Friday, March 04, 2016
European Civilization: R.I.P.
In early September 1999, on a combined business/pleasure trip to Europe, I had my one and only opportunity to cross the English Channel on a hovercraft from Dover to Calais. However, since the hovercraft Princess Margaret and Princess Anne were temporarily out of service, it became necessary to cross the channel aboard the Seacat Great Britain from Folkstone, south of Dover, to Boulogne on the French seacoast, some 30 miles south of Calais.
Arriving in Calais on a Sunday afternoon, we found the Avis rental car agency at the Calais train station was closed for the day. However, the manager of Avis's Calais office was kind enough to interrupt his day off long enough for us to obtain our reserved rental car. It also gave us a few hours to tour the town centre of that beautifully restored city that was all but leveled during World War II. But life in Calais has changed dramatically in the past fifteen years and it is unlikely, given local conditions, that Avis or Hertz still maintains rental agencies in Calais.
On January 4, 2016 I published a column questioning whether we are now witnessing the end of European civilization. In that column, I questioned how people in the U.S. and Europe would respond to the bloodshed that is certain to occur when millions of well-armed muhajirs flood into Europe. When asked by German journalist Jurgen Todenhofer if ISIS was prepared to kill every Shiite Muslim on Earth, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi scoffed, "One-hundred fifty million or 500 million, we don't care; it's only a technical problem for us. We are ready to do that."
So if ISIS considers the difference between killing 150 million or 500 million Shia to be a mere "technicality," how will the people of Europe handle a full-scale onslaught by such people? Will they be prepared to do whatever is necessary to save European civilization, or are they simply too war weary from having two world wars fought on their soil to even defend themselves? The answer to that question becomes clearer with each passing day, and nowhere do we see a greater example of European spinelessness than in present-day Calais. To illustrate, I will quote a recent speech by a French housewife named Simone, a lifelong resident of Calais.
She said: "My name is Simone, and I live in Calais. I am a native Calaisienne. My parents were also... I have always lived there and Calais used to be a very nice town... We had peace, we had security, and there were always a lot of people about in summer and in winter..."
Then she went on to describe how former Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy had decided to close the nearby Sangatte refugee camp, causing the inhabitants to descend upon Calais. She said, "Even I, at the beginning, I said they are unhappy people. They are lost. They have nothing. Maybe we could help them. And I cannot tell you how it happened from one day to the next, but we soon found ourselves with thousands. I say thousands of migrants... actually, at the moment, there are 18,000 in what they call the ‘Jungle.' Yes, 18,000.
"It's terrible because they really made a city within the city. They have discotheques, shops, schools, hairdressers. They even have... er... no, I cannot say it but I think you understand... for the needs of the gentlemen, of course. They made roads; they gave names to these streets. They elected a mayor. Yet, the police cannot enter what they call the ‘Muslim part.' It is prohibited.
"Until then, we could perhaps have been able to bear it, but one cannot bear the unbearable. When one sees that, incessantly, every day, every night, there are riots. They come to the town centre... two, three, four thousand, everywhere. They bash cars with iron rods, they attack people. They even attack children. There are rapes, there is theft, it is unimaginable what we suffer. They enter private houses when people are at home. They just enter; they want to eat; they help themselves. Sometimes they also bash the people, stealing what they can, and afterwards, what they cannot take they destroy. And when we want to defend ourselves we have the police on our backs. The police have not accepted any complaints for a long time.
"My own son has been attacked. He was walking quietly in the city centre. He was listening to his music. He had the earphones in his ears when someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, thinking it was one of his friends. Instead, he was facing three clandestins (illegals) and he took a big blow to the face with an iron bar. My son is quite strong, so he managed to defend himself and the three took some blows. But then he heard some noise. There were about thirty migrants who came to massacre him. As he is no kamikaze, he fled. When I saw my son come home like that, frankly, I told myself they could have killed him...
"They attack children when they return from school, or when they go to school or to the college. They go so far as to take the school buses, enter the school bus with the children. On January 23rd they started a big riot in Calais. It was terrible... They went as far as attacking the statue of General De Gaulle. They wrote on it, ‘F_ _ _ France,' with the ISIS flag underneath... They demonstrate because of their conditions, but the more one gives them the more they demand...
