Tuesday, February 02, 2016

English history as a class war

By British libertarian history enthusiast Sean Gabb.  He says that Englishmen had more liberties when England was ruled by aristocrats than they now have under rule by the bureaucratic class

To understand the rubbish heap that England has become, it is useful to look at the circumstances that prompted the emergence of the modern State in Europe.

Around the end of the thirteenth century, the world entered one of its cooling phases. In a world of limited technology, this lowered the Malthusian ceiling – by which I mean the limit to which population was always tending, and beyond which it could not for any long time rise. Populations that could just about feed themselves during the warm period were now too large.

In the middle of the fourteenth century, this pressure was suddenly relieved by the Black Death, which seems to have killed about a third of the English population, and probably about a third of the human race as a whole. The result was a collapse of population somewhat below the Malthusian ceiling. In turn, this led – in England and Western Europe, at least – to an age of plenty for ordinary people.

However, continued cooling and a recovery of population led, by the beginning of the sixteenth century, to renewed contact with the Malthusian ceiling. So far as we can tell from the English statistics – which are the most complete and generally accurate – ordinary living standards fell rapidly throughout that century. With mild variations, they continued to fall until the last third of the eighteenth century. While the ceiling tended to rise during this period, the corresponding tendency to higher average living standards was offset by rising population. Living standards began to recover strongly only after the middle of the nineteenth century, when renewed warming, joined by the Industrial Revolution, lifted the ceiling out of sight. Even so, living standards in England did not recover their fifteenth century levels till about the 1880s. It was later elsewhere in Western Europe.

I think these natural forces go far to explaining the sudden emergence of religious mania and political unrest in Europe at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Reformation and Wars of Religion can be explained partly in terms of an unfolding intellectual change. Ideas are an autonomous force. At the same time, the force of the explosion we date from 1517 has its origin in perturbations of the Sun, or whatever other natural cause drives changes in the climate.

One of the responses of the governing classes to the spreading wave of instability was to centralise and greatly to strengthen power. Most notably in France, but in Western Europe generally, kings were exalted far above their mediaeval status. Because they were unreliable members of the new order, nobilities were brought under control, and power was shared with humble officials, who might collectively grow powerful, but who individually could be made or broken as kings found convenient. The various divine right theories of this age were the legitimising ideology of the new order.

In France, the King withdrew to Versailles. The leading nobles were required to live with him, thereby breaking their connection with the land from which they were allowed to continue drawing their wealth. Much government was given to a class of office holders, who multiplied their functions and arrested much tendency to economic improvement in ways that I do not need to describe.

I turn now to England. In some degree, there was a growth of absolutism here during the sixteenth century. The Tudor Kings ended the civil wars, and made themselves supreme and unchallenged. Because England was an island with only one land border – and Scotland was easily managed – there was no need for a standing army; and standing armies, and the consequent arms race between states with land borders, were a secondary cause of the growth of absolutism. Even so, the Tudor Monarchy ruled England through a strong administration centred on London.

This growth was arrested and reversed in 1641, by the abolition of nearly every body of state unknown to the Common Law. The Privy Council remained, but its subordinate institutions – Star Chamber, for example, and the Council of the North – were swept away. The immediate result was civil war, followed by a republic run by religious maniacs. But this soon collapsed, and the Monarchy was restored in 1660.

However, the Restoration was of the Monarchy in name only. It is best seen as an aristocratic coup. The Restoration Parliament finished the work of 1641, by abolishing the feudal tenures, by which the Monarchy had kept control over the nobility. The landed aristocracy gained something like absolute title over their estates, untouchable by the King. The network of rights and obligations that tied them to those who worked the land was simplified to a relationship of landlord and tenant.

From the 1660s, we can see the emergence of an aristocratic ruling class checked only at the margins by the Crown. Before then, Members of Parliament were often humble men from their localities, who needed to look to their localities for expenses and even salaries. Very soon, the Commons was flooded with the younger sons of peers and aristocratic nominees. Andrew Marvell was one of the last Members of Parliament who needed to draw a salary. The commons became an aristocratic club. This process was hastened by the decay of many boroughs and the growth of the more or less unrepresentative system that was ended only after 1832.

