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Samizdata quote of the day

When University of Edinburgh students recently censured the anthropology lecturer Neil Thin, they saw the aim of studying as “to learn how to decolonise our thinking and create an inclusive society and environment”. It’s a view that more closely resembles the medieval fusion of intellectual study and religious faith than it does the critical Enlightenment stance that supplanted it.

Mary Harrington

25 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • asiaseen

    It would be a bonus if they actually learned to think.

  • Stonyground

    “…decolonise our thinking…”

    What does that even mean? Is it something to do with a rejection of colonialism, which isn’t even a thing anymore? Is it a refusal to allow other people’s naughty ideas into your head? It would help if these people learned to express themselves properly.

  • NickM

    Isn’t like the important thing that we like de-colonised our er… like actual real colonies made up of real territory and real people and we did that like way back. I mean the British Empire ain’t exactly what it used to be…

    Mary Harrington is spot on though. It is demented morality and not education. I went to Nottingham University to learn physics (with a side order of maths) which I did. I don’t recall colonial (or indeed decolonial) quantum mechanics.

  • Paul Marks

    Stonyground and NickM.

    “decolonise” is NOT really a claim that black people were the original inhabitants of these islands and white (really pinkish grey) people are evil “colonisers” who must be exterminated – although the left does hint at this position from time to time (hence the nonsense about Cheddar Man and so on). “decolonise” really means campaign against “whiteness” as a POLITICAL and CULTURAL concept (not really about skin colour) – essentially “whiteness” means “capitalism” (look how the term “whiteness” is defined – even in American military documents now, such “evils” as hard work and rational thought).

    “decolonise”, exterminate “whiteness” (defined in political and cultural terms – it is not really about skin colour), in the interests of “inclusion” (i.e. exclusion) – this is our old friend the Frankfurt School of Marxism.

    The Conservative Party is supposed to fight this – could someone please explain that to Central Office.

    By the way NickM – I remember when you used to say that Frankfurt School Marxism had not yet hit the physical sciences in the universities, sadly IT HAS NOW.

    Remember Objective Truth, Reason and Evidence are all evil examples of “whiteness” – a scientific theory must be judged solely on the basis of whether it serves the Progressive Cause, or the evil cause of “whiteness” “Power Structures”.

    Universities in Russia and China think this is total nonsense (because it is total nonsense) – but if you say that in a Western university you are a “racist” (Boo-Hiss) and you will be OUT.

    The United States military now has a mission to uphold Woke (Frankfurt School) values around the world (not just in the United States) – fighting against “racism”, “sexism”, “homophobia”, “transphobia” and so on – opposing “whiteness” (i.e. such things as rational thought – by people of any skin colour).

    We just have to get used to the idea that the United States military (under Biden/Harris and the people they have appointed) is no longer an ally – any more than Western universities are any more seats of learning (sorry I mean evil “whiteness”).

  • Paul Marks

    If someone went into a university, or a corporation, or the United States military and said……

    “I am here to push Marxism and use you to help me create a totalitarian state” they would be opposed.

    So they do NOT say that, what they say is “I am here to oppose racism, sexism and ……” – that is the genius of the Frankfurt School of Marxism – which dominates so much of the modern West.

    The goal is Marxist tyranny, a boot stamping down on a human face – for ever. But it is dressed up as “diversity and inclusion” and all the rest of the double talk.

    It is a pity that political parties that are supposed to be about opposing Marxism have not worked this out.

  • Paul Marks

    NickM – say (for exmapole) you objected to the false presentation of historic temperature data (academic fraud).

    If you do that, then you are against “Climate Justice” which means you are a RACIST – so you will be OUT.

    Simple – but deadly.

  • NickM

    Yes, Paul,
    I was kinda wrong. I think it is different now but in the the ’90s there really wasn’t, as far as I could tell, “wokeness” in the lab. Of course my UG intake (Physics – UCAS code F300) was almost all white middle-class males* which is of course damning in and of itself – I mean we hardly had an opportunity to be racist or sexist now did we? We were discriminated against because we simply didn’t have the opportunity to treat the black guy as the house negro who would do the heavy lifting in the lab. Or nip a female lab-tech on the ass or do anything to exert our white male middle-class sense of privilege. Even though we did have a lab-tech called Karen. Women called Karen are of course fair game for anything.

    Am I the only one who finds the Karen stereotype just as offensive as the idea that a guy called Ahmed is obviously gonna be a Jihadi? Actually, it is perhaps more offensive, because the people who do the Karen thing go to great lengths to make out how inclusive etc. they are.

