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 more anti-carbon governments become, the madder protesters are

Seen on a friend’s Facebook page:

I’ve regularly said that Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil types are the most ridiculous people in society right now – their combination of intellectual ineptitude and ethical irresponsibility makes both a mockery and a disgrace of them as human beings. And I think it’s clear to see now that the more they persist, the more harm they are doing to the cause they claim to support. I think ‘claim’ here is the operative word, because it is obvious that lies are at the heart of what they are doing. In case you missed it, the big giveaway is this. It’s that the more this country and its politicians, establishments and media institutions cravenly bend to their narrative, the more paranoid and frenzied they become.

If you’ve not noticed this, you’ve not being paying enough attention. Politicians have done way more than is needed in terms of enshrining extreme climate policies in law, allocating billions to green projects, subsidising renewables, imposing Pigouvian penalties on carbon emissions, and pushing for the Overton window to be shifted to the extreme left on environmentalist dogma. While at the same time, we’ve seen the eco-alarmists grow ever more extreme, hysterical, hateful, immature and resentful of human achievement and material progress, trying more and more outlandish things in order to get attention, and disrupting society from within the purview of their entitled, middle class playpens. They will never be satisfied, because the only thing that could begin to make them see the light is a total transformative escape out of their narrow, bitter and parochial minds.

The comment got me thinking that with certain types of protesters, what they want is to protest, period. The last thing they want is for businessmen or politicians to actually do things that are practical or necessary. They crave a cause, and developments such as more fuel-efficient cars, or carbon capture technology, are cases of “shooting their fox”. I get the impression that in much of the West (this seems less so in Asia) a part of the affluent class of young and not-so-young feel they missed out on the “great causes” of civil rights in the 60s, or anti-war protests of various kinds. I think this explains some, if not all, of the rage around the trans lobby and aspects of Critical Race Theory. (Mind you, I haven’t seen a lot of protest from such people about the brutalities of Iran, or Russia’s criminality in Ukraine, or the persecutions against various groups by the Chinese Communist Party.)

What we are seeing are the frustrations of those who crave membership of a cult and I think demonstrates the loss of any coherent philosophical anchor in their lives.

On a separate and related note on the “green” front, I see that France has banned short-haul domestic flights. So you have to take the train, drive, cycle, ride a horse, or walk.

Thoughts on the death of David Trimble

I first became aware of David Trimble some time in the early 1990s. I was impressed. He was way more impressive in his media appearances than any other unionist of the time. I was so impressed that – wearing my National Association of Conservative Graduates hat – I interviewed him. We covered the basics of the Ulster issue, why Northern Ireland existed, and, er… memory escapes me. The fun part was when he claimed that the Conservative Party had ceased to be a British party. At the time pretty stinging.

Sometime later, after he had become leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, and about a week after the IRA had bombed Canary Wharf, thus ending their ceasefire, I walked in to his Westminster office – I had somehow managed to acquire a pass – and declared that I was working for him. And so I did for the next year. In that year, we had Drumcree II, John Major’s government losing its majority and endless talks about talks in Belfast.

About the first thing he said to me on that day I joined, after asking whether or not I took sugar in my tea, and quite unprompted, was that the British governent was forever on the lookout for a unionist leader who would on the one hand keep unionists in line while on the other making endless concessions.

I was lucky enough to have a desk in his office – there is less space than you might think in the Palace of Westminster. I learnt an awful lot.

I learnt that Henry VIII died a Catholic. I learnt some very grim things about the Republic of Ireland’s justice system and the retribution the IRA visited on Ulster Britons after Bloody Sunday. I learnt that there is a difference between a member of the Irish peerage and and Irish member of the British peerage. I learnt that there were moles in the RUC. I learnt that if you receive an invitation to a Royal Banquet the stated dress code is black tie but don’t you dare turn up in anything less than white tie. I learnt that there was a time when ballots were not secret. Your vote would be published. David looked up to see how one of his ancestors had voted in a previous election. He was delighted to find that he had voted Liberal. I learnt that joining the Orange Order was “something you just did” and that a lot of loyalists have Irish names (O’Fee, O’Hare, that sort of thing). I learnt that journalists will twist your words at the drop of a hat, while giving your opponents a free pass. I learnt that the IRA is something of an aristocracy and that beyond the leadership quite a lot of them are really rather thick. I learnt that internment is essential in defeating terrorism.