There was one attempt at reaction by the Crown. Charles II and James II presided over the growth of a new official class. Samuel Pepys is the most famous representative of this class. But there is also Leolyn Jenkins, the son of a Welsh farm labourer, who was educated in the Roman Law – not the Common Law – and who led the parliamentary resistance to the Exclusion Bills by which the aristocracy in effect tried to seize control over who could be King of England.

But James II overplayed his hand, and was deposed and exiled in 1688. Thereafter, the aristocracy did control appointment to the Crown, and was able to monopolise every institution of state – allowing those that failed to serve its interest to atrophy.

During the eighteenth century, the internal administration in England became largely a matter of obedience to the Common Law. History was written backwards, so that it became a narrative of struggle to maintain or to restore a set of ancient liberties that were usually over-stressed, or even mythical. I suspect that any educated man brought forward from 1500 to 1750 would have failed to recognise his own England in the standard histories. The tension between competing institutions and legal systems that shaped his life had been reduced to a set of struggles over a Common Law that was only one element in what he considered the legitimate order of things.

I repeat that ideas are an autonomous force. The whiggish ideologies that dominated the century were strongly believed by the ruling class, and were beneficial to the people as a whole. Opposition to Walpole’s excise, and the Theatres Bill cannot be simply explained as the play of sectional interests, or the work of politicians hungry for office. The Third Duke of Sunderland, Lords Hervey and Chesterfield, the Rockingham Whigs – these were men of strong liberal opinions. No ideology becomes hegemonic unless it is also believed. There was an almost paranoid suspicion of government within the ruling class, and a corresponding exaltation of the liberties of the people. But English liberty was also a collateral benefit of the aristocratic coups of 1660 and 1688. Self-help and a high degree of personal freedom were allowed to flourish ultimately because the enlightened self-interest of those who ruled England maintained a strong bias against any growth of an administrative state – the sort of state that would be able to challenge aristocratic dominance. People were left alone – often in vicious pursuits – because any regulation would have endangered the settlements of 1660-88.

Our understanding of English history in the nineteenth century is shaped by the beliefs of the contending parties in that century. The liberals and early socialists demanded an enlarged franchise and administrative reform, because they claimed this would give ordinary people a controlling voice in government. The conservatives claimed that extending the franchise would lead to the election of demagogues and levellers by a stupid electorate.

This does not explain what happened. Liberal democracy was a legitimising ideology for the establishment of a new ruling class – a ruling class of officials and associated commercial interests that drew power and status from an enlarged state. The British State was not enlarged for the welfare of ordinary people. The alleged welfare of ordinary people was merely an excuse for the enlargement of the British State. The real beneficiaries were the sort of people who thought highly of Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

If this analysis is correct, men like John Stuart Mill and even Richard Cobden were at best useful idiots for the bad side in a struggle over which group of special interests should rule England. The real heroes for libertarians were men like Lord Eldon and Colonel Sibthorp, who resisted all change, or men like Benjamin Disraeli and Lord Salisbury, who, after the battle for “reform” was lost, found ways to moderate and, in the short term, to neutralise the movement of power from one group to another. Or the greatest hero of all was Lord Elcho, who kept the Liberty and Property League going until he was nearly a hundred, and who fought a bitter rearguard action for an aristocratic ascendency that was intimately connected with the rights to life, liberty and property of ordinary people.

