Monthly Archives: June 2011

How to tackle the politically correct

Political correctness meets the criteria for a  totalitarian ideology.  Its tenets of “discrimination” and “equality” mean that it can invade every aspect of life  and its adherents claim that the only permissible opinion is the politically correct one.   This creates great advantages for those opposed to political correctness  who are not themselves the prisoners of an ideology because it leaves  the politically correct   The  attraction of political correctness is that it purports to  provide a universal guide to living and offers the assurance of moral superiority.  Those two qualities – alleged universality of explanation and moral superiority –  provide an excuse for both abdicating intellectual autonomy and for enforcing the  tenets of the ideology on
others.

The abdication of intellectual autonomy means that the adherent no longer addresses reality. Their  intellect is turned not to living  life pragmatically,  but to fitting reality into the ideology. As all ideologies are inadequate guides to reality,  this means the adherent is  driven to irrationality if they wish to maintain their belief.

A successful ideology such as political correctness will attract many people who  lack either the intelligence or the intellectual initiative to master the ideology. They  will be content to have a series of ready-made mantras to chant when they have to make a show of promoting their faith.  That means they are incapable of any meaningful debate in defence of their beliefs.  When placed in a position where they are expected to debate the best they can do is chant their mantras .

The more intelligent or intellectually inclined believers will Glad the story amused people. It has its funny side,  but the fact that it did not result in the usual pc-driven hue and cry carries a serious general message, namely, that the politically correct only succeed because people play the game by their rules,  which means making Maoist-style apologies and accepting the veracity of the ideology.

I discovered long ago that latterday liberals will wilt if faced with people who refuse to play their game. Just stand up and say equality is meaningless except in limited contexts such as the law and  discrimination is the natural order of things because no organism let alone a man can survive without discriminating dozens of times a day (normal people call it making choices) and you will find the politically correct cannot handle the resistance.

Here is a  link to an  article I wrote for Right Now! some years ago on the character of modern liberals, who are not liberal but the most fearful bigots. Hence, the title.

http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/the-liberal-bigot/

 

Meditation without metaphysics

There are various forms of meditation, but they share one thing: an  admixture of pseudo-science and religion with practical exercises. This puts off  many people.  Indeed, I have myself been greatly irritated by such metaphysical claims. Consequently, the reader may rest confident that what follows is purely a set of exercises without any pretence at an explanation of how they achieve a change in mental state. (I do, however, offer a few possible physical reasons at the end of the article).  The are a mixture of several forms of meditation which I have used over the years.

The silent mantra

Choose a two syllable sound, for example DAREEM. It should be meaningless because the spoken mantra should ideally not be heard by the meditator after the introductory exercise. The selection of a meaningful word, however obscure, carries with it the possibility of vocalisation within the meditator’s hearing. A meaningless sound does not.

The reason why the mantra must not be heard externally by the meditator is unknown. You may test the claim by saying the mantra out loud after two weeks of meditation. Afterwards you will discover that your meditational state will roughly resemble that at the start of your meditational practice. Even after years of meditating the reversing effect of a mantra spoken out loud is not wholly lost.

However, hearing a mantra spoken out loud does not mean that you are back to square one. A few days meditating will restore you to the meditational state you had achieved before hearing the spoken mantra.

The introductory exercise

The exercise should last fifteen minutes.

Adopt a relaxed sitting position. Close your eyes. Sit quietly for two minutes. Begin by chanting your chosen mantra out loud in a normal tone of voice.

Over a period of five minutes, gradually reduce the volume until you are mouthing the mantra almost inaudibly. At that point stop mouthing the mantra and begin to repeat it in your head. Continue this for ten minutes.#

At the end of ten minutes sit quietly for two minutes with your eyes still closed. After two minutes open your eyes very slowly.

The introductory exercise is best undertaken with the aid of a friend who should quietly tell the meditator when to (1) begin the vocalised mantra, (2) begin the mental mantra, (3) cease the mental mantra (4) end the exercise. The friend should also try to ensure that the reduction in volume of the vocalised mantra is reasonably steady by gently prompting the meditator to alter the volume if he or she seems to be going too quickly or too slowly towards silence.

If a friend cannot be found to perform the task, make a tape recording of the instructions (1-4). Monitoring of the volume of the vocalised mantra in such circumstances is obviously impossible. Therefore, insert into the tape an instruction which tells you that only a minute of the vocalisation is left, that is, after four minutes of the vocalisation.

Normal meditation

To be effective the meditation must be frequent and regular but the extent of each meditation and its position in the day may vary. I normally meditate for twenty minutes twice a day, in the early morning and early evening. Daily meditation may not be absolutely necessary for the very experienced meditator with years of experience – although I recommend it – but it is a must for beginners.

Meditation should always be conducted with the eyes closed and, if possible, in a sitting position. If for any reason this is impossible, perform the meditation lying on your back.

Judge time by mentally estimating it. (This is easier than you might think. After a little while you will be able to judge time surprisingly exactly. Simply tell yourself that you wish to meditate for a certain time rather in the fashion of giving yourself an instruction before sleeping to wake at a particular time).

If in the beginning you find that you misjudge the time, do not worry. Just open your eyes when it feels that you have meditated long enough. If you have grossly overestimated the time spent on meditation – suppose you open your eyes after only ten minutes of a twenty minute meditation – close the eyes again and resume the meditation. Do not worry if you exceed the proposed meditation time.

2. The meditation

Begin each meditation by sitting with closed eyes for two minutes. During this time do not use the mantra and try to physically relax and clear the mind of thought.

After two minutes begin to repeat the mantra silently. Do not try to concentrate intently on the mantra. Rather, the intention should be to attain a state whereby the mantra is produced almost unthinkingly in the same way that manual tasks such as knitting become virtually automatic. At first you will be somewhat self-conscious, but as you develop your experience the mantra will seem to become, in a curious way, both more silent yet more dominant. After a few months of daily meditation the mantra will seem like a wave lapping gently but firmly in your head.

As you use the mantra your meditational state will alter. You may develop a chain of thoughts, often in the form of free association. Do not attempt to restart the mantra while the thoughts continue. Alternatively the mantra may lead you to a state in which you are not conscious of yourself. You will know that this has happened when you suddenly become self-aware again and realise that time has passed for which you cannot account. This unaware, unselfconscious state will be achieved more and more often the further down the meditational road you travel. After five years of meditation I feel as though I am permanently in a low grade meditational state. Do not worry for this does not mean that you will spend your days as a zombie if you attain such a state, merely that the external world will seem less immediate and intense and, consequently, more manageable.

Sometimes, particularly when you are just beginning your meditational career, the use of the mantra will result in neither a chain of thoughts nor the loss of self-awareness and may produce tension, even distinct pains about the head and face. If this happens cease the mantra and sit quietly until the discomfort is removed. Do not open your eyes . When the discomfort ends, restart the mantra. If you strike a meditation where this happens repeatedly, cease the meditation after two or thee attempts to use the mantra.

3. Ending the meditation

Sit quietly for two minutes will your eyes still closed. Then open the eyes extremely slowly taking approximately thirty seconds.

4. Interruptions

Obviously try to ensure that you are not interrupted but if you are, take thirty seconds preparation with you eyes closed – as with the normal meditational ending – before you attempt to open your eyes.

Problems for beginners

The temptation for beginners is always to strive too hard. The success of this meditational technique depends on doing the exact opposite. Always remember that you are not in a competitive situation and that you do not need to work hard in the normal sense to get the best out of your mediation.

The other difficulty you may encounter are pains – outside the meditation time – about the body, particularly the face, head and neck. I experienced quite dramatic facial pains when I began meditating. However, these will diminish rapidly and should have vanished completely after three or four weeks. So perseverance is the name of the game.

Possible physical reasons for meditational effects

I can suggest three possibilities, all completely unverified, which may either cause the loss of the normally dominant cognitive function (commonly thought of as consciousness) or enhance normally subordinate cognitive functions to the detriment of the normally dominant cognitive function:

1. The meditation affects the blood flow to the brain

2. The meditation alters the hormonal balance

3. The meditation produces a direct effect on the brain by flooding it with a single piece of information, the mantra.

Personally, I favour number 3.

Libertarianism, immigration, race, cultural roots and collective identity

There are many rooms in the libertarian  ideological house.  That fact often derails rational discussion of libertarian issues, but it need not be a problem in this instance because the question being asked is most  efficiently  examined   by testing  it against  the flintiest wing of libertarian thought. If  that pristine, uncompromising  form of libertarianism is incompatible with  the maintenance of cultural roots and collective identity, then  all other shades of libertarianism will be incompatible  to some degree.

The pristine libertarian has no truck with  any form of government, believing that  personal relations  between individuals  will adequately order society no matter how  large or complex the society,  and that  such ordering will arise naturally if  only the artificially constraints on human behaviour such as governments  and laws are removed.   Such a society  would supposedly  work along these lines.    If  the society is threatened by an invader,  individuals will join together to defend it  out of a sense of self-preservation.  To   those who cannot work for reasons of sickness,  injury, age or innate infirmity,  compassion and a sense of duty will ensure  that private charity is  extended  to relieve the need. If  public works such as roads and railways are required,  self-interest and reason will drive individuals to join to together to build  them.   Matters such as education may be  safely  left to parents and such  charitable provision as arises.   Above all the individual is king and personal choice is only circumscribed if a choice involves the imposition of one  individual’s will on another.   You get  the idea. The consequence is a vision of  a society not  a million miles away from  Rightist  forms of anarchism.

This concentration on the individual makes for a fissile  society. If each person  is to follow his  or her  own way  without any requirement to believe anything  other than to respect the conditions necessary to realise libertarian ends , that  in itself  would definitely weaken  collective identity and probably affect  cultural unity.  Nonetheless in a truly  homogeneous society, especially if it was small, the probability is that  cultural weakening would not be great and the absence of a conscious collective  identity would not present a difficulty provided the society was not subject to  a serious threat from outside.

Serious problems  for  the pristine libertarian  arise where the  society is heterogeneous,  because  then there is a loss of collective unity. If  the heterogeneity comes from class,  the  cultural roots may  be largely untouched  or at least develop in a way  which  ensures that there is still much cultural  uniformity  and that uniformity is  clearly an extension of  past cultural  traits. It is also true that in a racially and ethnically homogeneous society,  a sense of collective unity will be easily rekindled if the society comes under  external threat.

The most difficult society for libertarians to deal with is  one which is ethnically divided, especially if the ethnic divide includes  racial difference. There a society becomes not so much a society but a series  of competing racial and ethnic enclaves.  In such a situation,  it is inevitable that both  cultural unity and collective identity is  undermined because there is no  shared general cultural experience and this plus racial difference makes a collective  identity not merely impossible but absurd even in concept.

