Friday, 18 May 2018

Pommes frites à l'écossaise

Apparently the Scottish Parliament has just refused to consent to Brexit. The Lib Dems, Labour, Greens and SNP all joined together to thwart the plans of those wicked Tories to undermine the powers of the Scottish Parliament. There is a peculiar logic going on here. There are various issues that are at present controlled by EU bureaucrats in Brussels. Many of these are also issues that are devolved in the UK and controlled by the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Parliaments. The UK Government proposes that the vast majority of these powers should be given to the devolved Parliaments while some are temporarily controlled by London. So it’s fine for Brussels to run everything, but if Westminster even temporarily controls anything this is enough for Scotland’s Left and Centre to start gathering the clans for the great 2018 Rebellion.

Of course, this has nothing much to do with Brexit or various powers to do with agriculture and fishing. Why is it just fine that unelected Brussels officials can run Scottish matters, but elected British MPs can’t? The SNP and their Lib Lab Greenie friends were more than happy for someone else to control these issues just so long as no-one from England got to tell them what labels to put on tins of food and how to plough a straight furrow. This is all just the usual playing to the lowest common denominator in Scotland. Westminster is a word that actually begins with E and ends with Land. It is this above all that makes it wicked. It’s worth remembering however next time you get the chance to put a cross on a ballot paper that Scottish Labour and the Lib Dems are part of the “Anyone but England camp” and are opposed to even minimal, temporary measures to make sure that everywhere in the UK has more or less the same sort of coordinated policies with regard to devolved powers.  The Welsh saw the sense in this and agreed to the arrangement. But it's never difficult to distinguish between the Scottish Parliament with a grievance and a ray of sunshine. 

Scottish nationalism is going nowhere at the moment. This is why it needs the grievance and the cooperation of its fellow travellers, helpers and hanger ons. 

Scotland is nearly perfect in every respect. In the springtime and early summer the beaches, the lochs, the rivers and the mountains are more or less empty and it can be hard to imagine that there is anywhere prettier or indeed better to live. But just as our countryside can be spoiled by the dark clouds and the sudden rain that obscures the view, so too our character is spoiled by our sense that someone else must always be to blame for whatever goes wrong and that person invariably lives south of the border.

Bullers of Buchan Aberdeenshire

Blaming someone or something else is far easier than taking responsibility for your own actions. It makes a person passive and this passivity is the reason for his failure rather than anything anyone else did. Give someone a reason to fail and he will grasp it. Take away any reasons for failure and the person just might reach success. It is those Scots who are most dissatisfied with their lives who find the source of their lack of happiness not with themselves, but with someone else. It is they who blame Westminster or Britain or the fact that Scotland isn’t independent for their own failure. If only Scotland were independent, all would be perfect. I would be happy and fulfilled and whatever is wrong with my life would be made right. But the source of a person's failure does not come from without, it comes from within.

Independence supporters invariably wait for independence or Nicola Sturgeon or someone else to give them more money, a better job, more benefits and whatever else is lacking in their lives. They expect someone else to do the hard work and want someone else to bring them success. This is why they fail. This is why all that is left is for them is to go on endless rather pointless marches, dressing up like parody participants on the White Heather Club. But independence would not bring with it helicopter money and Irn Bru restored to its full sugar strength and it wouldn’t solve the grievance.

The Republic of Ireland has been independent for decades, but scratch the surface (as I occasionally do) and you very rapidly find that exactly the same grievance remains today as it did long ago. The Brits are responsible for everything bad that ever happened to Ireland and everything bad that ever will happen in Ireland.

Socialism/social democracy is about grievance. It’s the rich man’s fault that I am poor. So rather than work hard to earn more myself I will vote for parties to take away the rich man’s money. No wonder the Lib Lab Greenies side with SNP. They all have a grievance about something. The fault lies always and above all with Tories and who is it who is most likely in the UK to vote for Tories?

We are where we are in Scotland because Labour and the Lib Dems decided that it was unfair if Scotland voted for the Left, but England voted for the Conservatives. If it had not been for that original grievance we might not have had to endure pointless Scottish Parliament debates about nothing at all. The Scottish Parliament does not have anything to do with foreign affairs. It is not its business. Whenever the Scottish Parliament debates foreign affairs, it is really just talking to itself about a matter that is outwith its remit.

Brexit is a UK matter. No consent is necessary from Scotland. If it is wrong for Westminster to encroach on devolved powers, it is equally wrong for the devolved Parliaments to encroach on reserved powers. But, of course, the SNP hope that they can get people in Scotland to feel aggrieved about the Scottish Parliament being ignored. Labour and the Lib Dems are happy to help.

Luckily however the details about Brexit are becoming ever more tiresome for everyone in Britain. The idea that Scots are going to man the barricades over whether this or that devolved power will immediately be returned from Brussels to Scotland or whether we might have to wait a while would appear to be unlikely. Some Nats will no doubt dress up as Jacobites, but they don’t really need the excuse of Westminster supposedly acting without Scottish consent as an excuse for wearing such clothes. I suspect some of them sleep in them just as small children especially little bhoys have been known to refuse to take off their Celtic strips.

We are all having to wait interminably for Brexit. Why should someone who didn’t want the powers returned at all (a Remainer) get upset that there is a delay in returning powers he didn’t in fact want returned in the first place.

But devolution can only work in a UK context if it does not lead to great differences between the various parts of the UK. If the EU needs harmonisation, so too do we, only more so, as one of the main benefits of living in the UK is that we can live and work anywhere we please with a lot more ease and familiarity than if we chose to move to Slovenia or Italy. There is a reason why some powers are centralised in Brussels. It is because they want the same rules and regulations with regard to these matters to apply everywhere in the EU. But if the same rules are necessary across the EU, then it is likely that they will require a degree of coordination in the UK too. It is for this reason that it makes sense that Westminster has a role in coordinating how Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland use the powers they will gain from the EU. The reason is that Westminster is the only elected UK Parliament where people from every part of the UK meet as a matter of course.

