Friday, November 05, 2010

The "rigid" British social class myth

by Peter Saunders

I spent last weekend at the ‘Battle of Ideas’ conference in London, on a panel debating the relevance of social class in contemporary Britain. The topic was prompted by the election of the first Old Etonian Prime Minister since 1964.

British intellectuals are obsessed by class divisions. When television producers are not busy filming Edwardian upstairs-downstairs dramas, movie-makers are working on tales of plucky steel workers being made redundant by Thatcher, or colliery brass bands stoically playing on after the pit has closed, or miners’ sons wanting to be ballet dancers as their fathers go on strike. As economist Peter Bauer put it in a pamphlet 30 years ago, British opinion-formers have ‘class on the brain.’

So, nowadays, do British politicians. In the last three years of the Labour government, three official reports were commissioned on class inequality. They all concluded that Britain is an unfair society where lower class children are blocked from realising their potential. Former cabinet minister Alan Milburn claimed in one of these reports: ‘Birth, not worth, has become more and more a determinant of people’s life chances,’ and he described Britain as ‘a closed shop society.’ Not to be outdone, the Tories then produced a report of their own, which proclaimed: ‘Social mobility has ground to a halt.’

Very similar claims were made by my fellow-panellists at the Battle of Ideas debate. One, a journalist from the left-wing tabloid The Daily Mirror, told the audience: ‘Your parents’ occupation will almost determine your occupation.’ Another, a sociologist at a FE college, told us: ‘Upward social mobility is a total myth.’

Now, I recently wrote a review of the evidence on social mobility in Britain. It showed that social mobility is extensive, both up and down. More than half the population is in a different social class from the one it was born into; one-third of professional-managerial people come from manual worker backgrounds; one in seven sons born to professional/managerial fathers end up as manual workers. Britain is remarkably meritocratic: somebody’s raw ability, measured by an IQ test at age 11, is more than twice as important as their class origins in predicting their class destination.

Why, given this evidence, do intellectuals continue to claim Britain is an unfair, class-ridden country? And does this repeated falsehood matter?

I think the resilience of the myth may have something to do with the survival of the monarchy and aristocracy at the very top of British society. This upper class froth gives credence to left-wing claims that birth matters more than worth, even though this doesn’t apply to the other 99% of us.

And yes, these claims do matter, because they send out such a negative and counter-productive message to working class children. The evidence tells us that, if you are bright and you work hard, there is nothing to stop you from succeeding in Britain, no matter where you start. But working class families are being told by Labour politicians, Daily Mirror journalists, and Marxist FE lecturers that it’s all hopeless, the game is rigged, and their future is pre-determined. Nothing is more likely to prevent children from succeeding than being told by those in authority that there is no point in them even trying.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated November 5. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

British judge hits out after father charged with kidnap for teaching bullies a lesson

A judge has expressed his disbelief and anger at the case of a concerned dad who was charged with kidnap after trying to make a bully apologise to his sons. Judge Peter Bowers questioned why Kevin Moore, 44, was charged with the serious offence, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, after such a minor incident.

Teesside Crown Court heard that Mr Moore snapped after a group of teenagers began name-calling and throwing berries as his young two sons and a group of other children were attending a dance class inside a church hall.

He was arrested after taking one of the teenagers to apologise to the group of children for being abusive and aggressive. Mr Moore had pursued the 13-year-old and put him in his car before driving him a short distance to a church hall where the younger children were attending a dancing class. In the end, both sets of youngsters apologised for the dispute and the teenager, who had not struck anyone, returned to join his friends.

At a hearing in August, Judge Peter Bowers said after reading an outline of the case: 'Can I be like Victor Meldrew and say: "I don't believe it?".' He said Moore's conduct was, at worst, behaviour that could have caused alarm to others, and asked for a review of the case by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Yesterday, two hearings later, the CPS accepted a guilty plea to a much-reduced charge of common assault, and Moore was given an 18-month conditional discharge.

