Sunday, September 30, 2007

Political correctness must die -- I

Vanishing American has lately published an exceptional series of posts grappling with a topic that seems to weigh more heavily with every passing year: political correctness. See here, here, and here. Her posts have attracted an unusual number of passionate comments, many of them showing evidence of a prolonged and painful attempt to understand political correctness (hereafter PC) and its implications. PC obviously leaves her readership, mainly traditionalist conservatives, in chronic pain.

I recommend you look into the posts linked to above, along with the comments. I'd like to take up the subject here, as briefly as possible consistent with what I think needs to be said. Today I'll talk about the nature of PC; in the next posting (or one to come soon) about what can, should, and must be done about it.

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Many traditionalist conservatives feel, with growing unease, that they are living in a closed society. It doesn't have the usual trappings of tyranny or dictatorship: there are no death squads roaming the country, the outward forms of democracy continue. But there is an underlying sense of dread, its cause all the more serious for being camouflaged as something moral, compassionate, sensitive to the needs and feelings of society's most unfortunate members.

When people started talking about PC, in the early '90s as I recall, it was mostly about euphemistic language. No longer was anyone "retarded" -- they were "developmentally disabled." A person crippled from an accident was "challenged." All the kids in a classroom were "special" (so, as anyone capable of rudimentary logic could see, no one was special).

Even those who objected to this brand of PC tried not to get stressed over it. Just more psychobabble and academic silliness, they said. They made fun of PC's more outlandish aspects, turned it into joke fodder. But -- and in retrospect, it was a big mistake not snuffing out the beast in its cradle -- those still moored to common sense figured sweet reasonableness would win the day. PC was just another fad that would blink out.

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But it didn't. Why not can be debated, and no doubt there were plenty of factors, but one certainly was that PC became just too useful as a weapon. The political left, smarting from the collapse of old-style Communism, turned to new tactics in its endless quest to enforce its vision on an unwilling humanity. Economic Marxism, which had proved such a dismal failure, was quietly abandoned in favor of what has been called cultural Marxism. When the proletariat failed to live up to its responsibilities as a revolutionary class based on its worldwide victimization, a new victim class had to be drafted into service. And what better victim class could you ask for than everyone on earth who wasn't white and male?

PC was supercharged to become, not just a feel-good tonic for the unfortunate, but a moral arbiter. Now you not only had to watch your language, but take care not to perform any act or gesture that could remotely be construed as offensive, or not deferential enough, to the transnational victim brotherhood and sisterhood.

Tactically, the underlying concept was brilliant: PC hijacked people's best impulses. Rather than appealing to anger and prejudice, like a traditional fascist movement, it appealed to idealism. To resist any claims by any victim group, or to perceive any of its members as less than morally superior to the wicked society they were in (but not of) was to be an oppressor. The cultural Marxists had discovered a remarkable style of ju-jitsu: turn the ordinary person's kind tendencies against him. Make him feel guilty for his so-called privileges, even if they had been earned. Define any limits on meeting the demands of racial, ethnic, or gender defined groups as a shameful ism (e.g., racism). Thus, for every objection raised against the radical limitations on personal expression and choice, those who were in thrall to PC had ready-made antidotes in the form of curse words: homophobia! Sexism! Xenophobia!

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As cultural Marxism picked up steam, PC became a social glue that held all its aspects (globalization, open borders, race replacement, etc.) together. PC, through its power to mold thought through language, defined the new civil order.

Today, PC constricts not only what may be said, but requires assent to political and philosophical doctrines. Among these are absolute equality among individuals, ethnic groups, and societies -- no one and no culture can be considered more advanced, smarter, productive, or ethical than any other. Any apparent difference in ability is only a result of cultural oppression. Even if you don't claim superiority for your own culture or traditions, but just want to keep them intact, that is a crime against humanity.

Intellectually, PC overthrows any idea of truth or objectivity. Truth is nothing but a rationalization for privilege, and the "narrative" of any victim group is as valid, if not more valid, than the product of disinterested research.

This is how PC has shaped the world in which we now live and move and have our being. It is a soft totalitarianism in which to open your lips in protest is to place yourself outside respectable discourse. You have a stain that will never wash off.

