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]

Samizdata quote of the day

“We joke about Victorian prudery, but in fact we are quite as prudish in different directions, and no less given to euphemisms or circumlocutions. There is even a distinct parallel in our reasons for adopting them. The Victorians saw themselves as having overcome animal instincts and were therefore prudish about sex: on the other hand they had yet to invent orthopaedic surgery, so someone who had lost a couple of limbs in an industrial accident was called a cripple. Our society recognises it has not overcome animal instincts and therefore has few inhibitions about sex, but has endless faith in its surgeons, so that words like `cripple’ are embargoed in favour of euphemisms like `differently abled’ which are quite as absurd as anything applied to sex in Victorian times. We are not expressionally crippled they were were: we are just differently hibited.”

– Samuel Smiles and the Construction of Victorian Values, page 144-5, by Adrian Jarvis.

(The whole book, despite a few touches of lefty determination to imply that Smiles would have disliked rail privatisation, is a fine study of Samuel Smiles, author of such tomes as Self Help and Lives of the Engineers. Smiles was a remarkable man: one of prodigious output, living to the ripe age of 92, which was some feat in his time.)

17 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    Network rail is 100% government owned.

    Samuel Smiles would indeed have “disliked” that and the “franchise” system for running trains on the state owned tracks.

    But not for the reasons Mr Jarvis seems to think.

    Still the rise of the term “the state” as a positive term (almost as term of awe) was getting under way in the 19th century. Really it dates from the late 18th century – with the pro Frederick the Great, pro Prussia, mania that the Edmund Burke fought against with his (rather anti Prussian) “Annual Review”.

    Prussia was the ally of Britain so why was Edmund Burke (even in his youth) so wary of the place? Because he could see the implications for British internal politics.

    If one hero worships the ruler of a certain country (as so many British people hero worshipped Frederick the Great) it is natural to imitate his policies – including his internal polices (on education, and the law, and so on) and to read and revere the thinkers (in this case the Germanic thinkers) whose influence led to those politics.

    One ends up not with Samuel Smiles and “Self Help” (and Mutual Aid – another thing Mr Smiles strongly supported) – but with the “Enlightened State” the “Liberating State”.

    And, of course, many Americans were influenced by this to. It was not to the Puritans that H. Mann looked to when designing his education system for Massachusetts – it was to Prussia.

    In the 19th century and early 20th century almost every major “Social Reformer” looked to the Prussian for inspiration.

    Very few people claimed that the France of the “Sun King” (Louis XIV) or the Spain of Philip II had “worked” – but most “intellectuals” came to believe that Prussia “worked”, that it was the enlightened and liberating state.

    Even when they were fighting it in the First World War British an American intellectuals still believed it “worked”.

    They could not see that German “War Socialism” was a farce (see Ludwig Von Mises “Nation, State and Economy”) and that the place was on the verge of collapse in November 1918.

    For example the much praised Prussian (later German) government railways were not better than the railroads of such American railroad owners as J.J. Hill – but American (and British) intellectuals thought they were.

    They were like the later intellectuals of the 1930s – who whenever they went to a British factory had nothing but complaints, but when they went to a factory in the Soviet Union went into almost sexual joy.

    They found nothing to praise in the factories and workshops of Birmingham (always more typical of the varied British economy than some other cities) – and endless things to praise about Soviet factories. In spite of the fact that Birmingham in the 1930s was vastly (many times) more efficient than any Soviet industrial city. And that living standards were vastly higher in Britain (even among the unemployed of the north) than in the Soviet Union – where tens of millions of people were starving to death.

    When the honest socialist Malcolm Muggeridge refused to keep silent about the people he witnessed dying of starvation in the Soviet Union – his newspaper (the accused “Guardian” – the British version of the New York Times) dismissed him.

    It was not that the left “did not know” – that is a lie, because they did know.

    And if anyone thinks the left have changed….. you are wrong, they have not changed. They would rather have tens of millions of people starve to death than give up their dreams of “Social Justice” and an end to the “chaos of capitalism”.

