Posts Tagged ‘Neolithic’

My Letter to Black History Professor about Folklore of a Prehistoric African Invasion

August 3, 2022

Yesterday Simon Webb of History Debunked, who is well known if not notorious to many readers of this blog, put up a review of a recent book by Dr Hakim Adi, a professor of African history/ studies at Chichester University. Webb said that among the false historical claims made in Adi’s book was the remarkable statement that there was folklore about Africans invading Britain in prehistory before the Roman conquest. I’m an archaeologist with an interest in contemporary folklore. I used to be a member a long time ago of the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research. While my membership is now lapsed, I still have something of an interest. And I have never heard such a claim.

I therefore sent this email to Dr Adi inquiring about it.

‘David Sivier,

Bristol,

Dear Dr Hakim,

Yesterday I cam across a brief review of your book on YouTube, and was perplexed by some of the claims that it was said you make in your recent book the history of African and Afro-Caribbean communities in Britain. The reviewer stated that your book begins with the statement that there is folklore about an African invasion of Britain in prehistory before the Roman Conquest. I am extremely puzzled by this, as I have a Ph.D. in archaeology and a BA and MA in history. I was also for many years a member of the Society for Contemporary Legend Research. But I have heard no such folklore about any such invasion.

I am therefore writing to ask you if you could provide me with any further information about this claim, where you heard it, if it is recorded in any academic papers, such as those dealing with oral history or contemporary folklore.

I am aware that some Afrocentrist historians have drawn on White 19th century scholarship, now generally discredited academically, to claim that the original inhabitants of the British Isles were Black. But this is not the same as claiming that there was an African invasion.

Similarly, in the 1980s the long-running Celtic warrior strip, ‘Slaine’, in the SF comic 2000AD, included a race of Black British aboriginals, the Rmoahals. The strip’s writer, Pat Mills, based them on Scots folklore about the standing stones at Callanish in the Hebrides having been set up by a race of Black giants, who wore feathers. But again, there is no mention of them coming from Africa or being connected to any invasion.

In the 1990s it was also claimed that the ancient Egyptians also sailed to prehistoric Britain, where they settled in the region of what is now Birmingham. I believe this has also been discredited. But again, while this counts as settlement, it doesn’t amount to an invasion.

Archaeologists have also discovered through the genetic analysis of modern populations that one of the routes by which the Neolithic reached England from the Fertile Crescent was across North Africa and up across the Straits of Gibraltar from Morocco. But this would have been far back in antiquity beyond the reach of living memory.

Is it possible, assuming that you do make this claim in your book, that you have heard garbled versions of the above academic, non-academic and fictional reconstructions of a Black British and African presence in the remote past?

I understand that you are very cautious about these claims in your book, but I also wonder how sceptical you are about them. As oral historians have found, oral history reconstructs the past in terms of the present. In the 1960s folklorists collecting the oral history of various tribal kingdoms in Nigeria collected traditional stories that there had been originally seven kingdoms belonging to one of the country’s many tribal groups. But later oral historians had found that the number had declined to five or so in accordance with contemporary changes in tribal political structure. And Italian oral historians researching people’s memories of the Fascist era found that these memorates reflected what they’d like to have done, rather than what did. Again, I wonder if such folklore reflects a psychological need by some Black Britons for a glorious African past in which Blacks were the imperialists.

I hope you can help me with this query, and look forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully,

David Sivier’

I’ll let you know if I get one.

Critical Race Theory, White Privilege and the Rhetoric of Ethnic Cleansing

August 2, 2022

As readers will have probably noticed, I have very strong objections to Critical Race Theory and particularly its concept of White privilege. Critical Race Theory is a postmodern revision of Marxism, dreamt up in the 1970s by Kimberle Crenshaw and a group of Black Marxist legal scholars in the 1970s. It replaces class as the instrument of oppression with race. ‘Whiteness’ is a bourgeois quality possessed by all Whites which guarantees them social, economic and political superiority to Blacks and other people of colour. Even if the individual White person is not racist. Racism, it also holds, has not declined, but is just better hidden. Whites must be made to know Black oppression and feel guilty about it. Much of the literature of Critical Race Theory and its activism is about deliberately humiliating Whites. For example, several years ago there were student riots at Evergreen College in Oregon. The college was very liberal, and there had been for decades since the 1970s an annual withdrawal of Black students during the summer months to mark the absence of Blacks during a critical phase in the civil rights struggle or so. By the middle of the last decade, this had changed into demands for the White students to absent themselves in favour of Blacks, in order to appreciate Black marginalisation. This was succeeded by a series of aggressive student demonstration in which Blacks and their White allies insisted on forcing Whites into inferior positions. At meetings, for example, Whites were required to sit at the back and not speak. Brett Weinstein, an evolutionary biologist with liberal views, describes it as ‘Black supremacy’. Not all Blacks supported this aggressive demonstration of racial vindictiveness, and one of Weinstein’s students, a young Black woman, shouted at the mob that she wasn’t oppressed. Students of whatever colour, who didn’t conform, were chased by the mob. Peter Boghossian, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay also demonstrated the irrationality and vicious prejudice of this woke pseudo-scholarship in the spoof papers they sent to various woke, postmodern journals, which were eventually collected up and published as Grievance Studies. In one paper, they argued that White male students should be forced to sit on the floor in order to teach them about marginalisation and persecution. They believed this would be too much for the academic journal to which they had submitted it. Alas, no; it was accepted with a reply complaining that they didn’t go far enough: the young men shouldn’t just be forced to sit on the floor, but should be chained up as well.

Part of what worries me about the concept of ‘White privilege’ is that privilege is something usually said of rich minority groups, who haven’t worked for their position, such as the aristocracy. Or the half of the British business elite that has inherited the ownership of their companies, rather than having worked their way up. It also recalls the legal privileges that accompanied the European class system, particularly under feudalism, and the legal restriction placed on Blacks in Jim Crow America and in the White-ruled colonies, like Rhodesia, Malawi and South Africa, until the beginning of Black majority rule. For example, until the establishment of democracy in the 1920s in Britain, women were barred from voting and there was a property qualification on the franchise, so that the majority of working class men did not have the vote either. I also believe that there was a property qualification on serving on juries, which was only abolished by Woy, sorry, Roy Jenkins in his socially liberal reforms of the 1960s. Much of the ire directed at Jenkins from the right comes from his decriminalisation of homosexuality and his relaxation of the divorce laws. One splenetic right-winger- from the Daily Heil perhaps? – once described him as a destroyer of British society comparable to Stalin or some other totalitarian monster. Really? Just Jenkins on his own? With his ‘good claret expression’, to use the words of caricaturist Gerald Scarfe. The last time I looked, Britain’s buildings were all standing rather than reduced to rubble by the rampaging hordes, and Jenkins and the Labour party following him had sent a precise number of zero people to concentration camps or re-education centres. But a certain type of high Tory does want all this back. The Financial Times reviewed one such book, which looked forward to the return of the property qualification for juries so they would protect property rights, and the restoration of the old order before anti-discrimination legislation.

