Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

History Debunked Suggests We Need Nazi ‘Heroic Mother’ Policies to Halt Demographic Decline

January 25, 2023

This is a response to a video Simon Webb put up some days ago. I meant to review it earlier, but there’s only so much fascism you can take, especially in today’s miserable economic situation and the Tories telling one lie after another. Webb’s video was prompted by a speech from the Japanese premier declaring that there was an existential crisis facing the Japanese the people. If they didn’t have more babies, they would die out. Webb notes that in the Beeb report about this, they stated that it could be solved by the Japanese importing people like other countries, but that the Japanese were firmly against this.

The Japanese have been worried about this for a very long time. Back in the 1990s the-then Japanese prime minister announced that if the country didn’t halt its declining birth rate, then they would be extinct in a thousand years’ time. That really is looking at the long term picture. To solve this problem, successive Japanese governments have suggested and embarked on various policies. One was that husbands should spend more time with their families in order to develop a closer relationship with their wives, with the unspoken implication that this would lead to more babies on the way. This provoked sharp criticism from one housewife, who complained that marital relations wouldn’t improve simply because the husband was at home more. The Japanese government has also set up a state dating agency to bring men and women together.

I suspect Japan’s demographic problems are partly due to particularly Japanese problems. There is, or was, a high rate of divorce among Japanese pensioners. This is caused by the Japanese work ethic, in which men work all the hours that God sends in order to support their families and make their country prosperous. The result is that they barely see their wives and families. When they retire, they find out that they have nothing in common and divorce. It’s a theme that was reflected in Japanese business novels. These featured loyal, hardworking sararimen, whose lives fall apart. They’re laid off by the companies they’ve loyally served and their families break up until they end up left behind running a small shop somewhere, lamenting that they’ve missed out on seeing their children grow up.

There’s also a trend among young Japanese not to date and have children. There was a Radio 4 programme, which I sadly missed, discussing this issue. It reported that this aversion was so severe that many young people even find the act of love itself repulsive. I wondered if this was a reaction to Japanese sex education and whatever Japanese youth is taught about sex outside marriage. If the attitudes against it are too harsh and the insistence on purity so strong, then it’s possible that this could lead to some impressionable people developing such a strong revulsion to sex. I remember from my schooldays that the sex education we were exposed to, with its clinical description of physical development and reproduction, as well as fears about the rising divorce rate, could almost have been calculated to put kids off sex. I also wonder if it’s due to the unavailability of contraception in Japan. This isn’t due to moral scruples, as in Roman Catholic Ireland. It was demanded by the Japanese medical complex, in order to protect the doctors that made money from performing abortions. Buddhism and Shinto have a series of three gods or kami, who preside over the souls of dead children. According to the anthropologist Dr Nigel Barley in his study of cultural attitudes to death and the dead across the world, Dancing with the Dead, the shrine to these gods are particularly supported by women, who’ve had abortions. I’m not criticising women’s right to abortions here, just noting that in previous decades over here the lack of contraception and the strong societal disapproval to births out of wedlock was a very strong disincentive to people, and especially women, having premarital sex.

In fact birth rates are declining across the world, mostly significantly in the developed west, but also elsewhere. One demographer interviewed a few decades ago in New Scientist predicted that in the middle years of this century the world would suffer a demographic crash. This is in stark contradiction with the 70s fears about the population explosion and ‘population bomb’. In many European countries the birth rate is below the level of population replacement.

Webb suggested that we might try to copy the Nazis, who gave medals to women who had large families. There were different medals award according to how many children they had. In fact, all the totalitarian states had similar policies. The Russians had their Heroic Mother awards, duly covered by Pravda, and Musso had a similar policy in his ‘Battle for Births’ campaign. If reproduction is a battle, it means people are doing it wrong. And if it’s a real physical battle, then it’s rape. But I think Musso meant it metaphorically, as everything was a battle in Fascist Italy. The campaign to increase cereal yield in agriculture was labelled ‘the Battle for Grain’. But Musso included in his policies to increase the birth rate various welfare benefits to make it easier and support women, who chose to have large families.

Webb has been followed in this by Laurence Fox, who gave a sermon on GB News yesterday, about his instinct that society was coming to an end because of the low birth rate in the west. This was breaking the social link Edmund Burke had said existed between the past, present and future generations. Of course, as a man of the right he has no sympathy for people demanding expanded welfare rights, accusing them of being ‘entitled’. They’re not. They’re people on the breadline demanding not expanded welfare provision, but proper welfare provision restored to adequate levels.

Plastic priest Calvin Robinson similarly discussed demographic decline in another piece for GB News. He was much more open about the provision of proper welfare support for families, arguing that Britain should follow the lead of Poland and Hungary. And then comes the element of racism. Because if we did this, like those countries we would not have to import people from outside.

And this is part of the problem.

Underneath these fears of demographic decline is the particular fear of White demographic decline. Other ethnic groups have larger families. Hence the stupid, malign conspiracy theories about ‘Eurabia’, that Muslims would outbreed Whites in the west and so eventually take over society. The French National Front let the cat out of the bag in the 90s. This was the mayor of one of the southern French cities, who had set up a system of welfare payments to encourage his citizens to have more babies. Except that this was a racist policy that applied only to Whites. Blacks, Asians and Muslims not allowed.

