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]

On why feminists ought to be glad about skyscrapers

Asks the headline above this Guardian piece by Leslie Kern: Do cities have to be so sexist?

Let me ask a similar question: Do skyscrapers have to be so tall and yet so comparatively thin? Do skyscrapers have to be shaped, that is to say, like penises? The answer is: yes. That’s the whole point of skyscrapers. Their reason for existence is to fit a lot of floor space upon a very small patch of land, in a place where land is very expensive to buy because lots of people are needed to work in this one spot, and consequently where the elaborate technology needed to build them is justified by the advantages gained.

Says Leslie Kern:

From the physical to the metaphorical, the city is filled with reminders of masculine power. And yet we rarely talk of the urban landscape as an active participant in gender inequality. A building, no matter how phallic, isn’t actually misogynist, is it?

I’d say that the urban landscape is not actually that misogynist. After all, the basic economic fact that made female political, social and economic equality something which it made sense for women to demand was that the modern economy depends far less on physical labour done in fields and factories, and far more upon mental work, done in places like skyscrapers. Men are, on average, physically stronger than women, so in a world dependent on sweated labour, men were the dominant sex. But now, it counts for more that women have always been, again on average, just as clever as men, and rather more conscientious, while also being rather more biddable and risk-averse than men. Very useful corporate functionaries, in other words. How would all this new indoor and sexually more egalitarian mental labour have been accommodated in the exact places where it has been most needed, without the “urban landscape”, and in particular without skyscrapers? Instead of grumbling about skyscrapers, feminists ought to be glad about them. Even if skyscrapers are shaped like penises.

I once had an unpaid job in the office of the recently deceased and much lamented architect Ivor Smith. Much lamented, because even as I was, even way back then, beginning to have my doubts about his architecture, I had to acknowledge, and I say again now, that he was a lovely man, just as all the obituaries I have today been reading said he was.

One of my more vivid recollections of Ivor Smith was when he and some of his young colleagues were discussing a tower that some other architect had designed, and Smith speculated that this architect had done his design by slapping his cock down on the drawing board and drawing round it. Having only just stopped being a rather nerdy schoolboy, and having just become an equally nerdy student, I was a bit startled to hear a grown man in a suit and tie make a joke like this, in an office, as I think were some of the other architects. But there was as much masculine self-mockery in this joke as there was mere masculinity. Smith was no misogynist. I still remember also how much Smith’s wife and daughters adored him, and he them.

But then again, although I don’t know if this applies to Leslie Kern, many feminists don’t approve of happy families, any more than they approve of skyscrapers.

Thoughts on Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech

For me, the most important thing about President Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech, apart from the splendour of what it says, is that, thanks to the internet, we can all of us, if we wish, read the entire speech, without depending upon any of those people whom Instapundit refers to as Democratic Party operatives with bylines to tell us what they merely want us to think that Trump said. We now live in a world where those old broadsheet “newspapers of record” have been reborn, and are now readable at no extra cost by anyone with an internet connection.

I’m a libertarian, and what I really want is a really libertarian enclave of territory, somewhere in the world, which will really prove to the world for ever the superiority of all of my opinions about how the world should really be, over the opinions of all others. But meanwhile, I’m the sort of libertarian (which nothing like all libertarians are) who will settle for the actually existing United States of America, as it is now is and as it has been since it was founded, a vast but very imperfect nation, constantly disfigured by unfreedoms imposed upon it by collectivist would-be despots of one sort or another, yet constantly disappointing those same despots with those pesky freedoms which it started out by proclaiming. Likewise, American military might is frequently hurled by careless American adventurers at places that ought to be left to solve their own problems, in a way which only makes such problems even worse. Nevertheless, the world is surely a better place than it would have been had America made no attempts of this sort to bully it into behaving better. A world that consisted only of the Old World would surely be a much duller and poorer and more brutal place.

The New York Times and the Washington Post, echoed by many other organs in America and beyond, have described Trump’s speech as “dark and divisive”. Well, it was a bit divisive. It divided Americans into two camps. In the one camp are violent looters and rioters and despotic cancellers, and their enablers in slightly less impolite society, like the people who run the New York Times and the Washington Post. In the other camp are all the many Americans of the sort who feel approximately as I do about America and its flawed and violent but nevertheless inspiring history.

I especially like what Trump said about how the fundamental principles of the USA meant that those principles would, in the end, put an end to slavery and legally imposed racial discrimination. The fundamental principles bloody well took their time, but they eventually did just this.