In fact there are very strong arguments against White privilege. For a start, east Asian such as the Chinese and Japanese, perform much better educationally and economically than Whites in America and Britain. In Britain the proportion of Asians in management positions, for example, is identical to Whites. In America, they earn more and occupy superior jobs. And while Blacks are sacked before Whites, Whites are sacked before east Asians. This isn’t because east Asians are superior in IQ. It’s because they seem to work harder and have a particular set of cultural skills that allow them to succeed. And in many instances, they earned their position through very hard work against prejudice and discrimination. One social study found that the Japanese in Canada were the most ‘privileged’ ethnic group. But Japanese Canadians had had a long struggle against punitive discrimination which was worse than that experienced by people of Japanese descent in the US. And immigrants to the US from the British Caribbean earn more on average not just to native Black Americans, but also to Whites. For Black conservatives like Thomas Sowell, Blacks are held back not by racial discrimination in the wider society, though he doesn’t deny this exists, but because the majority Black culture hasn’t acquired the necessary social and economic skills to uplift themselves And he is fiercely critical of multiculturalism because he believes it isolates and ossifies different ethnic groups into separate enclaves and cultural preserves, thus preventing from learning from and acquiring the skills of other, more successful groups. As for White privilege, it is hard to see what privilege a homeless White man possesses compared to tenured and respected Black academics and radicals like Crenshaw.

To me, Critical Race Theory and White privilege tackle the problem of Black poverty and marginalisation from the wrong end. Instead of seeing Black poverty as the anomaly which must be tackled, it sees White success as the anomaly, which must be destroyed if Blacks and people of colour are to take their rightful place in society. Thus White people must be brought down and Whiteness abolished. The Guardian, which promotes Critical Race Theory, as claimed that this doesn’t mean White people but Whiteness as the social quality that gives them their exalted place. But one of the writers anthologised in the collection of papers, Critical Race Theory, states that there is no difference between Whiteness and White people. And one of the fears of CRT’s critics is that after attacking Whiteness, the radicals will indeed move on to attacking Whites.

It seems to me that the Critical Race Theory and White privilege are essentially a continuation of the mindset that Whites enjoy their superior social position through mechanisms of power long after those legal mechanisms had been officially abolished and the ideology on which they were based was discredited. It’s an attempted to explain why, after the victories of the Civil Rights movement, the majority of Blacks are still poor. And the rhetoric of decolonisation over here seems to be a direct transference of the bitterness felt by indigenous Africans to privileged White settlers to mainstream British, White society. And that worries me, because of the brutality of the ethnic cleansing of the White farmers in Zimbabwe by Mugabe’s thugs at the beginning of the century. I also have to say that I’m worried about the trends in Afrocentric and other Black pseudohistory that claims that Blacks are the original inhabitants of the British isles. Simon Webb of History Debunked yesterday put up a post about the claims in a book on African and Afro-Caribbean communities in the UK, that there are folktales of Africans invading Britain before the Romans. Webb has his own racial biases and some the historical claims he makes are also false. But if he’s right about this, then the author of the book, Hakim Adi, a professor at Chichester university, is talking pure tosh. I am aware of no such folktales, not even when I was a member of the Society for Contemporary Legend Research back in the 1990s. The closest I’ve come to it was in the long-running and sadly missed Celtic warrior strip, Slaine, in the zarjaz SF comic 2000AD. This included a race of Black Atlanteans, the Rmoahals, described as giant aboriginals. The strip’s writer, Pat Mills, based them on a legend that the standing stones of the isle of Callanish in the Hebrides were built by Black-skinned giants who dressed in feathers. Aside from that, the only other source for this curious assertion may be a garbled memory of one of the waves of colonisation that swept over Britain and the continent during prehistory. The Neolithic reached Britain from the fertile crescent over two routes. One was directly across Europe itself, the other was across North Africa and then up from Morocco through Spain. But this occurred so long ago that it was lost to memory for millennia. Archaeologists have only now been able to reconstruct it by using genetic data. Has Adi heard a garbled version of this from within the Black community, from people who mistakenly thought this was a Black African invasion? It also reminds me of the claim made a few years ago that the ancient Egyptians settled in Birmingham before the Roman conquest. This appeared in the Independent, but has, I understand, since been discredited. It also seems to me to have a certain kinship to another piece of Black myth-making, that sailors from Mali discovered America before Columbus, but didn’t enslave the Amerindians. If this happened, it would be truly remarkable, as I’ve seen claims that the Malians didn’t have any ocean-going ships. And the Malinka were a powerful slaving nation, so if they did discover the Amerindians, there would have been nothing preventing them from enslaving them as well.

My fear is that this rhetoric and pseudohistory will cause Blacks, or a minority of Blacks, to see themselves as the oppressed, true inhabitants of Britain and attack the White British as colonialist oppressors. Even if, at present, they claim otherwise. When the Black Lives Matter movement broke out, its Bristol branch stuck up posters claiming that ‘We’ve always been here’ – which is hi8storically very debatable, although some Blacks have been present in Britain at various periods from the Middle Ages onwards. Claims of Black presence further back, such as the supposed Black skin colour of Cheddar man, are more conjectural. Webb has claimed that this reconstruction was based on a false interpretation and has since been retracted, but I have not seen him cite his source for this.

Marx himself held some extremely unpleasant racial views. He’s most infamous for his anti-Semitism, as shown by him sneering at his German rival, Ferdinand Lassalles, as ‘the Jewish ni++er.’ But he also had strong prejudices against European ethnic groups. He held that the Celts, Basques and the Slavs were backward peoples who had no intrinsic right to exist and national independence. When the 1848 Revolutions broke out, he was afraid that their bids for independence would stop the class revolution he wished to promote. In a chilling passage, he looked forward to the class war becoming a race war. This recalls the horrific ethnic cleansing and deportations Stalin inflicted on the national minorities in the USSR, including the Holodomor, the artificial famine in Ukraine which killed 7 million people.