    This desire for a “planned society” and the hatred of “vulgar” traders and manufacturers was not invented by Karl Marx – it goes all the way back to Plato.

    I suspect that Plato and Samuel Smiles would not have been friends – although Mr Smiles would have tolerated Plato, whereas Plato (if he had the power to do so) would have had Mr Smiles executed.

  • Alisa

    Samuel Smiles (23 December 1812 – 16 April 1904), was a Scottish author and government reformer who campaigned on a Chartist platform. But he concluded that more progress would come from new attitudes than from new laws. His masterpiece, Self-Help (1859), promoted thrift and claimed that poverty was caused largely by irresponsible habits, while also attacking materialism and laissez-faire government. It has been called “the bible of mid-Victorian liberalism”, and it raised Smiles to celebrity status almost overnight.

    I am somewhat confused by this description…

  • I am somewhat confused by this description…

    I was confused at first too, but then I realized “Smiles” is actually his name, not a verb.


  • Paul Marks

    You are right to be confused by it Alisa.

    For example, I doubt that the Samuel Smiles of 1859 was very well known for demanding Big Government (i.e. “attacking laissez-faire government”) he may have been, but I am not aware of that. One can want everyone (at least every man) to have the vote – without wanting higher taxes and more regulations.

    The best known agitator for more interventionist government at the time was (if memory serves) Edwin Chadwick – one of the leading followers of the late Jeremy Bentham.

  • Thailover

    Leftists are at war with reality. There’s nothing wrong with the word ‘cripple’, just as there’s nothing wrong with the word ‘retarded’. Intelligent people understand that not only does ‘retarded’ mean slowed or held back, but it was once a psychometric catagory for IQ 70-ish. Yeah, people are no longer able to talk about their pets. Now they’re ‘animal companions’, LOL. The Unabomber Manifesto had some funny things to say about this PC nonsense. Several clear indications that Leftists are at war with reality is, (a) they feel the need to be sheltered from it, like angry toddlers (safe spaces, banning free speech, etc). Safe spaces are self-imposed ‘time outs’ for infantile adults; (b) reality leads to inequality of outcome, therefore reality is “unfair”, as if equality of outcome has ANYTHING to do with reality or nature in any way, shape, form or fashion; and (c) they usually deal with Orwellian opposite-speak and contradictions. ANTIFA *ARE* the fascists, etc.

  • Thailover

    “This desire for a “planned society” and the hatred of “vulgar” traders and manufacturers was not invented by Karl Marx – it goes all the way back to Plato.”

    Indeed, Plato’s Republic makes Stalin’s regime look tame in comparison in it’s inhumanity to man.

    But, (you won’t care for me saying so, Paul), it’s rife in early christianity and in the bible as well. Read the latter half of Acts 4 and the beginning of Acts 5 (literally about one page worth of text) and you’ll see a horrific story presented as virtue, where the the church thugs insist that everyone liquidate all private property, to be divvied out and shared as the leaders see fit. One old man and his wife sold their home and kept part of the money. The thugs sent the wife for a walk, then suddenly the man fell dead (yeah right) and they buried him before wife returned. Then she was murdered…er, I mean mysteriously dropped dead. As if this isn’t Stalinist butchery in the worst order. Then also consider “Mammon” in Matthew 6. Mammon is to build personal wealth. Yet it is so vilified in christianity that Mammon was even considered a literal demon in the middle ages. And lest we forget, Matthew 6 instructs us to behave like the birds and lilies. They don’t “toil” or as Monty Python puts it, they don’t have jobs, and the flowers don’t “spin” (wool for clothing), but rather they rely on ‘divine providence’ aka heavenly welfare. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean NOT upon your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

