We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Guardian quote of the day

And black people, as always, are left to clean up the shit that drops from the imperial anus of white corporate America into the ghettoized toilets of terror

- Nyle Fort

Screw the Prime Directive!

The other day I wrote a post about the plight of the Bushmen living in the Kalahari desert in Bostwana.

Jaded Voluntaryist commented,

Survival International are a bunch of arseholes who would see brown skinned human beings being prevented from rising out of the mud because it’s just so quaint. I wouldn’t take their word for it. Of course that may not be what’s happening here, but they don’t have a great track record.

They moaned for example when the Saint family (at the cost of several lives) brought Christianity to the Huorani tribe in Ecuador, which helped reduce their murder rate down from somewhere in the 70% region. Hardly anyone lived to old age. No one would deny that not everything the Huorani got from contact with the developed world was good, but only a sociopath would want them to keep living as they were.

I replied,

I take your point about the patronising attitude of groups like Survival International, although I have also heard that they sometimes do good work on the ground protecting tribal people from state and other violence. As I am sure you agree, if any particular Bushman wants to carry on as his or her ancestors did, good luck to them, and if he or she wants to head to the relatively bright lights of Gabarone and seek their future there, good luck again.

However it looks very strongly as if the Botswanan government has taken away the option for Bushmen to live in their traditional way by the use of a mixture of force (eviction from their ancestral hunting grounds and the hunting ban) and state “help” (the infantilising effects of welfare as pointed out by Mr Kakelebone).

I may write a post someday about the superiority of the attitude to Christian missionaries towards tribal people compared to the attitude of groups like Survival International towards tribal people. My argument would not be based on the fact that I am a Christian, nor on any general assessment of how much or little I admire the hunter-gatherer lifestyle (which might vary widely between different groups). My argument would be that the missionaries wish to persuade some other human beings to believe as they themselves believe, whereas the “protectors” wish to keep them as living museum exhibits. They always remind me of those science fiction stories in which Earth is kept ignorant / keeps other planets ignorant of faster than light travel and so on. My sympathies are nearly always with those who say, “Screw the Prime Directive”.

Then I said,

Come to think of it, screw the “I might write a post someday”. I will cut and paste the above comment as a post right this minute.

The State giveth; the State it taketh away – the last bushmen of Botswana

Ten years ago I thought their days might be drawing to a close: Kalahari Bushmen, New Age Travellers and the paradoxes of state welfare

…perhaps their ancient way of life was doomed anyway by contact with modernity, but any slight chance it may have had to either adapt organically or fade away by consent was finished, and its end made more bitter, by government efforts to help.

And so it has proved: Botswana bushmen: ‘If you deny us the right to hunt, you are killing us’

For Jamunda Kakelebone, a 39-year-old bushman, or San, whose family has always lived as hunter gatherers, what is happening in the Kalahari desert is deeply disturbing. Not only have bushmen families like his been moved from their ancestral land to make way for tourists, diamond mining and fracking, he says, but those who remain are now no longer allowed to hunt.

The final blow came in January, when a ban came into effect prohibiting all hunting in the southern African country except on game farms or ranches. The new law – announced by the minister of wildlife, environment and tourism, Tshekedi Khama (brother of the president, Ian Khama) – effectively ends thousands of years of San culture.

In a series of evictions after 2002, the Botswana government removed several thousand San from the Kalahari reserve, claiming they were a drain on Botswana’s financial resources and that the families were happy to give up their hunter-gathering. But, say human rights groups like Survival International, the evictions were intended to allow in conservation groups, tourist companies and diamond mining.

Around 350-400 San people now live in seven “settlements” in and outside the game reserve, many of which are in appalling conditions. “Instead of being allowed to hunt, we are taken to resettlement camps and must depend on government for handouts. It’s like holding your arms and expecting to be fed. They treat us as stupid. We are given clothes and food.

The speaker, Jamunda Kakelebone, is pictured with his lawyer outside Clarence House in London. Someone should have warned Mr Kakelebone that some aspects of his message might be ill-received in a land where strong taboos hold sway.

How the other half lives

He also maintained homes in Colombia, Barcelona and Paris and continued to keep up his friendship with Fidel Castro, who gave him the use of a villa in Havana. During García Márquez’s frequent visits to Cuba, Castro would call on him as often as twice a day; the two men went fishing together, and talked about books and the nature of absolute power.

– from the Telegraph obituary of Gabriel García Márquez

Am I the last one to get the joke?

