Tuesday, January 31, 2012

life in the People’s Republic of Australia

Here in the People’s Republic of Australia our great and glorious government has just made an appalling discovery. Apparently under existing media ownership laws it is still legal for non-Labor supporters to buy shares in newspapers. But People’s Commissar for Communications and Propaganda Steven Conroy intends to take action immediately to close this loophole.

Meanwhile People’s Commissar for the Arts Simon Crean is concerned that artists are not doing enough to celebrate the achievements of the Great Leader Julia Gillard. In particular they need to devote more attention to praising the Five Year Plan to create the National Broadband Network. This project, founded on sound Marxist principles of centralised state planning, will represent a Great Leap Forward for internet users in Australia.

Artists can be expected to respond enthusiastically. Artists have never responded any other way to the prospect of more handouts from the taxpayer.

The Feminist War on Women

It’s increasingly clear that when people say they’re pro-choice, they don’t actually mean they’re in favour of choice. They’re merely pro-abortion. And if women have to be coerced into having abortions, that’s fine with them.

Even if the woman is coerced into an abortion by her boyfriend, that’s still fine. Despite all the feminist rhetoric about women having control of their own fertility, if it’s a matter of getting that baby aborted then it’s OK for a man to pressure a woman into doing it.

And as for offering women the choice of adoption, that’s clearly totally unacceptable. At least it is for Planned Parenthood where they’ve succeeded in almost eliminating that choice altogether.

Of course feminists understand that the great danger of giving women choices is that they might make politically incorrect ones. Feminists are determined to prevent that from happening. Why do women need to bother about making choices when the feminist sisterhood is happy to make their decisions for them.

The brutal truth is that feminists despise women. Women have an unfortunate tendency to want to be female, whereas if they’d only listen to the feminists they’d realise that what they should be doing is concentrating on becoming men. It’s not the “patriarchy” that treats women as second-class citizens, it’s the feminists.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

drinking the Kool-Aid of democracy

The capacity of human beings to delude themselves knows few limits. Few human delusions have been quite as pervasive, or as destructive, as the rather touching belief in democracy. Marxism is the only delusion that can match it for sheer silliness.

The idea that the best way to choose a ruler is by a popularity contest is so extraordinary that it is difficult to see how it could ever have been supported by sane people. Wisdom and truth cannot be determined by putting the matter to a vote. We don’t decide whether gravity is true or false by putting the question to the vote.

The idea that democracy, freedom and justice form some sort of magical triad is an associated idea that is equally ludicrous. As conservative philosopher Roger Scruton points out in his excellent book England: An Elegy English liberty was historically assured not by democracy, but by the rule of law.

Scruton argues, convincingly, that the British constitution (an unwritten constitution but a very real one) was an elaborate system for protecting citizens against democracy. The monarchy and the House of Lords balanced the power of the House of Commons. Even more importantly the common law provided protection for individual rights against the dangers of democratic tyranny.

All that went by the board when Tony Blair set out to trash a constitution that had served the nation well for centuries.

The founding fathers of the United States were equally aware of the perils of democracy. The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights were intended to provide a defence against the follies of politicians.

Tyranny exercised by 51% of the electorate is no different in practice to tyranny by a dictator. Democracy has been described as two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner (a quote widely attributed to Ben Franklin although in fact it dates from the 1990s).

Of course the counter-argument to all this is that the alternatives are worse. This is a misleading argument since the alternatives usually presented are dictatorship or technocracy. Those alternatives are certainly worse than democracy, but other alternatives such as the limitations on democracy outlined by Scruton are generally not mentioned by enthusiasts for democracy.

When your ship is heading for an iceberg the options might be limited and somewhat unattractive but simply continuing on the same course will in the long run be an even more unpleasant option.

I’ll close with a quote from John Adams, in a letter to John Taylor on 15 April 1814:

"I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never." -

Thursday, January 26, 2012

censorship by stealth

The biggest peril to freedom of speech today comes from corporations that are willing to cave in to pressure from lobby groups and introduce self-censorship.

While it’s true that leftist governments, such as the current Australian government, are determined to do all they can to crush dissent and prevent freedom of speech the fact is that government censorship is at least relatively open and therefore easier to oppose.

