies as G4S. Or as Molesworth would sa, ‘Hem hem, I do not think’.

Part of Black Lives Matter’s programme was to defund the police. A few days ago its leader, Patrice Cullors, stated that what she meant by that was the complete abolition of the police, the judiciary and the prison system. It’s a completely insane idea that would undoubtedly result in utter chaos and crime rates rocketing, with Black people among the victims. But others involved in the organisation merely said that they wanted police funding cut and the money spent instead on programmes that benefit and uplift the Black community. I don’t believe in cutting police funding, as after Priti Patel under Tweezer removed something like 20,000 police officers from the force crime, not unnaturally, increased. But increased funding for schools and genuine change and improvement in the education system still seems the best way of preventing some children turning to crime.

I’m very much aware that education has very much become a political football, with demands that schools teach ethical issues quite apart from formal academic subjects, like stopping misogyny and racism. But it seems to me that much good would simply come from simply reforming schools so that teachers have enough funding and resources to provide effective teaching that would prepare pupils to become worthy citizens, and allow them to avoid being forced or sucked into offending.

I also feel that to cut down on crime, there needs to be general changes in society so that people are able to get suitable jobs and the gang culture that infects some of Britain’s cities smashed. That’s a tough task.

But we can begin by building more, and better funded schools.

W.L. Phillips, Working Class Socialist and Anti-Slavery Activist, and E. Nesbit’s Work for Deprived Schools

April 30, 2022

I’ve been reading Eleanor Fitzsimon’s biography of E. Nesbit, The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit (London: Duckworth 2019). Nesbit’s best known for her children’s books The Railway Children, Five Children and It, The Story of the Amulet and The Treasure Seekers, but she was also a prolific poet and writer of short stories. But she and her husband, Hubert Bland, were also committed socialists and members of the Fabian Society. She and her husband would have been pilloried by the right-wing media today, because they lived very unconventional lives. Her husband put it about a bit, and she ended up sharing her household with his mistress and raising their child, Rosamund, as one of their own. She also mixed with members of the literary and artistic set of the time, including, obviously, leading socialists like George Bernard Shaw, William Morris and Eleanor Marx. Fabian meetings tended to be genteelly middle class, and Hubert remarked that they were sneered at as armchair socialists. If they were around now, the Tories and their lapdog press would be screaming that the were members of the ‘liberal elite’ and ‘champagne socialists’. But the Society also included working people, who not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. The first Fabian pamphlet, Why Are The Many Poor?, was written by W.L. Phillips, a housepainter who, when he was in America, had been active aiding escaped slaves. (p. 73). Unfortunately, that’s all that’s said about this fascinating and courageous figure.

Nesbit and Work Parties for Deprived Schools

And there are other passages in the book that are interesting because of the vile way the Tories have dragged our great and noble country back to the deprivation and poverty of the 19th century. Nesbit, her husband and their friends and family were active organising work parties to provide food, clothes and Christmas presents for the children at Hughes Fields school, in a particularly deprived area near where they lived in Kent. The book states

‘The London School Board had designated Hughes Fields primary school a ‘specially difficult school’. Pupils were withdrawn as soon as they were capable of earning a wage and the attendance rate was just sixty-five per cent. It was reported that one kindly school inspector purchased food for the children out of his own pocket. The dire poverty they endured was highlighted in an appeal carried in the Blackheath Gazette

“In this very poor school a large proportion of the children are either shoeless or very badly shod and clad, even during this inclement weather, and the teachers would gladly welcome any gifts of old boots and clothing – no matter how old they may be.”‘ ( p.127)

She organised Christmas parties for the children. One of these was described by the Kentish Mercury in this passage from an edition from 1896

‘Following her usual custom, Mrs Hubert Bland, of Lee, assisted by several friends gave a tea and entertainment on Saturday afternoon to between 300 and 400 of the poorest and wretchedest of the little ones who attend the Hughes Fields Board Schools, Deptford. The whole of the children were first mustered in the infants’ class-room, and eventually divided into batches and served with tea – which included a plentiful supply of bread and butter and cake – in the four classrooms… each child was made the recipient of a warm garment and a toy.’ (p. 129).

The book goes on to describe the work parties she organised to provide the fare, clothes and toys, which also included a fair bit of fun for those attending.

