Posts Tagged ‘George Orwell’

The Stupidity of Black Anti-Semitism

December 23, 2022

Last week, the American rapper Kanye ‘Ye’ West successfully managed to torpedo his career and popularity by making stupid and bigoted comments about Jews. Unfortunately he isn’t the only person to hold stupid and malign anti-Semitic beliefs. His comments, however, led to one YouTuber putting up a half-hour long video examining whether Michael Jackson was anti-Semitic. I don’t know whether Jackson was or wasn’t. He may have been, but at the end of his life one of his friends or associates was, I believe, a rabbi, Shmuely Boteach. This suggests he probably wasn’t, or if he was, that any anti-Semitic views he had may have been nuanced and riddled with exceptions. But I confess, I didn’t watch that part of the video because I’m not that interested in Michael Jackson. As far as I’m concerned, Jackson was an immensely talented musician and dancer, but a deeply flawed human being. He seemed to me to be a perpetual child, surrounding himself with toys and exotic animals, and his musical achievements are tarnished by the accusations of child abuse.

What I found interesting instead was the beginning of the video, which included clips of other rappers and Black musicians airing their prejudices and negative opinions about the Jews. Many of them were complaints that they were being exploited by the music industry, which they believed was run by the Jews. I dare say that there may be a higher proportion of Jews in the music business, as there supposedly is or has been with the film industry. But this doesn’t come from any kind of stupid conspiracy to control the media. It’s simply because the entertainment industry, by and large, was more tolerant of Jews than other sectors of society. As for exploitation, there are any number of White musicians as well who’ve fallen out with the record label and feel they’ve been cheated on issues of recording rights and royalties. Where this has occurred, it’s been because their managers or the recording companies are acting as exploitative individuals. Again, it’s got nothing at all to do with race, and everything to do with the fact that there are people in every industry who will try to exploit and cheat their clients.

The video began with Professor Griff, who was sacked from NWA because of his anti-Semitic views, and included a clip of Griff explaining them and the circumstances of his sudden exit from the band. And from what he said, Griff certainly appeared to have genuinely Nazi views. He claimed he carried a library of books on them around in a suitcase, in order to educated people, and he’d lay them out on a table. These included such classic anti-Semitic texts as Henry Ford’s The International Jew. Ford was certainly a member of the extreme right. He hated socialism and trade unions, as well as Jews and Lord knows who else. I think he was a favourite of Hitler and the Nazis, who also believed that Blacks were racially inferior. One nasty piece of Nazi doctrine, according to Orwell, was that Blacks could interbreed with gorillas. I really do wonder why any self-respecting person of colour would read anything by people who believed such vile rubbish.

He then came out with some of the class anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, like the Jews caused World War II. This is still being repeated by White fascists after Hitler and Oswald Mosley over here in the UK. No, the Jews had nothing to do with it. The War started because Hitler invaded Poland, thus provoking France and Britain who had made pledged themselves to defend the country.

He also talked about the Rothschild’s and other Jewish banks extending credit and loans to Nazi Germany. This is true. They did, along with a number of other big American companies like IBM. This has absolutely nothing to do with the owners of these banks being Jewish. It’s simply because they, and the other gentile-owned companies that did business with the Nazis, were run by utterly amoral people who cared only about profit. Their dealing with the Nazi was naturally deeply and bitterly resented by ordinary Jewish peeps. And it should be a problem for any daft conspiracy theories about a secret Jewish plot to gain global domination. I really don’t understand how that can be squared with Jewish banks, which are an integral part of this putative conspiracy, collaborating with a regime dedicated to destroying their people. There are attempts to do this, in which a distinction is drawn between the Jewish elite behind the conspiracy and normal, decent Jews, but it’s still an obvious, glaring inconsistency that should show that the conspiracy theory is utter nonsense.

I do wonder where this anti-Semitism in parts of Black popular culture comes from. The Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan are one source. Farrakhan blames the Jews for the slave trade and in the 1980s a ‘historical research institute’ connected with the sect published a book promoting this idea. Proper historians of the slave trade dismiss the idea. Very few of the merchants involved in the trade in America were Jewish. I think Hugh Thomas says there were just four in his excellent book The Slave Trade. There were Jewish financiers involved, but again I don’t think there were that many. And as has been pointed out by historians of transatlantic slavery and anti-racist activists, they were employed by Christian princes.

I do wonder if some of this Jew-hatred comes from racial politics in Harlem during the 1920s and ’30s. The book Colour Prejudice notes that there was considerable anti-Semitism among Harlem’s Black community. This might come from the fact that many of the stores were White-owned, and despite selling to a Black clientele they wouldn’t employ Black staff. This resulted in a concerted campaign by an alliance of Black labour organisations against the policy. They organised a boycott of these stores under the slogan ‘Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work’. One of the leaders of the boycott was Sufi Abdul Hamid, a colourful figure who dressed in exotic eastern robes. He was another native-born Black American, who had converted to a form of Islam. Hamid was particularly vehement against the Jewish owners of such stores, as well as Greeks and Italians, who he derided as ‘spaghetti-slingers’. The boycott was successful, but Hamid lost control of the movement because the other leaders were acutely embarrassed by his racism. See the chapter on Hamid and his literary followers, ‘”In Turban and Gorgeous Robe”: Claude McKay, Black Fascism and Labor’ in Mark Christian Thompson, Black Fascisms: African American Literature and Culture Between the Wars (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press 2007), 87-116.

And against ideas of a Jewish racial antipathy towards Blacks, there’s the long history of Jewish support for the Black Civil Rights movement. Many Jews worked as social workers, school teachers and other professionals within the Black community and so were deeply sympathetic to their cause. The awesome Black Jewish pro-Palestinian activist, Jackie Walker, is an example of this. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist from Georgia and her father was a Russian Jew. Her parents met at a rally by the Communist party. I’ve forgotten the fellow’s name, but one of the Jewish supporters and campaigners for the civil rights of Black Americans was a rabbi.

Griff’s endorsement of Ford’s wretched tome did confirm something that I’ve suspected: that Black anti-Semites were also reading and being influenced by White racists. The same thing appears to be the case in much Afrocentric literature about ancient Egypt being the source of both European and African civilisation. It’s based on long out-disproven theories by White colonial anthropologists, for whom the Egyptians were White Hamites, who spread southward and colonised the continent. The Black Afrocentrists who took over this view simply flipped the races, so that the Egyptians were Black. The result, however, was much the same in that the indigenous African peoples were denied the credit for their own cultural achievement made independently of Egypt, whatever skin colour the Egyptians had.