I also saw him lose his temper now and then. It was quite something to see so long as you weren’t on the receiving end, his face turning a very deep red indeed. By far the best explosion was the day one of his fellow Ulster politicians showed up. Within five minutes – it may have been less – the two were shouting at one another at the top of their voices. The meeting was not a success.

It wasn’t all shouting though. At some point in the day he would just stop being the leader of a political party and start playing Windows Solitaire.

To my mind if you want to do good in Ulster you have to understand the issue. That’s not so easy when an awful lot of people are trying to obscure it. Clue: it has nothing to do with religion and nothing to do with civil rights. David was very helpful in this regard. The upshot was Ulster for Beginners which I rather self-indulgently re-published here a while back.

Sadly, David’s understanding of the issue was not – in my eyes at least – combined with a strategy for getting the word out. Very quickly, his leadership descended into a series of fire-fighting actions which I felt took away from the key job of making the case for unionism.

I left shortly before the 1997 Blair landslide. It was a good time to leave. The Labour Party had never held unionism in any great affection and was determined to make some sort of deal with the IRA. The result was the Good Friday Agreement with the nonsense of power sharing and later on the abolition of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It also included a promise from the IRA about disarmament which they probably didn’t mean at the time but after 9/11 probably did.

David became the first First Minister of Northern Ireland’s new devolved government but it didn’t last. What he didn’t see – I didn’t either – was that power sharing meant that voters had to elect the most extreme representatives their tribe could offer. The result was that the moderates of the Ulster Unionist Party and the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party were to all intents and purposes wiped out. So, it was with Trimble who eventually lost his Westminster seat.

David Trimble was one of the smartest, most knowledgeable people I have ever met. He combined that with an unusual ability – certainly amongst unionists – to get his message across. Had he been a mainland politician he would almost certainly have been a member of the Cabinet. It was even at one point suggested that he should join the Cabinet just the way he was. They say you should never meet your political hero. Well, I met mine and got to know him very well. And I am glad I did.

David Trimble as I remember him. Taken in the office at a time when taking photos on the Parliamentary estate was forbidden.

How not to convince people

I am an atheist – I don’t even seek any cover in the “foxhole” of agnosticism, or pull the “religion isn’t true but it keeps the plebs in line” sort of argument that I have sometimes come across. Full disclosure: I am a confirmed Anglican but fell away over the years, primarily because I could not engage with the idea of belief via faith. I know a lot of people who are religious, if not noisily so. I respect them and love many of them, and vice versa. It really is as simple as that.

Occasionally I come across the phenomenon of the “noisy atheist”, and am reminded what an unlovely creature that is. On my Facebook page, I follow a few groups such as one dedicated to Second World War allied pilots (I am an aviation history geek. Bite me.) Recently, a Canadian pilot, who flew Spitfires in the war, died at the tremendous age of 100. I wrote something along the lines of “Rest in Peace and blue skies to the brave gentleman.” All of a sudden, when I woke up the following day, I noticed that my comment and that of many other people had elicited comments from a person who wrote words to the effect of “religion is crap – grow up” or “your beliefs are a piece of shit”. The person has his own FB page on the subject of military history and makes a big point of his being an atheist. So it is probably not a Russian bot, although one never knows.

What to make of this other than the fact that some people are sociopaths, or just plain unpleasant and in need of some direct lessons in manners? Well, what it proves to me is that if you firmly hold to the idea that belief in a Supreme, omniscient god is nonsense, then it is absolutely fine to express that view, but not in a way that is so rude, or by injecting your views into the conversations of others, and ignoring context completely. Ironically for this digital yob, he has achieved the opposite effect in anyone whom he might have tried to convert, by associating unbelief with rudeness and crassness.