This is not to romanticise the aristocratic ascendency. Eighteenth century England was a brutal place filled with injustice – the game laws, the press gang, a chaotic civil and criminal law, pervasive corruption. All the same, utopia has never been on offer. In passing, I will address myself to left-libertarians like Kevin Carson and Keith Preston. Their critique of the corporate elites and the plutocracy that are hurrying us into tyranny is fundamentally correct. But they are wrong to denounce the aristocratic ascendency that preceded the system under which we now live. It would have been nice for England to emerge into the modern world as a land of masterless men – of yeomen farmers and independent craftsmen and tradesmen. But this was never on offer. By the time the eighteenth century radicals found their voice, the only alternatives on offer were aristocratic ascendency and middle class bureaucracy. Old Lord Fartleigh had his faults. He hated the Papists, and thought nothing of hanging poachers. But he would never have thought it his business to tell us how to put our rubbish out, or whether we could smoke in the local pub.

Let it not be forgotten that the demolition of aristocratic rule was largely completed by the Liberal Government elected in 1906. This was the Government that also got us into the Great War, and kept us in it to the bitter end. The kind of people who formed it had already given us most of the moral regulation that we think of as Victorian – regulation that was always cried up as “progressive,” and that was usually resisted in the Lords. Since then, these people have taken up one legitimising ideology after another – national efficiency, the welfare of the working classes, multiculturalism, environmentalism, supranational government. The common thread in all these ideologies has been their usefulness as a figleaf behind which ordinary people could be taxed and regulated and conscripted, and generally made to dance as their rulers desired. Perhaps the main reason why Classical Marxism never became important in England was that, just when it was very big in the world at large, Keynesian demand management emerged as a more suitable legitimising ideology for the ruling class we now had.


British PM agitating for more equality

Stealing the thunder of the Labour party

Elite universities defended their record on equality and said poor schooling was partly to blame for a lack of black students after David Cameron vowed new laws to 'shame' them into admitting more ethnic minorities.

The Prime Minister warned educational institutions, the police, the military and the courts they were all the focus of a new effort to tackle social inequality, suggesting it might be fuelled by 'ingrained, institutional and insidious' racism.

Labour MP David Lammy has also been recruited by Number 10 to carry out a major review into discrimination in the criminal justice system, including why black offenders are more likely to be jailed for the same offences as their white criminal counterpart.

Mr Cameron said the absence of any black generals, the fact that just 4% of FTSE 100 chief executives were from ethnic minorities and that young black men were more likely to be in prison than at a top university ' should shame our country and jolt us to action'.

'I don't care whether it's overt, unconscious or institutional - we've got to stamp it out,' he wrote in The Sunday Times, warning it would otherwise only 'feed those who preach a message of grievance and victimhood'.

Universities have been summoned to a meeting with Business Secretary Sajid Javid to discuss the plan to force them to publish detailed breakdowns of application success rates by race as well as course, gender and socio-economic background.

He said it was 'striking' that the 2,500-strong 2014 intake at his own university - Oxford - included only 27 black students and suggested it was 'not doing enough to attract talent from across our country'.

But Oxford said it did 'not see the need' for such legislation and insisted the effects of social inequality were 'already pronounced before children begin formal schooling' and could not be addressed by higher education alone.

'Any serious solution to the problem of unequal educational progression must take into account the unequal distribution of high attainment across schools, socio-economic groups, even geography,' a spokesman said.

He said 367 undergraduates from ethnic minority backgrounds were accepted in 2015, 15% more than in 2010 - 64 of those being black students, up from 39 five years ago.

'We are constantly working to update what information we provide and although we do not see the need for further legislation, we would welcome discussions on what more information we could publish,' the spokesman said.

Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group of elite universities, said universities invested a 'huge amount of time, effort and resources' into broadening the student mix but needed more help from others.

'There are still far too many children from disadvantaged backgrounds underachieving at school and receiving poor advice and guidance.

'It will take time, commitment, and sustained action from a range of agencies to raise pupils' aspirations, increase attainment and improve the advice and guidance offered.'

Sir Anthony Seldon, University of Buckingham vice-chancellor, welcomed the push by Mr Cameron, one of several prime ministers of whom the historian has written biographies.

'It is deeply wrong that black and other ethnic minority students are so poorly represented in our universities, notably those like Oxford, which should be leading the way,' he said.

