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]

Sweden – “portal into the future” ?

The woke seek total victory and total defeat – which I long ago predicted they would get, albeit maybe delphically. But an interesting article in Unherd describes the latest state reached in Sweden’s dry-run of woke cancel culture as “an uneasy ceasefire”.

It started as all-out culture war.

With the benefit of hindsight, immigration now appears not as a question important in and of itself, but as a form of wedge corresponding to a very particular political moment of establishment fear and anger at parts of their own electorate.

But six years on,

While the deplorables are still mocked, there is no bite to it anymore. SD voters are no longer at risk of having their careers cancelled. In 2021, an unspoken attitude of ”don’t ask, don’t tell” prevails.

In the areas in Stockholm where most of the country’s journalists live, it is probably less awkward to openly admit to sympathising with SD on immigration than it is to proudly proclaim that Sweden is far from full and ought to take in at least a million more Afghans in the next couple of years.

How have the SD, the Swedish lovers of free speech, the heterodoxians like the article’s author, achieved this (I hear you begging me to say 🙂 )? Well, in large part at least, the article thinks they (we) haven’t. It is due to

the belated discovery that these consequences of immigration are in fact very real, and that methods of ”shaping the narrative” cannot really change material reality.

More critically, there is the realisation that nobody — certainly not middle class progressives — wants to live with those consequences at all.

It was not of course a belated discovery for Sweden’s “deplorables”, but I predict they will be treated as Edmund Burke was over two centuries ago. By the time the woke of his day were unable to avoid seeing that the French revolution was as unpleasant as Burke had predicted, they knew he was ‘already’ a enemy of it ‘anyway’ – so they dismissed him as just an accidentally-right stopped clock they could go on despising. Sweden’s deplorables will be called ‘stopped clocks’ by Sweden’s woke because they warned of danger beforehand, not after it became undeniable, just as Donald Trump is a ‘stopped clock’ to many who are falling out of love with Biden, but not with their own self-identity as clever, compassionate and politically far-sighted. The woke find forgiving deplorables for being deplorable very hard – but forgiving deplorables for being right when the woke are wrong is much harder.

Read the whole article – it will repay you.

California voting – an anecdote

Yesterday, I was chatting to a Californian friend. He described his experience of voting in the recall election.

He was sent a postal ballot – a ballot and an envelope to return it in. He had not asked for it and did not want it but got it anyway. His wife was also sent one and what I say below applies to her as well.

Both envelope and ballot had serial numbers printed on them – and they were sequential: the return envelope’s serial number differed by one from its ballot’s serial number. (His wife’s likewise, so it seemed to be a pattern.) This gave him some concerns.

  • As the state had posted the serial-numbered ballot specifically to him, it sure looked like, after the election, the authorities would be able to tell how he’d voted. In a state where expressing a heterodox thought can be career-ending, this was a little worrying. Of course, he could have chosen to trust the Governor’s assurance that the state would never dream of recording the serial-to-address data, let alone exploiting it afterwards (if the Governor had given that specific assurance, but he did not recall whether Newsom had clearly promised that as such).
  • As the envelope and ballot serials had this simple sequential relationship, it sure looked like anyone who saw the returned envelope (which had to have his name and address on it), would be able to deduce the serial of his ballot. In a state where the operation of the law can make defying antifa more dangerous to you than to them, this was a little worrying. Of course, he could have chosen to trust the Governor’s assurance that no such person would later be able to get access to the ballots or their scanned data to relate his name and address to his vote (if the Governor had given that specific assurance, but he did not recall whether Newsom had clearly promised that as such).
  • As there was no secrecy sleeve, it sure looked like whoever ripped the envelope open to get the ballot during the count would have a hard time not seeing his name, address and vote all at once anyway. In a state where supporting the wrong party can lead to unequal application of the law, this was a little worrying. Of course, he could have chosen to trust the Governor’s assurance that the electoral staff would be unable to record or memorise such information (if the Governor had given that specific assurance, but he did not recall whether Newsom had clearly promised that as such).

