Tuesday, February 28, 2017

a tolerant religion is a dead religion

A great deal of the controversy between atheists and religious folks, and between Christians and Muslims, comes down to the question of tolerance. Atheists accuse anyone who believes in religion of intolerance while Christians preen themselves on their astounding levels of tolerance. 

There is one thing that one can’t help noticing. The most tolerant religions are the ones that are completely dead. No-one ever complains about the bigotry of mithraists. No-one ever accuses mithraists of racism or sexism or homophobia. There’s a very good reason for this. There aren’t any mithraists any more.

The more a religion declines the more tolerant it becomes. The tolerance displayed by Christianity is not a sign of virtue - it’s a sign of irrelevance. Even Christians don’t care what Christians believe any more. Christianity is, for most Christians, a harmless hobby. Like stamp-collecting. And like stamp-collecting it’s a hobby that is slowly but surely dying out.

That’s one of the reason so many people are so freaked out by Islam. Say what you like about it, you can’t accuse it of being a dead or dying religion. It’s frightening because it’s a living religion.

Back in the days when it was still a living religion Christianity could be pretty intolerant as well. And we need to remember that intolerance is not always a bad thing. After all why shouldn’t we be intolerant of Sin? Or intolerant of injustice? Or intolerant of dangerous and deluded heresies? We’re intolerant of murder - is that a bad thing? Most of us are pretty intolerant of thieving.

If Christianity is ever going to stage a successful revival it’s going to have to stop being so nice. If you’re going to be a Christian in our society you’re going to be hated anyway. The one thing worse than being hated is being despised.

Tolerance is just another way of saying that we simply don’t care. Perhaps that will be our civilisation’s epitaph - they just didn’t care.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

making people feel unnecessary

I came across an extremely interesting comment during an online discussion elsewhere yesterday. The gist of it was that the hardest thing for people to cope with is not dealing with disasters, but being made to feel not necessary. And that modern western society is remarkably good at making people feel unnecessary.

I’m inclined to agree.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

democracy, real and imaginary

I’ve often had harsh things to say about democracy so perhaps it’s about time I clarified my position. My disparaging remarks on this topic are directed towards representative democracy, which of course has absolutely no connection whatsoever with actual democracy.

Actual democracy means that the people get to make the decisions and to choose their own destiny. Representative democracy is an elaborate mechanism designed to insure that this never happens. 

Quite apart from the fact that representative democracy always leads to corruption it has a much worse effect - it creates a political class and that political class has no loyalties to anything except its own interests (or the interests of those who bankroll them). The political class does not in any way identify with the nation or the people. They despise both.

These problems appear to be inherent in any system of representative democracy.

Actual democracy, or direct democracy, has its own problems but that’s another topic.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

the ruling class in Sweden, and in the US, plus crazy scientists

Firstly, a superb interview with Dr Tino Sanandaji, an economics researcher at the Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden. He blows the lid on Sweden’s insane immigration policies and their fatal consequences. Dr Sanandaji can get away with saying things no ethnic Sweden would dare to say. He puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of Sweden’s elites, and also points out that there has always been a majority of Swedes totally opposed to mass immigration but the elites have simply ignored them.

There’s also a good (and rather long) article by Angelo M. Codevilla at The American Spectator on America’s ruling class.

Of course there are people even dumber than our elites, like the team of scientists who want to spend half a trillion dollars adding ice to the Arctic. That’s actually just the start - what they’re really hoping to do is to spend five trillion dollars adding ice to the whole Arctic.

And in Britain apparently it’s OK to beat up six women, as long as you’re a lesbian. Lesbian violence, and especially lesbian domestic violence, is one of those dirty little secrets that we’re not supposed to know about.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trump hysteria - is there a point to it?

When you see the extent of the anti-Trump hysteria in the United States you have to ask yourself - what is the point? Trump won the election fair and square and there isn’t going to be another presidential election for another four years so surely the only rational thing for the Trump-haters to do is to wait four years and then try to come up with a better candidate than Hillary Clinton.

But they’re not doing that. The Trump-haters, and especially the ones in the media and academia, are behaving as if they really can get the election result overturned.