The brings us to the most obvious threat presented by pristine  libertarians to the maintenance  of cultural roots and collective identity. That  is the idea that national boundaries  should be irrelevant with people travelling  and settling wherever they choose.  This  presumes human beings are essentially interchangeable and in this respect it  echoes  multiculturalism.  The consequence of such a belief is to  greatly increase the heterogeneity of a society through the mass immigration of  those who are radically different from the native population.  We do not need to guess what the result of  such immigration is because it  has  happened throughout the western world in our own time. More specifically, it  has happened in those  countries whose populations which are most naturally sympathetic  to libertarian ideas: those which may broadly  be described as Anglo-Saxon; countries such as Britain, the USA and what used  to be known as  the old white  dominions.

The influx of millions of people who  see themselves as separate from the native  populations of the countries to which they had migrated has resulted in the  Anglo-Saxon states gradually destroying their tradition of freedom. Driven by a  mixture of liberal internationalist ideology and fear, their  elites have severely restricted by laws and  their control of the media  and public  institutions  what may be said publicly  about immigration and its consequences.  In Britain it is now possible to be brought to court simply for saying  to someone from an ethnic minority “go home”, while any allegation of racist behaviour  – which may be no more than failing to invite  someone from an ethnic minority  to an  office party – against a public servant will result at best in a long inquiry  and at worst with dismissal.  Nor, in  practice, is application of the law or the  witch-hunts  directed equally  against everyone for it is overwhelmingly native Britons who are targeted. At the same time as native Britons are being silenced and  intimidated, an incessant tide of pro-immigrant and multiculturalist  propaganda is pumped out by government, the public  organisations they control such as the civil service and state schools and the  mass media , which is overwhelmingly signed up to the liberal internationalist
way of thinking.  The teaching of history  has been made a non-compulsory subject in British schools after the age of 14  and such history as  is taught  is next to worthless in promoting a sense of  collective unity,  both because it fails  to give any chronological context to what is put before the pupils  because it concentrates on “themes”  rather than periods and because the amount of  British history that is contained within  the syllabus is tiny, often consisting of the Tudors and little  else.  The consequence is that the young  of the native British population are left with both a sense that their own  culture is in some strange way to be valued less than that of the various  immigrant groups and the lack of any knowledge about their country’s past.

The most  and sinister consequence of  post-war immigration and the British elite’s  response to it  is the development within  Britain of  a substantial number of Muslims  who not only do not have any sense of belonging to the broader society in which  they live, but who are actively hostile to  Britain and its values.  But if  this is the most dramatic example of the fracturing  of British society, it is merely symptomatic  of the separatist attitude of  ethnic  minorities in Britain generally, especially those from radically alien cultures  allied to racial difference.

All of these developments are antithetical to pristine  libertarian ideals,  both because they  undermine  shared values and because they  result in actions to control friction between competing racial and ethnic groups which in themselves undermine the conditions  in which libertarian ideals  flourish.  That libertarians so often subscribe to the  ideal of open borders despite the overwhelming evidence of  its counter-productive effects for  libertarian ends is indicative of the blinkered nature of much libertarian  thinking.

The fundamental weakness of pristine  libertarianism is its complete  failure to take  account of  human psychology  and the way  humans behave as groups.  This is  unsurprising  because of the central  position given to the individual.  But by  doing this pristine  libertarians  ignore the central fact of being human: we are  a social animal. Being  a social animal  entails two defining behaviours: all social animals  produce hierarchies  and   all  social animals place limits to the group.  Homo sapiens is no exception.

Because hierarchies in the human context arise not only from  the personal efforts, qualities and talents of each individual, as is the case  with animals,  but from the  position  each individual occupies through the accident of birth, this raises two  difficulties for libertarians.  The first  is there is not a level playing field and without that the pristine  libertarian ideal of society organising  itself through freely  entered into  relationships is severely distorted because it is clearly absurd to say that a man born poor is freely entering into a master-servant relationship with a man  born rich when the poor man needs money simply to feed himself.  The second difficulty is that the very  existence of an hierarchy,  whether or  not it is based on merit, undermines the notion of free choice because once it  is established different power relationships exist.

The question of hierarchy becomes more complex as the  heterogeneity of a society grows whether that be ever deeper division into  classes or increasing ethnic and racial diversity . All social animals have to  have boundaries  to  know where the group begins and ends.  This is  because a social animal must operate  within a hierarchy and a hierarchy can only exist where  there are  boundaries.   No boundaries,  no hierarchy, because  no  individual could  ever  know what the dominance/submission  situation  was  within their species or at least within those
members of the species with whom they interact.

The need to define the group is particularly important for  libertarians.   Above all libertarianism requires  trust. In the pristine libertarian society  this means each individual believing that other people will keep their word and  generally behave honestly. But as we all know only too well  people cannot  be trusted to observe societal norms and a society which is fractured by class, race or  ethnicity  is the least likely of all to have a shared  sense of what is right.  Therefore,  libertarians need to recognise that however  much they would like to believe that each human being is an individual who may  go where he or she pleases and do what he or she pleases, the sociological  reality precludes  this and that the only  sane ideological course for a libertarian is to advocate closed borders and the  preservation of the homogeneity of  those  societies which are most favourable to libertarian ideals not because the  society  consciously espouses them,  but because the  society has evolved in a way which includes  libertarian traits.

There will be libertarians who find it immensely difficult going on impossible to accept that the individual must in some respects be  subordinated to the group.  They will  imagine, as liberal internationalists do, that human nature can be changed,  although in the case of libertarians the change will come not from re-education  but the creation of circumstances propitious for libertarian behaviour to  emerge.  Let me explain why this is  impossible because of the innate differences between  human beings and the effects of cultural  imprinting.

Because Man is differentiated profoundly by culture, the widely accepted definition  of a species – a population of freely  interbreeding organisms sharing a common gene pool –   is unsatisfactory,  for  clearly Man is  more than  a brute   animal  responding   to   simple  biological   triggers.  When  behavioural differences  are  perceived as belonging to a particular group by  that group  as differentiating  members of the group from other  men,  they perform the same role as  organic differences for  they  divide Man  into cultural species.

A strong  analogy with computers can be made. As hardware,  a particular model of  computer is  practically identical to every other computer which  is classified as  the same model.  But the  software available to every computer of the same model is not  identical.   They may run  different operating systems, either completely different or different versions of the same program. The  software  which runs under the operating system is different  with different versions of the same program being used.  The data which is input to the computer varies and this in turn affects the capabilities of the computer.

It  clearly makes no  sense to say every computer of the same  model  is the same even if the  computer is loaded with the same software.  But of  course  not  all  computers  are  of  the  same  model.  They  vary tremendously  in  their  power.  The same software  will  run  at  very different  rates  because of this. Storage and  memory size  also  vary tremendously. Some computers cannot run  programmes because the programmes  are  too large.  We  may call all computers computers,  but that is to say little more  than that  all  animals are animals,  for
computers  range  from  the immensely  powerful super  computers – the homo sapiens  of  the computer  world  as it were – to the amoeba  of the  simple  chip  which controls  lights  being put on or off in a room  depending  on whether someone is in it.

Are the circumstances of computers  not akin to those of  Man?  Do  not the racially based  differences in IQ correspond to the  differences  in power  of  older  and  newer computers?  Do not different  languages  represent different operating systems? For example, think how different  must be the mentality of  a native  Chinese speaker (using  a language  which  is entirely  monosyllabic)  to that of a native English speaker  (using  a polysyllabic language)  simply because of the profound difference in the structure  of the language. A language will not merely
impose limits on what  may  be  expressed it will affect the  entire  mentality  of  the  individual,  from aesthetic appreciation  to  social expression. Is not the experiential input analogous to the holding of different data?

But the most potent of human behavioural triggers are racial  differences,  for they exercise the  strongest control over the group in a territory where different racial groups  exist. Race trumps ethnicity where the ethnic clash is one of people of the  same race but different ethnicities.  Place a significant population of a different race into a territory  where ethnicity rather than race is the cause of unrest and the ethnic factions  of the same race will tend to unite against those of a different race.

To argue that racial difference is  not important to the choice of a mate is as  absurd as arguing  that the  attractiveness of a person is irrelevant to the choice of a  mate.

In  Freakonomics  Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner  cite a study made of a  US dating site (the full story is on pp 80-84).  The site is one  of the  largest  in  the US and the data examined  covered 30,000  people equally  divided  between San Diego and Boston.  Most were  white  but there was a substantial minority of  non-white subjects.

The  questionnaire the  would-be  daters had to fill  in  included a question  choice on race as “same as mine”  and “doesn’t matter”.   The study  compared  the responses by white would-be  daters  (those from non-white were not analysed) to these  questions with the race of  the emails actually  sent soliciting a date.   The result  in Levitt  and Dubner’s words  was: “Roughly  half of the white women on the site  and  80  percent  of  the white men declared that  race  didn’t  matter to them. But the  response data tell a different story  The  white men who said that race didn’t  matter sent  90  percent of  their e-mail  queries  to  white women. The  white women who  said race  didn’t  matter sent about 97 percent of their e-mail  queries to white men.

“Is  it  possible that race really didn’t  matter  for  these  white women and men and that they simply  never  happened  to browse a non-white  date  that  interested them?” Or,  more likely, did  they say that race didn’t matter  because  they wanted to come across  especially  to potential mates of  their own race as open-minded?”

In short, around 99% of all the women and 94%  of all men in the sample were  not  willing  to  seek a  date of a  different  race. How  much stronger  will  be  the tendency to refuse to breed with a  mate  of  a  different race?

If sexual desire will not commonly override the natural  disinclination to remain racially separate nothing will.

Because the tendency to mate with those of a similar race is  so strong  and universal,  both in place and time, it is reasonable to  conclude  that the  behaviour  is innate and that cultures necessarily include  the  requirement for a member of the society to be of a certain racial type.  The  consequence of this is that someone  of a different racial type  is  effectively precluded from full integration because one of the criteria for  belonging has not been met.  That is not to say,  of course,  that many  of the habits of mind  of an alien culture may not be  adopted  by someone  of  a  different race.  What is withheld  is the  instinctive acceptance  of the alien and his or her descendants  as members of  the society. Just as no human being can decide for themselves that they are a member of this or that group, no individual can decide that they belong  to this or that nation because it is a two-way process: the other members of  the group they wish to join have to accept them as a true member of the group. (Stephen Frears the English  film  director once wryly remarked that he had known the actor Daniel Day-Lewis “before he was Irish”).