However in principle it would be better if the vast majority of powers were transferred from Brussels to the devolved UK Parliaments as soon as possible. The reason for this is it will put parties like the SNP in a very nice sort of dilemma.

The key to Brexit is to get out. We may or may not leave in an ideal way. We may have to make compromises. We may even have to stay in some sort of customs union for a while. It doesn’t matter. The UK Government has a very small majority. Some things may not be possible. I would have walked away in 2016. But there isn’t a majority for that now. There probably wasn't even then. I would have responded to Mr Varadkar, by first erecting a fence between Northern Ireland and the Republic and then by digging a moat, but I have a tendency to get frustrated with such people and rather wish we had a big enough gun boat with which we could blockade Dublin so as to encourage their diplomatic efforts. But this no doubt is to be intemperate. Cooler heads than mine will wisely counsel that instead we must be patient.

Let us focus on getting out. After that there will be future elections and the chance to vote for things to be different. If a customs union doesn’t work and constrains us in a way that is intolerable, it won’t last. We will be able later to vote to get out of it. It doesn’t much matter when this happens now or a few years from now. Take a long view.

Once we are out of the EU there will be no getting back in. To get back into the EU we would have to follow the rules for joining. One of these is accepting that we must join the Euro. Likewise we would find that whatever concessions the UK had been given during our years of membership, such as our rebate and our not being a part of Schengen would not be on offer anymore.

Most importantly of all re-joining the EU would mean that the powers that the Scottish Parliament is up in arms about this week would have to be given back to Brussels. This is the dilemma for the SNP. Any future independence campaign would either involve promising to join the EU, or it would involve promising not to be part of the EU. But membership of the EU would involve the Scottish Parliament losing powers that it is up in arms about at present and agreeing to both join the Euro and Schengen while in time becoming part of what the EU intends to become a United States of Europe. This is a funny sort of independence. An independent Scottish Parliament in the EU in all practical respects would be less independent than the present devolved Parliament in the UK.

If Scotland on the other hand chose to be independent outside of the EU, then whatever trade deal will apply between the UK and the EU after Brexit would not apply to Scotland. We would have to negotiate our own trade deal both with the EU and with the other parts of the UK. 

Just as the UK may, depending on negotiations, loose some of the benefits of EU membership, Scotland might find leaving the UK involved the loss of certain benefits that are contingent on being a part of the UK. After all, we could no longer fall back on both the UK and Scotland being part of the EU, because we no longer would be. Brexit takes away the guarantee that everything will be more or less the same after independence. There is no guarantee about that at all now.

We have moreover learned in the past couple of years that the border between independent nation states is not simply a trivial line that is marked on a map. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic has caused endless discussion and at present it looks as if keeping it open will constrain the UK’s actions for some time to come.

No doubt everyone would want to keep the border between Scotland and England open in the event of Scottish independence. But this would all depend on matters that are simply impossible to guess at present. Would Scotland be part of Schengen, would Scotland be part of the EU’s Single Market or customs union? Might an independent Scotland try to be like Norway, France, Vatican City, Northern Cyprus or Belarus? Who can tell? There are any number of ways to be independent and any number of border arrangements in Europe.

But I strongly suspect that if in a few years Nicola Sturgeon the First President of Scotland came to London asking for help in keeping the border open although this would admittedly involve some constraints on the UK's ability to trade freely with whomsoever it pleased, the UK's Prime Minister might just decide to send her homeward to think again. It would be reasonable to point out that Scotland had chosen to leave and should face the consequences and take its grievances elsewhere.  If President Sturgeon were to continue on both shoulders to exhibit post-independence pommes frites à l'écossaise the temptation to resurrect and repair an ancient wall and then to dig a moat, just to make sure, might at some point prove overwhelming.   

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Suicide is wrong

There’s been a lot of suicide this week. Many students are killing themselves. A musician killed himself. A very old man killed himself.

 The key to understanding suicide today is to look at the story of a 104 year old man who travelled to Switzerland to kill himself in a clinic. This man considered that he had the right to choose the means and the time of his death. Lots of other people in Britain and elsewhere have gone to the courts in order to fight for the same right. These cases are usually viewed sympathetically. Someone with a terminal illness wants to avoid suffering. Few of us would dare say “no” you must continue to suffer. But every time someone goes to a clinic to commit suicide it chips away at the taboo surrounding suicide. Why should we be surprised then, when there are a lot of suicides?

Until relatively recently in history suicide almost universally was considered to be perhaps the greatest sin. The problem is that the view that suicide is wrong depends on theology. Without theology it is very easy to argue for the right to commit suicide. David Hume’s argument is as good as any other. But then how are we to discourage suicide in an age when Christianity is in decline? It becomes rather difficult.

Suicides sometimes happen because someone genuinely is in a position that is impossible. A soldier about to be captured and facing torture and ultimately death may prefer to kill himself. Another soldier may choose death in order to save his comrades. But these sorts of situation are rare in ordinary life.

The two main categories of suicide today are where someone wishes to kill himself because of a physical illness and where someone wishes to kill himself because of a mental illness.

The crucial thing to realise however is that while the situation may appear hopeless to the suicide it isn’t.

Someone who is terminally ill need not commit suicide because there are ways of alleviating pain such that suffering can be minimised, even eliminated. If my pain becomes so great that I require a dose of morphine that ultimately will have the side effect of killing me, I am not committing suicide. All I am doing is trying to avoid pain. The care that dying people receive in hospices means that travelling abroad to die is quite unnecessary.

It is particularly unnecessary when a man is 104, not terminally ill and is merely looking forward to death. So long as he is not in any physical pain and has every material need fulfilled, then his position is better than the vast majority of people in the world. In the natural course of events his wish to die will be fulfilled, probably quite quickly.

The greatest pity is when someone suffering from depression believes that his situation is hopeless and that the only alternative is to die. The reason for this is that the person’s situation is not hopeless.

Someone may be devastated by an event, failing an exam, losing a loved one, but each of us who has ever experienced suffering for these reasons knows that the experience of suffering changes, passes and that new forms of happiness are possible even after great loss. From the perspective of twenty years later, failing an exam can seem trivial. The key is to wait and to be patient. This too shall pass.

