Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Genevieve Gluck’s Long Video about the Origins of the Trans Flag and Its Similarity to Paedophile Symbols

May 26, 2022

A few days ago I put up a very short – 1m 30s – video from the feminist activist Genevieve Gluck about the trans flag and how it shares the same colours as the symbols used by paedophile organisations, put up by Women’s Declaration International. The video was an extract from this much longer piece, which lasts just over 35 minutes. The video explains how the flag was invented by Monica Helms, a transwoman, formerly Richard Hogge, who had been in the American navy. Interestingly, Helms seems to regard herself as both male and female, and that she can flip between those genders at will, rather than strictly trans female. Helms had been married when a man, but this broke up as he began to transition.

The video also discusses how Helms/Hogge had been a member of a transvestite organisation, Tri-Sigma, or the Society for the Second Self. Sigma is the Greek letter representing the ‘S’ sound. It deliberately sported a classical abbreviation in order to sound like the American college fraternities and sororities. It defined itself as ‘a sorority without women’. It was anti-gay, and part of its campaign was to make more women supportive of their husbands’ cross-dressing. She shows a number of cartoons from the pages of its magazine, whose jokes seem to be about the husband lying back in female attire while his wife does all the housework. One of the creepier shows a husband and son together, both in drag. The magazine also published advice about how its readers could become more feminine, such as by reading women’s magazines, choosing a female hobby and so on. With the exception of the sexism in the cartoons and the one with the father and son, which looks very much like grooming, this seems harmless enough. Where it becomes sinister is in the colours of the trans flag, baby blue and pink, which are the same as those used in their symbols and logos by real paedophile organisations. These predate the trans flag, but Helms says he wasn’t aware of them.

Helms has also written a book of his fiction exploring his sexuality. Some of his stories are about women, who die and whose identifies are taken over by their widowed husbands. They also include magical little girls who mysteriously don’t age.

Where this becomes sinister is when the same kind of fantasy and pornography is published on the web by organisations that include truly vile and horrific material. Gluck discusses one such organisation and website, which includes not only the transvestite porn, but also paedophilia, bestiality and castration fantasies. It’s able to do this quite legally after the judge ruled in a court case brought by a group for the porn industry that it could be published as long as it was all text without images.

Gluck, like many gender critical feminists and other critics of the trans ideology, is afraid of the links between parts of the trans movement and the paedophile fringe. She notes the way there was also a move to legalise paedophilia in the 1970s along with gay rights and those of other sexualities. In Germany the only people that opposed this was the feminist group Emma. The video clearly expresses the fear that pro-paedophile activists are trying to do the same through their connections to part of the trans movement.

I do not support the persecution, abuse, physical assault or discrimination of anybody because of their gender presentation or sexual orientation. I also certainly don’t believe that transpeople are paedophiles, nor wish to promote that idea.

Following my earlier video, Jim Round, one of the great commenters on this blog, remarked that he had worked with a transwoman, who quietly got on with her job and got married. He believes that most transpeople, at least 80 per cent, are like that, and is suspicious of the culture war against them by right-wing organisations like GB News. He is particularly afraid that they are trying to whip up hatred against all transpeople. I agree with him on much of this. I believe most transpeople probably do just want to get on with their lives as quietly as possible as ordinary citizens. I doubt very many trans people are aware of these links. And while some of the right-wing activists and spokespeople criticising the trans ideology are, I believe, sincere, I also think there’s more than an element of propaganda there as well. The horrors and idiocies committed by part of the trans movement is a convenient stick for the right, with which they can beat the left. And Graham Linehan has talked to gays and transpeople, who are afraid that they will suffer as a community for the ideas and actions of the extremists. What gender critical activists like Graham Linehan wish to do is take the situation back to c. 2010, when there were only three or four cases a year being treated and before the massive explosion in transgender activism, which seems to have encouraged tens of thousands of mentally and emotionally vulnerable people to see themselves mistakenly as trans.

Trans people should not be persecuted, but there are deeply sinister people and organisations on the fringes, who do need to be exposed and purged.