Thomas Sowell in his book Conquests and Cultures talks about the ethnic cleansing by Muslim mobs of the Ibo people by Muslims in Nigeria and the horrific bloodbath of the Biafran war. The Ibos had previously been a minor, poor tribe but had seized the opportunities presented by western, Christian missionary education, which the northern Muslims had rejected as against their faith. As a result, Ibos were better educated and held better jobs and positions of responsibility even in the Muslim north. This was naturally resented, and the resentment grew into violence. Sowell notes that these tensions were heightened by the language each side used against the other. He writes

‘The problem was not simply that there were differences of opinion, but that there were not established and mutually respected traditions for airing those differences with restraint and accommodation. Vitriolic polemic in the press and in the political arena became the norm. Epithets like “fascist” and “imperialist stooge” became commo currency, along with unbridled expressions of tribal chauvinism.’ (p. 127). In the West there are respected means of airing such differences, but the insults sound very much like the language used by the woke, radical intersectional left against its opponents.

And there is anti-White racism and violence. Two decades ago the number of Whites killed in racist attacks was nearly the same as members of Blacks and other ethnic minorities. There have been armed attacks by Blacks on Whites in the past few weeks and months. One was when a man opened fire on the passengers on a subway. Another was when a Black man deliberately drove his car into a parade in a White community. He left behind a manifesto which made it very clear that this was an act of anti-White terrorism. But this was not treated as such by the Biden administration.

I am very pessimistic about the success of affirmative actions schemes in creating a sustainable Black middle class. As I understand it, this was originally intended to be only a temporary measure. Once Blacks had gained entry into education, the sciences, politics and business on a level comparable with Whites, these schemes were to be dismantled as they would no longer be needed. But forty years after the Runnymede Commission recommended ‘positive discrimination’ in which Blacks are to be favoured by offering places with lower grades to universities and colleges, and preferential job offers if they have lower qualifications, the mass of Black Britain still remains poor and marginalised. I don’t, however, know how bad the situation would otherwise be if these policies had not been implemented. It could be they would have been much worse.

Nevertheless I do fear that these policies will continue to fail and that, in their anger and desperation, some Blacks will begin pogroms against Whites, encouraged by the rhetoric and arguments of Critical Race Theory.

Brexiteer Michael Heaver Reveals Reclaim Party’s Exciting Warmed-Up Tory Leftovers Policies

July 26, 2022

Michael Heaver’s another right-wing, Brexiteer YouTuber. Most of his content seems to be about how wonderful Brexit it, or would be, if it wasn’t for those evil whining remoaners and the European Union trying to sabotage it all the time. He seems to have gone from the Tories to backing the Reclaim party, as well as wanting the return of Johnson. Today he put up a piece revealing Reclaim’s new, (ahem, cough, cough) policies. Laurence Fox’s party will be fielding 600 candidates, which, if true, is definitely a challenge to the Tories and the other established parties. Their policies are:

Do Brexit properly.

Net Zero immigration.

Cut taxes.

I think there’s also something about getting rid of the Green agenda. And I also think they want to support Johnson’s return to power, because the other Tory leadership candidates are so terrible and will hand the government over to Starmer. Or such is the fear amongst some Tories.

This is hogwash. Let’s go through them.

Do Brexit properly: Can’t be done. Uh-huh, no way. It’s simply impossible, like squaring the circle or redefining PI as equalling four, which is what the Nebraska legislature did way back in the 19th century. If this had gone ahead, it would have meant that clocks would have gained fifteen minutes everyone hour. But like ‘Get Brexit done’ it makes a good slogan. You can’t enact Brexit without reneging on one of the key policies of the Good Friday Agreement, which was an open border with the Republic. It’s either that, or the Irish backstop in the middle of the sea, thus alienating the Loyalists. Johnson got into power claiming that he’d ‘get Brexit done’. Well, he did, and it’s been chaos. Britain’s trade with the EU has taken a massive hit, there are real threats to British industry and agriculture, the financial sector the Tories and Blairites have been so keen to protect and establish London as a international hub has also been threatened. By Brexiteer Tories, like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who moved his investment business across the briny to Dublin. All while he was telling the rest of us that Brexit would be A Very Good Thing Indeed. There were delays at Dover months or even years ago because of the additional red tape added to hauliers and other travellers going to the continent now that we were no longer part of the EU. That red tape is also damaging our music industry, as it’s made it extremely difficult for British musicians and performers to travel over there to perform.

We were told that the Tories had an ‘oven ready deal’ with Europe for Brexit.

We were told that the millions saved on our EU contributions would be spent on the NHS.

We were lied to.

And this, as the late, great Max Headroom used to say, is simply ‘more of the same’. Except that he was talking about epic, rocking 80s pop music and videos.

Net zero immigration. More red meat for the Tory faithful, and other sections of the population worried about immigration. Mostly non-White immigration. And there are real moral and practical problems with that. Firstly, there’s the moral question of denying asylum to people, who may very well be in real danger of persecution in their countries of origin. I think many of the prospective migrants properly are coming here for economic reasons. One former channel migrant was interviewed on GB News or Talk TV, and he said that most of the other immigrants he was with were trying to dodge military service in their home countries and hoped to settle so that they could bring their families over. I can’t say I entirely blame them for wanting to do so, especially when these countries are dirt-poor, corrupt dictatorships like Eritrea. But nevertheless, I think there are people trying to get here because they face real threats to their lives for their views or simply because of their ethnicity or religion. Gay people around the world face persecution, particularly in Africa. Go back a few years, and there were the Yezidis, whose women were raped and enslaved for sex by ISIS. Last year there were Afghans desperate to escape the Taliban takeover. And in the past few months Britain and other European nations have taken in refugees from Ukraine, escaping Putin’s genocidal onslaught. I don’t see how you can morally turn at least some of these away.

Then there’s the economic aspect. As Buddyhell over on Guy Debord’s Cat, and just about everyone else on the web has point out, Britain needs immigrant doctors, nurses and other workers for the NHS. Yes, we should be training our own. But we haven’t been doing so ever since one of the Tory ministers – I think it may even have been Enoch Powell – decided in the 1960s to solve the shortage of NHS doctors by encouraging them to come from Pakistan and India. I can’t see the Tories wanting to spend the money to pay for the proper training for doctors and other medical professionals. Not when they seem content to drive them away by not paying them what they deserve and overburdening them with work and paperwork.

People also immigrate to Britain and settle down and raise families as part of their work. I know a number of people, who came to this country to work, and particularly on ground-breaking scientific or engineering projects. This country is short of scientists, engineers and skilled technicians. These are precisely the type of people we should be encouraging to come here, if only so that they can pass these skills on to Brits.