Those who see the world in terms of individuals, not victim groups; who see differences as well as similarities; and who don't believe in suppressing ideas that make the Leftist Establishment uncomfortable must take back the freedom that has been driven into hiding by the "dictatorship of virtue." Political correctness must die.

In a future posting, I'll look at what needs to be done to make that happen.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

O'Reilly Goes to Harlem

If no one else will ask the question — and it would be hard to find anyone living outside the mental wards of the broadcast media who will — you can count on CNN and its rival networks.
CNN co-host Kiran Chetry and CNN contributor Roland Martin, in a segment on Tuesday’s "American Morning," discussed comments on race Fox News host Bill O’Reilly had recently made on his radio show, and the question you might expect came up: "Is this going to be one of those Don Imus moments?"
Yes, that's about what I'd expect, all right, in an age when a heap big percentage of so-called news coverage consists of trying to catch public figures saying anything that might be construed as offensive or controversial, and then creating the controversy.

If you are lucky enough to have avoided hearing of the latest proto-Don Imus moment, you should immediately click away from this posting. Otherwise, let us see what we can make of it.

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Still here? All right. To refresh your memory, here is what O'Reilly is quoted as saying after visiting a Sylvia's, a Harlem "soul food" restaurant, with race racketeer Al Sharpton:
I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, "M-Fer, I want more iced tea." They were ordering and having fun, and it wasn't any kind of craziness at all.
Depending on the context, this bizarre pronouncement could have had some point; standing in splendid isolation, it sounds like a stoned teenager's text message. Starting to think more for themselves? Meaning, ignoring demagogues like Reverend Shakedown and "Tawana Al"?

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But if that was the implication, why had he just gone swanning up in Harlem with Al? And would even the most crass rapper "scream" for iced tea in the manner described? What else would people be doing in a restaurant besides ordering, and having fun or trying to? Who has ever accused black-owned restaurants of craziness or being a moral danger to society?

O'Reilly's remark is so dim you couldn't cut through it with a searchlight, but that didn't stop CNN's Kiran Chetry from trying to turn it into the Story of the Millennium. Talking with
Martin, she said:
So, he went on to say, "I think that black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves, getting away from the Sharptons and the Jacksons and people trying to lead them into a race-based culture." He says that all of this was taken out of context, and that he didn't have a racial intent. Do you buy that?
Either Ms. Chetry heard something O'Reilly said that wasn't quoted, or she was misquoting him to make it sound more inflammatory.

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Martin actually made the only intelligent (if less than articulate) observation in the whole discussion: "Well, first of all, I mean, you can make a dumb comment and not have a racial intent. I mean, you can have a racial intent or ignorance intent. And so, my problem is this notion that somehow African-Americans are ‘starting’ to think for themselves, as if we haven't been thinking beforehand."

Too bad he didn't let it go at that. He might have made a good impression. Instead, he carried on in a poor imitation of English about stereotypes, and Condoleeza Rice, and how black corporate heads have more power than rappers.

But if, as it appears, this incident was a veiled discussion about black popular culture, then all of that is irrelevant. First, stereotypes are not the same as ignorant prejudice. Stereotypes are general impressions that people form from experience. As long as you keep in mind that there are individual exceptions, stereotypes can be valid if based on fair-minded observation. Having a general picture of how people in a subculture tend to behave is reasonable, and pretending that norms in all groups are the same is unreasonable. Stereotypes are wrong only if you automatically assume that every member of a group personifies them.

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And if the subject is black popular culture, than Condi Rice and the black corner-office executives have nothing to do with it. They do not influence the people who listen to rap music. Yes, a media company like Time Warner has some responsibility in shaping public tastes, but they are going to record and promote what they think will sell, regardless of the race of the person at the top of the pyramid.

Most Americans (not only whites) would agree, I think, that a decadent and irresponsible popular culture has taken on too much of the vibe and standards of the underclass, and that our common life has become more crude as a result. If that's what O'Reilly thinks, he needs to say so, and not hide behind patronizing compliments on the table manners at Sylvia's.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Cookbook published; Women, minorities hardest hit

Churchill said that a fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. New York Times writers, whose brains were freeze-dried in 1972, not only can't change their minds but can't change anyone else's either, so numbingly dull is their prose. As for changing the subject, the impersonal is always political, and the politics are always the same sophomoric leftism.