Where does this leave us? In its present form libertarianism is a most efficient  dissolver of cultural  roots and collective identity. It is this because it ignores the realities  of  Man’s social nature.  This results in the  creation of the very circumstances which are  least conducive to the realisation of libertarian ends.  If libertarians are to realise those ends, they  must recognise that the society  most  favourable to their beliefs  is one which  is homogeneous in which the shared values create the platform of trust which  must underlie libertarian behaviour.   Of course, that does not guarantee a society favourable to libertarians because  the  shared values may be antithetical to them, but it is a necessary if not  sufficient condition for libertarian ideals to flourish. To that libertarians  must add a recognition that there are profound differences between ethnic and  racial groups and identify those societies which are most worth protecting because they have the largest element of libertarian traits within them.

Means subverting ends – The fatal flaw at the heart of libertarianism

Ends not means

A political philosophy should be about ends not means because there is never a single certain way by which a political end can be achieved and the interpretation of what constitutes the attainment of an end is subjective. Moreover, the prescription of means may subvert the desired ends, the most common example being the corrupting nature of violence used to gain that which is morally desirable.

Where a political philosophy hardens into an ideology (a menu of ideas which supposedly acts as a sociological algorithm to answer all political questions), the individual who accepts it unconditionally has given up his or her personal autonomy and has moved from rationality into the realm of religious belief. This is pernicious because all ideologies are inadequate descriptions of reality at best and contain internal contradictions at worst. These deficiencies mean that any attempt to rigorously apply the tenets of an ideology leads to outcomes which are damaging because they conflict with reality. Sadly, many libertarians have crossed the line between philosophy and ideology.

An example of rigidly inappropriate adherence to ideology is the distinction being made between depositors and shareholders in the present banking crisis. The argument that shareholders by definition take a risk while depositors do not looks attractive at first glance but has no logical substance. Any arrangement an individual or corporate body makes with a private company other than a bank has exactly the same status as the relationship between a bank and a depositor. For example, if I put down a deposit on a fitted bathroom and the company liquidates before I receive the goods I have almost certainly lost my deposit. That is exactly the same situation as a depositor who has placed their money in a bank which then finds itself insolvent. The depositor has provided the bank with his or her money to purchase banking facilities and possibly interest on the money deposited.

A rigid follower of laissez faire would say let the depositors lose their deposits, arguing caveat emptor and suggesting that depositors had only themselves to blame if they failed to take out insurance to guarantee their deposits. This is correct in logic if you accept the premise that what primarily matters is maintaining the principle of personal responsibility, a “let justice be done although the Heavens fall” approach. If it was their own savings at risk, the odds are that no libertarian would be arguing that the depositors should be left to stew in their own responsibility. Moral: don’t subscribe to a philosophy which is too demanding.

The sane and practical way for libertarians to proceed is to identify their general ends and then look at what type of society will bring them closest to those ends. This assessment should into account human psychology and sociology, for any system of thought which is incompatible with human nature or its sociological expression is at best futile and at worst destructive. Because of the emphasis on personal freedom and responsibility, the danger for any libertarian is that they concentrate so much on the individual that they recklessly neglect the fact that Man is a social animal. Where that happens, their vision of what a libertarian society should be becomes utopian and consequently unobtainable.

There is plentiful evidence that the extent to which human beings will behave badly or well is to a large extent determined by their circumstances. As a general rule those with power, wealth and influence will behave with less restraint than those who lack such advantages. The reason for this is easy to see: power, wealth and influence remove the social restraints which keep most people within the bounds of reasonable behaviour. The powerful tend to believe they are beyond criticism or punishment; and think they do not need the voluntary help of others because they can purchase what assistance they require, while those without power fear retribution,, for bad behaviour and recognise that they need the voluntary assistance of others. The lesson for libertarians is that their philosophy must be designed to create a society which produces not complete equality of circumstances for all its members but enough similarity between each to prevent significant abuses of power.

What are the general ends of libertarianism?

All libertarians support the idea of laissez faire (generally, not only in economics), although they vary considerably in the role they allow the state, They are united in their desire to see as much as possible of social interaction left to voluntary agreement between individuals,. They wish, if they wish for a state at all, for it to be the absolute minimum required to provide the necessary framework around which society can coherently form and survive. They are strongly opposed to the state intervening in the decisions the individual makes which are private to
themselves.. They wish to see human beings living lives in which the individual takes, as far as is possible, responsibility for his or her life and for any dependants. They expect to provide voluntary aid to those in need.

Perhaps most importantly libertarians give a central place to the notion of property, a word which in libertarian thought has a connotation which extends far beyond its commonplace meaning of the ownership of physical objects to such things as a man’s labour and his very body.

Varieties of libertarianism

The most unblemished libertarians favour a world in which each individual provides for and protects his own family and property, a world in which voluntary aid from relations and friends are the bulwarks against misfortune or incapacity, a world in which everything, including the right to property, is governed by personal relationships and behaviour is moderated not by laws or official force but the moral context in which people live, with good and bad behaviour being rewarded and punished by the informal responses of others.

Most of those who call themselves libertarian would subscribe to something a little less demanding of the individual. They want a world in which the state interferes with their lives as little as they deem practicable while providing a secure social structure comprised of defence, diplomacy, justice and policing to protect both their persons and their property. Some libertarians such as Hayek would go beyond the routine minimalist state and allow a basic welfare state.

The problem for libertarians, whether they be those who want no state or those such as Hayek who would allow quite a large role for the state, is that there is no instance in human history of a single community which has corresponded to any of the envisioned societies or even come close to it.

Where there is no formal authority the societies which result invariably lack the qualities which allow libertarian ends to be attained: property is not respected, there is no system of law to which individuals can appeal, the strong dominate the weak simply by their power. No state has ever concentrated solely on those items which are considered to constitute the minimalist state. Even the enhanced minimalist state of Hayek has never been realised, although it is comes closer to reality than the others. Societies which has never existed may reasonably be
assumed to be incompatible with being human. Libertarians need to accept that fact and ask what else is needed to produce the ends they seek.

What is missing from most libertarian thought is an understanding of the need for positive as well as negative freedom. Most human beings are not and never will be thorough going libertarians even in theory. That being so, libertarians need to re-configure their philosophy to aim for a society in which those libertarian ends which are most widely shared throughout society are best achieved. The ends which are most widely consciously shared, are those which relate to the state not intervening in private lives in matters such as raising children. .
In addition, libertarians need to understand that the intervention by the state to create material conditions which produces a rough equality of power and opportunity between individuals promotes the ability of all to take responsibility for their own lives.

The money problem

Money is the elephant in the minimalist state room. This is unsurprising because it presents a tremendous problem for all libertarians except those who would be satisfied with a society based on barter for if the state controls the money supply it has immense power., Hence, libertarians prefer not to mention it if they can possibly help it. But it cannot be ignored because it is the oil which drives the entire economy. If a currency fails general economic disaster ensues in an advanced economy. It is not just another commodity.

The record of state control of money (state being defined as a central controlling power) is not encouraging, history telling us that it has commonly resulted in the debauching of currencies through the diluting of precious metal content or by recklessly printing money and expanding credit in the case of a fiduciary currency.

That might seem an excellent reason for not trusting the state with administration of the currency and leaving the matter to private initiatives. The problem is that experience says that private initiatives to produce and maintain fiduciary currencies are vastly riskier, the record of private banks failing being legion. The current credit crisis is a prime example of the dangers. Governments in Britain and elsewhere have allowed banks to expand the money supply vastly through promiscuously granting with the consequence that is now upon us, a freezing of credit to the point where most, probably all, British banks are in reality insolvent, their insolvency only being hidden by the lines of credit and guarantees offered by the British government.

By allowing private institutions to inflate the money supply governments to their hearts’ content , governments have effectively privatised monetary policy. When currencies were based on precious metals monarchs and states debased the currency: now it is the financial institutions which achieve the same effect. An analogy would be with a government with a currency based on gold minting coins of a standard gold content whilst allowing private mints to produce coins with whatever gold content they chose.

Some libertarians hanker after a return to a currency based on a precious metal such as gold. This would be completely impractical in the modern world, not least because the amount of gold available is merely a tiny fraction of that which would be needed to be held to make the currency fully convertible as it was before the Great War.

The dominance of economics

Much of the difficulty with libertarian thought lies in the central position given to laissez faire economics., a system of thought which is intellectually incoherent and impossible to defend at any level other than that of emotional exhortation and has consequences which lead to non-libertarian ends.

A truly free market by definition must be one in which no artificial restrictions exist. Yet the so-called free markets we have rely on the most fundamental restriction of all, state-regulation to prevent the natural workings of a market.

How unnatural the idea of a “free” market as (defined by laissez faire economics) is can be seen by the complete absence of such markets throughout history. Economic history is a record of men attempting to reduce competition.

But the intellectual incoherence is not the main problem with laissez faire. The major  problems lie in its practical effects. These are to create greater wealth divides and produce regular bouts of serious economic instability. This has been true since its first real trial in Britain from the 1840s onwards (Trollope’s great political novel The Way We Live Now was an early critique of its effects), the bank crises of the 1890s, the banking crisis of 1907, the Wall Street Crash and Great Depression and currently the credit crisis the world is presently undergoing. These crises have all occurred during periods when laissez faire has been the dominant economic credo of the most powerful economies in the world.

Contrariwise, the period from 1931(when Britain came off the Gold Standard) and 1979 saw state intervention in the economy and protectionism re-established. During that time no major banking crises occurred. There were of course other financial problems, most notably the defence of the pound and a period of high inflation in the 1970s, , but the period overall was remarkably stable and there was nothing as dangerous as the present situation. Draw your own conclusions.

Plutocracy and the quasi-state

The central position given to property by libertarians , including the unfettered right to inherit, subverts the ends of libertarianism. Even in a society which starts out with a large degree of democratic control, the inevitable outcome of unhindered passing down of wealth through the generations is the rapid formation of a plutocracy. Such a society is a form of  authoritarianism, and arguably the most potent form of authoritarianism because it is not the direct and overt consequence of an elite which has seized power at a given point and
wielded it unashamedly for its own advantage. Rather, it is a social state which develops organically and is all the stronger for that.

There is no obvious villain for the have-nots to attack for there is no monarch, no party, no dictator to direct anger at, merely a group of the privileged who colonise and control the political system, reducing the democratic process to an pantomime of elective oligarchy in which parts of the elite compete for formal power.

A plutocracy also passes its power and privilege down the generations through inheritance, the importance being in the inheriting as a class rather than as an individual.  This avoids the habitual cause of failure amongst authoritarian regimes, the problem of succession.

Once a plutocracy is established , the state becomes less important because the elite have power which is not solely dependent on the formal positions of power as it is in states such as the Soviet Union. The elite’s power ultimately flows from the wealth they command, which allows them to effectively buy the command of society, both formally and in their relations with other individuals.