Censorship by stealth in the form of self-censorship by media outlets is more insidious and much harder to fight against. And while the mainstream media has for decades been keen to toe the politically correct line the danger today is that the internet will go the same way.

This is a danger that conservatives have been slow to recognise. The left-wing bias of sites like wikipedia is potentially a greater threat than the left-wing bias of the dinosaur media like the New York Times, The Guardian and the Fairfax press in Australia.

An equally serious threat is that internet corporations, despite their brave talk on the subject of SOPA, will tamely submit to government censorship, or even the mere threat of it. The opposition to SOPA was driven mainly by the fear that it might cost them money. If it had been simply a matter of principle I seriously doubt that they would have cared.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

moonbat actor named Australian of the Year

So actor Geoffrey Rush has been named Australian of the Year. For services to political correctness, presumably. The moonbat actor has made it clear that he intends to use the award to advance the current government’s far left agenda on illegal immigrants, climate change, gay marriage and the rewriting of Australian history to make it more PC.

He claimed he would not see the award as "a licence to pontificate" and immediately started to pontificate on issues about which he clearly knows nothing other than the accepted left-wing political line.

It's more proof that actors should stick to acting and leave politics to the grown-ups.

This is truly a shameful episode. The Australian of the Year awards have been exposed as a political sham.

fly that car flag

It’s Australia Day tomorrow, so make sure you fly your Australia car flag. It’s worth it just to upset moonbats like Farida Fozdar.

Of course if you’re a leftist it’s not Australia Day, but Hate Australia Day, an occasion for orgies of hand-wringing and whining.

Mind you, it’s difficult for anyone to remain positive about our future with our lunatic prime minister pushing for constitutional change to permanently enshrine racism in the Australian Constitution.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

how liberalism has ruined comic books

Popular culture today is almost entirely dominated by aggressive leftist political agendas. Even comic books are not immune, as Darin Wagner notes. A point echoed by D. S. Hube.

It's become impossible to just sit down and enjoy watching a movie or a TV show without having political correctness rammed down one's throat. Even kids' programming these days mostly consists of political indoctrination. Strident political propaganda does not make for good entertainment.

the moral decay of the west

Western civilisation is now engaged in a life-or-death struggle with militant Islam, and the west’s most dangerous enemy in this war is its own moral weakness and depravity.

The family has been all but destroyed and we are now in the process of putting the final nail in the coffin by legalising gay marriage. “Sex workers” are more respected than mothers. We are too selfish to raise our own kids and we expect the government to do it for us by providing unlimited childcare, a sure recipe for producing another alienated, immature and poorly socialised generation.

The western world is awash with drugs.

We have a growing underclass that is vicious and moronic.

Education standards have been slipping for decades. Schools teach kids about condoms but they can’t teach them to read. Universities are factories for producing political activists dedicated to destroying western civilisation.

Hatred of our own civilisation is the dominant characteristic of our mainstream media.

We have the Occupy movement - dirty unwashed hippies and poorly educated overgrown babies who think they can bring about the promised land by wallowing in their own excrement and chanting their hatred for their own society.

We have feminists preaching an agenda of hate and self-pity.

We have millions of people medicated to the eyeballs on Prozac, and more shockingly when children behave like ordinary children we label them as having ADHD and medicate them to the eyeballs as well.

In the US you can be a terrorist but that won’t stop you getting a cushy academic job in a university. Ask Bill Ayers.

We have environmentalists intent on destroying not merely the economies of the west but the entire western way of life. Scientists no longer care about truth, they just want funding.

We have no belief in our own civilisation or our own achievements. We are riddled with irrational guilt.

Unless we can rediscover some moral purpose and some belief in ourselves we have no chance of successfully facing the challenge of Islam.

Friday, January 20, 2012

SOPA and online gangsterism

This whole SOPA business, and the hysterical reaction to it from sites like wikipedia, amazes me. There seems to be little appreciation of the fact that piracy is not merely criminal, it is gangsterism on a huge scale. There’s no moral difference between the online pirates of today and the racketeers of the past.