If the ultimate source of Black American anti-Semitism does come from the racial politics of pre-World War II Harlem, then it’s profoundly depressing that it should still cast a shadow over race relations nearly a century later. Quite apart from the fact that no-one, of any colour, should believe Nazi conspiratorial rubbish.

Sketch of Legendary Astronomy Author and Presenter Patrick Moore

December 3, 2022

Moore was for many years the face of astronomy on television in the UK, thanks to him presenting The Sky at Night from the 1950s almost to his death. He was known as much for his eccentric appearance as his subject, so there were plenty of jokes about him wearing the same rumpled suit down the decades. He was sent up on programmes from The Two Ronnies to Dead Ringers, who spoofed him as ‘Old Moore’, a fairground fortune teller. But he remained dedicated to his subject, publishing a plethora of popular books on the subject. This included a series of Sky at Night books, one of which I found in the school library when I was a lad, as well as editing the annual Yearbooks of Astronomy. He also collaborated with the amazing British space and science fiction artist David A. Hardy on books such as The Challenge of the Stars. He also wrote at least two books on Mars. I found one in the central library in Bristol in the 1980s. A decade later, during the excitement about the series of probes NASA and other countries were sending to the Red Planet, he published Patrick Moore on Mars. Its title invites all manner of jokes along the lines of ‘best place for him.’ He also wrote a series of children’s science fiction books about a boy space explorer, Scott Summers. These were hard SF based on the science of the time and what was expected to develop later. They’re now obviously very dated. In one of these, Wanderer in Space, Summers flew to intercept an antimatter asteroid that was threatening Earth aboard an ion driven rocket, clearly anticipating developments in such propulsion that haven’t materialised. Ion drives exist, but they aren’t being used for manned space missions. Another of these was about a human colony on Mars, living in a glass dome. This ends with the colonists looking forward to one day emerging and living free on its surface. This one has been superseded by Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy of books about the settlement and terraforming of Mars. As well as these books, he also contributed to a string of popular science and astronomy magazines like Astronomy Now, New Voyager and Focus.

I think he was one of those scientists, with Arthur C. Clarke, who worked on radar during the War but I’m not sure. He never had a formal qualification in astronomy but was always strictly amateur. He was, however, granted an amateur doctorate by one of the universities. I’m sure, however, that at the level he was active in astronomy he would have probably easily passed a university degree in the subject. His maps of the Moon were so good that they were used by NASA in selecting landing sites for the Apollo missions. He never married because his sweetheart was killed during the War in an air raid. In his personal politics he was extremely right-wing, founding the One Country party, which was later merged with another small, extreme right-wing group. I can also remember him appearing on one of the chat shows and remarking that we’d be ‘in the cart’ without Maggie Thatcher. Like many people who have genuinely been through a war, he was deeply critical of it. In one of the chapters in The New Challenge of the Stars, about a possible hostile encounter between an asteroid ark and the inhabitants of an alien planet in whose system it has appeared, Moore makes a sharp comment about man’s folly of war entering a new battleground in space. He was also a staunch opponent of fox hunting. Back in the 90s he was a guest on the comedy programme Room 101, in which guests compete to have various useless and irritating objects or people consigned to the room made famous by Orwell’s 1984. In the vast majority cases, this is just light-hearted fun. But Moore was absolutely serious about sending fox hunting there and talked about how he’d written to various authorities to get it banned. Away from astronomy he also taught himself to play the xylophone and composed numerous pieces for the instrument. One of these was published in a classical music magazine. This did not translate into a career in music, however. He got very annoyed when his planned concert at the Hippodrome was cancelled due to lack of interest.

As well as serious, professional and amateur astronomers Moore talked to during his long career, he also met and talked to various eccentrics, including UFO contactees. One of those he interviewed on the Sky at Night was a man who believed he was in contact with peaceful aliens, and could speak four of their languages, including Venusian and Plutonian. This gentleman demonstrated it by saying the greeting, ‘Hello, space brothers’, in one of them. And although Moore persistently denied it, it seems he was one of the hands behind a hoax book by ‘Cedric Allingham’ about how he encountered an alien spacecraft and its inhabitants during a walking tour of the Scottish Highlands. This was during the first wave of UFO encounters in the late 40s and 50s. When people wrote to the publisher hoping to contact Allingham, he could not be traced. One excuse was that he was off walking in Switzerland. Computer analysis of the text reveals that it was probably written by Moore and revised by someone else in order to disguise his authorship. Moore remained very willing to meet ordinary members of the public and talk to them about his subject even in his retirement. He publicly gave out the address of his home in Herstmonceux, Sussex and said if people had questions or wanted to talk to him, they could drop in, shrugging off the obvious dangers of theft, burglary and so on.

Moore belonged to an age when popular science broadcasters could be real characters, often with eccentric mannerism. There was Magnus Pike, who was famous for waving his arms around while speaking, and the bearded dynamo of Botanic Man himself, David Bellamy, sent up in impressions by Lenny Henry. Since then, popular science programmes have been presented by people who are younger and/or a bit more hip. One BBC programme on astronomy a few years ago was presented by Queen guitarist Brian May, who had studied astrophysics at university before getting caught up in his career as an awesome global rock star. May had just handed in his astrophysics thesis after decades of touring the world with Mercury, Deacon et al. His co-presenter was the comedian Dara O’Brien, who had tried to study maths at university but had dropped out because of its difficulty. The Sky at Night is now presented by about three different hosts, including Black woman Maggie Aderin-Pocock. And I think the face of astronomy and cosmology now is probably Brian Cox after all his series on the subject. But for all this, I prefer the science presenters of a previous generation with all their quirks and foibles. These people were enthusiastic about their subject and were able to communicate their enthusiasm without trying to be too slick to connect with a mass audience. And they succeeded.

The 1984 Yearbook of Astronomy and What’s New in Space, just two of the books edited and written by Moore.

Vandal Attacks BBC Statue Because of Colston Verdict

January 12, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tories Killing Free Speech and Democracy in the Name of Stopping ‘Nuisance’

March 16, 2021

Following the Met police’s rough manhandling of the women at the vigil for Sarah Everard on Clapham Common and the consequent outcry, our smirking excuse for a home secretary, Priti Patel wishes to introduce legislation with the explicit intention of limiting public protest. This, as Mike and the good peeps on Twitter have pointed out, is Fascism. It’s suppression of the fundamental right to public protest. The intention is to stop criticism of the government. But the Tories are past masters in lying, and so they’ve dressed this latest assault on democracy up as somehow empowering the public. They’re not doing it to stop free speech, you see. They’re trying to empower local communities, who may find themselves seriously disrupted by noisy protesters. It’s about stopping them making a nuisance of themselves. And so the proposed legislation will, if passed, allow the authorities to cancel a demo if even a single person complains about it.