Mr Lammy, a qualified barrister, has been tasked with finding solutions to what the PM called a 'disgraceful' gulf in sentencing treatment.

He is due to produce recommendations on how to tackle discrimination at all stages - from arrest, through courts and prisons to rehabilitation - by the spring of 2017.

Official figures show 61% of black and ethnic minority offenders in England and Wales receive custodial sentences, compared with 56% of their white counterparts.

They also make up a disproportionate amount of Crown Court defendants (24%).

Mr Lammy told the Murnaghan programme on Sky News that he had discussed the appointment with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who he said had 'taken up these issues within the criminal justice system for many, many years'.  'There are occasions when the issue is beyond party politics. This is absolutely one of them,' he said.

Shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer welcomed the review but said ministers must ensure it prompted 'real change'.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: 'You can't fix social mobility without fixing the economy, money and jobs.

And this means universities too - places where we can develop the skills of the future for a country which desperately needs the very best quality vocational education.

'We need to extend the range of opportunities for post-school training that don't involve debt. Apprenticeships are crucial.'


Should anything be ‘beyond a joke’?

The new comedy code of intolerant conformism is no laughing matter

Comedy, it seems, is no laughing matter these days, caught up in one controversy after another over the acceptable limits of humour.

Last week it was the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that was in the firing line again, accused of racism by everybody from the Queen of Jordan to radical US cartoonists for publishing jokes involving dead refugees. This week another serial offender, British comedian Jimmy Carr, is back in the headlines after being found guilty by the UK’s broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, of causing ‘considerable offence’ after he cracked a joke about dwarves on BBC TV last November.

Comedy is suffering under a stifling atmosphere of conformism and intolerance. It appears that any joke judged to have crossed a line must be not just ignored, but condemned, censured and, if possible, censored. That, in turn, has given rise to a pathetic backlash of comedians and provocateurs trying to be offensive for the sake of it. The rest of us risk being left with the worst of both unfunny worlds.

Good jokes are generally in bad taste. They tend to mock the respectable rules and morals of society. By its nature comedy is always controversial, pushing as it must at the limits of what passes for taste and decency in any era. It is hard to think of a good joke that would not offend somebody. That is why there have long been attempts to control what is deemed ‘acceptable’ humour and to censor what is not. And why many writers and comedians have tried to subvert the rules.

However, as with other issues in the free-speech wars, the terrain has shifted. Once the complaints were about blasphemous and indecent comedy, and the censors were conservative politicians, policemen and priests. Now the protests are more often against comedians accused of breaking the new taboos – racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and the other usual suspects. And the demands to shut them down tend to be led not by old-fashioned prudes but by radical online activists, the liberal media and even other comedians. Backed up in the UK by broadcast regulators, politicians and the newly PC police.

We have come a long way since the upsurge of modern radical comedy in the 1960s, when the Jewish comedian Lenny Bruce could be arrested in the US and barred from Britain for using the word ‘cocksucker’ on stage. In 1964 in New York, Bruce was found guilty of performing a routine that was ‘obscene, indecent, immoral and impure’, in which ‘words such as “ass”, “balls”, “cocksucker”, “cunt”, “fuck”, “motherfucker”, “piss”, “screw”, “shit” and “tits” were used about one hundred times in utter obscenity’.

Three New York judges sentenced him, in what now sounds like a bad Dickensian joke, to four months in the workhouse. Bruce was released on bail pending appeals, but died before the legal process was complete. He was posthumously pardoned in 2003 by Republican New York governor George Pataki. ‘Freedom of speech is one of the greatest American liberties’, Pataki said, ‘and I hope this pardon serves as a reminder of the precious freedoms we are fighting to preserve’.

These days Lenny Bruce is revered as a pioneering comedy hero. Yet if the young Lenny were magically to appear on the New York stage today, what reception might he get?