Not that I feel any great sympathy for the music industry or for Hollywood. Personally I’d be delighted to see a moral sewer like Hollywood go under. But I feel even less sympathy for online pirates, or for sites that really have no legitimate purpose other than to facilitate piracy and that makes millions out of it.

It seems to me to be a symptom of a very disturbing disease - the culture of geek entitlement, the belief of a frighteningly large proportion of the online world that it’s perfectly OK to just steal stuff if you can’t afford to buy it. Or even that it’s perfectly OK to just steal stuff even if you can afford to buy it.

It’s the same mindset that drives the Occupy Wall Street scum, that the world owes them a living. Overgrown spoilt babies who gleefully loot the candy store then cry when there’s no more candy left to steal.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

what greens really want

Finnish environmentalist Pentti Linkola has suggested that "the state should enact draconian measures of discipline, prohibition, enforcement and oppression in order to make people comply with environmental dictates." Climate change deniers are to be “re-educated” in eco-gulags. He also thinks big cities should be attacked by "some trans-national body like the UN" with nuclear weapons or with "bacteriological and chemical attacks" and is in favour of genocide.

Dr Eric R. Pianka, a biologist at the University of Texas in Austin believes that 90% of the world’s population should be culled by means of the airborne ebola virus.

President Obama’s science advisor John P. Holdren is on record as advocating a world government that would reduce the world’s population through forced abortions and mass sterilisation.

What it all comes down to is that environmentalism is an ideology of hate.

the need for fewer university students

Australia’s current Prime Minister, back in 2009 when she was merely the Commonwealth Education Minister, announced that the government would commit itself to ensuring that 40% of Australians would receive a university education.

Now it seems to me that one of the biggest problems facing the western world these days is that we already have far more university graduates than we need. We only need so many physicists, lawyers, doctors and engineers. That suggests that most of the extra university graduates are going to be arts graduates. What on earth would be the use of so many additional arts graduates?

How many arts graduates do we in fact need? My guess would be, very few. All these additional graduates are going to expect to be provided with jobs, which means the government will be under pressure to provide lots more totally unnecessary jobs for them. They will have qualifications that nobody needs, and will lack any skills that really are needed.

This might sound like just another example of the folly of a loony left government but in fact from the point of view of the Left it makes perfect sense. They see universities as factories for producing more leftists.

What we really need are fewer universities and fewer university students. The taxpayer should not be expected to fund the creation of left-wing political activists.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

apologising will be seen as weakness

While I don't condone the actions of US Marines in urinating on a dead Taliban, the problem is that if the US apologises or takes drastic action against the Marines concerned it will be seen within the Islsmic world as yet another sign of American weakness.

That's what liberals fail to comprehend about Islam - that any willingness to negotiate or compromise or conciliate is interpreted as weakness.

And as Vietnam proved decisively, you're defeated when you believe yourself to be defeated. The US was winning that war militarily but that meant nothing once the news media convinced a significant portion of the American people that they were actually losing. Walter Cronkite turned out to be a more dangerous enemy than Ho Chi Minh.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Green Hell

Unlike most books on the subject of the great global warming hoax Steve Milloy’s Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them doesn’t focus on the scientific arguments which as he points out are well documented elsewhere. In any case man-made global warming has been so thoroughly debunked that it’s hardly necessary to labour the point. The science is in, and man-made global warming is not happening.

Milloy’s focus is on the real agenda behind the scam and behind environmentalism in general. Environmentalism of course has nothing to do with science. It’s a political ideology, and a terrifying one.

Milloy documents the outrageous intentions of the greens, an agenda that will wreck economies and lead to lower standards of living throughout the West. In The Third World the consequences will be even more devastating. Green opposition to desperately needed development projects will condemn much of the world’s population to permanent poverty and even death (don’t forget that the green-inspired ban on DVD cost the lives of millions)

He points out many of the less obvious dangers. We all know the greens want to make driving a car more expensive but their policies will also making less safe since the smaller cars they are pressing people to buy have dismal safety records. So it’s a green policy that is already costing lives.

And of course there’s the insane green energy policies. These policies are particularly tragic for Americans since the US has enormous reserves of coal, oil, natural gas and shale oil. There need be no energy crisis in the US for centuries or even millennia, except for the energy crisis the greens are deliberately engineering.