New York City is to the United States as St. Louis is to Tierra del Fuego. Mention a currently playing Western film and most of us think of, well, the West. Not the Times, though. It's not going to change the damn subject just because it's a different subject.

A.O. Scott's Times review of 3:10 to Yuma leads off:
Russell Crowe, who wears the black hat in “3:10 to Yuma,” is a native of New Zealand. Christian Bale, the good guy, was born in Wales. Lou Dobbs and other commentators who have lately been sounding the alarm about outsourcing, immigration and the globalization of the labor market may want to take note. The hero and the villain in a cowboy movie: are we going to stand by and let foreigners steal these jobs? Are no Americans willing to do them?
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There is simply nothing like a New York Times review that, like Mr. Scott's, sees beyond the obvious to connect with the true social and political issues.

"Get me Merkin." "Hello, Merkin here." "Merkin, it's 'Sulz' Pinchburger. I just read your cookbook review and it's no go." "No! What's the matter with it?" "Too right wing. Who do you think you're writing for, the freaking Post?" "But Sulz, it's about — " "I know what the frick it's about. Cooking with chili peppers. Quit jerking around." "But Sulz — " "Six o'clock today. Better be on board by then." Click.

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Merkin sighs. "A.O., I wonder if I could borrow your template."
Chili peppers ripening in the New Mexico sun. Native Americans toiled here centuries ago until the Spanish invaders under Capitan El Dorado Bush wiped them out by selling them blankets impregnated with global warming. That was before the thieving Spanish evolved into gentle, pastoral Mexicans dreaming of Aztlan — no match for American agri-business interests who took over the chili growing concession in a CIA-led revolution.

Today's New Yorkers and other urban sophisticates are all too ignorant of the tragic history of the spicy plant used in recipes such as those in Chili Chili Nice and Easy, just issued by Random Publishers. (Chili con Carnage would be a better title.) What seems like a tasty condiment that pays tribute to the proud and noble tribes that once held this land in trust for Nature is in fact an insult to their memory. Nothing has changed since the U.S. Army gave Cochise a one-way ticket to the reservation. White settlers stole the Native Americans' sports team nicknames, then stole their chili pepper farms.

Take the first, seemingly innocent recipe, Free-Range Rattlesnake with Chili-Remonstro Sauce …

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Diamonds in the rubble

After a brief, giddy period of worldwide fame in the 1920s following his First Symphony, Dmitri Shostakovich became a haunted man — haunted not only by the creatures of the inner abyss that torment so many artists, but by demonic human forces. A sensitive, withdrawn man, he had the misfortune to pursue his creative life under one of the most vicious political regimes in modern history, the Soviet Union. Along the way he lived through a war in which some 20 million of his fellow Soviet citizens perished by bombs, bullets, shrapnel, freezing, starvation, and execution (sometimes by their own forces).

For most of his life, Shostakovich's environment allowed no safety from petty bureaucratic whims that could result in banishment or liquidation. Twice he was denounced by the Soviet musical Establishment, first in 1936 by an article in Pravda (said to have been instigated by Stalin), then after a semi-"rehabilitation" for his supposedly patriotic World War II Seventh Symphony, again in 1948 for musical crimes against the so-called Zhdanov Doctrine, which attempted to enlist all Russian culture in the anti-capitalist struggle at a particularly tense period of the Cold War. The story that he slept outside in the hallway of his apartment building so it wouldn't disturb his family when he was arrested in the night may or may not be apocryphal, but it is symbolically truthful about the conditions under which he worked.

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I am fascinated by most of Shostakovich's symphonies, for somewhat the same reason as I am by Mahler's: the extraordinary range of moods and the remarkable orchestration. Both convey, at times, an overwhelming angst (and I mean that not in its current, casual usage, but in the sense of deep existential fear), but there is also sarcasm, nostalgia, tenderness. Compared with Shostakovich, Mahler had an easier time of it outwardly, although he could never count on being socially secure in the German-Austrian milieu ("He was born a Jew, you know"). But Shostakovich inhabited a Soviet madhouse.