‘She raised funds and hosted working parties every Saturday for three months leading up to each party, at which family, friends and and neighbours made warm, practical clothing; they knitted hats and comforters, and, on one occasion, made trousers for the boys from blue corduroy that had been supplied to Saretta’s (Nesbit’s half-sister from her father’s previous marriage) husband, John Deakin. Edith’s neighbour Ada Moore described these gatherings

‘I shall never forget our Saturdays during the winter of 1890-1 (I think). We worked at all kinds of things for the very poor of Deptford for some hours, then a supper of, probably, herrings, cheese and bottled stout, followed by a dance.” (p. 130).

Now we have children and families only kept from starvation by food banks, and charities appealing for clothes for the poor. And the situation is going to get worse thanks to the cost of living crisis. As for the school inspector buying food for the kids out of his own pocket, there are stories that some teachers in British schools are also doing that.

But the passage also reminds me of Marcus Rashford and his campaign for schools to provide free meals to children during the summer holidays. He suffered terrible abuse for this, because, obviously, as a millionaire footballer he couldn’t possibly demand such state provision for children without being a massive hypocrite. But Rashford had endured similar poverty when he was a sprog, and the real reason for the Tory ire was that he had exposed the callousness and real deprivation behind their policies. And I’m very sure that if she lived today, Nesbit and her friends would have been similarly attacked.

Nesbit herself comes across as fascinating figure – highly intelligent, and extremely mischievous when a girl, who based many of the incidents in her books on her own life. She clearly had a deep sympathy for the poor and children, and was a woman of very strong principles, expressed in her literary work and social activism. She definitely earns her place as one of Britain’s great literary heroines.

And it is utterly disgusting that similar conditions are now returning to the UK, thanks to the Tories. Thatcherism is a failure and they and the Blairites should be thrown out of power as soon as possible.

Faye Hallam Plays Dave Allan Theme at Jazz Club – Nice!

April 27, 2022

Here’s a bit of fun for a Wednesday morning. I’m a great fan of the late Irish comedian Dave Allan. He is, to me, one of the very greatest of the television funny men. His style was that of a bar room philosopher, sat on a bar stool taking the occasional sip of whisky, cigarette smoking quietly away in an ashtray, while he made his wry observations on the absurdities of human nature and the world. Mixed with this on his series on the Beeb were sketches, some of which were just jokes, such as the tourist who brings down Stonehenge like a string of dominoes simply by leaning on one of the trilithons. Others were a kind of morality play, like the one about a man who spots a tenner trapped under a car wheel. He goes into a cafe to wait until the car moves off and he can grab the money, only to find that everyone else in the cafe was had the same idea. Religion was a frequent target of his humour. He hated the Roman Catholic church in particular because of the brutal discipline at his old Catholic school, a situation which I know has resulted in many Catholics lapsing. He was also no admirer of Ian Paisley at the time, for keeping the murderous sectarian bigotry in Ulster alive from the Protestant side. This was decades before the Good Friday agreement and the warm friendship between Paisley and Gerry Adams, which resulted in the two getting the nickname, the Chuckle Brothers. Some of his jokes and sketches were based around sex, and got very ‘near the knuckle’, as the saying goes. But mostly it was good humoured and simply fun. Allan died a few years ago, but there are a selection of his sketches and monologues on DVD, and, of course, on YouTube. He’s much missed by his legions of fans. The show’s theme was written by Alan Hawkshaw, who also wrote, among other TV themes, that for Grandstand. There are videos of him playing this and his other compositions also on YouTube.

One Third of Teachers Planning to Leave Over Next Five Years

April 19, 2022

I hope everyone had a great Easter bank holiday weekend. I said I wouldn’t post anything then, partly because a few days earlier I felt too ill but mostly because it was just such a beautiful spring weekend that I didn’t want to spoil it by putting up material that would get me angry and depressed. The weekend has passed, and I’m now ready to tackle the serious issues. But it’s still a beautiful day, or at least it is in Bristol. So if it gets too much, there’s always the sunny spring weather to enjoy for a breather.

One of the headlines I caught a few days ago was that a third of British teachers apparently are planning to leave in the next five years. I’m honestly not surprised. My mother was a junior school teacher and I did my first degree at a teacher training college. And despite what the right-wing press would have us all believe, teachers don’t have it easy.

One of the issues is that both Labour and the Tories have used education as a political football, demanding every more additions to the curriculum and increasing responsibility for teachers while at the same time cutting wages and funding for schools. Teachers don’t just stand in front of whiteboards talking to their pupils about algebra, poetry or whatever the subject is. They also have to mark the students work, as well as run various extracurricular activities like the school sports teams. And the responsibility and the workload seems to have increased during the Covid crisis, as pupils still have to receive an education. And then there’s the appalling fact that, because of the grinding poverty Johnson and the Tories have inflicted on working people, they’ve had to supply free school meals to kids in the summer holidays because otherwise the kids’ families would be able to afford to feed them.

