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]

The view from Brazil is that peace is also the health of the state

The most recent of my Last Friday of the Month meetings was actually not on the last Friday of March because that was Good Friday, and my speaker Bruno Nardi and I decided to hold it a week earlier, on the 23rd. Bruno Nardi is a Brazilian libertarian and he spoke, unsurprisingly, about Brazilian libertarianism. The Brazilian state having become more than usually obtrusive and kleptocratic in recent years, libertarianism in Brazil is doing rather well just now. (I very much fear that libertarianism in Britain may soon be about to do rather well also, but that is another story.)

Before telling us about the contemporary libertarian scene in Brazil, Bruno prefaced that story with some Brazilian history, which I am rather ashamed to admit was almost entirely new to me. On the other hand, his basic point was that Brazilian history is rather undramatic, so maybe I needn’t be so ashamed after all.

Brazil started out as a Portuguese colony, but did you know that, in or around 1814, it became an independent Kingdom? Perhaps you did, but I didn’t. I did know that around that time, various armies were crashing about in Spain and Portugal, because the Duke of Wellington and his army were busy pushing Napoleon’s army back over the Pyrenees. But as to what happened in Brazil as a result of its Mother Country being invaded, well, I had never given it a thought. If Hitler had managed to invade Britain in 1940, you can well imagine Churchill and our Royals and a boat full of government functionaries hopping across to Canada, and setting up a new and “independent” kingdom of Canada. In Brazil, this is what actually happened. (Googling has made me more confused about the exact date of all this, but it definitely happened around then.)

In general, however, the history of Brazil is notable for its paucity of dramatic history dates. After 1814-ish, the next history date that Bruno focussed on was some time around 1880 or 1890, when there was this big Constitutional change, the nature of which I now forget, and which in any case, said Bruno, had little effect on regular life for most Brazilians. Then something else political happened in 1930. And then the next date to be discussed was 1964! I thought: hang about. Weren’t the times between 1930 and 1964 rather dramatic for the world? Well, yes, these were dramatic times, for the world. But for Brazil, not so much. Brazil pretty much sat out World War 2, just as it had pretty much sat out World War 1.

A little light googling has told me that Brazil has been involved in warfare, a bit, as Bruno did mention, especially during the nineteenth century against neighbouring states, notably Paraguay. There were a number of internal rebellions, all defeated. And Brazil did get involved in the world wars, fighting against Germany in both, a bit. So there definitely is such a thing as Brazilian military history. But Brazilian involvement in war was indeed nearly nothing compared to what the European nations were doing to one another and to the rest of the world during those same times, or compared to such events as the American Civil War.

War, we libertarians are fond of telling each other, is the health of the state. Peruse the most recent posting here by our own WW1 historian, Patrick Crozier, to see how we often think about such things. So, what about that increasingly obtrusive and kleptocratic Brazilian state that has been putting itself about lately, stirring up misery and libertarianism? There have been no big wars to make the Brazilian state as healthy as it now is, and especially not recently. What of that?

The story Bruno Nardi told made me think of the book that explains how peace is also the health of the state, namely Mancur Olson’s public choice theory classic, The Rise and Decline of Nations. It is years since I read this, but the story that this book tells is of the slow accumulation and coagulation of politics, at the expense of mere business, as the institutions of a hitherto thriving nation gang up together to form “distributional coalitions” (that phrase I do definitely recall). The point being that if you get involved in a war, and especially if you lose a war, the way Germany and Japan lost WW2, that tends to break up such coalitions.

The last thing on the mind of a German trade unionist or businessman, in 1946, was lobbying the government for regulatory advantages or for subsidies for his particular little slice of the German economy. Such people at that time were more concerned to obtain certificates saying that they weren’t Nazis, a task made trickier by the fact that most of them were Nazis. Olson’s way of thinking makes the post-war (West) German and then Japanese economic miracles, and the relative sluggishness of the British economy at that time, a lot more understandable. Winning a war, as Olson points out, is not nearly so disruptive of those distributional coalitions, in fact it strengthens them, as Crozier’s earlier posting illustrates.