Wealth, as my old history master never tired of saying, is power. The consequence is that substantial differences in wealth mean that those without wealth are left in a grossly subordinate situation which undermines their ability to attain libertarian ends. Inherited wealth reinforces and amplifies these power relationships and very rapidly produces a plutocracy. a social state utterly at odds with the ends of libertarianism.

How to judge an ideology

A good way of testing the moral nature of an ideology is to ask what would be an honest election manifesto for a party adopting it. In the case of most libertarians it would be this: We shall pursue a policy which will make around a third of the population richer, leave a third of the population as they are and make a third poorer. There will be great differences in wealth which will increase with every generation. Wealth being power, this will mean those born to wealth and high social position will be able to exercise authority over those who are significantly poorer than themselves. Those who through incapacity or misfortune cannot support themselves will have to rely on the charity of others to survive at worst or on a meagre subsistence at best.  Society will not be a race in which everyone starts at the same point but a handicap gallop with the handicaps being decided not by Nature but by man made laws and customs. Would any libertarian be comfortable standing on such a political platform?

Libertarians also need to ask themselves whether they want the world reduced to the banality of a system of economic relationships, ironically exactly what Marxists do, That is the danger with making a god out of property and laissez faire economics.

It is a singular fact that I have never come across anyone who was poor, either through knowing them personally or through their writings , who was a libertarian or even just a supporter of laissez faire economics. That tells its own story. Only those who feel themselves beyond the reach of poverty or unemployment are comfortable with the idea that everything will work out in the end for the best aggregate result.

Voluntary action is simply too unreliable an engine to drive and maintain a society. For example, to argue that private charity will make good that which is provided by the welfare state is simply to go against all historical experience. There has never been a society in which private charity ever came close to meeting the needs of the incapable or the misfortunate. America in the Great Depression is a classic example of what happens. Until then the USA had been a society in which welfare even art the local or state level was very limited.

If libertarianism is to be more than simply an ideology for the haves, whether through their own efforts, luck or the accident of birth, then it must take into account the way societies actually work and cater for the wide range of ability, personality and personal circumstances which always occur. That can only be done if the positive freedom side of the liberty equation is given equal weight to that of the negative freedom side.

An ideology which unwittingly subverts its ends is worse than useless; it is absurd. That is what the libertarian thought does all too often through its emphasis on the individual to the exclusion of the social nature of human beings.

Foreign Aid – A Danegeld extracted by the Liberal Internationalists

“Aid – an excellent method for transferring money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries”. — Peter Bauer  (http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/globalDimensions/research/aidTradeDevelopment/Default.htm)

The UK has been pumping Aid into the Third World since the 1950s.  At present day values several hundred billion pounds of British taxpayers’ money has been given to foreigners.   Despite the present  economic crisis all three major British Parties have committed themselves to not merely maintaining the Aid but substantially  raising it.  This year around £9 billion will be given away ; by 2014/15 that is projected to increase to £11.5 billion as our political class have committed themselves to meeting the UN’s 0.7% of GDP target by then.  (http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Media-Room/News-Stories/2010/Spending-Review-2010/).   If  the UK’s economy  grows by more than anticipated by 2015,  the figure would be higher and to maintain the 0.7%  target  it will continue to rise after 2015 as UK GDP increases. No other developed country of larger or greater size than the UK  spends as much on Aid (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/207565/Britain-s-foreign-aid-bill-scandal)

Because all the parties which can realistically to be expected to have a major presence in the House of Commons  are for the payment of ever increasing Aid, the British people have no choice in the matter.   This is indubitably not what the electorate wants.  A poll in July 2010 (after the Coalition Government announced only two  budgets would not be severely reduced – the NHS and Foreign Aid) came down firmly on the side of reducing the Aid budget  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10504916).  Such polls, together with the consistent placing of worries about immigration and race relations as high on the public’s list of concerns , suggest  that scrapping Aid altogether  would meet with widespread  approval.

There is also growing evidence that the political and media elites are beginning to get cold feet over Aid.   Tory backbenchers got into the act early in this Parliament (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/8196241/Tories-warn-Cameron-Listen-to-us-or-we-mutiny.html) and the Defence Secretary  Liam Fox argued against the cutting of the Defence budget when the Aid budget was protected and enhanced (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23950774-tories-back-liam-fox-warning-against-overseas-aid-law.do).

On the media front,  most of the national press has criticised the ring-fencing of Aid  from cuts and there have even been a few brave souls who have called for Aid to  be discontinued at least during present circumstances (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/rogerbootle/8571156/No-need-for-UK-economy-Plan-B-but-lets-suspend-the-foreign-aid-budget.html).

The problem is that the leadership of all the major political parties and the broadcast media, especially the BBC, are still Hell bent  on showing  how  “compassionate” they are and make ever more absurd and reckless statements about their commitment to Aid.  Here are a selection of recent statements  from supposed Tories:

“My ambition is that over the next four years, people across the country will come to think of Britain’s fantastic development work around the poorest parts of the world with the same pride and satisfaction they have in some of our great institution like the Armed Forces and the monarchy,” he said. “This is brilliant work that Britain is doing.” (Andrew Mitchell Overseas Development Secretary http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/8560089/Britain-will-love-being-an-aid-superpower.html).

“We, as a nation, should be proud that our humanity and generous spirit will reach every corner of the world – and we will all be richer for that.”  (Sir John Major  ex-Tory PM http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/8556639/Sir-John-Major-foreign-spending-isnt-just-right-it-should-make-us-proud.html).

“I think there is a strong moral case for keeping our promises to the world’s poorest and helping them, even when we face challenges at home,” he said.

“When you make a promise to the poorest children in the world, you should keep it.”

Mr Cameron recalled watching the G8 summit at Gleneagles and the Live 8 pop concert in 2005 and thinking it was right that world leaders should make public pledges to help the poorest countries.

“For me, it is a question of values,” he said.

“This is about saving lives. It was the right thing to promise. It was the right thing for Britain to do. And it is the right thing for this Government to honour that commitment.”

Some people were pressing him to put off aid commitments until after Britain’s economy is back on an even keel, said Mr Cameron.

But he insisted: “We can’t afford to wait. How many minutes do we wait? Three children die every minute from pneumonia alone. Waiting is not the right thing to do. I don’t think 0.7% of our gross national income is too high a price to pay for saving lives.”  (David Cameron on announcing a further £814 million Aid to fund vaccinations in the Third World (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13744922)

This is so far removed from what the vast majority of Britons believe that it is risible.  Its  relationship to the truth is akin to Soviet grain harvest and tractor production figures and reality. The reality is that Foreign Aid is a Danegeld extracted from the populations of Western states by political elites in thrall to the doctrine of liberal internationalism.  In the fifty odd years of this practice the countries which have been the main beneficiaries of Aid have either seen their economic  condition deteriorate (for example, virtually all of  sub-Saharan Africa) or no discernible relationship between Aid and economic development can be shown (for example, India and China).  This is unsurprising given the amount of money spent on war and repression or embezzled by Third World elites whose wealth is often not measured in  millions but   billions (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/How-Hosni-Mubarak-Got-So-usnews-3723955512.html?x=0).

But determined as they are to continue with Aid,  those with power and influence realise that it is becoming an ever more toxic issue. Because of this,  the supporters of Aid have begun to argue that Aid is good value for the UK taxpayer because it reduces the risk of the UK becoming involved in wars, reduces the likelihood of terrorism in Britain and  makes mass migration less likely.  The most used argument is that Aid is part of our defence  strategy. To this end UK foreign Aid has been included in the official Government spending on UK defence  (www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/uk_defence_spending_30.html).   David Cameron has led the way with repeated claims of a defence aspect for Aid , for example, before a panel of House of Commons select committee chairs: “Preventing a conflict is always cheaper than taking part in it.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2010/nov/18/1)

The idea that  Aid prevents wars is risible, especially while we have governments following the so-called Blair Doctrine that intervention in states which had not been aggressors to other states was legitimate if it promoted liberal internationalist values . Since this dangerous nonsense was floated in the late 1990s, the UK has been embroiled in more wars  than in  the  previous fifty years.  Not only that,  but the provision of massive amounts of Aid has enabled dictatorial regimes to conduct war and repress their populations far more efficiently than would be the case without or fuel civil wars. It is also deeply ironic that the likes of Cameron are arguing this when they are at the currently  deserting regimes  the West has supported for years .  If foreign Aid has had a national interest element in it has been to prop up regimes which are beholden to Western governments  on the basis that that they may be bastards, but they are our bastards.

As for terrorism, the claim  that Aid prevents the radicalising of  Muslims abroad who will then attack the UK is fanciful in the extreme.   There have only been two Muslim terrorist attacks which got as far as an actual attempt, 7/7 (which succeeded) and 21/7 (which failed).  This in itself suggests the actual threat, as opposed to fears of a threat, is not massive given the ease with which bombings  could be made if there was a widespread and serious attempt at terrorism in the UK by those here and abroad.   There is a great deal of difference between those who are serious about being terrorists and those who like to fantasise about it and form groups who do nothing but talk or the individuals who  get a thrill from downloading  bomb-making instructions,.   Moreover, both UK attacks were carried out by Muslims either born in Britain or Muslims who had spent a long time in the country.  In addition, those convicted of terrorist offences short of an actual terrorist attack in the UK  have mostly involved Muslims who have been long resident here.

The highly questionable effect of  Aid on  extremism abroad is mirrored by the outcome  of money spent in Britain to discourage radical Islam. The Government have just admitted that the millions poured in has been ineffective at best and may well have financed radical groups at worst (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/8560679/Failed-anti-terror-campaigns-waste-of-money-Prevent-strategy-admits.html).

With the claim that  Aid prevents  mass migration to Britain, it is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry. Not only has there been massive and ever increasing immigration to the UK since the Blair Doctrine was established (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/8449324/David-Cameron-migration-threatens-our-way-of-life.html), a large part of that immigration has come from places where Britain has intervened (the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan) and immigrants have continued to flood in from the Third World countries to which we have given the largest amounts of Aid (for example, India, Bangladesh) (http://www.dfid.gov.uk/About-DFID/Finance-and-performance/Aid-Statistics/Statistic-on-International-Development-2010/SID-2010-Section-4-Where-does-UK-expenditure-on-International-Development-go/).   It is also worth bearing in mind that  we do not give large amounts of Aid to most of the Third World (http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Where-we-work/). Even if the idea of Aid as an immigration preventative carried weight, it would not prevent vast numbers of  people from the Third World seeking to come to Britain because we do not send them any or much Aid.

