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 EU Fairy

Shot 1: An office, somewhere in Europe. Well-dressed yet approachable EUROPEAN PEOPLE of diverse race and gender TALK SERIOUSLY.

Back in 2015 the organisation Européens Sans Frontières (Europeans Without Borders) sponsored a competition to make a short film to raise public awareness of the issue of migration in Europe. The European Commission was involved in financing it somehow, though I am not clear whether it was funding just this film or the Européens Sans Frontières organization as a whole.

Shot 2: A studio full of keen, passionate young EUROPEAN FILM STUDENTS, hipster but not too hipster, you know what I mean, are doing FILM THINGS.

The film that won the competition was called “Eurodame, Help!”

It’s the weirdest thing since Captain Euro, not the new ironic Captain Euro, the original “yes, they actually did think this was a good idea” Captain Euro.

Anyway, back to Eurodame. On April 26th the film appeared on YouTube.

Shot 3: a EUROPEAN TECHNOLOGICAL PERSON clicks a mouse and sits back with a SIGH of SATISFACTION, conscious of a job well done.

Then the plot goes off the rails. Jack Montgomery of Breitbart London found the film on YouTube and posted about it today: Fairy Godmother’ Brings Migrants to Europe on a Flying Carpet in EU-Backed Cartoon. Oh dear. This is not going to end well.

Here it is direct from the creators: EURODAME, HELP!

As well as the French original, they also made versions in several languages, including Arabic.

Questions abound. Why is the entrance to Europe guarded by one rude man in short sleeves and a baseball cap? Why does the Euro-fairy need glasses? Who is the Obi-wan Kenobi bloke with the flying carpet? How is he different from the evil people-smuggler? How does the portrayal of Eastern Europeans contribute to intra-EU solidarity?

That really is an issue, you know. Here is an excerpt from the official script:

Shot 14:
The carpet arrives in an Eastern European country where they meet a hostile crowd.
The shopkeeper:
– There are refugees here, also seeking asylum.
The crowd:
– Immigrants!
The shopkeeper:
– But it’s their right!
The crowd shouting:
– No refugees here!

Shot 15:
The carpet resumes its course to the compass and turns west (W).

Shot 16:
The carpet arrives in a Western country. Eurodame is there to greet them.
Eurodame: – Welcome to our home!
The shopkeeper invites them to step down from the carpet. He smiles.
An eager crowd takes care of them, gives them food and clothing.

Shot 17:
Eurodame shows them into a nice house.

Why are the comments still on?

Who was the audience meant to be?

What on earth were they trying to achieve?

AntifArt

“He’s holding a sign that literally just says ‘the right to openly discuss ideas must be defended.’ Let that sink in.”

Paul Joseph Watson, who sent that tweet, is editor-at-large for Alex Jones’s conspiracy website Infowars. I doubt he and I have much in common. Nonetheless, I urge you to do what he says. Look at the brief film clip to which he links in that tweet and let what you see sink in.

Apparently it relates to events reported in the Hackney Citizen as follows: “VIDEO: Anti-fascists clash with lone counter-protester at LD50 Gallery”.

A protester, who declined to give his full name and, like many in the crowd, had his face covered, countered this viewpoint: “We don’t care about annoying liberal idiots or hard-right people that want to have free debate or whatever. We care about shutting down organizing spaces…there’s enough evidence to say that they’re organizing in this space. Any kind of fascist organizing causes a physical threat down the line.”

For what it’s worth, I cannot tell what the targets of the protest, the LD50 Gallery, are playing at, but it does seem as if more than just the Antifa might regard them with disquiet:

LD50 on Tottenham Road was targeted by anti-fascists in February after news emerged that it hosted a “Neoreaction conference” in 2016 featuring leading proponents of the so-called “alt right” movement.

Speakers at the event included Brett Stevens, who has previously praised Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, saying “he chose to act where many of us write, think and dream”.

[..]

“Although it has attracted the most attention for its Neoreaction and Alt Right exhibits, LD50 represents a new brand of artist that combines trolling, provocation, surrealism and critical theory into ensconcing art experiences that raise more questions than offer answers.”

In what appears to be a veiled response to protests calling for the gallery’s closure, one of the artworks for the new show includes “six computer workstations where participants are encouraged to sit and work through the paper content and destroy it if they find it inappropriate, uninteresting or offensive”.

