Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Why the English Tories should hope that the Scots Nats retain their grip on Scotland
The phenomenal electoral success of the Scots nats in the recent British general election is to my knowledge unprecedented in a democracy so deserves serious thought. They won 56 out of 59 Scottish seats. It shows the continuing appeal of Fascism. Fascism is socialism ("we will look after you") combined with with nationalism ("we are the greatest") so it had huge appeal to all sectors of Scottish society. Scots are nothing if not patriotic. In WWII, Fascism helped Germans to march relentlessly to their doom -- right up until the bitter end.
So it is likely that Scottish politics will remain dominated by the SNP. The Scots in Scotland are ferociously socialist so the Labour party will have nothing distinctive to offer and the Tories have only ever been marginal in Scotland. The only pressure for change might be if the SNP-dominated Scottish government makes a mess of things. They are certainly spendthrift. But, ironically. the English subsidy in the form of the Barnett formula or its successors will probably rescue them from any meltdown.
So why should the Tories care? They have almost no following in Scotland in any case. It matters because no Anglospheric political party remains in charge for long. The political parties tend to rotate. The British Tories have now won two general elections in a row so, on a purely probabalistic basis, they are due to lose the next one. But they may not, of course. They have made Britain the standout nation in Europe in terms of economic recovery so that may contribute to a third win.
But the time will one day come when the Tories lose control. And when they do they will most probably not be faced with a Labour government but rather by a SNP-Labour alliance. And if it is an alliance with policies as destructive as those recently offered by Ed Miliband, that will be a very alarming prospect -- a prospect alarming enough for extreme measures.
As ever, however, the ace up the Tory sleeve will be the British Labour party. It used to be said that the Labour party was Margaret Thatcher's biggest asset -- they were so extreme as to be unelectable -- and Ed Miliband was certainly David Cameron's greatest asset in 2015. And something else that is useful about the Labour party -- aside from their destructive policies -- is that they will never consent to Scottish independence. Without the Scottish seats in the Westminster parliament they would be permanently out in the cold.
And the Tories too don't like the idea of breaking up the UK. But that dislike is more a sentimental than a practical thing. It would be a great relief to them to boot the Scottish MPs out of Westminster. And a SNP/Labour government would enable them to do just that. They could offer to vote with the SNP for Scottish independence. The SNP would certainly accept and the combined Tory/SNP vote would win the day -- terminating, probably immediately, the SNP/Labour government and entrenching conservatism in England for a very long time.
British TV historian David Starkey points to similarities between the SNP and the Nazis
It is true that the Scottish saltire and the Nazi Hakenkreuz are both versions of the cross
TV historian David Starkey was today branded a 'serial utterer of bile and bilge' after he likened the Scottish National Party to the Nazis.
The outspoken 70-year-old claimed the Saltire was like the swastika and accused the SNP of treating the English in the way Hitler persecuted the Jews.
Furious SNP leaders condemned the comments as 'unsavoury and absurd' and said they served as an insult to the Jewish community and the millions who support the party in Scotland.
The SNP secured a stunning victory north of the border in last month's general election, winning 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland.
However Mr Starkey has drawn a lengthy comparison between the messages, imagery and appeal of the Nicola Sturgeon's party and that of Hilter's Nazis.
He even drew parallels between Scottish men showing their knees in kilts and and the Nazi enthusiasm for lederhosen.
SNP MP Kirsten Oswald today branded the remarks 'irresponsible' and said they have absolutely no basis in reality while John Nicholson said they were offensive to Christians, Jews and all Scots.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Starkey said: 'What are the points of comparison?
'Well, we have a political movement that has a single historic explanation for why your country is facing such terrible oppression; it's either Versailles or the Treaty of the Union.
'You have a particular group of people who are responsible for this; it is either the English or the Jews.'
Starkey, who has previously sparked controversy by describing Scotland as a 'feeble little country', went on: 'You have as a symbol the twisted cross: the saltire or the swastika. You have a passionate belief in economic self-sufficiency: known by the Nazis as autarky and the Scots as oil.
'And also you have the propensity of your elderly and middle-aged male supporters to expose their knees,' he said, passing comment on the traditional dress of Scotland and Germany.
