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]

Glenn Hoddle was treated abominably for his religious views

The football commenter and distinguished former player and manager Glenn Hoddle suffered a heart attack two days ago while at a London TV studio. His life was saved by a sound engineer who knew how to use a defibrillator, though he remains in a serious condition. I wish him well.

I do not follow football, but those who do might enjoy the appreciation of Hoddle’s career written for the Times by its sports writer Matthew Syed, “Glenn Hoddle a visionary whose face did not fit in muscular English game”:

Ray Clemence, the goalkeeper, would pass out to Steve Perryman, who would feed Hoddle. A glance up, and then the ball was off, curving into the path of the wide players, the move already in full swing. As Hoddle advanced up the pitch, he was like a grandmaster in lilywhite, seeing four moves ahead, making passes into space, and daring his team-mates to think differently.

Hoddle’s different way of thinking extended to matters other than football. Syed relates,

His managerial career for England ended in acrimony after he expressed controversial religious views. I felt then, and still feel, that he was treated abominably.

Hoddle’s reported view that disabled people are paying the price for sins in a previous life struck me as no less ridiculous or offensive than the theology I had been surrounded by as a youngster at church. The difference was that his views were unconventionally whacky, which is why he was not granted the latitude that would undoubtedly have been offered a Christian or Muslim. Tony Blair, whose religious views are as off the wall as anybody’s, called for him to resign. Hoddle said that his beliefs had been misrepresented, but by that stage, it hardly mattered. By the time he was sacked, it had become a witch-hunt.

Mr Syed’s views about religion are not mine, but when it comes to the unfairness of a man being hounded out of his job for religious beliefs unrelated to that job, and the double unfairness of the Prime Minister joining the mob, we are at one. (Blair’s bad example was followed by Cameron who also disgraced his office by denouncing a private citizen who had broken no law.) The links are all dead in the blogpost I wrote in 2004 in response to an article by Simon Barnes that placed Hoddle in the same bracket as the then head coach of the Spanish football team who had made racist remarks, but my opinion has not changed:

But there was one part of his [Simon Barnes’s] article that I thought was unfair. I quote:

“Glenn Hoddle was dismissed as England coach because he said things about the disabled that provoked a heart-felt reaction across the country. The head of the England football team just can’t go around saying things like that.”

No, he can’t. And that has the unfortunate consequence, particularly for those who oppose racism as Simon Barnes does, that until things change we can never have a Hindu coach for our football team. Hoddle’s belief in reincarnation and that misfortune in this life is the result of bad behaviour in past lives may be unusual for a white Briton but is orthodox for thousands of Britons of the Hindu religion. I have no doubt that Hoddle’s sacking had a chilling effect on Hindus striving for public eminence in all sorts of fields, not limited to sport.

and

I wish more prominent British Hindus had spoken out about this at the time of Hoddle’s exit – but I find it hard to blame them for their silence, given that it had just been demonstrated that people with their beliefs could be sacked for them to popular acclaim.

Blasphemy laws return to Europe

Guido Fawkes reports:

ECHR: Defaming Muhammad beyond “Permissible limits” of “objective debate”

and comments,

The Austrian court found that “by making the statements the applicant had suggested that Muhammad was not a worthy subject of worship”. The ECHR has now agreed that this is a crime which trumps a person’s right to free speech. On the same day that Ireland is finally voting to take blasphemy laws out of its constitution, the ECHR seems determined to put them back in…

Calling all Samizdata-reading lawyers! Is this as bad for free speech as it sounds, or are there complicating factors? How specific to Austria is it?

Note that the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) is not the “supreme court of the EU”, that would be the European Court of Justice (ECJ). We will probably stay in the ECHR when we leave the EU.

Finally, what’s with “… he was not a worthy subject of worship”? Muslims strenuously deny that they worship Muhammad; worship is for God alone. At first I thought this might be a sloppy paraphrase by Guido, but those very words do appear several times in the original judgement.

On This Day

On 3 September 1939 the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany. But we are in no danger of forgetting that.

When did you last think about Beslan?

Jeremy Corbyn, cultural appropriator

As all should know, cultural appropriation is Not OK. It is particularly offensive when white westerners imitate the religious practices of others despite having no belief in that religion.