As for the messing around with the curriculum, some of us can still remember when Dave Cameron’s government added so many extra subjects that they couldn’t fit into the school day. Add to this the constant requirement for testing school children and the immense pressure this places on the children as well as the school. I said on this blog a few years ago that there seems to be something in the Tory psyche that wants to crush all the joy out of education. Yes, children should work hard, but they should also be allowed to enjoy school and childhood. The Tory vision of education seems to want to make it just one long round of joyless drudgery. And there are also issues with the league tables the Tories set up to monitor the school performance. Some schools are left near the bottom for no fault of their own. I’m thinking here of those schools serving areas with large immigrant populations, where English isn’t the first language of many of the pupils. These pupils may struggle initially, but then make huge improvements. However, it may still be because of linguistic difficulties and so on that these schools are still below the national average, despite the immense improvement those children may have achieved in the few years they’re there. Improvements that aren’t reflected in the league tables.

And then there’s the problem of pupil behaviour. Depending on the school and the area, this can extremely disruptive and even dangerous. Back in the ’90s, when Private Eye was still worth reading, they did a supplement on teaching reflecting the views and concerns of teachers themselves. Some of them said that they seemed to spend most their lessons simply trying to keep order and they felt they’d achieved something when they actually got around to teaching something. One teacher described meeting parents for a talk about their child coming to school without the proper equipment. The father immediately blamed the mother, who shuddered. Which definitely suggests domestic violence back home. Now there’s the problem of children bringing knives to school and the threat of lethal violence. I remember the case a few years ago when a gang stabbed a headmaster to death outside the school gates after he came to confront them when they turned up looking for one of the pupils. It also seems that female teachers are also at risk from sexist remarks and treatment by pupils. There was a report in the Groan that 70 per cent of teachers had experienced misogyny at work. The feeling among many teachers as reported by the Private Eye article was that they were overworked, harassed and underappreciated. They complained that they received little help for difficult situations with problem pupils from their headmasters. Given all this, I’m not remotely surprised many teachers want to leave.

And if that happens, it’ll take more than trying to turn even more schools into academies or screaming about bringing back grammar schools to restore the education system.

The Republican right in America keep pushing for more state schools to be transformed to charter schools, which I gather is the American equivalent of the academies over here. They also advocated home schooling children. There’s a real, ideological hatred of state education. And the Tories certainly share it, to the point where I’m starting to wonder if the threats of a mass exodus of teachers is all being engineered by them to harm state education over here.

The Privatisation of Channel 4 Is Another Assault on Journalistic Independence

April 5, 2022

I gather from today’s headlines that the Tories are going ahead with their wretched plan to privatise Channel 4. Well, they’ve wanted to do it for a long time, ever since Maggie Thatcher set it up in the 1980s. It was meant to be an alternative to BBC 2, and so was naturally going to have low ratings. But it also had some excellent programming and did much to offer the British public genuine alternatives to the mainstream medial

It’s director-general in that decade, Jeremy Isaacs, believed that people had latent tastes they didn’t know they had, and it was the channel’s task to offer material that they otherwise wouldn’t know they liked. He talked in his autobiography about giving the public a range of minority interests like miners’ oral history. Reviewing it, Private Eye got very huffy, accusing Isaacs of thinking that he knew better than the rest of us. But Isaacs was quite right. For example, Quentin Letts, former Daily Mail and now Times parliamentary sketch writer, who is very definitely a man of the right, praised Isaacs’ Channel 4 in one of his books because it opened up opera to a mass audience. Absolutely correct – my family’s working class, but Dad used to put Channel 4’s opera on occasionally. I remember coming back from seeing the western Silverado at the flicks to find Dad had on the box a big opera event being broadcast across Europe. And there were obviously a sizable number of ordinary, working people like Dad across the country, years before Pavarotti caused a storm at the World Cup.