Atheism is the absence of belief, rather than a positive belief in X or Y. (To go further, atheism is the view that the idea of god is incoherent and therefore existence of gods cannot be true. A thing cannot be beyond nature and above it, as a god is, because nature is all of existence and to be outside it makes no sense. (That is my understanding of what atheism is, properly defined.)

There are, in my experience, a great variety of atheists, such as by their political beliefs and for some, belief in political or other ideologies fills a sort of philosophical hole. For other atheists, the lack of belief in a God creates no such “gap” – they have a coherent philosophy of life requiring no props of any kind. That is where I stand. Some atheists can be socialists/collectivists, others on the libertarian, classical liberal/Objectivist end of the spectrum, others traditional conservatives and so on. Some can be agreeable, philosophical and rounded as human beings. Some, alas, are just plain bloody awful. It seems to me that I have encountered the latter.

Anyway, I share these musings to reflect on etiquette and how social media has given opportunities to encounter humans at their best and their worst. On a positive end point, I have met a lot of good people via social media, in terms of actual friends whom I meet for real.

On Friendship

One of the first things I was told on being diagnosed with lung cancer was ‘you are going to need your friends’. That was said to me by the doctor who diagnosed me and the point is that it was true. I now have a small but superb group of close friends.

Neither by nature nor by nurture I haven’t been good at friendship. My parents, like many parents, thought they were doing a good job raising me then, particularly better than many of my contemporaries.

They did not believe in extravagant entertainment, they believed there were more important things in life. They told me that and I thought that was true. As a result I considered myself as a superior person. Why couldn’t others see that? But others didn’t see and said so and made my life a misery.

Like all parents they had the virtues of their vices and vices of their virtues. Swings and roundabouts, all the money they didn’t spend on extravagant entertainment, a quarter of that is mine, which makes my life easier.

As the years went by I realised my contemporaries were much better at running their lives than I was. At some point I had to ask the question – if I am so superior why am I so miserable? Clearly, I am not running my life as well as I thought I was.

As the years went by, I also realised they knew about friendship and I didn’t. And now I realise that my parents didn’t tell me how to do friendship. I had to work it out for myself. I was in my 20s when my attitude enabled me to meet people as friends.

There are two kinds of friends – there are people who enjoy the same things as you do and there are people with whom it goes deeper than that. You help them. And the view I arrived at was rooted in economics which I was getting to grips with at the time. My method of making friends, which seemed to have worked, has been based on easily done favours but for people on the receiving end these have been a major source of comfort.

The trick is not to go crazy or part with resources you can’t afford when helping people but if you got the resources you could spare and they would benefit from, then go ahead.

It’s a lot like early stages of a trade when you are looking to make a deal where you’d be willing to pay more and they’d be willing to sell for less, so both parties gain.

And then forget about it, assume you don’t have any rights and see how things go. Spend the effort noticing what other things you could do.

This didn’t come naturally to me, it was like a fear of life and working out how to live.

This is not objective knowledge, just a set of rules that I arrived at and it would appear that they worked for me. Am I the only libertarian that has gone through this sort of process? I suspect not. Which is why I am writing this.

You are often a good teacher of things you had to struggle to work out. All the best sports coaches are the ones to whom it didn’t come naturally. Contrast the football coach, Jack Charlton, and his more naturally gifted brother, Bobby Charlton. So much so it’s rather rare that brilliant sportsmen become good coaches.

The ones who have had to struggle and discover the process for themselves, explicitly and self-consciously, when faced with a problem can pass that knowledge on. This is what I did.

If someone’s a natural, the problem somehow solves itself in their head and they don’t really have a process of getting there. Then they face a challenge of having to explain how they did it.

Because I had to think about how to make friends, maybe these thoughts and other recollections like them will be useful for some.

Ideas are more powerful than armies – a tribute to Brian Micklethwait

I have often disagreed with Steve Baker as of late, but I must say this is good to see.