So I was shocked to see pictures of Mr Corbyn assuming the characteristic posture of Islamic prayer on this solemn occasion:

Jeremy Corbyn is seen posing with a wreath under a distinctive red canopy as other politicians look on. This canopy runs alongside the graves of Salah Khalaf, Hayel Abdel-Hamid, Fakhri al-Omari and Atef Bseiso, three of whom have been linked to Black September, the group behind the 1972 atrocity at the Munich Olympic Games

hands held in the characteristic posture of Islamic prayer

That picture comes from this Daily Mail story, third picture down. The caption reads:

Jeremy Corbyn raises his hands in what appears to be an Islamic prayer position as he stands beside other politicians. A source said he was not praying but ‘copying the others out of respect’

One must also question the culturally insensitive way in which Corbyn referred to a convicted Hamas terrorist as a “brother”. From the Evening Standard:

In August 2012, Corbyn (right) appeared on Iran’s Press TV with a convicted Hamas terrorist named Dr Abdul Aziz Umar. “He got seven life sentences for helping to organise a Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem in 2003 that killed seven people,” Rich points out. The bombing at the Café Hillel took place during the second intifada. Among the victims were Dr David Applebaum, head of the emergency room at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, and his daughter Nava, who was due to be married the next day.

Umar was charged with providing a safe house for the terrorists and guarding the property as they fitted the bomber with a suicide belt. He was released a year before his Press TV appearance as part of the prisoner swap arranged to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

“You have to ask the question why they are in prison in the first place,” said the now Labour leader. “I’m glad that those who were released were released.”

Umar was appearing on the show by video link but Corbyn pointed out the pair had met before.

“I met many of the brothers, including the brother who’s been speaking here when they came out of prison, when I was in Doha earlier this year,” he said.Rich also notes that this appearance on Press TV took place seven months after the channel lost its Ofcom licence. This followed a £100,000 fine for broadcasting the forced interrogation of a Newsweek journalist held prisoner in Iran.

You can hear Mr Corbyn saying those words at 15:55 – 16:05 in this video clip from The Muslim TV.net: [12 Aug 2012] Israeli prisons increase repression during Ramadan – English

As everyone ought to know, the use of the terms “brother” and “sister” among Muslims implies that the speaker and the person being addressed or described are both Muslims. Surah 49:10 “Al-Hujarat” says, “The believers are nothing else than brothers. So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.” How shocking that Mr Corbyn would crassly insert himself, a non-Muslim, into this expression of shared Muslim faith.

A brash, native New Yorker commits the most heinous of crimes, refusing to apologise

The man is a politician known for his implausible hair, and has certainly made some outrageous remarks about a certain foreign politician, which was no bar to high office. I refer of course to the (part-Turkish) Right Honourable Boris Johnson MP. He has made, in passing, remarks against a burka ban, with, I’m told, an allusion to it making the wearer resemble a letter box. His Party Chairman called on him to apologise, but, so far, he has not done so.

He is also, we hear, accused of breaching the Conservative Party’s Code of Conduct:

lead by example to encourage and foster respect and tolerance;

So give him some respect and tolerate his use of language. Is he not fostering tolerance by showing the Conservative Party’s leadership up for the intolerant, virtue-signalling, Lib Dem prigs that they are?

not use their position to bully, abuse, victimise, harass or unlawfully discriminate against others (see further the interpretation annex);

He wrote a newspaper article, whilst an MP, but not as an MP.

The annex to the Code defines discrimination etc.

Discrimination includes victimising or harassing any other person because of race (including colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, citizenship), sex, gender re-assignment, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status, disability, age, religion or belief [which should be interpreted as fully adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism], pregnancy and maternity status.

Harassment is any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive situation or environment for them. A single incident can amount to harassment. Harassment may involve conduct of a sexual nature (sexual harassment), or it may be related to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. Harassment is unacceptable even if it does not fall within any of these categories. Victimisation provisions protect certain individuals who do (or might do) acts such as bringing discrimination claims, complaining about harassment, or getting involved in some way with another complaint (such as giving evidence).

Victimisation may therefore occur where a person subjects another person to a detriment because either that person has acted in such a way and/or is believed to have acted in such a way, or may act in such a way.

Bullying is offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour involving the misuse of power that can make a person feel vulnerable, upset, humiliated, undermined or threatened. Power does not always mean being in a position of authority, but can include both personal strength, influence and the power to coerce through fear or intimidation. Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct.

It seems to me that an actual person is required to be on the receiving end here, and although Mr Johnson’s article is behind a paywall at the Telegraph, I don’t think it would have mentioned any particular person as being the ringer for a letter box.

So the case against him is crock. He is of course, a ‘renegade’ having resigned over Mrs May’s Munich, and a possible threat to the FFC. And whatever the ‘crime’ is , the one thing that is expected by the media and, it seems, most of the political class, is the ritual apology for ‘offence’ found. If he can hold out, he will show himself to have considerable political courage, just what is needed these days.

And if he can face down the PC-boo-hiss crowd and sit out the storm, the curtain hiding the impotent media/politico Wizard of Oz may start to fall, and truth may flourish, like flowers in a woodland glade, just cleared by a storm.