After thinking about this, he went to the local polling station on election day to try and get a ballot from them and put it in the ballot box the old-fashioned way. Wisely, he took the postal ballot with him, knowing they should – and in this case probably would – want to see it destroyed. Unwisely, he filled it in beforehand in case they refused to let him vote the old fashioned way (so that, in that case, he could at least put the postal ballot straight into the box, thus cutting some intermediaries out of the insecure loop, without making a second visit). He gave me a vivid word-picture of the crossed-arms, blocking-the-way lady in change of the polling place when he made his request. They did not absolutely refuse, but it was made clear to him that the first thing to happen would be his postal vote being torn open and carefully examined before its destruction. Cursing himself for the ‘forethought’ of filling it in “in case”, he decided that that would destroy the point of the exercise, which was to cast a secret ballot – though he did wonder by then whether, despite his studiously-meek demeanour, the lady felt any more doubt of whom he was voting for than he felt of whom she was voting for. So in the end he used it as the state intended he should.

I report this wholly anecdotal case (just two ballots and one polling station) because I know my friend is describing his own experience accurately and the details surprised me. When the Nazis tried to find out which Germans voted ‘no’ in Hitler’s plebiscites, they put serial numbers on the ballots – but they did so secretly, by using a typewriter without a ribbon to make an invisible impression that could be recovered later, and then had a very hard time arranging for the appropriate invisibly-serial-numbered ballot to be given to the appropriate suspected voter when he or she showed up at the polling place. How they would have loved the simplicity of being able to send openly-serial-numbered ballots by post.

I do not know whether my friend’s experience represents much of California’s voting, but, like him and his wife, I am just a little worried to learn that it represents any of it.

Beware the prepared PC put-down

“But despite that [her years of experience]”, the lady said, “I still had to get re-certified. It started with an equality and diversity test, and I got the first question wrong.”

“Everyone does”, said the other lady. “They ask you what equality means and the first answer in the list is ‘Equal treatment’ but the right answer is ‘Equal outcomes’. If you question it, they tell you that if you give two women the same leaflet in English but one of them speaks English and the other speaks Farsi then that’s equal treatment but not equal outcomes.”

Many retired doctors or nurses offered to help during the pandemic, only to discover there were bureaucratic hoops to jump through before they would be allowed to do so. Arguably, this was a pity from the point of view of health in the UK, but as a man once said, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste – whereas time in a crisis apparently isn’t.

The lesson I took from this conversation is that the politically correct are trained to see you coming, so have their put-downs ready. Diversity training for us commoners may include being on the receiving end of those put-downs. Diversity training for the trainers includes being ready with them.

“I prefer questions that cannot be answered to answers that cannot be questioned.” (Richard Feynman)

On the road from the culture of free speech to that of

“Shut Up”, he explained

there is a country of answers we’re being trained not to question through the use of put-downs they’re trained to use if we dare to.

Commenters are invited to report any such put-downs they’ve met, any pithy rejoinders to such would-be-conversation-ending put-downs that they know of, and of course their thoughts.

Example of racism against blacks in the BBC (P.S. Biden stole the election)

A 2016 BBC article describes how to spot vote fraud in African elections – in Gabon, Togo, Niger and suchlike places. ‘Vote rigging: How to spot the tell-tale signs’ says to watch out for such things as high turnout in specific areas, or discrepancies in votes versus ballots issued, and notes that delays in the result may be innocent but are suspicious. An older 2010 article I recall added to that list such things as anomalous ratios between 2nd and 3rd-party candidates. (A tin-pot-dictator style election where the favoured candidate gets 99% of the vote is sure to be suspected, but less attention may be paid to whether a given area’s ratio between the most popular losing candidate and long-shot third-party candidates actually makes sense.)

This kind of statistical evidence is apparently good enough to have the BBC sometimes condemning, sometimes pointedly suspecting black politicians in black countries. When it comes to white politicians in western countries, by contrast – Biden in the US, for example – a different standard is used. That election also showed large anomalous statistics and ratios in several specific areas (Milwaukee, for example). As for ballot/vote ratios, Montgomery, PA was not the only place where vote updates changed many votes but fewer ballots, and it too had a very implausible Trump-to-3rd-party-candidate vote ratio. But phrases like ‘no evidence’, ‘judge dismissed’ and ‘not proved’ seem to crowd out thoughts of statistics in the BBC as regards the white, western election, despite some of the oddities being even more obvious from a UK perspective.