But the channel also offered a range of other content, often of a multicultural flavour. There was an adaptation of the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, a season of films by the great Indian director, Satyajit Ray, as well as more popular Indian cinema with ‘All India Goldies’. It also gave a platform to the new, emerging alternative comedy scene with The Comic Strip, starring Rik Mayall, French and Saunders, Alexei Sayle and so on, and the group of Black comics, the Family. They had a series set in a Black barbershop. I only saw bits and pieces of it, but it was genuinely funny. In one episode, one of the characters finds out that he is the governor of a Caribbean island nation right at the same time they’re having revolution. He phones up his government on the island just in time to hear gunfire and one them report that ‘Such-and-such island has fallen’. Wearing his ceremonial uniform, the man then stands in a wastepaper bin and tears off his epaulettes. More seriously, the channel also presented a history of the world intended to challenge the Eurocentric bias of traditional history programmes. There was also news and documentary series about Africa, with Black presenters and a history of the continent presented by the White afrocentrist, Basil Davidson. I’ve been criticised here for describing Davidson as an afrocentrist in a previous post. But that is how Davidson, a respected historian, described himself in one of his books. Davidson is an afrocentrist in the sense that he believes that ancient Egypt is the ultimate source of western science and culture. He states that he has this view, because it’s what the ancient Romans and Greeks believed. While this is a very controversial view, he’s very far from the bizarre fantasies and pseudo-history of many on the Afrocentric fringe, like the notion that the ancient Egyptians somehow had quantum mechanics and advanced physics long before the 20th century.

To balance this, the channel also had more popular entertainment like Tell the Truth, a panel show that was ‘Would I Lie to You’ in all but name, the pop music programme, The Tube and the computer generated vid-jockey Max Headroom as well as the soap, Brookside. It also upset right-wing sentiments with sexually explicit movies and programmes, to the point where the Heil branded Michael Grade, the channel’s next director-general, ‘Britain’s pornographer in chief’. This was just when the channel had announced it was launching a season of gay and lesbian programmes and films. The best response to this came from the Archdeacon of York. The Mail’s journos had been contacting various people to ask what they thought about this latest assault on traditional British morality. The good clergyman replied, ‘Do you think anybody’s going to watch it if there’s Clint Eastwood on the other’. A common sense reaction against the Mail’s hysterical fearmongering.

The Tories seem to have hated all of this at the time, even if its programming was applauded by the critics. As I remember, they were particularly impressed by the Mahabharata, the Tube and the Family. Channel 4 was also set up to specialise in high quality news coverage. And it’s this which I think really annoyed the Tories. Channel 4 News had a reputation for being particularly good, and the channel also broadcast the current affairs documentary series Dispatches and The Bandung Files. The last I believe uncovered some of the dirty dealing by western politicos and multinationals in the Developing World. The channel became much more mainstream in the 90s under Bazalguette, who got rid of much of the alternative material. It still managed to annoy the Tories though with ‘yoof’ shows like The Word and The Girlie Show, both of which had reputation for being spectacularly bad in terms of content and taste.

But I think it’s the persistent, in depth coverage and incisive questioning of government policies by the news programmes that has particularly brought down Tory spite. Channel 4 News has done too good a job of holding the government to account. When anchorman John Snow announced he was retiring a few months ago, the Lotus Eaters put up a video celebrating it and calling him a ‘snowflake’. Hardly. Snow was just determined not to take BS from officialdom. During the bombardment of Gaza he called Israeli ambassador Mark Regev a liar to his face when Regev tried telling the British people that if they sent their aid packages to Israel, the Israelis would pass it on to Gaza’s besieged people. It was a complete lie, and Snow did his job as a decent journalist and didn’t put up with it.

The Tories loathe anyone questioning them. They hated Paxo on Newsnight when he regularly tore Tory politicos like Michaels Heseltine and Howard into raw, bloody chunks. Hence all the rubbish about the Beeb’s left-wing bias and the campaign to end the license fee. And they clearly also hate Channel 4 with a passion for the same reason. And so they’re determined to privatise it.

The hope is clearly that without state support, both the Beeb and Channel 4 will dwindle into insignificance. Genuine public service broadcasting, with the duty to be impartial, will die out to be replaced by a Murdoch-owned right-wing propaganda outlet, like Fox or GB News.

I’ve no doubt that this is all being presented as saving the taxpayer money for broadcasting material nobody watches – which was one of the arguments the Tories made against the channel back in the 80s when they part privatised it the first time. There’s almost certainly going to be talk about how it’s ‘woke’ bias is unrepresentative of British views, just like they ranted about it being ‘pc’ in 80s and 90s. But the real reason is that they despise its journalistic independence.

The privatisation of Channel 4 is yet another despicable assault on genuine, quality journalism in favour of right-wing propaganda pumped out by Murdoch. They want to destroy any journalistic independence so that right across the news media, only the right will be heard.