Sargon’s Lotus Eater Deny You Have A Right to Healthcare

May 26, 2022

The attack on the NHS and the state provision of healthcare continues. A few days ago I put up piece from Private Eye the other fortnight, in which they reviewed Tory donor Michael Ashcroft’s and his pet journo, Isabel Oakeshott’s wretched little book on the state of the health service. They decided that it was in a mess because of waste caused by profligate hospital managers and recommended, along with a number of other ideas like people turning themselves into cyborgs, that some hospitals should be sold off. So to them, the state of the NHS has nothing to do with the fact that it’s been starved of proper funding for years and that administrative costs have written as a consequence of the piecemeal privatisation of the Health Service that’s been going on since the days of Thatcher.

But it’s significant that the Tories are now saying the quiet part out loud. Or at least their supporters are. Alex Belfield has also been telling his listeners that the NHS should be sold off, though he also tells them he doesn’t want people charged for treatment. But that would come in as a consequence of privatisation. A few years ago a group of right-wing Tories were pressing for the expansion of services for which the NHS could charge. And the whole point of privatisation is to transform our health service into a private one paid for by private health insurance.

And the Lotus Eaters seem to have the same attitude. They’re a right-wing YouTube channel with a team featuring Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, the man who broke UKIP. Much of what they put up is general culture war material against the trans cult and Critical Race Theory. Sargon denies that the Health Service is being privatised because he couldn’t see why anyone would buy it. Which shows that he’s wilfully blind to what’s been going on. But his little mate Callum said something that suggests that he doesn’t think that people have a right to healthcare.

It came up in a short I found on my mobile this morning. Callum and one of the other Lotus Eaters were discussing what they thought were the differences between left and right when it came to the concepts of rights. The right, they claimed, saw rights as innate, while the left saw them as something they had to be given for free. ‘Yeah, gib me dat’, says one of them, in what sounds suspiciously like a parody of Black speech. And then Callum added, ‘Like healthcare’.

Actually, I don’t see any difference between the right’s and left’s basic ideas about the nature of rights. Both, it seems to me, hold that rights are innate. Where they differ is the extent of fundamental rights. The political right believes that you have the right to do as you please with the bare minimum of state interference, because of the sacred right to private property and enterprise. But the left believes that capitalism, or at least neoliberalism, effectively prevents everyone enjoying the same rights, freedoms and opportunities, and so demand government legislation and interference to make society more equal.

And one of the fundamental rights, I’d say, was the right to healthcare. The provision of healthcare by the state has kept this country healthy since the NHS’ foundation in 1948. It isn’t perfect, and it’s being destroyed very deliberately by Boris and his minions, but it’s far better by far than what existed before. And much better than the American system, which Callum seems to admire.

Now that, thanks to the Covid crisis as well as decades of privatisation and cuts, only 38 per cent of the public are satisfied with the NHS’ performance, we can expect the demands of these chumps for its privatisation to get louder.

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.

Capitalism and Property Rights in the West and Islam

March 25, 2022

Private property is very much at the heart of modern Conservatism. Conservative intellectuals, politicians and activists maintain that private industry is more efficient and effective, and has raised more people out of poverty than alternative economic systems. It’s also a fundamental right, a mainstay of western democracy that has prevented Europeans and Americans from tyrannical government, whether absolute monarchies or soviet-style communist dictatorships. It’s also supposedly the reason why Britain and the West currently dominate the rest of the world. The Times journo Niall Ferguson wrote a book about this a few years ago, which accompanied a TV series. In his analysis, Britain was able to out-compete Spain as a colonial power because British democracy gave people a stake in their society, while the only stakeholder in Spain was the king.

This can be challenged from a number of directions. Firstly, early modern Britain wasn’t democratic. The vote was restricted to a small class of gentlemen, meaning people who were lower than the aristocracy, but nevertheless were still able and expected to live off their rents. At the same time, although the power of the monarchy was restricted by the constitution and parliament, it still possessed vast power. Kings could go for years without calling one. As for Drake and the Armada, we were also saved by the weather. There was a ‘Protestant wind’ which blew apart and disrupted the Spanish fleet. As for capitalism, more recent books like The Renaissance Bazaar have shown that the new capitalist institutions that were introduced in Italy and thence to the rest of Europe during the renaissance were based on those further east in the Islamic world. And far from western global domination being inevitable, in the 15th century Christian Europeans feared that they would be conquered by Islam. The Turks had blazed through the Balkans and took 2/3 of Hungary. One fifteenth century German soldier and writer, de Busbecq, feared that the Ottomans would conquer Christendom because of the meritocracy and professionalism of their armies. The Ottomans, along with other Muslim states, recruited their armies through enslavement. It’s the origin of the Mamlukes in Egypt and the slave dynasties in Delhi. But these slaves were given an intensive military training, as well as education in Islam and the Turkish language, and promoted on their merits. Jonathan A.C. Brown in his book, slavery & Islam, how further back in Islamic history Black African slaves had been appointed the governors of parts of Iraq. The result was that while the European armies were feudal, led by aristocrats who had been born to their position and held it despite their ability or lack thereof, the Ottoman’s were manned and led by well-trained soldiers who held their commands by merit. We had better armour than the Ottomans, but they were able to defeat us because they were simply better soldiers.

