Monday, June 15, 2015
Race relations: Are we more "enlightened" these days?
The Left are culturally triumphant in America today. They worked tirelessly for their dominance and they have won it. Anger is a great motivator, it seems. Conservative values have few champions outside the more evangelical churches. The media, bureaucracy, schools and colleges are a Leftist monoculture. And the Left are convinced that their ideas have made America much more enlightened than it was. If it weren't for those goddam conservatives, America would be a wonderland of right-thinking with no dissent allowed.
Is there any truth in that? I can't see it. With the vast anti-white hostility whipped up among blacks by the Left, it seems to me that race war is restrained only by the impossibility of it succeeding.
So how does that compare with the past? In the Jim Crow era, blacks walked very gingerly through life. Not only being aggressive but even being "uppity" could earn a black the rope on some occasions. So an enforced racial peace prevailed, with levels of black crime much lower than today -- particularly black-on-white crime.
But nobody these days would advocate a return to Jim Crow. So is there a better model of modern-day multiculturalism than what prevails today? Is there a better model in the past? There is. I was there. I grew up in an exceptionally multicultural society that was also as peaceful as any. It was an unwitting and unintended natural experiment that does, I think, tell us a lot. It's something that took place in Australia but the similarities between Australia and the USA are great -- great enough to permit generally safe generalizations from one to the other.
I grew up in the '40s and '50s in Innisfail (which is actually a romantic term for Ireland -- and a lot of us did have some Irish blood. I do). And for reasons that need not detain us, the small population there (c. 7000) had quite amazing racial diversity. About 50% of the population were Anglo-Celtic and another 30% were Italian but the rest almost covered the racial spectrum: Indians, Chinese, Maltese, Spaniards, Greeks, Russians, Danes, Aborigines etc. But there were no Muslims or Africans.
So what were race-relations like? Generally civil. We Anglos were shocked to see Italian men wearing pointy shoes but I doubt that anyone ever mentioned it to them. And we got gelato long before anybody else in Australia did. There was grumbling among the Anglos about "wops" and "dagoes" and in her youth my mother was threatened by her father that he would disown her if she married an Italian.
But within-group grumbles were just about it. There was no real aggression from either side. The Italians and Spanish grew rich farming sugarcane and the Greeks opened the only cafe in town (the "Bluebird"). And very popular it was. And a Dane sold us milk straight from the cow (quite illegally). It was not paradise. Drunken deeds happened there. My own father was something of a king-hitter if someone disrespected him when he had been drinking. But people mainly mixed socially in their own ethnic groups. The men floored by my father were Anglo-Celtic men much like him.
So it was a normal Australian country town much like any other despite it phenomenal ethnic mix. There was real behavioural tolerance there even if the language among friends left something to be desired. A man who decried "dagoes" in private would be just as polite in any dealings he had with Italians as he would be with anyone else. The speech did not matter. The current Leftist hysteria about "incorrect" speech was unknown and unimagined.
So it is perfectly possible for a heavily multicultural society to be perfectly civil and free of inter-group aggression. No society will ever be perfectly peaceful or just but stress-free multiculturalism is possible.
So the Left have wrought a great evil by their constant preaching that black failure is due to white prejudice. Who can blame blacks for taking that as read and becoming angered by it? The whole Leftist agenda of "affirmative action" screams that blacks are being unfairly treated and that government has to step in to right a wrong. But affirmative action is just racism hiding behind an anodyne name and its fruit -- hate -- is the typical fruit of racism.
The only message coming from government about race should be that blacks are better than whites at some things and whites are better than blacks at some other things. Any other message destroys social peace.
So from my perspective the present is not enlightened at all. It is endarkened, if I may coin a word.