You’ll get a bit more of the flavour of Olson’s thinking if you read this SQotD from 2012.

I met up with Bruno Nardi again last week at a Libertarian Home meeting, where I spoke to him along the lines sketched out in the previous paragraphs, mentioning the title of Olson’s book, and I ended up by asking: Does that ring any bells with you, as a way of talking about Brazil and its history? Yes, he said, that’s what it was like. Gradually the political crooks got their various acts together and made their various deals and accommodations, and it got worse and worse and the state that they negotiated between them got bigger and bigger.

In Brazil, the idea of libertarianism has usually been felt as foreign. But it’s an idea that Brazilians are now definitely getting told about.

You can read Bruno Nardi’s recent postings at Libertarian Home by going here. I particularly like the one entitled Take the hypothetical seriously. What if? What if, although Bruno didn’t ask this in that piece, Brazil was governed differently, in a more freedom-friendly way to the way it has been governed for the last few decades? And what if the same applied everywhere else?

Samizdata quote of the day

From this laborious work, and from all my other efforts in this field, I have drawn the conclusion that the evidence for social constructionism is a mirage in the desert. It does not exist. Most people in the humanities – including those who are able to express their opinions freely without fear of being fired – presuppose that gender roles are social constructs, and that the results obtained by natural scientists are determined by their social and political environment. Thousands of pages of academic ‘research’ express such notions, and thousands of university students are taught that this is how things are. But it is all hot air. The whole scenario is reminiscent of The Emperor’s New Clothes – nobody listens to the little boy who alone has the courage to point out that the Emperor is naked.

Much of this material – and Judith Butler’s obscurantism, in particular – functions like a Latin liturgy. It is not meant to be understood. About 600 years ago, the clergy in England supposedly existed to combat evil and make the world a better place. The sermons were in Latin, and the Bible was only available in Latin, so laypeople had no means of verifying what the clergy told them about religious doctrine. When a number of idealists translated the Bible into English so that common people could read and understand it, the idea – in principle, anyway – was that this would give more people direct access to God’s word. But instead of embracing this opportunity, the clergy fought all attempts at translation. And when the Bible became available in a language that people understood, the clergy burned the English translations, and those who distributed them were caught and executed. Given the choice of either supporting the wider dissemination of God’s word or preserving their own power and authority, they chose the latter.

A similar pattern of motivated self-interest is in evidence today (although opponents are no longer executed). Social constructionism has transformed the humanities departments of many universities into a kind of postmodern clerisy. In its own understanding, this clerical class strives to improve the world by insisting that all differences between groups of people are social constructs that testify to the unfairness of society. Society, therefore, can and must be reconstructed to dismantle these iniquities. But if wide-ranging social change is being demanded, then the basis for those demands needs to be firmly established first. Scholars ought to be labouring to prove the extent to which such differences are indeed social constructs and the extent to which disparities can be mitigated or dispelled by the radical reorganisation of social policy and even society itself. But this step in the process is simply absent. Instead, theorists make claims without bothering to substantiate them. Confronted with a choice between the disinterested pursuit of truth and understanding, or preserving their ideologies and positions of influence, they consistently opt for the latter.

And so, large swathes of the humanities and social sciences have been corrupted by ideology. Pockets of integrity remain but they are the minority, and they are only tolerated so long as they do not contradict the central planks of the accepted narrative. The unhappy result is that our universities are corroding, and our students will graduate with nothing more than the ability to further corrode the rest of society.

– The concluding paragraphs of Kåre Fog’s essay for Quillette, entitled Lost Down Social Constructionism’s Epistemic Rabbit-Hole

It’s Easter Sunday and it’s wind up day

Here in Britain, Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day have today collided. But down in Australia they threw in winding the clocks back, just to liven things up even more.

Here the rule is that April Fool’s Day wind ups can only happen before 12 noon, so this is being posted in a rush to beat the deadline, assuming I have not miscalculated by an hour. No time to think of anything truly funny, but I can still ask. What have been today’s best Easter pranks? I’m sure there are lots of anti-Christian jokes along the lines of: Christ is risen, no he isn’t, gotcha. And last time AFD and Easter Sunday collided, Richard Dawkins converted to Catholicism. But I feel sure that our commentariat can do way better than that, or can at least report on someone doing better.