There never was a man so hated, as he who told the truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While we’re at it, why not gas the dog?

Mark Meechan a.k.a. “Count Dankula”, the man who imperilled us all by making a funny video of a little dog lifting its paw like a Nazi salute, has been found guilty of a crime under the Communications Act 2003 at Airdrie Sheriff Court.

If we are handing out punishments to obvious non-Nazis for doing stuff that reminds people of Nazis I don’t see why that Seig-Heiling pug should get away scot-free.

Samizdata quote of the day

It’s only when you read Leviticus that you realise just how into food, drink, clothes, haircuts and beards God is. He comes across as some kind of allegedly divine, yet utterly materialistic hipster.

– ‘Deschain’ commenting over on the Guardian

The pitchforks are out for Count Dankula

“M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi.” That link takes you to a video in which a man who wished to annoy his girlfriend trained her cute pug to lift its paw in a “Nazi salute” in response to Nazi slogans. Well, it used to. At present for me it takes me to a video of a black screen saying “This video is not available in your country”. Mark Meechan, the man who made the video, is from Scotland and I am in England, but I do not think that explains it.

From the Telegraph‘s account and even more from a swing round Mr Meechan’s “Count Dankula” YouTube channel, it does sound as if his humour tends towards the crass and tasteless. But do these words from the beginning of the video sound to you like the voice of a man committed to the triumph of Nazism?

The court heard that at the start of the clip, he said: “My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi.”

In the video, the dog is seen perking up when it hears the statements and appears to lift its paw to the “Sieg Heil” command in the video, which has now been viewed more than million times.

Mr Meechan is currently on trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court for committing a hate crime. If convicted he faces up to a year in prison. The verdict was due two days ago but has been delayed for reasons unknown.

One of the more detailed reports on the case came from the Washington Post:

The dog is also seen watching a Hitler rally during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. The dog appears to raise its paw when Hitler proclaims “Sieg Heil.”

“Who’s a good wee Nazi?” Meechan praised the dog.

The video ricocheted around the Internet and has now been viewed more than 3 million times. Some found it amusing; others feel it was crude and anti-Semitic, including a woman who Meechan says confronted him, then spread dog feces on his front door.

Prosecutors say it’s a hate crime.

That April, soon after the video was posted, police knocked on Meechan’s door in Coatbridge, a town in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, he told Alex Jones. The officers told him that he was being charged with a hate crime and that the video could be seen as promoting violence against Jews. They told him to change his clothes, took pictures of his apartment and hauled him off to jail.

He spent a night there and is now on trial for violating the Communications Act of 2003, which prohibits using public telecommunications to send discriminatory religious messages.

The modern idea of a university

Anger as Oxford college bans Christian group from freshers’ fair

A University of Oxford college banned Christian Union representatives from attending its freshers’ fair over concerns at the “potential for harm to freshers”.

Balliol Christian Union (CU) was told the college’s student body, the JCR, wanted the freshers’ fair to be a “secular space”, according to Oxford’s student newspaper Cherwell.

Eventually the CU was told that a single multi-faith stall would be allowed to display leaflets, though no representatives would be allowed to staff it, according to leaked emails seen by the paper. Balliol CU boycotted this option.

[…]

In an email exchange, JCR vice-president Freddy Potts, on behalf of the JCR committee, reportedly told a CU representative: “We recognise the wonderful advantages in having CU representatives at the freshers’ fair, but are concerned that there is potential for harm to freshers who are already struggling to feel welcome in Oxford.”

Harm? Think of it as toughening ’em up for their first tutorial. It used to be said that the fierce, personal engagement with ideas engendered by the tutorial system was what set Oxbridge apart. I had to check, but apparently they do still hold tutorials despite the risks. The University website tells potential students that at tutorials they will need to be ready to present and defend [their] opinions, accept constructive criticism and listen to others. And Freddy Potts ain’t gonna be there to hold your hand.

The solicitous Mr Potts continues:

According to the paper, he added: “Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice, and is still used in many places as an excuse for homophobia and certain forms of neo-colonialism.”

At one time the idea of a university was a little less protective:

As universities face an estimated £4.2bn in spending cuts and increasing pressure to become more “market driven”, the recently beatified John Henry Newman would have had something to say about the possible impact on higher education. The clergyman, Oxford academic and famed convert to Catholicism gave a series of lectures in 1852 reflecting on the university’s purpose that were published as The Idea of a University in the same year.

