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]

For pity’s sake, separate giving succour from accepting migrants

The drowned body of little Aylan Kurdi is on front pages all over the world. His surname and the name of his home town, Kobani, tell the story of why his family were so desperate to leave their homeland.

What can be done to stop this happening, as the Middle East burns? What should be done? In the long term – God only knows.

But we don’t have to know. In the short term there is something we can do which has a proven record of saving lives in a similar situation.

Could Australia’s ‘stop the boats’ policy solve Europe’s migrant crisis?

When the bodies of asylum seekers en route to Australia washed up on the shores of Christmas Island in 2010 everyone was in agreement that something needed to be done.

Five years later Australia has implemented one of the harshest border policies in the world. It is characterised by three core points: turning or towing back boats of asylum seekers at sea; forcing asylum seekers to live in detention centres across the Pacific in Nauru and Papua New Guinea; and guaranteeing they will never be resettled in Australia.

Dozens of would-be migrants are reported to have drowned between Libya and Sicily, the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean this spring. The increasing numbers making the perilous journey on overloaded boats has brought the issue of migration into Europe to a head. But what can be done about it?

Prime minister Tony Abbott is now making a clarion call to Europe, where crisis meetings have taken place following the deaths of over 800 migrants in the Mediterranean this week. The only way to stop deaths at sea, he told reporters this week, “is in fact, to stop the boats”.

They were stopped.

Building a camp – a decent camp – and putting all those attempting illegal entry in it does not satisfy either side of the immigration debate. But at least it could be tolerated by both sides and might stop the bodies floating in on every tide. To use an unhappy metaphor, it would keep the floodgates closed by showing that taking ship with a people smuggler is not a successful strategy to get to the West. To work this policy would require both sides to acknowledge very clearly that doing this for now implies absolutely nothing about what the permanent policy on refugees and/or migrants should be.

Samizdata quote of the day

Much like Germany has been forced to grapple with its past — it can neither ignore it, nor celebrate it — Australia’s treatment of Julia Gillard should never be hidden, and certainly not for reasons such as “Everyone hates Julia Gillard”.

Caroline Zielinksi, quoted by Tim Blair.

What do the Maori and Welsh languages have in common?

Intrigued by the possibility of some hitherto unknown Polynesian/Celtic linguistic cross-fertilisation, I clicked on this YouTube video clip.

Watching it saddened me. Intrepid sailors though they were, the ancestors of the Maori people never made it to Wales. The Welsh did reach New Zealand, but in steamships rather than coracles. Bidding farewell to a pair of outré alt-hist scenarios was not the reason for my sadness, however. What depressed me about this video was that, like almost every other discussion of preserving minority languages that I have ever seen, it was fixated on compulsion.

According to the video, an excerpt from a New Zealand TV programme, what Maori and Welsh have in common is that they are only kept going by forcing people to speak them and ain’t that wonderful. One minute into the clip, the commentary says,

“Four New Zealand teachers on a British Council “Linking Minds” scholarship were given a chance to see how compulsion is helping to save the Welsh language, Cymraeg, from extinction.”

Just after that one of the teachers, Nichola McCall, says to camera,

“The Welsh people have used law to support the use of the language, used it to build its status, used it to change public opinion. I think the law has really encouraged or helped education to do what it’s doing with the language, to help with its revival, to help bring it equal status with the English language here.”

Later on Ann Keane, Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales says at 3:24,

“If you live in Wales then you are entitled to learn something about its culture, its history and to learn something of its language.”

Who could object to that? I could, because she is using the word “entitled” in an Orwellian sense that I first noticed being used among educational opinion-formers when I was a teacher a quarter of a century ago. In Educratese “you are entitled to do this” means “you are not entitled not to do this”. Ms Keane continues:

“The time was right in Wales to bring Welsh in as a compulsory, as a mandatory, part of the National Curriculum in 1990.”