Depression may occur because of a tangible reason or may strike from nowhere. The situation can seem hopeless to the depressed person. But it isn’t hopeless. It isn’t like the soldier who has no way out. Depression for the most part can be cured or at least eased. People who have been depressed frequently go on to live lives where there is the usual mixture of happiness and sadness, disappointment and fulfilment. Once more the key is to wait and to be patient.

One of the reasons why in the past depressed people were able to wait and be patient is that they were taught that suicide is wrong. The problem today is because no-one is willing to say that suicide is wrong, there is precious little to deter the person who is contemplating suicide. If a man of 104 is tired of life and kills himself and everyone looks at the story sympathetically, is it any surprise when a musician who is tired of life also decides to kill himself. He will get glowing tributes afterwards and no-one will say that what he did was wrong. Is it any surprise then when we get the next suicide?  

The immorality of suicide consists not merely in its rejection of the gift of life, but more importantly in the selfishness of contributing to the climate which sees suicide as something normal and life as not really being the most precious of gifts. Better by far not to encourage suicide with your sympathy.

Friday, 11 May 2018

White is the new black

I have come to the conclusion that like Judas it would be better if certain subjects had never been born. At least Judas played a necessary part in the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. But it is hard to see what benefit arises from the existence of sociology. If Judas is placed in the innermost circle of hell despite the benefit that arose from his life, where do we place the sociology department that not only gives us no benefit, but more importantly does much harm?

A white raven : it's hard being different, among the gray masses

A serious subject is one that allows a variety of opposing views. The debate between these views is determined by reason or else by experience. The theory about the world being flat is falsified by our being able to sail around it, while the theory that bachelors can be married is falsified by our reason and our understanding of simple words like “bachelor” and “married”.

Sociology on the other hand is about taking ordinary words and changing their meaning so that they mean something other than they did previously. The crucial point to realise however is that just because a sociologist at some point invented some theory, it doesn’t follow that this theory is true. This is especially the case when this theory is both contrary to reason and contrary to experience.

Sociologists invented the supposed distinction between gender and sex. Until this point there had been no distinction. Throughout human history the sex of a child was in almost all cases a completely straightforward matter that was determined at the moment of the child’s birth. This was the basic building block of humanity.

But as soon as a distinction is invented between gender and sex all sorts of possibilities arise to subvert how people understand themselves and those around them. All becomes unclear. Is your baby a boy? I’ve no idea. We’re going to have to wait until he/she/ze/it tells us in a few years.

Who proved that there was a distinction between gender and sex? Was it proved by experience? Did someone see this distinction? Was it proven by means of reason? No. All that happened is that someone at some point decided that two words “gender” and “sex” which until that point had been synonymous like “bachelor” and “unmarried” in fact were different in meaning.  If this sort of reasoning is allowed, we can easily prove that some bachelors are married. But if we can prove this, then we can frankly prove anything. If words mean what I want them to mean I am through the looking glass where anything can happen. But this isn’t to use reason it is to subvert it.

Until relatively recently it would have been considered ludicrous to suppose that a man could literally become a woman or indeed that a man could marry a man. But by inventing or annulling distinctions the Left with the help of sociology professors chips away at our understanding until we reach a point where we must affirm what once was considered to be impossible or else be charged with a hate crime. The Left at this point has succeeded in remaking us so that we are willing to do what we are told. At this point socialism/sociology becomes possible, because humanity has been reborn in the Left’s image. We then will actually be able to see that 2+2 = 5 just as we can see that a man can be a woman. Black quite literally becomes white.

It sometimes takes decades of chipping away before we reach the point where something that was considered an objective fact that can’t be changed becomes first possible and then obligatory.

A while ago many of will have come across the story of Rachel Dolezal (apparently now calling herself Nkechi Amare Diallo) a woman who had for a long time portrayed herself as being black while in fact her parents were white. She was teaching African studies at a university in Washington State, but was subsequently dismissed from this position.

Most people responded to this story with bemusement because we assume that race, just like sex is something fixed and objective, caused by where we are from and who are parents are. But I strongly suspect that a few years from now Dolezal will be seen as a martyr for her cause. The reason for this is that sociologists don’t think that race is something objective. It is a social construct.

How can this be? We are still in the bemused state. But we were in that state with regard to sex just a few years ago. Until recently if a little boy thought that he was in fact a girl you we would have laughed and told him not to be silly. If you do that nowadays social services are liable to take “her” away.

In a few years anyone will be able to say that they are whatever race they choose to be. A person with blond hair and blue eyes and the palest skin imaginable will be able to claim that they are Black or Asian or a Native American. They will be able to do this even though it will be possible objectively to prove that they are none of these things.

I came across a story recently about an Aboriginal Australian cricket tour. The idea is to follow in the footsteps of some Aboriginal cricketers who came to Britain 150 years ago.

 The BBC describes this nineteenth century tour as unheralded, but I am far from being a cricket follower, but I had read about it long ago.

But it immediately becomes obvious when we compare the tour that took place 150 years ago with the one that is to take place this year that there is something rather different.

 The captain of both the women’s team and the men’s team are no doubt descended from aboriginals but if they wandered around Helsinki they might find the locals expecting them to be able to speak Finnish.

Can anyone be an aboriginal? Isn’t it something that can be determined objectively by genetic testing? Apparently not. I came across a site which tried to explain the issue.

Proposals of genetic testing as a means of proving one’s Aboriginality have been dismissed on the grounds that ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ are social, cultural and political constructs   which cannot be tested objectively.

The site continues to explain that “It should be emphasised that Aboriginal identity no longer has anything to do with the colour of the skin.”

Aboriginals in Australia have suffered great prejudice and are frequently poorer than other Australians. The Australian Government has been trying to make up for this. There are grants and various programmes open to aboriginals, but not to anyone else.