The second prong to the defence of Aid  is the ending  of direct Aid  to some of the more outrageous recipients of such as Russia and China. This is Aid still within the UK’s power to directly allocate rather than be allocated by bodies such as the EU and UN) ended . (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12589626).  However,  Britain will still be handing large amounts of direct Aid to India, a country with its own space and nuclear weapons programmes  and more billionaires than Britain (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/8350487/Andrew-Mitchell-British-aid-to-India-will-continue.html) and indirect Aid may still go to the likes of Russia and China through the UN and EU.  Any changes will be  essentially cosmetic and an attempt to blind the public to what is happening.

Finally, there is the claim that  Foreign Aid will buy Britain friends as the recipient countries grow richer. The fact that there is no evidence of the Aid enhancing the wealth of countries is strong evidence against the claim, but any one with normal psychological and sociological insight will also doubt whether Aid will leave a residue of gratitude. Rather , it is more likely to leave resentment  because people do not like to be dependent on others especially those outside their community, a resentment which will be enhanced by the constant refrain from Western liberals  and Third World dictators that the West is to blame for Third World poverty .

Despite these rumblings of public dissent,  on 13 June 2011 David Cameron put two fingers up at the British public  by committing the UK to a further £814 million of Aid for vaccinations in the Third World, money which will make the UK the largest donor in the world to this programme (http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/252594).

Disruptive and unpleasant as the effect that  Aid on foreign governments in terms of promoting war, repression and corruption,  there is a  more fundamental problem. Despite the corruption and violence of experienced by many  Aid recipient countries, the provision of  governmental  Aid and the work of NGOs such as  Oxfam  has fed a population explosion in countries whose ability to accommodate their now vastly increased populations from their own resources is nil. By keeping the Aid flowing a vicious circle is created. The population in a country rises because the Aid allows more to survive which generates a demand for more Aid is made because the country cannot support them. More Aid is forthcoming and the population increases again above what the country can bear. This was an easily foreseeable outcome and a policy  no responsible person let alone a government should ever have advocated, bringing increased  poverty to the  poorest countries. Aid has disrupted the traditional structures which supported and limited the population to what the environment would bear.

The disruption of  the Third World  has  been worsened by the West to varying degrees driving them  towards economic practices which have radically altered their native economies for the worse. In the poorer, less developed states, the political policies with regard to international trade and consumer demand of the developed world (and latterly the developing world in the shape of the Chinese) has slanted their economies towards dangerously narrow economic bases, most commonly built on the extraction of raw materials, tourism and the production of food and horticultural products

The extraction of raw materials commonly has little benefit for the local population because the countries lack the ability to develop the resources themselves and have to sell licences to foreign companies. This means deals between foreign companies and governments   with the money derived from the licences going directly to the governments. The consequence of that is it commonly ends up in the pockets of a corrupt native elite, is squandered on grandiose projects, used to fund civil wars or simply employed to keep a regime in power by force (Nigeria is a prime example of how a great natural resource – oil – can turn into albatross around the neck of a country).

The solution to Third World debt  is in principle simple: the debtor nations  repudiate the debts and take the consequences of bankrupts. The debts should be ameliorated by the West by their identification of  money stolen and placed in Western banks  by third World kleptocrats. This money should be sequestered by the West and used to defray the  debts of the defaulting states. Simply writing off debt and increasing Aid will feed the corruption and debt accumulation.

The claim that Western protectionism is  keeping much of the Third World in poverty does not stand up to scrutiny. The agonised liberal directed public debate over African poverty ignores two  fundamental facts.  First, the trade relationship between Africa and the developed world is the choice the African rulers. They could, if they chose,  protect  their own markets and refuse the trade regime wanted by the West.  That would do far more for the long term stability and wealth of the poorer states of the world because they would develop a strong domestic economy based on the resources of the country and the capacities of its people.  Economic history tells us that a strong stable domestic economy is the most certain way of economic progression.  As for relaxing trade barriers one-sidedly, that is, by allowing African  goods freely  into the West but not vice versa ,   what of those in  West who lose their jobs because of it? Fair and unfair to whom is the question?

If I wanted to play the politically correct game I could rest my argument on black commentators who have called for its end such as Dambisa Moyo (: Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa, 208 pages, Allen Lane. http://www.deadaid.org http://www.hiiraan.com/news2/2009/mar/_stop_giving_aid_to_africa_it_s_just_not_working.aspx) But that would not only be cowardly but  to miss the point.  Peter  Bauer’s dictum on Aid: “A system which  takes money from poor people in rich countries and gives it to rich  people in poor countries”  is all too true.  But even it  was “taking money from rich people in rich countries to give to people in poor countries”  it would indefensible.  It should not be the business of a government in a supposed democracy to tax its own people to give money to foreigners.  That the UK is currently having to borrow the money given  in Aid because of the massive fiscal deficit whilst massive cuts are being to British public services makes the situation more poignantly absurd and indefensible, but any Aid is indefensible because it is taken from the taxpayer  without the public  having any meaningful say in the matter.

Aid should be  restricted to private charity. Then we would see how much the British public want to subsidise foreigners.  Of course, those who support Aid know very well that only a minute proportion of what is currently sent abroad would be voluntarily donated. That is why they are so determined to keep state-enforced Aid.  ( It should be remembered that many of those who wish to keep Aid  have a vested interest because they either work for the  government directly or for NGOs which are substantially funded by the taxpayer. )

Could Britain end its Foreign Aid? The direct Aid could be stopped, but Britain would need to leave or get them to moderate their  Aid demands, organisations such as the  EU  and the UN.  Yet another fine internationalist mess our politicians have got us into with their love of “right-on” vanity projects.

 

Politically incorrect film reviews – Ire in Babylon

UK Cinema Release Date: Friday 20th May 2011

Official Site: http://www.fireinbabylon.com

Written and Directed by: Stevan Riley

Starring:  Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Michael Holding, Ian Botham, Jeffery Dujon, Colin Croft

Genre: Documentary

Runtime: 1 hour 27 minutes (approx.)

Between 1980 and 1995 the West Indies cricket team never lost a series, a most remarkable thing. They did this through discovering a discipline they had never consistently shown before and the development of a bowling attack consisting of three or four genuinely fast bowlers,  a fast bowling  lineage which began in the mid 1970s with Holding, Roberts and Daniel and ended in the mid 1990s with Walsh, Ambrose and Bishop.    Their dominance was aided by the failure of umpires to implement the  cricket law banning persistent short-pitched bowling –  arguably because of a fear of being called racist – but  in truth they were formidable  even without bowling four or five short-pitched balls an over.  The runs scored against the West Indies in their period of dominance were almost certainly the hardest earned in the history of Test cricket (the first Test was played in 1877).

Those with no knowledge of cricket  will have read that paragraph and said, no, not interested.  Let them bear with me for a moment.  It is a film about a sporting side but it is far more than that.  Primarily it is  a masterclass in black victimhood and insecurities in which  cricket takes a distant second place. That explains  why  the film has been greeted with such rapture by British  film critics who are  signed up to the “ol’ whitey bad, black good “ liberal agenda  (for a wide range of quotes  see http://www.fireinbabylon.com/press.html).
The Daily Telegraph’s review is typical: “Director Stevan Riley’s joyous and uplifting film is a celebration of a sporting triumph and all its implications for black politics and culture.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/8524438/Fire-in-Babylon-review.html)

The director  Stevan Riley made no bones about the purpose of the film: “a story of freedom, independence and black pride through bat and ball”. (http://www.channel4.com/news/fire-in-babylon-what-lessons-for-west-indies-cricket-now).   The result is a film which is an unrestrained act of pro-black  propaganda,   with whites and England  painted as the colonial oppressors and the Asian populations of the West Indies relegated to the role of non-persons.  Within this context,  the West Indies team of the late 1970s to the mid 1990s is portrayed as a vehicle for the political consciousness of the newly independent West Indian countries; a means by which the black West Indian population  (but not the white or Asian West Indians) could assert  themselves and show themselves to be able to compete with and dominate  their  old colonial masters.

Those not familiar with cricket in general or West Indies cricket in particular will require some background.  The West Indies is not a nation state. Rather it is a collection of British ex-colonies in the Caribbean  (Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados being the main islands) plus one on the South American continent (Guyana).  Cricket is the only thing which brings them formally together.

The history of West Indies cricket is a mirror of the racial and ethnic tensions  in the ex-colonies.  The team until the 1970s  was a mix of whites, blacks and Asians (mainly those who had ancestors who came from the Sub-continent).   Until 1960 the West Indies cricket team (known as the Windies) was always captained by a white man, apart from the odd match where injury or other absence of resulted in no  suitable white player  being available.

Throughout the period of white captains there was a growing restlessness amongst black West Indians for a black captain. After the appointment of the first  black man ,  Frank Worrell,  to the (regular)  captaincy in  1960,   the  participation  of  white and   Asian  players  steadily  diminished  – in the case of whites it might be truer to  say effectively  ended.  Geoffrey Greenidge was  the last  white   player to represent the West Indies (in 1972) before Brendon Nash appeared in  2008 (and he was a white Australian who qualified for the West Indies through his mother), while   no Asians were chosen between  Larry Gomes’  final appearance   in 1986 and Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s debut in 1994.  This left a side entirely composed of black West Indians.   In the late 1980s the Windies Captain Viv Richards  proudly described his side as “a team of Africans”.

There is no mention in the film of this exclusion of whites and Asians from the Windies side during their period of dominance, nor Viv Richard’s celebration of the fact that he was leading  an all  black side.   This is scarcely surprising because those interviewed in the film are all black and the interviewer did not ask awkward  questions.   Famous white cricketers and commentators such as Geoff Boycott , Ian Botham and Jeff Thompson who had played against the Windies during their period of dominance   were interviewed by the director,  but strangely not a single interview of a white man conducted for the film  appeared in the film. Tellingly, white faces were almost  absent from the film  except for the action shots. Ditto Asians.   Instead the film was packed with interviews with  West Indian cricketers and  commentators who had either played in or seen the Windies at their height , and film or commentary of black West Indian   celebrities such as Bob Marley,  Bunny Wailer, Lord Short Shirt, Burning Spear  (no, I  am not making the names up) and Gregory Isaacs who happily mixed with players such as Viv Richards.

A  deep-rooted black paranoia shows itself in the interpretation as patronising of white attitudes and responses which are at worst neutral and at best complimentary.  The  description “Calypso cricket” by whites  is interpreted  as  meaning that West Indian sides play in an attractive but brittle and unthinking way. In reality it was simply a bit of lazy labelling by journalists and broadcasters  without any intent to patronise or insult.