Of course this could just be evidence of the basic irrationality of the Trump-haters, or their inability to comprehend the fact that so many ordinary Americans hate them.

Or could it be something more? Is the US media preparing the ground for a coup?

A year ago I would have dismissed talk of a coup as the rantings of the Tin-Foil Hat Brigade. Coups were something the United States organised in other countries, but the idea of a coup against the US government itself seemed unthinkable, paranoid and delusional. Now I’m not quite so sure.

The fact is that the behaviour of the American media does look like the kind of destabilisation that usually precedes US-organised coups in other countries. More worrying is that it isn’t just the media. The judiciary also seems intent on destabilising the Administration.

Could such a coup succeed? Trump has widespread public support but that would count for nothing. What matters is power. And in the centres of power Trump has virtually no support at all. The media is united against him. The judiciary is against him. He cannot rely on the support of Republicans in Congress - they’d be delighted to see him replaced by Mike Pence. The bureaucracy is against him. The intelligence agencies are against him. The police hierarchies are against him. The only thing in doubt is the attitude of the military. Given the politicisation and corruption of the US military Trump would be unwise to rely on help from that quarter. He may have quite a bit of support among enlisted personnel but the senior officers are unlikely to back him.

The first step in staging a successful coup is to create the impression that the government you’re trying to overthrow has no legitimacy. Overthrowing an illegitimate government is not only permissible - it’s virtuous. It’s striking a blow for freedom. The process of painting the Trump Administration as an illegal and illegitimate government is already well advanced.

The second step is to start floating the suggestion that perhaps the government really should be overthrown. Some of the more hysterical anti-Trump voices in the media have already floated this suggestion, albeit in an indirect sort of way.

I’ve always been hyper-suspicious of conspiracy theories so it’s important to note that there is an alternative explanation for all this. It may be simply an attempt to intimidate Trump. The objective may not be to remove Trump but to persuade him to become a good little establishment Republican who can be relied on to follow orders. Or the objective may be to isolate him by frightening any potential supporters he may have in Congress or in the bureaucracy, or frightening members of his Administration into abandoning him. Either of these possibilities would effectively reduce the Trump Administration to powerlessness, and for the globalists that might be more desirable than facing the risks of an actual coup. 

The one thing we can be certain of is that Trump’s enemies have no intention of allowing him to put into practice any of the policies which won him the election.

Friday, February 17, 2017

some interesting stuff on the web

Some interesting things I've found on the web recently:

Oz Conservative has a link to a really intriguing article on the split in the Catholic Church in the US. No, not the split between “liberal Catholics” and “conservative Catholics” but the arguably more important one between conservative Catholics and radical traditional Catholics. The radical traditionalists represent a strain in Catholic thought that goes back a long way but seemed to largely disappear during the Cold War (one of the many unintended and unfortunate consequences of the Cold War). The radical traditionalists are as suspicious of capitalism as they are of socialism and they see the conservative Catholics as being much too inclined to compromise with capitalism (and much too inclined to embrace disastrous neoconservative foreign policy concepts).

At Nourishing Obscurity there’s an important but depressing post on the increasingly frantic embrace of atheism by the Anglican Church.

There's a  working paper by two political scientists that suggests that female rulers have historically been more likely than men to get their counties embroiled in wars.

And at Upon Hope there's a link to a YouTube video by the notorious Roosh V in which he asks why we are educating (or rather over-educating) women. It has to be said that he makes quite a lot of sense and offers a rather devastating critique of feminism and the harm it does to women. And I think Mark makes a lot of sense when he suggests that most people, both men and women, need no more than an 8th grade education. Over-educating the young is a mistake. It's an even bigger mistake to think that the best way to learn things is by going to university. In most jobs the nest way to learn is to learn on the job.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Chamberlain and the Lost Peace

John Charmley’s Chamberlain and the Lost Peace was published in 1989 and makes a fine companion volume to his later Churchill: The End of Glory and Churchill’s Grand Alliance

Chamberlain and the Lost Peace is a bold reassessment of both Neville Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement, subjects which still lead to heated and acrimonious debates.