His routine about a psychopathic rapist meeting up with a nymphomaniac after they each escape from their respective institutions, or his suggestion that he enjoyed sex with a chicken, or description of his audience as ‘seven niggers, six spics, five micks, four kykes, three guineas and one wop’, might not get him arrested for obscenity in the US or barred from entering Britain. But it surely would see him accused of racism and sexism and possibly the abuse of animals and the mentally ill by the outraged illiberal-liberal lobby, who would try to have him banned from campuses.

Nor would Bruce’s insistence that he used the n-word and other offensive epithets ‘just to make a point’, that ‘it’s the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness’, wash with the new comedy censors, who claim the right to decide what jokes others should be allowed to tell or to laugh at, what points they should be permitted to make.

The ‘alternative’ comedy scene of the 1980s in the UK and the US began partly as a punkish reaction against the older school of what was seen as one-note racist, sexist and homophobic humour. These alternative comedians soon became the new establishment, creating an alternative comedic conformism of their own. This fresh generation of comedians, including feminist stars, broke many old taboos about sex, sexuality or race. They were also, however, helping to create new taboos.

Today the shrillest voices condemning Charlie Hebdo or Jimmy Carr are not simply objecting to a comedian’s shtick or saying that it’s not funny – which anybody has the right to do. They are denying the offensive performer’s right to say it. This sort of censoriousness can only have severe consequences both for comedy and wider issues of free speech.

Those seeking to draw a new line between acceptable and offensive comedy will often try to distinguish between noble jokes and satire which ‘punches up’, by lampooning the rich and powerful, and that which is guilty of ‘punching down’, by poking fun at the disadvantaged and powerless. This might sound a worthy argument. At root, however, it is just a comedic version of the ‘I believe in free speech, but…’ line, which seeks to preserve freedom of expression for opinions and gags which are to your own personal taste. In comedy, as in politics, if we are serious about free speech it has to be defended for all as an indivisible liberty.

Of course, nobody has to approve of offensive humour, and anybody is free to heckle or hit back in kind. We have witnessed the rise of a new wave of comedians or deliberate provocateurs whose aim is to appear as offensive as possible. This is best understood as the flipside of the campaign to sanitise humour, an attempted backlash against those stultifying trends. It is regrettable that the only way some seem able to take a stand for free speech these days is by becoming an offence-seeking caricature of themselves. But they are only a side-effect of the bigger problem.

Jimmy Carr is sometimes guilty of being offensive for the sake of it. Yet the bit that got him into trouble with Ofcom this time was arguably slightly more thoughtful than that. Carr offended the Ofcom watchdogs, and attracted all of 11 complaints from viewers, by telling the BBC’s anodyne 7pm magazine programme The One Show what he explained was his ‘shortest joke possible: Dwarf shortage’. He then added: ‘If you’re a dwarf, and you’re offended by that: Grow up!’

Just before delivering that line, however, Carr told the presenters that he had been thinking about ‘my favourite all-time joke which might work on this show’. Then he told a gag about ‘a Welsh friend of mine. I asked him how many partners he had in his life. And he started to count and he fell asleep.’ Amid laughter in the studio, Carr immediately turned to the camera, asking ‘That’s just about all right, isn’t it?’. This sounded like a joke about the new taboos in comedy as much as it was about Welsh sheep-shaggers or dwarves. It was certainly inviting the offended responses, but also asking a question about how far he could go today. Carr got his humourless You Can’t Say That answer from Ofcom this week, and indeed from the BBC, which said it had tightened the rules for One Show guests in response to his offence.

There is a question that often appears to have been forgotten in all this: is it funny? The attempt to impose codes of conduct on comedy reflects the idea that you can somehow apply a political and moral judgement to humour. That you can, in short, stop yourself laughing at something offensive or controversial. Good luck with that, and with preventing yourself sneezing at the same time.