The author of this article, Sophia Deboick, was naive to think that pressure to become more market-driven was the main threat to the concept of the university as a place of broad learning, but she writes well on Newman’s contribution to that idea:

For Newman, the ideal university is a community of thinkers, engaging in intellectual pursuits not for any external purpose, but as an end in itself. Envisaging a broad, liberal education, which teaches students “to think and to reason and to compare and to discriminate and to analyse”, Newman held that narrow minds were born of narrow specialisation and stipulated that students should be given a solid grounding in all areas of study. A restricted, vocational education was out of the question for him. Somewhat surprisingly, he also espoused the view that universities should be entirely free of religious interference, putting forward a secular, pluralist and inclusive ideal.

Two years after the publication of The Idea of a University the Oxford University Act 1854 “opened the university to students outside the Church of England, as there was no longer a requirement to undergo a theological test or take the Oath of Supremacy.” That is what Newman meant by “religious interference”: the power to compel those attending the university to conform, or pretend to conform, to a particular religion and to exclude those of different beliefs.

We have not quite come full circle yet, but give it time.

So what should we do about North Korea?

By “we” I mean the American government of course.

Let’s try some Q and A:

Does North Korea currently possess the means to destroy cities in South Korea, Japan and even the United States?
I’m guessing that’s a “no”. My understanding is that building a missile is one thing, building an atomic bomb another thing and combining the two really difficult.

If not, are they likely to acquire those means any time soon?
Well, they seem to have spent a hell of a long time just getting to this stage. So, it could be a while yet.

Were they to acquire them how likely would they be to use them?
I suppose the question here is whether or not the threat of instant nuclear annihilation would deter them. The point is that the Norks are atheists. They do not have a heaven to go to. They want to receive their rewards in this world. There is no upside to being nuked. So, they can be deterred.

Of course, I say they are atheists but their system of government is clearly a hereditary monarchy. Monarchies tend to have gods attached. But as yet (to the best of my knowledge) the Norks haven’t come up with a heaven. But when they do… watch out.

So, the best approach is probably to do nothing and let deterrence do its thing?
Probably. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the US doing the deterring. Japan and South Korea could do much the same, after they had developed nuclear weapons of course.

Getting back to this god stuff, the Iranians aren’t atheists are they?
No they’re not. And they believe in heaven. And they believe they would go to heaven if they nuked Israel. And rumour has it that the Norks are helping them with the tech. But my guess is that the Israelis have the means to deal with this threat before it becomes serious.

So, what you’re saying is that the US’s best approach is to do nothing?
Yes, I guess I am.

I would just add that it is remarkable how difficult smaller tyrannies find it to replicate 60-year old technology.

“All God’s names were slowly deleted from the national memory”

Writing in the Kashmir Monitor, Alia P. Ahmed describes an aspect of Pakistan’s history whose effects still reverberate today:

When “Khuda” became “Allah”

In 1985 a curious thing happened: a prominent Pakistani talk-show host bid her audience farewell with the words Allah Hafiz. It was an awkward substitution. The Urdu word for goodbye was actually Khuda Hafiz (meaning God be with you), using the Persian word for God, Khuda, not the Arabic one, Allah. The new term was pushed on the populace in the midst of military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization campaign of the late 1970s and 1980s, the extremes of which Pakistani society had never before witnessed. Zia overhauled large swathes of the Pakistan Penal Code to resemble Saudi-style justice, leaving human rights activists and religious minorities aghast. Even the national language, revered for its poetry, would not be spared. And yet, though bars and cabarets shut down overnight and women were told to cover up, it would take two decades for the stubborn Khuda to decisively die off, and let Allah reign.

She continues,

Today, Pakistan’s crisis of identity is chronic. A legacy of top-down cultural strangulation has left the national psyche utterly bewildered and deeply scarred. It has also given Pakistanis an inferiority complex – because we are South Asians and not Arabs, we are lesser Muslims. We must compensate. We must try our hardest to become Bakistanis.

Author Mohamed Hanif, in his celebrated debut novel, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, says it best: “…All God’s names were slowly deleted from the national memory as if a wind had swept the land and blown them away. Innocuous, intimate names: Persian Khuda which had always been handy for ghazal poets as it rhymed with most of the operative verbs; Rab, which poor people invoked in their hour of distress; Maula, which Sufis shouted in their hashish sessions. Allah had given Himself ninety-nine names. His people had improvised many more. But all these names slowly started to disappear: from official stationary, from Friday sermons, from newspaper editorials, from mothers’ prayers, from greeting cards, from official memos, from the lips of television quiz show hosts, from children’s storybooks, from lovers’ songs, from court orders, from habeas corpus applications, from inter-school debating competitions, from road inauguration speeches, from memorial services, from cricket players’ curses; even from beggars’ begging pleas.”

(Emphasis added – NS.)