Charmley’s view is that Chamberlain was most certainly not a silly naïve old man nor was he soft. He was a hard-headed realist and he was tough and realistic. His realism was the key to his foreign policy. Chamberlain believed very strongly that Britain’s foreign policy had to be in harmony with its defence policy. A foreign policy based on the ability to intervene decisively in a continental war was obviously going to lead to disaster if the army that such intervention required did not exist. 

Even more importantly, defence policy had to be in harmony in economic policy. Economic realities determined defence policy. Britain simply could not afford to maintain a strong navy, a strong air force and a strong army. Something had to be sacrificed. Chamberlain believed that a strong navy and a strong air force were more important than a strong army and history proved him correct.

Even maintaining a strong navy and a strong air force was something that Britain could only afford in the short term. Ands there was the expense of maintaining the Empire.

Worst still, while Britain could with great difficulty support the cost of rearmament she could not actually afford to fight a war.

Chamberlain’s foreign policy was based on an acceptance of these realities, realities which contemporary critics like Eden and Churchill steadfastly refused to face (and most subsequent historians have also refused to accept these realities).

Since Britain could not afford an army that could intervene decisively in a continental war it naturally followed that a rational foreign policy had to be based on avoiding being entangled in such a war, and preferably had to be based on preventing such a war from happening. 

For Chamberlain foreign policy was not a matter of taking a moral stand, since taking a moral stand without having the force to back it up is not only futile, it does more harm than good. Chamberlain’s foreign policy objective was to build of Britain’s defences while doing everything possible to contain German expansionism. Since Britain lacked an army capable of intervening directly in central Europe this containment could only be achieved by diplomatic means. Chamberlain did not trust Hitler and he strongly disapproved of not only Hitler but dictators in general. On the other hand Chamberlain did not believe it was worth starting a catastrophic war, with no guarantee of victory, in circumstances in which Britain could provide no actual assistance to threatened nations such as Czechoslovakia and Poland.

Critics of Chamberlain often underestimate the full extent of his difficulties. He was somewhat sceptical of the extent to which the French could be relied upon (and he was obviously correct on that score), he was extremely sceptical of the possibility of any meaningful help from the United States and he was absolutely sure he could not trust Stalin. That left Britain with few options.

Given the reality of the situation in 1938 Chamberlain’s policy was not merely reasonable, it was the only sensible policy that Britain could pursue.

So why did Chamberlain’s policy fail to avert war? The answer to that is that by early 1939 Chamberlain was no longer a free agent. He was under extreme political pressure to abandon appeasement and adopt a more aggressive policy and his own Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, was determined to take a strong stand by offering a guarantee to Poland. Chamberlain, despite grave misgivings, felt that he had little choice other than to agree. Had he stuck to his policy of appeasement war might well have been avoided.

The insane decision to offer a unilateral guarantee to Poland was prompted to a large extent by a flood of wild and baseless rumours and hopelessly incorrect (and in many cases deliberately misleading) intelligence reports. The Second World War would not be the last war to be brought about by erroneous intelligence reports. The Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, unfortunately took the wildest of these rumours at face value. War becomes inevitable once people believe that it is inevitable. Britain blundered into war in 1939 as she had blundered into war in 1914.

Of course it goes without saying that support for the policy of appeasement did not and does not imply support for Hitler. Chamberlain detested Hitler and the Nazis, and he was well aware of the nature of Hitler’s regime. The fact that an historian believes that on balance appeasement was the most sensible of the limited options available to Britain also does not imply any kind of sympathy for the Nazis or any naïvete on the subject. Sometimes there are no good foreign policy options so one must settle for the least worst option.

Charmley is always provocative and always worth reading. Chamberlain and the Lost Peace is highly recommended.

living in a two-movie reality

Scott Adams’ blog has become a real must-read over the past year or so. I think his idea that we live in a two-movie reality is probably the best explanation of the world as it is today.

It’s not that different people have different political views. It’s not even that different people have different world-views. The two sides of the political debate literally inhabit different realities. There are two alternative realties running side-by-side. Those who live in one reality quite simply and quite genuinely are incapable of perceiving the other reality. It’s like two people watching entirely different movies, and the two movies have nothing in common.