A Black Woman Visits Qatar’s Museum of Slavery

April 3, 2022

Very interesting video posted by Angela B. on her channel on YouTube. It was posted five years ago for Black history month. The hostess is an English-speaking Black woman, who lives in the Middle East. One of her parents is African, while the other comes from the Virgin Islands, which gives her a personal connection to the history of slavery. The video is her visit to a museum of slave trade in Qatar. This covers the history of slavery from ancient Greece and the use of enslaved Ethiopians in the bath houses, which understandably chills Angela B on what they saw and what they were used for – through the Atlantic slave trade and then the Arabic slave trade. It has animated displays and the voices of the enslaved describing their capture, the forced march through the desert during which many were left to die where they fell before arriving in Zanzibar, Kilwa and other east African islands under Arab suzerainty. The museum describes the enslavement of boys as pearl fishers and the abolition of slavery in Qatar in 1951. It also goes on to discuss the persistence of slavery in the modern world. Angela B is personally chilled, as someone with ancestors from the Virgin Islands, by the sight of the slave manacles in the museum. Interestingly, the explanatory panels in the museum also talk about serfdom in medieval Europe, which she doesn’t comment on. Serfdom is one of the numerous forms of unfree labour that is now considered a form of slavery by the international authorities. It’s interesting to see it referenced in an Arabic museum to slavery, when it is largely excluded from the debate over slavery in the West, which largely centres around the transatlantic slave trade. The recorded speech and voiceovers in the Museum are in Arabic, but the written texts are bilingual in Arabic and English.

The video’s also interesting in what the museum and Angela B include and comment on, and what they omit. There’s a bias towards Black slavery, though how much of this is the museum and how much Angela B obviously attracted to the part of the slave trade that affected people of her own race is debatable. Slavery was widespread as an unremarkable part of life in the Ancient Near East long before ancient Greece. There exist the lists of slaves working on the great estates from ancient Egypt, some of whom had definite Jewish names like Menachem. Slavery also existed among the Hittites in what is now Turkey, Babylonia and Assyria, but this isn’t mentioned in the video. If the museum doesn’t mention this, it might be from diplomatic reasons to avoid upsetting other, neighbouring middle eastern states. Or it could be for religious reasons. Islam regards the period before Mohammed as the ‘Jaihiliyya’, or ‘Age of Darkness’, and discourages interest in it. This is perhaps why it was significant a few years ago that the Saudi monarchy permitted the exhibition in the country’s museums of ancient Arabian pre-Islamic gods, except for those idols which were depicted nude. If the museum did include that era, then Angela B may have skipped over it because her video is concentrating and Black slaves. At the same time, the video doesn’t show the enslavement of White Europeans by the Barbary pirates and other Muslims. This may also be due to the same reason. The ancient Greeks used slaves in a variety of roles, including as craftsmen and agricultural labourers. Some of the pottery shows female sex slaves being used in orgies. There’s also a piece of pottery in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in the shape of a sleeping Ethiopian boy curled up around a wine pot. I wonder if the piece about enslaved Ethiopians serving as bath attendants was selected for inclusion in the museum because it was similar to forms of slavery they would have been familiar with.

The video’s fascinating because it, like another video about the Arab slave trade I posted and commented on a few days ago, it shows how the issue of slavery and Black civil rights has penetrated the Arab world. The other video included not only discussion of Libya’s wretched slave markets, but also covered modern Afro-Iraqis and their demand for civil rights and political representation. These are issues we really don’t hear about in the west, unless you’re an academic at one of the universities or watch al-Jazeera. But there’s also an issue with the museum. While it naturally condemns historic slavery, Qatar and the other Gulf Arab states effectively enslave and exploit the foreign migrant workers that come to the country. This has provoked protests and criticism at the country hosting the World Cup and one of the Grand Prix’.

Ketanji Brown and the Anti-Racist Children’s Book Demonising ‘Whiteness’