He claimed that those who sympathise with the SNP, especially in England, are 'incapable of recognising that this is national socialism. And the nationalism is much more important than the socialism, as it was in Germany. The socialism is a very fragile, superficial thing. The nationalism is very real.'
But the comments were today angrily condemned by the SNP, who accused Starkey of being detached from reality.
'The independence movement in Scotland is entirely civic and peaceful - and last year's referendum was a celebration of democracy.
Building the New Dark-Age Mind
America’s descent into the Dark Ages will not end well. It never has in the past
by Victor Davis Hanson
History is not static and it does not progress linearly. There was more free speech and unimpeded expression in 5th-century Athens than in Western Europe between 1934-45, or in Eastern Europe during 1946-1989. An American could speak his mind more freely in 1970 than now. Many in the United States had naively believed that the Enlightenment, the U.S. Constitution, and over two centuries of American customs and traditions had guaranteed that Americans could always take for granted free speech and unfettered inquiry.
That is an ahistorical assumption. The wish to silence, censor, and impede thought is just as strong a human emotion as the desire for free expression — especially when censorship is cloaked in rhetoric about fairness, equality, justice, and all the other euphemisms for not allowing the free promulgation of ideas.
George Orwell devoted his later years to warning us that while the fascist method of destroying free expression was easily identified (albeit only with difficulty combatted), the leftwing totalitarian impulse to squelch unpopular speech was far harder to resist — couched as it was in sloganeering about the “people” and “social justice.” It is easy to object to the speech codes of a self-interested, corrupt dictator in sunglasses and epaulettes, but difficult to fight censorship that allegedly helps the poor, minorities, and the helpless.
We can all but write off today’s university as a place of free expression. In the age of Obama, zealots in the university have clamped down on any thought deemed reactionary. “Trigger warning” is a euphemism for trying either to censure literature or to denigrate it. “Safe space” is another term for the segregation of campus areas by race, class, or ideology. “Hate speech” has become a pejorative for uncomfortable truth.
So try a thought experiment. If Professor A in various fora — before the academic senate, at the “free speech” area of the quad, during student advising, in a faculty meeting, or during class — announced that on-campus, Christian student groups practiced hate speech and thus should be monitored or silenced, or he declared that due to white privilege he was holding private tutoring sessions only for people of color, or he urged that global warming deniers should not be allowed to spread their heresies in class, or he insisted that the nature and propriety of sexual intercourse should be post facto defined only by the female participant, he would be hailed, and many of those proposals would be taken seriously if they were not already part of campus protocol.
But if a bookend Professor B in the same venues announced that he found Muslim groups equally suspect, or that, due to constant deprecation of white males, he was holding tutoring sessions only for his European-American students, or that he was hosting a campus conference on the unscientific nature of the global warming movement, or if he urged the university to insist that any allegations of rape follow strictly the rules of evidence and procedures as outlined in the U.S. Constitution and state laws of criminal jurisprudence, he would find himself in a great deal of trouble, if not fired.
A pre-Enlightenment Age is not just the absence of uncomfortable free expression. It is also a sort of groupthink acceptance of a lie in place of the truth on grounds of social utility. Forensic evidence, testimony, and logic have shown that “hands up, don’t shoot” is a complete myth. Michael Brown, fresh from committing a robbery, walking down the middle of the street, apparently under the influence, lunged at a policeman, grabbed for his weapon, fled, turned around and charged, before being shot and killed. He was not shot in the back. Nor did he halt and put his hands up, begging the policeman not to shoot him. Yet the president of the United States often invokes generically “Ferguson,” as if it were proof of police brutality. “Hands up, don’t shoot” is analogous to “the earth is flat” or “the sun revolves around the earth.”
“Mattress Girl” is a Columbia University co-ed who had post facto regrets about once sexually hooking up with a young male student. She then recalibrated their pairing as a forcible rape, and yet was not able to demonstrate to either the university or the police that her allegations were valid. Yet she became a cult-hero. The progressive world embraced her as a feminist icon, as she lugged around a mattress and made an explicit sex tape, to further a narrative that could not be proven true. If one assumed that 2,500 years ago Socrates destroyed for good the notion of moral relativism in his take down of the Sophists, think again. The subtext of Mattress Girl’s whine is that even if she is lying, her cause still furthers progressive agendas and thus is not really a lie after all.