It’s why such a system would also have severe problems being introduced over here. And rightly so, as while I dare say that some members of ethnic groups don’t want to integrate or adopt British culture, others identify very strongly with it and see themselves as English, Welsh, Scots whatever. Such people shouldn’t be excluded from receiving these welfare payments simply because of the colour of their skin, whatever else one thinks of race relations and immigration.

Of course, the right blames the demographic crisis squarely on feminism and the way modern women are encouraged to pursue careers rather than raise families. Hence the Lotus Eaters put up a piece commenting on a report that half of all women are childless at thirty. To be fair, some left-wing feminists have also complained that feminism, for all its good intentions, has also denigrated the vital role of motherhood in society. But traditional attitudes towards gender roles may be part of the problem. In the New Scientist article I talked about earlier, it was noted that the countries with lowest birth rates had the most traditional attitudes towards childrearing, in which it was seen as primarily the responsibility of the mothers. This extended across cultures, from Italy in Europe to Japan. The countries which had the highest birth rates in the west were the Nordic countries, where men were being encouraged to help their wives with domestic chores and raising the sprogs.

That, and welfare policies designed to help working parents, seem far better solutions to the crisis than simply doling out medals based on the attitudes of totalitarian regimes.

Gracchus Babeuf and the Calls for a Welfare State in 18th Century France

January 21, 2023

Gracchus Babeuf was a French revolutionary, who tried to overthrow the Directory and establish a communist state during the French Revolution as the leader of the ‘Conspiracy of Equals’. He’s one of the founders of the European socialist and communist traditions. I’ve been reading Ian Birchall’s book on him and his legacy, The Spectre of Babeuf (Haymarket Books 2016), and it’s fascinating. Birchall discusses the influences on Babeuf, which included Morelly, the author of the Code de la Nature, which also advocated a communist system with a centrally planned economy, Nicolas Collignon, who wrote an 8 page pamphlet demanding the same, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In Collignon’s ideal state, the citizens were to be provided with free food and clothing, high quality housing, schools and healthcare. Like the Tories, he also believed in competition, so doctors would be graded according to their performance. Those that cured the most would be consequently paid more and get promotion, while those who cured the least would be struck off. Even before he devised his own communist plans, he was already discussing the need for collective farms. What he meant by this is not collective farms in the soviet sense, but farms run cooperatively by their workers rather than a single farmer with employees. And he was also in favour of creating a welfare state. In a book he authored on correct taxation, he wrote

‘That a national fund for the subsistence of the poor should be established. That doctors, apothecaries and surgeons should be psif wages out of public funds so that they can administer assistance free of charge. That a system of national education be established out of which all citizens may take advantage. That magistrates be also paid wages out of public revenue, so that justice can be done free of charge.’ (p. 29).

Birchall also attacks the view promoted by Talmon in his The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy that Babeuf was an authoritarian who prefigured soviet tyranny. Talmon was an Israeli Conservative writing at the beginning of the Cold War. But Babeuf himself, although a revolutionary, was also keen to preserve and expand democracy. One of his suggestions was that there should be a set of elected officials charged with making sure that delegates to the national assembly were representing their constituents properly. If they weren’t, the people had the right to recall them.

Regarding industrial organisation, he believed that the citizens in each commune should be divided into classes, each class representing a different trade. The members of these classes would appoint governors, who would set the work and carry out the instructions of the municipal government. It’s very much a command economy, and utopian in that money would be abolished.

I can’t say I find Babeuf’s full-blown communist ideas attractive, for the reason I believe in a mixed a economy and the right of people to do what they wish outside of interference from either the authorities or other people. And I really don’t see how such a state could last long without a money economy. Some Russians looked forward to the establishment of such an economy at the beginning of the Russian Revolution when the economy began to break down and trading went back to barter in some areas until the Bolsheviks restored the economy. And there is clearly conflict between violent revolution and democracy. But I respect his calls for a welfare state. He was also an advocate of equality for women and an opponent of imperialism, which he felt corrupted extra-European peoples with European vices. This view is clearly based on the 17th century ideas of the Noble Savage, in which primitive peoples are seen as better and more morally advanced than civilised westerners.

Demands for a welfare state are as old as socialism itself. We cannot allow the British welfare state and NHS to be destroyed by the Tories and Blairite Labour under Starmer.

False! Woke Swedish Green MEP Does Not Want Viking Artefacts Destroyed in Name of International Friendship

January 10, 2023

Right-wing YouTuber Paz49 put up a piece this morning claiming that Alice Bah-Kuhnke, a Swedish Green MP, had called for the country’s Viking artefacts to be turned into scrap metal in order to show other countries that Sweden is friendly. Bah-Kuhnke’s mixed race, the daughter of an African father and Swedish mother. She was also a member, possibly the head, of an all-female government, whose members all wore pink hats, presumably as a feminist statement. Paz also reports that there are claims she wants the artefacts replaced with Islamic and African objects, but he thinks this may be just a rumour. He does, however, believe that this is a woke assault on White identity, and that it ignores the fact that other nations throughout the globe are also responsible for war and imperialism.