Strange how wind up as in “it’s a (pr) ‘wined’ up”, and wind up as in “put the (pr) ‘winned’ up” – and here’s hoping you made sense of that – are both spelt the same way and mean rather closely related things. English eh? (The government should sort it out. No it shouldn’t. Gotcha. Etc.)

Jordan Peterson on responsibility – and on why it is important that he is not a politician

Jordan Peterson is everywhere just now, and I do not think he will soon stop being everywhere. (He was also referred to here in yesterday’s SQotD.) Was this what it was like when John Wesley got into his communicational stride? When interesting things happen now, you find yourself understanding similar events in the past much better, events which had formerly seemed almost unimaginable.

I spent the small hours of this morning, the end of my version of last night, listening to this conversation, that Peterson had with an Australian politician called John Anderson, who is a new face to me. It was the video equivalent of not being able to put the book down.

In this conversation, Peterson repeated one of his most characteristic ideas, to the effect that people should bear the most responsibility that they can possibly carry. This is not merely because others will appreciate this and benefit from it, although that is a likely consequence and a definite feature. It is also that when life turns bad, when tragedy strikes, when God is throwing custard pies around, the fact that you are living your life meaningfully, as opposed merely to living it pleasurably, will be a great solace, in a way that merely having lived pleasurably will not be. “We are beasts of burden.”

This is what Peterson means by the word responsibility. Responsibilities are things that we all need, to make and find meaning in our lives. The happiness you get from doing something meaningful, even if often rather painful and perhaps very painful, is far deeper than the happiness you get from some merely pleasurable pastime or addictive drug or hobby. We all need fun. But we all need for our lives to be more than just fun.

Sometimes, depending on his audience, Peterson expands upon the idea of responsibility by using the language of Christianity, of the sort that is being used a lot today, on Good Friday. (Interesting adjective, that.) Do as Christ did. Live your life by picking up the biggest cross you can carry. Whether Peterson is himself a Christian and will at some future time declare himself to be a Christian is now much discussed, I believe. (I am an atheist, by the way. Which is a species of thinker for whom Peterson has a lot of respect, because at least we tend to do a lot of thinking.)

I have always been deeply suspicious of the word “responsibility”. It has again and again sounded like someone else telling me that I must do what he wants me to do rather than what I want to do. If he is paying my wages, then fair enough. But if he is explaining why I should vote for him, and support everything he does once he has got the job he is seeking, not so fair.

The sort of thing I mean is when a British Conservative Party politician says, perhaps to a room full of people who, like me, take the idea of freedom very seriously: Yes, I believe, passionately, in freedom. The politician maybe then expands upon this idea, often with regard to how commercial life works far better if people engaged in commerce are able to make their own decisions about which projects they will undertake and which risks they will walk towards and which risks they will avoid. If business is all coerced, it won’t be nearly so beneficial. We will all get poorer. Yay freedom.

But.

But … “responsibility”. We should all have freedom, yes, but we also have, or should have, “responsibility”. Sometimes there then follows a list of things that we should do or should refrain from doing, for each of which alleged responsibility there is a law which he favours and which we must obey. At other times, such a list is merely implied. So, freedom, but not freedom.

The problem with politicians talking about responsibility is that their particular concern is and should be the law, law being organised compulsion. And too often, their talk of responsibility serves only to drag into prominence yet more laws about what people must and must not do with their lives. But because the word “responsibility” sounds so virtuous, this list of anti-freedom laws becomes hard to argue against, even inside one’s own head. Am I opposed to “responsibility”? Increasingly, I have found myself saying: To hell with it. Yes.

I have often been similarly resistant to the language of Christianity, of the sort that dominates what is being said in churches around the world today. How many times in history have acts of tyranny been justified by the tyrant saying something like: We must all bear our crosses in life, and here, this cross is yours. “God is on my side. Obey my orders.” The truth about the potential of life to inflict pain becomes the excuse to inflict further pain.