This is profound implications for the future of our society. Our society is built on the assumption that political differences can be settled amicably through the ballot box. It’s based on the assumption that we can agree to disagree. If however we live in a two-movie reality that’s not going to happen. Each half of the population, being utterly incapable of perceiving what the other perceives, believes the other half is not merely stupid and deluded but willfully evil. They must be evil, since they refuse to see what we can see so clearly. You can only agree to disagree if you believe the other person holds his beliefs in good faith.

There’s little doubt that Adams’ two-movie theory holds true for the vast majority of the rank-and-file supporters of our competing ideologies? But does it hold true for those who pull the strings behind the scenes? Does it explain the motivations of the very rich very powerful men who direct international finance and control the political system? Are they deluded themselves because they are honestly believe in the version of reality in their movie, or are they actively and consciously manipulating their followers?

If the latter is the case, how far up the totem pole of power do the delusions reach? Is everyone subject to the two-movie problem except for the top one percent, or is it the top .01 percent? Are journalists and academics mere deluded foot-soldiers or are they active manipulators?

As far as the top levels of the elites go, I’m not sure which is the more depressing scenario - that they sincere but misguided believers in a delusion or that they are cynical con artists.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

freedom of the press - was it ever a good thing?

The bias of the mainstream media is much talked about but it often seems to be assumed that this is a fairly recent phenomenon. This simply isn’t true. 

Many of us cling to the illusion that there was once a golden age of courageous investigative reporters who cared deeply about the truth. That there was a time when newspapers and TV news tried to be objective. In fact there never was such a time. For as long as mass media has existed, from the very beginnings of mass-circulation newspapers in the 19th century, there has been bias. 

The bias comes from three sources. Firstly, the owners want their political views propagated. No-one has ever wanted to own a newspaper to make money. There are easier and more certain ways to make a profit. You own a newspaper because you want to influence public opinion. You want to impose your views on the public. It has always been this way.

Secondly, journalists have their own political agendas and they have never hesitated to advance those agendas in their reporting.

Thirdly, journalists are essentially whores. If in doubt they’ll conform to the wishes of the owners. They know which side their bread is buttered.

There is a difference between the media of the past and that of today. A hundred years ago a major city might support have a dozen newspapers pushing half a dozen political agendas. Today every media outlet pushes precisely the same political agenda. We have a unique situation today in which our elites across the world are united in their political beliefs, and they have no loyalty to anyone or anything outside the elite. In the past there was at least some diversity in the propaganda spread by the media.

But the fact remains that freedom of the press has always been a bit of a myth. A free press is simply free to spread the propaganda favoured by the owners. A free press is not a guarantor of political freedom or democracy. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

three arguments for religion

I have a somewhat ambivalent view towards religion. In general I approve of it but modern Christianity fills me with dismay. 

As to whether I’m actually a believer, I have to be honest and say I tend towards agnosticism. However I do feel that no society can survive without religion. Religion is simply something that is hard-wired into us. If we stop believing in mainstream religion we almost invariably end up turning towards fringe cults, or new age silliness, or pseudo-religions like environmentalism, Social Justice or even liberal democracy. It always ends badly.

There is however another very important argument in favour of religion. Without the moral framework of religion we end up judging everything on the basis of emotions. We don’t know what is right or wrong so we go for whatever gives us the most satisfying warm inner glow of emotion. And we end up on an emotional roller-coaster as we desperately try to find the certainty that we never can find.

The third argument in favour of religion has to do with social conformity. Human beings have a very strong, and sometimes very dangerous, instinct to conform. It takes great inner strength to stand against this temptation, and religious faith is one of the few things that can offer us that inner strength.

But that brings us back to the problem of modern Christianity. Christianity, a practised by a majority of Christians today (and as promoted by the vast majority of church leaders) is not a religion at all. It is a pseudo-religion and it has all the disadvantages outlined above. It is based on emotion and social conformity. On the whole it is doing us more harm than good.

If the West is to survive we need to find real religion again.