The story’s false, however. It’s several years old, dating from c. 2017, and comes from the American Alt-Right distorting reports of a perfectly reasonable law passed by the Swedish government to clear out artefacts of low scientific value in order to clear space in their national museum. I found this video below from the Archaeosource channel on YouTube, in which two professional archaeologists discuss what was really going on. They point out that archaeologists can’t keep everything they find, otherwise museums would be full of old Roman tiles. They rebury material that they can’t retain and conserve. The Swedish law is about throwing away poorly preserved Iron Age and Viking artefacts that don’t have much scientific value. It is not about destroying Sweden’s heritage. One of the speakers says he worked as a Viking for four years, six-hours a day, and has a profound respect for the ancient Norsemen. He takes issue with the way the Alt-Right and other extreme right-wing groups have appropriated them, especially regarding issues of masculinity, being a warrior and so on. The Vikings were open to other cultures, they had words for Blacks, Blamenn, and extensive trade contacts extending down to Africa and India. They were hired by other nations, and were hospitable to them. I think here he’s probably talking about Ibn Fadlan, the Arab traveller, and his observations of the Vikings on the Volga. They were hired by the Byzantines to serve as the emperor’s bodyguard. They also had bards and weren’t homophobic.

So, as commenters like Gillyflower suspected, this is a bogus non-story, an example of Alt-Right fearmongering.

The Lotus Eaters Reject Objective Moral Values

January 8, 2023

This is a bit abstract, but as it involves issues about the objective reality of moral values and justice against moral relativism, it needs to be tackled. A few days ago the Lotus Eaters published an essay on their website by Helen Dale, which denied that there were such things as objective moral values. This followed an conversation on YouTube between Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Gasbag, and the philosopher Peter Boghossian, in which Sargon was also arguing that objective moral values don’t exist. People, including myself, have taken the mick out of Sargon, pointing out that he’s not university educated and that at one point his standard response to his opponents seemed to be to ask if they hadn’t read John Locke. But Sargon’s bright and is well-read in political philosophy, albeit from the Conservative, Libertarian perspective.

Which seems to be where his denial of objective morality comes. Conservatives since Edmund Burke have stressed the importance of tradition, and from what I remember of Sargon’s debate with Boghossian, he was arguing that concepts like human rights and democracy are the unique products of western culture. These notions are alien and incomprehensible to other culture, such as Islam, which have their own value systems, notions of justice and ideas about their ultimate grounding. Now Sargon does have a point. Human rights seem obvious to us, because we have grown up in a society in which such notions have developed over centuries, dating back to the 18th century and beyond, going back to the Roman idea of the Lex Gentiles, the Law of Nations. This was the idea that there were fundamental assumptions about justice that was common to all nations and which could be used as the basis for international law. And the Enlightenment philosophers were confident that they could also discover an objective basis for morality. This has not happened. One of the problems is the values which are to be regarded as fundamental also need supporting arguments, and morality has changed over time. This can be seen in the west in the changing attitudes to sex outside marriage and homosexuality. Back in the early 20th century both were regarded as immoral, but are now accepted. In the case of homosexuality, moral condemnation has been reversed so that it is the persecution of gays that it rightly regarded as immoral. The philosopher Isaiah Berlin was aware of the changes in morality over time, and deeply influenced by the 17th century Italian philosopher Vico. His solution, as someone who bitterly hated Stalin’s USSR and its tyranny, was to argue that although objective moral values didn’t exist, there were nevertheless moral values that acted as such.

I can see some positive aspects to Sargon’s position. If it is accepted that western ideas of truth and justice are just that, localised western notions, that it prevents them from being used as pretexts for foreign imperialist ventures like the Neo-Con invasions of the Middle East. It brings us back to the old, pre-War American conservative values that held that America had no business interfering in the political institutions and concerns of other peoples. But it also leaves the way open for cultural relativism and the justification of despotic regimes. If there are no objective moral values, then there can be no firm moral objections to obvious injustices, such as the genocide of the Uighurs in China or the Taliban’s recent decision to deprive women of university education. From what I’ve been reading, Chinese nationalist communists dismiss such ideas of democracy and human rights as baizuo, which translates as White liberal nonsense. And the Fascists and Communists Sargon despises were also moral relativists. Both Mussolini and Hitler also declared that each nation had their own set of unique moral values and that liberal notions of justice and humanity did not apply to their regimes. In a number of his speeches Lenin denied that there were any eternal moral values, but that these changed instead with each historical epoch, as determined by the economic structure of society at the time. This opened the way to the horrendous atrocities committed by the Nazi and Soviet regimes.

The Lotus Eaters are also staunch enemies of wokeness, but Critical Theory in its various forms also relativizes traditional morality and attitudes arguing that these too are merely the local intellectual products of the west, and specifically White heterosexual elite men. This has led to Postcolonial Theorists betraying feminists and human rights activists in nations like India, by refusing to criticise these cultures repressive traditions, or instead blaming them on western imperialism.

My own belief is that there are indeed objective moral values although human moral intuitions have changed over time. Notions of democracy and human rights may have their origin in the west, but they are nevertheless universal and universally applicable. This does not mean that other cultures may not adopt and adapt them according to their own cultural traditions. In the case of Islam, there are any number of books by the Islamic modernists arguing that modern notions of human rights are perfectly in accordance with Muslim values.

For the sake of genuine humanity and international justice and the eradication of tyranny, we have to believe that there are objective moral values protecting human life and freedom.

