Posts Tagged ‘Tuscany’

Vox Political: Now Tories Want to Strip Benefits from Fat People

February 15, 2015

Fat Cameron

David Cameron, showing off the toned physique for which the Tory front bench is known.

Just when you thought the Tories couldn’t get any more mean-spirited, bullying and petty, they prove you wrong. Yesterday they announced that they would strip benefits from people they considered obese. Mike over at Vox Political has put up this story about it Tories say the obese should ‘lose weight or lose benefits’. Pot, kettle, black. It begins

The Conservative Party seems determined to sink itself into the deepest, blackest hole ever created by a political organisation for itself.

While other parties unveil attractive policies designed to bring voters onboard, the Tories have said they want to remove benefits from people they have decided are fat. Here’s the Independent story, and for good measure we’ll throw in the BBC‘s coverage too.

You might be thinking to yourself, why not? They’ve already attacked people on Jobseekers’ Allowance, ESA and DLA as scroungers; they’ve pushed pensionable ages back by years; and they’re about to attack people who are on pensions, already. Why not continue proving what a bunch of spoiled little schoolboys they are by picking on fatties as well (oh, along with druggies and alkies)?

Perhaps because, as ‘Neti’ pointed out on Twitter: “Medication can mean that people gain weight and not be overeating.”

He notes that the British Medical Association attacked the plans of Westminster Council to deny overweight people benefits on these grounds in 2013 as ‘draconian’.

He quotes David Cameron as saying of this new Tory strategy:

“It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work,” he said.

The good folk of the Twitterverse are much less impressed. One of these is John Wight, who commented that it was ‘a wheeze designed to appeal to the smug middle classes’.

The Social Snobbery of the Slave Owners

It is. And it shows the arrogance, the preening sense of superiority of Cameron and his crew, as they sneer at those they consider to be physically as well as socially inferior. And lying even further underneath is the assumption of the feudal elite that we are chattels, and they should have absolute control of our bodies as well as our labour.

Private Eye published a revealing piece of gossip about the sneering mentality of the Tory grandees towards the plebs back in the 1990s. One of their contributors or spies had been at the special dining hall set up for the very rich at the Cheltenham Festival that year. This was lavishly laid out with the very finest cordon bleu cuisine. In the room at the time was one of the Tory bigwigs. I’ve got a feeling it was Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mud, but I can’t be sure. The Tory looked out of the window at the rest of the crowd below, eating the meals they’d bought from the burger stand. ‘Oh, look at all those people with their little bits of plastic,’ he sneered.

It’s the same mentality. “Oh, look at all those fat chavs! They clearly don’t eat their greens, and especially not those specially picked and cultivated by elite chefs somewhere in Tuscany or the Vale of Evesham. And they don’t know what balsamic vinegar is! How dreadful!”

butterball001_jpg

Hellraiser’s ‘Butterball’: Not known to be a relation of Eric Pickles

Now this is, of course, as Mike points out, deeply hypocritical considering the physiques of many of the Tory party. Like Nicholas ‘Fatty’ Soames, or Eric Pickles, who looks to me like nothing less than the ‘Butterball’ Cenobite from Hellraiser. And whatever it is about, it’s really not about getting the nation healthy or back to work.

The Alternatives: Changing British Shopping and Food Labelling

There are ways you could get people to eat healthier food by changing the way people shop and work. One suggestion was to label very clearly the fat content on foods, so that people were aware of just how many calories they were putting in their bodies. One other suggestion was to levy a ‘fat tax’ on fatty, unhealthy foods, like pizzas, fish and chips and so on.

You could also encourage people to eat better by bringing back local shops close to where they live, rather than supermarkets to which they have to drive. This was brought out in one of the series with Jamie Oliver, where he went to one of Britain’s fattest cities to encourage the townspeople there to lay off the chicken McNuggets and eat their greens and muesli instead. One of the mothers he enlisted in his campaign actually burst into tears about this. She bought her kids KFCs and McDonalds, not because she was lazy, but simply because that was all she could afford. She could not afford to travel outside her area to go to the supermarket to buy the super-healthy greens and foods Jamie was recommending.

The Poor, Depression and Diet

And there’s also another, emotional reason why the very poor and the unemployed eat fatty foods: they make you feel better after another depressing, dispiriting day. This was discussed again back in the ’90s by the American broadcaster and columnist, Joe Queenan, and his guests on the Radio 4 show, Postcard from Gotham. This was the time when the news had just broken that America had an obesity epidemic. They noted that, in contrast to Britain and Europe at the time, America really was the ‘land of plenty’, where the food portions were massively bigger. But they were aware that the poor ate badly because of the miserable condition of their lives.

Cutting Fatty Foods and Resistance from the Food Industry

Now the last thing the Tories actually want to do is start putting taxes on food, or have the fat content, or anything else in them clearly labelled. Many Tory MPs have very strong connections to the food and drinks industry. It’s why, for example, John Major’s government did precious little about dangerous alcohol consumption for so long, and consistently blocked legislation to limit consumption. That’s state interference, which is by nature Wrong and Oppressive. Worse, it may damage profits.