"I loved very much to go to what I call the ‘grave' of my son... it's at the sea. I lost my son and we put his ashes into the sea. It was his wish; I respected his wish. I said to my husband in the evening, ‘Take me to the grave of my son. I need it. I cannot do it any longer because even just to cross the town centre of Calais you put yourself in danger. In the evening, as soon as it gets dark, one is in danger. I cannot go there any longer, where I loved to go. I cannot any more (sobbing), it's not possible. I am afraid. I'm afraid and there are many like us in Calais...
"The government has abandoned us. They have decided to make of Calais a (wasteland), and if we don't move we will be burdened with all the migrants of France here and we are finished. We are dead. And the Calaisians are like sheep. I don't understand them. Yesterday I was in that (anti-Islam) demonstration; I was in the middle of it with my husband, my son, and friends. And there was General (Christian) Piquemal... And what I saw yesterday I won't hide it from you. I could not sleep all night because I have reviewed the scene incessantly. They did not talk about it on the TV, the radio, not even in the newspapers. We saw him arrested, manhandled like a thief. He who, after all, is a French icon, an image of France who deserves respect and all the honours due to his rank. Like a thug, we saw him pushed to the ground. The policeman put his foot on his neck. I promise you. We saw it.
"Even the merchants have lost 40-60 percent of their income, whereas before, Calais was a flourishing city; it was lively, animated, gay. There were always foreigners during the summer holidays and at the end-of-year celebrations. Today, there is nothing left. All the shops that had opened in the centre of town have closed down, one after the other. Calais is a dead town... And when they come into town armed with their iron bars and their Molotov cocktails, watch out.
'Experts' are demanding a ban on tackles in under-18s rugby
But as we reveal, they're a motley scrum of lefties, gender obsessives and gay campaigners with a worryingly insidious agenda
On the face of it, the open letter calling for a ban on tackling in school rugby smacked of authority and expertise.
Sent to Ministers, Chief Medical Officers and Children's Commissioners, it warned that the risks of injuries for those under-18 playing the sport are unacceptably high and the injuries are often serious.
The letter made headlines in every newspaper, and debate over its call for a tackling ban raged yesterday on broadcasting outlets across the country.
But scratch the surface of its signatories — a list of more than 70 professors, doctors and other academics — and their authority appears rather less impressive.
True, there are specialists in sports injuries among them. But an awful lot of these 'experts' have no medical knowledge of sports injuries. Many specialise instead in gender issues and politics.
The list of signatories includes two sociologists whose academic subjects are sexuality and sport.
Another specialises in sport and race, still another studies homophobia, two concentrate on children's rights, and there's an expert in environmental pollution as well as a specialist in masculinity.
As for the letter's two main signatories, neither are experts in broken bones and spinal injuries. First, let us look at Allyson Pollock. Yes, she's a professor of public health research at Queen Mary University, London. But she specialises in attacking the Government's NHS reforms, particularly any suggestion of the private sector intervening in the hallowed NHS.
To be fair to Professor Pollock, her son was injured on the rugby field — a shattered cheekbone — which must be distressing for any parent. But does that really give her the authority to try to emasculate the game for children across the country?
Not according to Dr Ken Quarrie, Senior Scientist (Injury Prevention & Performance) for the New Zealand Rugby Union. Five years ago, when Professor Pollock called for 'high tackles and scrums to be banned in schools', he accused her of wilfully misrepresenting research about schoolboy injuries to prove her case.
In an internet blog criticising Pollock, he highlighted an extensive review of rugby injuries that found 'the risk of catastrophic injury was comparable with that experienced by most people in work-based situations and lower than that experienced by motorcyclists, pedestrians and car occupants'.
Now, let's take the other main signatory, Professor Eric Anderson of the University of Winchester. He is an American sociologist and sexologist, 'specialising in adolescent men's gender and sexualities'.
Until now, he's been most prominent for getting into a row with Alan Titchmarsh, the Chancellor of Winchester University, who wasn't happy with Professor Anderson's views on having sex with young men.
And you can see why. In 2011, Professor Anderson revealed at an Oxford University debate that he had slept with 'easily over a thousand people', and joked he was a sexual 'predator'. He said: 'I like sex with 16, 17, 18-year-old boys particularly, it's getting harder for me to get them, but I'm still finding them.
'I hope between the age of 43 and the time I die I can have sex with another thousand — that would be awesome, even if I have to buy them, of course, not a problem.'
What's the connection between this man's curious CV and his ability to judge the risks of rugby injuries? Nope — I don't see it, either.