I’m not on the whole a great fan of what the Americans call “affirmative action”. Letting someone into Harvard with worse grades than someone else because they have different colour skin is just as much a form of racism as saying you can’t sit on this bench because you are black. I would prefer that we could work towards the day when we didn’t give a damn about race rather than viewing everything through the lens of skin colour. But clearly if there is to be positive discrimination there have to be objective ways of determining who is and who is not to gain from it.  If anyone can get into Harvard without the required grades just by stating that they are black the whole concept of “affirmative action” will rapidly collapse.

But if you don’t use genetics and you don’t use appearance how can it be determined whether someone is an Aboriginal?

According to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, “Your Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage is something that is personal to you. You do not need a letter of confirmation to identify as an Indigenous person.”

But then can just anyone gain the advantages of being an aboriginal just by saying that they are one?

It becomes a little more complex. There are three criteria:

Being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent
Identifying as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person
Being accepted as such by the community in which you live, or formerly lived.

But how is someone to show that these criteria apply in a particular case. The Institute explains.

“Doing your family history may help you obtain proof of your heritage. You might find a birth, death or marriage record that traces your family to a particular Aboriginal station or reserve. Or you might have oral history stories that can connect you to a particular area or person or photograph.”

The key then is to be accepted by other aboriginals and to find either an aboriginal ancestor or some sort of oral history that suggests there was such an ancestor.  
It would appear that even one aboriginal ancestor no matter how long ago is enough to make someone an aboriginal. But this is rather similar to the idea that used to apply in the Southern States of the USA that even one drop of black blood made a person black.

Ava Gardner plays Julie Laverne in Showboat (1951). It only takes one drop
But why depend on oral history when it is possible to use DNA samples to objectively show a person’s ancestry? The problem is that if we analyse the DNA of a white person from Britain we will probably find that we are each descended from people from all over the world. I have not done such a test, but it is probable that I have an ancestor who came from Africa. If there are four generations per century, there are forty between now and William the Conqueror. That means I have a 1099511627776 grandparents since 1066, which is more than the population of the world today. The absurdity of genealogy is that each of us in fact is related to everyone else. You are related to Napoleon. Everyone is. So it is entirely possible that I have an ancestor who was an aboriginal from Australia. Does that mean that if I can prove that I have such ancestry I can go to Australia and claim various grants? Would not my DNA be enough to make up for my lack of oral history?

This is all going to become very silly very quickly. If Rachel Dolezal can find a black ancestor, then she can legitimately claim that she is black. If she used DNA testing then she almost certainly could find a gene that comes from Africa. Moreover if her identification as being black is simply a personal matter, then it is outrageous that she was dismissed from her job. She was black simply because she said it. Moreover she had been accepted into the black community and she quite possibly could have found people from that community who could orally confirm her black descent. But anyway if race is just a social construct then it needs no more objective proof than I need to claim that I am a man despite my DNA saying that I am a woman. If I can ignore DNA with regard to sex, why on earth can I not ignore it with regard to race?

The Left suggests that because I am white it is “cultural appropriation” for me to wear a Mexican hat or a Chinese dress. But very soon I will simply respond, “But I am Mexican, I am Chinese.” The Left wants women’s only shortlists to increase women’s representation into Parliament and complains when women cricketers don’t earn the same as men. But the men’s team can say that we are in fact women, just as John Humphreys can say he is really Joanna meaning that it is in fact men who are paid less for presenting the Today Programme.

At some point in the near future we will have to accept that a white man is in fact a black woman soon after that we will all have to believe that a square has three sides. Alternatively we can accept that someone who looks white is white even if one ancestor hundreds of years ago was black and that objective qualities like race and sex are fixed rather than matters of choice and subjectivity. Only at this point will we come back from the land beyond the looking glass where words mean what I want them to mean and anyone can be anything. At this point too we might cease to be quite so obsessed with issues of race and sex and that what really matters about a person is “the content of their character.”

Friday, 4 May 2018

What have the Brits ever done for us?

There is something dispiritingly similar about Irish nationalism and Scottish nationalism. This is no doubt because the one frequently supports the other. Most Scottish nationalists would cheer if Irish nationalism achieved its goal of uniting Ireland, while I strongly suspect quite a lot of Irish people would delight in seeing Britain partitioned. It is rather contradictory to think that uniting one island is good while partitioning another is also good, but then again if your main goal is getting even with the Brits you just don’t much care if it happens by means of uniting or dividing.

Cú Chulainn brings peace and democracy to ancient Ulster by means of rustling cattle

The Republic of Ireland has a long term goal of uniting Ireland. I think it would be better if they left this up to the people actually living in Northern Ireland. Personally I regret that Ireland was ever partitioned, but it was a direct consequence of Ireland seeking independence from the UK. If the Irish had decided to remain in the UK, their island would not have been partitioned. This is self-evidently true, but stating it immediately leads to hostility from both Irish and Scottish nationalists.

It might or might not have been possible to force what became Northern Ireland to leave the UK along with the South. But the majority of people living in Northern Ireland at the time did not want to leave the UK. The British army could perhaps have forced them to join the South, but then again it could equally have forced the South to remain in the UK. Partition was not an ideal solution. It led to decades of terrorism. But would forced Irish unity have led to peace?

Anyway we are where we are. I would have no objection at all if the majority of people in Northern Ireland ever chose to join the Republic, but let’s leave it up to them rather than try to force the issue by turning the border in Ireland into a way of loosening the ties between Northern Ireland and the other parts of the UK.

The Irish PM has been pushing his luck lately. The Republic of Ireland has a national interest in trying to maintain a close trading relation with the UK. We would like the same. But there may come a time when ordinary British people lose patience with the Irish. We have, on the whole, remained friendly towards you. We have been happy to buy your beef, your butter and your beer. But we don’t have to do so. We have a national interest too. We are trying to leave the EU in such a way that we can maintain an open border in Ireland, maintain more or less free trade with all EU members, while regaining our sovereignty and the right to make trade deals with the rest of the world. If the Irish are seen to be trying to damage the UK national interest, there may well come a point when ordinary Brits cease being quite so friendly and may discover that we can buy what we need from elsewhere.