A 19th Century Proto-Feminist SF Novel

December 30, 2022

Brian Aldiss argues in his history of Science Fiction, The Trillion Year Spree, that Mary Shelley is the founder of modern SF, because she based Frankenstein on real science as it was then known in the early 19th century. Nevertheless, there were other women writing works of Science Fiction both before and after Shelley. One 18th century story has four men visiting the Moon, which is a female society ruled by a queen. The queen of the Moon gets fed up with the four and sends them back to Earth, because she’s repulsed by their drinking, swearing and smell. Later in the 19th century there was the feminist utopia of Gilman’s Herland, which imagined a women-only society in the Amazon which enjoyed high technology such as electric cars. One of the early SF stories mentioned in Mike Ashley’s Yesterday’s Tomorrows is The Mummy, published anonymously in 1827 but written by Jane Webb, who was then 19. The book intrigued the horticulturalist John Loudon that he sought out its author, marrying her three years later in 1830.

The book is set in 2126, and forecasts such inventions as weather control, steam-driven robot lawyers and surgeons, and a postal service that sends letters via steam cannon. Many of these new inventions are by the queen, who, along with the ladies at her court, wears trousers. This sounds like the kind of roughly Victorian era SF that would provide much inspiration and material for a steam punk novel. Over in America a steam man featured in one of the magazine stories published slightly later, The Steam Man of the Prairie, while Harry Harrison includes a steam driven robot in one of his Stainless Steel Rat tales. I like the idea of steam-driven robot. It appeals to me as both an artistic and technological project, but as the world cuts down on fossil fuels to combat climate change, I very much doubt if one will ever be built.

Many of the SF stories discussed in Ashley’s book seem fun and thought-provoking, even if they are dated to a greater or lesser extent. It would be great to know if some of them are archived on the internet somewhere so they can still be read and enjoyed without scouring the country for original, published editions sold at exorbitant prices.

There Are Big Corporate Forces Promoting the Trans Craze

December 16, 2022

I think many, probably the majority of people believe that the current expansion of trans identification among the young is an organic development and that the movement for trans rights comes from grass roots activism. At least some of the massive increase in young people, particularly young women, identifying as members of the opposite sex seems to be a psychological contagion like the rise of anorexia and eating disorders among girls and young women back in the 1970s. Gender critical feminists have also suggested that natural feelings of awkwardness and fear of the degrading sex acts in contemporary pornography may also be behind it. Many adolescent girls are embarrassed or feel awkward about their developing breasts and the sexual attention they get from boys and their periods. They may also be terrified of what they see in pornography with women beaten and strangled. One of the gender critical feminists speaking on YouTube said that fifty per cent of women between the ages of 18 and 24 had been strangled during sex. This is an alarming statistic, if true. Children are being exposed to pornography through the internet at increasingly younger ages. So, it is argued, some young women try to escape from these awkward, uncomfortable aspects of femininity and frightening, sadistic sex by believing that they are really men.

But there are also very powerful corporate forces behind the trans movement. There’s a considerable amount of funding from various lobby groups as well as pharmaceutical companies and activist lawyers. For example, it’s been claimed that the company that produces lupron, used as puberty blocker for trans-identified children, has given a very generous donation to the Lib Dems. A few years ago a document emerged from Denton’s, an international company of lawyers, about how to introduce pro-trans legislation into governments around the world. This advised activists to keep very quiet about what they were doing. There was to be no publicity. Instead, the legislation was to be tacked on to genuinely popular government motions. This is happened in countries like Spain, Iceland and Scotland, where various gender recognition acts, in which women are defined according to mental/psychological identification rather than biological reality, were added to popular measures legalising gay marriage. Gender critical feminists have remarked that these tactics are the exact opposite of what popular reforming movements have done in the past. The gay rights movement, for example, wanted people to know about them and to understand what they were campaigning for. But Denton’s didn’t, and so showed that they, at least, believed that trans rights weren’t popular. Of course, against this is the pro-trans stance of the mainstream gay organisations like Stonewall and so on. From Big Pharma and the medical-industrial complex’s point of view, medical transition is immensely lucrative. Doctors and clinics performing the treatment are paid very well, and the side-effects of the treatment may mean that many trans people need supportive medical care for the rest of their lives. The surgery itself has a 30 per cent failure rate, which is absolutely unacceptable anywhere else in medicine, so that patients need corrective surgery. Once this is done, they need to be kept on cross-sex hormones, which may have detrimental effects on bone density and the heart. Many transmen need to have hysterectomies after being placed on testosterone. This is not because they want the surgery done, but because the hormone causes the uterus to atrophy and stick to the body cavity. The result is extremely painful. And there is the related criticism that the groups demanding better healthcare for trans people aren’t interested in improving these aspects of their treatment. What they want is the expansion of medical transition.

I’ve started watching an interview on YouTube with Benjamin Boyce and K. Yang. It’s two hours or so long, so it might be some time before I see all of it. Yang’s a New York based gay rights activist and was a fervent supporter of trans rights until she became disillusioned. The video’s title is about how activists are carrying water for the corporations. If this is true, then it means that the idealistic people campaigning for trans people are being cynically used by big businesses whose only real concern is the profit margin.

Violent Trans Rights Activism and Nazi Transvestism

December 6, 2022

Before I go further, this post is very definitely not aimed at trans people in general. As I’ve said many times on previous occasions, I condemn persecution against people because of their sexuality or gender expression. I don’t doubt that most ordinary trans people just want to get on with their lives in peace. And I am acutely aware of the danger of stirring up prejudice and hatred against sexual minorities. This post is not against them, but against the militant and violent trans rights activists, many of whom aren’t trans, who hurl accusations of fascism against gender critical feminists and their supporters and threaten violence.