Current popular culture is not empirically grounded, but operates on the premise that truth is socially constructed by race, class, and gender concerns. Imagine if Mattress Girl’s male sexual partner had alleged that, in fact, he was coerced into sex, and then he carried his own 50-pound mattress around campus to draw public attention to her coercion. Certainly, he would be ignored or laughed at. Science, logic, probability, evidence — all these cornerstones of the Enlightenment — now mean little in comparison to the race, class, and gender of those who offer narratives deemed socially useful.
Eric Holder called the nation “cowards” for not holding a national conversation on race. But Holder did not wish a freewheeling discussion about the break-up of the black family, the epidemic of violence and drug use, the cult of the macho male, the baleful role of anti-police rhetoric and rap music — in addition to current racism, a sluggish economy, and the wages of past apartheid. Instead, the ground rules of racial discussion were again to be anti-Enlightenment to the core. One must not cite the extraordinary disproportionate crime rate of inner-city black males, or the lack of inspired black leadership at the national level. One most certainly does not suggest that other minority groups either do not promote leaders like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or do not seem to have a need for national collective spokespeople at all.
In our current Dark Age, logic is ignored in lieu of ideology. Hillary Clinton is declared a populist and — Presto! — she is a populist, railing about everything from hedge-fund operators to Wall Street hyper-profit making. No one seems to care that her egalitarian rhetoric simply cannot be true for a variety of reasons: Mrs. Clinton’s daughter, without any financial experience, worked for Wall Street investment groups and reportedly is now worth $15 million. Chelsea’s husband is a hedge-fund operator. Bill and Hillary Clinton have made over $100 million parlaying their public service into quid-pro-quo speaking engagements. The Clinton Foundation is little more than a clearing house that allows hundreds of millions of tax-deductible dollars from foreign grandees to be funneled into the Clinton machine in hopes of future crony capitalist advantages — as the foundation pays for everything from Clinton jet travel to sinecures for temporary, out-of-work political operatives. By any empirical standard, Hillary Clinton is an elitist manipulative multimillionaire, who with her husband mastered the revolving door of pay-for-play lobbying.
The California drought is the locus classicus of 21st-century know-nothingism. In a nutshell, periodic three- to four-year droughts are not abnormal in California. They can be predicated on little-understood changing oceanic temperatures, mostly known as “El Nino,” that involve the heating and cooling of central Pacific Ocean currents, which in turn adjudicate the number and nature of productive storms heading down the western coast of North America. Such droughts and the role of El Nino predated man-made concerns over global warming.
No matter. The president of the United States not long ago flew into Fresno, declared the dry spell the wage of global warming, and flew out to the environs of Palm Springs to golf.
The drought problem is not just that the state cancelled the later phases of the massive California Water Project, but that it also diverted precious stored water from reservoirs out to sea, in service to unproven theories about fish restoration. The Enlightenment idea would have been to make prior arrangements for the periodic absence of El Nino currents, by building more reservoirs, curbing releases of stored water for green experimentation, and matching population growth with new infrastructure. The un-Enlightenment preference is to freeze reservoir construction, to damn farmers as water-wasters, to claim that immigrants are being scapegoated for the drought, and to ignore El Nino facts in preference to global warming theories.
A final symptom of an un-Enlightened age is the assumption that lies are truth because untruth offers collective benefits, while veracity disrupts social justice. Take Obamacare. Almost every promoted tenet of the Affordable Care Act proved false: premiums went up; so did deductibles and co-payments. Millions lost not just their doctors but their existing health care plans as well. The much ballyhooed health care website proved dysfunctional. Newly passed mandates were unlawfully suspended to enhance the Obama reelection effort.
Nationalized health care did not per se reduce the deficit, nor will its protocols contain escalating costs without radical curtailments in service. Mandatory electronic record keeping did not free physicians up to spend quality time with their patients, but often resulted in the very opposite with doctors typing into computer screens while distracted from patients’ inquiries. Again, no matter. Obamacare is now hailed as the president’s “signature achievement” and is becoming institutionalized in the manner of Social Security.
The country is terrified about having a rational and logical discussion about almost every great issue of our times: unsustainable national debts and deficits, the new nexus between leftwing plutocracy and populism, the viability of Social Security and Medicare, deteriorating race relations, the Soviet-style American campus, global warming, and the deterioration of medical care. Instead, to preclude honest talk, we offer perfunctory charges of sexism and racism, and seek cover in “fairness” and “equality.”