  • Thailover

    Oh, I forgot to add. In regard to hatred of “vulgar” traders. (Vulgar in Latin, BTW, simply means common and ordinary, which of course is ‘vulgar’ to prissy fops). Consider when Jesus violently attacked the currency traders and sellers of sacrificial animals to people visiting the inner-religious parts of the Temple Complex. The “money changers” were located in the NON-RELIGIOUS section of the temple complex, the outer section that allowed gentiles and even (gasp) women to be present. All these traders were doing is giving shekels for good money, as shekels were still required by the priest class, (indeed, demanded) even though it was a dead form of money after the Romans took over. AND one bought sacrificial animals (AS THE PRIEST CLASS INSISTED UPON) to offer as a “burnt offering”, i.e. they COOKED these animals (even bread was considered a ‘meat offering’) and only the (pimple-free) priests were allowed to imbibe is this BBQ.
    Jesus showed his ass and beat the money changers with knotted up cords, not because they were on holy ground, (they weren’t, only the priest class were allowed in the holy of holies), but because they were engaging in free trade, for profit to both the buyer and seller.

  • Thailover

    And if anyone thinks the left have changed….. you are wrong, they have not changed. They would rather have tens of millions of people starve to death than give up their dreams of “Social Justice” and an end to the “chaos of capitalism”.

    They have to tout their “equality of outcome” nonsense to allegedly justify their violent attack on property rights, i.e. abrogation of the principle of earning, as one owns what one earns, and they do this allegedly as a correction of past wrongs. (To Leftists, two wrongs make a right). But what it REALLY is, of course, is a means of giving “free stuff” to dependent people in exchange for them giving up actual freedoms. To be taken care of is to be controlled. It’s nothing much more than a vote-farming industry.

    But the equality of outcome idea didn’t come from thin-air either, as it’s predicated on Altruism, the idea that the only true basis for morality is for the haves to “give till it hurts” to the have-nots, even if it’s not voluntary or earned, or deserved. How much should be, uh, “redistributed”? Oh, I don’t know…how about until everyone has equality of outcome?

  • Julie near Chicago


    I assume you mean the use of the word “retarded” in a realistic sense, rather than as a nasty smear — as in name-calling, or, as we still occasionally hear, ‘RE-TARD!’

    For instance, using the word “special” as a euphemism for “retarded,” or “dyslexic,” or whatever, only points up the difficulty. I once was at a studio recital, just a bunch of us playing for each other and our families. One of the people happened to have some physical problem that interfered with proper brain activity. Our teacher indicated his approval of her performance by saying something like “Very nicely played, Mary. You’re something quite special!” He wasn’t referring at all to her disability. But she spoke up and said, “Don’t call me ‘special’! I hate that! I’m as good as anybody else and I’m getting along fine!” or words to that effect.

    But among children, and among many adults even to this day, “retarded” or “RE-TARD!!” is specifically intended as a taunt or jeer. I speak from experience. My little sister never developed beyond the age of about six months, with all that that implies. (She lived at home with us, and my folks cared for her devotedly, until she died, aged 24.) Certain of the nastier-minded school-kids would occasionally let fly with some verbal chimp chips. And although most of the adults in our little town (pop. 1800, everybody knows everybody and their business) were perfectly understanding and decent about it, but there were those who thought we were “queer” (in the proper sense), or that my folks had brought about her condition somehow, or that it was a punishment, or some such.

    As an adult I have known other adults who’ve been at the receiving end of this stuff. One of my friends had a retarded daughter, who was functional enough to hold some sort of part-time job IIRC, but who did need assisted living. At some point I asked her a little more about the daughter’s condition. She hesitated, and I told her it wasn’t that smarmy sort of curiosity about others’ misfortunes, and she said she knew that (I’d previously told her about my sister), but that so often when people asked such questions, that’s exactly what they were after–the dishy details, if I may put it so.

    And speaking of “cripple,” that too has historically been used all too often as a pejorative, an insult, a statement that a person is “not up to snuff” is some major way. Like the “Re-tard,” the “Crip” is less than a fully-human being.

    Just to be perfectly clear, I hope everybody here knows what I think of all this PC imposition of false delicacy on everybody. For instance, proscribing the word “blackballed” onaccounta WAY-CISSSM? The mind boggles!

