Monday, March 09, 2015

HMS Pinafore and the British class system

I have always been a classical music devotee but now that I am in my 8th decade I have been watching a fair bit of light opera, mainly Viennese operetta and England's Gilbert & Sullivan.  And I enjoy it greatly. 

All light opera seems to be about obstacles on the road to romance but W.S. Gilbert also includes some rather biting social commentary within his madcap humor.  Perhaps sadly, however, the commentary is on the Britain of his day so most people these days probably miss a lot of the satire. 

For instance who today has heard of Garnet Wolseley, the 1st Viscount Wolseley?  Yet in the late 19th century when Gilbert wrote, Wolseley was the most distinguished British soldier and military leader of his day.  He was renowned for his intelligence and efficiency and served with distinction and bravery in many of Britain's 19th century wars -- wars which are now mostly forgotten.  And a reader has suggested to me (pursuant to an earlier post on G&S) with some cogency that the "modern major general" in "Pirates of Penzance" is mockery of the ultra-efficient Wolseley.

But the target of Gilbert's satire in "Pinafore" is impossible to miss.  The obstacle to true love there is the British class system.  To this day, you CANNOT understand Britain without a grasp of the class system.  Yet the odd thing is that it is almost never publicly discussed. How are you to find out about it if no-one will tell you about it?  I found out about it almost by osmosis.  From childhood on I read untold numbers of British books.  So I lived to a considerable extent in a British mental world.

And that world and the world outside my window were very different. In books I read about sea-birds such as whimbrels and snipes and other acclaimed birds such as skylarks and nightingales, whereas my environment in tropical Australia included deadly snakes such as Taipans and colorful fruit that would send you blind of you ate it (Finger Cherries).  Not to mention huge crocodiles and sharks that could eat you and jellyfish that could sting you to death when you went swimming.  It was a long way from the daffodils of England.

And the books I read in my early life were mostly written before WWII so were also rather alien in some of the social attitudes expressed.  Even in my early teens I remember being struck by the expression: "That's very white of you", where "white" was an expression of appreciation that meant something along the lines of civilized, kind and generous.  Such an expression would be toweringly politically incorrect these days but back then it was common enough. It was an expression of racial pride and reflected an adverse judgment of the morals and ethics of darker races.

But in the last two or three decades, some bold British writers have written explicitly about their class system, the social anthropologist, Kate Fox, most notably.  And Fox lays it all bare down to the tiniest detail.  As I wrote a couple of years ago:

"I have recently been reading Kate Fox's book on the English so passed on a few things that she had reminded me of. "Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour" is, I think,  the funniest book I have ever read.  It repeatedly has me in tears of laughter.  As an Australian who knows the English well, I can recognize the truth of her observations without being embarrassed by them.  And there is one sentence from her book that sums up the English well: "Everything is embarrassing"." There is an update of her observations here.

And such is the genius of W.S. Gilbert that, in his madcap and exaggerated way, he too makes the English class system seem hilarious.

Thankfully, the class system in Britain today is less blatant than it was in Gilbert's day. But that is no thanks to Britain's various Labour party governments of the postwar era. Leftists, of course, all have a mania about equality, though some pigs are more equal than others, naturally (to quote Orwell). And successive British Leftist governments (mostly run by people from privileged backgrounds) have vowed to tear down class barriers in pursuit of equality.

And in the typical Leftist way, they have achieved exactly the opposite of that objective.  One could argue that their actions were a deliberate strategy designed to preserve their own privileged stations in life but, although I don't dismiss that thought, it seems to me to be mainly just another example of Leftist stupidity. 

Leftist stupidity is a special class of stupidity. The people concerned are mostly not stupid in general but they have a character defect (mostly arrogance) that makes them impatient with complexity and unwilling to study it.  So they repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot;  They fail to attain their objectives.  The world IS complex so a simplistic approach to it CANNOT work.

The big British Labour Party blunder from the point of view of  someone who genuinely values greater equality was the attack on "Grammar" schools. Britain once had many such schools.  They were taxpayer-funded ("State") schools that were run on lines very similar to Britain's famous and excellent "Public" (meaning private) schools such as Eton, Harrow and many others.  Mainly because of the cost, only about 7% of Britons complete the schooling of their teenage years in private schools, so the availability of schools of private school standard that were "free" to the user did open up a path to social mobility for many bright children from poor families. And many of the leading figures in British life to this day are products of a Grammar School education.

Access to a State Grammar school was via the "11 Plus" examination.  It was an academic ability test heavily loaded with IQ.  Pupils sat the exam at age 11 to determine their educational path through their teenage years.  Probably correctly, only the brightest quarter of the population were deemed able to cope with the demands of the sort of education that had long prevailed in Britain's private schools.

And the Grammar schools were a great success in enabling social mobility.  A Grammar school education was rightly regarded as close to a private school education in excellence and, even though they came from impoverished backgrounds, Grammar school graduates had almost the same easy path through life that had always characterized graduates from the great private schools.  Many Grammar school graduates made it to Britain's leading universities, Oxford and Cambridge.  Grammar schools were the main path upwards for able people from humble backgrounds. Equality of opportunity for the whole English population was greatly enhanced by them.

