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]

Brexit Britain fails to play the game

But not quite in the sense that the Telegraph‘s Brussels Correspondent, James Crisp, thinks.

He has written a piece entitled “Terrible translations of Brexit White Paper make Britain a laughing stock in Brussels”

British officials botched the translation of Theresa May’s discredited White Paper into European languages, part of a UK strategy to win concessions from Brussels, and failed to translate the document into Irish, despite being locked in fraught Brexit talks over Ireland’s border.

The paper’s executive summary, which Britain hopes to use to help solve the vexed border issue, has been translated, poorly, into 22 languages. The full 100-page document has only been translated into one other language, Welsh, which, unlike Irish, is not an official EU language.

After The Telegraph contacted the British Government, an Irish version was published on Thursday afternoon, two days after the other translations but the damage was already done. A DexEU spokeswoman said the translations were being published as they were finished.

Basic errors and amateurish negligence has not only wasted an opportunity to win hearts and minds on the Continent but will confirm Brussels’ worst suspicions about the government. It exposes, once again, how poorly the Department for Exiting the European Union understands Brussels, its priorities and its culture.

When Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, travelled to Dublin he made a point of addressing reporters in Irish. The gesture was appreciated in Dublin and left some in tears. The EU-27 governments have made it clear they will back Ireland to the hilt with senior figures insisting “we are all Irish”.

In contrast the tin-eared Brits considered the common courtesy of an Irish translation an afterthought.

We saw so many palaces and temples during our visit to Japan that they have merged in my mind. But in one of them, probably the former Imperial Palace at Kyoto, there was a fine recreation of a great daimyo awaiting an audience with the emperor. Etiquette (the sort enforced with swords) forbade him to stroll in and say, “Your Majesty, we need to talk” – even if the emperor needed and wanted to hear what he had to say. No, he had to wait for hours on his knees in a beautiful but austere anteroom, contemplating the painted screens. I thought of that daimyo with his knees aching under his perfectly arranged silk robe when I read Mr Crisp’s line, “It exposes, once again, how poorly the Department for Exiting the European Union understands Brussels, its priorities and its culture.” The priorities and culture of Tokugawa-period Kyoto required that the emperor’s symbolic importance be reinforced by making everyone wait for hours before business could be done. None of the usual reasons or excuses for being kept waiting applied. The wait was the point.

The priorities and culture of European Union-period Brussels require that every document be translated into a couple of dozen languages. I will focus on Irish in particular because for that language the divorce from the usual point of translation, to enable communication, is complete. Not one Irish parliamentarian or official actually needed the White Paper translated into Irish in order to understand it. Probably no more than a handful are even capable of reading it in Irish. Like the deference to the emperor in Kyoto when real power lay with the Shogun in Edo, the laborious process of translation into Irish before business can be done is all just a symbolic obeisance, a court ritual, a game.

The UK was never very good at this languages game and will drop it with relief once out of the EU. In contrast Ireland is firmly in the EU and plays the game better than anyone. (Though as I will argue later, this may not be to the advantage of the long term survival of Irish.) Although Irish has been an official language of the EU since 2007, it was only in 2015 that the the decision was taken to upgrade the language to a full working language of the European institutions. By 2022 it is hoped that the “derogation phase” during which the EU was let off the obligation to provide full translation or interpretation services for every document to and from Irish will be over.

The way things are going, the apotheosis of Irish as a full EU working language will coincide neatly with its death as a native language.

Many of the English – and even some of the Irish – shrug their shoulders at the prospect, and talk of “efficiency”. From what I have written so far you might think I was one of them. You would be wrong. I see language death as a tragedy. Quite apart from the loss of beauty, I fear a world unified under one language for the same reasons I fear a world unified under one government. If that last culture falls under the sway of a tyranny, there is nowhere else to flee, no one else to keep the flame alive.

For many reasons I would love to see the apparently inexorable slide towards extinction of more than half the languages spoken on Earth reversed. Alas, that shows no sign of happening. Naturally those who love their threatened language are moved when they hear a visiting foreigner make the effort to speak it. (Really, though, there was no need to burst into tears just because Donald Tusk memorised a few phrases. It was a nice gesture, but if that’s all it takes to get the Irish political class to fall at one’s feet, Theresa May ought to reinstate Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary and get him to do one of his linguistic party pieces.)