Education is a major part of this. There’s a movement of academics, both teaching staff and students, between countries and across continents. Most university’s, I’d say, have international students, some of whom are going to try to settle down here. Academics also take up posts at universities and colleges right across the world. When I was studying archaeology at Bristol, several of the department staff were foreign. One was Portuguese while another was German, for example. At the same time, archaeological work takes people right across the globe. At the time I was there, there was great excitement about Neolithic discoveries in Ukraine. One of the lecturers had also helped carry out excavations of archaic homo sapiens remains in Romania. Another leading member of the department had also been excavating in Iran. Some of these academics will no doubt wish to settle down and make their home here. Either way, I can see Brexit and a zero-net immigration policy causing real problems with universities obtaining needed foreign academic staff.

And it’s going to be hypocritical. The Tories have, in my recollection, shown themselves perfectly willing to grant British citizenship to anyone rich enough. Just as Rishi Sunak got his green card to work in America by paying a million dollars. I strongly suspect that if Reclaim got in, we’d have more of the same. It would be easy immigration for the global super-rich, and keep out for everyone else.

Cutting taxes: More of the twaddle you’ve been hearing from the Tory leadership candidates. What this means is cutting taxes for the rich while passing the burden on to ordinary people at the bottom. This is supposed to encourage more investment, and hence more jobs. Balderdash. The money saved simply rests in the elite’s bank accounts. Meanwhile, because there’s less money going into the exchequer, the Tories and Reclaim after them will tell us all that cuts need to be made, more pushing of the mythical NHS waste, profligate spending on the welfare state, too many civil servants and so on. The result, more punitive cuts to the NHS, more destruction of the welfare state, more people struggling to survive on food banks, more starvation, malnutrition and grinding poverty.

Attacking the Green Agenda: The scientific consensus supports climate change, and the Green New Deal promises more jobs as well as combating threats to the environment. But the right don’t believe in climate change, and, with money coming in from Big Oil, they really don’t want to end our dependence on fossil fuels any time soon. All last week while the rest of us sweltered they told us that the rising heat was nothing to worry about, was not cause by global warming, and we were all wimps and weaklings for thinking otherwise. I wonder if Reclaim and its bosses also have their places booked for the biodomes the rich will no doubt retreat into as the deserts march on London, Birmingham and anywhere else.

Bring back Johnson: Really? There are people who really won’t be told. There’s a petition up for his return. Just like there are Americans who want the return of Trump. That’s incredible. Aside from the party politics, Trump was a disastrous president. A friend lent me a book on his presidency, and what came across most strongly was how incompetent he was. He quarraled with his leading generals, one of whom actually swore at him while telling him precisely what he was in the White House. He made up policies on the spur of the moment and then changed his mind just as suddenly. Appointments were made with important visitors, but not kept. Or he didn’t tell his staff about them, just forgot them. He deliberately undermined leading White House staff, replacing them and then doing the same to the new replacements, all of whom were determined to undermine their predecessors and competitors. And rather than draining the swamp, Trump was massively corrupt giving government contracts to friends and anybody else, including the Russians, who were prepared to stump up cash. Government monies that were intended to protect workers on bread and butter issues like pensions vanished in various politicos pockets, where they gave it to their favourite businessmen.

Johnson has been similarly incompetent. He was grotesquely tactless and incompetent as foreign secretary. Once he got his behind in No. 10 he showed himself unwilling to knuckle down and do some actual work. It seemed that every few weeks he was heading off to Chequers for a holiday. He caught Covid because he personally broke lockdown rules. And he gave valuable PPE contracts to his friends and other Tory donors. The result was problems with supply. But no worries, eh? His mates were all right. The parties were just a symptom of a man, who doesn’t like to work, loves the power and the popularity that comes with it, at least in his own imagination, and really, really, has zero sympathy with ordinary working people and their problems.

And he’s still clinging on to power, just like Gordon Brown tried to do with a deal with the Lib Dems after he lost the election to Cameron. Ian Hislop got very excited about this on Have I Got News For You, calling him ‘Mr Barnacle’. Well, Johnson is behaving exactly like the marine mollusc, and the same should apply: ‘get ye gone!’ It says something about the effectiveness of establishment propaganda that someone really thinks he’s done such a good job they want to keep him in power.

But back to the Reclaim party, there’s nothing new here. It’s just the same old Brexiteer Tory policies, promoted by a few new faces. And I honestly can’t see many of them getting a seat. Some might, but I foresee a lot of lost deposits, compounded with them splitting the Tory vote in certain quarters so that a Lib Dem or possibly Labour candidate get in.

I have a feeling they’ll go the way of UKIP and the Brexit party as another right-wing group trying to ‘break the mould of British politics’.

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

January 27, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Are All These Communists the Tories Claim Are Threatening Britain?

February 22, 2021

Okay, I might be a bit slow here, but I am starting to wonder what planet Nigel Farage, Priti Patel and the Tory party and press are on when they start screaming that British society is under threat from a resurgent, but covert Marxism? About a week or so ago now Zelo Street posted a piece about the McCarthyism that now seemed set to grip the nation. The smirking, odious, racist Priti Patel had announced that MI5 were looking into renewed threats from the Fascist far right and the Marxist left. According to her, the Socialist Party, or the Socialist Workers’ Party as it used to be known, might be infiltrating Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion. Yup, as in the days of the Cold War, the Commies and Trots are at it again, trying to infiltrate other left-wing groups and take them over.

In fairness, this was a tactic of the Socialist Workers Party, which practised something called ‘revolutionary entryism’. The idea was to infiltrate other left-wing organisations and try to turn them into front organisations for the party in an attempt to make Trotskyite Marxism something like a popular mass movement. They did it in the 1970s/80s to Rock Against Racism, which had been set up to challenge the rise of the NF, BNP and other Fascist scumbags. All that it achieved, however, was the collapse of the organisation as the majority of its membership left. They weren’t interested in Trotskyite Marxism. They simply wanted to hear some great bands while combating Fascism and racial hatred. It’s because of its antics attempting to infiltrate and take over every vaguely left-wing organisation, or capitalise on every left-wing issue at the expense of other organisations, that many on the left, from the moderate, reformist Labour Party to various anarchist groups, don’t trust the SWP.

Besides this is the fact that Black Lives Matter, or at least its American parent, is already a Marxist organisation. If the Socialist Workers were trying to infiltrate it, it would be a case of one Marxist group trying to take over another. It’s possible, but seems unlikely. It sounds like something from the Illuminatus! books by Robert Anton Wilson and O’Shea, about warring secret societies plotting against and trying to infiltrate each other.