Property rights have been a fundamental part of western political theory for a very long time. The social contract theory of government held that the primordial human community had elected kings to protect their lives and property. But Islam also maintained that property was a fundamental human right. According to Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Islam & Slavery, from the 700s AD Muslim jurists discussed the issue of human rights – huquq al-‘Ibad, or the rights of (God’s) slaves, i.e. humans, or huquq al-Adamiyya, or Adamic rights, or human rights. These were held to be the rights possessed by all humans, whether Muslim or not. Under the great Islamic theologian al-Ghazzali, these were expanded into five universals: protection for the integrity of life, reason, religion, lineage and paternity and property. He concludes that ‘The Islamic rights of physical inviolability and property can be seen as counterparts or perhaps forerunners of these aims.’ (pp. 299-300). I’ll admit this came as something of a surprise to me, because unless you study Islam at a higher level, you don’t hear about it. And you definitely don’t hear about it from the conservative right, who seem to believe that property rights and virtuous capitalism are something that only the Anglo-Saxon peoples invented. Remember George W. Bush’s famous, ludicrous sneer at the French that they had ‘no word for entrepreneurship’. Well,, they have, as attested by the word ‘entrepreneur’.

And property rights are not automatically intrinsic to modern concepts of freedom and democracy. They arose long before the expansion of the franchi8se in the 19th century and the emergence of universal adult suffrage in the early 20th century. Over much of western history, property rights meant the rights of the property owning upper classes against the working masses. And slaves could not own property, as legally, following the precedent of Roman law, they were property. Anything they had automatically belonged to their masters. Property rights were also regularly invoked to defend slavery. That’s very apparent when you read the protests against the British government’s attempts to regulate and then finally abolish slavery in the 19th century. The slaveowners were incensed by what they viewed as a tyrannical governmental interference in their property rights.

Now I agree people do have a right to private property, though private enterprise in many spheres is certainly not adequate to provide decent services. These are the utilities, education and healthcare. I also believe that, following Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, the west was able to gain ascendancy through technological and scientific advances, particularly military. I think the development of western capitalism also played a part in creating a mass, industrial society that was more efficient and advanced than the craft economies of the Islamic world. But this does not mean capitalism, or at least its antecedents, were absent from Islam or that Islam had no conception of property rights.

Perhaps, before we go to war with these countries to liberate them for multinational corporations, we should stop listening to Conservatives and listen more to those academics and experts, who actually know something about Islam.

Book on Medieval Russian State of Kiev

March 14, 2022

George Vernadsky, Kievan Russia (New Haven: Yale University Press 1948).

I picked this book up when I was at College in the mid-80s. I did medieval history at ‘A’ Level and Russian at school, and although that’s long ago, I still have an interest in eastern European history, culture and politics. One of atrocities of this war among so many is the Russian assault on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. President Zelenskyy has said that he’s afraid that his country, its history and culture will be wiped out. Kyiv is one of the great historic cities of Europe. Great Russian authors such as Mikhail Bulgakov have set their novels in the city, and in music its been celebrated by the great Russian musician and composer, Mussorgsky in his ‘The Great Gates of Kiev’. But from c. 10th to the early 13th century Kyiv, or Kiev as it is known in Russian, was the centre of a great medieval Russian empire.

This book is a comprehensive history of Kievan Russia, looking not just at the reigns of its great tsars, but also the church and religion, its literature and culture, everyday life, relations with the other states and the position of national minorities. It has the following chapters, broken down thus into sections.

  1. Kievan Russia’s Place in History
  1. Is Russia Europe?
  2. Russia’s place in the medieval world.
  3. Divergent and parallel trends in Russian and European history.
  4. The notion of east European history.
  5. The challenge of geopolitics.
  6. The significance of the Kievan period in Russian history.