So what objection could there be to that?  There was a BIG objection: the recognition in the form of the "11 Plus" exam that some people are brighter than others.  That offended greatly against the "equality" mania of the Left.  So except for some local pockets of resistance, the Labour party ABOLISHED the State-funded Grammar schools. 

In the name of equality they abolished the main means of achieving more equality.  How perverse is that? Only a Leftist could see it as reasonable.  But even Leftist parties have to make some show of rationality, so how did they justify their destructive policy?  They said that they were going to bring ALL schools up to Grammar school standard.  It sounded good but was of course impossible.  Certainly, nothing like it has ever been achieved in the many years since.

When Tony Blair first gained office as Labour party Prime Minister he said his three top priorities were education, education and education -- and he vowed to increase social mobility through his policies.  What his government actually did was to dumb down both State school education and the exams used to assess it.  So for 13 years the apparent educational attainments among English children soared.  But it was one big fraud.  A good education became virtually unattainable for many British children and so social mobility in fact FELL under Blair. 

So the British class structure is now more extreme in its exclusivity than it was 50 years ago.  England is now a place where the young people are mostly poorly educated in all senses and where the 7% of the population who went to private schools run just about everything in the country and dominate in all avenues of attainment.  Even Britain's successful athletes in the most recent Summer Olympic games were disproportionately from private school backgrounds.

W.S. Gilbert would find the underlying class structure of England today not greatly different from the late  19th century structure that he satirized.  And the hypocrisy about it that he so vividly noted  is still there too -- JR.

Dr. Ben Carson: "Being Gay Is a Choice"

I think for some people it's not much of a choice and for some it is.  The point however is legal rights for homosexual couples --  and civil unions would seem to confer such rights without calling the union a marriage. 

An interesting arrangement that has been suggested in Australia is to distinguish between "Marriage" and "Homosexual Marriage".  The wedding certificates would be otherwise identical but would be headed in either one of those two ways, as the situation requires. 

In theory that should satisy everyone but in fact Australian homosexuals are apparently aghast at the possibility.  It shows that the whole issue is respect.  Homosexuals want their unions given the same respect as a normal marriage.  I doubt that that will ever be widely achieved, no matter how much bullying is used to pursue it

And to the extent that respect is the main aim, I think lascivious Mardi Gras parades are probably on balance counter-productive.  They rather clearly proclaim deviance.

There is also an issue over homosexual proselytism.  There is a lot of that about these days, particularly in the schools.  Homosexuality is presented as admirable and "cool".  I see no justification for governments taking any interest in what happens between consenting adults in their bedrooms but promoting an unhealthy lifestyle seems to me to be irresponsible and wrong. Just the very high incidence of partner abuse among homosexual couples should be enough reason for it not to be officially encouraged  -- JR

“A lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay. So did something happen while they were in there?” Carson said, who has said marriage should be between a man and a woman.

CNN host Chris Cuomo countered Carson’s statement, saying: “Most people never go to prison, and you know there’s a whole theory of dominance.”

“Wait a minute. I said a lot of people who go in come out [gay]. Are you denying that that’s true?” Carson asked.

“I am not denying that that’s true, but I am denying that that’s as a basis of understanding homosexuality,” Cuomo responded.

“If in fact that is the case, then it obviously thwarts what you just said,” Carson said.

“A lot of people go into jail as a drug addict, and they come out as a criminal. Does that mean that all drug addicts are criminals?” Cuomo asked.

Carson said the issue of gay marriage is one of legal rights in cases of property and visitation.

“Here’s what’s important: Why do gay people want to get married? Because they want to have various rights – property rights, visitation rights,” he said.

“They want their commitment to count just like mine and my wife’s,” Cuomo said.

“Why can’t any two human beings--I don’t care what their sexual orientation is--why can’t they have the legal right to do those things?” Carson asked.

“That’s what they’re fighting for,” Cuomo said.

“Okay, that does not require changing the definition of marriage,” Carson said.

“But it would require covering that union as you do others, which is called marriage in our society,” Cuomo said.

“I don’t think so,” Carson responded.

Earlier in the interview, Cuomo asked: “One issue: same-sex marriage. You have equal protection. It’s working its way through the courts. The decisions are getting more and more uniform, but then you have people of faith who say, ‘Marriage is ours. God says it is a man and a woman. The Bible says, my faith says…’ Which one wins with Dr. Carson?”

“Here’s what I would do. I would do what the Constitution says. Constitution says: civil issue of that nature should be determined at the state level. Why does it say that? Because the judicial system at the state level has to answer to the people,” Carson responded.

“What if people of the state vote for a law 100 to 0 that winds up infringing on the rights of a minority, like happened very often with slavery, like many would argue is happening now with people who are gay?” CNN host Chris Cuomo asked.

“And our Constitution was followed, and we corrected those things,” Carson said.