There’s a quote, which unfortunately I’ve largely forgotten, which states that Fascism never comes as a repressive force. It always presents itself in friendly terms until it is too late, the concentration camps have been put up and thugs in jackboots are stamping on human faces, to use George Orwell’s metaphor. There’s another quote that says that the totalitarianism of the future won’t present itself as an oppressive tyrant, but as society’s benevolent, obedient servant. Patel’s wretched bill surely bears out the truth of this statement. It’s Fascism all right, but dressed up as defending local communities’ right not to have their peace and quiet spoilt by anything as vulgar as an enraged or concerned public.

While Priti Patel is trying to push the bill through parliament now, it isn’t just her that’s behind it. It’s a Tory idea that’s been around since ‘Dodgy’ Dave Cameron was in No. 10. He also tried to pass it, but with no success. Now, almost a decade later, the Tories are trying again.

The Labour party plans to oppose the bill. So should everyone who values democracy and free speech, regardless of party. And including and particularly Tories. One of the Transatlantic Conservative sites I used to read several years ago was opposed to government legislation outlawing Holocaust denial. There was a debate at the time over whether the Canadian government should join other countries in banning it. This was just during the Conservative Harper administration. The Jewish owner of the site was against this, arguing that Conservatives should not support legislation limiting free speech. If the precedent was set, then it would give a weapon to the Tories’ enemies, who could use it to their own advantage. Exactly. And I have come across Tories who are genuine, passionate defenders of free speech. Years ago Lobster reviewed a book written by one of them, which recognised that every democratic freedom we now enjoy isn’t a natural outgrowth of the development of some transcendent principle of freedom and democracy inherent in British or western society. No, these freedoms are the hard-won results of bitter struggles. And Patel’s vile legislation makes it very clear that struggle is far from over.

People are already organising petitions and planning protests against the bill. I received this email from Democracy Unleashed, laying out the arguments and asking me to sign a petition against it, which I did. It runs

‘Once again, the government is attempting to force controversial legislation through Parliament without proper scrutiny.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains provisions that could land peaceful protestors with up to ten years’ imprisonment if their protest is deemed capable of causing “serious annoyance” to any section of the public. 

Did the People’s Vote marches cause “serious annoyance”? What about Black Lives Matter? Or Extinction Rebellion? Or March for Women? Or Stop The War Coalition? Which one of those protests do you think the Home Secretary would ban under this new legislation?

I will not be silenced

Many thousands of people take part in hundreds of protests across the United Kingdom every year. In most cases, a little bit of nuisance is what gets them noticed and their messages heard. Whether or not you agree with their cause, their right to protest is an essential part of a healthy democracy and any legislation that dilutes that right should be subject to very careful scrutiny indeed. 

We don’t think protestors campaigning passionately (or noisily) but peacefully for a cause should face the possibility of a prison sentence just because the Home Secretary has decided that someone might find their protest “seriously annoying.”

This legislation represents a serious attack on the foundations of our democracy and history tells us that such attacks often signal the beginning of something more sinister. We need to wake up to the threat and do something while we still can.  

Sign the petition to tell the Home Secretary that government cannot be allowed to bury our democratic rights just because it suites them to do so. 

I’ll sign the petition

Help us make this the loudest protest possible by sharing the petition on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp with the hashtag #SeriouslyAnnoyed. ‘

We have to oppose this bill, otherwise democracy in Britain will be as hollow and meaningless as Singapore. You have the right to speak in public there about political issues, but you have to register with the police in advance, who have the power to turn you down and arrest you. Needless to say, people aren’t exactly lining up at the Singaporean equivalent of Speaker’s Corner.

And that’s the kind of empty, hollow democracy Priti Patel and her predecessors want for Britain.

Book on Utopias from the 17th Century to Today

January 20, 2021

Ruth Levitas, The Concept of Utopia (Oxford: Peter Lang Ltd 2011).

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything for several days. Part of that is because the news doesn’t really inspire me. It’s not that it isn’t important, or that the Tories have stopped trying to strip working people of their rights and drive them further into poverty and degradation. Or that I’m unmoved by Trump trying to organise a coup to keep himself in the Oval Office like just about every other tin pot dictator throughout history. Or that Brexit isn’t threatening to destroy whatever remains of British industry and livelihoods, all for the benefit of the Tory superrich and investment bankers like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who have their money safely invested in firms right across the world. Or that I’m not outraged by even more people dying of Covid-19 every day, while the government has corruptly mismanaged their care by outsourcing vital medical supplies and their services to firms that are clearly incompetent to provide them, because those same firms are run by their chums. Ditto with the grossly inadequate food parcels, which are another vile example of Tory profiteering. It’s just that however disgusting and infuriating the news is, there is a certain sameness about it. Because all this is what the Tories have been doing for decades. It’s also partly because I can’t say anything more or better about these issues than has been already said by great bloggers like Mike, Zelo Street and the rest.

But I’ve also been kept busy reading some of the books I got for Christmas, like the above tome by Ruth Levitas, a sociology professor at Bristol Uni. The blurb for this runs

In this highly influential book, Ruth Levitas provides an excellent introduction to the meaning and importance of the concept of Utopia, and explores a wealth of material drawn from literature and social theory to illustrate its rich history and analytical versatility. Situating utopia within the dynamics of the modern imagination, she examines the ways in which it has been used by some of the leading thinkers of modernity: Marx, Engels, Karl Mannheim, Robert Owen, Georges Sorel, Ernst Bloch, William Morris and Herbert Marcuse. Utopia offers the most potent secular concept for imagining and producing a ‘better world’, and this classic text will be invaluable to students across a wide range of disciplines.

It has the following chapters

  1. Ideal Commonwealths: The Emerging Tradition
  2. Castles in the Air: Marx, Engels and Utopian Socialism
  3. Mobilising Myths: Utopia and Social Change in Georges Sorel and Karl Mannheim
  4. Utopian Hope: Ernst Bloch and Reclaiming the Future
  5. The Education of Desire: The Rediscovery of William Morris
  6. An American Dream: Herbert Marcuse and the Transformation of the Psyche
  7. A Hundred Flowers: Contemporary Utopian Studies
  8. Future Perfect: Retheorising Utopia.