Samizdata quote of the day

I saw this via Instapundit and have to share:

“Tweedy party-at-the-Verso-loft n+1 leftists aren’t making money. 33 year olds who follow Tik Tok trends for a living and communicate in slang that’s fifteen years too young for them aren’t making money. Arrogant white nerdoliberals with Warby Parkers and Moleskine collections aren’t making money. Sports bloggers who provide sports news and commentary but with attitude aren’t making money. Softening khaki dads struggling to understand Bitcoin and intersectionality in an effort to survive their next inevitable layoff aren’t making money. Talented and unfulfilled women writers who have learned too late that women’s media is a ghetto they will struggle to escape for the rest of their careers aren’t making money. Aspiring young data scientists who labor over their spreadsheets for hours only to see others copy and past[e] their R graphs without attribution and receive 40x the pageviews aren’t making money. And you won’t either.”

Freddie deBoer (who has a Substack account; thanks also to Anne Althouse for putting this up.)

Chris Tame (1949-2006): A personal memoir

In an earlier posting here just after Christmas, I solicited compliments, to cheer me up after I’d been diagnosed with lung cancer. Commenters on that posting said nice things about my blogging here over the years, and I thanked them. But older friends and acquaintances, who had been sent an email with the same news of my probably much shortened lifespan, remembered an earlier time in my life, from about 1980 to 2000, during which I was a libertarian activist and pamphleteer. Since this was before the arrival of the Internet, the key items of technology, in addition to the then still primitive but fast developing personal computer was, rather surprisingly, the photocopier. But there was another circumstance, mentioned by many friends, which was of far greater importance to me than any personal computer or photocopier. That circumstance was an individual human being, Chris Tame:

That is a photo of Chris Tame that I recently chanced upon in the vast accumulation of more or less meaningless paper that passes for my filing system.

Three years after Chris Tame died in 2006, I did a talk about his influence and legacy, about how much of a difference Chris Tame made, to all the libertarians whom he got in touch with and whom he put in touch with each other from his 1980s nerve centre at the Alternative Bookshop and then on into the 1990s. Here and now, I want to emphasise what a difference Chris made to me personally. Had it not been for Chris I would probably not have bothered being any sort of active libertarian at all, because without him that would have been just too difficult. Now that I am asking people to praise me, I realise that I want to praise Chris, publicly and in writing and at quite some length, far more than I have yet praised him before.

→ Continue reading: Chris Tame (1949-2006): A personal memoir

On the British National Health Service imbalance between lethargic diagnosis and really rather good actual treatment of serious medical conditions

Yesterday I sent out a mass email to a list of my nearest and dearest, as many of them whose names I could remember, telling them that, just before Christmas, I had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and you know, pass it on. I said how bad I thought it was, and it does indeed seem rather bad. And I said what they could all do to cheer me up. Basically, tell me and tell the world what a clever fellow I have been over the years, and what their favourite writings and activities of mine have been. This process is now well under way, and a very gratifying boost to my morale it has already been, morale when faced with cancer being, I surmise, a rather big deal, maybe even a life-saver. My thanks to all those who have already communicated with me along those lines, and long may that process continue.

I put the entire text of that email up at my personal blog, and should you now wish to, you can read it there.

What else to say? Many things, not least that this diagnosis has concentrated my mind wonderfully on what really matters to me. During the last few years, I have found myself writing more and more about trivia and esoterica, of the sort that intrigues me but lacks general appeal, at my various personal blogs, rather than trying to grab the world by the ears here at Samizdata. Although I promise nothing, I now feel that this is liable to change. My life now looks like being too short to be postponing the final bits of ear-grabbing that I now want to try to get done, before I depart. Famous last words are hard to contrive, but some rather more impressive ones than would have happened had I merely died suddenly now seem worth attempting.

I’ll make a start by writing about a phenomenon I have become very aware of during the last few days and weeks, which is the imbalance between the effectiveness of Britain’s National Health Service when it comes, on the one hand, to the diagnosis of a disease, and on the other hand, to the treating of it.

Basically, the NHS does the first very inefficiently and in particular very slowly. But, it does the second really rather well, often just as well or better than the private sector, and often with the exact same equipment and staff.