Here, in case you doubt me, is how Trump said this:

We must demand that our children are taught once again to see America as did Reverend Martin Luther King, when he said that the Founders had signed “a promissory note” to every future generation. Dr. King saw that the mission of justice required us to fully embrace our founding ideals. Those ideals are so important to us – the founding ideals. He called on his fellow citizens not to rip down their heritage, but to live up to their heritage.

To call this speech racially divisive, as many have, is a flat out lie.

And, a “dark” speech? Again, I don’t think so. Naive and optimistic, starry-eyed even, historically over-simplified, yes, maybe all of that. But “dark”? Hardly.

But what of Trump’s enemies? The rioters are saying: “Screw America, smash America!” Their Democrat enablers indoors are saying: “America, you want this to stop? Vote for us, and then we’ll stop it. Meanwhile, it’s all Trump’s fault.” That’s rather “dark”, isn’t it?

Trump’s America, aka “America”, is now resisting this uprising, and the uprisers and their enablers are now turning on each other. The rioters and outdoor looters, after all, have no love at all for Democratic Party insiders. On the contrary, they regard them as the people who stole the Democratic nomination from them and their man in 2016. Other rioters merely hate the rich and the powerful in their entirety, including those paying the wages of the people urging them to riot.

It is now – is it not? – almost entirely in Democrat-governed places that the rioting, and now the crime waves consequent upon the hobbling by Democrat politicians of local police forces, are happening. Those McCloskeys, rather inexpertly waving their guns at rioters outside their nice big home are classic Democrat insiders. As is the Mayor of Seattle, who only shut CHOP down after her own home had been attacked by rioters.

So, I want Trump’s America now to prevail and its enemies now to retreat in ignominy, many of them also to prison, because of their various crimes, indoors and outdoors. We win, they lose, as President Reagan said when asked about how to settle the Cold War. Reagan also made very “divisive” speeches about that big old misunderstanding, didn’t he? After which the Good Guys did win and the Bad Guys did lose. Again please.

In this same spirit of melodramatic divisiveness, I would like now to suggest that the way that the writers of the New York Times and the Washington Post, and their many imitators, are using the word “dark” is blatantly racist. These people are assuming that to be “dark” is to be bad. This is the language of white supremacist slave-owners. Next thing you know, they’ll be referring to African Americans as “darkies”.

I’m kidding, but I also sort of mean it. I entirely get what the wokist media are trying to say, and are not trying to say, with the word “dark”. Punishing them for being racist for using this word in this way is not a rule I’d want to see universally applied. On the other hand, rules of exactly this perverse sort are the rules that these people have been unleashing upon others. So the wokists now deserve, if not actually to die by this rule that I just made up, then at least to be chucked out into the streets for a while, there to think about what they’ve been doing.

But my basic point here is that you don’t need to take my word, or anyone else’s word, for any of this. Trump’s speech itself, the complete text of it, is worth a second link. Read the whole thing. And as I said at the start of this, be glad that you can.

LATER: Further thoughts from me about Trump’s speech in a piece entitled Trump as Republican Party Reptile. This is about how his Mount Rushmore speech echoes a piece by P.J. O’Rourke in the 1980s, about an epic journey across America in a Ferrari.

Someone made a profit from finding a cure for a deadly disease. This must never happen again.

Citizens for Financial Justice have a new article out!

Who are they? You mean you don’t know?

Citizens for Financial Justice is a diverse group of European partners – from local grassroots groups to large international organisations. Together, we aim to inform and connect citizens to act together to make the global financial system work better for everyone.

We are funded by the European Union and aim to support the implementation of the Sustainable development Goals (sDGs) by mobilising EU citizens to support effective financing for development (FfD).

A cosy arrangement. Thank God the UK is out of it. Here is the article:

World Hepatitis Day: How Gilead Science Profits from Hepatitis Deaths

Alternative title #1: How Gilead Science Profits from Ending Hepatitis Deaths

Alternative title #2: How the Profit Motive Led Gilead Science to Find a Cure for Hepatitis C

Guys, my apologies. I have to do some work – work work, can you believe that? – so when I remembered that I had already written a post that said what I wanted to say about about this lethal idiocy, I decided simply to post it again. It is seventeen years old. It does not require updating.

Life is still tough for the owners of lazy slaves

An extract:

Now, just possibly you the reader aren’t very sympathetic. Just possibly you opine that the slaveowners had only themselves to blame – “Well, of course,” you are saying, “it’s no surprise that if people are forced to work for nothing then they don’t bust a gut.”