II. The imperial plan and its failure, 878-972

  1. The imperial plan: dreams and realities
  2. First successes – Oleg
  3. First setback – Igor
  4. A breathing spell – Olga
  5. The great adventure – Sviatoslav

III. Conversion to Christianity

  1. The Russian paganism
  2. Vladimir the Saint before his conversion (972-87)
  3. The story of Vladimir’s conversion
  4. Laying the foundations of the Russian church (990-1037)
  5. The significance of conversion: An early appraisal.

IV. The Kievan Realm, 990-1139

  1. Vladimir as Christian ruler (990-1015)
  2. The struggle between Vladimir’s sons (1015-36)
  3. The age of Iaroslav the Wise (1036-54)
  4. The triumvirate (1054-93)
  5. The reign of Sviatopolk II (1093-1113)
  6. A social legislator: Vladimir Monomach
  7. The first two monomashichi (1125-39)

V. Economic Foundations of Kievan Russia

  1. Introductory remarks
  2. Natural resources and population
  3. Hunting, agriculture and fishing
  4. Agriculture and cattle breeding
  5. Metallurgy
  6. Building industries
  7. Textile arts, furriery, tanning, ceramics
  8. Commerce
  9. Money and credit
  10. Capital and labor
  11. National income
  12. Prosperity and depression

VI. Social organisation

  1. The basic social units
  2. Social stratification
  3. The upper classes
  4. The middle classes
  5. The lower classes
  6. The half-free
  7. The slaves
  8. The church people
  9. Woman
  10. The steppe frontiersmen
  11. National minorities
  12. Concluding queries: on “economic and social feudalism” in Kievan Russia

VII. Government and Administration

  1. Introductory remarks
  2. The lands and the principalities
  3. The three elements of government
  4. The princely administration
  5. Branches of administration
  6. The city-state
  7. The local commune
  8. The manor
  9. The church
  10. The judiciary
  11. Concluding queries: on “political feudalism” in Kievan Russia

VIII. The Russian Federation, 1139-1237

  1. Introductory remarks
  2. The struggle for Kiev (1139-69)
  3. Keeping the balance between east Russia and west Russia
  4. Defense of the frontier
  5. The first appearance of the Mongols: the Battle of the Kalka (1223)
  6. Time runs short (1223-37)

IX. Russian Civilisation in the Kievan Period

  1. Introductory remarks
  2. Language and script
  3. Folklore
  4. Music
  5. Theater
  6. Fine arts
  7. Religion
  8. Literature
  9. Education
  10. The humanities
  11. Sciences and technlogy

X. The Way of Life

  1. City and country life
  2. Dwellings and furniture
  3. Dress
  4. Food
  5. Health and hygiene
  6. The cycle of life
  7. Public calamities

XI. Russia and the Outside World in the Kievan Period

  1. Preliminary remarks
  2. Russia and the Slavs
  3. Russia and Scandinavia
  4. Russia and the west
  5. Russia and Byzantium
  6. Russia and the Caucasus
  7. Russia and the east

It also has a map of Russia in the Kievan period as well as a list of sources, bibliography and index.

I’ve no doubt that some of the material in the book has become out of date in the nearly 80 years since it was first published. For example, the book describes the veche, a popular assembly, as a democratic institution. But others have said that it met too infrequently really to have been an instrument of popular, democratic government. Although you do wonder what history might have been like if it had been. Would we now be looking at the Ukraine as one of the major foundations of European democracy alongside the British parliament, the Swiss cantons and the Icelandic althing?

Despite its inaccuracies, I think that the book is nevertheless an excellent history of this most ancient Russian state and its people.

And I hope it is not too long before peace and justice is restored to this part of eastern Europe.

Model Millennium Falcon Levitating over Sand Dunes

March 11, 2022

This is another awesome video about unorthodox flight technology, although here it’s magnetic levitation rather than ionic propulsion. From the ‘Glen Makes’ channel on YouTube, it shows a diorama of Han Solo’s spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, hovering above sand dunes being made. The spaceship’s held up by magnetic levitation. It’s an amazing piece of work.

The possibility that magnets could be used to levitate objects has been around since the Middle Ages. One of the legends going round medieval Europe, for example, was that Arab natural philosophers had used magnets in the construction of Mohammed’s tomb, so that it appeared to float in the air. And then in the 18th century Swift, in Gulliver’s Travels, has a country of scientists float around the world on an island held up by a giant magnet. Gullliver’s Travels is a satire against some of the policies and attitudes of the times, and I think this part of the book is a dig at the Royal Society.