The history of comedy surely shows that, as with old-time British comedians such as Bernard Manning (motto: ‘They can’t stop us laughing!’), it is perfectly possible to talk like a bigot and yet be hilarious. That’s life. Comedy is a messy business, and people can laugh at the most outrageous things. To attempt to impose order on it, by removing what is not to the taste of the moment, is to risk killing it.

We are faced with a situation where what is considered acceptable in comedy could be every bit as one-note and conformist as in the bad old days, except that it now has to comply with different codes and taboos. Of course, nobody is against free speech for comedians. Until, that is, they decide somebody has gone too far in offending their own views and hurting their feelings.

It might be hard to get excited about defending free speech for those you consider to be sexist, disablist, Islamophobic or anti-Semitic comedians. There are few heroes in the battle for comedy’s soul. Yet it remains as important to defend freedom of speech and thought here as in any other corner of Western culture.

The most bitter free-speech battles these days can often be fought in the muddy lowlands of football or comedy, far from the cultural high ground. And the wish to dictate not just what jokes a comedian should tell, but also what we should laugh at, is the clearest conceivable attempt at thought control. What could be more intrusive than the attempt to police something as reflexive as a snort of laughter?

The tortured efforts to patrol what is and is not acceptably funny have created a fraught situation where comedy is in danger of becoming a more staid and safe affair, certainly in colleges and on TV, interrupted only by silly look-at-me acts where the main aim appears to be controversy rather than comedy.

The pulling of comedy’s teeth and the treatment of laughter as a serious case for censorship should be no laughing matter. Nothing ought to be beyond a joke. If comedians are not allowed to upset and offend, what chance have the rest of us got?


The most surprising things about Australia, according to an Indian international student

It will be a bitter pill for Leftists, but this guy finds Australia not racist at all.  From reports in the Indian press, which were mainly recycled Australian journalism, he had expected a lot of racism.  And it is no mystery why. A couple of years ago there were a lot of reports of Indians in Australia being attacked.  What the reports covered up was that almost all of the attacks were by Africans.  Australians as a whole were disgraced  in the name of political correctness.  For their own safety, Indians should simply have been told to avoid Africans

Hailing from Chennai in southern India, he has studied in India, Canada for three years and has been studying in Australia for almost a year.

Here’s what has surprised him most about Australia since he moved here.

Australians aren’t racist, they’re friendly.

Reports of racism and assaults on Indian students have made their way back to India, Shiva said when his family and friends found out he was coming to Australia they warned him about the violence.

However, Shiva said his experience has been the exact opposite: "People are very friendly".

"I was given lots of advice from India that you are going to Australia just make sure that you’re not being attacked or be a victim of racism," he said.  "I don’t find any of that type of nonsense here, people are really friendly."

Shiva said he hasn’t been a victim of racism and it really depends on the company you keep.  "It depends on the friends that you make and the places you visit," he said.

Australian girls are really friendly.

"Australian girls are really, really fun, they crack lots of jokes… even when you’re meeting for the first time," he said.

"In India, there’s a barrier when you’re talking from a girl. If you’re hailing from a very orthodox family you are not supposed to talk to a girl."

But Shiva said that is starting to change as India becomes increasingly westernised.

"People are coming out of those barriers," he said.

"For me while I was studying at college in India I faced that barrier. I was unable to talk to a girl so freely as I am talking to you and other people in Canada and Australia."

Working part-time in Australia pays good money.

While Shiva’s current study timetable means he cannot work at the moment, he has had a couple of part time jobs and was surprised how good the pay was.

"I’ve tried a lot of jobs, I’ve been a personal assistant to a top executive," he said.

"They pay me really good money like $28 to $32 per hour.

"I was really surprised because when I compared the market with the US and Canada I think Australia has better compensation and it’s really understandable because living in Australia is surging everyday, it’s really tough to keep up with the cost of living in Australia.

The beaches are extraordinary.

Taking a trip to an Australian beach was one of Shiva’s most memorable experiences.

"I’ve been to the Northern Beaches [of Sydney] and they’re really, really nice," he said.