Judge Bowers ordered the Mr Moore, from Saltburn, east Cleveland, to pay £250 compensation, but added: 'I am not going to make you pay any costs because this was not what anyone would really call a kidnapping.'

Senior prosecutor Jolyon Perks said the charge was 'academically correct' but accepted the plea to common assault.

Peter Sabiston, in mitigation, said: 'A bit of common sense exercised by all parties at an earlier stage might have resolved this before it reached crown court.' The case is thought to have run up a bill of thousands of pounds and prosecutors were accused of not using common sense.

Fiona McEvoy, of the TayPayers' Alliance, said: 'This whole situation will have cost taxpayers a fortune at a time when they can least afford it. 'It sounds as thought this shambles could have been avoided with a bit of common sense.'

After the case, Mr Moore, an out-of-work contractor told of his worries at facing a kidnap charge, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. 'The implications of that word are horrifying,' he said. 'All I ever wanted was an apology for everyone. 'I admitted I got a bit over the top and irate, but I was not flying off the handle.'

Mr Perks told the court that the 'kidnapped' teenager was distressed by the incident on July 5 in Redcar. One witness called the police because they thought the boy was being kidnapped.

Mr Sabiston said: 'This was no more than a concerned parent, perhaps over-reacting and grabbing hold of the child.' He added: 'It is one of those matters where perhaps society years ago would have taken a different view. 'It is a tragedy for everybody that this has ended up at the crown court.'

Judge Bowers told Mr Moore it was a shame it had taken so long for the kidnap charge to be changed, but warned him to control his temper.


Sellouts at the NAACP

Joseph C. Phillips

For decades the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People fought the good fight against racial discrimination. The organization was instrumental in defeating Jim Crow and discrimination in the work-place; it led the charge in establishing voting rights for all and equal access to quality education. Even now the NAACP does some good work in local communities. However, as a national civil-rights organization, it has lost its way.

In his seminal book, “The Souls of Black Folk,” NAACP co-founder, W.E.B. Dubois describes awakening to a morning “when men ask of the workmen, not ‘Is he white?’ but ‘Can he work?’ When men ask artists, not ‘Are they black?’ but ‘Do they know?’”

Sadly, the NAACP has veered far from Dubois’ vision and the realization of the principle of racial non-discrimination. The NAACP is now a defender of a system of racial spoils, a champion of big government, and a promoter of progressive politics. In short, the organization has been transformed into an enforcement arm of the Democrat Party. And that enforcement is achieved through the use of race as a weapon.

The NAACP’s recent report on racism within the Tea Party is a rather clumsy attempt at wielding that weapon in order to demonize political opposition to the Democrat agenda. It is also dangerous because it undermines black political and cultural progress.

The Tea Party has steadfastly held to a few core principles: limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets. The NAACP leaders have made it their mission to paint these objective and decidedly race-neutral positions into “white-supremacist beliefs.” The difficulty, of course is that there has never been a sign on the Tea Party door saying “whites only.” There is a difference between a blocked door and a door through which one refuses to enter. Woe to any people who adopt as a measure of ethnic authenticity the belief that limited government, fiscal restraint on the part of the federal government, and free-market capitalism as antithetical to their ultimate success, and who further come to believe that those principles are, in fact, the tools of their oppressor.

Sadder still is when that misguided vision becomes a form of political and cultural indoctrination. Consider what I witnessed while attending an NAACP youth council luncheon.

After the luncheon program, the local NAACP director rose to deliver her closing remarks. She began by discussing the plight of a death-row inmate in Atlanta. She then asked the children if lynching in America was still going on. In one loud voice the children answered YES! The director then proceeded to warn the audience that the Ku Klux Klan and other racial hate-groups were on the rise. I sat in a bit of a daze. My first thought was, “This organization is living in a time-warp.” Yes, racism still exists. Yes, idiocy still exists; I suspect hatred and bigotry in some form will always exist. If, however, the NAACP leadership still believes that the KKK is the chief impediment to black success, then as leaders, they have defined themselves as irrelevant. The fact that the organization would teach black children that black people are despised means the organization has sold-out its original charter and is now worthless!