Uncritical praise of a recently deceased British Liberal party leader
Being a liberal is an asset even when you are dead. This is reminiscent of the praise poured out when the disgusting Ted Kennedy died
Occasionally, something happens in public life that leaves you stroking your head. How can you be the only one not to share in the general emotion? The death of Charles Kennedy, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, has had that reaction on me. I wonder, if I died, would people crawl out of the woodwork to praise me, people who did not have a good word for me in my lifetime? Is it wrong to “defame” the dead? Or is it wrong to engage in this horrible mawkish pretence that anyone who dies was an asset to the country?
Parliament–clearly a body that has spare time on its hands–has paused to hold tributes to Kennedy. One Lib Dem MP besmirched the dignity of Parliament by declaiming in the House that Kennedy’s 10-year-old son, Donald, should be “really proud of [his] Daddy”. But this man was no stateman. He was neither Churchill nor Thatcher. If he had worthwhile achievements to his name, I am not aware of them.
Having becoming leader of the Lib Dems, he was forced to resign in 2006 as a drunkard. His marriage failed as a result of the drink, and so the son, who seems to have been reinvented as a political prop, did not have a functional family, being brought up by his mother in the family home while Kennedy lived elsewhere. Should young Donald be proud of such a father?
As a Liberal Democrat, Charles Kennedy supported rule by an international bureaucracy based in Belgium. He backed detailed regulation of the economy by Westminster bureaucrats. He supported mass immigration, and controls on free speech, freedom of association and so on that flow from the creation of a multicultural society. He backed high taxation and high state spending.
In short, Kennedy was a not a liberal in the 19th-century meaning of the term, and was yet another tired supporter of state power and the long arm of the unaccountable civil service. For this, he was about to be “ennobled” and thus appointed to the House of Lords–quite an inappropriate reaction to a failed politician’s defeat at the polls.
Kennedy was not all bad–nobody is–and did oppose the Iraq War in a rare display of good political judgement. However, he was not a man who deserved Parliamentary plaudits and not a husband, son or father of whom anyone could be proud. Do we have to take part in the pretence that he was one of our greatest politicians ever?
Even Hitler and Mussolini did not try to control what you eat and drink
San Francisco supervisors have approved three proposals that take aim at sodas and other sugary drinks.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor Tuesday of three measures dealing with soda consumption - just seven months after voters rejected a proposed tax on sweetened beverages.
According to KRON-TV, the “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Warning Ordinance” would require health warnings on advertising within city limits — on billboards, walls and the sides of buses.
The label would read: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”
Another proposal prohibits soda ads on city-owned property, much like San Francisco does with tobacco and alcohol.
The third measure approved prohibits city funds from being used to buy soda or other sugar-sweetened drinks.
“This is a very important step forward in terms of setting strong public policy around the need to reduce consumption of sugary drinks; they are making people sick, they’re helping fuel the explosion of Type 2 diabetes and other health problems in adults and in children,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, according to KRON.
Roger Salazar, a spokesman for CalBev, the state’s beverage association, said, “It’s unfortunate the Board of Supervisors is choosing the politically expedient route of scapegoating instead of finding a genuine and comprehensive solution to the complex issues of obesity and diabetes.”
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee hasn’t taken a public position on the proposals. They are set to come up for another vote before becoming law
Freeman by name; ignorant, illiberal prick by nature
A British libertarian scarifies some conventional wisdom
George Freeman MP—who is, apparently, some kind of minister for the life sciences in this exciting new Tory government—has been spouting some ignorant bullshit at the Hay Festival.
Mr Freeman told an audience at the Hay Festival that it was clear that sugary drinks and snacks were behind the worsening obesity epidemic in Britain. “I don’t think heavy-handed legislation is the way to go,” he said.
Well, that’s very kind of you, Mr Freeman. It’s a great pity that the “obesity epidemic” is, by and large, a load of old bollocks—with researchers predicting some kind of lard-arse armageddon that has, consistently, failed to materialise (a bit like climate change, really).
But George thinks that it is a crisis and—perhaps whilst he was obtaining his degree in Geography—it looks like he once heard someone explain Pigou taxes.