I wanted to read the book because so many utopias have been socialist or socialistic, like the early 19th century thinkers Karl Marx described as utopian, Saint-Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen, and was interested in learning more about their ideas. In this sense, I’m slightly disappointed with the book. Although it tells you a little about the plans for the reformation of society, and the establishment of a perfect state or political system, the book’s not so much about these individual schemes as a more general discussion of the concept of utopia. What, exactly, is a utopia, and how has the concept been used, and changed and developed? Much of this debate has been within Marxism, beginning with the great thinker himself. He called his predecessors – Owen, Fourier and Owen ‘utopian’ because he didn’t believe their particular schemes were realistic. Indeed, he regarded them as unscientific, in contrast to his own theories. However, Marx did believe they had done a vital job in pointing out the failures of the capitalist system. Marxists themselves were split over the value of utopias. The dominant position rejected them, as it was pointless to try to describe the coming society before the revolution. Nevertheless, there were Marxists who believed in their value, as the description of a perfect future society served to inspire the workers with an ideal they could strive to achieve. This position has been obscured in favour of the view that Marx and his followers rejected them, and this book aims to restore their position in the history of Marxist thought. This idea of utopia as essentially inspirational received especial emphasis in the syndicalism of Georges Sorel. Syndicalism is a form of radical socialism in which the state and private industry are abolished and their functions carried out instead by the trade unions. Sorel himself was a French intellectual, who started out on the radical left, but move rightward until he ended up in extreme nationalist, royalist, anti-Semitic movements. His ideas were paradoxically influential not just in the Marxist socialism of the former Soviet Union, but also in Fascist Italy. Sorel doesn’t appear to have been particularly interested in the establishment of a real, syndicalist utopia. This was supposed to come after a general strike. In Sorel’s formulation of syndicalism, however, the general strike is just a myth to inspire the workers in their battle with the employers and capitalism, and he is more interested in the struggle than the workers’ final victory, if indeed that ever arrived.

The book also covers the debate over William Morris and his News from Nowhere. This describes an idyllic, anarchist, agrarian, pre-industrial society in which there are no leaders and everyone works happily performing all kinds of necessary work simply because they enjoy it and find it fulfilling following a workers’ revolution. Apart from criticisms of the book itself, there have also been debates over the depth of Morris’ own socialism. Morris was a member of one of the first British Marxist socialist parties, Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, and the founder of another, the Socialist League, after he split from them. Critics have queried whether he was ever really a Marxist or even a socialist. One view holds that he was simply a middle class artist and entrepreneur, but not a socialist. The other sees him as a socialist, but not a Marxist. Levitas contends instead that Morris very definitely was a Marxist.

When it comes to the 20th century, the book points out that utopias have fallen out of fashion, no doubt due to the horrors committed by totalitarian regimes, both Fascist and Communist, which have claimed to be ideal states. However, the critic Tom Moylan has argued that utopias have still been produced in the SF novels of Joanna Russ, Ursula le Guin, Marge Piercy and Samuel Delaney. He describes these as ‘critical utopias’, a new literary genre. The heroes of this literature is not the dominant White, heterosexual male, but characters who are off-centre, female, gay, non-White, and who act collectively rather than individually. The book criticises some earlier utopias, like News from Nowhere, for their exclusive focus on the male viewpoint, comparing them with the Land of Cockayne, the medieval fantasy that similarly presents a perfect world in which everything is seemingly ordered for men’s pleasure. In contrast to these are the feminist utopias of the above writers, which began in the late 19th century with Harriet Gilman’s Herland. It also discusses the value of satires like Samuel Butler’s Erewhon, and dystopias like Eugene Zamyatin’s We, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984.

Levitas does not, however, consider utopianism to be merely confined to the left. She also considers Thatcherism a form of utopianism, discussing the late Roger Scruton’s Conservative Essays and citing Patrick Wright’s On Living in an Old Country. This last argued that the Conservative promotion of heritage was being used to reinforce old hierarchies in a markedly racist way. Some members of society were thus delineated as truly members of the nation, while others were excluded.

The book was first published in 1990, just before or when Communism was falling. It shows it’s age by discussing the issue whether the terrible state of the Soviet Union served to deter people dreaming and trying to create perfect, socialist societies. She argues that it doesn’t, only that the forms of this societies are different from the Marxist-Leninism of the USSR. This is a fair assessment. In Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy of books about the future colonisation of Mars, Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars, the colonists not only succeed in terraforming the planet, but also create socialist society in which authority is as decentralised as possible, women are fully equal and patriarchy has been overthrown and businesses run by their workers as cooperatives. At the same time, those wishing to return to a more primitive way of life have formed hunter-gatherer tribes, which are nevertheless also conversant with contemporary technology.

Further on, although the Fall of Communism has been claimed to have discredited not just Marxism but also socialism, recent history has shown the opposite is true. After forty years of Thatcherism, an increasing number of people are sick and tired of it, its economic failures, the glaring inequalities of wealth, the grinding poverty and degradation it is creating. This is why the Conservative establishment, including the Blairites in the Labour party, were so keen to smear Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite, a Communist and Trotskyite, or whatever else they could throw at him. He gave working people hope, and as Servalan, the grim leader of the Terran Federation said on the Beeb’s classic SF show, Blake’s Seven, ‘Hope is very dangerous’. A proper socialist society continues to inspire women and men to dream and work towards a better world, and it is to stop this that the Blairites contrived to get Corbyn’s Labour to lose two elections and have him replaced by Keir Starmer, a neo-liberal vacuity who increasingly has nothing to say to Johnson and his team of crooks.

Back to the book, its discussion of the nature of utopia therefore tends to be rather abstract and theoretical as it attempts to describe the concept and the way it has changed and been used. I didn’t find this really particularly interesting, although there are nevertheless many valuable insights here. I would instead have been far more interested in learning more about the particular ideas, plans and descriptions of a new, perfect, or at least far better, society of the many thinkers, philosophers and authors mentioned.

Israeli Politicos Went Bug-Eyed at Jack Straw ‘Cos He Mentioned Palestinians

November 18, 2020

On Monday, the ultra-Zionist smear sheet the Jewish Chronicle returned to its old tricks of denouncing perfectly decent people as ‘anti-Semites’ because they dare to criticise Israel. Their latest victim is the Labour MP for mid-Sussex, Gemma Bolton, because she had issued a series of tweets describing Israel as an apartheid state, calling for the deselection of MPs who had been disloyal to Corbyn and supporting the BDS campaign against Israel. Aaagh! What a monster! Except, as Zelo Street has shown, there’s absolutely no anti-Semitism there. These are all criticisms of Israel, not Jews or Judaism.

They’re also entirely justified. Israel is an apartheid state. 95 per cent of property in Israel is owned by the Jewish National Fund, which will only let it to Jews. Palestinians are subject to choking legislation deliberately designed to strangle their businesses and agriculture. Arabs travelling into Israel to work have to use separate roads from Israelis, in which they are subject to frequent stops at checkpoints. It doesn’t matter how upset the Board, the Chief Rabbi and the inmates of the United Synagogue get about having Israel described as an apartheid state, an apartheid state is precisely what it is. Demanding that it’s critics see it otherwise is just bullying and brainwashing, like the torture scene in Orwell’s 1984 when O’Brien attempts to get Winston Smith to say that the wrong number of lights are shining.