The redistributionist, equality-of-result state — fueled by a national progressive ideology — is the new deity that determines what is free expression. Blasphemy is now defined as daring to use logic and evidence to expose the state’s failed, deductive tenets.
This descent into the Dark Ages will not end well. It never has in the past.
The British state’s silent war on religion
It is increasingly clear that the UK government’s failing attempt to promote British values has inadvertently turned into a sanctimonious and intolerant campaign against traditionalist religious institutions. Since most of the targets of the British-values campaign are culturally isolated – Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hasidic Jews, fundamentalist Christians, radical Islamists – many otherwise sensitive observers have not picked up on what is a silent war against religion.
This unrestrained and insidious turn taken by the disoriented British-values campaign was exposed last month when it emerged that young Muslim children in one primary school were given a test to assess their predilection for radicalisation. The stated purpose of this intrusive Big Brother-style initiative was to ‘identify the initial seeds of radicalisation’. Judging by the questions posed, it appears that the marker for the precrime of radicalisation was the strength of infants’ feelings about the way of life of their families. To discover how pupils felt about their beliefs, the test asked them to indicate whether they agreed, disagreed or were unsure about the following statement: ‘I believe my religion is the only correct one.’ Any child agreeing with this statement was deemed to be in danger of becoming radicalised into anti-British values.
The sentiments underpinning this infant-radicalisation test also inform the work of Ofsted school inspectors, assorted government programmes and the outlook of the political establishment. From this elite perspective, those who believe that their religion is the truth contradict the unstated official version of British values – namely, that all religions are correct. According to the jargon of the day, an inclusive, non-judgemental and respectful attitude towards other people’s beliefs is mandatory for school children. This demand for non-judgemental respect implicitly negates the freedom of conscience of millions of ardent believers for one simple reason: many religions assume that only they possess the truth. For Christians, Jews and Muslims, the idea that all religions are correct makes little sense. Indeed, if all religions are ‘correct’, then living in accordance solely with one particular faith is absurd.
According to today’s official guidelines, religions are acceptable as long as their adherents don’t take them too seriously. If they do, then such religions violate what appears to have become a fundamental but unspoken British value – automatic respect for beliefs other than your own. Over the past year, numerous faith schools have been downgraded by Oftsted inspectors and criticised because, allegedly, their pupils did not demonstrate sufficient awareness and respect for the cultures of other people. What’s interesting is that this criticism was based not on concerns about how pupils felt about Britain, but on concerns about how they felt about other cultures and religions.
Uncritical and non-judgemental multiculturalism has become the goal of British-values education. It focuses on people’s attitudes to others rather than on people’s values as such. In reality, non-judgemental multiculturalism avoids engaging with normative statements of value. In the absence of having any actual values of its own, the political establishment prefers to restrain and police those who live their lives according to their values.
The British-values campaign obscures its intolerance of strong religious faith through euphemism and jargon. For example, last year, Ofsted deemed several schools run with a strong Christian ethos to be ‘inadequate’. Ofsted justified its decision on the grounds that these schools were ‘failing to teach respect for other faiths or developing pupils’ awareness and knowledge of communities different from their own’.
What’s remarkable is that Ofsted is assessing the quality of a school according to political and social-engineering criteria, rather than educational criteria. Inspectors seem far less interested in the academic quality of children’s classroom experience than in the cultural and social ethos imbibed by pupils.
So, last month, it was reported that in two Christian schools in north-east England, inspectors were asking 10-year-olds questions about lesbian sex and transgender issues. And because these schools were not trying to socialise their pupils into the latest fashionable cause promoted by the PSHE industry, they were judged as failures. One of the schools involved, Durham Free School, is facing closure, while the other, Grindon Hall, was placed in ‘special measures’ on the grounds that the children lacked tolerance towards ‘people of other faiths and culture’.
Statements like ‘developing pupils’ awareness and knowledge of other communities’ serve as a code for forcing pupils to embrace a secular cosmopolitan ethos. Unsurprisingly, many religious educational institutions – rightly or wrongly – regard cosmopolitan values and practices as a corrosive influence on their faith. Indeed, one reason why many parents send their children to a religious school is to insulate them from some of the values and cultural practices prevalent in mainstream society.