    But it doesn’t hurt to have a policy of speaking decently to others, unless by their own actions or words they’ve invited insult. (Except when kidding around with friends, and no hidden barbs in the insult-fest.)

  • Laird

    Julie, I don’t mean to dismiss or denigrate your sister’s (or anyone’s) condition, but I nonetheless have to disagree with your comment.

    People (especially children, who can be remarkably cruel) can and do use nearly anything as an insult. So what? You don’t have to accept it as such, or to dignify it by taking exception even if you do. The power of insult is in your reaction to it, not the intent of the other person; you are the one who gives him that power. The fact that some people choose (and it is a choice) to take offense at certain perfectly innocuous words is not a justification for accepting that those words have been rendered “beyond the pale” or unutterable in polite company. That merely creates (and rewards) a learned sensitivity, and gives undeserved power to crybabies (or “crybullies”, in the current felicitous term). Moreover, it is a losing game: they will never be satisfied, and will simply transfer their complaint to whatever euphemism you use instead, without end.

    The only rational approach is to ignore people’s claims of “offense” and cease all attempts to be “politically correct” (and indeed, to affirmatively seek out ways to trigger their offense at those perfectly innocuous words). If you choose to take offense at the word “retard”, irrespective of whether it is intentionally used in an insulting fashion, that is your problem. Examine your premises.

  • bobby b

    “If you choose to take offense at the word “retard”, irrespective of whether it is intentionally used in an insulting fashion, that is your problem. Examine your premises.”

    The main problem with this is that the people who are apt to be most hurt by the use of the word “retard” are not those who can intellectually and dispassionately examine their premises and separate themselves from the insult.

    This one word occupies a special place, different from using the wrong pronoun on an asexual post-lesbianic trans-male furryman. The pain caused by “retard” can’t be ameliorated by introspection and reasoning, because the people it ridicules and hurts aren’t very good at introspection and reasoning.

    This isn’t being PC. I also don’t tell ugly people that they’re ugly. I do occasionally tell cheap people that they are niggardly, mostly for the reaction. My usual response to PC is “get over it”, but we don’t need to run from just being decent.

  • Laird

    I understand your point, bobby b, but I don’t accept it as it doesn’t really apply to my comment. First, while I agree that such people may be less able to respond as rationally as we might like, and I would never use such a word about them in their presence (I do possess some minimal degree of sensitivity!), I am really speaking about the general use of “retard” in a non-pejorative sense among people of relatively normal intelligence. I would without apology use it there even in reference to persons who are, well, retarded. It’s one thing to take offense at an insult directed at you, especially when you really do have subnormal intelligence; it’s quite another to take vicarious offense at a term when it is correctly, even clinically, applied to a third party who isn’t even present.

    And as a further reason for refusing to accept the taking of generalized offense at that term, I point out that persons who suffer the vapors over “moron” are never satisfied, but will move on to take vicarous “offense” (sneer quotes intentional) at the next euphemism you come up with. Witness Julie’s story about the person who took offense at the wholly innocent use of the word “special”. It has now been reduced to yet faux insult, another reason for taking offense. I don’t blame the child who so reacted; it’s what she has been taught. I blame the supposedly “caring” persons who have irredeemably corrupted yet another euphemism (“moron” itself was originally a euphemism, of course). It never ends, so the only cure is simply to ignore such wilting pearl-clutchers.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Laird, for the most part I’m entirely in agreement with what you say; but the difference lies in whether any individual one of us thinks it perfectly fine to be insulting for the sake of being insulting, to give hurt for the sake of giving hurt.

    Given this one rider regarding the appropriate use of the words, I’m also in agreement with Thai’s comment above at 10:33 pm, where he wrote “There’s nothing wrong with the word ‘cripple’, just as there’s nothing wrong with the word ‘retarded’”, and with Mr. Jarvis in the SQOTD, in which he writes,

    “… [W]ords like `cripple’ are embargoed in favour of euphemisms like `differently abled’ ….”

    and finishes by mocking the PC phrase most entertainingly.