Another difference is that, unlike Mahler, Shostakovich wrote a good deal of chamber music, including 15 string quartets. By their nature quartets can't offer as diverse a sound world as a symphony. Nevertheless Shostakovich showed how much variety of emotion quartets can signify, not just between them but within a single one.

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The quartets are so brilliant that they seem almost performance-proof, but an exceptional reading is an overwhelming experience. My first exposure to the quartets was provided by the Fitzwilliam String Quartet in a 1970s disc — I still have it (in a CD version), and it's fine. Much later I acquired the entire set of 15 by the Emerson String Quartet, splendidly played and full of insights.

Recently, I happened to find the Borodin String Quartet disc of the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Quartets. Although I had the Borodin's set of Tchaikovsky quartets, which is as good as any I've heard, I was unprepared for the shock and awe of hearing them take on Shostakovich.

The Borodin is the oldest more-or-less continuously active string quartet in the world, founded in 1945. It has undergone personnel changes, of course, but this recording, originally on the Russian Melodiya label, surely predates the current line-up.

I think the Borodin group reveals the inner meaning of numbers 5, 6, and 7 at a still greater level than even the Fitzwilliam or Emerson. Probably the players on this recording had themselves experienced the Great Terror or its only slightly softer aftermath. It allowed them to get inside the notes. They could feel what Shostakovich had felt, as perhaps none of us can fully if we've been spared from life in a totalitarian society.

A quick check at and elsewhere on the Web indicates that this disc (and I assume there were others in the series) is no longer available.

And that is very unfortunate. Because these performances by the Borodin are among the most astonishing I have ever heard, not just of Shostakovich, not just of string quartets, but of anything.

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These performances capture the damaged but brave character of the composer's genius. They visit every point on the emotional compass.

Whether or not Shostakovich's music contained coded protests against the Stalinist regime, a controversial point, they deliver a painfully vivid impression of life under tyranny — or, in World War II, a clash of tyrannies. Shostakovich, using four instruments, has created sound portraits that include the ominous and threatening; shrieking, gibbering fear; exhaustion; and life that for so many during Stalin's reign was bleached of all the finer sentiments, leaving only the desire to survive, and sometimes not even that.

Shostakovich conveyed the horror he experienced honestly, but if that were all there was in his music, it would be unbearable. Incredibly, he remained at heart a romantic. He found interludes of peace when there was no peace. Almost all these quartets (and the same could be said of the later symphonies) have moments of reflection and yearning. (6 and 7 on this disc are among the less traumatic.) He never gave up on beauty. He searched for, and found, diamonds in the rubble.

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Possibly a purist reading the scores would accuse these performances of extreme expressionism. But if ever extreme expressionism was called for, it's in Shostakovich. I cannot imagine an objective, "moderate" reading getting to the heart of these works.

It's all here, as close as music can ever take us to knowing what it was like to serve the Muse under the shadow of death. There's no surprise that the music revisits so much anguish. What is uplifting is how much of that seemingly unconquerable Russian sentiment and even nobility is also to be found. Listen to the long, dreamlike episodes of grace and beauty: slow dancing on the grave of Mother Russia.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Darn that DREAM

I am so sodding tired of writing about immigration I almost can't bring myself to do another post on the subject. The citizens have spoken. Amnesty should be a dead letter. So long, amigos, and take your junky little taco stands with you when you go home.

But the League of American Quislings just won't give up. If our anti-terrorist campaigns were pursued with the fanaticism that these big business puppets in Congress bring to Hispanicizing the United States, Al Qaeda would be on a street corner with a sign that says WILL BLOW MYSELF UP FOR FOOD.

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Less than three months after the amnesty bill was defeated, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois wants to revive one of its worst provisions: an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would constitute a massive financial windfall for millions of illegal aliens. The bill would essentially guarantee illegals a college education at much lower in-state rates.
… says the Washington Times. Read the sordid details of the sordid DREAM Act ("American Dream," get it? Bet they focus-grouped that one) here and here.

You know what to do by now. Get on to your senators and congressman and tell them no way, and that their vote for this travesty is their surest bet for finding themselves on the Boulevard of Broken DREAMs where ex-senators and -representatives sell themselves as lobbyists to whoever will pay their price. (Of course, anyone who would vote for this sellout has plenty of practice at political streetwalking.)

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We now turn to yet another sad manifestation of The Invasion.