My understanding of this contrast may be distorted by the fact that I am now being treated, at the expense of the NHS, at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital in the Fulham Road, which has a global reputation for its cancer treatment. But, in not a few of the sympathetic emails I have received from friends and relatives, this same story has recurred, of slow and unsatisfactory NHS diagnosis, then followed by a vigorous, urgent and targetted response to the problem, once that problem was properly understood.

The email which explained this best came from my sister, who was an NHS General Practitioner for all of her working life until she retired.

The problem faced by the NHS in diagnosis is that the NHS is confronted on a daily basis with an ocean of complaints about aches, pains and general misfortunes which can be anything from very serious to hardly counting as real medical problems at all. NHS general practitioners provide a service which stretches all the way from trying to spot something like my lung cancer, to just lending a sympathetic ear to a person who is being tormented by her husband or children, or just generally feeling glum and run-down. The service is free at the point of use. If you are having a miserable life and could use some pills to take the worst of the sting out of that life, and if you would positively welcome waiting in the queue at the doctor’s, thereby enjoying a little moment of blessed relief from the disappointments or even torments of the rest of your life, well, you would visit your doctor, wouldn’t you?

The National Health Service doubles up as a sort of National Friendliness Service. At which point, how is the doctor supposed to decide who he or she should spend serious time with, in this vast and varied queue, and whom he or she should shove to the back of the queue? How is the doctor supposed to spot the serious medical cases, in among the vast throng of the merely unhappy and unfortunate? I’m not blaming these NHS doctors for their problem. They’re doing their best. It’s just that their best is liable not to be that good.

So it is that the NHS takes a huge amount of time to identify the serious cases, such as mine is. A pain in your pelvis, you say? Quite bad, you say? Well, I suppose you could have a test, towards the end of next month. Maybe an appointment with a bone doctor, in January? Would the 21st be convenient? Our budget is rather limited, as I am sure you realise, and time slots soon get taken.

Faced with this interminable process, while my aches and pains gradually got that little bit worse as the weeks went by, I eventually sought the informal help of medically expert friends. Who immediately advised me to go private to find out what the problem was. Sounds like it’s serious, they said. They recommended a trusted private sector GP, who talked my sufferings over with me on the phone within about one hour, and immediately steered me towards an esteemed colleague. I put myself in this colleague’s hands. I did not and still do not have any private medical insurance scheme. Nevertheless, for the price of a cheap second hand car, I then learned the bad news of what was happening to me in a matter of days. In no time at all, or so it now feels, I began to be treated at the Royal Marsden, for the immediate threat to my spine, which is just next to where the tumor is.

I soon realised that what I had paid for was not just a diagnostic expert, but also an advocate for me, within the NHS system. That advocate could lay out the evidence in front of the NHS. Look, this is serious. Treat this, and you won’t just be chucking money at nothing. You will be curing or at the very least seriously treating a serious condition.

I am not trying to make a partisan political point here. I know I know, NHS equals socialism, yah boo hiss. But I think the distinction is a bit more subtle than that. As I say, the serious treatment of serious conditions bit of the NHS seems, if my experience and that of other emailers to me in recent days is anything to go by, to work rather well.

I think the distinction concerns what in other contexts is referred to as “moral hazard”. It is one thing to exaggerate an ache or a pain in order to have a nice little conversation with a nice doctor and to get hold of a few prescription anti-depressants or some such thing, without having to part with any money you do not have because payday is not until tomorrow. But people don’t fake lung cancer merely to get the sympathetic attention of a doctor. I mean, how would you even do that?

I was persuaded by two dear friends in particular that there was almost certainly something or other seriously wrong with me, and I was willing and could afford to reinforce my question with a stash of quite serious cash. I bought my way to the front of the diagnosis queue, and I do not apologise for this one little bit. I bought my way past various merely unhappy and somewhat discomforted people, and well done me. I now have a fighting chance. It turned out that I did indeed need serious medical attention and I needed it fast. My one big regret now is that I did not start waving my money around sooner.