Naturally, too, those who love their threatened language want to see it enshrined in an official position of parity with the other languages of Europe. But “enshrined” is the word. Shrines are not raised to the living. The question comes unbidden: who actually reads the endless streams of EU documents translated so dutifully into Irish? I have a horrible suspicion that the answer is no one, no one at all. Lurking on forums discussing the future of the Irish language I have read well-argued claims that the exodus to Brussels of so many of the best-educated native Irish speakers is one of the factors causing the Gaeltachts, the Irish-speaking areas, to decline. It cements the perception – and helps make the perception fact – that for a young person with talent and ambition there is no life to be had in the Gaeltacht. What a strange life these exiles must have. They grow up in one of the few remaining parts of Ireland where the ancient tongue is still spoken in the streets. Presumably inspired by a wish to preserve that inheritance they study for many years to reach the high standards required to be a professional translator or interpreter, and their voices are no longer heard in those streets. Off to Brussels they go (plus a monthly trip to Strasbourg), where they speak beautiful Irish into headphones tuned into another channel and write less beautiful Irish about Section 6, sub-section 13, paragraph 1(a)(iv) of the Directive on This, That and The Other that not one human soul will ever read.

Football news for people who aren’t really interested in football

I hear there is a footballing tournament taking place.

Apparently the English team is not doing too badly, and some people feel happy about this. Naturally, the Guardian is on the case. Steve Bloomfield writes, “If this England team represents anyone, it’s the 48%: the remainers”

My favourite comment came from DunstanMc:

‘If this England team represents anyone, it’s the 48%: the remainers’

God I hope not. They lost.

Time to get some strawberries and think of Wimbledon

As is customary on these occasions, I would like to express the hope that it will be over quickly, and that everybody loses.

Seriously, though, if the British were serious about Brexit, they would stop playing and following this ridiculous and offensive round ball game that is so beloved of continental Europeans and Latin American thugocracies, and which in recent times has sold itself to the highest bidders in Russia and the Middle East, no matter how odious and disgusting. If you actually understood and realistically wanted to join the Anglosophere, you would disdain it. Certainly we in the rest of the English speaking world would have more respect for you if you did.

(Yes, I know you invented it. That’s not remotely the point).

Fair play in the Scottish Parliament

In 2011 the Scottish Government Executive* passed the stunningly illiberal Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. Judge it by its defenders: a Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament called John Mason said, “We should all know by now expressing political views is no longer acceptable at football matches.”

He framed the issue as if the only thing required of citizens was that they should keep up to date with the inexorable increase in what is deemed “unacceptable” (to whom is never specified). Once they know the rules, they will of course comply, so politics becomes merely a matter of Filch hammering up new decrees on Hogwarts wall.

Earlier posts on the same topic were “New stirrings at the Old Firm” and “Free speech for all (neds need not apply)”.

But, for once, a Ministry decree has been removed from the wall.

The BBC reports:

MSPs vote to repeal football bigotry law

MSPs have voted to repeal Scotland’s Offensive Behaviour at Football Act.

The legislation was passed by the then-majority SNP government in 2011 in a bid to crack down on sectarianism.

But all four opposition parties argued for it to be scrapped, saying it unfairly targets football fans and has failed to tackle the problem.

Ministers argued the move was “foolhardy” but were outvoted by 62 to 60, meaning the Football Act will be taken off the statute book in April.

The legislation has deeply divided opinion from the start, with those who support it saying it was needed to fight the scourge of sectarianism within Scottish football.

But opponents say the law treats football fans as “second class citizens”, and is not needed as police and the courts already had sufficient powers to deal with offensive behaviour.

They also claim that the law is badly worded, and therefore open to different interpretations of what is and is not “offensive behaviour”.

*As Sam Duncan S reminds me, in 2011 it had not yet decided got permission to call itself a Government. Added later: apologies again, Duncan S, not Sam Duncan. This post is jinxed.

Time for a spot of toxic masculinity

As we have seen recently, Formula 1 has decided to ban the practice of young ladies parading in the grid at the start of a motor race, on the grounds that such behaviour no longer has a place in the sport. Come to that, why not just ban very attractive people from sports events and moments such as parading in front completely, just so to protect the feelings of those less fortunately endowed by Mother Nature? The US tradition of cheerleaders clearly has to go. And if a bunch of people want to lead out footballers at a cup final, make surethey are either very young, old, and preferably covered up completely.) A number of women have been angered by the move.

Well, since modern race cars use engines that make less of a noise, presumably as all part of the kinder, gentler age we are supposed to enjoy, this all makes sense. I personally think that this doesn’t go far enough: how about curbing speeds in F1 to, say, 30 mph, so as to encourage more responsible use of scarce resources? And should all motor racing fans be forced to attend some sort of self-awareness course about the need to not objectify people as sex objects, or even get a mild arousal from seeing attractive members of the opposite sex? (OK, sarcasm alert.)