Australians turning out in  great numbers to applaud the West Indies touring party as they toured the streets of Melbourne at the end of the 1960/61 series against Australia was dismissed as Australians being happy to applaud losers (they lost the series 2-1).  In fact, they were being applauded because the series was (1)  thoroughly exciting with the first tied Test in history and (2)  Test cricket was going through a period when it was feared that slow, defensive play was killing the public’s appetitive for the game and the series was seen as a  renaissance of attractive cricket.

The only instance in the film of a white man suggesting that the Windies were chokers was made by  the England captain in the 1976 series between the Windies and England. This was the South African Tony Greig (playing  for England after qualifying residentially) predicting  before the series that the Windies “would grovel”.  Had he made the comment about Australia or an Australian made it about England it would have just been treated for what it was, a bit of “pre-fight” banter. In the film it is treated with an immense  earnestness as if it was the deadliest of insults.

This outrage is very odd because the central  thesis of the film is that until the late 1970s the Windies were a team  which often contained great individuals,  but hich was all too prone to not playing as a team, whether that be because of racial strife (especially under white captains) ,  the difficulties of bring people together from different countries in a representative team or the lingering effects of colonialism which led to an unconscious lack of belief in themselves.  (The alleged weaknesses  were supposedly only cured after Clive Lloyd became captain and  eventually moulded the Windies into a relentless machine for winning. )

This  story is some way adrift from reality. It is untrue that the Windies were a consistently brittle side  before Clive Lloyd became captain. They always had great players and in the space of four years in the  1960s they won two series in England and beat the Australians in the West Indies.  By 1965 they had good claims to be the strongest side in the world.  That they  declined towards the end of the 1960s and early 1970s was simply the natural consequence of a great side growing old and losing important players.  In short, it was simply  what any top cricketing  Test side experiences,  peaks and troughs of performance.

One of the most intriguing passages is the series between  Australia and the Windies in 1975/76 when the Australian fast bowlers Lillie and Thompson physically knocked the Windies about so badly that the series was lost 6-1.  That was time when the Windies captain Clive Lloyd decided on playing a three or four man fast bowling attack. In fact, what appears to have been the real turning point was the rebel Packer matches of a few years later. Kerry Packer was an Australian media mogul who signed up (to the horror of the national cricket boards who banned the players from playing Test cricket) many of the best  cricketers in the world, including most of the Australian and West Indies players.

The Packer series began badly for the Windies who folded weakly in an early match. According to the film,  Packer came into Windies dressing room and gave them a tongue-lashing along the lines of improve or you will be on a plane home.  Packer also arranged for then to use a  physiotherapist and fitness trainer by the name of Denis Waite because he was doubtful about their fitness. (http://www.catholicnews-tt.net/joomla/index.php?view=article&catid=49:sports&id=174:sports010209&option=com_content&Itemid=82).  Waite, a white Australian, got them fit and psychologically prepared.  By the end of Packer’s rebel games (they lasted two years) the Windies had started to win relentlessly.  It could be argued that the Windies built their later success on a platform constructed by two white men, Packer and Waite.

The other great  hand-up from ol’ whitey was the decision of the English cricket authorities in 1969 to relax the qualification rules for county cricket, the English domestic first class teams.  This meant that foreign players, including most of the major West Indian cricketers of the period 1970-1995, were able to play regular professional cricket in England. This both gave the Windies players a regular source of income from cricket (something which had never  been readily available before)  and a great deal of experience both of playing and English conditions and culture.

After 1995 the great days were over, although they were still competing for another five years or so as the great old players held the team together. After 2000, the Windies team declined rapidly until it became a pathetic shadow of what it had been only a few years before.  Why did this happen? Perhaps it was this:

“The things that had driven us in the past were no longer important to the newer generation. Black pride and its militancy, the shrugging off of our colonial legacy, Frank Worrell completing the West Indian version of the Jackie Robinson journey, these things have been historically severed” Calypsonian David Rudder on the difference between the 80s and today (http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/483624.html)

If Rudder is correct, that paints a bleak picture of the future of the West Indies not only as cricketers but generally.  What he is saying is that only the mixture of anger and fear left by colonialism is sufficient to energise West Indians.

From a purely cricketing point of view the film offers  many examples of great fast bowlers in action.  Those too young to have watched cricket in the 1970s and 1980s should watch the film and see the  difference between genuine fast bowling and what passes for it  now.  In particularly I was reminded of what a nightmare Jeff Thompson was at his best , not merely one of the fastest  of bowlers, but one with an uncanny knack of getting a ball to rear into a batsman’s face from barely short of a length. Most of the action shots are of batsmen being hit or nearly hit, which is a little unedifying,  but they  do  give  a graphic idea of exactly how much courage and skill is required to face great fast bowling.  The most poignant shots are  those of a 45-year-old Brian Close batting against Holding and Roberts in 1976 before the era of helmets and being repeatedly hit on the body, an assault he met with a remarkable stoicism.

Those wanting  a flavour of the film can click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n57LPYiragE

Strangling Freedom

Over the past sixty  life in Britain has become so hemmed about with laws and regulations that the individual is increasingly at risk of committing a crime without even knowing it.  Britons are also subjected to unremitting political propaganda in the politically correct interest by politicians, the mainstream media, public servants, teachers and the major corporations, be they public bodies, non-profit making or private enterprise.

Such intrusion into the lives of Britons is unprecedented.  Consider this list of the things that sixty  years ago you could legally  and without great bureaucratic  fuss  experience or do ; things  which are now impossible because of new laws or changed circumstances :

Say and write whatever you wanted within the limits of libel, slander and obscenity

Employ whoever you wanted to employ

Rent or sell your property to whoever you wanted

Put a property on the market without the need for an Energy Certificate

Buy a property if you were earning the average male wage

Be free of elite haranguing about being green and man-made global warming

Live without the need to sort rubbish into different “green”  defined  bins

Associate with whoever you wanted without fear of being called “racist”

Be free of elite haranguing about being “racist, homophobic or sexist”

Live almost anywhere in Britain without immigrant ghettos impinging on your life

Live without laws such as the Race Relations Act which privilege minorities

Drive without an MOT hanging over you

Drive without being faced with a breathalyser test

Drive without being expected to “belt up” or have a children’s seat if carrying children

Park a car without having to use a parking meter or being at risk of being clamped or given a penalty notice

Take a one part driving test without the need for a separate theory exam

Ride a motorbike without a helmet

Smoke where you wanted to

Sell and buy vitamins and herbal remedies at will

Buy any non-prescription medicine without restriction, e.g., aspirin

Own a gun

Carry a knife without it being treated as an offensive weapon

Go bird nesting

Take  a wild plant

Take most wild animals either year-round or in season

Kill vermin

Purchase exotic animals like tortoises and parrots

Use  drugs which are now illegal, legally

Have  a reasonable expectation of a secure job regardless of class or education

Know that all your laws were made in your own Parliament

Have a jury trial for any offence carrying a penalty greater than six months

Exercise a right to silence when cautioned by the police without incurring disadvantage if brought to trial

Know that you were free from arbitrary stop and searches

Live without being subject to administrative justice such as police cautions and on-the-spot-fines

Live without state surveillance through the widespread use of CCTV cameras

Engage in voluntary work or paid work in professions such as teaching without being subject to a police check

Live without the risk of being  held for 14 days without charge

Live without the threat of an ASBO which is a civil court order, the breaking of which results in criminal penalties

Be able to raise a family on a single wage

Live without the fear that social workers would   interfere with your family for anything short of serious criminal behaviour

Exercise reasonable discipline over your children

Allow children to go to school on their own, play without knowing exactly where they were and once they were of a reasonable age, say ten,  stay in the family home without adult supervision for a reasonable period without risk of being accused of child neglect.

As a  man, assist a  strange child in distress or stop a child not your own from misbehaving without fear of being called a  paedophile  or of running the risk of being charged with assault

Bank without any fear that the bank was legally obliged to inform the state about transactions over a certain amount

Defend yourself against an intruder in your own home without  risk of a criminal charge

Go to a school in which children behaved and were taught at least the three Rs

Run a business without being besieged with health and safety requirements

I dare say I have missed other freedoms which no longer exist, but that is a formidable enough list.  The important lesson  from it is that Britain existed perfectly happily without  these now  supposedly essential social constraints.  The reality is that the  majority have been introduced not from any need but because of ideological commitment or entanglement in Treaties most particularly those tying Britain to the EU.  Others, such as the absurd price of housing and the inability to raise a family on a single wage are indirectly due to the ideological commitment of governments since the 1979.

The accretion of laws eroding our freedom, both  petty and great, will continue unless political action is taken because there will always be politicians, mediafolk and interest groups with axes to grind which result in more and more laws designed to deal with a specific alleged ill.

Free expression or permitted opinion: that is the choice

Robert Henderson

‘And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose upon the earth, so truth be in the field [and] we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter…’ [Milton - Areogapitica].

Milton’s words perhaps contain more significance than he realised, for a society only becomes  wholeheartedly tyrannical when censorship allows no effective opposition. To take a most dramatic instance, if the Nazis had been forced by frequently expressed contrary public opinion to explain their policy of genocide to the German people, it is highly improbable that the whole grisly business would have been mooted, for we know that even without any serious public opposition the Nazis went to considerable lengths, in the midst of a most tremendous war, to persuade the mass of Germans that Jews were simply being resettled or, at worst, used as forced labour.

Without free expression, democracy cannot function because the whole purpose of democracy is to allow any view to be put forward for public acceptance or rejection.

But although free expression is a golden prize, it is also one of the hardest things for men (of all political stamps) to practise, there being the most magnetic temptation for anyone to engage in the self-serving delusion that the suppression of contrary opinion is not an abrogation of free expression but the legitimate exclusion of dangerous ideas. Milton himself fell prey to this temptation once his political “side” gained the ascendancy during the Commonwealth and Protectorate.

The idea that free expression can exist whilst restrictions on what may be said are in force is a literal nonsense because free expression is indivisible. Its essence is that it is not a negotiable quality; you either have it or a range of permitted opinion which may be altered at any point by the ruling elite, the mass media, unelected pressure groups, terrorists and the Mob.

Britain a free country?

It is often claimed – perhaps never more frequently than at present by our political elite – that Britain is a free country where a man may say what he wants. This has always been less than the truth and the limits of free expression are growing ever narrower both through pernicious effect of political correctness which insists, like all totalitarian creeds, that the only permissible view is that of political correctness, and the ever expanding legal limitations through legislation and the judgements of judges especially in privacy cases.

A surprising number of laws restricting free speech now exist in Britain. It is presently circumscribed by the laws relating to libel, slander, confidence, blasphemy, obscenity, official secrets, equal opportunities and race/ethnic relations. Government departments and agencies, local municipalities, private corporate bodies and private citizens may also obtain injunctions to prevent both the expression of views and physical demonstrations. In addition, the police have practically unlimited powers to prevent a man speaking if it is judged that the words uttered are ‘likely to cause a breach of the peace’ and may limit public demonstrations almost at will.