As I say, it was the way that this original surmise of mine was so strongly confirmed by the experiences of others that made me sure that this was something worth me writing about, at the internet outlet I have at my disposal that will reach the greatest number of potential readers. What I’m saying is: Learn from me about how to throw money, in particular, at the diagnosis stage of a potential illness. If your problem proves to be no big problem and is easily corrected, well, fine, you’ve checked it out. Panic over. But if it is a serious problem, chances are you don’t want to be wasting time, and if you have the money, you should spend it and save the time.

Another way of explaining this is to point out that testing for things like cancer can get decidedly expensive, if it is to be done well. Soon after consulting my private sector diagnostic expert, I had about three different tests, each of them costing well over a thousand quid each. It makes no sense to give tests like that to people who are merely unhappy with their lives and their lot in life, and are telling you they have a tummy ache merely to get a little bit of your attention.

Or to put it yet another way, I look forward fondly to the time when such tests get much, much cheaper. Cancer care itself, I have been learning, is massively better than it was even a few short years ago. Well, likewise and one day, I’d like to think that instead of spending half an hour on some unwieldy and expensive space age contraption at the Marsden, there will come a time when all those complaining of bodily misfortunes, however slight, can just step through a gadget no more complicated than an airport metal detector. If the hit rate for serious conditions is a mere one per two hundred, or some such number, well that’s fine. Cheap at the price.

And don’t get me started on Brunel, which is the Marsden’s even space-agier device which has been giving me my first doses of actual treatment. Brunel is really something.

Like I say, my treatment looks like it’s state-of-the-art.

If this blog post saves or merely prolongs just one life, then good. Mission more than accomplished. This has not been that important a posting, and I certainly claim no originality for it. I’m sure many others have noted the same things as I have just been noticing. But, maybe for just one reader or friend-of-a-reader, it just might be the straw, so to speak, that saves one human camel’s back, if you get my drift.

This posting has been written in some haste, hence its rather excessive length. Brevity tends to take longer, I find. Also, I dare say there’s the odd typo or two, which I will correct as and when I or anyone else spots them. But I am sure you understand my haste. I have lots more things I want to say here before I make my exit, and it looks now like I have far less time to waste than I had earlier been supposing.

Could you live in this socialist country?

Is the challenge from YT Vlogger ‘bald and bankrupt‘, in this video, filmed recently in Cuba. ‘bald’ as he is referred to, appears to be a chap from Brighton (if you watch his oeuvre) who walks around various parts of our Earth and makes short documentaries about what he sees. He speaks fluent Russian (it seems to me, and his former wife we have been told is Belarusian) but not such good Spanish, and his sidekick is a Belarusian woman who does speak enough Spanish to get by and who interprets for him.

He presents Cuba by the simple device of walking around and going into several retail outlets to show what is on offer, and it looks pretty grim. He also talks to locals, most of whom seem well-drilled in what to say about the Revolution and to profess their loyalty to Fidel. He notes that everyone seems to want to escape. There is an unresolved side-issue of an abandoned kitten in the video.

And yet 10,000,000 people in the UK voted last December for a party just itching to get us to this economic state, without the sunshine. And in the USA, there seems to be far too much enthusiasm for socialism.

Bald’s ‘back catalogue’ contains a great travelogue for much of the former USSR. Whilst he admires all things ‘Soviet’ in terms of architecture (there is a running ‘gag’ about his excitement at finding himself in a Soviet-era bus station, he does acknowledge the grim reality of Soviet rule.

Looking back at Christmas Day

It’s now that time of the year between Christmas and the New Year, when we here sometimes do big postings with lots of photos. Usually, these have been retrospective looks back at the year nearly concluded. I did photo-postings like this in 2013, in 2015, and in 2017. And see also other such photo-postings here in the past, like this one in 2014, and this one way back in 2006.

