Jim Carver is a libertarian UKIP umbrella-maker from the West Midlands who aims to be elected to the European Parliament in 2014 and then to make himself redundant as soon as possible. ‘If you take liberties with a market trader, you can expect a fight,’ he says, ‘And these buggers aim to take all the liberties we’ve got.’
Nasty things are just nasty. You know where you are with a tetchy shark. It’s the nice ones which give me the heebie-jeebies. Dolls, wide-eyed children, psychopathic blondes and slavering kittens are far scarier than more obviously menacing monsters.
Let me introduce you to a tooth-achingly nice but totally terrifying new document entitled A European Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance.
It is intended to be enacted as law in every member state of the European Union. It will probably be enshrined in British law. Shudder at the thought. It is such a sweet document. Its purpose is to ‘Promote tolerance within society… condemn all manifestations of intolerance based on bias, bigotry and prejudice…’
So far, so missionary tract, but these are missionaries with power. They will ‘take concrete action to combat intolerance, in particular with a view to eliminating racism, colour bias, ethnic discrimination, religious intolerance, totalitarian ideologies, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-feminism and homophobia.’
There is no attempt to define these enemies.
Feminism, just to take one example, can be the radical Dworkinesque wing, which considers sex-workers and the sexually active to be traitors (and victims), and all sexual allure to be demeaning. It can also be ‘riot grrrl’ or ‘lipstick’ feminism which reclaims traditional gender symbols and sexuality and respects the rights of women to win autonomy by these means.
The former – being nutters – are the more politically active. They consider the others to be ‘anti-feminist’. They abuse and deride them in a most intolerant manner, yet I warrant that it will be they who impose tolerance by force on their dissenting sisters once this statute has force of law.
Many nominalists doubt that homosexuality as a state of being rather than as an incidental preference actually exists. Many Britons oppose the open-door immigration policy forced upon them by Brussels. They are immediately therefore branded ‘xenophobes’. Will all such heretics find themselves debarred from expressing their views in the name of tolerance?
Here, however, comes good news: All groups will be guaranteed ‘freedom of expression, including freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas… to manifest… religion or belief in worship, observance, rituals, rites, practice and teaching…’
Does this mean, then, that devout Catholics who disapprove of homosexuality (and, more consistently, of all non-procreative sex) will be permitted to express their views?
Er, no. ‘There is no need to be tolerant to the intolerant. This is especially important as far as freedom of expression is concerned: that freedom must not be abused to defame other groups.’
→ Continue reading: Tolerance… or else!
Jonathan Abbott, whom we have seen mentioned on Samizdata before, has a rumination on not so much on environmentalism’s excesses but the underpinning psychology.
There is a type of person that needs to be part of a Big Cause. They cannot seem to accept the probability that they live in unexceptional times, that they themselves are thoroughly ordinary and will leave no lasting mark behind when they are gone. The number of individuals that substantially affect the course of history is vanishingly small and the mass of real progress takes place in tiny steps carried out by anonymous individuals. It is usually only in the collective total of our uncoordinated efforts that mankind as a whole advances in any way.
Some Big Causes do greatly benefit mankind (such as the programme to eradicate smallpox) but most, however well-intentioned initially, result in great harm. Many of the most damaging ones, for example fascism and communism, require another Big Cause to end them. Adherents to a particular Cause will necessarily not see it as just another campaign for progress, but as THE Big Cause, the movement that will change the historical paradigm and catapult humanity into a dazzling future.
Carrying out the personal actions prescribed by The Cause marks them out as one of the elect, and from then on no matter how commonplace other aspects of their life may be, they will have made their mark. They mattered.
This sort of belief is terribly seductive. As noted above, I do not think that all Big Causes are harmful, and I am not suggesting that only a bunch of no-hope losers would sign up for a Big Cause. However, for the most popular Big Causes of the twentieth century, this sort of optimistic, wishful thinking turned out to be a mere fairy tale. Indeed, the brutal and violent nature of the Big Causes of the previous century meant that only a sentiment-based, appeal to emotion Cause such as Climate Alarmism could arise in their wake.