The essence of the problem between Ireland and the UK is that while the Brits tend to look kindly on Ireland, the Irish tend to view Britain with hostility. It is this that is fundamentally behind the diplomatic difficulties at the moment. If there were good will, the border would not cause much of a problem, but there is very little good will at all coming from the Republic.

The reason for this was very ably illustrated to me the other day, when I pointed out on Twitter that if it had not been for the Brits, the Irish today would be speaking a language (Irish), that could be understood nowhere outside of Ireland apart from perhaps in the Outer Hebrides. This was met with fury, even though it is self-evidently true. Irish people overwhelmingly speak English as natives, because for many centuries they were ruled from London. If you don’t think it’s an advantage to speak English as a native speaker, then by all means cease doing so. It wouldn’t bother me in the slightest if the whole population of Ireland spoke Irish and only Irish, but it might hinder your trade rather more than Brexit.

No doubt great wrongs were done in Ireland. But frankly great wrongs were done in Britain too and throughout Europe. The nobles conquered and the peasants suffered. Kingdoms expanded and contracted. Wars were fought.  But you weren’t the only victims. It wasn’t Irish people alone in Europe who suffered from famine. The ordinary Brit had no more say in who ruled him than the ordinary Irish person. Each could die for a stupid reason or because it was the whim of someone more powerful. We are not at a fault for every bad thing that ever happened in Ireland. Get over it. No-one now was alive when the New Model Army crushed you.  We don't even blame present day Germans for the sins of their grandparents, but you would blame us for what happened between 1649 and 1653 as if it happened yesterday. 

Lots of Brits moved to Ireland during the period when we were joined together. But then again in prehistoric times Brits were the first settlers in Ireland, and you repaid us the compliment by first sending the Scoti to settle in Scotland and then during the nineteenth century moving here en masse. Many Scots moved to Ulster in the seventeenth century and their descendants still form a majority there. But if Scottish Protestants were planted in Ulster, is it equally correct to say that Irish Catholics were planted in Glasgow or Boston? We have been moving between our two islands since history began. When do we have plantation and when do we have the benefits of migration?

The failure of Irish nationalism is that it could never take with it the whole of Ireland. The reason for this is that it has zero appeal for Ulster Protestants, for the simple reason that they are still treated as if their presence is unwelcome. They are still settlers more than three hundred years after they settled. The Irish treat unionists as if they arrived on the Windrush fifty years ago and should jolly well go home. Until the Irish cease to hate the Brits they will have no chance whatsoever of having a united peaceful Ireland because those Brits live in Northern Ireland and why would they want to be part of a state where they are hated?

What have the Brits ever done for us? Well out of all of the most notable Irish people I can think of the vast majority were descendants of the British. That is what we did for you, even though you hate us for doing it.

St. Patrick (5th cent.) came to Ireland from Roman Britain. He was therefore a Brit. He gave you Christianity and you celebrate his doing so every March 17th forgetting that the man who got rid of your snakes was not actually Irish.

Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1783) the great idealist philosopher was from Ireland, but he wasn’t just from Ireland, he was Anglo-Irish. What this means is that he was a Protestant and was a descendant of people who were planted in Ireland.

Robert Boyle (1627-1691), the first modern chemist gave us Boyle's law, but the law equally well expressed the fact that eminence in Ireland invariably was a consequence of being both Anglo and Irish. 

The greatest general in Irish history Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852) was born in Ireland, but reckoning that if a man was born in a stable it didn’t make him a horse declined to consider himself Irish. Still he was at least as Irish as the vast majority of great Irish people, far more so than any number of American Presidents who find it convenient to discover, or else make up, some Irishness in their family tree. 

If you go through a list of the greatest Irish writers, beginning with Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), continuing with Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900), George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950), W.B. Yeats (1865-1939), C.S. Lewis ( 1898 – 1963), Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), Iris Murdoch (1919 – 1999) etc. etc., you will find that nearly all of them are Anglo Irish. In fact the only significant Irish literature that is not Anglo-Irish literature is either written in a language that almost no-one can understand, (e.g. Táin Bó Cúailnge), or is written by James Joyce in a language that quite literally no-one understands (e.g. Finnegan’s Wake).

Modern roads in Ireland were designed by the British, so too were the railways.  We gave you the games that the world now plays (Football, Rugby Cricket), otherwise you would have been left merely playing with yourselves (Hurling, Gaelic Football). The most famous Irish products such as Guinness were created by the Anglo-Irish. Even those Irish politicians who campaigned most effectively for Irish independence such as Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891) were doing so precisely because they were Anglo-Irish and had been brought up in the British political tradition.

Prior to Irish independence in fact it is hard to find anyone of consequence from Ireland who was not at least partly British. These people for the most part thought of themselves as being British. They saw no particular difference between themselves and those living in Britain. There, in fact, wasn't much of a difference apart from an accent and the separation of the Irish sea.  We gave up hating people because they were Protestant or Catholic sometime in the eighteenth century. Unfortunately you didn't, for which reason we received sectarianism as your gift. It's the thing that most distinguishes those who have Irish descent from those who don't.

None of the great Anglo-Irish people would have existed, at least they would not have existed in Ireland, unless British people had moved there because it was part of Britain. Hating Britain amounts therefore to hating the best that you produced.

Perhaps this is why you hate us. It must be tough to take when you find out that almost no-one of exclusively Irish descent was of any consequence whatsoever in the long course of Irish history. You all speak English, yet you hate us for teaching you to do so. We built your cities, brewed your beer and allowed you to come here to work when there was no more work in Ireland, but still you blame us for everything.

Not only this, Ireland in the 1920s had free markets, the rule of law and a functioning democracy with a civil service that was more or less free from corruption. It had these things only because it had been part of the political development of the British Isles that gave us all these traditions. None of these things existed in Ireland prior to British involvement. You didn’t have any sort of democracy before the arrival of the Brits, you had no free markets  and no freedom. You had only despotism and barbarousness. Irish civilisation happened because of Irish history, which includes the fact that for many centuries we were united. Even in Europe today let alone the rest of the world there are few places that are as prosperous, free and democratic as Ireland and the UK. None of this was automatic. It happened because of our shared political traditions, which were spread from Britain to all of the Anglosphere.