There are laws which are not immediately obvious to the public as being restricted of free expression. The Race Relations Amendment Act (2000)  forces all taxpayer funded bodies to prove they are not engaged in discrimination even unwittingly. The Prevention of Harassment Act (1997) makes contact with someone potentially illegal if they do it more than once after someone has said they do not want contact with you (this covers disputes with companies and officialdom as well as individuals). The Public Order Act (1986) reiterates and strengthens the provisions against inciting racial hatred in the Race Relations Act (1976, but also has a broad definition of harassment in a public place:

“5 Harassment, alarm or distress.

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—.

(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour,
or.

(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting…” (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986/64/section/5)

The there is the Malicious Communications Act (1988. This deals with any communication by post, phone or other electronic media:

“1 Offence of sending letters etc. with intent to cause distress or anxiety..

(1)Any person who sends to another person—.

(a)a [F1letter, electronic communication or article of any description] which conveys—.

(i)a message which is indecent or grossly offensive;.

(ii)a threat; or.

(iii)information which is false and known or believed to be false by the sender; or.

(b)any [F2article or electronic communication] which is, in whole or part, of an indecent or grossly offensive nature,is guilty of an offence if his purpose, or one of his purposes, in sending it is that it should, so far as falling within paragraph (a) or (b) above, cause distress or anxiety to the recipient or to any other person to whom he intends that it or its contents or nature should be communicated.” (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/27/section/1)

The other Acts which indirectly restrict free expression because they provide for  increased police powers of arrest and powers of search. These are:

Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984

Criminal Justice Act 1987

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

Terrorism Act 2000

The Police Reform Act 2002

Serious and Organised Crime Act 2005

The full text of these Acts can be found at  http://www.legislation.gov.uk/. Just put the title of the Act you want into the search facility.

To these legal barriers must be added the voluntary code of practice which is policed by the Press Complaints Commission. This contains such widely drawn and imprecise restrictions as:

“The Press should avoid prejudicial or pejorative references to a person’s race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or handicap.”

and

“It should avoid publishing details of a person’s race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation, unless these are directly relevant to the story.”

Nor is free expression guaranteed more securely by international treaty. The 1951 European Convention on Human Rights states in Article 10 (now incorporated directly into English law in the Human Rights Act) that:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall  include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers….

All fine and dandy. But this is followed by:

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals [my emphasis], for the protection of the reputation of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”

Which caveats allow the  state to do virtually anything by way of censorship.

The Human Rights Act (HRA) has also had a directly pernicious effect on free expression because clause 8 which runs:

“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

“There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

This has been used by British judges to create extremely powerful restraints dubbed “super injunctions” which outdo Kafka by making it a contempt of court to reveal the existence of
the injunction. Amidst a raft of footballers, TV presenters and actors, there are those who have or have had a serious public role, for example, Sir Fred Goodwin who was chief executive while the good ship Royal Bank of Scotland crashed into the financial rocks (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/8523323/Sir-Fred-Goodwin-obtained-injunction-to-hide-alleged-affair-with-senior-colleague.html) and the BBC’s political editor Andrew Marr (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/celebritynews/8473041/Ian-Hislop-attacks-Andrew-Marr-over-super-injunction.html.)

Goodwin had an affair with a subordinate at RBS who was twice promoted after the affair began; Marr laid himself open to a charge of gross hypocrisy on two counts: he spends his working life quizzing politicians and other public figures about their private lives and misdemeanours and the fact that he is a journalist means he who should defend free expression not engage in censorship.

Such injunctions are obnoxious both because of the censorship and because they are only available, as with libel and slander actions, to the rich. Happily their potential for mischief has been much reduced by the impossibility of preventing the information protected by the injunctions being put on the web in one way or another – Twitter was the main agency used in recent months. However, there will be injunctions whose details are known only to a few which will never appear in public because those who know either have vested interest in keeping
quiet or do so out of fear.

The Coalition Government has been making noises about passing a privacy law (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/8504051/Super-injunctions-David-Cameron-blames-Parliament.html). That could be worse than the present situation. The ideal answer is to have a written constitution with a guarantee of free expression, but the repeal of the HRA for this and other reasons would be a powerful blow against the judges’ power to create and expand a privacy law, which is what they have been doing over the past decade.

Below the super-injunctions come ordinary injunctions and under them the use of confidentiality clauses in contracts and agreements to settle disputes between two or more parties. Confidentiality clauses keep a great deal of important information of genuine public interest from the public. Take the case of Andrea Hill, the chief executive of Suffolk County Council. She has sanctioned “payouts for 13 employees which cost the authority £405,665.90” with confidentiality clauses allegedly to keep silent employees with complaints about the council. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8525969/Council-chief-spent-405000-on-gagging-orders.html). Such clauses may hide more matters of public interest than super-injunctions.

The restraints of custom and ideology

But perhaps more potent than formal laws and treaties – for they are unlimited and cannot be challenged in the courts – are the restraints imposed by custom and ideology.

Although we have never had freedom of expression, for most of the past century and a half the range of permitted opinion has been broad and the restrictions on what might be said  have had more of a social content than a political one. Fifty years ago bad language and mention of matters such as illegitimacy and homosexuality were considered to be impolite, but the idea that whole areas of political discourse should be ruled out of public discussion was alien to the British.

In the past half century the range of what is not acceptable in “polite” company has shifted very much to the political. Gradually what has become known as political correctness has restricted public discourse on a large swathe of centrally important political questions to very narrow limits. Most particularly, anyone in public life or in the public eye, knows that it is death to their careers if not worse, to fail to pay at least lip service to the credo of the unholy trinity of political correctness: race, gay rights and sexual equality. To this “Trinity” may be
added the more minor non-PC sins such as not being “green”, opposing any attempt to make society “safer” by passing laws which are sinister in their effects and generally unenforceable, or the advocacy of any idea which is not ostensibly directed towards the end of an undefined general equality.

But it is not only those that have a degree of celebrity or enhanced status within the public realm who need fear. Political correctness is by its nature totalitarian – the only acceptable view on any pc subject being the pc one – and all must heed its demands. Hence, all public employees, no matter how humble, must not only endure the humiliation of race awareness courses and sexual equality seminars, but live in fear of demotion at best and dismissal at worst if they are deemed to have shown non-pc behaviour or displayed non-pc thoughts. What applies to public service is mimicked increasingly by private businesses, especially the larger ones.

It is not that a person need be racist, homophobic or misogynist in any meaningful sense known to past generations to incur the wrath of the pc police. The politically correct have reduced the definition of what it is to be racist, homophobic and misogynist to such a narrow condition that any human being is in danger of falling foul of those who would cry bigot in the enthusiastic manner of the competing sides in the Reformation who cried heretic. Express a preference for one culture or nation over another and the speaker is racist. Let a pub landlord dare to mention that he prefers to employ good-looking girls as barmaids, and he is sexist. Mention that the legal approval of sexual acts by Gays in public lavatories might not be in the public interest and wait to be called homophobic.

Ironically, many members of the “protected” groups see that such behaviour is not to their advantage because it is both unreasonable in itself and likely to inflame prejudice against them. However, they have great difficulty in speaking out because not only do they face the usual abuse directed at anyone who stands against political correctness, but also attack from the most fanatical of activists from within their own minority group for being in effect Uncle Toms.

Revolutions notoriously devour their own. Just as the religious in the time of the Reformation had to go to ever greater extremes to prove their orthodoxy, so do the practitioners of political correctness become ever more extreme, some from a desire to be the most advanced and others from a fear of having their “soundness” questioned if they remain behind the ideological leaders.

The “right” sort of discrimination

The obnoxious contraction of what is permitted has a further danger for the unwary. Although the dictates of political correctness are in theory universal in practice they are applied  with vastly greater enthusiasm against certain groups than others. In 2001 the television presenter Anne Robinson made what was obviously a joke about the Welsh on a programme entitled Room 101. The idea of the programme was for those appearing to consign something or someone to Room 101, the place in George Orwell’s 1984 where “the most terrible thing in the world happens”. Anne Robinson consigned the Welsh with the comment “What are they for?”

A day or so after the programme she became the subject of a police investigation for inciting racial hatred and a file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. Some weeks after it was quietly announced that she would not be prosecuted. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/1205551.stm).

Compare that eager police response with that which occurred after the current director-general of the BBC, Greg Dyke who in 2001 described a meeting of BBC managers as “hideously white”. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/1104305.stm)

As the law stands, the statement is unambiguously racist because Mr Dyke is making a claim about a recognised racial group and the use of the word “hideously” is highly inflammatory. The extremely unpleasant nature of it can be seen by substituting black or Asian for white: “hideously black”, “hideously Asian”. Its effect can only be to incite racial hatred against whites. The severity of the offence is greatly magnified by Mr Dyke’s then position as the head of our state funded broadcaster.

To test the pc water I made a complaint to the Metropolitan police. They refused to act, despite the fact that Dyke’s comment was not a joke and his public position is a very important one. I tested the Metropolitan police a second time shortly afterwards with a complaint against a Welsh Nationalist politician called John Elfed Jones who had charmingly described the English who moved into Wales as a “disease” and likened them to foot and mouth  http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2001/aug/08/race.wales). Mr Jones is a man of some public standing in Wales. He is a former chief of HTV and Welsh Water, has held office in the Welsh Language Society and was involved in the creation of the Welsh Assembly. He is a member of Plaid Cwmru.  Thus, his remarks have more than ordinary public significance.

Again the police refused to act, despite the fact that Jones’ political position gave his words considerable significance in a part of the UK where firebomb attacks on the homes of English
settlers are part of the political landscape. From the refusal to act in these two strong cases of clear racial incitement, it is reasonable to conclude that only the “right” type of racial incitement complaint is acceptable to the police. Complaints to the Commission for Racial Equality on the Dyke and Jones cases met with a similar refusal to act.

This form of oppressive and partial behaviour by the police has steadily grown. Two years after the Dyke case, on 9 November 2003, Cheshire Police acted with the greatest haste on a complaint from “a member of the public” after the Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, suggested that homosexuals seek psychiatric help to reorientate their sexuality.(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-201684/Police-quiz-bishop-gay-comments.html)

A day or so later (11 October 2003) they were forced to announce that Dr Forster had committed no offence – as any sane person knew – because the 1986 Public Order Act does not  cover “hate crimes” based on sexuality. However, the Chief Constable of the force, Peter Fahy, expressed regret at Dr Forster’s comments and said that it was the duty of everyone in an influential position to celebrate diversity, viz: “We need to be very aware of the position of minorities in the county and make sure diversity is celebrated. Vulnerable minorities should feel they are protected.”