We’re not the only ones doing these retro-postings about the nearly-gone year. A few days back an email incame from David Thompson, flagging up the posting he did summarising his 2019, which will already have been much read on account of Instapundit already having linked to it. And one of Thompson’s commenters mentioned a similar posting by Christopher Snowdon, mostly about politicians wanting to tell us what not to eat, drink or smoke.

So, here’s another 2019 retrospective. But it’s not a look back at the whole of 2019, merely a look back at a walk I took in London, on Christmas Day 2019. I like to photo-walk in London on Christmas Day, especially if the weather is as great as it was that Day.

I began my walk by going to Victoria Street and turning right, towards Westminster Abbey, where I did what I often do around Westminster Abbey. I photoed my fellow digital photographers, who were photoing Westminster Abbey:

The lady on the left as we look is using one of those small but dedicated digital cameras, of the sort that nobody buys now and hardly anyone even uses now, because the logical thing, unless you want something like 25x zoom like I do, or really great photos that you could blow up and hang in an art gallery, is to use a mobile phone. But she is still using her tiny camera from about a decade ago. Odd.

Next some giant purple Christmas tree balls, outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

→ Continue reading: Looking back at Christmas Day

We owe the relatives of murder victims our compassion but not our belief

Saturday’s Daily Mail carries this headline: ‘He’s a fraud’: Father of London Bridge terror victim Jack Merritt blasts Boris Johnson for making ‘political capital’ out of son’s death – and backs Jeremy Corbyn after TV debate

The article continues,

The father of a man killed in the London Bridge terror has slammed Boris Johnson for trying to ‘make political capital’ over his death.

David Merritt said the Prime Minister was a ‘fraud’ for using the attack as justification for a series of tougher criminal policies in a post on social media.

His son Jack Merritt, 25, was one of two people killed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan at a prisoner reform meeting in Fishmongers’ Hall last Friday.

What bitter irony that the two young people Usman Khan murdered believed strongly that criminals like him could change for the better. Because Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones were attending a conference on rehabilitation of offenders alongside Khan they were the nearest available targets for his knives. No doubt Khan planned it that way. One of the consistent aims of Islamists is to sow distrust for Muslims among non-Muslims.

David Merritt has suffered the cruellest blow imaginable. Nothing is more natural than that he should strive to counter the narrative that the ideals for which his son strove are disproved by the manner of his murder.

It is, of course, right to say that the ideal of rehabilitation is not disproved by one failure. No policy is proved or disproved by individual cases. Let us not forget that James Ford, one of the men who bravely fought to subdue Khan, was a convicted murderer on day-release.

However while Khan’s example of terrorist rehabilitation gone wrong does not prove that it can never go right, it is a data point. Thankfully we do not have many data points for the graph of jihadists playing a long game. But that means the ones we do have weigh comparatively heavily. What Khan did others can copy. The prime minister and those who make policy on parole and rehabilitation of prisoners must assess that possibility. They cannot allow what Jack Merritt would have wanted or what would ease David Merritt’s pain to factor in their decision.

In 2001 I wrote a pamphlet for the Libertarian Alliance called Rachel weeping for her children: understanding the reaction to the massacre at Dunblane (PDF, text). When discussing massacres carried out by Muslims with a Libertarian audience it is worth bringing up the subject of massacres carried out by gun owners, because our prejudices are likely to run in a different direction. We are better protected from the temptation to make group judgements. There are other common factors in how we should strive to think rationally about these two sorts of mass killing as well. In 2001 I wrote how the agony of the bereaved parents of those children preyed on my mind. I would have done anything to comfort them – except believe what I knew to be untrue.

When the parents of the Dunblane children spoke there was every reason for the world to hear about their terrible experience. There was never any particular reason to suppose that their opinions were right. In fact their opinions should carry less weight than almost anyone else’s should. This point is well understood when it comes to juries. It goes without saying, or, at least, it once did, that guilt or innocence must be decided by impartial people. Decisions of policy require the same cast of mind as decisions of guilt and innocence. The relatives of murder victims cannot be impartial. In a murder trial it is no use saying that it is as important to the family of the victim as to the judge that no innocent person be punished. In pure logic it ought to be, but in fact it almost never is. The bereaved want to believe that the evildoer has been punished. If the real evildoer has escaped (either escaped in the literal meaning of the word or escaped by suicide, as Hamilton did) someone must be found to suffer. Even in cases of pure accident we don’t have Acts of God any more: always some arm of government or business is pursued and sued so that the weight of blame may fall on somebody.