My family were from Ireland. Some of them are still there. My grandfather was Anglo-Irish and he found it rather tough to remain in the land of his birth because of the prejudice he encountered at the time of Irish independence. But he didn’t blame Ireland for anything, rather he always loved it. He made a successful life here in Britain. You see, when you spend your whole life blaming someone else it give you a wonderful excuse for failure.  If you give someone a reason to fail by always blaming someone else, do not be surprised when they grasp at failure and embrace it. It is this above all else that hinders Ireland.  

Britain remained friendly towards Ireland even when you bombed us, even when you blame us and even when you hate us. Blaming us for everything damages you, not us. We moved on a long time ago. We find your hatred rather baffling, but we are used to it and quite indifferent to it. Most Brits no longer even notice you (did they really elect Dame Edna to be their Prime Minister? we shrug quite unaware of whether Fine this or Fine that or indeed Fine Fair is the party that you chose). 

But your hatred of Britain damages not merely your relations with the UK. It means that you can’t quite join the Anglosphere. The “five eyes” of Canada, UK, USA, NZ and Australia, have a trust and friendship that means we cooperate in security. But Irish hatred of Britain means we could never quite trust you. To whom would you divulge a shared secret just to get back at the land that gave birth to Cromwell? It's you that loses from this, not us. 

Accept who you are. Every Irish person is to a lesser or greater extent a mix of the British and the Irish. Hating the British is simply a rather odd way of hating yourself.

The chippiness on the Irish shoulder has damaged relations between our islands for too long. Most Brits have Irish ancestors, most Irish have Brits in their family tree. We are the most closely related countries in Europe. Let us work together and accept that for all our faults we are what we are because of each other. If we could overcome the hostility we might just find a mutually beneficial way of living together.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

We could all do with some Korean unity

We are fortunate indeed that yesterday there wasn’t a meeting between North Japan and South Japan, declaring peace and looking forward perhaps to eventual reunification. There is one reason and one reason alone why this didn’t happen. The planned invasion of Japan “Operation Downfall” which was to have taken place in November 1945 was cancelled.

 The Soviet Union also had a plan. They declared war on Japan on August 9th 1945 and in a short time occupied Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, Manchuria and Korea up to the 38th Parallel. The Soviets intended then to invade the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

If the war had continued there would have been a similar race to that which occurred in Germany. The Soviets careless of casualties would have sought to make as much of Japan communist as possible. The Americans wishing to save as many G.I. lives as possible would have been slow. The result would have been to split Honshu down the middle with a divided Tokyo and eventually a wall round it.

In this case socialist North Japan like everywhere which experiments with trying to achieve equality of outcome would be poor, while South Japan would be one of the richest countries in the world. North Japan would have attempted to achieve unification by force sometime in the 1950s and if the West had been fortunate enough to prevent this, the two Japans would have remained technically at war with each other from then until now.

It would, of course, have been tragic if Japan had been divided. But Japan was not always as united as it appears to be today. The Ryukyuan languages, which are not mutually intelligible with Japanese, although they are part of the same language family, are still spoken by some people in the southern Japanese islands. The Ainu language, unrelated to Japanese, was spoken by the indigenous people of Hokkaido, but is now endangered. This was in part because Hokkaido was gradually incorporated into a united Japan by a process that was completed only in 1858.

Like nearly every country in the world, Japan was once made up of different peoples who owed allegiance to various feudal warlords. They fought wars to gain control over territory. Eventually these wars led to unification. The same can be said about Korea.

The Korean peninsula is now divided. But it has been divided before. It had a North-South States period lasting from 698–926 AD. It also had a period when it was divided in three 57 BC – 668 AD. It has at various times been invaded by Japan and by China and incorporated into the Japanese Empire from 1910 to 1945.

The process of human history the world over is one of conquest, division and unification. There are any number of “countries” that once existed in Japan, which now no longer exist. Korea was once three kingdoms, then two, then one, then two again. There are likewise any number of languages that have died out, sometimes because the people who spoke them have died out or been absorbed into those who conquered them.

Uriah the Hittite would have spoken an ancient Indo-European language native to Anatolia. There are no native Hittite people now and the language is dead. The reason for this is that the Turkic people’s, who don’t speak an Indo-European language, migrated to present day Turkey, at various points between the 6th and 11th centuries. This was no doubt tragic for Uriah’s descendants if indeed he had any prior to being sent into the front line, but there is no more point regretting the loss of the Hittite language than regretting the loss of Pictish or indeed Anglo-Saxon.

In the British Isles nearly all of us speak varieties of English. Prior the Roman conquest nearly all of us spoke various forms of Celtic. We speak English, because like everyone else in the world we have been engaged in various forms of conquest and migration since history began.

The Iceni would have spoken a language similar to Welsh when Boadicea fought the Romans. It is therefore peculiar for people who think of themselves as British to mock those who speak Welsh. It is the child of the ancient language of our island. But it is also peculiar to blame the English for somehow persecuting those who spoke Celtic languages in the British Isles and driving those languages to destruction. It was the migration of Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Normans which pushed the Celtic languages westwards. But it isn’t as if Celts didn’t do any pushing or any migrating. The Celts after all did not originate in the British Isles.

The Celts migrated from Central Europe and spread to France, Spain, Britain and elsewhere. They too, no doubt, supplanted the people and languages of those who lived where they settled.

There is no point regretting the history that made us what we are. It is this that makes the hatred that is sometimes met in the British Isles all rather silly. The Celtic people of England were conquered by Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Normans. Migrations went back and forth between mainland Europe and the British Isles. Ancient Britons colonised Brittany and some of them still speak Breton. Next door Normans repaid the compliment. The reason we all speak English is that our ancestors are a mixture of all the people who migrated to our islands. To regret this is to regret who we are.