In the meantime, for those like me who will be visiting Le Mans in France this June, here is reminder of what this raucous motor racing is all about. Check out this video of a Ferrari 312 PB works car, dating from the early 1970s. The sound it makes is simply fabulous.

I don’t know if Le Mans has attractive women parading near the cars this year (it has in years gone by), but this is France, and for all its faults, some old traditions linger on. But for how long? I cannot help but wonder whether, in the case of F1 (the endurance race series of which Le Mans is a part is not in the same category) cultural considerations have played a part. F1 has been held in places such as Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, and the Muslim populations, with oil-wealth in their hands, may have argued for a ban at least in their jurisdictions. UBS, the Swiss bank, is at the moment global sponsor of the sport, but I have no idea whether the Zurich-listed lender put pressure on F1, although it may have done, in keeping with its staid Swiss image.

We live in Puritan times, and part of why I think F1 is harming itself is that motor sport is meant to be a bit naughty; driving a car at 200+mph around a track, making lots of noise, and with all that danger and sense of life, is totally against the current do-gooder mood. As the US journalist H L Mencken has said, a puritan is someone who worries that someone, somewhere, is happy.

German cyclists competing at this year’s Tour de France

Those with French-sounding first names:
Marcel Kittel
André Greipel
Simon Geschke
Emanuel Buchmann
Marcel Sieburg

Those with first names that could be either French or German:
Paul Martens
Christian Knees
Robert Wagner
Marcus Burghardt

Those with British-sounding first names:
Tony Martin
John Degenkolb
Rick Zabel

Those that don’t seem to fall into any of the above:
Nikias Arndt
Nils Politt
Jasha Sütterlin

Those with out-and-out, no-question-about-it, traditionally German first names:
Rüdiger Selig

Update: As of this afternoon both the Marcels are out. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

Samizdata quote of the day

“When you stop judging men by the content of their character, eventually you’ll run out of men of good character.”

Stephen Green, known to some as “Vodkapundit”, writing about more identity politics insanity over at Instapundit. Here is a link to the original article.

It’s called “rugby”

A Russian politician has proposed turning football hooliganism into a sport

Such a sport already exists. It’s called “rugby”.

He published the proposal on his party’s website, stating: “Russia would be a pioneer in a new sport. Fans arrive, for example, and start picking fights. And they get the answer – challenge accepted. A meeting in a stadium at a set time.

Still rugby.

Following clashes between his country’s fans and England supporters at Euro 2016, Lebedev said he “did not see anything terrible about fans fighting”.

And to be honest I don’t see anything terrible about rugby fans fighting either.

Igor Lebedev has drawn up rules…

Rules? Rules? Ok, that’s not rugby.

If you aim for the sky then you may hit the ceiling

If you are a fan of Watford, Aston Villa or Lincoln City or just football in general you will be shocked and saddened by the news of the death of Graham Taylor at the age of 72.

He was a remarkable manager. He took Lincoln City from the Fourth to the Third Division. He took Aston Villa from the Second Division to runners-up in the First. He took England to the 1992 European Championships and successfully kept them out of the 1994 World Cup.

But it was with Watford he had his greatest success. Teaming up with Elton John in 1977 he quickly won promotion to the Third Division. Shortly afterwards he gave a talk at my old school. In the Q&A one of the cheekier boys asked him when we would be in the First Division. How we laughed. It was unthinkable. Not going to happen. Taylor replied that if you aim for the ceiling your feet won’t get off the ground but if you aim for the sky then you may hit the ceiling. Four years later having smashed through the ceiling, roof and lower troposphere we were indeed in the First Division making monkeys out of the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool. [What’s changed? I hear you ask.] In 1983 Watford were the second-best team in the entire country. In 1984 they got to the final of the FA Cup.

For the benefit of North American readers unused to the joys of promotion and relegation the equivalent of all this might be the Montreal Expos winning the World Series or a Canadian team winning the Stanley Cup. Or, if you’re not interested in sport, somebody without political experience, a coherent philosophy, tact, media savvy or plausible hair becoming President of the United States. As I said: not going to happen.

Taylor even returned to Watford in the 1990s once again taking them from the Third to the First Division (or Premier League as it was by then known).