Looking at this and other technologies, I think there’s great potential for them to be used in high art. One of the sketches I found recently in one of the books of SF art I’ve read was of a similarly floating obelisk on an alien world. Something like that could be made for real, I feel. But instead what passes for official art is Conceptualism, though I think that’s been rather passe since its heyday in the ’90s. And compared to the artistic possibilities opened up by technology, it just seems even more banal than ever.

But applause and respect to this expert piece of modelling and its maker!

The Silent Drone That Flies Using Ionic Thrust

March 11, 2022

This is awesome. I found this fascinating little video on the YouTube channel of the Roswell Flight Test Crew, whose name seems to suggest that they’re a group into weird aviation technology, just like whatever it was that came down on Mac Brazel’s ranch in Roswell in 1947. In this video they’re at the UAV expo in Florida, talking to Tomas Pribanec, the CEO of a new start-up company, Undefined Technology. Pribanic and his team have created a drone that flies without any propellers, or indeed, it seems, wings or any conventional aircraft parts. It looks a bit like a Borg cube that’s been made out of wire. The machine flies using electricity to attract and repel the ions, the charged particles already present in the atmosphere. At the moment it can only fly for 15 minutes carrying a 2 pound payload, but it has the advantage of being silent. This has made it attractive to a number of other companies, according to Pribanic. Ion engines, which create thrust by generating charged particles, are already used in spacecraft, but it’s unusual to see the principle used on Earth. The blurb for the video on the Roswell Crew’s YouTube page runs

’22 Sept 2021 • In this episode, the Roswell Flight Test Crew speaks with Tomas Pribanic, the founder and CEO of Undefined Technology, based in south Florida. The company has built a prototype drone of approximately the same dimensions and configuration as a conventional multirotor – but without propellers. Instead, it uses charged ions that exist in the atmosphere and attracts or repels those ions as needed to develop thrust and maneuver. The prototype is five-foot square, capable of flying up to 15 minutes while carrying a two-pound payload. Owing to the lack of propellers, the aircraft is virtually silent in flight, making it a good candidate for cargo delivery and other missions in the urban environment where noise can be an issue.’

I think the technology has been around for a little while as there are a number of videos also on YouTube showing people, who’ve built their own. There was also a piece of news a year or so ago about a research group, who had incorporated it into a plane to demonstrate that it could be used to create more fuel efficient aircraft. They took their inspiration from Star Trek’s shuttlecraft and the way they flew without any moving parts.

This is next level technology very much like something out of science fiction, and I look forward to it being developed further.

Muse Go Back to the 80s & 90s with ‘Something Human’

February 20, 2022

Here’s another fun video for those of us, who grew up in the ’80s enjoying some of that decade’s SF and Fantasy movies. I’m a sort of fan of Bournemouth rockers Muse. I like the way their music and videos include science, space and SF themes. ‘Unsustainable’ and ‘Isolated System’, for example, are about the world running out of energy and society collapsing according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that entropy, disorder, in a system only increases as usable energy is expended and transformed into waste heat. Hence, billions of billions of years from the universe will end as a positron-electron plasma just a few degrees above absolute zero. The tracks and the accompanying video are about the possible collapse of society due to an economics centred on growth which uses up all the available resources, a subject of great concern to the ecological movement since the 1970s.

On a lighter note, their video for ‘Something Human’ contains a number of 80s pop SF references., It features one of the band heading out of a city with a population of 213 million plus in a car carrying a video tape. The sign for the city has ‘Infected’ scrawled across it, which might be a reference to either the Resident Evil game and film franchise, or the later Danny Boyle film, 28 Days Later. He’s pursued by the other two, armed with massive guns. As he races down the road he goes back in time, which is surely based on Back to the Future and the time-travelling DeLorean car. Arriving in the past, he finds an abandoned, delapidated video store. His pursuers arrive behind him in an American phone box, which is obviously based on Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Then the full moon appears and he turns into a werewolf, which could be based either on Teen Wolf or An American Werewolf in London. After killing his pursuers, he gets back into the car, the moon passes and he becomes human again as he drives back to the future. I’m sure there are other references in there. The big guns could be a reference to the massive weapons sported by the heroes of the various action movies, especially those starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. But those are the only references I’ve been able to recognise. Still, it’s a bit of fun nostalgia for those of us, who enjoyed 80s movies and the video technology that made the films available to see at home.