Unfortunately, there have been numerous violent and threatening incidents by trans activists. There have been incidents in Spain where feminist protesters have been assaulted and knocked to the ground. This also happened in Britain to Maria MacLachlan of the Peak Trans blog, who was then prosecuted by her attacker for hate speech. The veteran gay rights activist Fred Sargeant was also assaulted and knocked to the ground because of gender critical banners he was carrying at a Pride march in America. A feminist demonstration in Spain was met with such menacing opposition by trans activists that the police ordered the women to go home as they could not protect them. There have also been ugly scenes at Kelly-Jay Keen’s rallies in Britain, including Manchester, where a woman was pushed over a low wall, Bristol and Brighton. At that event, trans activists let off smoke bombs, accused an innocent father of being a fascist and raising a baby fascist, and one was arrested with a bag of 12 knives. Katherine Holdstock, a gender critical feminist, was threatened at her university with a baying mob throwing smoke bombs around.

Many trans activists really do believe that ‘TERFs’ are fascists. I’ve reblogged a video from Peak Trans, in which she discusses this assertion and utterly refutes. No gender critical feminist, as far as I am aware, has ever recommended persecuting trans people, putting them into concentration camps or murdering and experimenting on them like the Nazis did to gay men and women, some of whom would probably today be considered trans, during the Third Reich. But still the accusation keeps being made. MacLachlan filmed her trip to Bristol to hear K-J K speak. At one instant, just as she was leaving, there was a young man solemnly telling the crowd that TERFs were fascists and that their Nazi persecution would start with trans people before being expanded to cover gays and other despised minorities. And yesterday the accusation surfaced once again that gender critical feminists were part of the far right.

It’s a dangerous assertion for trans activists to use. Not just because it’s wrong, but also because it can very easily be turned around against them. They are the people preaching violence and intolerance against their enemies, who refuse even to let their arguments be heard because somehow this makes them unsafe and constitutes violence. But also, because, historically, there was a very strong element of homosexuality and crossdressing within the Nazi party, despite the horrific persecution of gays. The German historian Ludwig Theweleit described this back in the 1980s or so in his book Male Fantasies. This includes passages on events such as the transvestite dances held by the German navy at their base in Kiel. And in 2018 Martin Dammann, another German historian, published a book Soldiers Studies: Crossdressing in the Wehrmacht, which discussed this peculiar phenomenon. The Daily Mail published a review of the book by Sarah Malm ‘His and Herrs: Photos reveal how cross-dressing Nazis loved to wear women’s clothes for fun during World War Two‘ in the 6th November 2018 edition. This began

Photographs show soldiers in the German Nazi Army dressing in women’s clothing

Some snaps show them putting on cross-dressing shows for each other while on the front line

Others see them mucking about in women’s underwear, and in some cases also make-up

A series of fascinating photographs showing how German Nazi soldiers would dress up in women’s clothing and put on cross-dressing shows on the front line, has been compiled in a new book.

Artist Martin Dammann had intended to research soldiers’ lives in the Third Reich, and ended up stumbling across a surprising number of amateur photographs of Nazi conscripts dressed as women.

They show Nazi soldiers in everything from bras and dresses to home-made crop-tops and skirts created from blankets. 

Cross dressing during times of war was not isolated to the German Nazis, and notably also took place during World War I. 

It is thought it served as a way to lighten the mood of soldier life, and to provide entertainment to tired and bored soldiers, a large majority of them heterosexual men starved of female company.’

The article was also illustrated by photos like the one below:

 

See: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6357677/Photographs-line-German-Nazi-soldiers-dressing-womens-clothing.html

For Brits of a certain age, it’s all very like some of the weird antics of Herr Flick, Von Schmalhausen and Lt. Gruber of the German army in the long-running BBC comedy series ‘Allo, ‘Allo. One of the photos in the article even shows a group of soldiers with their little tank.

The trans militants also resemble fascists in other ways. There’s the superficial one of dress. They dress in ‘black bloc’, which has traditionally been the colour of fascism since the days of Mussolini and the black shirts. Their refusal to debate with their opponents and use of threats and violence instead follows the Futurist dictum that they supported ‘the punch, the slap, as the decisive argument.’ And the particular hostility directed to gender critical women recalls the Futurists’ advocacy of ‘scorn for woman’ in Marinetti’s Founding and Manifesto of the movement. This is very far from the attitude at a transvestite convention in Weston-Super-Mare during the 1980s. That event was covered in the Bristol Evening Post. At least of the attendees said that many men had terrible attitudes to women, which showed their sympathy and solidarity with the opposite sex.

Violence and intolerance from whatever quarter needs to be condemned. We need honest, reasonable debate, not shrill and baseless accusations. And fascistic behaviour can also come from trans activists, claiming to defend persecuted sexual minorities. This has to be condemned along with other forms of hatred and intolerance.

For further information, the Amazon page for the book is at: https://www.amazon.com/Soldier-Studies-Cross-Dressing-Martin-Damman/dp/3775744835

Sketch of American Astronomer, Space Scientist and Activist Carl Sagan

December 3, 2022

I’ve put up this sketch of Carl Sagan began he was one of the major figures in space research as well as a committed Humanist and political activist. He was also a major populariser of astronomy and science, most notably through his blockbusting TV series and its accompanying book, Cosmos. This was also notable for its soundtrack, composed by Vangelis, who also composed the music for Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner and 1492: The Conquest of Paradise. According to the blurb on Cosmos’ back cover, Sagan was

‘(t)he director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies and David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking and Voyager expeditions to the planets, for which he received the NASA medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and for Distinguished Public Service, and the international astronautics prize, the Prix Galabert. He has served as Chairman of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, as chairman of the astronomy section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as a President of the Planetology Section of the American Geophysical Union. For twelve years, he was Editor-in-Chief of Icarus, the leading professional journal devoted to planetary research. In addition to 400 published scientific and popular articles, Dr. Sagan (was) the author, co-author or editor of more than a dozen books, including Intelligent Life in the Universe, The Cosmic Connection, The Dragons of Eden, Murmurs of Earth and Broca’s Brain. In 1975 he received the Joseph Priestly Award “for distinguished contributions to the welfare of mankind,” and in 1978 the Pulitzer Prize for literature.’