I suffered the final spasms of this way of thinking at the schools I went to, not long after the Second World War. “Life is cruel, Micklethwait, and I am now going to prove it to you by making it even more cruel. I am preparing you for life.” This kind of cruelty may now have been more or less replaced by over-protectiveness, by excessively shielding children from activities that might prove painful. Peterson has a lot to say about that also. Much modern law-making, of the you-must-not-eat-too-many-sticky-buns sort, is motivated partly by this sort of thinking.

But getting back to what Peterson says about “responsibility”, the deeply refreshing thing about how he uses this word is that, because he is not a politician, he separates the benefits to me of me choosing to live responsibly from the idea of him deciding what he thinks these responsibilities of mine should be, and then compelling me to accept them whether I judge them to be wise or appropriate or meaningful for me or not. The process he wants to set in motion in my mind is of me thinking about what my responsibilities should be. He is arguing that I should choose my own cross, as best I can, and then carry it as best I can, because this is what will be best for me. He is not telling me which cross it should be, in a way that he calculates will be advantageous for him.

It helps a lot that Peterson chose his moment to step upon the political stage by vehemently opposing a law that might compel him merely to speak in a certain way. As he himself says, you see what someone truly believes by watching what he does. Peterson really does believe in freedom, as well as in a great many other interesting things.

Maybe, sometimes, a politician may actually mean what Jordan Peterson means when he talks about responsibility. Trouble is, if he does not make himself crystal clear about what he is and is not saying, you are liable to mishear him as just wanting to boss you around. Jordan Peterson is not the boss of me, and he is not trying to be. He is simply presenting me, and all the other multitudes of people who are listening to him now, with an argument, an argument that I for one find very persuasive.

Another way of putting all this is that Peterson is not telling me anything I didn’t already know. (He gets this a lot, apparently.) What he is doing is reclaiming and cleansing an important word.

Hope grows that Trump could ignore Congress on spending

That’s the heading. The sub-heading gives us a bit more detail:

Lawmakers and activists see encouraging signs that Trump officials could cut budgets by leaving federal money unspent.

Well, I may have changed things a bit there. See which version you prefer by comparing what I put with the original version.

I can’t fault paragraph one of the actual story:

Lawmakers and activists are preparing for the possibility that President Donald Trump’s administration, in its zeal to slash the federal budget, will take the rare step of deliberately not spending all the money Congress gives it — a move sure to trigger legal and political battles.

I had already been thinking to myself that Trump might do this. I didn’t think he would start making such noises quite so soon after signing the bill.

Next: actually not spending the money. But, never make that old “we demand action not words” mistake. Demand words, and then actions in accordance with those words, which is a hell of a lot more difficult if there have been no words to start with. If words didn’t count for anything, why the hell would we here bother with them, day after day?

Brendan O’Neill offers a handy guide to the language of the virtual left

This is a recent Spiked tweet. And that’s all it says, so no need to follow that link, unless to you want to chase up other Spikednesses. As well you might.

Thoughts on crime fiction – provoked by the recent publication of The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins

Some time towards the end of last year, my niece Roz emailed me to the effect that she was in London, and would I care to meet up with her for some coffee? I was intrigued. Because of our differing political views, Roz and I have had a polite but somewhat distant relationship. She is into feminism and environmentalism. I am into, well …: see all my other postings here. What was going on? Why this meet-up? I knew some unusual game was afoot. But what?

We duly met up, and after some further polite chit-chat, what was afoot was revealed. Roz had written a crime novel, called The Devil’s Dice. This book, she said, was in the process of being published, by a real publisher of the sort that you have heard of. I like crime novels, and I like detective dramas on television. And I know how hard it can be to write anything even as long as a longish blog posting (such as this one is (you have been warned)), let alone a book. So, I was impressed.

Although she didn’t spell this out, it was clear that Roz was then at the stage of communicating with everyone she could think of who might be able to help her sell this book. Which also impressed me. Good for her. And good for her also, and good for me, that she was content to include me in this process. Later, an advance copy of the book arrived at my home, in a bright gold bubble-wrapped package, together with some chocolate dice, in a little bag made of bright red netting.