Ireland apparently suffered centuries of oppression and colonisation by the wicked Brits. But then Britain suffered centuries of oppression and colonisation by the wicked Romans, then the wicked Angles and then the wicked Normans. Perhaps we should all have a chip on our shoulder about William the Conqueror the Vikings. Perhaps we should complain to the Danes that they oppressed us, raped and pillaged us. We could maintain that Britain has suffered two thousand years of being colonised by the Romans and everyone else who persecuted the poor Iceni and their children, but we are both the children of the Iceni and the children of everyone who migrated since the Romans.

Whether they like it or not the Irish are the descendants of those who settled in Ireland due to migration. The Irish are no more pure Celts than anyone else in the British Isles. We are all just a mixture of everyone who came here.

Everywhere in the British Isles, just like Japan and Korea went through a process of conquest and migration. These processes led to the nation states that we have today. They are the reason we are as we are. If Angles and Saxons had not migrated to Ireland they would no doubt all speak Irish, but to regret this migration is like regretting that in Britain we don’t speak the language of the Iceni, or that in Turkey they don’t speak Hittite.

To be Scottish today is almost certainly not to be someone who speaks Gaelic. To regret this is to regret the process of migration that led to the mix of peoples who make up Scotland. It is to regret who we are and who are parents and grandparents were.

Scottish nationalism picks one period of Scottish history, the period when Scotland was a kingdom and prioritises it over every other period. But Scotland was divided when the Romans first called us Caledonia. We were separate tribes. We had migrations from Ireland, we then gradually unified the various peoples in Scotland and then gradually mixed with the Anglo-Saxon peoples who had migrated here from the continent. This didn’t begin in 1707. It didn’t even begin in 1066. People have been speaking a variety of Anglo-Saxon in Scotland originally called Ynglis or Inglis for well over a thousand years.

We speak English because the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants came to dominate the British Isles. I have no idea why these people should have been more successful than the Celts, but they were. The story of the British Isles is how a Celtic speaking people became an English speaking people. Our mothers taught us English and their mothers taught them. To regret the language that you speak and to hate it is to regret who was your mother. It is to regret and hate your own self.

Some Irish, Welsh and Scottish people can’t even bear to think that speaking English as a native speaker provides them with an advantage. All they can think of is that the wicked Brits have repressed them, conquered them and persecuted them for centuries. But this bitterness is peculiarly self-defeating. The language used to express the supposed oppression is the language of the supposed oppressor. It’s the only language most people in Scotland and Ireland know. Instead of embracing who they are, the English speaking people of the British Isles, they hate who they are and delight in blaming someone else for it.

The Korean speaking people of the Korean peninsula and the Japanese people of the Japanese islands either have unity or long for it. It would be the most wonderful historical development if Korea could be united. But while we look on and cheer potential reconciliation in Korea, we find ways to hate each other here. Our history is no different from the history of Japan and Korea. We too are the result of conquests and migrations. We share a common language because of this. But instead of finding unity we continually seek division and blame each other because of the wrongs that were done by our ancestors. But I’m sorry we all have the same ancestors. We are all the descendants of the perpetrators and the persecuted. Each of us was a conqueror and each of us was conquered. We used to speak various Celtic languages, now we are all Anglo-Saxons. To deny this is to mutely try to speak the language of the Iceni, the Picts, or the Scoti. To regret the migrations that led to the people that we are now, is like a Turk regretting that he is not a Hittite. We have just as much unity as the Japanese or the Koreans. Wouldn’t it be as tragic and equally absurd to divide an English speaking island as to divide a Korean speaking peninsular?

Friday, 20 April 2018

The Brexit heresy

In the modern world we are all supposed to be empiricists. We determine truth by means of the scientific method and reject as superstition something that is believed despite the evidence.  But we apply this rule selectively. The claims of Christianity may have been rejected because they depended on belief in miracles, but the assumptions of the Left are accepted even when they are contrary to the evidence.

The Left starts from the assumption that people are equal or at least ought to be equal. If they are not equal the task is to make them equal. We find this to be more or less assumed and hardly ever questioned. It is this above all that gives the Left an inherent political advantage. Consciously or unconsciously many people think that inequality is wrong and that any instance of it ought to be addressed. But equality of outcome is fundamentally a Left-wing ideal as it can only occur by means of Government intervention rather than the free interaction of individuals.

If we allow people to act freely and for the free market to determine each person’s material value, we will not end up with equality. Quite the contrary. The Right accepts this, recognises that people are different and does not attempt to manage the end point of human interactions. Small government laissez faire capitalism will give us freedom and prosperity, but will naturally lead to inequality, because the place where someone ends up financially will depend on his own efforts, luck and the help or hindrance of those he knows.

Throughout human history some people have done rather better than others. Some have had more talent, more beauty or strength. Insofar as there is any evidence it would suggest that all men are created unequal. Yet despite this we are supposed to believe the contrary. Why? On what evidence should we believe that everyone is equal or that they ought to be?

One of the methods by which we test the validity of a scientific theory is to see if it fails. Well the theory that people ought to be made equal has been tested rather often in the past century or so. On each occasion that a serious attempt has been made to eradicate inequality, we have seen a loss of prosperity and freedom. Whenever and wherever socialist ideas have been put into practice they have performed worse than free markets. They have frequently led to tyranny and horror on a scale unimaginable before the attempt. Even in those Western countries where socialism has been tried on a more limited scale the price of removing inequality has always been a decrease in prosperity, not merely for the richest members of society, but the poorest too. Socialism has been falsified, but it is still believed, because it is unfalsifiable to those who believe in it. Its assumptions therefore are not scientific but rather quasi-religious.

I have wondered sometimes why some Remain supporters are quite so devoutly opposed to the UK leaving the EU. I don’t at all believe that it is because they think it will make the UK less prosperous, nor that they particularly care about trade relations. I think it is because Brexit is contrary to their ideal of bringing down borders and thereby achieving the equality of all humanity. If the European Union could be made to work, then this would be one more step along the road to eventual World Government, by the UN or some such body. This I think is the ideal that some Remainers can’t bear to lose.