And now as the end-game of Climate Alarmism as a major political force comes into view, I find myself wondering what will be the effect on the mass of its adherents. Historical Big-Causers such as Robespierre, Mao and the majority of their followers went to their graves convinced they had been doing the right thing, never renouncing the horrific by-products of their dogmas. Once signed up to a Big Cause, few ever leave. Will it be the same for the Alarmists?
One of the things that I find hardest to swallow is that the political, NGO and civil service fools wasting vast quantities of public money in the name of Alarmism are told on a daily basis by their fellow travellers in the media that they are doing a Great Thing. They are resolutely building a better world for everyone, especially for the oft-invoked archetypal grandchildren. Most of these apparatchiks will go to their graves convinced they spent their lives helping their fellow humans.
Even if the science behind their beliefs becomes publicly as discredited as that which denigrated plate tectonics, they will excuse themselves as being the innocent and well-meaning victims of deception. Their ignorance is their shield.
For the hard core of true believers, the Alarmist Cause will never die and they will follow it resolutely into the sunset, becoming the Trotskyites and Eugenicists of the future. Irrelevance will swallow them. For the less resolute, who come to accept the fall of Alarmism (or at least realise it has become a waste of time), the banner of other Causes will be raised instead. The beginnings of these new Causes will even now be growing and are probably already visible, just not gathering much media attention. Yet.
My guess is that many of the Alarmists will deflect their anti-capitalist neo-ludditism into campaigns against genetic engineering and nanotechnology; nascent movements to oppose both are already growing. Inevitably they will once again claim unequivocally that the science is on their side, even as they shut down scientific debate and rail against genuine scientific progress.
Unfortunately, it will not be until long after the worst Alarmists are dead that they will finally be grouped with the Malthusians and Lysenkoists as they deserve.
John Stephenson argues for the need to ask religious moderates about the motivations behind their actions. Are moderates – seeing faith as virtuous – tacitly defending fundamentalists (who are the genuinely committed believers), allowing them to become the “tail that wags the dog”? Moreover are religious moderates actually engaged in religion because they are “humanists in disguise”?
One of the problems with engaging religious folk in conversation is the fact that, before falling victim to the charge of being “angry” or “strident”, we find that the rules of discourse and logic are warped and violated beyond recognition. Find me a religious fanatic who doesn’t endorse his faith through the actions supposedly committed in its name and you will have probably found me a liar.
It may not seem apparent during regular conversation – phrases such as “well as a practising Catholic” or “Judaism preaches kindness” are regularly greeted with admiration or at the worst, ambivalence – but it is when we strip away someone’s faith that such statements are shown to be contemptible. Are we really to believe that, without the promise of eternal life, the religious among us would resort to hedonistic violence and acts of self-indulgent debauchery? Suppose that next week the Abrahamic religions were shown to be apocryphal. Would we suddenly hear reports of Justin Welby snorting cocaine while out partying with Desmond Tutu and a gang of strippers? Of course not.
As is the case, kindness in the name of God or religion is done with a knife to your back. Good deeds done for fear of punishment or in receipt of reward are hardly commendable, yet believers still wish to play a numbers game – stressing the good work done in the name of Christ or Allah or some other Bronze Age almighty. Admittedly from my own experience some of the nicest people I know are devoted Christians yet, unlike the many who act as though this gives some form of credibility to the story of Adam and Eve, I pay them the honour of assuming they would behave in such a way if they did not have religion to fall back on.
Secularists such as Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins are keen to avoid a war of words with the religious over who “does more” – the understanding being that they are first and foremost passionate about the truth and not the resulting human behaviour of unproven tales. But perhaps more ground can be made by appealing to altruism before detailing the logical arguments against a given theology.
The fact that what we perceive as a sense of morality is innate within humanity as opposed to religion is evident by virtue of the cherry-picking so commonplace among moderate believers. Among casual Church of England Christians for example, the Sermon on the Mount may be advocated yet the more abhorrent elements of Deuteronomy or Leviticus will be ignored. I suspect that a large proportion of these individuals are religious in name alone and that, for the most part, their attendance comes as a result of habit or an intrinsically vague idea that to attend church constitutes as a “good thing”. These people have often given very little thought to the doctrine their religion entails, but understand church to be a place of warmth and community – things that most of us are drawn to.