    But… Nowadays though you do hear mutterings about getting the correct answer or showing your working in maths (and I assume therefore physics) to be a “white” thing and therefore discrimination. Oddly enough I don’t feel a racist for wanting a plane I get on to have been designed and piloted by someone who shares my terribly racist zeal for exactitude in science.

    *Jews were over-represented compared to the overall national demographics but then Jews are even worse than whites.

  • pete

    I’m not sure the Enlightenment is really that relevant.

    Human nature doesn’t change.

    There always have been and always will be intolerant, power hungry people who demand obedience and deference from everyone else.

    The woke phenomenon is today’s example.

    At least woke people only want to cancel us if we dare dissent. They don’t want to burn us at the stake, chop our heads off, send us to a gulag or even to a concentration camp to be murdered.

    We are lucky to be living in a time with such a relatively benign threat to our freedoms.

  • Duncan S

    “They don’t want to burn us at the stake, chop our heads off, send us to a gulag or even to a concentration camp to be murdered.”

    I actually think that some (most?) of them DO. Thankfully there are laws in place* that make them think twice.

    *For now at least.

  • NickM


    Where they burn books, they will also burn people.

    -Heinrich Heine

  • NickM

    I hope y’all took my reply to Paul in the spirit of the ridiculous in which it was intended. Now I’m getting paranoid!

  • I’m not sure the Enlightenment is really that relevant.

    The foundations of western civilisation are not relevant?

    They don’t want to burn us at the stake, chop our heads off, send us to a gulag or even to a concentration camp to be murdered.

    Don’t be daft, a not inconsiderable number of them want exactly that, it just isn’t feasible at this stage. We already have a (relatively benign) totalitarian health-and-safety state in much of the western world (if you doubt me, please tell me what aspect of life is now unregulated. You can’t be a fucking hairdresser without a licence in a great many places). Taking that somewhere more brutal is a matter of degree rather than form, so it only needs incremental ‘progress’ rather than a revolution to end up with re-education camps & gulags as a logical end state.

    We are are rapidly changing from a rights based society into a permission based society. If you don’t think so, you must have slept through the last year.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Great comment, Perry!
    Just a couple of quibbles.

    I have never been sure what “the Enlightenment” means, so i cannot honestly say that it (the Enlightenment) is relevant.
    OTOH I feel confident that anybody who condemns it without reservations, is to be regarded with suspicion.

    We are are rapidly changing from a rights based society into a permission based society.

    Perhaps you might have substituted
    permission –> privilege

    But it’s a matter of taste, i guess.

  • Fraser Orr

    FWIW, I thought this was an excellent article beyond just the quote in the OP, so, if you didn’t read it, I’d recommend you do. It did help crystalize some of the growing concerns I have had over the past year, namely the reversion of the enlightenment to a kind of state ordered religion, and has all the hallmarks of the medieval period. If I might say, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, but we really should, because we already see the beginnings of it.

    It seems to be so deeply ironic that this new religion is called “science” when religion is, in many respects, the opposite of science. Which isn’t necessarily to declare them incompatible. Grief is, after all, the opposite of joy, but they can coexist. The very essence of religion is to believe what you are told by your betters, whereas the very essence of science is to believe only what can be shown by evidence. Religion is based on authorities, science on expertise. And yet somehow this has been reversed, where we must believe what men in white coats say, and never dare question them. I guess at least the costumes are less ridiculous.

    I think that had I been choosing the qotd from this article I’d have preferred the Voltaire quote she uses:

    “Once your faith […] persuades you to believe what your intelligence declares to be absurd, beware lest you likewise sacrifice your reason in the conduct of your life […] Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

    We must of course recognize that our intelligence falls short sometimes. Of course the idea that black people or women or the landless were qualified participate in government was once thought absurd, and thankfully we have matured as a species beyond that. However, the poison coursing through the veins of our society is the very essence of religious tyranny — demands for orthodoxy, punishment for heresy, and the silencing of dissent. Healthy societies welcome the unorthodox, the heretics and the dissenting voice. Societies that do not should very much expect the Spanish Inquisition.

  • staghounds

    “Healthy societies welcome the unorthodox, the heretics and the dissenting voice.”

    That depends on your definition of healthy. Plenty of societies have thriven for centuries, including aspects of most societies now, based on the anthill model.

    There’s something in human nature that craves it. It feels good to belong, to know your place and be fit for it, to not have to make decisions you don’t feel competent to. Swimming with the current is easier.

  • That depends on your definition of healthy. Plenty of societies have thriven for centuries, including aspects of most societies now, based on the anthill model.

    Have they? Depends on your definition of thrive.

  • Paul Marks


    When the Frankfurt School Marxists strike – they strike hard, and they strike fast.