March 26, 2022

Ketanji Brown is Biden’s new nomination for the US supreme court. She’s a Black woman of progressive views, and the Republicans have been giving her a right grilling over the past week. There are several objections to her taking up her position. One is that she has a history of giving very lenient sentences, frequently below the recommended length, to perverts possessing child porn. The second is that she is unable to define what a woman is when asked. One of the female Republican politicos asked her that very question, and she replied that, not being a biologist, she couldn’t answer that question. The common sense answer, and the one that nearly everyone would have given a decade ago, is the straight dictionary definition: adult human female. But such straightforward definitions based in biology have become intensely controversial since the rise of the militant trans movement. This instead seeks to define womanhood and masculinity through gender – social sex. A woman, in their view, is simply someone who identifies as one. This has major implications for women’s privacy, safety and sport. Lia Thomas’ victory over his biologically female competitors last week enraged many women because Lia is a biological male with all the advantages. He was able to compete as a woman because he identifies as one. The incarceration of biological men in women’s prisons, simply because they identify as female, is also a major issue. Many of these men are rapists and sex criminals, and there have been a series of assaults and rapes on the biological women they have been incarcerated with. But Brown isn’t the only politico, who can’t give a coherent answer to what a woman is. Jo Swinson, then leader of the Lib Dems, couldn’t when asked last year. Keef Stalin couldn’t when asked if women have cervixes, and declared that it was a question that shouldn’t be asked. Anneliese Dodds and Stella Creasy, also Labour, couldn’t answer it when they were interviewed about International Women’s Day. And Labour’s James Murray also couldn’t answer it when interviewed by Julia Hartley-Brewer on Talk Radio, but simply rejected the biological definition.

But what is also worrying is her attitudes to race. She seems to be a supporter of Critical Race Theory, which seems to me with its rants against ‘Whiteness’ to be simply postmodern anti-White racism. She was asked about a children’s book about raising an anti-racist baby. Aimed at children, this declared that ‘Whiteness is a pact with the Devil’ and shows a White person making just such a deal with Lucifer. I realise that this is intended as a metaphor and that it’s talking about ‘Whiteness’ rather than Whites, but it’s only a very short semantic step from one to the other, a step which critics like James Lindsey see as coming. And metaphorical it may be, but it is similar with how many Blacks really do believe that Whites are demonic.

There’s footage on the web of a Black woman, Angela Shackleford, telling a class of Whites that they ‘were not born into humanity’, will always be the same and are ‘devils to me’. In the realm of religion you have the Nation of Islam, which holds that White people are albinistic mutants created by the evil Mekkan scientist Shaitan to destroy the purity of the Black race. I was told years ago that Rastafarianism also states that White people are devils. And then there’s the Ansaaru Allah Black Muslim sect, whose leader calls Whites ‘Amalekites’ after the Semitic people who warred against Israel as they were passing through the desert on the way to the Promised Land. Their leader’s writings in his text Message to the Blackman in America, is full of anti-White rants, including the remarkable claim that the antichrist has already been born and is a blue-eyed Amalekite. This language is dangerous, because it has been used to stir up real hatred and prejudice against religious and ethnic minorities. For example, in the Middle Ages it was believed that Jews were literally the children of Satan, and this helped foment the pogroms, violence and expulsions directed against them.

And the threat of anti-White racist violence shouldn’t be played down. In 2005 the Guardian reported that racially motivated murders of Whites were almost at the same level as Blacks. Around about the same time it was also reported that Whites constituted the majority of victims of racial abuse and assault. There was also the controversy over the publication of White Girl Bleed a Lot. This argued that there was more mass, communal violence against Whites by Blacks than the other way round. It was denounced as racist, not least because the author seems to have had connections to the far right and had written for World Net Daily. Other criticisms were that his reporting of various events were factually inaccurate.

I really don’t believe that such books and Critical Race Theory in any way help tackle racism. Rather they are intended to teach that all Whites are racist, and that all Blacks can expect from them is racism. Books like that have been around for a very long time. When Mum was a school teacher, she received along with her teaching magazines a list of what the NUT seemed to believe were suitable anti-racist books. There were 20 on the least, and with only a single exception they were all about Black children being racially bullied by Whites. The exception, and the only one I would want to use with a class, was about a young Sikh lad using his swordsmanship skills to survive after the collapse of civilisation. I feel that the proper way to tackle racism in literature and entertainment is to show people of all races cooperating and getting along, in situations that seem natural and unforced. Critical Race Theory does the opposite. It promotes hatred and division, and for that reason many Blacks also despise it. There’s a video online of angry Black father telling a school meeting that he doesn’t want his son taught it. The father hasn’t suffered racism, and he doesn’t want his son taught that it is something he will have to expect either. He wants his son to believe that in America there are no bars to him achieving on the merits of his talents alone. It’s the classic American dream, and although this has certainly not been the experience of everyone, and particularly not people of colour, it’s still admirable.

And definitely better than Critical Race Theory, which is simply anti-White racism with a postmodern twist. Like all racism, it should be discarded and its supporters severely questioned over their suitability to teach and legislate.

Even if, and especially if, they are being nominated as a supreme court judge.

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.