Cheikh Anta Diop, the Victorians and Adolf Hitler on the Fundamental Importance of Race

January 28, 2022

Yesterday I put up review of Stephen Howe’s excellent Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes, which traces the history of the movement and examines its ideas and the major figures within the movement. Afrocentrism considers that the ancient Egyptians were Black, and that their civilisation was the basis for western culture, which Whites stole. They also believe that there are major psychological differences between Whites and Blacks. Africans are also believed to have a single philosophy, and to have been able to make great advances in science, religion and politics through their distinct racial constitution. Race is held to be of fundamental importance affecting all aspects of life, culture and civilisation. Cheikh Anta Diop, one of the major figures in the movement and one whom Howe respects, despite his views, stated

‘All of humanity’s historical and social relations, from the beginnings of time right up to the nineteenth century, were ethnic relations, founded in phenotype…. humanity has been governed essentially in its development by these ethnic confrontations.’ (171).

Howe makes the point that Afrocentrism is strongly influenced by 19th century views of ancient Egypt and Africans. These were themselves the products of colonial administrators and anthropologists steeped in 19th century anti-Black racism. It’s just that they reverse this racism so that Blacks, instead of Whites, are the superior race. He points out that much Afrocentric writing has a curiously old-fashioned ring. Diop’s statement above is an example of this, as it is very much in line with the attitudes of 19th century White imperialists. For example, Benjamin Disraeli said ‘No man will treat with indifference the principle of race. It is the key to history’. ( Peter Vansittart, Voices 1870-1914 (Jonathan Cape 1984) 81).

Hitler believed that all civilisation and culture had been created by White ‘Aryans’. He therefore stated in Mein Kampf that ‘It is the duty of the national State to see to it that a History of the World is eventually written, in which the question of Race occupies a prominent position’. (Adolf Hitler, My Struggle (London: The Paternoster Library 1933) 166).

As for the exaggerated and grotesquely distorted claims made by the Afrocentrists and other Black activists about the importance and achievements of Black scientists, these are also comparable to Hitler’s own ideas about science and race. He also wrote in Mein Kampf

‘The national State will look upon science as a means for increasing national pride. Not only world-history, but also the history of civilisation, must be taught from this point of view. An inventor should appear great not merely as an inventor, but even more so as a fellow-countryman. Admiration of any great deed must be combined with pride because the fortunate doer of it is a member of our own nation. We must extract the greatest from the mass of great names in German history and place them before the youth in so impressive a fashion that they may become the pillars of an unshakable nationalist sentiment.’ (168)

Thus a movement that has the laudable ambition of challenging racism merely becomes another form of it.

A Thorough Critique of Afrocentric Pseudo-History, Psychology, and Science

January 27, 2022

Stephen Howe, Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes (London: Verso 1998)

This is another excellent book I’ve been reading lately. I first came across in it an excellent review by the Black British writer, Caryl Phillips in the Financial Times at the time it was published, though it’s only now I’ve actually got round to ordering a copy and reading it. Afrocentrism is a set of inter-related, pseudo-academic disciplines based on the claim that the ancient Egyptians were Black and are the unacknowledged source of White western culture, which was stolen from them. Not only were the Egyptians themselves Black, but they may also have derived their culture and achievements in turn from the peoples further to the south, the Nubians and Ethiopians. Some Afrocentrists claim that Greece, Rome and Carthage were originally Black ancient Egyptian colonies and that the original peoples of the British isles were also Black. Some push this claim of Black African primacy even further, claiming that ancient Egyptians travelled to the Americas before Columbus, where they founded the Olmec culture. The ancient peoples of Asia too, the Indians, Thais, Chinese and Japanese were also Black. At the same time ancient Egypt expanded to colonise Africa, where it was also responsible for the major cultural, artistic and architectural achievements. Where these coexisted with alleged brutality and barbarism, as in West Africa, which had a highly sophisticated art alongside human sacrifice, this was due to biological degeneration from the original Egyptian herrenvolk.