→ Continue reading: Moderates, good deeds and religious fanaticism
Alisa Presenti has a few thoughts on the Zimmerman case and the state of American politics
It had just occurred to me that the Zimmerman-Martin story highlights something interesting about where the American Left finds itself at this point in time. From the beginning it was clear to me, as well as to many others, that someone with Obama’s ideological background on the one hand, and his lack of any relevant experience on the other (not to mention absence of any real charisma), would have remained mostly obscure, and would have never made it to the national political stage – let alone the Presidency – had he not been black. Whoever picked him and groomed him for this job, played the implicit black-race/white-guilt card quite well, and it paid off big time at election (and re-election) time. But now, against the backdrop of the Z-M story, Obama’s race actually proves to be a liability. Just imagine any white person sitting in the White House right now (well, granted, any white person but Bill Clinton): would the black communities have remained as indifferent to the verdict as they are proving to be? Where are the riots their leaders and organisers had promised us? Could it be that finally having a black President for the first (well, second) time in history has rendered the whole perceived racial divide hollow?
It used to be that they pitched the poor against the rich. When that got old, they switched to pitching blacks against whites. Then it was women against men, gays against straights,…. They still seem to have the immigrants against the rest of us up their sleeve, but something tells me it is not going to deliver as promised. And it is not that they have ever abandoned any of the older, mostly artificial but useful divisions – rather, they always managed to find new ones to add to their arsenal of manufactured hatred. Thing is, I think they are now, or soon, will be running out of those. What that means is that they are going to go back to the oldest division of them all, and it looks like they are working hard on creating enough of the new poor, to be pitched against whoever it will be that manages to remain relatively rich – or, more likely, whoever will be deliberately labeled as “rich”. Interesting times are still ahead.
John Stephenson has some views regarding the Woolwich attack and freedom of speech
The events witnessed this week in Woolwich, London, were a devastating reminder of the problem Britain faces regarding the threat of terrorist activity. However, much of the ensuing reaction has been one of confusion and has done little to aid the in the slow and painstaking process of combating such delusional ideology. On the one hand there are those who are determined to tar the events by forwarding their equally absurd beliefs. Demonstrations organised by the EDL and “Operation Fightback” were organised but quickly shut down by police, while mosques were attacked in places such as Gillingham and Braintree. On the other hand, I have to say that there appears to be an apologetic element within the public domain that is just as guilty of blemishing debate, although this has been done by shooting down anyone who is willing to speak openly about the nature of the attacks as “islamophobic”, “bigoted” or “racist”. Some of these attacks are justified – the support for Stephen Lennon’s EDL movement is undoubtedly host to anti-Asian racists and those who are prepared to beat up anyone they meet wearing a veil. However, many of their gripes come as a result of the confusion that surrounds the criticism of Islam.
The perennial problem for those who wish to speak frankly about organised religion is that in asserting their view they can sound similar to the bigot they would run a mile to get away from. However there is one fundamental difference; while the intolerant will tar a religion’s supporters with the same brush, the critic of religion will be averse to doing so. This can easily be put in a better light; suppose I am opposed to Conservative politics (which for the most part I am). This should say nothing about the way I treat Conservatives when I meet them in my day-to-day activities and should not prevent me from greeting them with the same friendliness I would give anyone else. However I should still have the fundamental right to speak my mind with regards their ideology or beliefs as long as my conduct towards them is not affected.
One objection to this may come from those who deem it “offensive” to voice anti-Islamic views. The problem is that it assumes that this gives the offended some sort of “rights” and in doing so seems to pay little regard or thought to the fact that the person of no religion may be equally offended by religious views. For all it’s worth I may be offended at the Bible’s description of a lady turning into a pillar of salt or offended at the Quran’s views on polygamy. However, I would not for one moment suggest that my offence should impede their right to voice those beliefs. As long as we do not discriminate against Muslims, we should be allowed to voice our views and people should have the right to be offended.