What we find once more is Left-Wing Utopianism coming into contact with actual reality. They are willing to ignore whatever faults the EU has because it points the way to the abolishment of the sovereign nation state. Once more the Left wants to mould and change and equalise human nature rather than accept it. The Right on the contrary realises that it is not accidental that nation states arose in the world.

Thousands of years ago there was a common Indo-European language, which was the ancestor of most European languages and many Asian ones too. All those who spoke it could understand each other. But we did not remain one great mass of equal Indo-Europeans, the Tower of Babel fell and we diverged. It must above all have been because we did not wish to understand each other. We accentuated difference and over the centuries our tribes became so different that it would be hard to guess that a Russian and a Brit speak a language that once was the same and that there was no misunderstanding between us.

Later there was a common Slavic language and a common Germanic language, but we preferred to be different from our neighbours and developed in such a way that we created linguistic borders and then the borders of tribes, then kingdoms and finally nation states. There must be something in human nature that wishes to do this. Naturally there is a tension and a balance between the unifying and the separating tendencies. When they reach equilibrium we have nation states.

The foundation of the sovereign nation state is about difference rather than equality. If equality was inherent in human nature we would still be building the Tower of Babel and we might have reached heaven by now. But this is to be Utopian. The reality is that people prefer to live with those who speak a similar language. Hungarians, for example, prefer to live with Hungarians and make a clear distinction between someone who is a fellow citizen and someone who is not. If that had not been the case then the modern nation state would never have arisen. The Right (apart from those who would trade the profits of globalisation for their country) accepts this fact and therefore sees the nation state as the foundation of international law and diplomacy. The Left would prefer that first there is no distinction between a Hungarian and a Frenchman (the EU) and then that there is no distinction between a Hungarian and anyone else in the world (The UN/World Government).

Hungarians don’t speak an Indo-European language. The reason for this is that their ancestors migrated from somewhere in Central Asia and settled in the Carpathian Basin. Since then they have maintained their identity and their language and for this reason we have a modern sovereign nation state called Hungary.

The Left’s ultimate goal is to eventually abolish places like Hungary. It seeks to achieve this in a number of ways. The first task is for Hungary to lose its sovereignty. Having subsumed its sovereignty in the EU, it will find that there is no real distinction between a Hungarian and any other citizen of the EU. This will provide Hungarians with some advantages. Unlike the UK, they receive a subsidy from the EU.  It will be easier for them to live and work in other European countries. But it will also mean other Europeans will have the right to go to Hungary.

Hungary has a population of around 10 million people. What if over the next century or so 10 million arrived in Hungary from elsewhere. Would these people speak Hungarian? It's a hard language, but they might learn. Still at some point as boundaries collapse and nation states are abolished we will find the distinction between a Hungarian and a German abolished too. This isn’t an accident. It’s the reason for tearing down the borders.

But the Left is not merely intent on removing European borders. "Today [Europe], tomorrow the world." Equality demands that citizens of one nation state should be equal with the citizens of any other nation state. But by definition citizenship means that we have a responsibility towards our fellow countrymen that we don’t have to anyone else. It is this that makes a person a citizen.  It is this above all that prevents equality between citizens of one country and citizens of another. This is what the Left is attacking, for its ultimate aim is to say that there is no distinction between citizens of different states, because there are no longer separate states. But how can this be achieved?

At present in the world Hungarians feel an affinity for each other. They care more for their fellow Hungarians than anyone else besides family.  This is usually called patriotism. This and this alone makes people willing to pay taxes for the welfare of their fellow countrymen.  It is for this reason too that when West and East Germany reunited they immediately felt that they had a special duty towards each other that they didn’t have towards other Europeans or people in general. But so long as people feel this way we will never achieve equality in the world, because the distinction between a German and a person in general is based on difference.

The task of achieving equality and abolishing the nation state can only be achieved by making Germans realise that a German citizen can come from anywhere. At this point the distinction between for instance a German citizen who speaks only French and a French citizen who speaks only French will dissolve. If in time Hungarians merge with other Europeans, the distinction between them will merge as well. Soon even the idea of being Hungarian will cease. If it does we will be one step closer to the Left’s Utopia.

But the goal of creating equality between all people in the world can only be achieved when the Hungarian sees no difference between himself and someone from say Japan or Yemen. But how can that happen if there are only Hungarians in Hungary? It is crucial to the task of abolishing Hungary’s boundaries with the rest of the world that Hungarians should be from everywhere. This is the whole point of abolishing borders. It allows everyone to move where they please. At this point there will be no countries. Imagine. 

All the evidence from history suggests that people prefer to speak their own language and prefer to live with those who are similar and with whom they have a common identity. Nation states arose for this reason. They conform to human nature as it is. We are unequal and the greatest inequality is that we care more for our families and our fellow citizens than anyone else. We are willing to fight for them and die for them. This is human nature as it is. But the Left not content with its failed experiments with socialism is attempting gradually to abolish the nation state. The way to do this is through abolishing sovereignty, which eventually leads to the abandonment of the concept of international borders and a world where there is free movement everywhere from anywhere. There is no reason to suppose that this experiment will end well. History suggests that when people with very different identities and languages mix the result frequently is conflict.  Perhaps this time will be different.

The Left’s goal of achieving equality even when it is contrary to human nature has caused immense historical suffering. The problem is that because this is a semi-religious ideal, no amount of evidence to the contrary will persuade them to give it up. They are angry about Brexit, not because of trade or prosperity. They are angry because we dare to stand up against their attempt to abolish the sovereign nation state and to say that we believe there ought to be borders we can control and a real distinction between our fellow countrymen and the rest of the world.   Brexiteers are heretics rebelling against all that the Left has tried to achieve since 1945.  We have committed the unforgivable sin, by questioning what must not be questioned. Burning at the stake would be too kind a punishment for they can see that their Tower is crumbling. This is why they are so furious and why they are fighting such a continual rearguard action. It is also why we must succeed.