“And isn’t that what’s happening right now? Same-sex marriage is being corrected as a form of violation of equal protection,” Cuomo said.

Carson said that comparison is invalid, “because people have no control over their race, for instance,” but they “absolutely” have control over their sexuality.


We were wrong to try to ban racism out of existence, says former British equality chief

A former equality chief has branded his years working to stamp out racial discrimination as 'utterly wrong'.  Writer and broadcaster Trevor Phillips said efforts made under the Blair government turned anti-racism into an 'ugly new doctrine'.

Mr Phillips is the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and has waged a 30-year campaign to tackle issues around discrimination and equality.

In an upcoming Channel 4 documentary, called Things We Won't Say About Race That Are True, he says attempts to stop prejudice instead encouraged abuse and endangered lives as well as contributed to the rise of parties like Ukip.

In the 75-minute documentary, he delves into Britain's racial tensions and stereotypes as well as hostilities towards immigrants.

He explains: 'It was my job to to make sure that different racial and religious groups got on.  'Campaigners like me seriously believed that if we could prevent people expressing prejudiced ideas then eventually they would stop thinking them.  'But now I'm convinced we were utterly wrong.'

Mr Phillips, a Labour party member, says anti-racism began with good intentions but turned into 'thought control'.

He says the London 2005 bombing by British Muslims, forced him to do rethink his views.

Now, he insists that only a willingness to talk more openly about race, despite risk of causing offence, will help those in need.

In the documentary, which airs on March 19, Mr Phillips asks Nigel Farage whether attempts to embrace diversity have led to the rise of Ukip.

He also also talks to Tony Blair about how the work begun by New Labour in support of diversity and equality can be revived.

Former England footballer Les Ferdinand will also feature in the documentary to highlight racial issues in the sport.

And former home secretary Jack Straw, who is also interviewed, tells Mr Phillips that many MPs are wary of expressing their views for fear of being branded racist.

But Mr Phillips insists people should be free to use racial stereotypes, such as that many Jews are rich or that black people are more likely to be convicted for robbery, because they are true.

Explaining the issue, he said: 'The dividing lines of race, religion and culture are probably the most dangerous flashpoints in Britain today, but they're also the ones we find hardest to talk about in public.

'This film points to ways in which we can say what's on our minds without being accused of being bigots.' 

Channel 4 head of specialist factual David Glover, who commissioned the documentary, said: 'This film contains some very uncomfortable facts about race.

'Trevor Phillips now strongly believes that it's important to get them out there, so ultimately we can understand and tackle them.

'Trevor is arguably the best-qualified person in the country to examine these issues,' he continued.

'What's fascinating is that having thought so deeply about them, he now has a very different approach to the subject than he used to.'


The incorrectness of recreational hunting

A 'sexy' Czech hunter who was criticised after posting sickening selfies with her big game trophies has ignored calls to stop - and uploaded a video showing how to cook zebra.

Michaela Fialova travels all over the world to hunt and regularly posts pictures on Facebook of herself with the dead animals.

She has been slammed for the photos and a campaign was even launched to close down the 27-year-old's page and ban her from entering Africa.

But the brunette has caused further outrage after continuing to gloat about fresh kills including giraffe and zebra.

Ms Fialova, who has been hunting since she was 13 years old, has already travelled to Slovakia and Hungary this year, where she shot boar, capercaillie and muflon.

She is currently in South Africa and has already posted pictures of herself with a giraffe, hyena and water buck.

The brunette, who is from Litomerice, Czech Republic, spends the rest of her time working as a personal trainer, kick-boxer and guide for other hunters in Africa and Europe.

She wrote on her page earlier this year: 'Have you ever dreamed of hunting in Africa but always thought you couldn't afford it?

'For the price of a good Elk or Red stag, you can go to Africa and take a few animals for the same price and have memories that will last a lifetime.'

Ms Fialova is sometimes snapped brandishing the trophies alongside female friends, but in one is seen kissing an ex-boyfriend while holding a monkey.

She gains most of her ammunition and clothing through sponsoring. Her page has already gained more than 20,500 'likes'.

Her antics have resulted in an online petition on website titled 'Ban Michaela Michaelka Fialova from Africa and shut down her Facebook page promoting trophy hunting as being a glamorous thing to do'.

It was created by Alice Harding, from Dartmouth, England, who described hunting as 'despicable'.  She said: 'It's repulsive to glorify trophy hunting and sadistic practices such as bow hunting and posing with dead bodies of animals as if hunting is an appealing and desirable thing to do.  'Killing animals for fun is just plain wrong and must be stopped.'

But despite criticism Ms Fialova, who refers to those against hunting as 'antis', wrote on Facebook on February 24: 'Hey antis, do you really think this will stop me? I WILL NEVER STOP HUNTING.'

And in a video posted at the beginning of March, she explained: 'The difference between this meat and your meat is your meat is usually from slaughterhouses.  'The animal has a right to live a proper life and until its end it doesn't know about being hunted' (sic).

The petition was started on February 18 and has been signed by nearly 6,000 supporters. 



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 and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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