There were a number of secrets to his success. One was fitness: it was essential that his teams could keep going for the full 90 minutes. Another was the employment of the sublimely-talented John Barnes and the sublimely-passionate Luther Blissett at a time when many of the big teams were reluctant to field black players. Another was going back to the stats and working out that the traditional English long-ball game was by far the most effective. This was indeed fortunate as to attempt to pass the ball on the notoriously glutinous Vicarage Road pitch of the 1980s was to engage in cruelty to spherical objects.

On Saturday, Watford are playing at home. The club and fans will attempt to honour Taylor’s memory – many already have via the #thankyougt hashtag. But it will be difficult. Graham Taylor was a remarkable manager – and by all accounts – a true gentleman. Watford owes him a huge debt.

Shocking a language back into life

“WITH THIS SHORT film, director Paul Duane and I are hoping to accomplish the near impossible,” writes Eoin Butler in TheJournal.ie. “That is, to start a conversation about the Irish language that is rational, unswayed by emotion, dogma or any political agenda, and informed by the facts as they are, rather than how we might wish them to be.”

Here’s a link to the article, and click on the video link within to see the film, which is twelve minutes long.

“We spend mind-boggling amounts of public money on the Irish language. Cén fáth?”

The film is well worth a look to libertarians and people interested in revitalising minority languages, and practically compulsory* (OK, not literally compulsory. Libertarian purity police, stand easy!) for anyone like me who is both. It starts off in nostalgic sepia with Butler speaking in subtitled and platitudinous Irish. Thirty seconds in, the colour comes on and he switches to English and says, “Actually everything I just said there is an easily debunked lie.”

I’d like to zoom in to a section near the end of the film. Starting at the ten minute mark, Mr Butler argues that compulsory Irish is a failed policy but a network of vested interests has grown up around it. This network, he says, “does nothing to really promote the language or broaden its appeal. Switching off the life support could shock the language back into life.”

At this point I would imagine that most of those anxious about the future of Irish shrivel a little inside and think, that sounds like a strategy of last resort. To which I would respond, it is. Irish is at the point of last resort. As detailed in the first few minutes of the film, the strategy of compulsory Irish lessons in every state school has failed utterly to stem the decline of Irish as a community language, as have other state measures such as making the Irish rather than the English version into the definitive version of each of Ireland’s laws. Quite soon the legal texts and the schoolbooks may be the only places where Irish lives on. When all else fails, why not try something crazy, like acting as if the Irish language were a good thing that people might choose to have?

And as a matter of fact, Mr Butler does give an example of an aspect of Gaelic culture that turned off the pressure and thrived thereby. He says, “I mean, look at Gaelic games. For seventy years the GAA [Gaelic Athletic Association] had a closed, defensive mentality. Its members were banned not just from playing but even attending rugby and soccer matches Today the ban is long gone […] the GAA, with minimal state subvention and zero compulsion on anyone to participate has never been as popular.”

It is not a perfect analogy. The GAA is a private club, not a state, and I would defend its right to impose whatever rules it wishes on its members who joined it voluntarily. But it is notable that when the GAA changed from a strategy of “push” to one of “pull” its fortunes revived.

A hat tip for the finding of Mr Butler’s film to the Irish Republican site, An Sionnach Fionn (The White Fox) although the writer of that site was not such a fan of the film as I was, describing it as “simply a modern form of “settler racism”, part of the poisonous legacy of several centuries of foreign colonial rule in this country.”

The poppy is not a symbol of remembrance…

…it is a symbol that the bearer has made a donation to the Royal British Legion’s Haig Fund.

I thought it might be worth pointing that out bearing in mind recent kerfuffles.

What did Sam Allardyce do wrong?

Yesterday, the England manager resigned. “What’s odd about that?” you may say – assuming you’re not saying “Who cares?” – “They’re resigning all the time.”

They are but this is slightly unusual. For once – glossing over the departures of Fabio Capello and Glenn Hoddle – we have a resignation that has nothing to do with England’s performance on the pitch. Mr Allardyce has not failed as a manager but – we must assume – as a human being. Except in all the talk about “third-party ownership” and “bungs” I have no idea what he is supposed to have done wrong.

So, commentariat – at least, that tiny proportion of you that follow such things – tell me: is he being accused of doing something immoral or something illegal i.e. breaking the Football Association’s rules? [I assume he isn’t being accused of breaking the law.]

There will, of course, the usual frantic and incompetent search for a replacement. Luckily, I have a suggestion which I think will solve England’s run of disappointment forever: abolish the team. Sadly, I don’t think the FA will be taking me up on that so I can only hope they get someone cheap.

I wonder if Neil Warnock is available?