Even more worrying are the incredibly intrusive plans that environmentalists have up their sleeves. Green Big Brother wants to monitor the energy usages of individuals. They already have the technology to do so. So in what used to be the Land of the Free the government will be watching you to see how long you spend in the shower and whether you’ve left your TV set on standby.

It’s important to realise that this kind of intrusiveness, these restrictions on individual freedom, are not just a side-effect. They’re what it’s all about, the creation of an Orwellian socialist nanny state. Social control is the aim.

And forget any fantasies about profitable green industries. Green industries cannot survive without massive subsidisation from the taxpayer. Of course these policies will be irreparable economic damage which as far as radial environmentalists are concerned is a bonus. You can’t bring in the green socialist utopia unless you first destroy capitalism. Amazingly a huge number of large corporations have been browbeaten by the greens into supporting the destruction of their own industries.

A depressing book but Milloy ends on an upbeat note, reminding us that the very tactics used by the greens can often be used just as successfully by their opponents.

An excellent book and highly recommended to anyone who values freedom and western civilisation.

enemies of reason - Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) is one of the most significant figures in the development of the modern environmental movement. Her 1962 book Silent Spring led directly to the banning of DDT. As a result millions of people have died from malaria in places like Africa.

As is the case with most environmentalists the science on which she based her claims turned out to be mistaken. So those millions of people died for nothing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

the forgetting of history

The disturbing popularity of socialism among young people (such as the ridiculous amount of support being demonstrated for the moronic unwashed thugs of the Occupy Wall Street movement) at first seems inexplicable. Everywhere it’s been tried socialism has ended in economic ruin, tyranny and failure. After the collapse of the Soviet Union one would have thought that socialism would have become nothing more than a bad joke.

The answer to this puzzle is not difficult to find. The young are turning to socialism because they don’t know that it’s a failed ideology. The schools and the media are too busy indoctrinating children in political correctness and green activism to teach real history these days. They’re too busy teaching people to hate their own civilisation to have time to tell people the truth about the horrors of life under Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and other heroes of socialism.

Consequently we now have a generation that has no idea just how catastrophic socialism has proved to be.

We are now about to find out what happens when history is forgotten.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I want to stay in 1928

Lord knows this is a wretched century but at the moment I'm not worried because I'm not here. I'm in 1928. A murder has just been committed in a country house and Lord Peter Wimsey is investigating. I’m watching the excellent 1972 BBC Lord Peter Wimsey series.

1928 really is a much better world. There's no Facebook, but people read books. And people know how to dress. Even the men know how to dress. And they have monocles! The decline of the monocle pretty much coincides with the beginning of the decline of the western civilisation. I'm not saying there's a direct causal connection, but still it bears thinking about.

The best thing about the Lord Peter Wimsey series is that it’s not one of those awful modern BBC attempts at period drama where they have to try to impose depraved 21st century cultural standards onto the past and make the past politically correct. This was made in 1972, when the BBC still made good television. It seems incredible now that there really was a time when BBC productions were worth watching.

This is one of the things I want to address on this blog - the pernicious effect of political correctness on popular culture, and even more importantly the disastrous effect that politicised popular culture has had on our society.

The only problem is, there are only five episodes in Clouds of Witness and then I have to return to 2012.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

abortion is so empowering

Just when I think that nothing can shock me any longer, along comes Merle Hoffman. Hoffam founded the Choices abortion clinic in Queens, New York. Interviewed in Salon on the subject of abortion she says, "Let’s agree this is a life form, a potential life; you’re terminating it. You don’t have to argue that abortion stops a beating heart. It does."

But although she's agrees that abortion means taking a life she's in favour of it because it, “The act of abortion positions women at their most powerful." So apparently the way to empower women is to encourage them to kill.

She goes on to say that, "Abortion is as American as apple pie." And she tells us that, “With my choice I was fighting for the right of all women to define abortion as an act of love: love for the family one already has, and just as important, love for oneself. I was fighting to reclaim abortion as a mother’s act.” Well there's certainly no doubt about the love for oneself part of that.

So at least now we know how pro-abortion activists really think.

Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead

Most people have such strong feelings, either positive or negative, about Ayn Rand that the major difficulty with her 1943 novel The Fountainhead is to try to put those feelings to one side and judge the book on its own merits. The first thing I should state is that I am not a Rand cultist and do not subscribe to her political programme.

That’s made even harder by the undeniable truth that this is a political novel with a very definite and uncompromising point of view. To make things even more difficult still it’s a novel about a modernist architect, modernist architecture being a subject that produces equally strong and polarised opinions.

The hero of the novel is Howard Roark. He’s obviously very much a vehicle for expressing Rand’s own views and in fact she sets up a courtroom scene at the end for the sole purpose of giving Roark an opportunity to deliver a lengthy and impassioned speech expressing those views.

Roark is a man who is incapable of compromise. The book opens with his expulsion from the Stanton Institute of Technology architecture school. For any other aspiring architect this could be a disaster, but Roark has such a single-minded determination to succeed that he simply ignores this event. And, painfully slowly, he does succeed.

Roark believes an architect should be constrained only by the needs of the site and the function of the building. If a client tries to tell him how to design a building he tells them to find another architect. He is pure individualism personified. Roark represents the modernism of Frank Lloyd Wright, not the sterile modernism of Mies van der Rohe. It’s a modernism that seeks beauty, and finds it in buildings that are in perfect harmony with their setting and their function.

His fellow student at Stanton, Peter Keating, is the direct opposite of Roark. Keating has no opinions, he simply reflects what he thinks others want to see. He designs building that he thinks other people will want. He has no personality, no sense of self. He does have a driving ambition, but no clear idea of why he wants to succeed. He becomes hugely successful.

Keating at first seems to be the villain of the piece, but he isn’t. The real villain of the book is the man who made him America’s leading architect, Ellsworth Toohey. Toohey is an architectural critic but as the story progresses we find he is much more. He is in fact the classic left-wing intellectual. He is obsessed by power and control. He does not seek to destroy Howard Roark’s career because he thinks Roark is a bad architect. He does so because he thinks Roark is a great architect. In Toohey’s Marxist vision of society there is no room for great men. By getting a talentless nonentity like Keating recognised as a great architect he believed he can create a world which has no room in it for great men or for individualists. Thee will only be the remorseless workings of economic forces and mass movements which will propel men like Toohey into position of power.

The fourth major character, Gail Wynand, is more complex. He’s a press baron, and his flagship newspaper is the ultimate embodiment of the gutter press. He seeks power as well, but he has a weakness. He recognises greatness in art. He becomes an unlikely friend of Howard Roark’s. Like Roark he is an individualist.

The remaining major character is Dominique Francon, who loves Howard Roark and marries Gail Wynand. She is an architectural critic as well and seek to sabotage Roark’s career not because she hates him and thinks he’s a lousy architect but because she loves him and believe he’s a great architect. She seeks to destroy his career because she believes the world will destroy him. The relationship between Dominique and Roark has enraged generations of feminist critics, which simply shows how little feminists understand of women.

This book actually reminds me quite a bit, oddly enough, of George Orwell Nineteen Eighty-Four which was published a few years later. That’s not really surprising when you think about it. The 1930s had seen the communists gain an extraordinary degree of influence over the intellectual life of both Britain and the US. Intellectuals in both countries embraced socialism en masse and many became ardent apologists for Stalinism. So Orwell and Rand were both reacting against the same trend. And it’s clear that both saw the same evils in left-wing political movements - the crushing of the individual, the enthusiasm for collectivism and for totalitarianism, the unthinking acceptance of dogma and the rejection of free thought. Both writers proved to be remarkably prescient. The monolithic and soul-destroying political correctness of modern British and American society would not have surprised them.

Ellsworth Toohey and his disciples represent a way of thinking that would have made them right at home in Orwell’s Airstrip One. They mouth slogans about freedom through compulsion that are uncannily close to Orwellian Newspeak. They would certainly love Big Brother.

Rand’s greatest strength is her understanding of the hidden and often unconscious motivations of the left-wing intellectual - their contempt for those whose interests they claim to champion, their thirst for power, their determination to crush dissent, their willingness to embrace repression to enforce their doctrines, their preference for theory over experience, their strategy of gaining power through control of the media and education, and most notably the shallowness of their thought.