"They’re really beautiful, I was totally crying when I was standing inside the lake walking literally to the middle of the lake and it’s not deep.

"The beaches are clean, compared to India where the beaches are not clean."

It’s surprisingly different to Canada.

Shiva thought Australia would be similar to Canada, when he arrived he was surprised it was very different.

"It’s more international, Canada is more like white people, there’s more Americans and Canadians but here in Australia the first thing I noticed is it’s very diverse in culture. You have loads of Chinese people, you have loads of Indians, lots of German people, French people, and everyone else, it’s all over the place," he said.

"In India you have different cultures but from the same country. Australia has more international cultures."

Being vegetarian means something else.

Shiva describes himself as a "pure vegetarian", what he means is according to Indian standards he’s a vegetarian but in Australia his eating habits are actually vegan.

He was also surprised by how much bread Australians eat and how breakfast is very different in Australia, "people eat a traditional breakfast whereas Indians we prefer a warm Indian breakfast. It took some time for me to get used to that".

All the differences and Australia’s high cost of living means Shiva now cooks for himself a lot more.

"I’m an excellent cook, he said. "I don’t need to find a girl."

Everyone shortens everything.

Shiva’s full name is Shivaramakrishnan Ramamoorthy, but he says it’s easier to shorten his name to Shiva in Australia.

"People would raise their eyebrows and have no idea what I was talking about but that’s my name!" he said.

"I kept my preferred name as Shiva, even on Facebook, so people don’t get afraid of my name.

"But they still shorten my name…[Australians] they shorten everything, they shorten it further. I usually say to people ‘Hi my name is Shiva but you can call me SRK or Shiv’."

It’s far less crowded than home.

Shiva estimates the population of his home town in India is roughly the same population as Sydney.

He’s not far off either but the big difference is the population of Sydney is spread out over an area which is about 67 times larger than Chennai.

"In India everything is crowded, you can’t even find a space to park your car or your to wheeler, your bike."

Aussies are afraid of spiders and cockroaches.

Back in India Shiva said he "used to play with them". "People are so afraid of spiders [in Australia]. I’ve even heard about people dying from spiders, if I say that to my parents they will laugh at me."

"I’ve seen people going crazy… it’s just a cockroach, it just goes by," he said.

There’s less respect for elders.

Australian Shiva is very different to Indian Shiva, he said when he returns home it takes four or five days to settle back into the customs and expectations of his home country.

"When I’m in Sydney it’s a completely different Shiva that you will see," he said.

"In Chennai you need to be more respectable to your parents, over here people really don’t care who the hell you are.

"If I say ‘mum I like this girl I want to marry her’ she will probably say ‘I don’t like that girl’… the culture is more parent dominating rather than giving freedom to the children.

"Over here I find that completely different it’s up to the choices of people."

It’s easier to get a visa in Australia compared to Canada or the US.

Shiva said he’s found it much easier to get a student visa in Australia. He began trying to come to Australia after his visa application was rejected in Canada in the US.

Studying in Australia is relaxing.

Shiva said he’s "more relaxed studying in Australia" compared to India, where he found the courses more intensive.

"Over here [in Australia] they say intensive courses but for me it’s like a piece of cake," he said.

Professors are approachable.

"The professors here are much more friendly," Shiva said. "In India if I even had to speak to a lecturer or a principal it takes lots of respect and effort to meet them."

Shiva said if he did manage to meet his lecturers in India they would dismiss him saying "what’s going on you’re a student just focus on your studies" whereas in Australia he said "they’re welcoming that approach from students, they’re really encouraging students to perform well, they’re really supportive here".

He said it comes back to the culture of having to "respect your elders".

The changes in political leaders are really confusing

Shiva said he doesn’t like politics in Australia and has trouble understanding how it all works.  "Yesterday it was Julia Gillard and tomorrow morning it was Tony Abbott, I don’t know what the hell was going on," he said.

Shiva’s next adventure is to Norway in December.



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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