Of course, no one can be made to see who has resolved in advance to keep their eyes shut, and nothing can be ‘proved’ if your standard of proof is set high enough – certainly not vote fraud (a point carefully analysed here – along with links to further statistical oddities). But using one standard of proof when the accused is black and another, higher one when he is white is the classic definition of racism.

Sadly, while there may be some readiness within the BBC to confront anti-black colour-prejudice, I fear there is none when the colour is orange. Although the BBC have suddenly and strongly gone off Joe Biden, and are walking back their post-inauguration praise of him, I doubt the effect will extend back to last November. And I have to concede that, at a time when the BBC have abruptly stopped trusting Biden, reminding them of Biden’s October 23rd 2020 remark about having

“the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organisation in the history of US politics”

is offering them information from a now-discredited source. 🙂

But at least black Africans can be sure the BBC will keep an eye on their election statistics, even if in a manner less than perfectly respectful of their equality to ourselves.

I think he needs to get out more

Specifically, out of the bubble more.

“no one saw this coming” (Dominic Raab, UK Foreign Secretary)

One of many things ‘no one’ saw was the inverse analogy with Iran sending back the hostages just as President Reagan was being inaugurated. The mullahs felt no fear of President Carter but are on record as deciding to send them home to meet incoming President Reagan from a concern that:

“he might use cowboy methods”

The very same Democrat/US-‘liberal’ election rhetoric designed to make voters think Reagan might start WWIII suggested to the mullahs that he might be dangerously unpredictable – and that Carter was a pussycat

In exactly the same way, the rhetoric they used against Donald Trump was useful to him – and very undermining to Biden’s ability to ‘deal’ with the Taliban (not that Biden had much ability they needed to undermine). Brendan O’Neill has explained how wokeness hurt the west’s Afghanistan efforts, but while Trump was in the white house there was also a counter-effect. Precisely because it was Trump’s enemies who were saying ‘he’s a crazy violent nutjob who might do anything’, the Taliban were more convinced to be wary of Trump than by Trump’s own threats alone – and more convinced they need not beware of Biden.

Did no one that Raab talked to foresee that?

I’m not picking on Raab specially. There are many MP’s I’d far sooner see gone from the Tory party, and as for the current ministers of the crown, they could all do with getting out (of the bubble) more.

I could not have said it better myself

(Nor, indeed, have I ever yet said it as well.)

as a law professor I try to see all sides of public and legal issues, and in my teaching and writing to present the best case for each contesting view in any dispute. Critical race theory, as actually practised in many classrooms in California and across the country, seems to me to defy any hope of defending or justifying it. Its mix of half-truths and sheer falsehoods, its stereotyping and scapegoating of entire races of people, its relentlessly divisive setting of one group against another, its visceral hostility to reasoned debate, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression, and its well-documented tendency to proceed by stealth, all evoke the practices of authoritarian and even totalitarian regimes.

Those who read instapundit will already have encountered Maimon Schwarzschild’s evidence to the Orange County Board of Education, but I’m happy to give further visibility to “what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed”. We’ve often said what we think about CRT here, but I don’t recall a paragraph that covers all the bases, touching each concisely and clearly, as well as the above. (If you do, by all means link to it in the comments – it might be good to gather several effective summaries in one place.)

The name Schwarzschild (like the name Maimon) is not that common. I wonder if Maimon is related to Karl Schwarzschild, the first man to solve Einstein’s equations. Karl computed the solution for a simple (non-rotating, uncharged) spherical mass (today, it’s famous as the basic black hole solution – ‘the Schwarzschild solution’ – but Chandrasekhar computed ‘the Chandrasekhar limit’ in the same year, to pass the time on a ship travelling from India to Britain, so Karl did not yet know a black hole was even theoretically possible). Karl did this work while serving in the Germany army, less than a year before his death during WWI. As to why Karl’s (surviving) descendants and collaterals are now to be found in the United States, not Germany, well Maimon also testified that:

My own family had personal experience of some of the totalitarian regimes in 20th century Europe, and some of the tropes and techniques of ethnic studies and critical race theory, as now practised in many US classrooms, have chilling parallels in the techniques of ideological indoctrination in the schoolrooms of those regimes.