You don’t have to accept her political philosophy in order to enjoy this novel. It’s far more entertaining than I expected and considerably more subtle. It’s provocative and intelligent and not be easily dismissed even if (like me) you’re not a Randite.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

the feminisation of education

One of the most profound results of the seizure of control of society by women in western countries has been a dramatic change in the nature of education. As Fred Reed points out in his excellent blog article Driving Down Unknown Roads: The Feminization Of America, “Women and men want very different things and therefore very different worlds. Men want sex, freedom, and adventure; women want security, pleasantness, and someone to care about (or for) them. Both like power. Men use it to conquer their neighbors whether in business or war, women to impose security and pleasantness.....

“The emphasis on how children feel about each other instead of on what they learn is profoundly female (as for that matter is the associated fascination with psychotherapy). The drugging of male schoolchildren into passivity is the imposition of pleasantness by chemical means.”

The end result will be a dull grey conformist society that worships mediocrity. Children are by nature unruly. The task of education is to channel that unruliness and that energy in useful and productive ways, not to squash it. Our feminised education systems have no room for individuality or for excellence. Leadership becomes something to be discouraged. Following orders becomes more important than thinking for oneself or making one’s own decisions and accepting the consequences.

Children will leave school totally unequipped for the challenges of the real world. They enter school as children, and instead of leaving school as adults as the should they come out the other end as permanent children. The Nanny State will then step in and tell them they don’t need to grow up, ever.

Destructive policies such as rewarding children for failure and telling them they haven’t failed when they have is one of the inevitable consequences of the feminist takeover of education.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Treason, Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter is always an entertaining writer but at times she does perhaps allow her considerable gifts for invective to get the upper hand. This is not the case in her 2003 bookTreason.

This is by far her best book, because it’s her most focused and most disciplined book. She has a coherent argument and she sticks to it.

Her thesis is that whenever liberals have controlled American foreign policy the results have been disastrous, not because they’re incompetent or woolly-minded but because they have pursued policies that are actively and consciously hostile to the interests of the United States and of the free world in general. It’s not that they didn’t know what they were doing. They knew exactly what they were doing.

Of course in making such claims she leaves herself wide open to attack if she can’t back them up but she’s done her research and her arguments stand up.

She sees (quite correctly) that the roots of American foreign policy failure go right back to the beginnings of New Deal socialism. The betrayal started with the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. As a result the US found itself fighting a successful war only to lose the peace. This was not ineptitude. It was a direct result of a massive penetration of American government and bureaucracy by Soviet agents, communists and fellow travellers.

The loss of China to communism did not come about because of mistakes - it happened because the US government was acting on the advice of people in the State Department who wanted China to be taken over by the Communists. It wasn’t incompetence. It was treason.

The only mistake Senator Joe McCarthy made was that he underestimated the extent of communist influence within the State Department.

Subsequent policy failures can be traced to similar causes - those responsible for failure wanted US foreign policy to fail.

One of the strengths of the book is that she mostly isn’t dealing with contemporary issues or personalities. She’s dealing with events in the past where the consequences of those events are a matter of historical record.

This was her attempt to establish herself as a serious systematic conservative thinker, and it succeeds admirably. An excellent eye-opening book.

intellectuals behaving badly

Paul Johnson’s book Intellectuals is a fascinating examination of the reasons we should distrust intellectuals, especially of the left-wing variety.

He looks at a selection of intellectuals from Rousseau to Noam Chomsky and sees some disturbing common patterns. They achieve a certain eminence in a particular field (Bertrand Russell in mathematics, Chomsky in linguistics, Shelley, Tolstoy and James Baldwin in literature) and then decide they are uniquely qualified to refashion civilisation. They turn to politics but their knowledge of the real world is dangerously shallow and naïve, and they are led into a complex web of deception and self-deception.

Since their understanding of the world of politics and of the behaviours and motivations of real people are fatally inadequate they succumb to the temptation to ignore real people and the real world and to put ideas before people. When people fail to react in the desired manner the intellectuals become embittered and increasingly extreme.