And so it goes on with many of the other signatories — a series of Left-wing academics.
There's Professor John Ashton, a lecturer in public health, and another opponent of the Government's NHS reforms. He's keen, too, to reduce stress for workers and on lowering the age of consent to 15, arguing that the current legal limit prevents sexually active younger teennagers from getting support with issues of disease and contraception.
Several of the signatories specialise in gender and sexuality issues in sport. Step forward, Dr Adi Adams, a sociologist at the University of Bath, and author of I Kiss Them Because I Love Them: The Emergence of Heterosexual Men Kissing in British Institutes Of Education.
It's hard to avoid the conclusion that this letter is more about political views than medical science and children's safety. Rugby is a sport often associated with public schools, grammar schools and the middle classes — although try telling that to the rugby players of Wales, where the sport is a national religion.
It's a sport associated, too, with old-fashioned male aggression — and salty jokes in the rugby club bar after too many pints of lager.
All this is anathema to the gender neutral, politically correct views of so many Left-wing lecturers on today's college campuses.
They're intent on the feminisation of sport despite the fact that competitive exercise is an extraordinarily effective way of diverting male testosterone away from violence and thugishness on the High Street.
Many young men from tricky backgrounds, who haven't had the advantage of completing a gender studies degree, are deeply grateful for the escape from criminal violence — and the great pleasure — that sport can bring.
Practically all sport — from tennis to golf — brings the risk of injury. That's what happens when you run about and throw things. But sport is also an integral, natural part of human life. By all means, choose not to play rugby — but how dare these academics with their social agendas try to stop others doing the thing that they love?
The racialism of Rhodes Must Fall
Students at the University of Cape Town are demonising an entire race – white people
At the University of Cape Town (UCT) last week, students associated with the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movement attacked UCT property in protest at the lack of student accommodation. They ransacked halls, set fire to paintings of white people, petrol-bombed the vice chancellor’s office, and torched a bus. ‘Whiteness is burning’, they proclaimed. Ironically, one of the paintings burnt was a 1993 oil painting depicting protests at the university. It was painted by Keresemose Richard Baholo, a black anti-Apartheid activist.
Artistic creation has long been a method of protest. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica railed against Spanish fascism; Diego Rivera’s murals reflected the struggles of the Mexican working class; Jean-Michel Basquiat’s abstractions interrogated racism in New York in the 1980s. But now protest has become more about destruction than creation. In the same way that students in the West have sought to censor ideas with which they disagree, RMF-supporting students in South Africa seek to erase anything they see as inconsistent with their ideology.
RMF’s mindless violence and its refusal to engage with the university’s ruling bodies have alienated South Africans formerly sympathetic to its aims. But its actions are not an aberration. Rather, they speak to the underpinning of contemporary identity politics: an obsession with victimhood. This obsession has turned identity politics into a vicious cycle of self-oppression. These students have allowed themselves to be offended – to be victimised – by inanimate objects to the point where they feel they have to destroy them. This is the form that contemporary illiberalism takes: in their unquestioned certainty, these students refuse to tolerate the slightest degree of objectionable symbolism. Removing the statue of Cecil Rhodes was not enough – now no white symbol is safe from their quest for ‘decolonisation’.
RMF has blamed the housing crisis on the supposed institutional racism of UCT, a stance which was implicitly encouraged by the ANC government to distract from its own failure to provide funds for new housing and accommodation. Indeed, in many provinces, the ANC presides over failing state-education systems, many of which are essentially controlled by corrupt teachers’ unions. The legacy of Apartheid has been perpetuated by a broken government. Last year, the World Economic Forum ranked South Africa 138 out of 140 countries in the teaching of maths and science. But instead of shouting about these disgraces, these protesters are fixated on the artwork adorning university walls.
UCT, and South Africa more broadly, is not the only racialised student battleground. The same ideas can be seen at the University of Oxford, where students have argued that the removal of the Rhodes statue at Oriel College will somehow help to tackle the ‘institutional racism’ that has led to a disproportionately low percentage of black students being admitted. This cultish obsession with symbols and statues tragically distracts from real issues of racial inequality.
In this age of identity politics, we are now told not to judge people by the content of their individual character, but by the colour of their skin. We are encouraged to define people by their genetic characteristics, to see them primarily as racial beings. We must assume that every black person is a victim of systematic racism, and that every white person is born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth. Suggesting that racism is rather more complicated than identity-politics advocates suggest, or refusing to judge someone on the colour of their skin, is heresy.
