Friday, January 30, 2009

Grabbing traditions that the Left have not yet managed to destroy

Please forgive me for starting with an enormous cliche but: "Man is a social animal". And that observation underlies some further remarks that I want to make about group belonging and connectedness to others generally. I have of course written at length on that before and pointed out the paradox that conservatives -- who very much respect individualism and individual liberty -- are also the ones who are most at ease with being members of a group -- such as a nation -- where pride in group membership is of course called patriotism. Being human, Leftists too have such a need but their miserable and constant criticism of the world about them normally inhibits their feelings of group membership. So when they do find a group that they approve of they go completely overboard -- as with Obamania or Nazism.

And the constant Leftist accusation that any group loyalty is "racism" has inhibited or even destroyed some of the group loyalties that people once felt. I don't blame my readers for being unaware of it but particularly ethical or generous behavior was in the early 20th century often referred to by the English as "white". "That's very white of you" was once a great compliment and expression of appreciation. Yes. People were once proud of being white. These days that is a huge no-no, of course. Black pride is great but white pride is now allegedly an unmitigated evil. Even though the people who defeated Hitler were in fact overwhelmingly -- white.

And where shreds of the old group loyalties have survived Leftist attack, it is remarkable how popular they are. People need such things so they grab what is left. And I want to give three examples of that -- all largely from my own experience but not solely so.

The first is ANZAC day. ANZAC day is a great Australian tradition. It commemorates the landing of Australian soldiers under British command in Northern Turkey during WWI. Due to typical British military bungling, it was a disaster but the heroism of the troops in their parlous situation was widely reported and admired. And the anniversary of that landing is now Australia's most significant national day. It is the day on which we remember our many war dead and there are traditions about how we do that. A central tradition is the dawn service. The original ANZAC troops went ashore at dawn and at that very time their sacrifice is honoured to this day. A service is always held at a local war memorial or cenotaph at that time. And certain traditional words are said there at that time too.

So who goes to these services? Old guys who still remember their war service? They do indeed. But lots of young people go too. They sense a great national tradition and they grasp it eagerly. And although the original ANZAC troops are now long dead, the crowds at the commemorative services are bigger than ever. It is to this day a great day of Australian pride and undoubtedly Australia's most solemn day of celebration. It goes from strength to strength. There have been Leftist attempts to mock it but such attempts have been like water off a duck's back. A book mocking it was in fact for a time a set text in many Australian schools but even that did not succeed at working the usual Leftist destruction.

And my second example is much more mundane but in a way more amazing. To understand how amazing you need to know what the Scots and the English think of one another. It is not good. Tolerance describes it but there is not much more than that. And sometimes even the tolerance breaks down. Old memories going back to the 13th century die hard, amazingly enough. Yet at my last Burns Night -- an ineradicable and unashamed Scottish celebration of great sentimentality -- I had several English-born guests present -- with attitudes to all things Scottish that were typically English. They didn't even really like the pipes (bagpipe music)! Yet I started the night by distributing the words of "Scotland the Brave" and asking everyone to sing it. It is of course a great patriotic and very sentimental Scottish song so I was mildly surprised that my English guests sang it with as much gusto as anyone else. They "got into it" as well as anyone else.

And that is not just something from my own social circle. It was recently reported that there were in fact this year more Burns Night celebrations -- always highly ritualized and traditional occasions -- in England than there were in Scotland! Such is the need for old customs and unashamed feelings of connectedness and uniting in something significant.

And then there is Australia day. Australia day was for a long time more an official holiday than a people's holiday. Australians are in general patriotic but not ostentatiously so. The day commemorates the first landing of British settlers in Australia on Jan. 26, 1788. Leftists fume about it of course and say it should be renamed "Invasion day" because there were already at the time black people living in Australia. And Greenies think it is a tragedy too -- because of the "damage" the white settlers did to the natural landscape. So on the Australia Day just past there was a call to move the day of celebration to some other date -- a call which our centre-Left Prime Minister firmly rejected. He has good political instincts.

The interesting thing about Australia day, however is that HAS now become a people's holiday. As mainstream Australians have been fed -- in the schools and from the media -- a steady diet of white guilt and how wonderful blacks and Muslims are, the more they have turned to celebrating their own identity and history. And Australia day is an opportunity for that. It is now common on Australia day to see cars on the road with one or more Australian flags fluttering from them. Various organizations actually hand them out for that purpose. That never used to be the case. And even Australians of East Asian origin (of whom Australia has many) sometimes get into the spirit and wear Australian symbols -- such as the flag -- on their clothing. They see no problems with what the British wrought here and are glad to be Australians. So the Leftist attack on Australian patriotism has in fact energized it and made it an occasion for coming together. I gave an extended coverage of the Australia day just past on my AUSTRALIAN POLITICS blog.

Just a very small point to end up with: In my childhood I was often told in tones of awe and reverence that my great-grandfather was in the Black Watch. So what is the Black Watch? Basically, it is just another Scottish regiment in the British army. But it isn't just that. It is the Black Watch and you have to have traditional Scottish feelings and knowledge of history to understand that. Being in the Black Watch is REAL belongingness, a source of pride and honour.

And I DO like haggis! As I have already mentioned, there is a small account on my personal blog of my most recent Burns Night -- for what slight interest it may have.