    For example, one will arrive in a Biology department – and will denounce biology (as taught) as “racist”, and “sexist” pointing out that some famous biologists were “racists” and “sexists”. Anyone who resists the Marxists will themselves be denounced as “racist” or “sexist” (or whatever) – tenure will NOT save these people, as the screams for them to be “cancelled” will be too strong.

    Just a business can not operate with hundreds of people constantly clogging up its telephone lines denouncing them (“you employ John Smith – John Smith is a RACIST, so you are RACISTS for employing him”) neither can a school or a university.

    So everyone in the school or university will have to at least pretend to believe the new doctrines (and TEACH them) – for example that mathematics is NOT objectively true (that, for example, if a black child says “1+1=3” that has to be marked correct – or you are a RACIST).

    When everyone has to pretend, for example, that the answer “1+1=3” is “equally valid” and it is RACIST to say otherwise – then civilisation collapses.

    Not just Western Civilisation – any Civilisation.

    Why do you think that such people as Mr Putin and Mr Xi will not allow the Frankfurt School (or French Post Modernism) to have power in their own countries.

    Mr Putin and Mr Xi are NOT nice people – but they want to be the dictators of strong, functioning, nations.

    The Frankfurt School and Post Modernism will, in the end, reduce the West to nothing but ashes and dried blood. After all that is what these doctrines were designed to do – they were designed as weapons of destruction.

  • Paul Marks

    “Plenty of societies have thrived for centuries based on the anthill model” – FALSE.

    Even the Inca Empire (so often trotted out as an example) had not lasted for “centuries” and was already in chaos (civil war) before the Spanish arrived.

    Economic law is NOT relative to “historical period” any more than it is to “race”.

    Collectivism does not work – it did not work when practiced by the Emperor Diocletian and it will not work under Klaus Schwab.

    America is now an example of the “basic income” (pushed by Andrew Wang and others) model – income created from nothing (by the Federal Reserve) and handed out by the government in return for people NOT working. Not so much an “anthill” as a dung heap.

    So not “just” mass unemployment, but also inflation and a shortage of basic goods. For, in the end, you must produce before you can consume – Adam Smith got many things wrong, but he did not get that wrong.

    The ideas of the international establishment elite are not just evil – they will also NOT WORK.

    It is their economic failure that will destroy them – a society dominated by the the state and a few giant (“pet”) Corporations will NOT WORK.

    The state dominated economy of Diocletian failed. And when Chinese Emperors turned to similar policies (and the first Chinese dynasty to do that was centuries before Diocletian) the dynasty fell (again and again) and new people came to power – the “Mandate of Heaven” shifted to a new dynasty which (at least at first) allowed greater economic freedom.

  • Paul Marks

    Why did Britain have an industrial revolution before other countries?

    Not a matter of some native racial genius – in most other countries such innovation would have been legally impossible, due to the state backed guild system (which Britain did not have).

    This did not mean that France and other countries had state run economies – because most of their economy was farming (which was not state controlled), it “just” meant that industry could not develop very well (because there were laws which had the effect of preventing innovations being applied by free competition).

    In the case of France the law that said everyone in a trade had to be a member of a guild and abide by its rules went back to Henry IV – there had not always been such a law in France. Louis XIV and Colbert added to this by demanding that all sorts of state regulations (licensing and so on) be followed – on top of guild restrictions (just in case a guild had an attack of sanity).

    Guilds were not made compulsory all over France till only a few years after the English guilds (with the exception of the City of London guilds) were abolished. Abolishing guilds is not good either – but it is better than making them compulsory.

    There were insane regulations in England as well – have a look at some of the pieces of legislation that were passed in the last years of Elizabeth the First. But there was no Civil Service to enforce them.

    In most of England there was just unpaid Justices of the Peace (normally local landowners or merchants) who were not really interested in enforcing insane regulations passed in London.

    The madness of a professional “Mandarin” (note the Chinese word) Civil Service was not to come to England till the time of Sir Charles Trevelyan.

    I repeat – when the bureaucrats really got a grip on every aspect of Chinese society, that was a sign that a dynasty was soon to fall. It happened many times – with a period of blood soaked chaos each time. Followed by a new dynasty that, at first, did not try and control everything.

    To judge by repeated Chinese experience Western societies are now at the point where a dynasty was soon to fall.

    The government and corporate elite may not be so secure as they suppose. The ultimate intensification of state (and corporate) power leads to its breakdown – in chaos.

    Tyranny and chaos are not really opposites – they are close kin.

  • staghounds

    Just to pick a couple of examples, the societies of vessels at sea and in the air aren’t very welcoming to “the unorthodox, the heretics and the dissenting voice”. Nor is the factory assembly line or construction site.

    And all three of those terms began by specifically defining people who didn’t get along with the Church, and it’s still here after a millenium and most of another.