So why do so many people expect these familiar laws of human behaviour to suddenly change when the time is now and the work to be done is AIDS research?

In this link Stephen Pollard quotes Roger Bate, writing in the Wall Street Journal, as saying that AIDS drug development is trending downwards.

Why the decline?

Because the drugs companies no longer believe that they are going to get rich out of AIDS research. In fact they begin to doubt they will get any compensation at all. They read the newspapers, they study the speeches of politicians, and they sense that the popular wind is blowing against them. They think, probably rightly, that governments will either force them to sell at a loss drugs that were developed at huge expense or will bypass them and the law entirely by buying generic copies of patent drugs. Governments, after all, are the ones who can change the law when it is inconvenient. One minute the authorities will come down like a ton of bricks on pirate music or pirate videos. The next minute they will say that it is ‘unacceptable greed’ for companies to actually want to profit from patents on medical discoveries. I accept that there are subtleties and genuine conflicts of principle in the field of intellectual property – but the bottom line is that if pharma companies get nothing but abuse for the work they put in they bloody well won’t put in much more of it. Just as for the slaves, it’s no surprise that if people are forced to work for nothing then they don’t bust a gut.

It was the New Deal which put the Great in the Great Depression

The most significant thing about this Daniel Hannan tweet, I think, is not his praise of a Michael Gove speech, but his aside to the effect that FDR “turned a recession into a depression”. This idea is really getting around, and this is a very good thing.

It was the New Deal which put the Great in the Great Depression. (I found myself emitting this sentence at the end of this at my personal blog, which started out being about something else entirely, namely the current Lockdown, rather than about how the world will or will not emerge successfully from it.)

I just googled the above epigram, and the first piece I got to asked: Did New Deal Programs Help End the Great Depression? That item one in such a search casts doubt on (rather than simply endorsing) the claim that The New Deal did end the Great Depression, is a big propaganda step in the right direction.

What people now think is the quickest and best way to end an economic recession matters very much. That surely being why Hannan felt the need to say this about FDR’s disastrous economic policies, even though he was tweeting about something else.

The leader of Plaid Cymru must attend a struggle session

Adam Price, the Leader of Plaid Cymru, writes in Nation Cymru:

Wales, colonised and coloniser: a reflection

The murder of George Floyd and the desperately unequal burden faced by people of colour in the grip of the global pandemic have placed the question of racial injustice, at the forefront of our politics, in Wales just as in the wider world.

Accepting that to be silent at this time is to be complicit, I have committed to use the platform that I have to call for action: for the Welsh Government to instigate a wide-ranging review into the realities of structural racism, to decolonise the curriculum and to build a National Museum to celebrate the history of people of colour.

In the middle of this global moment of truth some criticism – some of it fair and some it not – has been levelled at me for some comments that I made about the Welsh colonial experience. I have spoken publicly about this before and I planned to do so again, having discussed it in depth with Plaid’s BME Section and others. While continuing to reflect on the criticism I have been more interested in listening than defending or explaining myself, not wanting to distract from the bigger issues at hand. But in response to claims that my actions mean Black Lives do not matter in Wales, I feel it’s now right that I respond.

Gwan, give us the dirt.

In October last year in an article headlined Westminster owes Wales reparations, I wrote:

“The Wales Office – that colonial outpost of a Westminster Government – stands in Whitehall in the building that once housed the Slavery Compensation Commission which infamously paid out to the slave owners after abolition rather than the newly liberated slaves. The argument that the British Empire owes reparations to the people of its former colonies is powerfully well-made by the Indian politician Shashi Tharoor. But England’s first colony should be added to that long list of creditors.”

You may have noticed that Mr Price mentions that when the British government abolished slavery in British colonies it “infamously” paid compensation to the slaveowners. He is right, it did pay an enormous sum to free the slaves. I am not sure what other path to liberating them Mr Price thinks the British government of 1833 ought to have followed. Perhaps that of France? The French revolutionary government declared all slaves in the French colonies free as early as 1794. Unfortunately words are not deeds, and in most places the declaration was ignored. Then in 1802 Napoleon restored slavery, and that was that for another forty six years. The other way of defeating a well-entrenched pro-slavery interest is this. While sometimes that sort of thing has to be done, I cannot help thinking that the British method was better for everyone, including the slaves.