In Phoenix, a policeman who had fought off cancer twice and put on the uniform again was shot in the face and killed by … right. An illegal immigrant who had already been deported.

Erik Jovani Martinez had been brought to the United States from Mexico as an infant. He had been convicted of auto theft and had outstanding warrants for aggravated assault and "false imprisonment," whatever that is. He had three children. His age was a ripe 22.

After shooting Officer Nick Erfle, he hijacked a car with the driver as hostage. Forcing the driver to take him on a sightseeing tour of Phoenix, he was then stopped and surrounded by police, whereupon he put a gun to the hostage's head. A police tactical team deported Martinez to a place from which he will not be returning.

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In a fatuous column in the Arizona Republic, whose motto is "Too much immigration from Mexico isn't enough," Laurie Roberts does the why-oh-why routine and comes up with every reason except the real one.
Virginia Roper was near tears Tuesday morning as she talked about the officer, killed just a stone's throw from Amy's Beauty Salon where she works. "I don't know, I really don't know what to think," she said, as she combed a customer's hair. "Is it a sign of the times? So much violence, and young people are so angry. I don't know what to make of it."

That's because you can't make sense out of senselessness. … You ask why and a cop just shrugs, as if the answer should be obvious. "It's police work," he said. "He's a police officer." You nod as if you understand. But of course, you don't.
Well, Laurie, will you let me help you out a little bit? See if you can take this on board. Mexican. Illegal immigrant. Open borders. Arizona Republic pandering to Mexicans. Anglos cowed by political correctness.

Does that suggest any answers to you, Laurie?

This was my country and it might be yet,
But something came between us and the sun.

Edumund Blunden

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

EU commissioner: Stop Web searches about ____, ____, and ____

Franco Frattini, the EU commissaire for justice and security, whom we have encountered before, wants to find a technological means to prohibit Web searches for "dangerous" words. (Tip of the hat: The Croydonian.)

As quoted in Le Monde, Commissar — excuse me, Commissaire Fratini said (my translation):
I have the firm intention to undertake a study with the private sector … on the technological means to prevent people from using [the Web] and searching for dangerous words like "bomb," "kill," "genocide," or "terrorism."
He is quick to reassure us that he does not intend to block discussions or opinions, only to knock one prop out from terrorist networks who use the Internet to diffuse specific information such as how to build bombs.

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This proposal may or may not be the thin end of the wedge that would eventually culminate in EU censorship of the Web. I'd probably take his assurance at face value, had we not seen too many initiatives in the direction of suppressing free speech in Europe, most recently the prohibition of the anti-Islamization demo in Brussels.

In any case, the idea of a computerized watchdog over Web searches is naive on several levels.

This may be down to my ignorance of advanced information technology, but I find it hard to see how any purely automated program can determine the intention of a Web site. If you block phrases like "bomb making," you will eliminate many innocent, and possibly important, discussions of — for example — the feasibility of terrorists creating "suitcase nukes." Just making the verboten search terms more complex, such as "instructions for disguising a 40-megaton nuclear device as a cocktail swizzle stick," is bound to leave out other possibilities, such as "instructions for making an atomic bomb look like an American flag lapel pin."

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Beyond that, any such technology would be completely useless in the face of simple codes. Any reasonably bright terrorist could easily devise substitute words that would be known to cell members and others with explosive tempers. Military forces have done this since battles were fought with swords. The daring but failed World War II operation at Arnhem in the Netherlands (the famous "bridge too far") was called Operation Market Garden. If there had been an Internet at the time, would a German computer program have pounced on "market garden"?

But the most naive assumption of all is that stopping the spread of accursed information on the Internet can substitute for preventing the people who would use it from entering the country. A terrorist — a violent jihadist, let us say — wants to blow up himself and infidel commuters from Twickenham on the London Underground. It would put him to considerable inconvenience if he was back home in Wahabistan without a petition to Allah of getting into the U.K.

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But of course the EU elite have hypnotized themselves into believing that immigration is the lifeblood of modern society, and that keeping those of a certain religio-political ideology from slapping down a moth-eaten passport at Heathrow and proceeding to swan around Britain would be … wait for it! … discriminatory. Gasp. Quick, bring the smelling salts.