I read the book, and found it thoroughly absorbing and entertaining. She writes really well.

A quote from the book? Try the dedication:

To my parents.

Thank you for your support and encouragement, and advice on how to kill people.

Roz’s mum, my older sister, was a National Health Service doctor, and her husband was a psychiatric social worker. Short of having parents who were directly involved in the criminal justice machine, like detectives or coroners or forensic pathologists or suchlike, a crime writer couldn’t ask for a better start.

→ Continue reading: Thoughts on crime fiction – provoked by the recent publication of The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins

Steven Pinker on how ‘progressives’ aren’t

Steven Pinker is quoted by John Tierney at the start of his review of Pinker’s Enlightenment Now, saying this:

Intellectuals hate progress. Intellectuals who call themselves ‘progressive’ really hate progress.

The mis- (I would say) -use of the word “progressive” to describe people who hate progress is a bit of a hobby horse of mine. I am delighted that intellectual mega-celeb Pinker seems to have found such excellent words to hit this point home.

Friends versus Followers: A latecomer’s personal experience of joining Facebook and Twitter

I remember the moment when I had to get plugged into email, some time in the mid-to-late 1990s. I was on the phone and he asked me: What’s your email? I had no answer. He said: oh. It was the way he said it. I knew I had to get an email address sorted immediately.

With social media it was much more gradual. For about a decade, the social media were sold to me as mechanisms for me to influence the world. But during that same decade my desire to influence the world slackened, and a rule of mine is: do not unleash solutions upon circumstances which are not a problem. So, no social media. But as time passed, I realised that I wasn’t just not changing the world, I was ceasing to understand it. The more I read things, the more I heard echoes of social media conversations and dramas of which I had no direct knowledge, which had been going on for a fortnight or more before I even heard rather confusing reports about whatever it was. I was losing touch. (In particular I failed to understand the last two US Presidential elections.)

So it was that, finally, years after most others of my acquaintance, I have now plugged myself into Facebook and into Twitter.

Not that this was easy, mind you. They kept asking me to type in bits of code which I had just asked them to send to me and which they claimed that they had just sent to me but which they never did send to me. But, with help, I eventually got it all sorted. Having waited a decade, the further wait wasn’t a problem.

First impression: I greatly prefer Twitter to Facebook. Indeed “greatly” doesn’t communicate the gulf. Twitter is, for me, now, very useful. Facebook is, for me, not useful, at all, not yet and maybe not ever.

The basic reason for this disparity of usefulness is that whereas I think I am pretty sure that I understand what Twitter means by the word “follower”, I have no clear idea at all of what Facebook means by the word “friend”.

As soon as I got connected to Facebook, a hoard of total strangers sent me emails (or Facebook sent me emails about them) referring to “notifications”, which said something along the lines of: let’s be friends. Who were these people? They didn’t seem like “friends”. More like email spammers. And what would it mean for me to be a “friend” of them? If I shared a home with a Facebook veteran all this would no doubt have been explained to me in about half a minute. But, I do not.

Some of the names involved in these Facebook “notifications” I recognised. These were the names of actual friends. I now have three Facebook “friends” who are also real life friends. But frankly, I am learning a lot less about these Facebook-and-real-life friends than I thought I would. I do, after all, possess and make use of: a telephone. And given how little I have learned about these genuine friends from their Facebook postings, I am not inclined to venture further into the great, for me, confusion that is Facebook.

It is always pleasing to see one’s immediate personal reactions seeming to be echoed by others, and I am pleased to note that Facebook is being criticised by others who know much more about it than I do. In particular, it is being accused of deranging rather than enhancing people’s social lives, crucially their friendships, and even, to some extent, driving them a bit mad. Perhaps this is just the usual moaning whenever you get a new technique of communication springing upon the world, but I’d be interested to hear what others say about these sorts of complaints.

Twitter, on the other hand, is a new friend.

“Follower” is a concept that made and makes, to me, immediate sense. No doubt the way that Twitter defines “follower” has ramifications and subtleties of which I am unaware, but the basic idea coincides with reality in a way that Facebook’s notion of “friend”, to me, absolutely does not.

