Friday, December 28, 2012
A satirical comment on Eurabia from Israel
A miracle of political correctness
Tally ho! Let the hunt remind us who we are
Hound, horse and human come together today in an activity as vital as our heartbeats, says Roger Scruton
This morning hundreds of hunts across the Kingdom will be assembling for the Boxing Day meet. My family and I will appear in our polished uniforms on polished horses to stand ceremonially among our neighbours in Cirencester Park. With us will be a crowd of thousands who have come to enjoy the spectacle. For an hour, three species – hound, horse and human; carnivore, herbivore and omnivore – will stand peacefully side by side in a little patch of meadowland, radiating tranquillity. One of the local bands will be playing. The Royal Agricultural College Beagles will be there, along with people from every walk of life, who have come to gladden their eyes on the spectacle before going for lunch in the town.
Hunting with hounds is ostensibly a crime. It continues, not because hunting people wish to defy the law, but because an activity so central to their lives can no more be stopped than their heartbeats. They have had to adjust. But they cannot live in the countryside without also sharing it with their animals.
I first encountered hunting in my early forties. It was quite by chance that I should be trotting down a Cotswold lane on a friend’s old pony when the uniformed centaurs came galloping past. One minute I was lost in solitary thoughts, the next I was in a world transfigured by collective energy. Imagine opening your front door one morning to put out the milk bottles, and finding yourself in a vast cathedral in ancient Byzantium, the voices of the choir resounding in the dome above you and the congregation gorgeous in their holiday robes. My experience was comparable. The energy that swept me away was neither human nor canine nor equine, but a peculiar synthesis of the three: a tribute to centuries of mutual dependence, revived for this moment in ritual form.
There is a singular and indescribable joy that comes from the co-operation between species. We go out together, a tribe, a herd and a pack, and move together in mutual understanding. We share dangers and triumphs, we are exhilarated and downcast simultaneously, and there grows between us a kind of unsentimental attachment that is stronger and deeper than any day-to-day companionship. This experience has been celebrated since ancient times. From the boar hunt that begins at line 428 of Homer’s Odyssey to the fox hunt that forms the climax of Trollope’s The Eustace Diamonds, hunting has been used to lift characters from their daily circumstances, and to place them in another predicament, which rouses their animal spirits and puts them to a very special kind of test. The wall of domesticity has been broken down, and we cross it to “the other side of Eden”, as the anthropologist Hugh Brody describes the world of the hunter-gatherer.
In that world, animals are not the tamed and subservient creatures of the farmyard or the family house; they are our equals, with whom we are joined in a contest that may prove as dangerous to the hunter as it is to his quarry. In the paintings that adorn the caves of Lascaux, we see the beasts of the wilderness portrayed by people who lived in awe of them, who conjured them into their own human dwelling place. The aura that emanates from these images emanates also from our hunting literature, reminding us that we too are animals, and we live with an unpaid debt towards the creatures from whom we have stolen the Earth.
In a sense we know much about the experience of the hunter-gatherer, since it is the experience that shaped us, and which lies interred like an archaeological stratum beneath the polished consciousness of civilised man. At its greatest, the art and literature of hunting aims to retrieve that experience, to re-acquaint us with mysterious and sacred things which are the true balm to our suburban anxieties, but which can be recuperated now only by returning, in imagination, to a world that we have lost.
In hunting you are following, and the thing you follow is a pack of hounds, which in turn follows a scent. Some follow on horseback and are part of the action; others follow by foot, bicycle or car. All are returning, to a certain extent, to a pre-agrarian condition. The landscape is being “thrown open” to its pre-historical use, and although the freedom taken by the hunt is at the same time a freedom offered by those with the power to forbid it, both parties to the deal are recapturing freedom of another and more deeply implanted kind. Hunting, which dissolves the boundaries between species, dissolves the boundaries between people too.
The thrill of jumping comes from this: you are abolishing the boundary that had vainly tried to exclude you. For a brief moment you are laying aside the demands of farming, and the man-centred individualism that farming engenders, and roaming across a landscape that has not yet been parcelled out and owned. The fields that I see from my window do not, for me, end at my boundary but stretch beyond it, to the place where the hounds of the Vale of White Horse hunt must be called off from the territory of the Old Berkshire, where “ours” becomes “theirs”, and the riot of followers must turn back.
That feeling of “ours” is expressed in many social events besides hunting: in fun rides, farmers’ breakfasts, hunt balls and point-to-points. Those events form part of an intricate web of social relations through which we join in the collective possession of our whole locality, and override our separate private claims. It is this sense of community that will bring us all together today, in order to renew our commitment to the place where we are.