I digress. Mr Price continues,

Much of the criticism has focused on the use of the word ‘reparations’. Historically this has been used to denote payment by way of compensation by a State to make amends to those it has wronged e.g. the reparation payments imposed on Germany after the 1914-1918 War.

In recent discourse, however, the word has been more closely associated with the campaign to recognise the financial debt owed to the descendants of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade and to the former colonies of Western countries, including Britain, in Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia and elsewhere (a campaign I fully support). In many conversations I have had since I spoke in October I’ve come to understand that many people of colour strongly believe that the word reparations should now be reserved exclusively for the context of slavery and western colonialism in acknowledgement of the unique scale of human suffering involved.

Now that we know that small self-appointed groups can take words out of common ownership, let’s buy up some Welsh words for our exclusive use. I am sure progressive Welsh speakers won’t mind the loss of them. They can always use English words instead.

Mr Price concludes:

I didn’t fully appreciate the force of this argument nor the strength of this feeling. I recognise now that this was a mistake. It was wrong to blur this distinction, and I would express myself differently today. If my poor choice of words caused anyone pain then I am profoundly, deeply, genuinely sorry.

Not a dry eye in the house.

Samizdata quote of the day

True, they were hypocrites. Jefferson himself was clearly aware of the ghastly contradictions. Pity they did not apply their own wise philosophies even-handedly, but they didn’t. That is was why Samuel Johnson hated them. And yet, their good ideas stand on their own merits.

– Perry de Havilland in response to “How do you respond to people who say that the Founding Fathers were hypocrites for owning slaves?”

Hey, let’s make it a three-way racial grudge match!

“The purity of a revolution can last a fortnight”Jean Cocteau

I thought from the start that most of the “solutions” the Black Lives Matter protesters demand would make the lives of black people worse, but (as with the Me Too movement before it), the BLM movement would never have got off the ground if there were not justifiable anger at real abuses.

To fight real abuses is hard. It might require thought. It might require compromise. To fight images of dead men is much more exhilarating. Don’t worry, you still get to crack heads.

The Leicester Mercury reports,

Gandhi statue campaign ‘a distraction’ from Black Lives Matters – Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe

Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe says a campaign to remove the statue of Mahatma Gandhi risks being a distraction to the Black Lives Matter movement.

A 6,000 name petition is calling for the sculpture of the Indian leader and civil rights campaigner to be taken down from the plinth in Belgrave Road where it has stood since 2009.

The petition was launched after a statue of Bristol slaver Edward Colston was toppled during a recent Black Lives Matters protest and dumped in the city’s harbour.

The organisers of the Gandhi statue petition said he was a “fascist, racist and sexual predator” who brought “inconsolable suffering” to millions of people during the partition of India before his assassination in January 1948.

That has enraged many people from the Indian community in Leicester East.

You don’t say!

Ms Webbe spoke out on the issue of the Gandhi statue after her predecessor as MP Keith Vaz arrived with city councillors and community volunteers to throw up a symbolic human ring around the piece of art.

Mr Vaz, who stood down as an MP after more than 30 years representing his city constituency prior to December’s General Election, had vowed to “defend it personally”.

The revolting revolting rich

Ed West provided the quote about younger sons of Norman lords which became the SQotD for June 4th. He has now written a follow up piece, “Why the rich are revolting”

Today’s unrest involves two sections of US society, African-Americans and upper-middle-class whites, who together form the axis of the Democratic Party, but it is the latter who are far more engaged in racial activism. The “Great Awokening”, the mass movement focused on eradicating racism in America and with a quasi-religious, almost hysterical feel to it, is dominated by the upper middle class.

I knew that, but I did not know this:

That noble tradition of haute bourgeoisie revolution continues today, especially in the US. The Occupy movement, for example, is deeply opposed to the 1% but largely because they come from the 2-5%; Amy Chua cited figures suggesting that in New York, more than half it members earned $75,000 or more while only 8% were on low incomes, compared to 30% of the city. They also have hugely disproportionate numbers of graduates and post-grads among their members.

The wider Great Awokening, of which the 2020 disturbances are a part, is a very elite phenomenon, with progressive activists nearly twice as likely as the average American to make more than $100,000 a year, nearly three times as likely to have a postgraduate degree, and only one-quarter as likely to be black.

Samizdata quote of the day

The simplest explanation for modern academics’ hostility to 21st century capitalism’s “structures of power” is their complete exclusion from them.