→ Continue reading: The Woolwich attack: criticism of Islam and the issue of free speech
Samizdata lurker Mike Ritchie has an observation to share:
John Sweeney’s undercover report on North Korea for Panorama on the BBC contains this steaming turd of a quote from a contributor – one Bryan Myers – a “Professor”, we are assured:
“…so I think it’s much more accurate to look at North Korea as a far-right state, an ultra-nationalist state”.
North Korea Undercover from 4:00 to 6:00 if you can bear it – do not feel compelled to watch the whole thing, it is superficial pap.
Another witless bozo who can not seem to grasp the logical outcome of putting the state in the driving seat, whatever the superficial branding/flag colour/exact nature of dynastic succession.
Of course, the Panorama editorial team seem more than happy to include this statement – you would almost think they worked for a state broadcaster
A regular Samizdata reader (who for fairly obvious reasons has asked to remain anonymous) submits this slightly horrifying story of what has recently happened to a friend resident in Spain. People familiar with the Spanish justice system – this is not a country where you wish to get in trouble with the law – will not find it surprising. Still, it is different, somehow, when it happens to you or someone close to you.
Occasionally one hears a story of a government overreach which makes one think that something like it could not happen in a Western Democracy, at least not on a regular basis. And if it does, it surely is due to some kind of a mistake, to which bureaucracies are so prone, or due to some corrupted government officials acting illegally. That was what I thought, after a friend who suddenly disappeared, severing all contacts with friends (although thankfully not family), reappeared after having spent four months in a Spanish jail. When this middle-aged suburban mother of young children told me that she got lucky, seeing as a maximum term for a pre-trial detention according to the Spanish law is four years, I thought that she must have misunderstood something “lawyery” – turns out, she did not (more info in Spanish here). What is worse, according to that document Spain is by no means different from several other European countries, and is not the worst among them, either.
As of now, my friend is still less than keen on discussing the legal aspects of the matter, and she has never been much interested in these things anyway. But, to paraphrase that dead revolutionary: you may not be interested in Law, but Law is interested in you. After having her apartment turned upside down and having been dragged to jail following a knock on the door, she was brought before a judge, whom she told that she just happened to have been once-friends with someone connected to something much bigger than herself or anyone she has ever known.
It took the Spanish authorities four months to corroborate her statement. In the meantime, she spent those four months in appalling conditions, with only a weekly through-the-glass visit from her husband, plus a monthly conjugal visit. No heating (in winter), filthy cells, two women sharing a cell with a toilet. Her kids still think she was away for some kind of professional training. It would have taken longer (as noted above, up to four years) if it was not for her lawyer. She made friends in jail with women who cannot afford a lawyer, and others who were extradited to Spain under the European Arrest Warrant and do not even know anyone in Spain. They are still in jail. Word is (I have not checked) that all the “Big Fish” with that big affair apparently are home free after about a month and a half in jail. The State is NOT your friend.
Frequent samizdata commenter ‘Jaded Libertarian’ wants to ask a question:
After a number of years dwelling on the matter I think I have just about got what I personally believe straight. The guide I have used to get there is what I believe to be both moral and just. I am not particularly well read in this area, but have thought myself to a fairly classical liberalism – nothing that has not been said before. No man has the right to transgress another’s liberty unless he is causing physical harm to another’s person or property – that kind of thing. I now know what I believe and that is great. I never tread on another person’s autonomy if I can help it. So how do I get the rest of society to extend me the same courtesy?
Here’s where I have run up against a wall.
To effect political change that would enshrine the rights of the individual would require imposing this system on a great many people who do not want increased personal autonomy – and what is more they do not want me to have it either. It scares them. Much as I disagree with them, it is not for me to seek to impose upon them a life they do not want, even if they do not extend me the same courtesy. To do so would be most illiberal.
The only way in which some good could come of such thinking would be if someone was willing to degenerate the rights of naysayers in order to enshrine the rights of everyone else. This seems to have been what (partially) happened in the USA, and many still reap the benefits. But it would be unwise to try and repeat the process. First of all it seems morally dubious at best. Secondly, history has shown us that political revolutions almost always result in dictatorships and tyranny. America was an aberration never to be repeated.