Astonishingly, even Nelson Mandela’s idea of a multiracial ‘Rainbow Nation’ has been labelled ‘oppressive’ by UCT’s student magazine, because it supposedly ignores racial differences. Just to add to the absurdity, and despite agreeing with the magazine’s arguments, RMF members have in turn slammed the student magazine and its white writers for ‘appropriating’ their struggle. RMF activists, you see, insist on the absolute racial purity of their struggle.
The same night as paintings and buses were set alight, the words ‘fuck white people’ were daubed on the plinth where the Rhodes statue had stood. These nasty ideas of collective and historical guilt are irrational and counterproductive. Racism still exists in South Africa and the damage of Apartheid is still very real. But that is not the fault of every white person. In the same way black people should not be asked to speak on behalf of their race, or all Muslims apologise for the actions of Islamist terrorists, so all white people should not be figuratively burnt on the pyre of ‘decolonisation’ on university campuses. It doesn’t matter who it’s being done to – blacks, whites, Muslims or Jews – homogenising and demonising an entire group is always dangerous.
It’s also extremely ugly. In Cape Town, these students study and live in buildings built by European colonists. Let’s hope they don’t burn down their university as well.
Turning libraries into community centres
Libraries are for reading, not knitting
The Carnegie Trust has created four databases to showcase library-run projects that contribute to public wellbeing.
The databases accompany the trust’s leaflet, ‘Speaking Volumes’, which outlines how public libraries impact on four policy areas – the economy, education, culture and society – and how libraries contribute to the wellbeing of individuals and communities. The trust has given examples of the many activities on offer in British libraries and calls on policymakers to recognise the significant contribution that public libraries make to a wide range of social-policy goals.
Since the Public Libraries Act was passed in 1850, libraries have served as citadels of culture and scientific inquiry, positioning themselves as sources of knowledge and recreation. Books, newspapers, periodicals and reference sources, as well as extension and outreach activities in the form of lectures, classes and links with museums and art galleries, were provided to support both serious study and leisure. It was believed that access to libraries and artistic culture in general could enhance the emergent meritocratic and materially efficient society that people wished to see flourish in the 19th century.
When they were founded, public libraries sought to meet the educational needs of an increasingly commercial, politically informed and cultured society. They were established and developed as institutions which enabled individuals to gain independence and self-realisation through reading great literature. This encouraged the idea that individuals should make a positive contribution to society. And it is in this spirit that, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Carnegie Trust focused on building libraries.
Today, the trust believes that public libraries should go even further. Libraries are now encouraged to contribute to government goals of tackling isolation by providing services for older people, people living with dementia, the visually impaired, the disabled and victims of domestic abuse. Several examples are offered by the trust to show the ways in which libraries contribute to wellbeing. Take, for instance, the activities organised for older people by libraries in Northern Ireland. The trust writes that, in the library space, the isolation of older people can be tackled by combining the opportunity to socialise with the chance to relax through knitting and crocheting. It is also asserted that, through these activities, these groups learn new skills – though exactly what these skills are is a mystery.
The trust also highlights ‘Knit and Natter’ groups, which started in one library and now operate weekly in 80 libraries nationwide. As the majority of ‘Knit and Natter’ attendees are female, many branch libraries offer ‘Newspaper and Biscuits’ sessions, to attract men and thus foster inclusion. Some public libraries are also organising intergenerational approaches to encourage higher levels of digital participation. The Scottish Library and Information Council has provided a number of iPads, e-readers and other digital devices so that people in care homes, sheltered housing and other social-care institutions can be introduced to new technologies, with one-to-one sessions delivered by library staff, volunteers and pupils from local schools.
It is clear that the effort to make libraries relevant to the wellbeing of individuals and communities is altering the role of libraries in society. The trust claims that libraries could make a ‘major’ contribution to public wellbeing. But, in order to achieve this, stocks of books must shrink to allow more room for knitting, crocheting and socialising.
Warnings about libraries spreading their resources too thin are partly based on the fact that book funds are in decline. But the real issue here is that society finds it difficult to take the authority of knowledge seriously. It cannot find any justification for quiet spaces and rows of bookshelves. The trust’s emphasis on extracurricular activities undermines the purpose of libraries – that is, to foster independence and self-realisation.
It seems the Carnegie Trust no longer wants us to read books – it would rather we drank tea and ate biscuits instead.
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.