As for Extinction Rebellion, from what little I’ve seen of its broader political content – and this comes from idly looking at one of the organisation’s posters put up on a wall while waiting for a taxi – it does seem to be a radical left organisation. It’s very anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-capitalist. But it seems to me that this comes from the very radical programme adopted by parts of the Green movement. When it first emerged in the 1980s or so, the German Green Party – Die Gruenen – included as one of its leading members the lawyer for the Bader-Meinhof gang. There’s a section of the anarchist movement that is also very ecologically aware. The American anarchist intellectual, Murray Bookchin, was advocating a green, eco-friendly anarchism back in the 1980s and in the 1990s there was a British anarchist mag called Green Anarchist, I believe. You don’t need to invoke the Trotskyites of the SWP to explain Extinction Rebellion’s socially radical, anti-capitalist programme.

Would the SWP be interested in infiltrating Extinction Rebellion? I don’t know. Possibly. But they aren’t nearly as strong as they were. I think Marxism as a whole suffered a loss of credibility with the fall of Communism, which might be why radical anti-capitalists seemed to switch to anarchism or else an undefined ‘anti-capitalism’ that could take in a range of socialist and radical left views. The Socialist Workers, now renamed as the Socialist Party, are still about. You can find their videos on YouTube. But even before the lockdown they didn’t seem to be the visible presence on the streets they used to be.

The Tories and their press need to scare people with a threat from the radical left. I remember that in the late ’80s and ’90s they switched from trying to frighten people with the bogeyman of Communist infiltration – although they’d done that with the Labour Party in the 1987 election – to anarchism with the rise of Class War. Now that Class War has also gone the way of many radical movements and fizzled out, the Tories in Britain and the Republicans in America have turned once again to invoking the spectre of Communism.

And because of the very anti-racist, anti-sexist, pro-LGBTQ+ policies adopted by some universities, they’re now trying to claim that western education is under threat from Marxist infiltration. Nigel Farage apparently was in the pages of the Depress a few days ago, writing that the Marxist takeover of our education system was nearly complete. Really? I must have missed all that. There are Marxists in the universities, and have been for a very long time. And some of them are excellent scholars. I got a feeling that Vere Gordon Childe, the Australian archaeologist who first devised the notion of the Neolithic Revolution – the idea that agriculture and the rise of the first settled societies were linked and constituted a radical break with the hunter-gatherer societies of the Paleo- and Mesolithic – was a Communist. He was, however, a brilliant archaeologist and highly influential, even if recent excavations in Turkey have demonstrated that people were settling down into villages before the invention of agriculture. And yes, there are and have always been academics with very pronounced left-wing views. I can think of a number from my own experience as a student. But many others, probably the vast majority, aren’t. And some academics, who privately hold left-wing views, are very careful to keep them separate from their teaching. And whatever their political views, I think the main concern of all teaching staff, from university academics to school teachers, is simply to teach, not to indoctrinate students.

In any case, there are laws against political or religious indoctrination anyway. I think it was introduced by Blair. Teachers are not supposed to teach their political or religious opinions as fact. They are to avoid this as much as possible. If they can’t, then they are supposed to make clear that this is just their opinion. This legislation has been around since at least the middle of the last decade, if not earlier. It should provide sufficient protection already from attempts by the politically motivated to indoctrinate their students.

All these claims of a surreptitious takeover of the education system by Marxists seems to be a return to the days of Maggie Thatcher, when rags like the Depress, the Heil and the local paper for Bristol, the Evening Post, ran stories about Communist teachers indoctrinating their students. The Scum attempted to titillate and scare its readers with a tale about children in various London boroughs – possibly Brent – being taught to sing ‘Ba Ba Green Sheep’ as an anti-racist version of ‘Ba Ba Black Sheep’. This is supposed to have been invented by the wretched rag, but I’ve talked to people, who’ve claimed that it was done in their former school, so who knows? At the same time, I’ve heard that Thatcher also introduced legislation with the intention of purging Marxists from the education system. In fact the Marxists got round it by claiming to be ‘Marxian’. They were only Marxists in culture. It was a fine distinction, but it allowed them to retain their jobs.

But apart from this, university is supposed to be a place for the formulation and discussion of a wide range of views. A vital part of the university experience is the exposure to different opinions and encouragement to form their own views. The current scaremongering about the Marxists trying to takeover the education system is the opposite of this. It’s an attempt to limit free speech and discussion, as Zelo Street pointed out, only the approved Tory views will be heard. Hence the appointment of a ‘free speech tsar’.

Now I will concede that some student bodies are intolerant with protests against talks by visiting personalities they believe hold unacceptable views. Gender critical feminists and their allies, for example, have found themselves blocked from speaking at some universities because their views are held to be bigoted against the transgendered. But there’s also a cancel culture on the right. The estimable Tony Greenstein put up a piece last week about attempts by the Board of Deputies and Bristol University’s Union of Jewish Students to have one of the lecturers, David Miller, banned as an anti-Semite. This is not because of anything Miller has said against Jews. His cardinal sin is saying that Zionism must be destroyed. As we’ve seen, the Board and the other, establishment Jewish organisations are fanatically pro-Israel and conflate opposition to that nation, or simply criticism of its barbaric treatment of the indigenous Palestinians, with real Jew hatred. But Zionism has never been synonymous with Judaism. For many Jews, it’s diametrically opposed, as the graffiti on a wall in Jerusalem had it. Zionism is an ideology, not a people. Stating that Zionism needs to be destroyed is a contentious viewpoint, but it does not mean that the speaker wishes harm to the Jewish people.

Who is the free speech tsar, who will defend lecturers like David Miller? I think it would be a very brave politician who would risk damaging his or her career by doing so in the present political climate. Even if they had the inclination to do so, which the political establishment doesn’t.

I do find some of the radical policies now being implemented in some universities alarming, like the reports that students in some places of learning will be required to take compulsory anti-racism training in order to combat anti-Black racism on campus. It’s obviously very well intentioned, but as I’ve said, racism really isn’t simply a case of White on Black, and I am afraid such mandatory courses are based on a very simplistic view of Whites that sees White culture as innately racist, or inclined to racism. But I see absolutely no evidence that Marxists are behind it.

All this nonsense by Patel and the Tory press about Marxist infiltration is just another Red Scare in order to whip up support for legislation designed to purge the universities of anything that contradicts received Tory ideology. They are trying to destroy free speech, not defend it, and the appointment of a ‘free speech tsar’ is in many ways dangerous and hypocritical.