I don't think Commissaire Frattini is too stupid to know this. Depend on it, he even realizes that no technology can stop the sharing of pernicious knowledge. But he is a politician, and master of the art of seeming to tackle a problem without committing himself to any plan that could blow back on him. And in today's Europe, that is any plan that would offend the Muslim constituency whose numbers are ever growing, ever growing.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Beyond belief

This poor world nowadays not only has to suffer from militant, narrow-minded religion, but militant, narrow-minded atheism. A bad choice, and a false one at that.

The Washington Post round-up on trendy atheism notes:
On both sides of the Atlantic, membership in once-quiet groups of nonbelievers is rising, and books attempting to debunk religion have been surprise bestsellers, including "The God Delusion," by Oxford University professor Richard Dawkins.

New groups of nonbelievers are sprouting on college campuses, anti-religious blogs are expanding across the Internet, and in general, more people are publicly saying they have no religious faith.

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On and on it goes; both sides in this stupid debate confuse religion with spirituality. Spirituality is an experience of a higher order, which leads the experiencer to a new relationship with life and an improved character. Religion is a symbolic statement of the personal insights of those who have known God to some degree, combined with a lot of ritual, doctrines, moralism, faith, and missionary work of very mixed value, designed mainly to transmit the original spiritual experience. Because religion is most often associated with people who have not experienced the Light and for whom it's a loyalty, like supporting a football team, or intellectual conceptualizing, it tends to be dry at best and fanatical at worst.

I don't blame thinking people for being disgusted with all the superstitious garbage that has attached itself to what, for a few souls, has been an immediate intuitive knowledge or grace. Religion has inspired some to seek a personal, rather than institutional, connection with God; it has also led to some wonderful aesthetic experiences, like cathedrals and Fra Angelico paintings and Bach cantatas. Nevertheless, when the score is totted up, formal religion may well have caused as much trouble as benefit. It's understandable that the Salvationless Army wonders why God should have all the best tunes.

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Militant atheism's record is hardly spotless. Exhibit A for the prosecution: the Soviet Union. Thousands of Orthodox priests were martyred and believers forced to hold onto their beliefs in secret.

There is in fact nothing new in the conflict between rationality and religion. It's been in play since the 18th century in the Western world, although mainly among the highly educated, and now the privilege of sneering at religion has become available to the masses. Also likely is that the conflict will now show up in parts of the world where until recently religious traditions were virtually unquestioned.

So it's all the more important to remember that this isn't really an argument about God. It's about various notions of God and man-made ideologies. God is still there and ever will be, for anyone who wants to rise above the folly caused by human ignorance of Spirit.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Nonperforming SEAL

The Times did not allow me to "have my say" by printing my comment concerning this article, in which the author, Magnus Linklater, explains that trainee gangsters in British schools can be lured back to the straight and narrow by "an imaginative curriculum – the kind that gives every child a sense of self-worth and an opportunity to join in, rather than an arid exercise in exam passing."

Such as? Such as:
I spent an enthralling afternoon at Dog Kennel Hill School, then a struggling primary in an unpromising part of Southwark in South London, where the majority of pupils did not speak English as their first language and where there had been a history of truanting, ill-discipline and rock-bottom academic standards.

It did, however, have one advantage. It was within striking distance of various art institutions, notably the Globe Theatre, which its headmistress, Pat Boyer, roped in to help the school to stage its plays. When I visited, they had just finished presenting The Merchant of Venice on the Globe stage, to a rapt audience who could not believe that the bad boys of the neighbourhood had been transformed into Antonios, Bassanos and Lorenzos. I was introduced to a Moroccan boy called Ahmed. He was tiny and he had learning difficulties. But he had just experienced the greatest day of his life by standing triumphantly on a London stage receiving the wild applause of his peers. “This is the Duke of Venice,” said Ms Boyer. “He speaks three languages: Arabic, English – and Shakespeare.” Ahmed beamed happily.

Something tells me they didn't put on Othello.

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The article actually begins promisingly, with a few digs at the notion that a debased and criminally inclined youth culture can be made good by "teaching happiness, wellbeing and good manners to secondary school pupils" through a "programme known as 'Seal' — social and emotional aspects of learning — which has been a success in primary schools and is said to help academic performance and instil discipline by teaching children to understand their emotions."