The use of locutions such as “the time was right” or “the situation demanded” to describe how a law came to be passed is another trick of speech I have long hated. It makes it sound as if, rather than one more-powerful bunch of humans forcing another less-powerful bunch to do their bidding, it all happened by the irresistible pressure of some force of nature.

Just to reinforce that “entitled” is being used in this particular and deceptive sense, the commentator purrs approvingly:

“Ann believes all peoples living in Wales and New Zealand are entitled as citizens to learn the language of the land”.

This is immediately followed at 3:59 by Professor Mac Giolla Chriost of Cardiff University, who says that he thinks:

“the arguments for compulsion are much more powerful and convincing than the arguments against compulsion.”

We never get to learn what the arguments against compulsion are, so this claim is difficult to judge. The professor continues:

“There are very good arguments for making sure that all young people in New Zealand are allowed access to Maori as a part of their national identity . . . the only way of doing that, then, is compulsion.”

“Allowed access to Maori,” is another variant of “entitled to learn Maori” or “have the right to learn Maori”. All of them mean “will be forced to learn Maori”. It just sounds prettier if a pose is maintained that someone – probably an Englishman in imperialist headgear – is trying to stop eager pupils from learning Maori or Welsh, and the “right” or “entitlement” or “demand for access” is being asserted against such oppression. I do not know about New Zealand but that picture of Anglophone oppression was certainly true of Wales at one time, although most accounts of cruel practices such as the Welsh Not skirt around the fact that its use was supported by Welsh-speaking parents who saw English as the route to prosperity for their children. My late mother-in-law, for whom Welsh was the much-loved “language of the hearth”, confirmed to me that it was common in her childhood for Welsh-speaking parents to discourage the Welsh speech of their children. Few would have wished to punish Welsh in the home by means of the hairbrush or the belt, but plenty were happy to have the teacher do it in school, where they did not have to see their child cry. No doubt many African parents nowadays make the same calculation.

→ Continue reading: What do the Maori and Welsh languages have in common?

A very welcome development

As Michael Jennings of this parish often points out, Australian political culture is as corrupt and nasty as pretty much anywhere else in the First World. But nevertheless, this is rather good news:

Tony Abbott, Australia’s centre-right Prime Minister, finally made good on his pre-election pledge after his government repealed the measure introduced by his Labor predecessor Julia Gillard. Poorly thought out and highly unpopular, the tax is almost unique in that it generated virtually no revenue for the Australian Treasury, contributed to the rising costs that have taken the gloss off the country’s resources boom and essentially brought down Ms Gillard’s former Government.

Of course it is not nearly enough, but it is a good start. The important thing is this destroys the aura of invincible inevitability that the Cult of Anthropogenic Climate Change has built up, tearing it off like the vestments of an unchallengeable priesthood to reveal what truly lies beneath. Now drive a stake through the evil beast’s green heart.

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

Not just physics, Indigenous Australian physics

As JGrossman, one of the commenters to the Guardian article I will quote extensively below, says of it, there are some views to which the only possible response is to quote the physicist Wolfgang Pauli:

This is not only not right, it is not even wrong.

The article I am about to quote falls, crashes and burns into that category.

Some background: the writer, Dawn Casey, is an Australian museum director and a well known Indigenous (i.e. Australian aboriginal) public figure. Warren Mundine, mentioned in the article as head of Tony Abbott’s Indigenous Council, is of the same heritage. Christopher Pyne, the Australian Education Minister, isn’t. How sad that one needs to spell out such things to understand what is being debated here. Here is what Dawn Casey writes:

Last week, Warren Mundine, head of the prime minister’s Indigenous council, was quoted in the Australian as saying that it is ridiculous to include an Indigenous culture perspective in the teaching of science and maths. Mundine said: “I agree with Christopher Pyne, I think in some areas we have got ridiculous. What is Indigenous physics? Physics is physics. If we are to compete in the job market we must learn technology and engineering, we need to be taught subjects properly.