For further information, see:

Zelo Street: Free Speech Champion WON’T BE (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Zelo Street: War On Woke = Government Censorship (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Defend Bristol University’s Professor David Miller – Defend Academic Freedom – Defend Free Speech – Tony Greenstein

If you wish to defend Dr Miller from these outrageous allegations, you can sign a petition at Change.org here, as I have done.

http://chng.it/rTqY9r2FgM

Video on My Model of the Neolithic Mortuary House at Loftus in Britain

December 21, 2019

A bit more archaeology now, for those interested. Four years ago in 2015 I made this video about the model I’d made of the Neolithic mortuary house and palisade around its forecourt discovered beneath a long barrow, also from the Neolithic, at Loftus in Cleveland, Britain by Blaise Vyner during excavations from 1979 to 1981. The Neolithic was the period c. 4,000 BC when hunter-gatherers were settling down into settled communities and farming. The built long barrows to house the remains of their dead. The remains come from many different skeletons, and are often sorted according to body part. Long bones, for example, may be stored in one chamber while other parts of the skeleton were kept in another. Many of the barrows also have forecourts, some of which have traces of burning dating from the time they were built and used. From this archaeologists have suggested that the barrows were also the centres of religious ceremonies in which parts of the skeletons were handled in order to commune with the ancestors.

Mortuary houses are structures in which the bodies of the dead are kept during decomposition, after which they are buried for a second time with appropriate rituals. It’s a funerary practice found in many different society throughout the world, including North American First Nations and the people of Madagascar.

Incidentally, today is the winter solstice, which some archaeologists believe was the real time the stone circle at Stonehenge was built to mark. This is the shortest day of the year, after which the sun returns and the days start lengthening again. This would be seen by the monument’s ancient builders as the return of warmth, light and the revival of life after the cold of winter, and so an important event for early agricultural communities.

But considering how cold and miserable it’s been, I think it’ll be a very brave set of pagans, druids and hippies, who would go down there to celebrate it today. But I’ve no doubt some hardy souls will do it.

 

Danish Archaeologists Reconstruct Ancient Ancestor from Chewing Gum

December 19, 2019

Here’s another interesting bit of archaeology, courtesy of yesterday’s I. According to an article by Nina Massey, ‘Stone Age gum puts face to ancestor’, Danish archaeologist have been able to reconstruct the probable appearance of a woman from prehistory from the DNA she left in a piece of tree gum. The article runs

The entire genetic code of a 5.700 year-old human has been extracted from a piece of ancient “chewing gum”.

Danish scientists examined an ancient piece of chewed birch pitch and managed to obtain the entire ancient human genome from it.

Researchers from Copenhagen University said it is the first time the human genome has been obtained from anything other than bones.

Birch pitch, which has been used as a glue, is created by heating birch bark. Small lumps of this material have been found at archaeological sites and have often included tooth imprints, suggesting it was chewed.

The retrieved genome revealed it was chewed by a female and was genetically more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe, than to those who lived in central Scandinavia at the time.

She also probably had dark skin, dark hair and blue eyes, the study, published in Nature Communications, said. Researchers found traces of hazelnut and duck DNA in the sample, indicating they may have made up part of her diet.

The chewed birch pitch was found during archaeological excavations at Syltholm in southern Denmark.

The article also carried a picture of what the woman may have looked like, and a photograph of the lump of pitch.

The dating puts the woman in the Neolithic. Her colouring is the same as that reconstructed for ‘Cheddar Man’ from 9,000 years ago. He also had dark skin and hair and blue eyes. This shows just how recently the modern European complexion – White or pale skin, and hair colour that ranges from black through brown, to straw and platinum blonde – evolved.

Archaeologists Find 4,000 year old Stone Sculptures in Orkney

December 14, 2019

A non-political story now, which fascinates me as an archaeologist. Tuesday’s edition of the I carried a story by Chris Green that archaeologists in Orkney had uncovered a number of roughly humanlike sculptures. The article ran

Nine human-like stone sculptures believed to be more than 4,000 years old have been discovered during the construction of a new electricity substation in Orkney.

Archaeologists working at the site near Finstown said that each of the “amazing” carvings, which are 50 cm tall, appeared to have shoulders, neck and what looks like a head.

While similar sculptures have been found in the area before, the discovery of so many in one place is unprecedented and may help shine a light on the prehistory of the islands.

Sean Bell, of Orca Archaeology, which made the discovery, said that whoever made the figures used a technique known as “pecking”, involving chipping away flakes of stone with a pointed tool. 

There have been suggestions that during the Neolithic and Bronze Age Orkney was an important religious centre for the British Isles. The discovery of these sculptures may reinforce this, as they could be representations of the gods or ancestors.

The sculptures themselves are quite rough, almost abstract in their depiction of the human body. Here’s my drawing of what they look like. The photograph in the paper is too small really to be reproduced.

Still, no matter how crude they look to our eyes, they are an important find for researchers of ancient art, and an important landmark in its development in the British Isles.

Jeremy Corbyn Suggests Capping Director’s Pay – Media Goes Ballistic

January 11, 2017

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting on another good suggestion from Jeremy Corbyn, and the predictable response of outrage and sneering from the meejah. The Labour leader had said on an interview on Radio 4 yesterday morning that he believed that there should be a cap on the pay earned by company directors and senior execs. The media naturally responded by pointing out that Corbyn has an annual pay of £138,000 a year, and tried to draw him into giving a price figure for what the maximum amount earned should be.

The story got onto the One Show yesterday evening, where they did a brief survey of people in the street. Opinions were, as they say, mixed. One elderly objected to the cap on the grounds that it might take away the incentive for people rising to the top. Looking at the headlines on the various papers this morning, it was very clear that it had riled someone at the Torygraph, as this was the story they shoved on their front cover. Other newspapers, like Mail, led by claiming that Labour’s policy in immigration was ‘in disarray’. Mike’s also written another article this week showing that’s also rubbish.

Mike in his article makes the point that compared to some of the vast, bloated salaries awarded to company executives, Corbyn’s own salary appears very modest indeed. He suggests that it is stupid to try to lay down a particular set figure – it should be based on company turnover and the lowest wage earned by an employee at that company. He also makes the point that the casting of particular star actors can make a great difference to how well a movie does, and that when this happens, everyone else who worked on the movie should also enjoy the films’ financial awards.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/10/if-we-examine-who-is-complaining-about-corbyns-maximum-wage-idea-well-know-why/

This is all correct. And there’s something else that needs to be added:

Japan already has maximum wage legislation.

Yep, it’s true. Japan is one of the world’s five wealthy countries with a very capitalist economy. The centre right Liberal Democratic party has ruled the country almost uninterrupted since the Second World War. And it also has a cap on how much company directors may be paid. I think it’s set at about 20 times that of the lowest paid employee, but I am not sure.