My arrival on Twitter coincided almost exactly with the explosion into something resembling mass celebrity of Jordan Peterson, author of the current best seller 12 Rules For Life. This is a man whom I had already noticed, but whom a whole new slice of humanity is now noticing. And I too am now “following” Jordan Peterson.

But there is no suggestion, from Twitter or from anyone else, that Jordan Peterson is “following” me, and certainly not that he and I are in any sense “friends”. To Jordan Peterson, I am but one tiny blip in a cacophony of new-found celebrity. The concept of me being Jordan Peterson’s “follower”, in other words, precisely describes what is going on and, equally importantly, what is not going on. I am following him. He has no idea of my existence.

Twitter, in other words, makes sense to me because it separates two utterly distinct concepts: me paying attention to you, and you paying attention to me. Twitter also makes sense because attention is just that and only that, attention. It is the lowest form of human relationship, and anyone can start doing it, to anyone they learn about, whenever they please.

There are many more things to be said about Twitter and Facebook, and perhaps commenters on this will say some of these things. (I’m thinking of such matters as the ongoing debate about how and how much Twitter and Facebook are politically biased, and how much that matters.) But for now, instead of speculating about things that others know a lot more about than I do, I will instead turn my attention to concocting further Samizdata postings concerning the things which Twitter has told me about. And which Facebook has not.

One final point. Some of my favourite Tweets have come to me courtesy of this excellent man. No pressure was put upon me to say that, but say it I do. This elephant doing some tidying up, which this man retweeted a few days ago, is particularly wonderful. Jordan Peterson would surely approve.

The government of Romania versus the Adamescu family

Last Wednesday, I attended a meeting at the Frontline Club, which is near Paddington Station in west London. The meeting was devoted to the memory of the great Romanian businessman and freedom-championing newspaper owner Dan Adamescu, and the danger now facing Dan’s son Alexander Adamescu. Some friends of mine are also Friends of Alexander Adamescu, and this is me trying to help them.

Encouraged by the organisers, I took photos at that meeting, photos of very variable quality, because of my woeful inexperience in what for me were very imperfect lighting conditions. But, I hope that the best of them may be of some use to the cause, and assist Alexander Adamescu’s friends in stirring up more media attention.

The cause being that Dan Adamescu was, just over one year ago, imprisoned to death, so to speak, by the government of Romania, and that the government of Romania has for some time now been trying to do something similar to Dan’s son Alexander, after he complained what was being done to his father.

Here is a picture of the big picture of the late Dan Adamescu that presided over the meeting, beneath which sat Alexander Adamescu, who spoke at the meeting:

As you can see, I did a bit of photomanipulation there, to make it clearer what Alexander Adamescu looks like.

Alexander Adamescu now lives in London with his wife (who also spoke most eloquently about Dan Adamescu) and young family. But the government of Romania wants the British government to hand Alexander over to them, so that they can inflict upon him the same sort of parody of justice that they inflicted upon his father. Their instrument of choice to accomplish this is the European Arrest Warrant.

→ Continue reading: The government of Romania versus the Adamescu family

My 2017 in London photos

This posting may not see the light of day until tomorrow, or worse, because this evening I have a date at Chateau Samizdata to see in the New Year. But, I will now try to get it posted before the end of the year that it is retrospectively about. And yes, it’s one of those month-by-month photo-postings, one photo for each month.

Unlike, say, Michael Jennings, I not only live in London but spend almost all of my time in London, and I spend a lot of that time wandering about in London, taking photos of London’s architecture, of its adverts, of its other photographers, and of its many other oddities, such as this one:

I love to discover out of the way spots in London, spots that others don’t know about, but which, if they did, they might enjoy greatly, almost as much as I do. That strange and rather funny sculpture (be patient with this link (to my personal blog) – I do believe it worth the wait), which I photoed in January of 2017, is to be found beside the River Lea, just before it does a kink on its way south. It’s a hard place to describe, because if you look on Google Maps there is little of note in the area. The best I can do is to say that to get to this place, I went to Bromley-by-Bow tube station, went east across the River Lea and then went south, past big warehouses, of the sort that have become so important in this age of computerised shopping. There’s a big Amazon shed there, for instance.