As for the BDS campaign being against Israel, this is a deliberate half-truth. It’s not against Israel. It is against goods produced in the occupied territories. These belong to the Palestinians, but the Likudniks and their ultra-nationalistic allies and supporters believe they should be part of Israel. The BDS campaign is thus against Israeli expansionism and apartheid, not against Israel and certainly not against Jews. Indeed, the BDS campaign has the staunch support of many Jews outraged at what the country is doing to the Palestinians in their name.

For a detailed critique of the Chronicle’s smears against Bolton, see https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/11/gemma-bolton-wheres-anti-semitism.html

But then, you can’t expect common sense and sweet reasonableness from the Chronicle, nor any of the other institutional defenders of the Likudniks and the current ultra-Zionist regime. Even the mildest criticism of their country sends them off into what Molesworth would sa was a ‘fearful bate’. And any mention of the Palestinians has them climbing the walls and chewing the furniture. This was shown in a very telling story from Jack Straw, which Lobster head honcho Robin Ramsay has included in a piece about the UAE-Israel rapprochement in his ‘View from the Bridge’ column, ‘Forget the Palestinians’. Straw’s a Christian of Jewish heritage. In his memoirs he describes how various Israeli officials flew off the handle at him simply because he had referred to the Palestinians in an article.

‘One Israeli Cabinet minister described this was as an “obscenity” and
“pornographic”. Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon expressed “anger,
outrage and disappointment”. Israeli president Moshe Katzav cancelled a
meeting with me. Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres cancelled a formal
banquet.’

These people are fanatics and racial supremacists, not statesmen or respectable politicians. And the Board, the Chief Rabbianate and right-wing rags like the Jewish Chronicle share that irrational fanaticism.

It is they, rather than Israel’s decent, reasonable critics, like Gemma Bolton, who should be held in contempt.

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster80/lob80-view-from-the-bridge.pdf?cache=226

Shut Up, Boris! Even Fascists Declared They Fulfilled Individual Freedom

September 23, 2020

Boris Johnson was in parliament and on the box yesterday announcing his new plans to tackle the renewed rise of the Coronavirus. This includes drafting the army in to ensure the new regulations regarding social distancing are respected. His response to the question in parliament why cases in Britain were rising, while Germany and Italy were nearly normal, met with a characteristically jingoistic response: ours is a country that respects freedom. So we’re back to the old jibe, that even though Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were defeated and their evil regimes swept away 75 years ago, Germans and Italians are still authoritarians at heart. And Mike and the peeps on Twitter have also pointed out how alarming Johnson’s stated intention to use call in the troops coming before a no deal Brexit that may well result in shortages, including food, unemployment and civil unrest.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/22/u-turn-again-boris-johnson-every-time-you-do-you-lose-more-credibility/

Johnson’s comments about Brits supposedly valuing their freedoms more while simultaneously declaring that he may call in the army will remind some people of the slogan ‘Slavery is freedom’ in Orwell’s 1984. Orwell’s great warning of the danger of totalitarianism came from his experiences with Stalinist Communists while fighting for the Republicans against Franco in Spain. But Mussolini’s Fascists themselves also claimed that their system also granted the individual freedom and fulfilment.

Mussolini himself was very firmly authoritarian, championing the total state and condemning liberalism and individualism for undermining society and the nation. But the Fascist ideologue, Ugo Spirito, argued that Fascism’s corporative state offered the individual instead true freedom against the false promises of liberalism. People realised their full potential in society through collaboration, including in industry, as well as trade unions and society generally. It was these collective institutions that allowed people to follow the trades and occupations they desired, whether it was he thinking in his study, or the town butcher. An absolute stress on individualism led to humans living in a state of nature, and having to do everything themselves and so denied the ability to follow their true callings or rise any higher in civilisation.

He concluded of this

Laissez-faire liberalism proclaims freedom of thought and of action, free competition, private enterprise, and, above all, the sacred and inviolable character of private property. But it ends up realizing, more or less consciously, that these don’t add up to genuine freedom. Freedom is founded upon collaboration, that is, upon a choice of social goals and the social discipline required to achieve them.

From: ‘Corporativism as Absolute Liberalism and Absolute Socialism’, Ugo Spirito, in Jeffrey T. Schnapp, ed. A Primer of Italian Fascism (University of Nebraska Press 2000), p. 144.

The Fascists praised and protected private property and declared that private industry was at their heart of their economic system. Spirito himself goes onto attack the idea of an omniscient state as the ultimate destroyer of human freedom.

Let us assume it were possible (through improved organization) for the state to attain true knowledge of even the smallest, most remote events. This knowledge would still not be readily translatable into leadership and discipline of a spiritual sort. It would remain abstract because outside known reality; it would generate laws that correspond only to the knower’s will. The state would still function as a bureaucracy, setting goals for the entire nation and, therefore, reducing the nation to a kind of mechanical instrument. The organism’s life would be that of a machine: to each man an assigned place, to each worker an imposed job, all according to the scheme’s rigid necessity. Each individual would be a cog lost in the overall machinery. Freedom, personality, and individual enterprise would become meaningless terms. The hoped-for social justice would translate into a general levelling, and the individual would vanish in the eyes of the state.

He went on to state

Corporativism replies to liberalism by confirming that every person’s individual freedom is sacred. Corporativism proclaims itself antiliberal only because the individual under liberalism is not a true individual, nor is his will truly free. It points to the fact that liberalism ends up denying individuals the very rights that it purports to defend. Corporativism’s antiliberalism is thus not meant to deny or to curtail freedoms. Rather, it aims to strengthen them as much as possible and to achieve liberalism’s highest aim. (p. 150).

In fact, as any fule no, Mussolini’s Fascists regime was a brutal dictatorship, where the individual was very much subordinated to the state, regardless what Fascism’s supporters and ideologues said to the contrary.

Boris, however, still talks the language of classical liberalism and the Tories are still very much permeated by Thatcher’s attack on society: ‘There is no society. There is only people’. Which very much reveals the atomisation at the heart of classical the classical liberal idea of individualism which the Fascists condemned.

But Boris and the Tories are still moving towards a very authoritarian, totalitarian state. David Cameron passed legislation providing for secret courts, Dominic Cummings has pushed the idea of identity cards and Suella Braverman and Priti Patel have both shown they either don’t understand, or just don’t recognise, the independence of the judiciary and the civil service.

The Tories claim to celebrate individual freedom, but their moving in the same direction as Fascism. And Fascists like Spirito defended their ideology by claiming it protected individual freedom, even if those arguments are directly opposed to those marshalled by Tories like Boris.