And the limitation of wage differentials is not something that has been simply added on in the course of reform, but an integral part of the dominant, guiding vision of the nature of Japanese society. East Asian societies can be extremely collectivist, stressing group loyalty over individual opportunity or achievement. In Japan the goal was to create a harmonious, middle class society, where there would be no extremes in wealth or poverty. This isn’t quite the case, as the Burakami, an outcast group rather like the Dalits in India, and those of Korean descent are still subject to massive poverty and discrimination.

The Japanese have also tried to justify their collectivist outlook through racist pseudo-anthropology. One school textbook claimed that Japanese society was more collectivist and co-operative because the Japanese people were descended from agriculturalists, who had to forge strong links with each other in order to cultivate and harvest rice. We Westerners, however, were all isolated individualists because we’re all descended from hunter-gatherers.

As anthropology, it’s rubbish, of course. Some social historians have argued that agricultural societies are more prone to tyranny and absolute government, which would include the type of Asian absolute monarchies described by Western observers as ‘oriental despotism’. But all human societies were originally hunter-gatherers, including the Japanese. And European society has practised settled agriculture since the beginning of the Neolithic 6,000 years ago.

The origins of Japanese and East Asian collectivism probably lie more in the influence of Confucianism, which stressed the right relationships between the members of society, such as between the prince and the people, and between elders, parents and children, and the still powerful influence of feudalism in structuring social relationships. Instead of a samurai warrior giving his loyalty and service to a daimyo feudal lord, it’s now the sarariman – the corporate warrior – becoming part of the retinue of company employees under the lordship of the director.

And European individualism probably comes not from any vestiges of our hunter-gatherer deep past, but from the effect of Hobbesian Social Contract political theorising and the free trade economics of the French Physiocrats and Adam Smith. Hobbes has been described as the first, of one of the first philosophers of the emerging bourgeois society of the 17th century. This was the period which saw Cromwell sweep away the last vestiges of feudalism in England, and the emergence of modern capitalism. But Hobbes’ philosophy views people as social atoms, all competing against each other, as opposed to other views of society, which may stress the importance of collective or corporate identities and loyalties, such as family, feudal lordship or membership of trade and professional bodies. Similarly, the founders of the economic theories of modern capitalism, such as the Physiocrats in France and Adam Smith and in Scotland, also stressed unrestrained individual competition. They were also specifically arguing against the mercantilist system, in which the state regulated trade. For example, in the 17th and 18th centuries the British government enacted a series of legislation governing trade with its emerging colonies, so as to tie them to the economy of the home country, which would benefit from their products. Modern Western individualism come from these theories of capitalist society and the perceived operation of its economy.

The collectivist nature of Japanese society also expresses itself in other ways in the structure and management of Japanese corporations. Singing the company song in the morning is one example. Management are also encouraged or required to share the same canteen as the workers on the shop floor. Both of these practices, and no doubt many others, are designed to foster group solidarity, so that management and workers work together for the good of the company.

This isn’t a perfect system, by any means. Apart from the immense pressure placed on individuals in a society that places such heavy emphasis on the value of hard work, that individuals actually keel over and die because of it when doing their jobs, it has also made Japanese society and corporations extremely resistant to change. Confucianism places great stress on respect for one’s elders and superiors. While respect for the older generation is an admirable virtue, and one which our society in many ways is sadly lacking, in Japan it has resulted in a mindset which resists change or apportioning due blame for historical crimes and atrocities.

At the corporate level, the slow down of the Japanese economy in the 1990s meant there was no longer such a pressing need for company staff to work such long hours. However, so great is the corporate inertia, that staff still feel that they have to keep working past six O’clock in the evening, even if there is little or no work to do, because they don’t want to be seen as breaking with the approved practices of previous generations of employees.

And at the national level, it has been suggested that the exaggerated respect for one’s elders and ancestors is the reason why Japan has had such immense difficulty confronting the atrocities their nation committed during the Second World War. Japanese school texts and official histories have been criticised because they’d don’t discuss the atrocities committed by the imperial Japanese army. One school textbook even talked about the army’s ‘advance’ through Asia, rather than its invasion. The reason for this failure to admit the existence of these crimes, and criticise those who perpetrated them, is that respect for one’s elders and social superiors is so engrained in Japanese society, that except for a few extremely courageous mavericks, casting shame on those responsible for such horrors and, by implication, the whole of society during this period, is unacceptable. Even though many over on this side of the Eurasian landmass would consider that a failure to confront the atrocities committed by one’s nation to be even more shameful.

Japanese and Asian collectivism is not, then, perfect. But a maximum wage cap certainly did not hinder Japan’s advance to become one of the world’s foremost industrial countries. And the goal of creating a harmonious, co-operative society where there is little disparity in wealth is a good one.

The title of Mike’s article on Corbyn’s suggestion for a maximum wage states that the identities of those complaining about it reveal why they’re doing so. Indeed. The proprietors and leading executives of newspaper companies, like the Barclay twins at the Torygraph, have awarded themselves immense salaries. They’re multimillionaires. This wealth is increasingly not being shared with the hacks, who do the actual work of putting the paper out. The Torygraph has been particularly struck with declining sales to the point that Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column regularly reported further job cuts. Many of the big newspaper companies depend on the work of unpaid interns, particularly the Groaniad. And even if they’re not being threatened with the sack, conditions for the paid staff are becoming increasingly Orwellian. For example, the Eye reported a few months ago that one of the managers at the Torygraph had tried to install motion detectors on the staff’s desks to prevent them moving around too much, just like the staff at call centres are also monitored. The hacks were so annoyed, however, that management had to back down and the motion detectors were removed.

As for the film industry, the presence of big name Hollywood stars can sink a movie simply through the sheer expense of paying. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger was paid $7 million for his appearance in the second Terminator movie. While that was a box office success, the presence of ‘A’ list celebrities in a movie does not guarantee that a film will be a success. One of the reasons why the film Ishtar became such a notorious flop in the 1990s was that the producers cast three major stars, who all commanded multi-million dollar salaries. This pushed the bill for the movie towards $20 million or so, even before the film had been shot. The film was thus under financial pressure from the start.

Apart from the Japanese, there are other, successful European nations that also deliberately avoid huge inequalities in wealth. One of these is Denmark. The newspapers have been full of articles analysing and celebrating the traditional Danish concept of ‘hygge’. This has been translated as ‘cosiness’, but it actually means much more than that. The way I’ve heard it explained by a Danish friend, it’s about being content with the homely necessities. I got the distinct impression that it was similar to the Swedish notion of ‘lagom’, which translates as ‘just enough’. You make just enough to satisfy your basic needs, but no more. And from what I’ve heard about Danish society, the social attitude there is that no-one should try to appear ostentatiously better off than anyone else. This is not to say that everyone has to do the same low-paid job, or that they should not earn more than anyone else. But it does mean that they should not be conspicuously more affluent.