The sacrifice of Jewish fathers like Karl for the fatherland in WWI proved a weak reed indeed for their children in WWII.

Having ancestors who fought against slavery won’t protect anyone from charges of ‘toxic whiteness’ either, any more than family experience of past racial hatred will protect Maimon from woke hatred today.

Less economy of truth, please: ‘Maths is Racist’ – no, not even this

Teacher training in Louisville, Kentucky is succumbing to the woke bandwagon of “maths is racist”. I’ve already said what I wanted to say about “maths is racist” – but I noticed a remark of a rightly-disgusted observer of this latest example. Trying to imagine how any maths lesson could be racist (since “no matter your color, religion, sex, or anything else, 2+2 will always equal 4”), she said she “would call math racist” only if the questions were like:

“Two Blacks and two Jews are walking through the street. They meet a gang of three Hitler Youth and three KKK members. If the Blacks and Jews are armed with six sticks weighing three ounces each, and the Hitler Youth and KKK are armed with six bats weighing eight ounces each, how long will it take the Hitler Youth and the KKK members to drive the Blacks and Jews out of town?”

I read that – and instantly remembered an incident from Christabel Bielenberg’s autobiography ‘The Past is Myself’. Some months into Hitler’s first year in power, she and husband Peter were dining out. At another table, three Jews were quietly finishing their meal. Six SA men strolled into the establishment. One of them spotted the Jews and loudly alerted his fellows.

“Beside me, Peter stood up. Shades of my Irish father! I know when there’s going to be a fight. I stood up too, but I was thinking: six burly-looking SA men, three not very athletic-looking Jews, Peter and me – and my state of mind would not have won the Victoria cross.”

(Nor my state of mind if I’d been there, I daresay, and I’ve faced up to worse odds than that in my time.)

Despite what Christabel had learnt from her father, there was not a fight. The sudden upstanding protest of a very nordic-looking couple gave the stormtroopers pause, the Jews were eager to leave and swiftly did so, and it all calmed down. As she sat down again, Christabel took in the body language of all the other German diners. Their poses said, as loudly as an open declaration, that, though many of them might not have positively welcomed their dining experience being enhanced with a floor-show of SA Jew-baiting – might indeed have disliked the prospect, her computation of

6 stormtroopers > 3 unathletic Jews + Peter + her

would not have been altered by the addition of any of them to that equation’s right-hand side.

It was then that I realised that something really nasty had come to town.

When the racism that calls itself anti-racism comes to your town, and you have to decide whether to stand up for Secoriea or kneel to her murderers, then you too (unless your state of mind is one that will win the Victoria cross – and maybe even if it is) will make these mental calculations – and they will be no more racist than any other kind of maths. Both racism and resisting it lie in actions, not calculations.

—-

(The above quotes from ‘The Past is Myself’ are from memory, as I do not have the book in front of me while writing this. It is well worth reading.)

Critical Race Theorist literally knows nothing

“They literally know nothing” was what Obama advisor Ben Rhodes said about the Obama-worshipping journalists he fooled into repeating his Iran-deal talking points. But those guys are left standing by Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of ‘The 1619 Project’.

“it’s also hard to look at countries that didn’t have large institutions of slavery and compare them to the United States.”

Most people noticed her statement because of the immediately following sentence:

“If you want to see the most equal multi-racial democ… — it’s not a democracy — the most equal multi-racial country in our hemisphere, it would be Cuba,” Hannah-Jones said.

She knew enough to avoid (just!) going on record as calling communist Cuba a democracy – but she did not know enough to avoid talking about “countries that didn’t have large institutions of slavery” compared to the United States.