It was Sagan who suggested that Black Holes could be used as interstellar subways so that spaceships from one part of the universe could use them to travel faster than light to another part of the cosmos connected by the wormhole passing between the Black Hole and its White Hole. He also suggested that Venus could be terraformed into a living, habitable world through the introduction of genetically engineered bacteria that would consume its toxic carbon dioxide atmosphere and replace it with breathable oxygen. He also noted that Mars had a large instability in its rotation, and that this could have resulted in its current, millions-year long period of lifelessness. But it was possible that in time its rotation would return to a more hospitable position and the planet would once more bloom into life. He was also a staunch advocate of the view that the universe was inhabited by intelligent alien civilisations and that one day we would contact them. He also wrote a later book, Pale Blue Dot, after the view of the Earth from space.

He was also a fierce opponent of what he considered to be superstition. He was one of the founders of CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal along with the stage magician James Randi. They were formed in response to the publication of Gauqelin’s research suggesting there really was a link between the star sign under which people were born and their later careers. He was alarmed by the rise of Creationism and the New Age, and expressed his fears about them in his book, The Demon Haunted World. He was afraid that this would lead to a new Dark Age in which people would wake up every morning to anxiously look through their horoscopes.

He was also greatly concerned with the environment and global warming and the threat of nuclear war. In the 1980s he also proposed the idea of nuclear winter. This was the idea that a nuclear war would send millions of tons of dust into the atmosphere, blocking out the sunlight and causing temperatures to plunge. This has since been rejected by scientists, but I have seen it suggested as one of the causes for the extinction of the dinosaurs. In this case it was the dust thrown up by the asteroid’s impact 65 million years ago that blocked out the sun’s light, after the initial holocaust caused by its impact.

During the inquiry following the Challenger disaster, Sagan claimed that it had occurred because the Shuttle was poorly designed, the result of a compromise between NASA and the military. The Shuttle was originally intended to be fully reusable and smaller. However, the armed forces insisted on it becoming larger so that it could carry military satellites into space. The result was that it was larger, and only partially reusable as it required an external tank to carry the extra fuel it needed to reach orbit. This was jettisoned after its fuel was consumed to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

He also wrote the SF novel, Contact, later filmed with Jodie Foster playing the lead. This was about a female astronomer, who makes contact radio contact with aliens, a method Sagan himself strongly advocated. Following their instructions, she constructs an artificial wormhole portal that transports her across space so she can finally meet them. I remember coming across the book in the Cheltenham branch of Waterstones in the 1980s and was rather put off by its blurb. This boasted about it challenging and refuting racism, sexism and so on. All good stuff, of course, but a bit too PC for me.

Many of these themes appear in Cosmos. This was his personal view of the history of science, and while I loved it at the time, I have serious issues with some of the claims now. One of the problems is that he accepts what we were all told at school, that the Greek philosophers were scientists. He believed that if Greek science had progressed, we would have had space travel by now. The ancient Greeks were certainly responsible for laying the foundations of western science, but they were not quite scientists in the modern sense. They used deduction rather than the scientific method of induction. Deduction meant that they observed a phenomenon and then invented an explanation. In induction, devised by Francis Bacon in the 16th/17th century, the scientist observes a phenomenon, comes up with an explanation, and then devises an experiment to disprove it. If the explanation passes the test, it is tentatively accepted as true until a later observation or experiment disproves it. The ancient Greeks didn’t do much practical experimentation.

Sagan also followed the popular explanation of the evolution of the brain, in which there is a lower, animal brain with the higher faculties evolving later, so there’s a primitive reptile brain and a more advanced mammal brain. But Victorian scientists found that both types of brain structure were present in the earliest, most primitive animals. He also followed the standard, accepted narrative that the Roman Catholic church had suppressed scientific knowledge and experimentation during the Middle Ages. This has since been rejected by historians of science. To many such historians now, the Middle Ages after the 8/9th centuries were an age of innovation and discovery. Jean Gimpel’s book proposing the idea was called The Medieval Machine, after the invention of the clock, to symbolise the period’s belief in a universe governed by law, discoverable by human reason under the light of the divine. And rather than the revival of classical learning in the Renaissance leading to a new enlightened, rational order, it had the potential to do the opposite. The medieval philosophers and theologians were Aristotelians but were very aware of the flaws in Aristotelian science and had modified it over the centuries in order to conform more closely to observed reality. But the Renaissance Humanists would have dumped all this, and so we would have been back to square one with no further scientific advances than what was permitted through a rigid adherence to Aristotle’s thought.