During the past year, Hasidic Jewish schools have been condemned because they failed to deal with sex-education in an acceptable manner. That, for many Hasidic Jews, discussing the topics on the sex-education curriculum would be a deeply disturbing experience appears to be irrelevant to the authorities.
It is worth noting that despite Ofsted’s reservations about the failure of Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls’ School in Stamford Hill to address sex education, it still decided to give it a ‘good’ rating. Ofsted’s decision immediately roused the wrath of the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association. As far as they were concerned, the school’s ‘good’ rating was undeserved because it indicated it would continue to tell pupils to avoid certain stigmatised topics in exams, like homosexual relationships, evolution and social media.
Tolerance not respect
A tolerant, democratic society would recognise that schools run according to a religious ethos would find it difficult to discuss and teach many issues that secular teachers find unproblematic. A tolerant, democratic society would also recognise that religious schools are particularly sensitive about morality, given their aim is to instil in children their own values, rather than the values of the Department for Education. Forcing religious schools to educate children in values that are alien to their faith has little educational merit.
The purpose of such a policy is not educational, but political. Demanding that teachers ignore what their conscience dictates sets a dangerous precedent for society. It also violates one of the unstated principles of a tolerant, democratic society; namely, that the state does not interfere in the internal affairs of a religion. Since the seventeenth century, advocates of tolerance have argued that religious beliefs, matters of people’s heads and hearts, are not appropriate objects of state control.
The right to religious freedom is the cornerstone on which the ideal of tolerance was founded. It is paradoxical that in the 21st century, when the right to be different is so widely celebrated, that the right to act on your religious beliefs is so readily pathologised. Take the recent case involving two schools run by the Belz sect, a Hasidic Jewish group in north London. As was widely reported, the two schools sent a letter to parents warning that any children driven to school by their mother would be refused entry to the school. The letter outlining the ban on women drivers was based on the recommendations of Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, the Belzer spiritual leader in Israel.
The ban immediately provoked establishment outrage. The UK education secretary, Nicky Morgan, denounced the ban as ‘completely unacceptable in modern Britain’. Appealing to the core British value of respect, Morgan said that ‘if schools do not actively promote the principle of respect for other people, they are breaching the independent school standards’. She immediately launched an investigation into the affair. A few days later, the Equality and Human Rights Commission informed the Belz schools that the banning of mothers from driving children to school was illegal and discriminatory.
What was remarkable about the official and media reaction to this episode was the near universal reluctance to accept the right of a religious group to act and behave in accordance with its beliefs. The Belz sect did not demand that women who were not members of its faith should not drive children to school. Its rules applied only to members of its faith. No one else is affected by the practices of this sect, and in a tolerant society it is accepted that religious groups should be left alone to practice their faith.
Unlike the current fashion of non-judgementalism, the liberal ideal of tolerance does not demand that any of us should respect religions or cultural groups that we deem incorrect or abhorrent. Indeed, the verb ‘to tolerate’ conveys a judgement towards something we reject but nevertheless accept the existence of. I, for one, do not respect the practices of the Belz sect, but I tolerate its behaviour. Unlike the ideas of respect and non-judgementalism, which avoid the domain of morality, tolerance speaks the language of right and wrong.
The growing tendency to interfere in the internal affairs of religious schools is an indirect expression of the wider cultural conflict about lifestyles and values. Many of society’s questions regarding the moral order are played out through competing initiatives that target children.
But there is another important impulse behind the targeting of religious education. In recent years, officials and politicians have been taken aback by the spectre of Islamic radicalisation haunting many schools. Belatedly, they sought to regain the initiative through the ‘Trojan horse’ inquiry into the influence of radical Islamists in certain schools. The government is all too aware that it has not been able to contain or neutralise radical Islamists’ influence on young Muslims. It is also conscious that its attempt to impose British values on schools might appear as entirely focused on the Muslim community. That is why it has opted to target Christian and Jewish schools.
There is little prospect that Hasidic Jews or Christian students are likely to get radicalised anytime soon. However, by targeting them, the government deludes itself into believing that it is actually doing something to rescue Britain from the scourge of religious extremism.
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.