Boris has always been an authoritarian, so don’t be taken in by any of his claims that he’s protecting British freedoms. He isn’t. He’s destroying them. And remember: even Soviet Russia had constitutions claiming that individuals and their freedom were respected there.

Spain Offers Citizenship to Descendants of Brits Who Fought Against Franco

September 17, 2020

I found this great piece of news in yesterday’s I newspaper, for Wednesday, 16th September 2020. It’s a piece by Graham Keeley, ‘Spanish offer to those in UK related related to civil war heroes’, reporting that Spain is offering citizenship to the descendants of the British volunteers who fought against General Franco and his Fascists. The article reads

British descendants of the members of the International Bridgade, which fought fascism in the Spanish civil war, have been offered Spanish citizenship as part of a new law which confronts the legacy of the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

Some 2,500 British volunteers went to Spain to support the Republican government against an armed uprising by Nationalist troops loyal to General Francisco Franco in the conflict between 1936-1939.

Yesterday Pablo Iglesias, the Spanish deputy prime minister, confirmed that descendants of the International Brigades “that fought for the liberty and against fascism in Spain” would be eligible for Spanish citizenship.

He tweeted : “Now is the time to say from this government to these heroes and heroines: thanks for coming.”

About 35,000 members of the International Brigades from around the world fought in Spain. No British volunteers are still alive.

Jim Jump, president o fthe International Brigade Memorial Trust, told I: “We are delighted. It honours the descendants who have kept up the memories of their relatives who went to Spain to fight fascism. It comes at an important time when Spain tries to deal with its past.”

The offer of nationality to the descendants was one of the measures in the Democratic Memory law, which was passed by Spain’s government and which also offers reparations to the victims of General Franco.

The article is accompanied by a box explaining that the novelist George Orwell was nearly killed when he was shot in the neck while fighting in a left-wing militia, the POUM. Orwell famously describes his experience fighting in Spain in his Homage to Catalonia.

This is great news, as Spanish liberals have fought long and hard to combat Franco’s legacy. When I was studying for my archaeology Ph.D., I went to a seminar where a Spanish archaeologist described the excavations that were being carried out on the mass graves of those massacred by the Spanish dictator. These were being done despite opposition from the surviving members of the Spanish extreme right. There’s also controversy over Franco’s mausoleum. Franco claimed that this was to commemorate everyone, who fought in the civil war. In fact, it just glorifies him and his fellow Fascists.

But there have also been other moves to celebrate the contribution of the International Brigade. The anti-racist, anti-religious extremism organisation Hope Not Hate reported a couple of years ago that a brewery had launched a pint commemorating the International Brigade, though I’ve forgotten what the beer was called.

I also wonder if this initiative is another, liberal response to allow some Brits with links to the country to get round Brexit. A few years ago the Germans granted citizenship to British Jews, who left their country fleeing the Nazis. And the Irish have also offered citizenship to Brits, whose grandparents were Irish.

History Debunked Refutes Ethnomathematics/Rehumanizing Mathematics

September 8, 2020

This is another video from History Debunked. In it, youtuber and author Simon Webb attacks Ethnomatics, sometimes also called Rehumanizing Mathematics. This is a piece of modern pseudo-scholarship designed to help Black children tackle Maths. The idea is that Blacks perform poorly compared at Maths compared to other ethnic groups. This is held to be because Maths is the creation of White men, and this puts Blacks off studying and mastering it.

The solution has been to scrutinise African societies for their indigenous Maths, especially the Dogon of Mali. They have been chosen as the chief model for all this, as they possessed extremely advanced astronomical and mathematical knowledge. In the 1970s there was a book, The Sirius Mystery by Robert K.G. Temple, which claimed that they owed this advance knowledge to contact with space aliens. Apparently this claim was subsequently dropped 10 – 15 years later, and the claim made instead that they were just superlative astronomers and mathematicians themselves. But Dogon Maths is held to be different from White, western Maths because it’s spiritual. History Debunked then goes on to demonstrate the type of pseudo-scientific nonsense this has lead to by providing a link to an Ethnomathematics paper and reading out its conclusion. It’s the kind of pretentious verbiage the late, great Jazzman, Duke Ellington, said stunk up the place. It’s the kind of postmodern twaddle that Sokal and Bricmont exposed in their Intellectual Impostures. It’s deliberately designed to sound impressive without actually meaning anything. There’s a lot of talk about expanding cognitive horizons and possibilities, but History Debunked himself says he doesn’t understand a word of it. And neither, I guess, will most people. Because it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just there to sound impressive and bamboozle the reader into thinking that somehow they’re thick because they don’t, while the fault is entirely the writers.

I think History Debunked is a man of the right, and certainly his commenters are Conservatives, some with extremely right-wing views. He’s produced a series of videos attacking the pseudo-history being pushed as Black History, and apparently Seattle in America is particularly involved in promoting this nonsense. But he expects it to come over here in a few years. Given the way Black History month has jumped the Atlantic, I think he’s right.

There’s been a particular emphasis on find ancient Black maths and science for some time I know. For a brief while I got on well with a Black studies group when I was a volunteer at the slavery archives in the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum. That was before I read their magazine and got so annoyed with it and its attitude to Whites that I sent them a whole load of material arguing to the contrary, and pointing out that in places like the Sudan, Blacks were being enslaved and oppressed not by White Europeans, but by the Arabs. I also sent them material about the poor Whites of South Africa, who also lived in grinding poverty thanks to Apartheid. This was stuff they really didn’t want to hear, and I was told that if I wanted to talk to them further, I should do so through someone else. They were also interested in finding examples of Black maths and science. I sent them photocopies and notes I’d made of various medieval Muslim mathematicians. These were Arabs and Persians, like al-Khwarizmi, who gave his name to the word algorithm, Omar Khayyam, best known in the west for his Rubayyat, but who was also a brilliant mathematician, al-Haytham, who invented the camera obscura in the 12th century and others, rather than Black. But they were grateful for what I sent them nonetheless, and I thanked me. This was before I blotted my copybook with them.

I’m reposting this piece because, although it comes from the political, it is correct. And you don’t have to be right-wing to recognise and attack this kind of postmodern rubbish. Sokal and Bricmont, the authors of the book I mentioned early attacking postmodernism, were both men of the left. Sokal was a physicist, who taught maths in Nicaragua under the left-wing Sandinista government. They wrote the book because they took seriously George Orwell’s dictum that writing about politics means writing clearly in language everyone can understand. And even if you believe that Black people do need particular help with maths because of issues of race and ethnicity, Ethnomathematics as it stands really doesn’t appear to be it. It just seems to be filling children’s heads with voguish nonsense, rather than real knowledge.