There’s also an anti-Christian element in Cosmos too. He describes how Hypatia, the late Neoplatonist female philosopher was murdered by a group of Christian monks in the 4th century. Hypatia has symbolised for a long time to radical atheists the fundamentally anti-science, and to feminists, the misogyny in Christianity. But by this time Neoplatonism was a mixture of science and mystical speculation, forming what has been called ‘the mind’s road to God’. The real motives for her murder weren’t that she was some kind of pagan threat, but more from a power struggle between the authorities in that part of the Roman world.

Sagan is also critical of western imperialism and describes the horrors the Conquistadors inflicted on the Aztecs and other peoples of the New World. He’s right and this section is clearly a product of its time, with the rise of anti-colonial movements among the world’s indigenous peoples, the Black Civil Rights movement in the US and the horrors of the Vietnam War, as well as Reagan’s new Cold War and the threat of nuclear holocaust. But looking at this 40 years later, it’s also one-sided. Europe wasn’t the only expansionist, brutal, imperialist culture. Islam was also militaristic and expansionist, and at the time the Spaniards conquered South America, the Turkish empire was expanding and subjugating parts of Europe, while Muslim pirates were raiding the continent as far as Iceland for slaves.

It’s also dated from an archaeological standpoint. At one point Sagan discusses the Bronze Age collapse of the societies of the Ancient Near East, showing how it was characterised by a series of crises, similar to the process of the fall of other, later civilisations into Dark Ages, but that these aren’t causes in themselves. It’s Systems Analysis, which was popular at the time, but which I think has also become subsequently passe.

All that said, Sagan was right about global warming, whose devastating effects he illustrated with the example of the planet Venus. This has also suffered catastrophic heating due to its greater nearness to the Sun. This released massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a runaway greenhouse effect so that it is now a hell planet of burning temperatures and sulphuric acid rain. He also wasn’t wrong about the threat of renewed militarism and nuclear war and was a welcome voice against Reagan’s strident belligerence.

As a science populariser, his influence has also been immense. Cosmos was a bestseller, and I think it prepared the way for other bestselling works by astronomers and scientists like Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. And I certainly was not surprised when Brian Cox, the scientist, not the actor, said in an interview in the Radio Times that he was a massive admirer of Sagan. That came across to me very strongly from his numerous TV series about space and the planets.

2000AD and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Artist Kevin O’Neill Dies Aged 69

November 9, 2022

I was saddened to learn of the death on Monday of Kevin O’Neill, one of the great British comics artists behind many of the favourite strips in 2000AD over here and DC Comics and other publishers in America. O’Neill was the co-creator, with writer Pat Mills, of the Robusters, ABC Warriors and Nemesis the Warlock strips in 2000 AD, the galaxy’s greatest comic. Robusters was about a robot disaster squad, led by Hammerstein, an old war droid, and Rojaws, a foul-mouthed sewer robot, who formed a kind of double act. The squad was owned by the dictatorial Howard Quartz, alias ‘Mr 10 Per Cent’, because after some kind of disaster, only ten per cent of him – his brain – was still human, housed in a robot body. The penalty for failure or simply upsetting the boss was destruction, and the pair were always on the verge of being pulled apart by the sadistic but thick robot bulldozer, Mekquake. ABC Warriors was a continuation of Hammerstein’s adventures, first in a world war against the Volgan Republic, and then on Mars and a far future Earth, as the leader of an elite squad of robots dedicated to fighting evil. Nemesis the Warlock was a weird sword and sorcery strip set in the far future. The surface of the Earth had become a devastated wasteland and humanity had retreated underground. Renamed Termight, short for ‘Mighty Terra’, it was a medieval society ruled by an evil order of warriors, the Terminators, that hated and feared intelligent alien. Led by their Grand Master, Torquemada, Earth regarded such aliens as demonic and waged a war of extermination against them. O’Neill’s art, which is angular and geometric, was suitably Gothic and horrific, creating a nightmare variety of alien creatures. His art was so horrific, in fact, that later, when he was working on the Green Lantern Corps, a superhero comic for DC, it put the wind up the Comics Code Authority. This had been founded in the 1950s during the moral panic over comics. It was supposed to judge whether or not a comic was suitable to be read by children. Although it was supposedly voluntary, in fact all children’s comics had to be submitted to the Authority as otherwise the mainstream newsagents over there wouldn’t carry them. The writer, Alan Moore, who also created the cult strip about a future Fascist Britain, V For Vendetta, took the unusual step of contacting the Authority. Would the comic get approved if various changes were made? No, they replied. It wasn’t the strip’s story; it was the artwork. It was totally unsuitable for children. This became something of a source of pride and amusement to O’Neill and the other creators at 2000 AD. So grim was his art that rumours started circulating that he had an occult temple in his basement and drew only at night. These were completely false. On the other hand, a fan once told his fellow 2000 AD artist, Dave Gibbons, that O’Neill’s art gave him nightmares which he could only cure by looking a Gibbons. When O’Neill wasn’t traumatising people with his serious strips, he made them laugh with Dash Descent, a parody of the old Flash Gordon serials. He also drew the Tharg’s Future Shocks strip which a court later ruled had been plagiarised by the film maker Richard Stanley for the film Hardware. This was set in a decaying city in which a scavenger in the radiation deserts finds and brings back the remains of an experimental war robot, the B.A.A.L. His artist girlfriends reassembles it and it then goes off on a frenzy of killing. Hardware is a cult film, which stands up even now, three decades after it was made. Highlights include cameo appearances by Lemmy, as a water taxi driver, and the voice of Iggy Pop as a radio announcer. It’s just a pity Stanley didn’t work out a deal with 2000 AD first. He also contributed in other, minor ways to the comic. He created the look of Tharg, the comic’s alien editor from the star Betelgeuse, and introduced the credit cards telling readers who the writer, artist and letterer were, quite against the publisher’s policy. But this allowed the people, who actually created the strips, to gain the proper recognition and respect for their work.