“I agree that we need to reassess the curriculum because we need real units that teach the subjects without this ridiculous insertion of culture, the idea that you have to have an indigenous or Asian perspective, to be frank, is silly. The sciences and maths should be taught properly.”

Mundine’s comments add nothing to the very important debates on what should be included in the national curriculum and how children, regardless of their cultural background, should be taught. They ignore that culture permeates everything we do — including maths and physics — and reinforces stereotypical views that Indigenous culture is only about language, kinships systems and hunting and gathering – important as they are.


For centuries, people from all cultural backgrounds have been developing ideas andsolving problems. Euclid who lived in Alexandria more than 2000 years ago laid the foundations for mathematics. Australia’s Aboriginal people represent the longest-living culture on earth. It is incredible that our culture should be treated as a stand-alone subject or as part of the humanities.


To go back to a time when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture was put into an ethnographic box, as some sort of anthropological curiosity, and excluded from the breadth of mainstream knowledge, including maths and science, is to disadvantage all Australians.

The commenter who quoted Wolfgang Pauli chose his example well. Pauli was born in Germany but had to flee to the United States in 1940 because of his Jewish ancestry. So he would have been familiar in his own life with the concepts of “Jewish physics” and “German physics”. One can guess what he would have made of “Indigenous physics”.

Loving the Aussies even more

At first I thought that Tim Blair’s account of the outrageous behaviour of the Australian delegates to the Warsaw UN climate conference was written for laughs. I duly laughed. Then I followed the links. It’s all true; the snacks … the T-shirts … the pyjamas. Then of course my laughter was replaced by profound sorrow at the disgrace brought upon a once-respected nation by its so-called representatives*.

*While acknowledging the limited validity of concerns about health and safety of delegates in late night negotiations.

Loving the Aussies slightly less


In August, I spent some time in my native land of Australia visiting family and friends. One Sunday morning I found myself wandering around the inner west of Sydney. I used to live in the area. If certain things in my life had gone slightly differently, I might still live in the area.

That’s life, though. I don’t regret moving to London in 2002. For one thing, if I had not done so, I might not now be writing for this blog.

In any event, I was thirsty. I nipped into a convenience store to buy a Coke. Anyone who has ever lived in a city will know the type of store. A selection groceries for people who have not managed to get to the supermarket. Drinks. Snack foods. Possibly a few pots and pans and other household goods. Cigarettes. In cities full of immigrants such as London and Sydney, these stores are normally owned and run by first generation immigrants. In the UK, this often means south Asians. In Australia, the owners of such shops are more often Chinese people, in some sense. (Often this can mean ethnically Chinese immigrants from Malaysia, Vietnam, or various other places).

People reading carefully may thing I am being careless in leaving alcoholic drinks and newspapers out of the list of things that such stores sell. After all, in London these things would make up a large portion of the business of such a store. Surely this is the same in Australia?

Well, no, actually.  Australian convenience stores do have vast amounts of shelf space devoted to sunscreen and insect repellant, but this hardly makes up for it.

Australia loves to regulate to protect vested interests. Laws vary according to state, but in Sydney an area will have a single newsagent, which will have a monopoly over the sale of newspapers in that area. This newsagent will be free to sub-licence other stores in the area to sell newspapers, but this normally only happens for Sunday papers, as the owner of the local monopoly will (or at least might) take the day off. In theory, the holder of the newsagent monopoly guarantees that he will provide local delivery of newspapers in the morning in return for being granted this monopoly. This may have once made sense, although I doubt it. Now though, most people who read newspapers at home do so over the internet. The monopoly remains, though. It’s about vested interests being protected from competition. This means, amongst other things, that convenience stores run by recent immigrants are not going to be allowed to sell newspapers.