I saw from the start that some of Nikole’s 1619 rubbish merely exposed her utter ignorance of her subject. The blacks whom the Virginians bought from a Portuguese slave trader in 1619 were treated like whites – that is, they were treated as indentured servants who after 10 years were freed, given some farm tools, pointed at a plot of land and left to get on with it. (Some of them got on so well that before mid-century they were buying white and black indentured servants themselves to work their expanding acreages.)

One could justly say these early-arriving blacks were not treated exactly like poor English whites who – unless convicted of a crime – had always chosen to sign their ten-year indenture, to pay for transport across the Atlantic and survival while they found their feet. The closer analogy is to some Scottish whites. More than one clan chief sold some clansmen on indentures across the Atlantic when funds were low, and in 1707 a leading Scottish parliamentarian informed his peers that there was no need for them to fix the disastrous financial situation by accepting the English payment and voting their own abolition – Scotland’s elite could keep their separate parliament and avoid national bankruptcy by selling enough poor Scots to the Americas instead.

When the Portuguese offered to sell black slaves, those 1619 Virginians could only buy them as ten-year-indentured servants. They were still wholly under English common law and Lord Mansfield’s 1770s ruling merely echoed a two-centuries earlier ruling of Elizabethan judges that English common law knew no such state as slavery. It took the Virginians decades to start even questioning this and almost a century to unlearn it fully. As late as the 1690s, a black man who petitioned the Virginia council that his white master had made him serve not for ten years but for twelve “contrarie to all right and justice”, was freed by their order. If Nikole had called it the 1705 project, I’d have thought she at least knew something about the actual faults of the country whose history she was travestying. Only positive statute law can override English common law’s aversion to slavery, said Lord Mansfield – and 1705 was the year the Virginia legislature completed providing it. I knew from the start that Nikole was not just lying about all that, not just indifferent to the truth of all that – she was also pretty clueless about it.

But now it emerges she knows nothing about other countries either! “Countries that didn’t have large institutions of slavery”, she says. Which countries would that be, I wonder?

– Certainly not Cuba before Columbus or Cuba after Columbus (or Cuba under communism – you have to know nothing not to know that communism always reintroduces slavery).

– Certainly not Brazil before or after the Portuguese ruled it, or after it ruled itself – Brazil was the very last new-world country to abolish the slave trade (it needed an undeclared war from the Royal Navy to persuade them) and then slavery itself (they needed a bit of persuasion there too).

– Certainly not Mexico under the Aztecs, or Peru and Chile under the Incas, or any of them under the Spaniards (the absolute Spanish King could in time announce that slavery should end without needing to consult any tedious parliaments – and his unconsulted subjects in the distant Americas could pay the unvoted law little attention as they carried on buying black slaves from the Portuguese).

– Certainly not any of the western sub-Saharan African states, who sold the surplus they had left after the Dahomans had celebrated their murder spectacle, the Bemba had blinded enough singers to entertain them, the various cannibal tribes had eaten their fill, etc.

– Certainly not any of the eastern sub-Saharan African states, where the tribes raided each other and the Swahili worked for the Arabs, who found slave-raiding cheaper than slave-trading.

– Certainly not the Arab world. Historians who know what they are talking about speak of “the abolition of slavery” in the west and “the decline of slavery” (under intense western pressure) in the Arab world.

– Certainly not many other places. In 1776, Adam Smith accurately noted that slavery was almost universal, being absent only from western and parts of central Europe.

So what countries in 1619 – or a good deal later – could be giving her this problem of lacking historical “institutions of slavery” on US timescales. England? France (had serfdom for much of the period, but not slavery)? … It’s not that long a list (and it’s a bit white!). And I don’t think any of the countries she was thinking of are on it. “Ignorance is Strength”, said Orwell’s 1984. It’s certainly hers.

It’s a pity, because the real history of how the Virginians gradually retreated from a custom of freedom that they’d started with is well worth studying. And the spectacle of a community with a custom of freedom slowly losing it holds a lesson for today.