Melanie Phillips, in an article of her own in the Daily Mail, begs to differ:
But now — surprise, surprise — a new report suggests that the SEAL programme may instead leave children depressed and self-obsessed. Drawing on the findings of more than 20 international academic studies, it says there is little evidence that the programme produces any long-term improvement in emotional well-being or academic success and may lead to psychological problems instead.

Meanwhile, turning education into a branch of therapy like this hugely increases state control over children’s lives. For with children’s capacity to learn and develop in a healthy way having been destroyed, armies of professionals then decide that they alone can give it to them.

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Not even the American educational bureaucracy, as flaming loony as it is, would inflict a program like SEAL on helpless schoolkids — or if it did, parent groups and politicians would slap it down. The U.K., however, which in my very own lifetime was widely considered buttoned-down, conservative, and commonsense driven, is now straining at the leash to adopt every desperate scheme imported from the moon's backside to try to restore order in its anarchic social environment.

There are still times when I think I'm going to wake up and be grateful that I was only dreaming all this.

The gist of my unpublished letter to The Times was that, while it's fine and dandy to involve schoolchildren in Shakespeare performances, the notion that this would engage their nascent creativity so much that they'd start reciting soliloquies and forget to murder their chums like the unfortunate 11-year-old Rhys Jones, is (in Orwell's famous formulation) so ridiculous that only an intellectual could believe it. Or a journalist.

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The reason The Times felt my letter was too far beyond the pale to print, I assume, was because I suggested that the cause of Britain's mean streets was at its most basic a failed policy: multi-culturalism, rammed down the country's gullet by several generations of mostly Labour politicians. Leftist Utopians don't care about the actual, real-world results of their fantasy governing principles, or if they care, they blame the results on someone or something else. The idea is what matters for them.

How did anyone expect benefits from ripping apart the social and ethnic fabric of a nation, rooted in a thousand years of history, in a couple of decades through unconstrained immigration of people with utterly different traditions, languages, and values? Maybe there were fools who actually believed that back in 1960, but once the race riots began in the '80s it was obvious that the plan was not working and was not going to work.

Was some of the trouble caused by racially prejudiced, white skinhead types? Without a doubt. Are plenty of today's yobs white Anglo-Saxons and Celts? Absolutely. Does that mean multi-culturalism should be forced on everybody in Britain? No. Despicable people can be right, even if for the wrong reason. The right reason is that multi-culturalism doesn't work. At least, not when it's introduced through massive immigration in a very short time, without the consent of the indigenous population, by political ideologues with brains full of contemporary-Marxist rubbish.

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I'm not sure the British government has ever been very much in tune, or sympathy, with the majority of its citizens. First, for hundreds of years, it was led by monarchs; then an aristocracy; then rich factory owners. Now, most Britons must bend the knee to a political class that knows how everyone should live and uses the law and police to see that they do, and social worker parasites whose government jobs depend on keeping social problems going strong, by importing them if necessary. If the schoolkids at Dog Kennel School Hill actually do learn their Shakespeare, they may find themselves saying along with Hamlet: "O, what a rogue and peasant slave
am I."

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Brussels to Europeans: Sit down and shut up

My two fears for the Brussels anti-Islamization demo — that it would be underwhelming and violently suppressed — seem to have been realized, although it could have been worse.

So far the only accounts I have been able to find are at Brussels Journal and Gates of Vienna.

For the mainstream media, the demo seems to have been pretty much a non-event. Not even has a story about it. The AP gave it the yawning, small-earthquake-reported-in-Chile treatment: "Officers handcuffed two leaders of the far-right Flemish Interest Party, which is very critical of Muslim immigrants, and took them away in police vans," as though there was nothing at issue except criticism of Islam by a right-wing fringe group.

More details may emerge later. For now, the main thing that's evident is that a peaceful demonstration was banned and that those who showed up anyway, without otherwise being provocative, were arrested with considerable force in some cases.

Maybe the spectators at the event, and the few others who will eventually learn about it, were alarmed by how Europe's new superstate has zero tolerance for challenges to its multi-culti agenda. For lots of others, the day's big news was about Britney Spears's "MTV comeback disaster."