My own thinking thus far is that knowing what I believe and how I will act is, for now, enough. Society is after all made up of individuals. If by some bizarre chance every single person resolved to respect one another’s liberty, we would find ourselves in utopia overnight. Of course that is not going to happen, but then everyone else’s motivations are none of my business and it is not for me to criticise.
I try to live by the words of Burns:
Then let your schemes alone, Adore the rising sun, And leave a man undone. To his fate
Sadly although it eases my own heart, it does not get me away from the fundamental flaw in libertarianism. I am compelled to live under collectivist tyranny, something which I would never wish upon another.
How can libertarianism ever be anything more than a nice intellectual exercise to put yourself through if it cannot be acted upon by its very nature?
The following was posted as a Samizdata comment by the pseudonymous ‘Jaded Libertarian’, but it deserved to be an article in my not so humble opinion, and so…
I read in the paper today that after subjecting 500,000 people to mandatory face to face interviews, the government denied passports to eight for fraud.
This is the thing that most do not get. The big evil does not justify, never justifies, the small good. Causing inconvenience, misery and transgressing the privacy of half a million people in order to catch eight fraudsters is absurd.
And our society is full of such absurdities. Millions of adults are denied the “gift of giving” into their children’s lives by “child protection” policies. There is this assumption that any adult watching children swim is potentially sexually aroused, for example.
I would contend that the people who make such laws have dirty minds. I find it nobler and better to live life as though perverted degenerates do not even exist, for they are thankfully rare. And on the rare occasions where monsters abuse society’s trust, why, we should quickly and simply hang them in the town square and then return to life as before.
This is the model for transgressing only the liberties of the lawless, and not those of society at large. If you have to tread on the freedoms of innocent people to catch the lawless you’re doing it wrong.
“If it stops one fraudster, if it saves one life and if it protects one child it will all be worth it” the statists cry. These thoughts are supposed to make us feel warm inside as we queue to be inspected by the passports office, as security cameras follow us down the street and as police demand to know what we are doing for no particular reason. We are to lay our personal freedom on the alter of society in the name of the common good, and feel heartened by our sacrifice. As bizarre as it may sound, there are “true believers” in this cult – I see them all the time.
Down that road lies 24 hour policing of the entire population, and lives that are not worth living for all but the party elite. Basically 1984 made real.
And it all began when we passed that first law that mildly inconvenienced many in order to wheedle out the wicked few…
Alan Forrester is none too impressed with the evident wish of the state to stamp out any alternatives to state directed indoctrination
The government has recently published a review on home education written by Graham Badman in which he expresses a laudable concern for free speech for children:
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) gives children and young people over forty substantive rights which include the right to express their views freely, the right to be heard in any legal or administrative matters that affect them and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. Article 12 makes clear the responsibility of signatories to give children a voice:
“Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”
Yet under the current legislation and guidance, local authorities have no right of access to the child to determine or ascertain such views.
What remedy does Mr Badman recommend? He recommends that all home education families should be registered with the Local Education Authority and:
At the time of registration parents/carers/guardians must provide a clear statement of their educational approach, intent and desired/planned outcomes for the child over the following twelve months.
Guidance should be issued to support parents in this task with an opportunity to meet local authority officers to discuss the planned approach to home education and develop the plan before it is finalised. The plan should be finalised within eight weeks of first registration.
Of course Mr Badman really has no interest in free speech and is just a political hack hired by the government to write crude propaganda for their campaign to destroy home education and he can’t even do that properly. Mr Badman is quoting a definition of free speech from the United Nations. Many of the UN’s member governments are tyrranical kleptocracies run by thugs who murder or torture anyone who dares to openly oppose them. Seems to me they don’t really like free speech too much and quoting them is a big giveaway.
Mr Badman takes their advice because he worships the power of the state and feels the need to have people who like to play at being an international state dictate what he says about fee speech. Free speech is freedom from having your speech dictated by anybody else, including the British government. The British government violates free speech rights on a massive scale by imprisoning children in schools in which they are not allowed to speak or go to the toilet without permission. Instead of solving this problem Mr Badman proposes to secure a child’s right to free speech by forcing parents to dictate what their children what their children will think in twelve months and if they fail to indoctrinate their child the child will be locked up in one of the government’s
prisons for children schools.