Black Americans are held to be part of a single Black race and culture with Black Africans, and Afrocentric scholars are active trying to trace authentic African survivals in the speech, culture and psychology of Black America. There is supposed to be a single Black character and psychology and a distinct Black philosophy. At the same time, ,Afrocentric scholars believe that the Egyptians were masters of political theory and science, which can similarly be grotesquely exaggerated. Some of them claim that the ancient Egyptians knew about quantum physics and gravity and that the Tanzanians had semi-conductors. At the same time they are active researching and promoting various Blacks figures they believe were great scientists. Again, these figures, who could, like Benjamin Banneker, be genuinely impressive in their real lives, and their achievements are often wildly exaggerated.

Unsurprisingly there’s much racism mixed up with this. There’s a bitter hatred of Whites, as well as, Jews and Arabs. One Afrocentric writers claims the latter has been attempting to destroy African civilisation and enslave its peoples for 5,000 years. Which is quite incredible, considering that I think the Muslim Arabs only conquered north Africa in the 7th/8th century AD. There’s also a bitter hatred of homosexuality and strong rejection of feminism. In the early 1960s one Afrocentric group insisted that female members should show their submissiveness by crossing their arms and lowering their heads when one of the men passed them. There’s also an insistence on traditional family structures. At the same time, some believe that Blacks are intellectually and emotionally superior to Whites because of the greater amount of the melanin pigment in their brains.

At their heart, this is an attempt to compensate for the massive racial oppression and disparagement Blacks and their civilisations have suffered over the centuries, far more than any other ethnic group. Yet much Afrocentric scholarship is based on the severely dated writings of 19th and early 20th century European colonial officials and anthropologists, as well as other White writers, who definitely believed that Blacks were inferior. For example, Afrocentric scholars assert that, while Whites and Europeans are logical and rational, Blacks are emotional and intuitive. Which is very much like the old imperialist claim that Blacks were inferior because they weren’t rational and logical. The claim that ancient Egyptians were responsible for the colonisation of Africa and every advance made by the peoples of the continent also derives from 19th and early 20th century White sources. The only difference is that those writers believed that the Egyptians were part of a superior, ‘Hamitic’, White civilisation. And also mixed up with it are various occult, Masonic and New Age ideas. Some of these derive from Albert Churchward, a freemason, who believed that there was a war going on between freemasonry and socialism, and only the former could defend civilisation from the Red Menace. Other figures in the New Age part of the Afrocentric movement include Credo Mutwa, a genuine Zulu shaman, honest guv, and apologist for the South African apartheid state.

Howe’s book traces the history of these ideas, some of which have been around for longer than I thought. I was aware that the claim that the ancient Egyptians were Black and therefore equal to or superior to White civilisation began in the 19th century. I was surprised, however, to find that Black Americans, largely clergymen, were making the claims as early as the 1820s. He carefully distinguishes between those writers, like the Senegalese mathematician and nuclear physicist Cheikh Anta Diop, who, while wrong, nevertheless were diligent researchers and produced significant insights, and others who were far less impressive. Some of the latter can only be described as cranks, like the female Afrocentrist who claims that nearly everything, including Christmas trees, are representations of the Black male genitals. Some of the most virulently anti-White racist material comes from White writers, such as the assertion that Whites are inferior because we’re all descended from the Neanderthals, who are given a whole series of unpleasant traits. Some Afrocentrists seem to have set up their own Stalinist ‘cult of personality’. Molefi Asante, for example, has his own academic department and institute, who members and scholars always pay generous tribute to him for guiding them on their intellectual quest, and largely don’t say anything that wasn’t already said by the master. Quite a number give themselves impressive African names, meaning things like ‘Bearer of Enlightenment’, and a number have also claimed to have been African princes or holy men. Their real identities and backgrounds, however, tend to be much more prosaic. He also notes the connection and major differences with other major figures in Black scholarship and anti-racist campaigning, like Franz Fanon and W.E.B. DuBois, and the French Caribbean Negritude movement.

There are some significant difference between the scholars discussed here. Cheikh Anta Diop believed that ancient Egypt was the source of western culture and I think he wanted Greek and Latin replaced as languages by ancient Egyptian. But while his thinking was highly racialised, he wasn’t a racist. He wanted Blacks to join the global community of peoples as equals. He also believed that civilisation was cyclical, and that as Europeans supposedly took their ideas from Africa, so Africans should now learn from Europeans. Others were definitely racist, such as the speaker at the first Black History Month in 1986 who seemed to advocate shooting Whites, although he couldn’t tell his audience when, where and whom. In the case of Marcus Garvey’s son, this went into pure Black Nazism. When Jamaica celebrated Garvey’s birth in the 1970s, his son called for Garvey’s movement to become a Black National Socialism, because Africa also needs its lebensraum.