Perhaps, it is time for the NAACP to change its moniker. I will leave it up to the members of the former august organization to choose its new name. I would, however, like to suggest that they consider “The National Association for the Advancement of Progressive Politics Everywhere” or NAAPPE. The members of the new organization could then rewrite their charter to reflect the true aims of their political advocacy.

For instance, NAAPPE would be very candid in its belief that white racism is the primary cause of black wretchedness. For this reason, NAPPE must have as its main occupation the sniffing out of every last vestige of racism in America. Like hound-dogs, NAAPPE members will sniff through the cultural and political landscape and point when they pick up the scent of racism, especially when that scent seems to emanate from the ranks of all those who oppose the Democrat Party and its national agenda, or who oppose those political groups allied with the Democrat Party.

Unlike NAAPPE, the NAACP simply can’t have it both ways. The organization can’t profess that it is the last word on civil rights and at the same time be an arm of ANY political party. Its moniker can’t announce that it is fighting for racial advancement and at the same time the body remains ambivalent about a policy that results in the death of more black people than heart disease, cancer, strokes, accidents, diabetes, homicide, and chronic lower respiratory diseases combined. The NAACP can’t claim the leadership of the black community and then stand idly by while members of the Congressional Black Caucus garner favor (and campaign donations) from the teachers unions, while selling-out the interests of black schoolchildren in Washington D.C. And it can certainly no longer claim to be a civil rights organization while at the same time it advocates a system of governance that relies on redistributing the fruits of one man’s labor in service of other men.


Moral evil is the greatest modern plague

Coinciding with the decline of Christian morality

The two greatest moral catastrophes of the twentieth century, wrought by Lenin and Hitler, were perverse effects of the Enlightenment. Lenin and Hitler were creatures of the Enlightenment not in the sense that they were enlightened, of course, but in the sense that they believed they had the right and the duty to act in accordance with their own unaided deductions from their own first principles. Everything else they regarded as sentimentality. Lenin preached no mercy to the non-proletarian, Hitler none to the Jew. The truth of their theories, supposedly rational and indubitable, was more evident to them, more real in their minds, than the millions killed as a consequence of those theories. If a syllogism ended in a command to commit unspeakable evil, you did not doubt the premises or the argument but obeyed the command.

This post-Enlightenment way of thinking continues to have its defenders. The celebrated British historian Eric Hobsbawm, a lifelong Marxist, said not long ago that had the Soviet Union turned out much better than it did, the deaths of 20 million to achieve it would have been a worthwhile price to pay. One cannot accuse Hobsbawm of thinking small.

That evil has not disappeared pari passu with German measles puzzles and troubles us. Evil remains a conundrum, as evidenced by Marxist literary theorist Terry Eagleton’s recently published book On Evil. Eagleton is not one of those Marxists for whom, like the late historian and Stalin apologist Edward Hallett Carr, the problem of evil does not exist. “I don’t think there are such things as bad people,” Carr once said. “To us Hitler, at the moment, seems a bad man, but will they think Hitler a bad man in a hundred years’ time, or will they think the German society of the thirties bad?”

Eagleton sees clearly that this will not do. Helping him in this recognition is that he is a Christian as well as a Marxist, and no Christian can believe wholly in social determinism. The problem of the human heart is real, not just a remediable social artifact. The relationship between society and human behavior is dialectical, Eagleton believes. Society has its effect, but it is acting on an already imperfect nature, which in turn is bound to produce an imperfect society.

Significantly, Eagleton begins his book by citing the case of two ten-year-old British boys who abducted, tortured, and killed three-year-old Jamie Bulger in 1993. Here is the opposite of childhood innocence, for the two boys knew that what they were doing was deeply wrong but went ahead and did it anyway. The human mystery is that neither their environment nor their nature can fully explain them. Man is not only wolf to man; he is mystery to man.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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