BBC quote of the pandemic

What’s changed is not the evidence – of which there is none so far to prove either scenario – but the politics. The lab-leak theory, born into an environment poisoned by disinformation, was undermined not so much by China’s denials, but by the fact it was being pumped by former US President Donald Trump.

Media organisations everywhere gave it the cold shoulder. My own attempts to look seriously at the lab-leak theory in May last year ran into long and fraught editorial discussions before it finally made it to publication.

Thus says the BBC’s China correspondent in a story linked from the BBC’s front page today. When Trump raised it, it was poisonous disinformation. Now Biden is raising it, the BBC is treating it with more respect.

What the Bashir story revealed about how far the BBC would go should not have surprised me – but did. By contrast, the only surprising thing about this revelation is that they admit it. (So give a little credit where a very little credit is due. Others in the MSM will pretend that “new evidence now indicates what only an absurdist like Trump would believe last year”, or take the even easier line, already much used with masks, of silently implying that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.)

Meanwhile, of course, ‘our’ BBC will continue to insist that just because they forge bank statements to pretend their fake news is true, that doesn’t mean that we can forge bank statements to pretend we’ve paid their licence fee. And while the beeb take the lab-leak theory seriously now that Biden does, I think that even if Biden were to come out with another gaffe-boast about having

“the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organisation in the history of US politics”

the BBC would not become a jot less derisive of Trump’s theory about that. No experience of the failure of their reporting seems to shake the BBC’s faith in its essential excellence.

The ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ is getting harder

Idea that 2+2=4 is western imperialism

In the 1970s, the BBC screened a dramatised documentary series about the fight to abolish the slave trade. Even a year of the virus limiting new series, at a time of great BBC eagerness to talk about racism, has not made them screen it again.

– I see one reason why they have not: the series displayed sleazy white slave traders and abusive white slave owners prominently, but it also showed white people eager to end the slave trade and (much worse) black people eager to continue it. One episode included the king of Dahomey’s threat: “if you do not allow me to sell you my slaves, their fate will be a great deal worse” (a very brief scene of the Dahomey murder spectacle lent meaning to his remark). After abolition was voted, it showed a white slave trader assuring the Dahomans, as a drug dealer might his suppliers, “It is one thing for parliament to pass a law …”, hinting at the Royal Navy’s long and hard campaign to enforce it.

– Only recently did I spot another reason why they would not want to show it again – the scene in which a corrupt old white slave trader warns his young colleague that “it’s more than your life’s worth” to doubt the ability of their slave-selling hosts to count very accurately the quantity of trade goods being handed over in exchange, and to assess their quality knowledgeably. The traders well knew that Africans counted two plus two as four, just as they did. Any trader who imagined that black ability to add diverged enough from white to enable an attempt to short-change them had learned otherwise long before the 1780s.

– The southern Confederacy thought the same. Until its death throes, it forbade enlisting a southern black as a Confederate soldier because, as one Confederate senator put it, “If blacks can make good soldiers then our whole theory of slavery is wrong.” (Perhaps also because even southern white Democrats realised that southern black desire to fight against blacks being freed was likely to be a very minority taste.) But there was one exception. Every regiment had its regimental band, which played to set the pace at the start and end of marches, used trumpets to signal commands in battle – and fought when other duties did not supervene. From its start to its end, Confederate law said any black could enlist as bandsman, with the same pay and perquisites as a white – a very rare example of formal legal equality. (Playing music requires the ability to count time. For the woke, ‘dismantling the legacy of the Confederacy’ apparently includes dismantling its realisation – shared by the Victorian composer Dvorak – that blacks often excelled in music so much as to overcome prejudice against black ability. Today, it’s ‘racist’ to value instrumental skill.)

‘Politically correct’ has meant ‘actually wrong’ ever since the first commissar explained to the first party comrade that it was neither socialist nor prudent to notice a factual error in the party line. ‘Structurally racist’ is PC’s modern companion. No longer are the woke content merely to imply (“mathematics is racist“, “punctuality is racist“, “politeness is racist“) that blacks can’t count, can’t tell the time and can only behave crudely. They’re starting to say it in words of fewer syllables.