    I disapprove of using “retarded” or “crippled” as an insult, just as much as I disapprove of using “gay” as a way of avoiding the dread use of the word “homosexual.” “Homosexual” is not inherently any sort of pejorative either; and I will readily use all three of these words as long as I have no intent to hurt or insult. (The Great Frog forbid I should lose control of my tongue due to outrage — which is a natural and in fact extremely healthy emotion when good people are judged as Bad People because of being homosexual per se, or for being crippled, or for being retarded, or worst of all, for having children with such horrible deformities. It is simply not true that such people are therefore subhuman or deserve moral condemnation.)

    I don’t see the harm in reminding ourselves to keep a civil tongue in our heads. And I say that to give a pass to uncivil speech is to encourage the same, though mostly one doesn’t make a federal case of it.

    Where the rubber hits the road is in the issue of just what speech really is uncivil and worthy of the time involved in noting, let alone stressing, that.

    . . .

    I see that while I was thinking about this, bobby weighed in. I agree with what he says, and even more with the implications of his final paragraph.

  • bobby b

    September 10, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    ” . . . I would never use such a word about them in their presence . . . “

    And that was my only concern over the use of the word (not that I think that you would.) I’m just not certain we can ever know that our words won’t reach their presence. It’s one of the few words that I think can harm the innocent, and so I just don’t use it. Unless I’m typing on a libertarian web site, of course . . .

  • Paul Marks

    Thaiover – yes, from the very start, Christians have been divided on these matters. And both sides can pull quotations from scripture to support their side of the argument.

    Sadly in the present time the Christian “left” (for want of a better terminology) seems to be massively winning over the Christian “right”.

    Most mainstream Christian churches (not just the Roman Catholic Church under the Liberation Theology Jesuit who has taken possession of the seat of Saint Peter) are now supportive of “Social Justice”. And “Social Justice” must logically lead to the collapse of civilisation and mass starvation.

    They do not want the collapse of civilisation and mass starvation – but they philosophy they teach must, if it wins, lead to this result.

    Very few Christian Churches now formally reject “Social Justice” and teach that “justice” (what people have a RIGHT to) is to-each-their-own (regardless of inequality) and that justice is NOT the same thing as benevolence (the Christian virtue of Charity).

    It must be formally stated that a Church that teaches that people have a RIGHT to take by force the income and wealth of others as a matter of “Social Justice” is a force for EVIL.

    Yes evil. They may not intend evil results – but such teachings lead to evil results, horribly evil results (including for the poor).

  • Thailover (September 9, 2017 at 11:18 pm et seq.), the moneychangers in the temple were an ordinary licensing scam such as we free traders should condemn (whether with Christ’s methods or others, as one feels appropriate). Citizens turned up with their ordinary money or gifts and were told they had to be exchanged for special ‘purified’ (i.e. licensed) ones (at a healthy mark-up, of course). Christ, in calling such people “thieves”, was saying nothing we would not echo on any similar authority-sponsored scam today.

    (I commented on your idiosyncratic view of the Ananias story here.)

    As regards the main post – that we are rivalling (or exceeding?) the Victorians prudery about sex- I could not agree more: today too, there are things we must say and things we must not say. Additionally, the Victorians, while shy of sex, were very ready to talk of death. We, I think, are less ready.

  • Julie near Chicago


    “… [W]e are rivalling (or exceeding?) the Victorians prudery about sex ….”

    Indeed, IMO we are far more obsessed with sex than the Victorians ever were. Anyhow, they may not have chosen to discuss it much in mixed company, but if V.R. said to His Highness (I forget — a prince of Germany?) — as is reported — “Sir, do you know how many children I have?” it sounds to me as if the activity itself was not forgone because of excessive delicacy in speech.

    The rest of the para. also applies. (I don’t know that in the 1800s they worried excessively about the unconscionable use of “he” as the pronoun of unspecified gender, nor about the sexual abuse of pronouns generally. By the way, I do hope no one here has been sexually abusing his/her/its/their pronouns. 👿 ) :>)

    Thanks for the link. :>)