Actual neo-Nazis? Artists having one last scrape at the exhausted mine of art designed to épater la bourgeoisie? Who knows, perhaps actual believers in freedom of speech? It does not matter. As D.C. Miller, the man with the sign, said, “the right to openly discuss ideas must be defended.”

Any of our Scottish readers up for this?

Young Scot needed to raise awareness of the value of the EU in France

This is a fully funded placement in Dijon, France, for 12 months. The volunteers will focus on raising awareness of the European Union’s history and its importance in creating cultural diversity.

[…]

Product Description

Jeunes Citoyens pour l’Europe is a youth mobility project in Dijon, France, focusing on raising the awareness of the European Union’s history, its construction and current situation, as well as the international role played by its institutions. Promoting a greater sense of European citizenship, Jeunes Citoyens pour l’Europe aims to enable the people of Dijon to better understand the EU and its valuable cultural diversity.

EVS volunteers will be directly involved in the Jeunes Citoyens pour l’Europe project, giving their contribution to spread the European values within the local community of Dijon, and to encourage the civic participation of its youth. Furthermore, EVS volunteers will help develop the project for its future editions and implementation in other European contexts. Previous EVS volunteers in Dijon have been able to organise the Children’s Rights Day and participate in local festivals promoting multiculturalism and the European Voluntary Service.

[…]

Volunteers will receive insurance, accommodation (an apartment shared with other volunteers), food, local transportation and a regular stipend. Travel to/from France will also be funded.

This project is open to young people aged 17-30 and resident in the UK (Scottish applicants are particularly welcome!). EVS volunteers for this project will be selected according to their interest in the European Union values. A minimum knowledge of French will be appreciated.

Economists behaving like activists

I do not know enough to assess the views of Paul Romer, the chief economist for the World Bank, when it comes to his specialism. I need no special knowledge to assess his views as reported in the Times on restoring the standing of his profession. He gets it.

Economists need to stop acting as if they own the moral high ground and start behaving with more humility if they are to win back the public’s trust after Brexit, according to the World Bank’s chief economist.

Paul Romer said that a popular backlash against experts needed to be taken seriously and that Brexit had been partly a reaction to the perceived hypocrisy of economists who claimed to be making unbiased judgments but were actually taking political positions.

Dr Romer, one of the leading economists of his generation, is known for speaking out against his profession. Last September he published a paper, The Trouble with Macroeconomics, in which he accused colleagues of practising a “pseudoscience” underpinned by an “honour code” that prohibits challenge to figures of authority even when their facts are wrong.

Dr Romer said: “To me, Brexit was a vote against the expert advice of economists. We have to earn back our credibility as professionals who will give an unbiased answer. In political discourse, activists often claim that their position is morally superior and no one seems to care, but when economists did so, voters reacted very negatively, perhaps because they are alert to even a whiff of hypocrisy and they sensed that economists were behaving like activists yet invoking the authority of science.

And if any smartarse wants to bring up Michael Gove’s remark about the British people having “had enough of experts”, tell them to listen to his actual words before he was shouted down. He wasn’t talking about any expert on any subject; he was referring specifically to those who said their predictions of Brexit disaster should be believed on grounds of their business and economic expertise, yet who had egregiously got their predictions wrong on the Euro and failed to predict the 2008 crisis at all.

Zero tolerance

Great is the rejoicing among most of the Guardian commentariat at the news that the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has said that if it wins the election the Labour party will outlaw all zero-hours contracts.

However there is a steady stream of comments from those not thrilled by their coming liberation from the capitalist exploiter, such as this comment by “fivemack”:

Employing people is not compulsory; if it had to employ people for 40 hours a week at £10 an hour regardless of demand, Deliveroo wouldn’t keep on the same number of employees as it has now, it simply wouldn’t exist. If the Guardian had to publish articles only by people who are full-time Guardian employees, it would miss out on an awful lot of interesting content.

The Guardian‘s own business section ran a story that said in large type that “McDonald’s offers fixed contracts to 115,000 UK zero-hours workers” and in small type that

McDonald’s has been trialling the shift to fixed-hours contracts in 23 sites across the country. The company said that about 80% of workers in the trial chose to remain on flexible contracts

Speech codes

EU mulls legislation in the fight against online hate speech, reports Reuters.

Glad we’re leaving. But do not expect our current prime minister to fight for free speech. That would violate her programming.