Among the researchers and writers examined and critiqued is Martin Bernal, the White author of Black Athena. This caused a major stir when it was published in the 1980s, possibly because, as Bernal himself suggested, he was White. Bernal was able to assemble a massive amount of information and was extensively criticised at the time. But he was also controversial because he believed that ancient Greece was also strongly influenced by the Semitic peoples, specifically the Phoenicians and the Jews. This was in fact based on contemporary Israeli scholarship, and was itself highly controversial. As a result, some of the criticisms of him and his work have a very nasty element of anti-Semitism.

The book is a thorough examination and demolition of Afrocentric scholarship with considerable sympathy for the genuine achievements of Black scholars, some of whom have made very trenchant criticisms. One Ghanaian or Nigerian philosopher lampooned the claim that there is a single, African philosophy based around a transcendent life force. In a spoof article he argued that the English, and therefore all westerners, venerated the mystic force ING, because English verbs often ended in ‘ing’, like ‘doing’ or ‘being’. In fact the claim that there is a single African philosophy comes from Tempels, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, who only researched a single Bantu tribe, and the anthropologist Griaule and his Dogon informant, Ogotommeli. The latter two have become notorious because of their books’ claim that the Dogon had an advanced knowledge of astronomy. They knew that the planets circled the Sun in ellipses, and that Sirius had an invisible companion star. For R.K.G. Temple in the 1970s, it was because they’d been visited by aliens. For the Melanists, it was because they had intuitive knowledge of it through their pineal gland. Howe suggests that Ogotommeli probably knew about it from visiting colonial officials with an interest in the subject, and made the claim that all this was known to the Dogon as a way of pulling this arrogant colonial anthropologist’s leg.

The book also argues that Afrocentric views of Africa are themselves also damaging. They present the continent as a static, unfied culture, which has never suffered war and conflict between its peoples before the advent of Europeans. In fact it’s a continent of many different peoples and cultures. There’s no evidence that it was ever colonised by the ancient Egyptians. Only six ancient Egyptian artefacts have been found outside Egypt and Nubia. And rather than the ancient Egyptians introducing agriculture to the rest of Africa, there is evidence that it was independently discovered in six different places on the continent. As for the assertion that ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are the source for various African writing systems, such as the Vai of Liberia, some of these are known to have been invented by specific individuals in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some African peoples are happy to promote the idea that they are descendants of the ancient Egyptians, while others very definitely are not. The problem here is that Afrocentrist claims of Egyptian primacy are obscuring the real achievements of Africa and its peoples.

As for the question of the racial origins of the ancient Egyptians, the book notes that this is a subject of near to Zero interest to professional, mainstream Egyptologists. A number of academics books and journals he surveys make no mention of it. When one does, it is simply to say that it is a distraction from the real issues Egyptologists want to examine. Genetic and craniological examination, however, suggest that the ancient Egyptians were racially identical to other peoples in that part of Africa. They show genetic links to the peoples of Neolithic Europe, the Middle East and India, and lesser genetic connections to the peoples further south. The Egyptian scholars themselves, however, see themselves as racially mixed and there was an argument at a conference in Cairo when the Black Americans insisted that they were Black. I also find some of the Afro-centrists’ concern to establish the racial identity of the Nubians rather odd. One Afrocentric writer hoped that one day science would be able to reconstruct the features of the Nubian pharaoh Taharqa from its skull fragments, and that these would show he was Black. I found this quite puzzling, as I’ve always assumed that the Nubians were Black. In fact I’ve never seen anything said to the contrary. When TV documentaries refer to Egypt’s Black pharaohs, they usually refer to the period when the country was conquered and ruled by Nubian kings. I honestly don’t know who these people are that assert that the Nubians were White, unless it’s some of the White writers the Afro-centrists have discovered in their search for suitable sources.

This pseudo-scholarship is spreading massively. The book notes the large number of university departments teaching it, as well as college and private schools and the torrent of books published, some of them also aimed at schools. It’s alarming that such pseudo-scholarship has become so widespread. And rather than liberating, as Afrocentric scholars believe, he makes the point that the subject is deeply racist, drawing on the same sources as White racists.

But rather than be angered by it, he finds it immensely sad.