Mother wins apology after council tries to take her disabled children away
A mother who spent a year fighting to stop social services taking her disabled twins into care after she was accused of making up a condition which made them unable to walk has won an apology from her local council.
Thomas and Daniel Bristow, both now three, are unable to walk because of a rare muscle disorder called hypotonia. But their mother Victoria Bristow said the council had never provided the help that she needed to look after them and after she asked for it repeatedly they tried to take the children away.
She said she was accused of making up their condition in order to obtain help with looking after them, and it was only after a year-long legal battle that the local authority backed down, in October this year.
Mrs Bristow said doctors had confirmed the boys were "permanently functionally disabled" but the council believed they would get better with a course of physiotherapy.
The 36-year-old, from Norwich, has now received an apology from Norfolk County Council but she said it was still failing to provide enough help for them. The former care worker said she was struggling after the birth of the boys in 2009, being poorly after suffering two major haemorrhages, and that the council were unable to provide any help.
When the twins were 14 months old and unable to stand up or even bear weight on their legs, Mrs Bristow and her husband Paul, who works in Norfolk council’s HR department, became concerned and saw doctors about their condition. “They have got low muscle tone which kind of means they are a bit like rag dolls,” she said. Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital said it was “a rare form of spinal muscular atrophy”.
She and her husband, 34, who suffers from arthritis, were struggling increasingly to carry them up and down the stairs. But she said the council had doubts about the condition.
“There was the thought that the boys’ disability was down to our parenting style somehow,” she said, explaining that they had been criticised for withdrawing the children from physiotherapy which was not helping.
Mrs Bristow said when an assessment finally took place social workers expressed concern that the children might be at risk, partly due to her mental health. She said she suffers from a mild form of depression. “The assessment concluded that due to my mental health and because they didn’t understand why the boys were disabled, they felt they were at risk of neglect, and needed to be taken into immediate foster care, with no plans for reuniting with us.”
The Bristows learnt of the conclusion in a letter delivered in October last year, and for a year lived with the fear that the boys would be taken away if the council obtained a court order. Mrs Bristow said she “was accused of trying to use their disabilities to gain services’ attention”.
“The idea is the parent makes up an injury to gain attention. They were accusing me of making up the boys’ disabilities. Actually, we hadn’t recognised the extent of their disabilities. They are very disabled little boys.”
She added: “I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my children so I researched the law and I fought like crazy.”
After months of delay, the case was concluded in her favour.
Mrs Bristow said: “We have never ever deliberately harmed them in any way at all.”
She said she now planned to support other families in similar situations.
Lisa Christensen, director of children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said it was not possible to “comment in detail” on cases involving children as the information was confidential. But she added: “I can say in general terms that social workers have a very difficult job to do and can justifiably be criticised if they fail to respond in cases where concerns have been raised.”
She also said that the council provided a “range of support” to disabled children but that in some cases there was a “difference of opinion between the parents and the agencies involved about the level and nature of services provided”. “In this case we have acknowledged and apologised for mistakes made and are anxious to work with the family in the interests of the children.”
Prof Dawkins should have a little faith in my guardian angel
Bringing up a child Catholic is worse than abusing it, according to Richard Dawkins - but where's his evidence, asks Mary Kenny
A man is entitled to hold any opinion he chooses, and when Richard Dawkins states that being raised a Catholic is worse than child abuse he is free to say so. “Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was,” he said the other day, “the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.”
But atheistic scientists such as Prof Dawkins are usually keen on asking for “evidence-based” data to back up opinions. There are more than a billion Roman Catholics globally, but Prof Dawkins rested his thesis on the experience of one person: a Protestant friend was told she would “roast in Hell” by some daft priest in America.
I dare say several events inflicted psychological damage in my childhood – being made to give away my doll’s house by an insistent aunt, not being able to afford a pony, not being sent to ballet school after reading Noel Streatfeild – all linger in the memory as childhood scars. Yet the form of Catholicism in which I was raised was basically warm-hearted; and I adored the rituals of our lovely Maytime processions, the sweet hymns to Our Lady and the general reassurance that my guardian angel would watch over me and I shouldn’t do anything to shame him.
Far from thinking Protestants would roast in Hell, we believed Protestants were often better than we were. They had a reputation for being honest in business and were charitable. We did pity them for one thing: Irish Protestants weren’t allowed to go to the pictures on Sunday.
There were abiding rules, based on the Ten Commandments, but there was also tolerance for “the sinner”, as the just man falls 77 times a day. You were told “judge not, that ye be not judged”; but if you steal, you must make restitution. You should never let the sun go down on your anger and if you’re having a rotten time, Offer it Up. None of this had a psychologically damaging effect on me, and I trust that Prof Dawkins will factor my witness, too, into any “evidence-based” future pronouncements.
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, 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. Email me (John Ray) here.