“But I think that where there is a commercial product which confers costs on all of us as a society, as in sugar, and where we can clearly show that the use of that leads to huge pressures on social costs, then we could be looking at recouping some of that through taxation.
“Companies should know that if you insist on selling those products, we will tax them.”
George’s trouble is, of course, that we can NOT “clearly show that the use of [sugar] leads to huge pressures on social costs”.
What we can show, in fact, is that calorie consumption has fallen rapidly throughout the century—to the point that the average adult’s intake is now below the recommended intake during war-time rationing.
The human body, as an energy machine is pretty simple: if you burn more calories through activity than you consume, then you will lose weight—and vice versa. And given what we know about these two factors (neatly summarised in this excellent IEA monograph by Chris Snowdon), there really can only be one conclusion:
* All the evidence indicates that per capita consumption of sugar, salt, fat and calories has been falling in Britain for decades. Per capita sugar consumption has fallen by 16 per cent since 1992 and per capita calorie consumption has fallen by 21 per cent since 1974.
* Since 2002, the average body weight of English adults has increased by two kilograms. This has coincided with a decline in calorie consumption of 4.1 per cent and a decline in sugar consumption of 7.4 per cent.
The rise in obesity has been primarily caused by a decline in physical activity at home and in the workplace, not an increase in sugar, fat or calorie consumption.
So, once more we are forced to wheel out the Polly conundrum: is George Freeman MP ignorant or lying?
When was the Best Time to be Alive?
As an historical novelist, I am often asked when was the best time to be alive. My readers expect me to say 7th century Byzantium or 17th century London, or some other time I write about. My answer, though, without a moment’s hesitation, is now. The present has its ugly side, no doubt. But no one in his right mind, who is not already dying, should ever want to live two weeks before now, let alone two centuries.
Let us take the ancient world. I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about it. I would like to see it. But would I want to live there? Certainly not. My readers who fantasise about living there always imagine they will be in the higher classes. Well, the higher classes were never more than half of one per cent of ancient populations. Those living in the cities were never more than five per cent. The other 95 per cent lived and worked on the land. They were usually slaves or serfs, or otherwise unfree. They hardly ever cooked or bathed. Their work was backbreaking. Even without banditry and famines and plagues to carry them off, their life expectancy at birth was about thirty.
Look now at the cities. Perhaps one in twenty of those living there were in easy circumstances. The rest were effectively beggars. Their life expectancy was lower than in the country. Or look at the higher classes. They had baths and slaves and pretty clothes. But they had no tea or coffee or proper dentistry, nor any effective pain relief. They had no spectacles. When the black rats turned up with their fleas carrying the Pasteurella pestis bacillus, the rich died just as horribly as the poor.
Let me now look at my own experience. I have reached the age of 55 in apparently good health and with most of my teeth. But I had a bicycle accident when I was 18. This was nothing serious at the time, and the bruising soon cleared up. In my middle twenties, though, I noticed I had increasing difficulty with passing water. I ignored this, until the difficulty became alarming. I then went to my doctor, who referred me to the local hospital. There, I was anaesthetised and carried into a clean operating theatre. Ten minutes with a surgical pipe cleaner, and I was carried back to my bed. I was in hospital for three days. I came out with the problem sorted, and it has never re-turned.
Carry me back to a time as recent as the 19th century. What then? Well, the constriction was unlikely to have killed me outright. But it would have led to repeated bladder infections. One of these would have reached my kidneys, and I would probably have died in my early thirties. I would have died in pain, and been put into my coffin already a shrivelled skeleton.
Or I look at my own family. My wife would have died in childbirth, my daughter with her. If she had survived all her other problems, my mother would certainly have died last February. As it is, she is back home and moving about. My mother-in-law would have died five years ago of a blocked intestine. Or my best friend would have died in 1983 of a bad appendix.
Rather than tell ourselves how much better things were in the past, let us recognise how lucky we are to live in the present. The only better time to be alive than the present is surely the future – and many of us have an excellent chance of seeing that.
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Posted by JR at 12:36 AM