I also remember the wild claims made about the Dogon and their supposed contact with space aliens. Part of it came from the Dogon possessing astronomical knowledge well beyond their level of technology. They knew, for example, that Sirius has a companion star, invisible to the naked eye, Sirius B. They also knew that our solar system had nine planets, although that’s now been subsequently altered. According to the International Astronomical Association or Union or whatever, the solar system has eight planets. Pluto, previously a planet, has been downgraded to dwarf planet, because it’s the same size as some of the planetoids in the Kuiper Belt. Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince discuss this in one their books,The Stargate Conspiracy (London: Little, Brown & Company 1999), which claimed that the American intelligence agencies were secretly preparing a fake UFO landing in order to convince everyone that the space gods really had arrived, and set up a one-world dictatorship. This hasn’t happened, and I’ve seen the Fortean Times and other weird magazines trying to explain their book as a high-level hoax which people took too seriously. I don’t believe this, as they seemed very serious at the time. The Dogon believe that the first human ancestors, and some of their gods, came from the sky. Hence Temple’s claim that they were contacted by space aliens. Picknett and Prince, however, sided with sceptics like Carl Sagan. They argued instead ithat the Dogon owed it to a French priest, anthropologist or colonial administrator, I’ve forgotten which, who visited them in the 1920s and who was extremely interested in astronomy. This seems to me to be far more likely than that they either got it from space aliens or that they far better mathematicians and astronomers than they could have been at their level of development.

The Dogon are fascinating as their homes and villages are laid out to be microcosms of the male and female human body and the universe. The book African Mythology by Geoffrey Parrinder, London: Hamlyn 1967, describes the layout of a Dogon house thus:

The shape of the Dogon house is symbolical. The floor is like the earth and the flat roof like heaven. The vestibule is a man and the central room woman, with store rooms at her sides as arms. The hear at the end is her head. The four posts are the man and woman entwined in union. So the family house represents the unity of man and woman and God and the Earth. This is accompanied by the elevation and ground plan of a typical Dogon house. (p. 49).

There’s also this diagram of an idealised Dogon village:

The caption for the diagrame reads:

Like the house, the Dogon village represents human beings. The smithy is at the head like a hearth in a house. The family houses in the centre and millstones and village represent the sexes. Other altars are the feet. (p. 51).

Truly, a fascinating people and I have no problem anybody wanting to study them. But it should be in anthropology, ethnography or comparative religion, not maths.

But it struck me that if teachers and educators want to enthuse and inspire young minds with what maths Africans were studying, they could start with ancient Egypt and the great Muslim civilisations of the Sahara and north Africa, like Mali. Aminatta Forna in one of her programmes on these civilisations was shown an ancient astronomical text from the medieval library of one of these towns, which she was told showed that Muslims knew the Earth orbited the sun before Copernicus and Galileo. I doubt that very much. It looks like a form of a combined helio-and geocentric system, first proposed by the ancient Greeks, and then taken up by some medieval astronomers not just in Islam, but also in Christian Europe. In this system, all the other planets when round the Sun, which orbited the Earth. Close to the modern system, but not quite. But it showed that the Black citizens of that civilisation were in contact with the great currents of Muslim science, and that they would have had learnt and taught the same kind of Maths that was being investigated and researcher right across the Muslim world, from India to Morocco and further south to Mali. One of the Black educationalists would like to translate one of these books from Arabic, the learned language of Muslim civilisation, and use it as an example of the kind of maths that was also taught in Black Africa.

Or you could go right back to ancient Egypt. Mathematical texts from the Land of the Nile have also survived in the Moscow and Rhind mathematical papyri. These have various maths problems and their solution. For example, problem No. 7 of the Moscow papyrus is about various calculations for a triangle. This runs

Example of calculating a triangle.

If you are told: A triangle of 2 thousands-of-land, the bank of 2 of 2 1/2;

You are to double the area: result 40 (arurae). Take (it) 2 1/2 times; result [100. Take its square root, namely] 10. Evoke 1 from 2 1/2; what results is 2/5. Apply this to 10; result 4. It is 10 (khet) in length by 4 (khet) in breadth. From Henrietta Midonick, The Treasury of Mathematics: 1 (Harmondsworth: Pelican 1965) p. 71.

It’s amazing to think that the boys at the scribal school were being taught all this millennia ago. It gives you a real sense of connection with the ancient schoolkids reading it. You can imagine them, hunched over with their pen and ink, busily cudgeling their brains while the teacher prowls about them. The Babylonians were also renowned as the pioneers of early mathematics. They even uncovered a school when they excavated Ur of the Chaldees in the 1920s, complete with the maths and other texts the schoolboys – female education didn’t exist back then, but I’m willing to be corrected – were required to learn. As a schoolboy character in the Fast Show used to say: ‘Brilliant!’ You don’t need to burden modern African societies like the Dogon with spurious pseudo-history and pseudo-science, when the real historic achievements of ancient Egypt and medieval Africa are so impressive.

It struck me that even if you don’t use the original Egyptian maths texts to teach maths – which would be difficult, as their maths was slightly different. Their method of calculating the area of a field of four unequal sides yields far too high a figure, for example – you could nevertheless inspire children with similar problems. Perhaps you could do it with assistance of a child or two from the class. You could bring them out in front of everyone, give them and ancient Egyptian headdress, and then arranged the lesson so that they helped the teacher, acting as pharaoh, to solve it. Or else pharaoh showed them, his scribes, and thus the class. This is certainly the kind of thing that was done when I was a kid by the awesome Johnny Ball on the children’s maths and science programme, Think of a Number. And every week, as well as showing you a bit of maths and science, he also showed you a trick, which you could find out how to do by dropping him a line. It was the kind of children’s programme that the Beeb did very, very well. It’s a real pity that there no longer is an audience for children’s programmes and their funding has subsequently been cut.

Here’s History Debunked’s video attacking Ethnomathematics. He also attacks a piece of ancient baboon bone carved with notches, which he states has been claimed is an ancient prehistoric African calendar. He provides no evidence in this video to show that it wasn’t, and says its the subject of a later video. If this is the one I’m thinking of, then that is a claim that has been accepted by mainstream archaeologists and historians. See Ivor Grattan-Guinness, The Fontana History of the Mathematical Sciences (London: Fontana Press 1998) p. 24.

If you want to know more about ancient and medieval maths, and that of the world’s many indigenous cultures, see the book Astronomy before the Telescope, edited by Christopher Walker with an introduction by the man of the crumpled suit and monocle himself, Patrick Moore (London: British Museum Press 1998).