Added later: Posterity, and one or two bewildered humans, demanded that I explain the foregoing. Our revered Foreign Secretary, Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in a recent column for the Sun called Jeremy Corbyn “that mutton-headed old mugwump”. The Sun helpfully provided a glossary for its readers, defining the terms “mugwump” and “revanchist”, though not “glossary”. Mind you, it got the Harry Potter reference wrong; it’s International Confederation of Wizards, not Internal. What do they teach them in these schools? Soon the whole country was googling “mugwump”.

When all they really had to do was ask Theresa May. She has the answer to all our questions.

Added still later, but less late at night: I cannot now remember how I ended up with two links to the same, possibly spliced, audio clip of Theresa May’s definition of a mugwump. Let it be.

Never mind her. If you want to know the up-and-coming political candidate whose name you should look out for, take a look at this leaflet.

The solution to money woes was there all along

When we were little my siblings and I would accompany my mother as she went from greengrocer to butcher to grocer in those pre-supermarket days. Often the first place she visited in the daily round would be the local bank, National Westminster as I recall, where she would queue to write a cheque “to cash”. (For thus it was, my children, when cash machines and internet payments were as yet unknown.) Boring though it was listening to all those grown-up conversations, at least I was learning about how the world worked.

One day my parents were moaning about lack of money. I was tired of their obtuseness in the face of the obvious. I stamped my little foot and said, “If you haven’t got enough money, go to the bank and get some more.

What are you laughing at? I’ll have you know that my youthful economic ideas have been taken up by our government in waiting:

Labour will promise to increase spending on infrastructure and public services, the script says. Among the key pledges are a £10-an-hour living wage, a national investment bank to create £500bn to fund capital projects and infrastructure, and a guarantee on the triple lock for pensions.

“Voting Tory in #GE17 is a vote to kill people like me”

With the Tories overtaking Labour to provide the main opposition in Scotland to the dominant Scottish National Party, disability activist Fiona Robertson has decided to embark on some swing voter outreach:

When I and my fellow disability activists woke up on the morning after the last General Election, we spent an unrelenting few days tag teaming as we tried to keep people in our community alive. We were not always successful. Over and over, hour after hour, we saw iterations of the same message: “I do not think I will survive this government.”

The day of the election, we had all taken a few moments to remember the people who were not there to vote because of the actions of the coalition government. We took a moment to think of the people who would not make it to the next election if we lost.

Amid the elation so many in Scotland felt at the sweep of SNP seats, we disabled people also felt utterly betrayed and hopeless, because the population of the UK had voted to enforce extreme, frequently lethal, damage to our health.

If you do it again, if you do this to us again, we will never forgive you. You can’t pretend you don’t know, you can’t pretend that other things are more important, that it’s not the killing of disabled people you’re voting for really; it’s the other stuff.

Discussion point: UK general election called for 8th June 2017

Ah, stop pretending to be above it all. If you are on the UK electoral roll, who will you vote for? If you are not, who would you vote for?

Who will win is scarcely worth discussing. But, as the post from politicalbetting.com I linked to says, there are a few questions to which the answer is not so certain:

Can she satisfy the fixed-term parliament act in the vote tomorrow?
Will Mrs May receive any backlash, like Gordon Brown, for going back on her word on holding an early election
If she loses the vote, what then?
If the SNP put in their manifesto Scotland should have Indyref2 next year, and they win a majority of votes or seats in Scotland, how can Mrs May refuse, Mrs May might have put the Union at risk. (It also damages her argument against holding an Indyref2?)
If Corbyn gets creamed at the general election, will he continue as Labour leader? This might be the easiest way for Labour rebels to get rid of Corbyn.

A new recruit for the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America!

France.

That is, if French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon wins the coming election. I would still call that unlikely, but he is rising in the polls. In case you’re wondering, Our France would qualify as part of Our America because of its overseas departments French Guiana and the French Antilles. Although I am not sure that the present members of ALBA – principally Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Ecuador – will greet these parts of France Overseas with unmixed joy.

Quoting the article from Le Figaro linked to above:

The document [Mélenchon’s manifesto] proposes to leave the treaties of alliance that France belongs to now, like NATO on the military plane, or the WTO and the CETA on the economic level. Proposal 62 calls for the establishment of an alternative system and, for example, to join structures of “regional cooperation”, “in a process of ecological, social and human progress”. The program cites the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) launched by Hugo Chavez and his allies as early as 2004. The links between the late South American president and the candidate are of long standing, and the latter never misses an opportunity to tell the story of their meeting. But the reference to the Bolivarian model has not yet been updated with regard to the drift of the regime of Maduro and the resulting economic collapse.