O’Neill left 2000 AD for work with the American comics companies. He and writer Pat Mills created Metalzoic for DC. This was another robot strip, set on a far future Earth where an ecology of robot animals had developed and taken over, and followed the adventures of a tribe of robot ape men and the human woman they had rescued. It still is one of my favourite strips, but sadly flopped, though it was later reprinted in 2000 AD. O’Neill was far more successful with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, written by Alan Moore. This had the idea that the great figures of 19th and early 20th century SF, Fantasy and Horror – Alan Quatermaine, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll/Mr Hyde, Captain Nemo and Dorian Grey – had formed a kind of superhero group. It was filmed with Sean Connery as Quatermaine. Back to causing gleeful mayhem, O’Neill and Mills created the violent, nihilistic Marshal Law. This was an adult comic set in a near future San Francisco. Devastated by an earthquake, the city was renamed San Futuro, and plagued by warring superhero gangs. The superheroes had been created to fight in a war in South America. As a result, many of the survivors had returned to America mentally and physically scarred, some turning to violent crime. Law was the member of a small anti-superhero squad, moved by a deep hatred of superheroes. He uttered phrases like ‘They say I hate superheroes. They’re wrong. Hatred is far too bland a word for the way I feel about them’ and ‘I’m hunting heroes. I haven’t found any yet’. Mills hates superheroes and has very left-wing politics and poured that into the strip. It commented on recent developments in genetic engineering and the patenting of GMOs, insane CIA plans to overthrow Fidel Castro and other South American left-wing regimes and how America trained the sadistic torturers for the continent’s Fascist dictators. There was also an overt feminist critique of the genre and the fictional glamorisation of the real horrors of war. The Marshal’s opponents were vicious parodies of various superheroes. Despite its grim premise, it was a hilarious strip, although the humour was pitch-black. It was too much for one publisher, however, and moved from one to another. It has now been collected into a single album, although sadly without the crossover strip featuring the Marshal fighting Pinhead from Hellraiser.

Outside of comics, O’Neill apparently published his own fanzine, Just Imagine: The Journal of Film and Television Special Effects. I also remember him being credited in Starlog for designing the aliens in the Disney film, Return to Witch Mountain.

I met O’Neill extremely briefly at the UKCAC 90 comics convention, 32 years ago. From what I can remember, he was a short, slightly built chap in a T-shirt championing solidarity with Nicaragua, whose left-wing regime was under attack by the brutal Contras funded by Reagan and Thatcher. He was drawing people’s favourite characters for them on badges supplied by the convention’s organisers. But he was an amazing artist, producing very high-quality drawings in a blur of speed. There are a series of videos of him speaking at various comics conventions about Nemesis, Marshal Law and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where he appears as short, jolly fellow with a great sense of humour, chortling over the daft incidents he’s experienced during his career.

In a separate interview, also on YouTube, Alan Moore commented on his art, praising him as one of the greatest British artists of all time. Moore remarks that O’Neill’s celebrated for his robots and aliens, but not for his humans. But Moore considers that he is brilliant depicter of humans as grotesques, and in that sense is one of the best artists since Hogarth. It sounds like something that should go in Private Eye’s ‘Pseud’s Corner’, but in my opinion it’s absolutely correct. Particularly as Hogarth produced sequential art himself as the kind of precursor of comics. I strongly believe that comics artists, or at least the very best, are insufficiently appreciated. I think they can be as good as serious fine artists. Way back in the 90s I submitted a piece to one of the art magazines arguing that comics artists like O’Neill and Jack Kirby were artists, whose styles meant that they should receive the same appreciation as those of the Soviet austere style, Francis Bacon and H.R. Giger. The Nemesis the Warlock strip had scenes of pure body horror. In one of the two precursor strips that launched the character, Killerwatt, Nemesis and Torquemada chase each other down the teleport wires, in which people are transported electrically similar to the telephone. At one point they have to cross the Sea of Dead Souls, a nightmare morass caused when a gooney bird, a massive mechanical bird, sat on the wires. Those unfortunate enough to be there when it happened are turned into a mass of hugely distorted body parts, such as giant feet with eyes. It resembles the scene of the ‘shunt’ in the 80s horror movie, Society, where members of America’s elite class are portrayed as predators who can twist and distort their bodies into any shape whatsoever. The Shunt is an orgy in which they melt down into a similar morass of bodies to feed off tramps and other members of the lower orders. Society’s a great film if you like that kind of ‘orror, but came out a few years after Mills and O’Neill got there first.

There have been a number of great obituaries for him at Bleedingcool and on 2000 AD’s website. These give the reactions and messages of grief and appreciation from the other comics creators. The 2000 AD page gives a full potted biography and examples of his truly amazing artwork.

RIP great man. May your art continue to shock, amaze, amuse and inspire.

Kevin O’Neill 1953 – 2022

https://bleedingcool.com/comics/kevin-oneill-the-man-the-comics-code-tried-to-ban-has-died-at-69/

In Memoriam: Comic Artist Kevin O’Neill 1953 – 2022

Questioning the Supposed Link Between Slavery and Black Obesity

October 29, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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