Whaddya think? Are either of these two articles from the Guardian Comment Network (i.e. lefty blogs to which the Guardian gives a larger audience) for real, or are they magnificent satire?

From SE Smith, a writer who “lives and works in northern California, covering social justice issues”: ‘The people are so beautiful!’ That’s enough of the colonial tourism

While you’re drooling over Indian women in saris at the produce market, are you paying attention to the women organising against mining companies and western intrusions in India? Are you paying attention to the women opposing tourism and fighting objectifying activities in their communities?

From Tom Whyman, a well-named PhD Philosophy student: Beware of cupcake fascism

…this has an effect on our culture that we can understand as being a sort of gentrification. The cupcake has always itself been a gentrifying force: after all, the “pop-​up cupcake shop” is the paradigmatic pop-​up shop. But what all these things do is assert the infantilised values of an increasingly infantilised middle-​class world on general society. This is how the passive-​aggressive violence of the infantilised twee fascist manifests itself: moving across the world with a cupcake as a cowcatcher, shunting out everything that does not correspond to the values manifested within it; a much more effective way of sweeping up the sort of (poor, working-​class, black) forces that informed the 2011 London riots than any broom.

The wrong sort of inspiration

Have you ever heard or read a speech in real life or fiction that left you inspired, moved, exalted, perhaps even blinking back tears… only to remember a minute later that you fundamentally disagreed with every word?

Freedom of speech not quite dead in the UK

Christian Street Preacher John Craven Receives £13,000 For Wrongful Arrest Over ‘Anti-Gay’ Comments

A street preacher arrested for reportedly spewing hateful verses on homosexuality has been awarded £13,000 for wrongful imprisonment, after police detained him for 19 hours.

John Craven, a Christian street preacher, settled the claim with Great Manchester police, who he alleged had denied him food, water and access to medication for his rheumatoid arthritis.

The Christian Institute, which funded the legal claim against the police said Craven had been directly asked what he thought of homosexuals by two gay teenagers, but had declined to give a view, and had instead “quoted from the Bible”, telling them that God hated the sin, He loves the sinner.

The two teens had then kissed in front of him.

The preacher was arrested under section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986, which criminalises the use of insulting words with the intention of causing harassment, alarm or distress.

The police and their pals in the BBC try to spin the story as being mainly about how the police treated him in the cells. The conduct of our diversity-trained defenders of human rights towards a rheumatic old geezer with a public commitment to turning the other cheek was certainly worthy of notice. But it was also what they wanted you to notice. The police do not really mind being publicly repentant about neglecting to give a non-violent prisoner food, water or his medication for fifteen hours. No problem. Give the rozzers concerned a slap on the wrist, announce “mistakes were made” and “lessons will be learned”, and make yourselves another cup of tea.

The unacceptable behaviour on the part of the police that the force as an institution would prefer to mumble about when asked if it has learned its lesson is this:

“It appears that the actions of the police were calculated to give me and other street preachers the impression that we could not preach the gospel in public without breaking the law and if we did we would be arrested.”

Some people fall for it every time

This is an April Fool:

Scotland to switch to driving on the right if independence given green light

This is not:

‘Cinderella Law’ to stop emotional abuse of children: Parents who fail to show love could face prison

You gotta hand it to him…

…Mark Goddard of Newton Abbot in Devon is not a man afraid to take his medical destiny into his own hands hand.

Man builds home-made guillotine and chops off hand after doctors refuse to amputate

Mark Goddard has been in constant pain since he was involved in a motorbike crash 16 years ago.

But after an unsuccessful two-year campaign to have his nerve shattered hand surgically removed, he decided to do it himself.

He rigged up a home-made guillotine using an axe with a weight strapped to it, to ensure it would have enough power to amputate his hand.

The first blow sliced though the bone but didn’t sever all the tendons, leaving his hand hanging off a bloodied stump.

He then used a surgeon’s scalpel to cut through the remaining tissues before dropping the remains into a bin, which he later filled with charcoal and set alight – in order to prevent his hand being re-attached.

That was the Express. The Mirror adds some more details:

Dad refused NHS operation builds GUILLOTINE to amputate his own hand – but it still hurts

Mark spent two weeks designing the guillotine and ensured his wife and son were out before he severed his hand.

He tied two tourniquets above his forearm to reduce blood flow and had a first aid kit nearby.

Mark wants a device called a spinal stimulator implanted into his back to ease the nerve pain.

He said he was “reasonably hopeful” his wish would be granted after receiving a more sympathetic hearing from doctors and psychiatrists in the wake of his dramatic protest two weeks ago.