Similarly, blocking supermarkets and encouraging a new generation of Arkwrights to set up their own, s-s-small businesses, as greengrocers, family butchers, bakers and so on is another idea that definitely ain’t going to get anywhere with the Tories. Not when the supermarkets seem to be on the march everywhere, driving out their smaller competitors.

Levelling the Playing Fields

And this is before we get to the way successive administrations following Maggie have sold off public sports facilities, like school playing fields, public baths and sports centres. Private Eye has again been covering this scandal for some time in its ‘Levelling the Playing Fields’ column. This has been such as scandal that even the arch-Tory Quentin Letts has pilloried it and the Tory minister responsible in his book, 50 People who Buggered Up Britain.

All of this means challenging vested commercial interests, and reversing decades-old developments in the way people work, exercise and shop. It’s expensive, would require careful thought and planning, and could take years. Besides, it would attack the very industries that fund the Tories and provide their MPs with an income. It’s far easier for them to do absolutely nothing, and go back to doing what they do best: sneering and attacking the poorest.

Westminster Council and the Homes for Votes

It’s no surprise that this move also came two years ago from Westminster Council. The Tories there have been on a very long campaign to cleanse the area socially of the poor. In the 1990s there was the ‘Homes for Votes’ scandal, where the leader of the council, Tesco director Dame Shirley Porter, and her minions arranged for good Tory voters to be housed in good building, while the poor were removed to an asbestos-ridden tower block. This seems to be have been another ruse to drive the lower class and poor out of the area, so they could keep it as a low council tax, pristine area for the very rich.

Seasoning the Slaves

And ultimately, behind all this – the class snobbery about the bodies of the poor and the poor quality foods they consume, is an even more sinister, essentially feudal assumption: that the slave master should have absolute control over the bodies and physical fitness of his slaves. During the slave trade, the captains of the slave ships during the long journey across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and America would take their slaves up on deck and make them exercise. This was to keep them just fit enough so that some of them might survive, and fetch a good price. Once there, the slaves could be seasoned for a year so that they could recover and be fit enough to be a worthwhile commercial investment for their purchasers.

That statement by Cameron about it not being fair to ask ‘hard-working’ people to fund people who are too fat to be available for work shows something of the same mentality. It’s the attitude of the feudal lord complaining about the laziness of his peasants. John Locke, the founder of modern liberal political philosophy certainly was no opponent of slavery. He worked for the Board of Plantations when the English government was expanding their colonies in America and the Caribbean. The constitution he drew up for Carolina was strongly feudal in character. Nevertheless, he believed that free people should have absolute control over their bodies, to the point where military commanders could only ask troops to risk their lives, not command. This latest move by the Tories undermines this fundamental principle. It shows they still have the deep-seated feudal assumption that they have the absolute right to control the bodies of their serfs.

Acting Out Totalitarianism

I also wonder how far this new move is an attempt by the Tories to discredit the welfare state by being as totalitarian as possible in its name. For many Americans, the welfare state is just about synonymous with totalitarian Communism. A little while ago American Conservatives opposed to Obamacare were looking at the various campaigns of the Blair government to cut down on obesity in the name of saving the NHS money as examples of the totalitarian assumptions of the British welfare state. “Look! They actually tell you what to do at that level! That’s what Socialism is really like!” It looks to me that the Tories have taken over those arguments, and decided to act them out and push them as far as possible, in order to cut down on ‘welfare dependence’.

The Nanny State vs. Nanny Cameron

And finally, let’s call out this latest measure for another piece of hypocrisy. Quite apart from the fact that the Tories have their fair share of gutbuckets, remember how the Daily Mail and the other Tory rags screamed blue murder when Blair’s government started trying to get people to be more health aware.

Such as the various posters that were stuck up on hoardings up and down the country, telling you not to overdo the amount of salt you put in your food.

They immediately shouted that this was the ‘nanny state’, and that it showed the overbearing, micromanaging mentality of New Labour. The Tories were against all that. They stood for sturdy self-reliance against such petty meddling with people’s personal affairs.

Except now, they don’t. Not when it reinforces their middle and upper class prejudices. Not when it humiliates the lower orders even further. Not when they can deprive people of benefits, make the poor and sick starve, and force them out of house and home.

Well, here’s a musical response to this. It’s the mighty Motorhead’s ‘Eat the Rich’. Enjoy!

The Jesuits: Pioneers of Mathematics as University Subject

May 8, 2013

There were chairs of mathematics at the Italian Universities from the late fourteenth century onwards. There was a chair of arithmetic in Bologna in 1384-5. When Leo X reformed the University of Rome in 1514 he appointed two professors of mathematics. Pisa had a chair of mathematics in 1484. Galileo was appointed a ‘mathesis praeceptor’ at the University of Pisa in 1589 through the influence of Cardinal Francesco del Monte. Galileo’s own influence on the teaching of mathematics in Italian universities was immense. His pupils Benedetto Castelli and Bonaventura Cavalieri respectively held the chairs of mathematics at Pisa, the Sapienza in Rome, and Bologna. Evangelista Torricelli, one of Castelli’s pupils, succeeded Galileo as the court mathematician of the Dukes of Tuscany. Another of Castelli’s pupils, Giovanni Alfonso Borelli became the mathematics lecturer at Messina in 1635. Malpighi, Borelli and Borelli’s pupil Lorenzo Bellini introduced Galileo’s mathematical programme into biology.