Believing that they have all the answers they convince themselves that they do not need to bother with troublesome distractions like facts, and that they are justified in lying in the service of the higher truths that they have glimpsed.

Lying becomes second nature to them. An almost total disregard for truthfulness can be observed in all the intellectuals under discussion. Rousseau, Marx, the left-wing publisher Victor Gollancz, Lillian Hellman and Bertolt Brecht are merely the most egregious examples.

Hypocrisy, selfishness and vicious behaviour towards other people is another common thread, most spectacular in the cases of Shelley, Hemingway and Norman Mailer but present in all to some extent. The intellectual seems to be a person unable to progress beyond adolescence, which explains not only their childish behaviours but also their willingness to embrace remarkable silly ideas (Marx and Tolstoy being classic examples)

Some (Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir) are so sad and pathetic one almost feels sorry for them while others (Shelley, Lillian Hellman and Brecht) are truly repellant.

Johnson also notes the increasing tendency of intellectuals to embrace violence, most notable in the cases of Mailer and James Baldwin, and associated with that a frightening willingness to make excuses for barbarism (Lillian Hellman’s enthusiasm for Stalinism being a particularly shameful example).

There really is nothing more dangerous than an intellectual with a plan to remake the world.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rousseau and the road to totalitarianism

It’s impossible to understand the 19th century without taking the Romantic Movement into account, and it’s difficult to imagine the Romantic Movement without the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

I’ve recently been reading Paul Johnson’s book Intellectuals. The idea behind the book is that over the past couple of centuries a succession of intellectuals have set themselves up as being uniquely qualified to tell us how to live our lives, usurping the role once played by religious teachers, priests and prophets. Johnson argues that if these people are going to tell the rest of us how to live then we’re entitled to ask how well they managed their own lives and how successfully they put into practice the ideals they would enjoin upon others. Which seem reasonable enough - after all if a politician or a religious leader made similar claims we’d certainly feel justified in asking if they lived up to their own principles.

Which brings us back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the first of the intellectual instructors in the art of living.

As Johnson points out, Rousseau was an habitual liar who exploited those around him shamelessly. He was also a paranoiac and among other hobbies he enjoyed exposing himself to women and also enjoyed masochist sexual adventures. His ingratitude and his boorish behaviour were of epic proportions. He quarreled with everyone with whom he came into contact. He was described by Diderot as "deceitful, vain as Satan, ungrateful, cruel, hypocritical, and full of malice."

He also saw himself as a expert on the upbringing and education of children although he abandoned all his own children.

Apart from his stunning hypocrisy Johnson sees Rousseau as having set western civilisation on the path that would lead inexorably to the modern totalitarian state, particularly in his enthusiasm for giving the state complete control of education. He is in a way the grandfather of political correctness.

In both the chapter on Rousseau and in the other chapters dealing with other intellectuals Johnson raises some pertinent points about the motivations and psychologies of such individuals. They are essentially people trapped in a kind of permanent adolescence, with all the monstrous self-centred egotism of youth, worshipping ideas but in an embarrassingly naïve manner and entirely incapable of dealing with either the real world or real people.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

conservatives have nothing to fear but fear itself

This is an amplification of a comment I made on the OzConservative blog recently.

One thing that really intrigues me about the leadership of the conservative parties is - what exactly are they afraid of? If you were a conservative leader and you came out for genuinely conservative policies you’d lose the votes of the tree-huggers, of the Marxist feminists, of the extremists in the gay lobby, of left-wing university lecturers, of vegan activists, of the climate change loonies and the mung bean-munchers in the inner cities. But those people are not going to vote for a conservative party anyway. You’d lose the support of the left-wing media. But the left-wing media are never going to support a conservative party anyway. So in reality you’d lose nothing.

The only voters who matter are the swinging voters and they’ll vote for anyone who brings economic prosperity, security and law and order.

So in reality there’s nothing to be afraid if. It’s obvious that the leaderships of conservative parties everywhere are afraid of phantoms, of illusions.

Look at the conservative leaders who have been hugely successful electorally over the past forty years - Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Ronald Reagan in the US, John Howard in Australia. All of them terrified the “moderates” in their own parties. All of them went on to win multiple elections with huge majorities. The electorate wasn’t terrified of their genuinely conservative stance.