Some good sarcasm from Taranto

"In an interview with one of the Middle East's major broadcasters, President Barack Obama struck a conciliatory tone toward the Islamic world, saying he wanted to persuade Muslims that 'the Americans are not your enemy,' " the New York Times reports. "The interview with Al Arabiya, an Arabic-language news channel based in Dubai, signaled a shift--in style and manner at least--from the Bush administration."

Obama also addressed Muslims directly, saying, "We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful." Can you imagine George W. Bush saying anything like that?

Oh wait, sorry, Homer nods: That last quote was from Bush's speech on Sept. 20, 2001. Still, the pace of change is just dizzying! OK, so it's not so much what Obama said, but where he said it. Bush would never have given an interview to Al Aribiya.

Darn it, we messed up again! The Associated Press reports that "Obama's choice of Al-Arabiya network, which is owned by a Saudi businessman, follows the lead of the Bush administration, which gave several presidential interviews to that news channel." Even so, change is all around us! As the AP notes, the new president's policies are completely different:
Obama's predecessor, former President George W. Bush, launched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which prompted a massive backlash against the U.S. in the Muslim world.

Bush just went around launching wars for no reason! It's not as if these wars were provoked by an attack on America or an invasion of a neighboring country, or else the AP would have mentioned it. Obama, by contrast, just wants to give peace a chance, as another Associated Press dispatch notes:
Obama is expected to double the number of American troops in Afghanistan this year, as the country becomes one of his foreign policy priorities.

The Washington Post reports that "the change in Washington appears to have rattled al-Qaeda's leaders, some of whom are scrambling to convince the faithful that Obama and Bush are essentially the same." Good luck with that, guys!


Agence France-Presse gives us yet another example of the press's historical amnesia in crediting President Obama with foreign-policy "change":
In an interview with the Al-Arabiya satellite television network on Monday, Obama sought to assure the Muslim world that "Americans are not your enemy" and urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table. Obama has promised to directly address Middle East questions at the start of his presidency rather than waiting for years like his predecessor George W. Bush, but said he did not want expectations raised too high for swift progress for peace, following the Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza.

Did the Bush administration really wait "years"? Let's consult an earlier AFP dispatch:
In an apparent effort to cement Arab support for a US-led global war on terrorism, President George W. Bush said on Tuesday a Palestinian state had always been part of a US vision for Middle East peace. . . . Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking later after a meeting with his Indian counterpart, echoed that statement. . . .

Since Sept. 11, the United States has waded into to the crisis, pressuring both sides into signing a ceasefire deal last week to allow it to enlist Arab and Muslim states in his world anti-terror coalition. Bush said Washington was "working diligently" to end a year-long cycle of violence and reiterated his strong support for a roadmap to peace crafted by an international panel headed by former US Senator George Mitchell.

The latter dispatch is dated Oct. 3, 2001--8« months after Bush's inauguration. Maybe AFP meant dog years.



No good reason to feel depression

Comment from an Australian economist

You don't need me to tell you, but I will anyway. Yes, we're in for a terrible year. The economy's almost certain to drop into recession. Indeed, we may be there already. That means rapidly mounting unemployment and various businesses collapsing. This will be our first recession in 17 years, which means it will be a novel experience for everyone under about 30. For the rest of us, however, recession is nothing new. And while everyone's busy working themselves into a funk, it's worth reminding ourselves of a few home truths.

The first is that, although every recession is regarded a monumental failure of economic management, capitalist economies move in cycles of boom and bust. Always have; always will. So this isn't the first recession we've had and it won't be the last. That's worth repeating because it's a reminder of something we're prone to forget in the depths of our gloom: this recession will pass, just as every other one has.

A lot of people are saying this will be the worst recession we've experienced since the Great Depression of the 1930s. This may prove to be true. After all, it was true of the last recession, in the early '90s, and also the one before it in the early '80s. But no matter how bad this recession proves to be, it's a safe prediction it won't be nearly as bad as the Depression, when the rate of unemployment leapt to more than 20 per cent. So don't let the talk of depression spook you.

In a recession, just about everyone is adversely affected. It's worth remembering, however, that most of us get let off pretty lightly. The great majority of businesses, for instance, won't go out backwards, even if many lay off staff. And consider this: were the rate of unemployment to more than double to 10 per cent, that would still mean 90 per cent of workers had kept their jobs. What's more, the risk of unemployment is far from evenly spread across the workforce. It falls most heavily on young - those leaving education to seek a job - and the less skilled and less educated. There are exceptions, of course, but the higher your level of educational attainment, the lower the likelihood of your being unemployed.

Another factor is that some industries are more susceptible to the business cycle than others. Manufacturing, retailing, advertising and media are always hard hit, whereas the public sector and providers of basic goods and services are largely impervious. We still have to eat, for instance.

I predict that, before the year's out, we'll see letters to the editor proclaiming: What recession? My local restaurant is still full on Saturday nights. Why am I sure we'll see this? Because I hear people saying it in every recession. Remember, too, that contrary to what we first think, the economic news is never all good or all bad. Just as booms are marred by rapidly rising prices and ever-increasing interest rates, so recessions are leavened by falling interest rates, government giveaways and slowing inflation. Interest rates have another couple of percentage points to fall, with the next fall likely next week.

It's a good time to seek out generous discounts. And recessions are a time when the cashed-up and canny buy shares and real estate while they're cheap, setting themselves up for the next boom.

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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