So how does one avoid being a racist when cancel culture calls it ‘racist’ to expect any black man you meet to be able to add? First, decide which you would rather oppose: ‘structural racism’ or actual racism. If the latter, then decide whether you have the courage to do more than dislike it in the privacy of your own mind. The BBC series showed the voyage of the Zong, when the captain threw many slaves overboard to check a pandemic onboard – or was it just to convert them into insurance losses? The scene was directed to imply that some officers did not entirely like doing this – but it would not have helped anyone’s career to have refused. Only in a metaphorical sense will white intellectuals today throw overboard an off-message black colleague. Perhaps the Zong’s crew consoled themselves that, after all, it was only black people being thrown overboard. Perhaps woke whites today console themselves that, after all, as Joe Biden put it, if you don’t vote Democrat then “you ain’t black”. Besides, if

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.” (George Orwell, 1984)

then clearly it is the duty of Critical Race Theory to ensure that is not granted.

This too shall pass. Years ago, the left decided that Stalin in Russia was “not real socialism”, nor Mugabe in Zimbabwe, nor Chavez in Venezuela – but only long after Orwell, and the year 1984, and the Soviet Union itself, had died. One day, the woke will decide that it is “not real anti-racism” to claim that black people have open minds on whether 2+2=4. Later still, they might decide it was “not real anti-racism”. But for now, just as it was once an insult to “the workers’ state” to mention how many workers Stalin killed, so we are still well into the period when asking how many black people were murdered in Ferguson or Minneapolis by the riots, or since the riots, is as ‘racist’ as classical music, mentioning the holocaust during a class discussion of racism, skiing, cheese, advising persons of colour to exercise, camping, quantum theory, acronyms, alfresco seating, grammar, beer, snow ploughs, evergreen trees, praising the fund-raising efforts of Captain Tom, individualism, interracialmarriage or questioning the existence of structural racism.

I had a very much longer list of increasingly bizarre things that exemplify structural racism – none of them repeated from my last list – but as I typed links to the structural racism of such innate features of the human condition as time and sleep, I reflected that the first was passing, and soon I should start doing the second.

[ADDED LATER: there’s no need to go to university to not-learn maths. Not-learning maths is coming to a school near you – if you live in Ontario. The Ontario Grade 9 curriculum’s “decolonial, anti-racist approach to mathematics education makes visible its historical roots and social constructions”. Education Minister Stephen Lecce says math is “subjective” and “used to normalize racism and marginalization of non-eurocentric mathematical knowledges.” This will come as a surprise to anyone who thought that teaching the use of ‘Arabic’ (actually Hindu) numbers, plus the huge Hindu invention of the zero, is the very reverse of normalising ‘eurocentric’ Roman numerals – but I guess, to the woke, II + II = IV in any other notation is just as oppressive.]

Buy Large Mansions

1909: “Socialism … It’s a grand scheme. You work for the equal distribution of property and you start by collaring all you can and sitting on it.” P.G.Wodehouse (comic author), ‘Mike and Psmith’.

2021: “I practice Marxism by getting rich and supporting my family.” Patrisse Khan-Cullors (BLM co-founder), TV Interview

Buy Large Mansions‘ was not something I expected to see added so soon to ‘Black Lives Murdered‘, ‘Bullshit Marxist Lies‘ and other clarifications of the acronym. It was obvious from the start that Chavez and his family would become stinking rich as Venezuelans starved, that Mugabe’s wealth would grow as his country’s vanished, but usually the socialists themselves say it openly only a good many years after seizing all power, not just a few months after stealing an election.

I think it was de Toqueville who said of nineteenth-century French revolutionaries: “I had the impression they were play-acting the French revolution much more than continuing it.” The same impression led Karl Marx, echoing Hegel, to write that history happens twice: “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” In that sense, Patrisse is indeed realising Marx’s vision.

She is also embodying P.G.Wodehouse’ joke. Foreseeable, avoidable tragedy is farcical. National Socialism conquered Germany, then Europe, before being pulled down by almost all the combined strength of the remainder of the world – and that was shameful, Hannah Arendt pointed out, because it was also ridiculous. The current state of the western world is less grave (as yet), but it is already shameful – because it is already ridiculous.