It was the Jesuit Order, which made mathematics an explicit and integral part of the educational curriculum. The Order’s Constitutiones of 1556 stated that the Society’s aim was ‘to aid our fellow men to the knowledge and love of God and to the salvation of their souls’. The principal subject at the Jesuit universities was therefore theology, as the subject best suited to this. A wide range of other subjects were also taught in addition to it, including literature and history, classical and oriental languages, and the arts and natural sciences. These were included because they ‘dispose the intellectual powers for theology, and are useful for the perfect understanding and use of it, and also by their own nature help towards the same end’. St. Ignatius de Loyola himself stated that ‘logic, physics, mathematics and moral science should be treated and also mathematicss in the measure suitable to the end proposed’. The person, who was chiefly responsible for establishing Jesuit policy in mathematics and their achievements in the subject was Christopher Clavius. Clavius held the chair of mathematics at the main Jesuit university, the Collegio Romano from 1565 until his death in 1612. Clavius defended the role of mathematics at the University agains the doubts of other colleagues, establishing a school of mathematics at the Collegio. Clavius lamented the low value many pupils placed on maths and philosophy, noting that

‘Pupils up to now seem almost to have despised these sciences for the simple reason that they think that they are not considered of value and are even useless, since the person who teaches them is never summoned to public acts with other professors’. He also considered it a great shame and disgrace, that members of the order, who had little knowledge of maths, became speechless during conversations with leading men, who were much better educated mathematically. He artgued that a proper grasp of maths was necessary for understanding the rest of philosophy. He stated that

‘these sciences and natural philosophy have so close an affinity with one another that unless they give each other mutual aid they can in no way preserve their own worth. For this to happen, it will be necessary first that students of physics should at the same time study mathematical disciplines; a habit which has always been retained in the Society’s schools hitherto. Folr if these sciences were taught at another time, students of philsophy would think, and understandably, that they were in no way necessary to physics, and so very few would want to understand them; though it is agreed among experts that physics cannot rightly be grasped without them, especially as regards that part which concerns the number and motion of the celestical circles, the multitude of intelligences, the effects of the stars which depend on the various conjunctions, oppositions and other distances between them, the division of continuous quantity into infinity, the ebb and flow of the sea, winds, comets, the rainbow, the halo and other meteorlogical things, the proportions of motions, qualities, actions, passions and reactions etc. concerning which ‘calculatores’ wirte much. I do not mention the infinite examples in Aristotle, Plato and their more celebrated commentators, which can by no means be understood without a moderate understanding of the mathematical sciences…’

Clavius’ influence is strongly shown in the Jesuit ‘Ratio Studiorum’ – educational curriculum – of 1586 and 1599. This was strongly Aristotelian, except where Aristotle conflicted with Christian theology, and included the whole range of Aristotelian natural philosophy and mathematics. The section on mathematics in the Constitutiones argued it was included because

‘without mathematics our academies would lack a great ornament, iindeed they would even be mutilated, since there is almost no fairly celebrated academy in which the mathematical disciplines do not have their own, and indeed not the last, place; but much more because the other sciences also very much need their help, because for poets they supply and expound the risings and settings of the heavenly bodies; for historians the shapes and distances of places; for the Analytics examples of solid demonstrations; for politicians admirable arts for good administration at home and in time of war; for physics the forms and differences of heavenly revolutions, light, discords, sounds; for metaphysics the number of spheres and intelligences; for theologians the main parts of the divine creation; for law and ecclesiastical custom the accurate computation of times; not to mention what advantages redound to the state from the work of mathematicians in the care of diseases, in navigations and in the pursuit of agriculture.’

Dawkins and the other militant atheists have sneered at the idea of people of faith as teachers. But the great pioneers in teaching mathematics at university the level were the Jesuits, who taught it as a vital aid to faith, and as a vital and indispensible tool for the other sciences. They were certainly not unaware that improving the standards of maths teaching in the order would also raise their status in contemporary society. Neverthless, they did much to establish maths as a suitable and necessary subject for Christians to study. Some of these early Jesuit mathematicians were also friends of Galileo. They included Clavius’ pupil and successor at the Collegio, Christopher Grienberger. Despite the aim of the Society to promote Roman Catholic Christianity, Jesuit scientists also co-operated and corresponded cordially with Protestant people of science. Recent Jesuit historians have noted that the Jesuits in West Africa collaborated with their Dutch scientific counterparts in their exploration of the region’s wildlife, and contacted Scandinavian scientists in Norway or Sweden for the scientific information they had. Their science was still strongly aristotelian, but they were despite this able to make valuable contributions to science.

Source

‘Mathematics and Platonism in the Sixteenth-Century *Italian Univrsities and in Jesuit Educational Policy’ in A.C. Crombie, Science, Art and Nature in Medieval and Modern Thought (London and Rio Grande, Ohio: The Hambledon Press 1996).