The above sculpture concerns itself with the more regular sort of shopping, and what with it being the work of an artist, she thinks that it criticises such shopping. Materialism, the badness of capitalism, consumerism, blah blah. But to me it looks more like a celebration of shopping. Whatever it “is”, I like it.

Next up, a photo which notes the fact that exactly a hundred years ago from this year, there was that Revolution, in Russia. I didn’t visit the exhibition that this poster advertises, because I feared that too many of the exhibits would be celebrations of that disastrously destructive event, and would hence annoy me. But I did photo the advert:

Thank goodness for the movie The Death of Stalin, which came out later this year, and which I did see. That is very comical, but it is anything but a celebration of Soviet communism. The horrors are not wallowed in photographically, but they are portrayed, in the form of the terror felt by all those who had anything to do with Stalin, and in the form of all the absurd events that Stalin’s most casual instructions were liable to set in motion. Although I promise nothing, I hope to be writing more here about that movie.

March, and more politics, this time in the form of a big anti-Brexit demo that I chanced upon, in Parliament Square:

It’s tempting to mock this demo as a complete farce. It happened, after all, several months after the Brexit referendum had yielded its result. But although a demo like this attracts little public notice, given that the vote it denounced was, you know, a vote, such demos do still accomplish quite a lot. There is more to politics than mere voters merely voting. Demos, much like indoor meetings (of the sort I continue to hold every month in my own home), strengthen the personal relationships which add up to a political movement, and draw more adherents to the cause, whatever it is. Thanks to this effort, and many other less photogenic efforts, the anti-Brexiteers have been able to put all sorts of political barriers in the way of Brexit, to spread all sorts of doubts in the minds of waverers. I still don’t think they will accomplish their central goal, but they are putting up quite a fight.

→ Continue reading: My 2017 in London photos

A festive quote and two more festive photos

Festive photos to add to that photo of meat, from Christmas Eve, meat which I was lucky enough to share.

That evening we all did much toasting, and one of us photoed all our glasses while we were doing this. Many get angry about the modern habit of photoing food and drink just before it is consumed, but I say: Why not? Where’s the harm?

On Christmas Eve I was too busy holding up my own glass and joining in the fun to be photoing it. But, I did take a photo of a very similar event back on December 18th, on Primrose Hill, just to the north of Regents Park:

Christmas, or in this case the run up to Christmas, is a time to renew old acquaintances. I don’t know who these people were and how they were connected, and in this time of computerised face recognition, I have deliberately made this difficult with my photo. Friends? Relatives? What I do know is that they were greatly enjoying each other’s company, just as Perry and I and his other guests did on Dec 24th.

Later on Christmas Eve I did get my camera out, and I got this shot of our Dear Leader, enjoying a present that one of us had given him, of one of his favourite chocolate treats:

On a more serious note, I have been reading Deidre McCloskey’s book, The Bourgeois Virtues. At the beginning of her chapter entitled: The Very Word “Virtue”, McCloskey offers a number of quotes from bygone years, including this one from Benjamin Constant, who until now has been only a name to me. Apparently, in the year 1814, Constant said, in celebration of the greatly increased opportunities for human enjoyment that commerce was at that time beginning to make available to the generality of people, this:

The progress of civilization, the commercial tendency of the age, the communication among the peoples, have infinitely multiplied and varied the means of individual happiness. To be happy, men need only to be left in perfect independence in all that concerns their occupations, their undertakings, their sphere of activity, their fantasies.

Plus, a bit of spare cash and the chance to spend it on luxuries, like high quality meat (as Perry put it: “Duck with skin turned to quackling, stuffed with pheasant & wood pigeon”), and amusingly packaged chocolate. Here’s another toast, to: stuff. The stuff that has, since Benjamin Constant’s time, so greatly increased, by means of exactly the processes he refers to.

Concerning who and what Benjamin Constant was, I have yet to read this. Tomorrow, I intend to. Happy Christmas everyone, what’s left of it.