This has chapters on astronomy in Europe from prehistory to the Renaissance, but also on astronomy in ancient Egypt, Babylonia, India, Islam, China, Korea and Japan, North and South America, traditional astronomical knowledge in Africa and among Aboriginal Australians, Polynesia and the Maori. It can be a difficult read, as it explores some very technical aspects, but it is a brilliant work by experts in their respective fields.

Cole Morton Names the MPs and Lords Describing Desperate Channel Migrants as ‘Invaders’

August 11, 2020

The Tory campaign to divert us all from the horrific mess they’ve made of Britain and their mass killing of its people continues. Once again, it’s all about illegal immigrants. Mike and Zelo have put up several excellent articles this hate campaign, with Zelo Street pointing out that the number of these asylum seekers coming to this country is trivial: 4,000 compared to 40,000 applications for asylum last year, and 677,000 people immigrating to the UK in 2019. Nevertheless, the Tories are describing it as an invasion. Zelo Street today has posted an excellent Tweet from the author Cole Moreton, who has named these disgraceful bigots. Moreton writes

Here are the names of 23 MPs and Lords who claim the desperate men, women and children risking their lives to cross the Channel in tiny rubber boats in search of peace are “invading”. Anyone here on the coast who has met them knows how obscenely ludicrous that is.

They are

Sir John Hayes CBE MP, South Holland and the Deepings

Sir David Amess MP, Southend West

Lee Anderson MP, Ashfield

Gareth Bacon MP, Orpington

Scott Benton MP, Blackpool South,

Rob Blackman MP, Harrow East

Philip Davies MP, Shipley

Nikc Fletcher MP, Don Valley,

Sally-Ann Hart MP, Hastings and Rye,

Tom Hunt MP, Ipswich,

David Jones MP, Clwyd West,

Daniel Kawczynski MP, Shrewsbury and Atcham

Pauline Latham, OBE MP, Mid-Derbyshire

Jonathan Lord MP, Woking,

Sir Edward Leigh MP, Gainsborough

Karl McCartney JP MP, Lincoln,

Stephen Metcalfe MP, South Basildon and East Thurrock,

Craig McKinley MP, South Thanet,

Lia Nici MP, Great Grimsby,

Andrew Rosindell MP, Romford

Alexander Stafford MP, Rother Valley,

Henry Smith MP, Crawley,

Martin Vickers MP, Cleethorpes

Lord Horam

Lord Lilley,

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/08/migrant-row-wheres-mark-francois.html

And Mike’s also named a few names in a piece in his blog.

Mike notes that Priti ‘Vacant’ Patel was told back in November that her policy was forcing migrants to use more dangerous routes into the UK. She ignored the report because it recommended establishing more legal routes into the UK, as well as doing something about the reasons they were leaving their home countries in the first place. Patel’s innate ruthless caused her to reject all this. She just wants to stop them, and so is determined to make this route unviable. Mike notes that she uses the word ‘shameful’ in her Tweet about this, to divert attention from the fact that the real disgrace here is her.

Mike then goes to cite a Beeb report on one of the boats, where they were forced to use a plastic container to bail it out. When asked where they came from, the migrants replied ‘Syria’. In 2018 the UK voted to bomb Syria following reports that its government had bombed its own people. But the materials used to manufacture the bomb were supplied by Britain. Mike writes

Now, I don’t know the personal situations of the people on that boat, but it seems entirely likely that the UK is the reason they have been fleeing their own country.

If you approve of this behaviour by your country’s leaders then you are a jingoistic, sabre-rattling racist.

Fortunately, the evidence I’ve seen suggests that few people do. Most of us appear to have reacted with disgust – both at the government and at the BBC. 

He then provides a few tweets by people disgusted with this contemptible hate-mongering.

One of them is by Richard Murphy, who points out

We can apparently put the RAF over the Channel today to needlessly spot dinghies but have only allocated £5 million for emergency relief for Beirut. In terms of humitarian crisis management haven’t we got almost everything wrong?

Kerry-Ann Mendoza:

I’d like to say “I can’t believe England is calling for the extra-judicial murder of displaced people in dinghies” but I can believe it. There are great & compassionate communities in England. But others seem bent on regressing it into a spiteful, cold, grim little island.

Zarah Sultana MP:

People fleeing war, famine and persecution shouldn’t be confronted by gunships and hostility, but instead offered safe, legal routes to asylum. Our common humanity demands nothing less.

Carole Hawkins contrasted the attitude with Lebanon, which has accepted 1.5 million refugees

Lebanon with all its problems has accepted 1.5 MILLION REFUGEES & Spaffer/Patel going loopy over a few hundred so much so that Spaffer wants to change or make new laws. This is Trump politics – executive directives which Spaffer is also doing. Totally non democratic.

Mike points out that this demonisation may not stop if you vote for Labour, because of the right-wingers who voted to bomb Syria. According to Ben, they were

Stella Creasy

Liz Kendel

Yvette Cooper

Neil Coyle

Hilary Benn

Margaret Hodge

Margaret Beckett

Maria Eagle

Angela Eagle

Lucy Powell

Harriet Harmen

Bridget Phillipson

Alison McGovern

He concludes ‘This lot chose to destroy these migrants homes’. Yes, yes, they did. Not because they were outraged at a government killing its own people, but because they’re bog-standard Blairite neocons. The Likud-Republican alliance has a list of seven countries, whose governments they want overthrown because they’re a threat to Israel and an obstacle to American imperial interests. One of these is Syria, because the ruling class and government are a Shi’a sect and allied with Iran.

And he starts his piece with this brilliant meme:

Wise words from Tony Benn. And its exactly right. Food banks originally appeared under New Labour, when Blair and Brown passed legislation forbidding illegal immigrants from claiming benefits. Then the Tories decided that it would be a wizard system to inflict on the native, British population – by which I mean all Brits, who have been here for generations, Black and Asian as well as Brown – as they cut away the welfare state. The result is mass starvation.

Counterpunch and the late critic of the American empire, William Blum, have published several articles pointing out that what the west does to the rest of the world supporting Fascist dictators ultimately comes back home. Those same governments then set about militarising the police force and stripping back people’s civil rights, all in the name of protecting us from terrorism, of course.

After Patel has finished rounding up desperate men, women and children fleeing real war and violence in their countries of origin, she will try to turn to the guns on us. And scumbags like Hillary ‘Bomber’ Benn, Margaret ‘F***ing Anti-Semite’ Hodge, Angela ‘Gentler, Caring Politics’ Eagle and the rest will help her.

What did Orwell say the future was? ‘A jackboot stamping on a human face. Forever’. It’s in 1984. And Patel, the 23 Tory MPs and their New Labour collaborators are all ready to polish it.