A Devon and Cornwall police spokesman said: “Police received a call from the ambulance service to say a man had cut his hand off.

“We were concerned he might have a knife and be a risk to himself or others.

“Units attended and upon arrival a 44-year-old man had indeed cut his hand off. He was otherwise rational.

While it is not the place of the police to criticise the behaviour of citizens who have remained within the law, it would be a harsh judge who held it against the police spokesman quoted that the placement of his penultimate word did imbue his observations with a slightly ironical tone.

I totally support Mr Goddard’s right to do as he pleases with his own body, sympathise with the suffering that led him to take such a desperate measure, applaud the practical and rational way he went about it, and very much hope that the NHS will be persuaded to take his pain seriously in future, but I am not sure I would recommend his method. Hands up who thinks it was a good idea? (Er, not you, Mark.)

What do all these people have in common?

“Wankers. Faarsands of them!” commented one former fan of press regulation on seeing the list: “I used to think the British press had got too intrusive and badly needed reining in. But now that I’ve been made aware of the kind of ocean-going knobs who are in favour of the Leveson Royal Charter, I’ve adjusted my position. In fact I’d like to know why the Sun isn’t hacking every single one of these smug, authoritarian, liberty-loathing tossers’ mobile phone messages right now, preferably with a view to chucking every one of them into jail for hamster abuse or whatever else it is they get up to in their celebrity basement dungeons. The sooner these menaces are off the streets the better.”

This is a quote, which he cheerfully admits to having made up, from an article by James Delingpole entitled: The Wankerati speak: Why can’t Britain’s press be more like Iran’s? His main idea is that,

The campaign for greater press regulation in Britain has suffered a devastating, possibly fatal blow with the release to the Guardian of a list of the celebrities who are lending their support to the Leveson Royal Charter proposal.

Click on that last link to see if there is anyone you like.

Has the day come when election polls are nearly always right?

Famously, in the last US presidential election, Nate Silver correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. His prediction for the election before that was correct for 49 out of 50 states.

Both times, I had hoped it would turn out otherwise. My hopes had been a little higher than they should have been because of the residual glow from the Shy Tory factor, first exhibited to a dramatic extent in the 1992 UK general election and still apparent, though in lesser degree, for several elections after that. I had known about that factor in my guts before that election, from listening to people on the tube, and had correctly guessed the final result would be more Conservative than the polls claimed. As the results came in I did not rejoice that the Government would be Conservative, but I did rejoice that the Chattering Classes had been confounded, their bubble burst, their conversational hegemony broken open and their flary-nostrilled noses put out of joint. Yeah.

Unfortunately not-yeah since then. I haven’t eaten a hearty post-election breakfast with schadenfreude sauce about the polls for many a year now. George Bush winning in 2004 was splendid fun, of course, but it was no great surprise to anyone who had been paying attention. The polls had given him a consistent small lead for months before the election. In the same year there was an unexpected result in the Spanish general election, but that could be attributed to the the Madrid train bombings three days earlier and the cowardice shown by the Spanish people in their reaction to the attack.

In the years since then I have had the impression that polls have been getting ever more accurate. But my attention has wandered from politics so my impression might be wrong. In recent months the approaching Scottish independence referendum has rekindled the old flame and I have begun to follow the polls. If you want to know, I am of the Unionist persuasion, but it is one of those questions where my libertarism isn’t telling me which way to steer; and in this post I am not arguing either way. I am just observing that the polls diverge and wobble much more widely than they seem to for either British or US general elections. Is that because it is a referendum rather than an election? I would expect the simplicity of a yes-or-no referendum to make prediction easier, but polling for the voting system referendum in 2011, while correct about the result, did significantly understate the vote to continue with the First Past the Post system, causing my heart to beat faintly once more to the happy rhythm of 1992.

Here is an interesting article by John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, entitled Scotland’s referendum: can we trust the polls? Mind you, despite being a professor of politics and running a referendum polling blog he does not actually say whether we can or cannot. Quite like old times.

Up and down we go

Freedom of speech is on the up in Australia:

George Brandis has given Australia’s racists a free rein

The right’s ‘freedom fighters’ have their wish – law 18C is effectively finished after 19 years protecting and conciliating vulnerable members of our pluralist society

and trending down in Britain:

Cyber-bullies could face two years in jail under new internet troll rules

A change to the criminal justice bill would target abuse on the internet or via mobile phones in England and Wales