This is the complete opposite from the values promoted and celebrated by Thatcher and the wretched ‘New Right’ of the 1980s. They demanded making conditions harsher for the poor, and giving ever larger salaries to management on the grounds that this would act as an incentive for others to do well and try to climb up the corporate and social ladder. The result has been the emergence of a tiny minority, who are massively wealthy – the 1%. Like the Barclay twins, Rupert Murdoch and just about every member of Theresa May’s cabinet. For everyone else, wages have stagnated to the point where a considerable number are finding it very difficult to make ends meet.

But wage caps and an attitude that discourages inequalities of wealth have not harmed Japan, nor Denmark and Sweden, which also have very strong economies and a very high standard of living.

The massive difference between the millions earned by the heads of the big corporations has been a scandal here in Britain, to the point where David Cameron and May made noises urging company directors to restrain their greed. Corbyn’s suggestion is eminently sensible, if Britain is to be a genuinely inclusive, prosperous society. The outrage shown by various media execs to it shows that the Tories are still committed to a policy of poverty for the many, riches for a very few. And all their concern at reining in executive pay is just platitudes to make it appear that they’re concerned when the issue becomes too embarrassing.

Vox Political: Youssef El-Gingihy on Western Imperialism in Iraq

August 21, 2016

Mike’s also put up an excellent piece by Youssef El-Gingihy, ‘Business as Usual in Iraq’. I think Mr Gingihy is a medical doctor. He’s certainly a very firm opponent of the privatisation of the NHS, and has written a book against it, How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps, published by Zero Books. I found a copy of this in the Cheltenham branch of Waterstones.

El-Gingihy makes the point that the Iraq invasion was not an aberration, but merely the continuation of American and British global imperialism. This isn’t about making the world safe for democracy, but in the forcible acquisition of other nation’s industries and resources. He points out that Tony Blair wasn’t Bush’s poodle, but took part in the invasion of Iraq perfectly willingly as part of the Atlantic Alliance. George Bush senior and Maggie Thatcher armed Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War, and his gassing of the Kurds in 1988 aroused no condemnation from us. The US military-industrial complex was determined to invade Iraq, because its acquisition was estimated to be worth $100 billion to the American economy. This was only the latest in a series of coups that have overthrown popular elected leaders in countries around the world, so that America can get its hands on their countries’ valuable economic assets. This goes back to the overthrow of Mossadeq in Iran in the 1953, who had the audacity to nationalise the Persian oil industry, and Salvador Allende in Chile in 1975, who was ousted because he was a Marxist and wanted to break up the great estates to give land to the peasants.

He also sees Bush’s decision to disband the Ba’athist army, whose troops then joined the jihadists fighting against the occupation and the Shi’a and other factions, which supported or benefited from it, as part of the imperial tactics of divide et conquera. As a result of the invasion, Iraq has been transformed from a secular dictatorship into a breeding ground for terrorists. There were only a few thousand globally at the time of 9/11. Now that number has increased to about 100,000. The number of Iraqis, who’ve been killed may be as high as 600,000 +. America maintains its global dominance through a network of 800 bases worldwide. At the time of 9/11, the Americans drew up plans to invade seven countries, and El-Gingihy notes how the wars and destabilisation have spread to other countries, like Yemen. He makes the point that if we really wanted to stop terror, we should stop supporting countries that are funding and supporting it, like Saudi Arabia. But that isn’t going to happen, because Saudi Arabia is our ally.

He concludes

Tony Blair famously called on history to be his judge. That judgement will be one of eternal damnation. He has already attempted a spirited defence but, as with Lady Macbeth, not all the perfumes of Arabia can relieve the stench of blood on his hands.

See his article: https://thexrayfactor.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/the-iraq-war-was-simply-business-as-usual/

Mike’s reblog is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/20/the-iraq-war-business-as-usual-youssef-el-gingihy/

Everything Dr El-Gingihy has said is correct. The Iraq invasion was all about stealing the country’s oil and state industries. Iraq has the largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, and Aramco, the American-Saudi oil company, and the other oil magnates, desperately wanted to get their hands on it. The Americans also drafted legislation declaring that any rare crops still grown in Iraq were also automatically owned by American biotech companies. Iraq and the Fertile Crescent is the area where western agriculture started at the dawn of civilisation nearly 6,000 years ago. Then, Neolithic farmers began cultivating varieties of wheat, which have largely been superseded in the west, like emmer. These varieties may, however, have properties which have been lost in later varieties, and so are of intense interest to the biotechnology companies and agribusiness. A year or so ago there was even a feature about the renewed interest in emmer in farming in Britain on the Beeb’s farming interest show, Countryfile. The legislation cannot practically be enforced, but it means Iraqi peasant farmers in theory have to pay American biotech companies for the privilege of rearing crops they’ve been raising since literally the dawn of civilisation.

And the same goes with other parts of the economy, like industry. Halliburton and the rest of the big businesses pressing for war had Bush, who was deeply involved with them, pass legislation allowing them to acquire Iraqi businesses in recompense for possible damages they had sustained, even if, in fact, they had not suffered any damage. It’s a deeply iniquitous piece of legislation. Both of these laws were revealed in articles in Private Eye years ago. And it bears out what the Joseph Bronowski, the great scientist, broadcaster and Fabian Socialist said in The Descent of Man way back in the ’70s: War is theft by other means.

And the number of coups promoted by America is a long one, and getting longer all the time. William Blum in an edition of his Anti-Empire Report links to a complete list of them, since the 19th century, which stretches on and on. it includes the overthrow of Alfredo Benz’ regime in Guatemala in the 1950s, because Benz nationalised the estates of the American United Fruit Company, which, along with the other landlords, treated their peasant workers as slaves. Benz was a threat to American business, and dared pass legislation giving greater welfare rights and power to the peasants. So he had to go. And Shrillary Clinton has followed. A few years ago she made sure that the coup that toppled a democratically elected socialist president in Honduras was not called a ‘military coup’, so that Obama could keep funding the country’s new, military overlords. These are, as you can imagine, the usual right-wing tyrants ruling through terror, violence, assassination and imprisonment. But they have the support of Obama and Shrillary, who no doubt claim the coup was in America’s best interest.

And so we continue to see the agony of the world’s weaker nations, all for the profit of western, chiefly American, multinationals.

Remember the chanting of the anti-war protesters during Gulf War 1 back in 1990? ‘Gosh, no, we won’t go. We won’t die for Texaco’? It’s even more relevant now.