As Margaret Thatcher so succinctly put it, “Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.”

white guilt and the true story of slavery

Black Rednecks and White Liberals is a collection of six essays by Thomas Sowell, a black American conservative thinker whose erudition is matched only by his distaste for political correctness. All six essays are well worth reading but perhaps the most interesting is the one on the subject of slavery.

Sowell begins by noting that our entire approach to this subject is bizarrely distorted. Slavery as an institution has existed for several thousand years and has flourished (if that is the right word for such an evil) in almost every part of the globe. For most people today however slavery means the enslavement of Africans by Europeans, with Europeans cast as the only villains in the script. This is, as Sowell points out, a misleading view that has more to do with political correctness than with the facts.

It ignores the one million Europeans sold into slavery by Islam between 1500 and 1800. It ignores the inconvenient fact that the enslavement of Africans was begun not by Europeans but by Arabs and other Africans. It ignores the enslavement of Europeans by other Europeans, it ignores slavery in India and in the New World before the arrival of Columbus, it ignores the enslavement of other Polynesians by the Maoris. In fact it ignores most of the true history of slavery.

Even more tellingly, the generally accepted politically correct view ignores an even more inconvenient fact - that western European civilisation was the first civilisation in history ever to voluntarily abandon slavery. Over the course of the 19th century every western European power outlawed slavery. Islam on the other hand not only continued to tolerate slavery, it did so until very recent times and to the extent that Islam finally abandoned the institution it did so only under immense pressure from the European powers. Slavery in fact still continues in some African nations today

The European powers did more than simply outlaw slavery. Led by Britain, they actively stamped out the slave trade, at considerable cost to themselves in both lives and money. It was European imperialism that ended slavery.

Sowell also points that slavery has, more often than not, had little or nothing to do with racism.

He also takes issue with those who criticise the founding fathers of the United States for supposedly not doing enough to end slavery, pointing out that they were confronted by a difficult real-world situation (unlike their modern critics in academia who have never confronted a real-world problem in their lives) and that they did as much as they could consistent with the survival of the new nation.

Sowell is a rarity on two counts - an intellectual with an independent mind and an academic whose writing style is blessedly free of obscurantist jargon. If you haven’t read any of his books then Black Rednecks and White Liberals is an excellent place to start. Highly recommended.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Theodore Dalrymple's Junk Medicine

In Junk Medicine Theodore Dalrymple argues that everything we know about heroin addiction is wrong. Or at least, everything that is taken for granted about this subject is wrong.

Dalrymple spent many years as a doctor in both an inner-city hospital and a prison in a major British city so he’s had ample opportunity to see the problem at first hand.

The fact that addicts tell outrageous lies will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever actually met an addict, but far more shocking is the fact that the same lies are not only believed but actively propagated by doctors, nurse, therapists and counsellors working in the field of addiction.

The truth is that physical addiction is a trivial matter. Withdrawal from heroin is infinitely less dangerous than withdrawal from alcohol. Addiction is not something that just happens to people. You have to work hard to become a heroin addict. Addiction is no accident. It’s a choice.

Dalrymple also explodes the myth that addiction forces people into crime. He argues that the reality is quite the reverse. People start off by becoming involved in criminal subcultures and then become addicts.

Addiction is not merely a choice, it’s an attractive choice. It absolves the addict of all adult responsibilities.

Treatment methods such as the use of methadone are entirely useless. In fact any kind of treatment that starts from the proposition that addiction is a medical problem is bound to fail. Dalrymple’s prescription is simple - we should close down all drug treatment clinics. The only purpose they serve is to provide employment for doctors, nurse, therapists and counsellors. A bloated taxpayer-funded bureaucracy has come into being that exists only to perpetuate itself.

Dalrymple also takes aim at the drug-fueled literary tradition that has given opiate addiction a false glamour. He suggests that poets such as Coleridge and Baudelaire might well have produced a good deal more worthwhile work had their brains not been addled by drugs. His reserves his especial venom for William S. Burroughs, and rightly so.

Dalrymple is always provocative but given the fact that the growth of the addiction treatment industry has coincided with a spectacular growth in the number of heroin addicts one has to admit that he has a point.