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UPDATE late 9/11

Brussels Journal has posted a video of demonstrators being arrested by the Police/Politie (Belgium is a bilingual country, just like the immigration industry wants to make us). It isn't shockingly violent — I've seen worse in person, in the U.S. — but I'll bet it will be an eye-opener for some Europeans nurtured on a belief in the goodness of the Nanny State.


I've now had time to review additional videos and descriptions of the police arrests in Brussels. I was previously
a little inclined to give the police the benefit of the doubt -- after all, they were acting under orders, and there's no way you can arrest someone who doesn't want to be arrested without using some force.

It's obvious, though, that at least in the cases of the Vlaams Blok leaders, the force was excessive and punitive. Some of the cops (and their commanders) should be charged with human rights violations. Of course, they won't be.

But let's not let the most important consideration get lost in outrage about police brutality. What is even more disturbing is that peaceful citizens desiring to make a peaceful protest were denied that right because it would have offended Muslims and possibly led to violence from some among them. A malevolent precedent has been set, by which Muslims can veto the civil liberties of other citizens through intimidation.
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Monday, September 10, 2007

Countdown in Brussels

It appears that the demo against Islamization of Europe will go ahead tomorrow, despite its banning by the mayor of Brussels, which was upheld by a court.

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Logo of the Stop the Islamisation of Europe organization

This could be a historic occasion — Europeans openly defying a restriction on their liberty because of official dhimmitude. By basing the denial on the possibility that Muslims will react with violence against the demo, the Brussels authorities have in effect given Muslims veto power over any public activities opposing Islamization. If the SIOE leadership caved in and called off the protest, it would set a terrible precedent by which the state could restrict individual rights to free expression just by citing the threat from a mob.

I wish there were more I could do in support of the SIOE. And I'm worried about certain scenarios. The demo could turn out to be a damp squib, if only a handful turn up and are arrested or driven off by police: that would solidify the conviction that Muslims need only broach the threat of a violent encounter to shut down any active protest. It's even possible that some of the demonstrators will be seriously hurt or, God forbid, killed. That sounds ridiculously melodramatic, but I never imagined I could be one of hundreds wounded by law officers at People's Park in Berkeley, 1969. (One man was killed, another blinded.) The state will go to extreme lengths to enforce what it holds dear: at People's Park, it was property rights; in Brussels, it may be, the state's ability to uphold Islamization against the wishes of the indigenous population.

Let's hope that freedom, nonviolence, and tolerance prevail.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Uncivil aviation

In the past few years, airliners with gaudy, sometimes outlandish paint schemes and oversize lettering have been showing up. The air carriers figure each plane is an advert for them. But do they really attract business, or just increase the commercial atmosphere of flying?

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This Southwest Airlines plane's paint scheme (called a "livery" by airplane buffs) incorporates the Maryland state flag. It's intended, I suppose, to call attention to Southwest's large presence at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. But a flag is a flag. An airliner is a lot bigger.

Take a look at these photos (tip of the hat to Airliners Gallery for all the pictures in this entry):

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There's more red to be seen on airliners today than in a May Day parade in Stalin-era Moscow. Even Virgin Blue's planes are red:

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EasyJet's livery looks like the airline should be called cheesyJet:

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Call Yellow Cab:

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By way of contrast, here's an interesting novelty. Alaska Airlines, for its 75th anniversary, painted one of its newest jets, a Boeing 737-800, to resemble its airliners' original paint. It's not gorgeous, but compared to the examples above, its restraint is positively soothing:

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Happily, not all airlines are trying to turn their planes into neon signs. Here's Air China:

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And compliments to United Airlines. They've softened their former livery into one that's cheerful but not overpowering:

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NAS, a European regional carrier, shows what can be done using color as accent, not an alarm system:

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The fad for overdecorated aircraft very likely won't last much longer, not because of an outbreak of taste among airlines, but because of the high cost of jet fuel. It takes hundreds of gallons of paint to cover an airplane, and that adds a lot of weight (just think how heavy a gallon of house paint is). The extra weight adds to the fuel burn. (American Airlines has chosen to leave most of their planes' skin as exposed aluminum for that reason.)

Soon a bright airline executive will be the first to order less money spent on paint and more on service. That will do his company far more good than tarting up the equipment.

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