A new, pathetic low for the British government.
Douglas Young, Professor of Political Science & History at Gainesville State College in Gainesville, GA, has some well expressed views on the wrong turn the USA has taken
At 47, I lament how today’s America is far less free than the country of my youth. Replacing it is not a 1984ish totalitarian dictatorship, but what Alexis de Tocqueville called the ‘soft tyranny’ of what Mark Levin sees as a 21st century ‘nanny state’. We so feared a Stalin or Hitler that we ignored endless assaults on our liberty by idealistic home-grown statists and the seductive narcotic of ever more government goodies buying our acquiescence. What makes Americans’ surrender to statism so shameful is that we freely chose this course in direct contravention of our founding principles.
Nowhere have we seen such an accelerating atrophy of our freedom as in K-12 public schools where recent decades have witnessed far more books banned, and not some print version of Debbie Does Dallas. No, literary classics like J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Mark Twain’s Huck Finn are verboten – required reading in those decadent days of my 1970s high school. But educrats with the backbone of a large worm now avoid anything controversial.
Students have far less choice of classes in high school, and often teachers can not make their own lessons since they must teach the test so schools can make “adequate yearly progress”. Only about 40 percent of my college students say they ever discussed any controversial issues in high school. My high school classes revelled in such debate.
Similarly, so many high schools have become gated, closed campuses. Mine was wide open. ‘Zero tolerance’ for drugs and violence policies punish students carrying aspirin, cough drops, and Tweety-Bird key chains. Now diligent do-gooders want to ban school coke machines as well. And to think at my high school we could even smoke!
Today political correctness constipates free speech at many schools (as well as in much of the public and private sectors), and hysterical sexual harassment policies suspend children for hugging a classmate. If you had predicted all this to my 1980 senior high class, we would have laughed that you had smoked some mighty bad dope to conjure up such an Orwellian dystopia. → Continue reading: America: closing her door to freedom
Mike Oliver (who blogs as ‘Mr. Integrity’… currently off-line) spotted an interesting article over on National Review that for once does not try to give Rand a kicking.
BB&T – and its open defence of rational/individualist/objectivist philosophy, a credo that runs counter to 2000 years of Judea/Christian/subjectivist/marxist ethics and deeper subjectivist planks that link those categories. Explicit defense of reason – I say!
Yes, such businessmen do exist, they are not merely the stuff of a well-known novel. As opposed to at least a large plurality of “business leaders” who seek always to cultivate government/business linkages, contracts, and of course regulations that “rationalize” their sectors (with such government rules used to ossify the industry with them – the privileged businessmen- commanding a degree of non-market control over that business sector). In history classes the U.S. trends now massively underway was how Fascism was defined.
But modern lovers of the State seem to have conveniently blanked that out. Anyway BB&T stands out from the crowd. What is most curious on a meta-level about this online article is that it comes from NationalReviewOnline.
National Review has been and until now at least was always the most outspoken and spewing opponent of Rand & Objectivism. Denouncing Rand’s rational philosophical base. NR has always been at its core, and explicity so – Buckley’s first book was titled God and Man at Yale) a subjectivist, religiously-planked political credo, arguing that God and a belief therein is the basis of capitalism and individual rights, etc. No wonder over the decades so many young potentially-bright students have mistakenly linked (as their professors would have them do) capitalism, or such that we have had in the U.S. that is labeled “capitalism.” with a religous or non-rational philosophical base.
Many of those students, not realizing the subjectivist, A-is-not-A base of Marxism, therefore sized-up the two choices – of an ethical code based on mysticism (the Buckley-type defence of “capitalism”… or Marxism… which to so many seemed a “scientific” or otherwise rational view of the world. And tended to opt for the later – either Marxism or many of its falsely-”humanist” variants.
Anyway, National Review was on the side of mysticism and held that banner high while viciously attacking Rand and her atheism – almost foaming in their attacks over the years. Well, perhaps even that changes with new blood at National Review? No, it’s probably just the failure of one of their higher editors to notice that one of their writers slipped this article onto their online site. Well, in any case it is an interesting article about the current times and the role of ideas: ideas taken from reality then applied back to issues of dealing with reality.