    All those bossy empires and employee manuals came along because they answered the human- the mammal, I believe- drive to know your place. That’s why we have to fight so hard to oppose our Masters- not because they are clever, but because what they offer is sweet to so many people.

    In Scotland recently, a freely chosen gang of parliamentarians just decided what people were allowed to say in their own homes. A lot of people crave the yoke.

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    Still, if this is the fall of Western Civilization, then a group of committed Libertarians could be ready to fill the void of Chaos. When everything falls apart, they could offer gold and silver in place of fiat money, and go armed to impose capitalist and democratic rules on their own societies. Robert Heinlein suggested that was how his future Earth could evolve in the book ‘Starship Troopers’. In fact, it first started in Scotland….
    Until then, we’ll need to accept that ‘fact’ is another 4-letter word.

  • I could pick holes in staghounds (May 10, 2021 at 11:41 pm) first paragraph – a modern building site is a safer place to express un-PC opinions than a university – but am more interested in commenting on his second paragraph.

    He is right that the words ‘unorthodox’, ‘heretic’ and ‘dissenter’ do indeed remind us that the freedom of speech we took rather for granted in the UK just before the millennium was achieved in part by people who would endure being burned alive rather than promise to pursue the Christian good in the prescribed way instead of what they themselves judged was the true way. (My post immediately following this one is about the true way to oppose racism being very unlike the way that the woke prescribe.)

    I say ‘in part’ because some (not all) of the 17th century sects, to whom some of these very brave martyrs belonged, were themselves ready to enforce their opinions as the only truth whenever they got power (banning Christmas was ‘puritanism gone mad’ back in the 1650s). The story is incomplete without noting that they not only caused the establishment slowly to discover that dissent simply would not be eliminated – when they became the establishment, they slowly discovered that the courage of one’s convictions was not confined to them; that as much cruelty as they could stomach would not eliminate the will to dissent from them either. This eventual failure and exhaustion of the period’s central struggle greatly helped even those who loved power slowly to notice that Christ’s words and behaviour were extraordinarily ill-suited to justifying nailing people to crosses (or burning them or persecuting them) just for verbally disagreeing with you – that freedom was the only true orthodoxy.

    Today, we have good reason to think that we are far from merely seeking to replace one prescribed speech with another, as the woke pretend. That noted, I agree with Fraser Orr (May 9, 2021 at 8:40 pm) that the article this post quotes from has some interesting thoughts besides the one quoted.

    To Stock, knowledge is what matters, while power can and should be relegated to background … And yet the most compelling section of Stock’s book concerns, in fact, precisely the operations of power: specifically, of those powers … currently going all out to suppress her worldview in favour of their own. … The same implicit acknowledgement of the limits to rational analysis emerges even more powerfully in her account of the “gender-critical” resistance to trans activist policy capture … marshalling their tiny resources highly effectively … by dint of determination, these groups pushed back against well-funded and politically connected lobbies … In other words: it wasn’t reasonable persuasion as such that moved the needle [back]. It was leaning as hard as possible on every available lever of political power.

    If we cannot defeat the woke by “marshalling [our] tiny resources highly effectively” to trip up their methods of looting power, we will be reduced to defeating them by making them experience failure. History suggests the latter is a slow and tedious process.

  • nesalpers

    All those bossy empires and employee manuals came along because they answered the human- the mammal, I believe- drive to know your place. That’s why we have to fight so hard to oppose our Masters- not because they are clever, but because what they offer is sweet to so many people.

    Most mammals look out for their families and don’t go joining suicide cults, master/slave pyramids, or nations. You can keep your bondage and discipline, you miserable cursed monkeys. 😛

    Even amid all the social madness of mankind – the leonine conditions akin to slavery if not de-facto slavery, the cultish demands for submission to narcissists and sociopaths, and the entire other catalog of horror, there are some people, families, and groups that have contrived to remain free. We owe to these people most of the knowledge and physical and technological progress attributed to “mankind”. It is only free men who are free to create anything but the designs of the bastards holding the whips.

  • bobby b

    “It is only free men who are free to create anything but the designs of the bastards holding the whips.”

    There are things open to disparagement in Ayn Rand’s works, but the concept of going Galt at the correct time still has a place in a rational and crumbling world. Come back when things are free again.

  • llamas

    NickM wrote:

    ‘Am I the only one who finds the Karen stereotype just as offensive as the idea that a guy called Ahmed is obviously gonna be a Jihadi?’

    The first mrs llamas was christened Karen – even way back then, she knew how to disguise her true self, and used a self-adopted name. Since she loved to do nothing more than to tell me what to do, I suspect that the stereotype has a longer history than we perhaps recognize.