The constant denial that humans possess agency

Following on from the posting below about the “ISIS bride” is this comment from Brendan O’Neill at Spiked:

Indeed, the story of these three London girls who ran off in 2015 was always a very telling one. It contains lessons, if only we are willing to see them. Too many observers have focused on the girls’ youthfulness and the idea that they were ‘groomed’ or ‘brainwashed’ by online jihadists. Note how ‘radicalisation’ has become an entirely passive phrase – these girls, and other Brits, were ‘radicalised’, we are always told, as if they are unwitting dupes who were mentally poisoned by sinister internet-users in Mosul or Raqqa. In truth, the three girls were resourceful and bright. All were grade-A students. They thought their actions through, they planned them meticulously, and they executed them well. Far from being the passive victims of online radicalisation, the girls themselves sought to convince other young women to run away to ISIS territory. The focus on the ‘grooming’ of Western European youths by evil ISIS masterminds overlooks a more terrible reality: that some Western European youths, Muslim ones, actively sought out the ISIS life.

A point that comes out of this is how it is so common these days to downplay the fact that people make choices and have agency. Whether it is about young adults joining Islamist death cults, or people becoming addicted to drink, porn or social media, or falling into some other self-destructive and anti-social behaviour, very often people talk about the persons concerned as passive, as victims. “She was groomed to be a terrorist”…..”he suffered from alcoholism”…..”he was damaged by over-use of social media”……the very way that journalists write sentences or broadcast their thoughts seem to suggest that people don’t really possess volition, aka free will. (Here is a good explanation of what free will is, at least in the sense that I think it is best formulated, by the late Nathaniel Branden.)

Sometimes debates about whether humans really do have volition can sound like hair-splitting, an obscure sort of issue far less important than other matters of the day. I disagree. For decades, centuries even, different arguments have been presented to show that humans are pushed around by whatever external or internal forces happen to be in play, whether it is the environment, toilet training, parental guidance, economics, the class system, whatever. Over time, these ideas percolate into wider society so that it becomes acceptable for people to talk as if their very thoughts and actions aren’t really under their control. The self-contradictory nature of people denying that they have volition (to deny is, after all, a decision) is rarely remarked upon.

When people think about the problem of “snowflake” students, or identity politics, or other such things, remember that these phenomena didn’t come out of nowhere. We are seeing the “cashing in”, as Ayn Rand put it almost half a century ago, of the idea that people are not agents with will, but mere puppets.

Update: A lively debate in the comments. There is some pushback on the idea that the ISIS bride sees herself as any sort of victim but I think that charge is correct because of the entitlement mentality she is displaying by demanding that she returns to the UK to have her child, and no doubt fall on the grace of the UK taxpayer. And that mindset is all of a piece of thinking that actions don’t bring consequences.

After all, if she is the devout believer in creating a Global Caliphate, based on killing and enslaving unbelievers and all the assorted mindfuckery of such a goal, it is a bit rich, really, for her to come back to a country the prosperity of which is based on it being a largely liberal, secular place. She wants to have her cake and eat it.

Of course, some young jihadis can be brainwashed and are surrounded by a culture that encourages such behaviour, but it is worth pointing out that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who, whatever the pressures, don’t do these things, and some are trying their best to move away from this mindset. And one of the best ways that liberal (to use that word in its correct sense) societies can resist the pathology of Islamist death cults is by resisting the “victim culture” and insisting on people taking ownership of their actions, with all the consequences for good or ill that this brings.

As an aside, here is an interesting essay by a Canadian academic debunking what might be called “apocalyptic ethics” and a rebuttal of the argument that as religious fanatics embrace death, they are beyond the rational self interest test of ethics. The article deals with that argument beautifully.