→ Continue reading: Loving the Aussies slightly less

Ah you gotta love the Aussies

Australia will be represented by a diplomat rather than a senior minister at international climate talks in Poland next week aimed at securing an agreement to cut global carbon emissions. Environment Minister Greg Hunt won’t attend annual United Nations climate change talks in Warsaw, saying he’ll be busy repealing the carbon tax in the first fortnight of parliament. Mr Hunt said through a spokesman that he would be “fully engaged in repealing the carbon tax” while the conference was under way.

Ben Packham

A Song for Australia

With apologies to all those who will be les misérables tomorrow, I give you… One Day More

One day more,
Another day, another destiny,
This never ending road to Calvary.
These men who seem to know my crime
Will surely come a second time,
One day more.

I did not live until today,
How can I live when we are parted?

One day more.

Tomorrow you’ll be worlds away,
And yet with you, my world has started.

One more day all on my own.

Will we ever meet again?

One more day with him not caring.

I was born to be with you!

What a life I might have known…

And I swear I will be true!

…But he never saw me there.

One more day before the storm
At the barricades of freedom
Shall I join my brothers there
When our ranks begin to form?
Do I stay or do I dare?

Will you take your place with me?

The time is now!
The day is here!

One day more!

One more day till revolution,
We will nip it in the bud.
We’ll be ready for these schoolboys,
They will wet themselves with blood.

One day more!

Watch ’em run amuck,
Catch ’em as they fall,
Never know your luck
When there’s a free for all,
Here a little dip
There a little touch,
Most of them are goners
So they won’t miss much.

One day to a new beginning
Raise the flag of freedom high!
Every man will be a king
There’s a new world for the winning
Do you hear the people sing?

My place is here,
I fight with you.

One day more!

I did not live until today…
Tomorrow you’ll be worlds away
And yet with you my world has started

One more day all on my own.

We will join these people’s heroes
We will follow where they go
We will learn their little secrets,
We will know the things they know.

One day more.

Watch ’em run amuck
Catch ’em as they fall
Never know your luck
When there’s a free for all

One more day to revolution
We will nip it in the bud
We’ll be ready for these schoolboys

Tomorrow we’ll be far away.

Tomorrow is the judgement day.

Tomorrow we’ll discover
What our God in heaven has in store!
One more dawn
One more day
One day more!

UPDATE: I should have guessed I would not be the only one to think of it: Old Owl and 2dogs both pointed out in comments that “Bill Glasson, who is standing against Rudd in his seat of Griffith, has used this song in a video thanking his campaign volunteers.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Got it! I have finally settled on which character from Les Mis best represents Kevin Rudd. Gavroche. We are meant to find him loveable but he is an irritating little brat. He endlessly plays up his proletarian origins and faffs on about “what little people can do”. He denounces Inspector Javert and gets him sent off to be murdered by a People’s Court, setting the example for Children of the Revolution ever since. Then on the barricades, when the revolutionaries are offered the chance to leave, what does he do? He hams it up, sings his little song in a halting, childish treble, and basically dooms the lot of them. Go to the top of the class, little Gavroche! Or preferably go prancing out onto the top of the barricade – go on kid, you know you can’t resist an opportunity to show off – and get yourself slaughtered. Oh, you just did. Good show!

A light has gone from my life

I did so enjoy contemplating the coming inevitable defeat of Julia Gillard and the Australian Labor Party. Unimportant in the greater scheme of things, I know, but just to contemplate the ululations of grief and ritual cries of “misogyny” that would have come from the Guardian the morning after the next Australian election was a little thing that gave me a few snatched moments of innocent pleasure in this hard world.

Now, however

Note to the Australian government

If you are a national government wasting spending investing at least A$27.5bn (£18bn) of taxpayers’ money – over $1000 per capita – on building a government owned “National Broadband Network” because you think it is the job of the government do do this kind of stuff, and you then employ civil servants to ghost-write articles that can be published in the media under the bylines of lazy journalits, it is not a terribly good idea to include journals published by libertarian think tanks amongst your target publications.