There is more on this story from Libération: What is the Bolivarian Alliance that Mélenchon wants to join?

That story links to a video showing a TV studio discussion in which an interviewer brought up Mr Mélenchon’s proposed change of direction for France with his spokesperson, Clémentine Autain, who “was obviously unaware of this point of her candidate’s program” – and could hardly keep a straight face when told about it.

As ever, the translations are a joint project between my French O-Level and Messieurs Google et Bing. Corrections are welcome.

Italy keeps up its traditional ways

…of backwardness, protectionism and cronyism. Sorry, Italy, I love you in so many ways but this is just Third World:

The International Business Times reports, “Italy court bans Uber across the country over unfair competition for traditional taxis”

An Italian court banned the Uber app across the country on Friday ruling that it contributed unfair competition to traditional taxis. In a court ruling, a Rome judge upheld a complaint filed by Italy’s major traditional taxi associations, preventing Uber from using its Black, Lux, Suv, XL, Select and Van services from operating within the country.

Armed neutrality in the gender-neutral pronoun wars

There has been much huffing and puffing recently about gender neutral pronouns. In principle, I rather like the idea. The fact that I dislike some of the other people who like the idea ought not to affect that. Not, I hasten to add, that I feel any animus against anyone purely on the grounds that they prefer to be referred to by one sound rather than another, or that their gender is difficult to specify externally, or that they feel that neither “he” nor “she” describes them, or that they advocate for lexical change. While it is true that the set of people currently talking loudest about gender-neutral pronouns would, if displayed on a Venn diagram, have considerable overlap with the set of people who wish to get others arrested for using the wrong word, that is a symptom of the addiction of our society to the use of force rather than persuasion, not a logical necessity.

The cause of the gender-neutral pronoun is ill-served by many of its current advocates. But in itself, it would be handy. That’s “it” as in “having a third person singular pronoun available to use to describe human beings without specifying gender”, not “it” as in “it”. It (as in the situation, not a person) tends to get an itty-bit hairy when one person refers to another (by which I mean another person, not another situation) as “it”. Thus, if I may reiterate, using “it” (as in “‘it'”) as a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to a person would put the user in a bad situation, even if they (here used in the singular) were not a singularly bad person. Wouldn’t it?

OK, I got drunk on words there. Sobering up, I am not seeking perfect “representation” for every one of Facebook’s 71 gender options. They can represent themselves. I just think it would be nice to have one more option, and to settle on one. That way those prone to being easily offended, and the subset of them that resort to bullying, could be kept from unhappiness and the occasion of sin.

I do think that the traditional use of “he” and “man” to include the female is a little, y’know, presumptuous. I am not one to go through old documents cutting out every offending “he-including-she” with a razor, but I would just as soon have some more inclusive style in new documents. It is tedious have to write “he or she” every time.

Singular “they” sounds all right when the subject is indefinite (e.g. “If anyone wants more details, give them a brochure”) but sounds wrong if the gender is known. At this point someone usually pipes up to say that Shakespeare used it in their plays. Only they don’t say their plays, they say his plays, unless they (gender unspecified here: no problem) are making some sort of claim that Shakespeare was a collective, a Borg or a woman.

The distinction between singular and plural third person is useful. We feel its lack in the second person. The singular/plural distinction keeps trying to creep back in “youse” and “y’all”. In some dialects spoken in Northern England, “thou” never went away, merely faded a little into “tha”. If making no difference between singular and plural is sometimes confusing when talking to people, it is a swamp when talking about people. Imagine an action scene in a novel where all the characters including the protagonist were referred to as “they”.

This link takes you to a piece called “The Need for a Gender-neutral Pronoun” which lists some of the leading contenders for a new pronoun. By clicking on the suggested pronoun itself (or the title of the set in the case of the Spivak pronouns named after their creator), you can read an extract from Alice in Wonderland using that set of pronouns. The author also rates the proposed words by ease of pronunciation, distinctiveness, and how truly neutral they are. The author prefers the set of pronouns based on “ne” in the nominative case. If you agree that a gender neutral pronoun would be desirable, which option would you like to take hold in the language? If you object to the whole idea, what would you like to see become dominant – strict use of “he” (or “she”), or “they”, or “s/he” and variants?

The thing is, I will not be the first in my circle of acquaintance to start writing “xe” or “ne” in any other context but science fiction for the same reason that I will not be first in my circle to start taking a daily stroll in the nude.

I would if you would, but I know and you know, neither of us will.