T. Greer, from ‘History is written by the losers’.

Of what crimes do the contents of your bookshelves convict you?

My mother was in her early teens in World War II. I once asked her what it was like not to know who would win. Alas, I cannot remember in detail how she answered, but among the things she said was that she did not speculate about it much because any such discussion would have been instantly quashed by her father, a former soldier, with some words along the lines of “There will be no defeatist talk in this family, young lady!”

Yet this atmosphere of stern patriotism did not stop her openly reading a translation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf on the principle of “Know thy enemy”.

“Owning a book isn’t a declaration of belief,” writes Janice Turner in the Times.

Journalists own a lot of odd books. Some are sent to us unsolicited, others we buy to illuminate a news story. That Michael Gove, a former Times columnist, has The War Path by Holocaust-denying historian David Irving nestling among Alastair Campbell diaries and Stalin biographies does not alarm me. But the online outrage at a photograph showing this book on Gove’s shelves does.

Because if I’d covered, say, the 1996 libel case brought by Irving I’d have bought his work, too. Why? Curiosity; the desire to quote from original sources; to hear Irving’s authorial voice; to understand how he magicked away mass murder. Later, my piece written, I’d have squeezed it in my unruly shelves with Mike Tyson’s Undisputed Truth and Naomi Wolf’s Vagina.

At this point I feel I ought to mention that the original Times article has that last word in italics.

Yet owning Irving’s book was to activist-journalist Owen Jones a window into Gove’s dark soul. On Twitter, people questioned why you’d read Irving rather than his many critics, as if they couldn’t trust their own minds not to be swayed. Gove was accused of “proudly displayed” antisemitism in his home. But books are not posters or cushions, mere expressions of personal taste.

What is the correct thing to do when you’ve read this book, in case some visiting fool concludes you’re a Nazi? Donating it to a charity shop risks further dissemination of evil. Well, you could burn it. That always goes well.

Here is Owen Jones’s tweet in all its glory.

Which of the books on your shelves would make you wish you had enabled the “blur background” function before turning on Zoom?

Apart from the obvious – a copy of Chavs by Owen Jones – I have three coffee-table books of reproductions of selected articles from the English language edition of Signal magazine, issued by the Wehrmachtpropaganda from 1940-1945. (It continued to publish an English language edition even after the US entered the war, ostensibly for the benefit of the Channel Islanders.)

How about you? Confess all and the tribunal will be merciful.

TIL: Tippex thinner no longer exists but the Oxford University Student Union still does

Back when I was clever, I went to Oxford. My time there was not wasted. I learned that the best place to get stationery was the OUSU* shop in Little Clarendon Street, or Little Trendy Street as it is properly known. There you could get jolly nice ring binders with the university crest on them for £3.50, I think it was, and, if memory does not fail me, bottles of Tippex for 70p. Proper Tippex with a cute little brush, not a silly foam applicator. Also available were bottles of Tippex thinner. Change and decay all around I see: apparently Tippex thinner is no longer a thing.

Buuut…

The Oxford University Student Union voted for a policy that transgender, working-class and female students needed more protection and urged the university to give faculties guidance and make more use of trigger warnings.

The motion, proposed by Alex Illsley, co-chairman of Oxford’s LGBTQ+ campaign, stated that there were multiple examples of “ableist, transphobic, classist and misogynistic content” on reading lists. He cited an article advocating that it should be a moral duty not to have disabled children, which was included on a medical law and ethics reading list, and one “advocating for the murder of disabled children after they have been born”.

Perhaps not all change is decay. In a departure from its usual policy of dignified pusillanimity, the University grew a pair:

The university issued a statement saying there would be no changes as a result of the motion. “[There are] no plans to censor reading materials assigned by our academics,” it said. It referred to its policy on free speech, adding: “Free speech is the lifeblood of a university. It enables the pursuit of knowledge. It helps us approach truth. Recognising the vital importance of free expression for the life of the mind, a university may make rules concerning the conduct of debate but should never prevent speech that is lawful. Inevitably, this will mean that members of the university are confronted with views that some find unsettling, extreme or offensive.”

Cambridge, take note.

*Back in those days OUSU stood for something. Though it always seemed a little odd that “The one that isn’t the Oxford Union” didn’t start with a T.

A ‘joke’ doing the rounds on the Czech language internet…

“Not allowed to travel. Police breaking up public gatherings. Empty shelves in shops. Have to queue for everything. I wonder why my parents keep acting like they’ve seen it all before?”