Courage in Comedy

Courage is not just a virtue; it is the form of every virtue under test. For a kindness or honesty which is only kind or honest while it is safe is not very virtuous. Pontius Pilate was merciful – till it became risky. (C.S. Lewis)

It’s not just virtue that needs courage. Jokes can need a little courage too. On one of Prince Philip’s visits to Australia, a virtue-signalling politico decided he would be asked the same questions as any immigrant.

Border Official: “Do you have a criminal record?”

Prince Philip: “I had no idea it was still a requirement.”

Witty remarks need wit – and timing (the worthlessness of ‘l’esprit d’escalier’ – that clever retort you think of whle descending the starcase after the party – has been proverbial for centuries). Humour cannot survive a too-timid inner censor (“Can I really say that? Dare I really say that?”) stealing the moment.

I’m not just talking about the overt courage some jokes need. That can be very real of course. Christabel Bielenberg fell in love with a German in 1932 and married him in 1934.

‘There can’t be many weddings in which the father of the bride stops the car on the road to the church and says to his daughter, “You can still call it off.”

In the very last days of WWII in Europe, she walked into the mayor’s office in the German community where she lived and noticed that the picture of Adolf Hitler was missing from the wall. Seeing her glance, the mayor explained he had put it in the fire the day before. Christabel thought of a joke about Adolf and his picture, automatically reminded herself not to say it out loud – and then realised with delight that for the first time in many years she could say it out loud, she no longer had to think first whether everyone present was ‘safe’. In the joke, Adolf muses to his picture, “I wonder what will happen to us after the war?” The picture replies, “I don’t wonder – I know: you’ll be hung and I’ll be unhung.” The mayor, like the vast majority of Germans, had never heard it – and till the day before would not have dared laugh at it. He spent the rest of the aftenoon suddenly guffawing and murmering, “hung – unhung”. Despite everything, the new freedom to laugh seems to have been a relief to him too. He – unlike Christabel but like too many Germans – had not had the courage to remain aware of his inner censor during the Nazi years; it had become part of him.

It’s not just the comedian who needs a little courage. The audience can also use a little of it. Prince Philip once joked to a British student in China that if he stayed there too long he might acquire ‘slitty eyes’. Thinking people (people not too scared to think) know that a joke does not mean what it literally says (and that Prince Philip did not imagine that the facial features of other nationalities could be caught through proximity, like a disease). Imagine that, back in 1937, visiting a family funeral in Germany, he had told a British student there to beware staying too long lest his head become squarer. The alleged ‘squareheads’ of native Germans in the first half of the 20th century betokened the too ordered, too obedient, too constrained thoughts within them, as the alleged ‘slitty eyes’ of native Chinese in the second half betokened the deceitful propaganda of the CCP. It should not be hard to get the joke’s point – unless of course, the very idea of thinking about an ethnic slur before condemning it is too terrifying to contemplate. “Do not trust China. China is asshole.” as a chinaman in Hong Kong more recently put it.

Orwell explained that putting the mind in a politically-correct box kills a writer’s creativity. Such cowardly conformity also hurts the sense of humour – the sense of humour.

The courage to joke also helps if your position tends to make others nervous:

“I realised afterwards that all his so-called ‘gaffes’ were quite the reverse. They were masterclasses in putting people at their ease. If he’d kept the royal drawbridge up and encouraged deference, all he would have had in his 73 years as the Queen’s husband would have been a series of terrified, tongue-tied people to talk to at a thousand events. For a serious, curious, clever man, that would have been agony. What he wanted was information, and perhaps a few laughs.” (The Truth about Prince Philip’s Gaffes)

And facing your death with courage will often mean facing it with humour. When the brilliant Oxford mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah (not so long before his own death) told Prince Philip how sorry he was to hear he was standing down from official duties in late 2017, Prince Philip replied:

‘Well, I can’t stand up much longer!’

The freedom to make a joke. The freedom to take a joke. Freedoms worth tending in the garden of your mind.