The obvious response to that statement is since when have the police had political comment as part of their brief? The answer appears to be from now on virtually anything goes. Nor does it need a particular crime to provoke such comment. Here is Chief superintendent Paul Pearce of the Sussex force speaking in 2003:

“Recent events in the police service have highlighted the continual need for a positive anti-racist and anti-discrimination stance.

“Sussex Police is overtly hostile to those who discriminate on the grounds of race, religion, skin colour, sexual orientation, disability, gender, social class or any other inappropriate factor”. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/southern_counties/3228833.stm

Equally worrying is the attempt by certain police forces to give quasi-official approval of a law which does not exist. The Public Order Act 1986 covers so-called hate crimes, which the Metropolitan Police define as “abusing people because of their race, faith, religion or disability – or because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual” (Daily Telegraph 10 11 03). In fact, the Act does not include any crime which is committed for reasons other than racial hatred.

In 2005 prosecutions were brought against the BNP leader Nick Griffin and BNP member Mark Collett for inciting racial hatred with evidence provided by the BBC (this  from an  organisation which initially refused to hand over film of IRA killings of two British servicemen in Northern Ireland). The BBC  secretly filmed a closed BNP meeting in which Islam was
represented as a menace to British society. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/police-investigate-bnp-documentary-over-violence-claim-553351.html).  The attempts at prosecution (there were two trials after the first one resulted in a hung jury on three charges and acquittals on others), failed to convict, but sent out a clear message of the extent to which those with power in Britain are willing to suppress free expression. It is not necessary to have any sympathy with the BNP to see the dangers in allowing politicians (and it required a politician, the attorney-general, to sanction the prosecution) to initiate criminal prosecutions against members of other political parties.

Sometimes the police enthusiasm to be pc makes them the object of ridicule. In 2007 a Lancashire shopkeeper found himself threatened with a public order offence for displaying golliwogs in his shop window. The police seized the golliwogs (doubtless for interrogation)and the shop keeper had to endure the suspense of what would happen next. This turned out to be nothing because the police admitted no crime had been  committed. (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23389075-police-seize-golliwogs-in-racism-probe.do).

Farcical as the circumstances of this episode were,  it is typical of  many of these police “investigations” into what they classify as hate crimes: the police investigated but no prosecution or caution resulted. The effect of this behaviour, whether intended or not, is to intimidate the native British who now commonly think they dare not say anything critical about any ethnic minority, nation other than England, women or gays for fear of feeling the heavy hand of the constabulary.

Two final recent examples of this type of thing, both involving Islam. In April 2011, Andrew Ryan was convicted of a public order offence for burning a Koran in public. For this he was sentenced to 70 days imprisonment at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court. The sentencing judge, District Judge Gerald Chalk seems to have invented a new legal concept for he described Ryan’s behaviour as “a case of theatrical bigotry.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8459965/Man-who-burned-Koran-jailed-for-theatrical-bigotry.html). Whether one is in favour of burning books or not, it is difficult to see what meaningful crime Ryan had committed. He burnt a book considered holy by Muslims, but so what? The Christian religion is routinely publicly insulted without a flicker of interest from the police. Effectively, a new legal status has been given to Islam, a status not sanctioned by Parliament. It is worth adding that Carlisle, in the far North-West of England, has very few Muslims and few ethnic minorities of any sort. It is doubtful whether many, if any, of the local population took offence.

The second case is even more interesting. To begin with it involves a Muslim, Mohammed Hasnath. Until the bombings of 7/7 Muslims were allowed to say and write virtually without police intervention. Since 7/7 there have been occasional prosecutions of Muslims for violent words, prosecutions one suspects which are conducted to give a specious appearance of even-handedness in the administration of the law.

Hasnath was fined £100 for putting up posters which read GAY FREE ZONE and had a Koranic reference condemning homosexuality (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8550178/Muslim-fanatic-fined-100-for-gay-free-zone-stickers.html). Note first the light penalty imposed on him compared with Ryan, despite the fact that the posters must have caused much more offence and been seen by many more people than Ryan’s Koran burning. But so would the putting up of posters containing
the anti-Gay passages in the Koran. If Hasnath had done that would the police have intervened? I suspect nothing would have been done because to have prosecuted him for that would be a tacit admission that the British authorities think parts of the Koran breach the law.

The opportunities for prosecutions based on racial hatred have been greatly widened to include not merely incitement to racial hatred but to punish more heavily any crime deemed to have a racial motive. As racism is defined ever more widely to include virtually any distinction between peoples, the courts and the police have a very great opportunity to include a racial motive in a prosecution. In addition, there are growing calls for laws to extend to the areas which the police , and especially the Metropolitan police,  fondly fantasise are already covered.

Secrecy

Secrecy is the obverse of the censorship coin. To be actively prevented from knowing something is a form of censorship. Most particularly it eats away at democratic control. Unless an electorate has the right to know what the state is doing in any aspect of its work, unlimited mischief can be perpetrated. Justice can be perverted, crimes commissioned, treason committed, political policies subverted, elections manipulated and the lives of individuals maliciously ruined, all with little chance of discovery and next to no chance of prosecution even where the public does find out about the wrongdoing. The most enraging document I have ever read is the Hansard report of the Commons debate the day before war was declared in 1914 and Britain entered the most disastrous conflict in its and Europe’s history. It is clear from Hansard that the grave and novel dangers of entering into a war with modern technology were understood by many MPs. Worse, from the pathetic evasions of the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, it is clear that Parliament and consequently the British people had been kept in the dark over secret agreements between the British and French Governments, which obligated Britain to go to war if France was attacked. So off Britain went to war, ostensibly because of an 1839 treaty Britain had signed guaranteeing Belgium’s sovereignty, but in reality because the British elite of the time had committed itself to the French elite without any Parliamentary oversight or agreement.

It is absolutely important to understand that free expression and a free media are an integral part of democracy, but they can formally exist and yet be restricted greatly if secrecy is practised by government. Democracy and openness of government go hand in hand. Take away openness and democracy is breached.

Democracy and freedom of expression

Opposition in the modern world means reasonable access to the various mass media. Without that free expression is an empty shell for, as wise dictators have always known, two shepherds on a hillside defaming the government is nothing, while a hundred thousand people demonstrating in the capital city or a television station broadcasting criticism of government is much. But our public life, including politics, is currently rigidly controlled, on all matters except perhaps the economy, by those who broadly subscribe to a left/liberal programme – what might be termed The Liberal Ascendency. Think, for example, of what educationalists did to sabotage Tory attempts to right the decline in educational standards between 1979 and 1997.

The only true democracy lies in freedom of expression, which requires both the absence of restrictive laws and the statutory guarantee of its exercise to be meaningful. Unless the
current embargo on views contrary to those of the Liberal Ascendency is broken, Britain’s claim to political liberty is a sham. It is, indeed, a strange kind of freedom which is so hemmed by law and circumstance.

The idea which is the bedrock of western morality, the primacy of the individual, is a fragile psychological edifice which can only be guaranteed by free expression. Moreover, it is an idea which is constantly under threat because the primacy of the individual is little valued by most societies and its social corollary – a practical concern for individual liberty – is an even rarer cultural artefact. Indeed, it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that only in English society, and those societies deriving from it, is the notion of individual liberty built into the social fabric. The English have been free not primarily because of legal rights, but because it is their evolved social nature. They accept liberty because it seems natural to them. But that freedom has always rested on the willingness of the Public Class to both behave in a reasonable fashion and to allow criticism. Hayek, coming to England as a foreigner between the Wars noted
both the special quality of English life and the threat to its continuance:

“…it is one of the most disheartening spectacles of our time to see to what extent some of the most precious things which England has given to the world are now held in contempt in England herself. The English hardly know to what degree they differ from most other people in that they all, irrespective of party, hold, to a greater or less extent, the ideas which in their most pronounced form are known as liberalism…[Road To Serfdom 1944 chapter X1V. Hayek, of course, used liberalism in its uncorrupted individualistic sense.]

Freedom of expression is every man’s best guarantee of freedom.

How to safeguard freedom of expression

We should begin with a bonfire of most of the legal restraints. Libel and slander may be replaced by a statutory right of reply; the equal opportunities and race-related statutes should be repealed completely for they not only restrict free expression but practically abrogate the principle of equality before the law; blasphemy and obscenity should depart on the grounds that no group has the right to constrain another simply on the grounds that views are offensive to one side. Legal restrictions relating to confidence and the Official Secrets Act could be replaced by a law of contractual confidence which clearly states any obligations placed on the person accepting an overt (not implied) contract of employment. No other law of confidence should exist.

A really potent freedom of information act is needed (the present one is an insult to the intelligence with its manifold exemptions and the inability of the Information Commissioner to act within a reasonable time against recalcitrant public bodies who refuse to provide information – at present it takes around two years to get the Commissioner to issue a judgement). allows access to all government and municipal papers of general interest – that is everything which is not related to a particular individual – except papers concerned with limited and clearly
defined military matters such as battle plans, equipment specifications and computer codes relating to such things as the launch of nuclear missiles. The stipulation of papers relating only to matters of a general interest would prevent public prying into such records as individual tax returns. The passing of such an act would also place severe limits to the contractual limitations on free expression placed on public servants.

The mention of freedom of information acts always brings knowing scoffing from the self-identified political sophisticates of politics and the mass media. Faced with such a proposal they nudge one another and sigh with a resigned, patronising smile before saying that all that would happen is that politicians would decide things privately whilst dissembling in public. I should be most interested to know exactly how such duplicitous behaviour could be translated into practical measures. If, for example, the present Cabinet secretly wished to re-nationalise the railways whilst publicly supporting privatisation, it could not carry the denationalisation through and expect no one to notice.

It is true, of course, that legislation may be presented as something it is not, but that is a present evil without the existence of a freedom of meaningful freedom of information act. With such an act misrepresentation would be, in principle, subject to greater and more informed scrutiny and consequently open to fiercer pressure for amendment. Nor do I believe that politicians would be able to dissemble successfully in public all of the time.

Injunctions to prevent the expression of views and physical demonstrations are a problem for they are a potent weapon of suppression in the hands of the influential and powerful, especially if those hands form the government of the day – In addition, the police have practically unlimited powers to prevent a man speaking if it is judged that the words uttered are ‘likely to cause a breach of the peace’ and may limit public demonstrations virtually at will.

As for the customary restraints, a statutory right of reply would go a long way to ensuring fair play for the individual in their relations with the press. There would remain a problem in the case of books and pamphlets, but rarely is someone attacked in a book or pamphlet with a wide circulation who does not have access to the media.

Broadcasts present a different problem from printed matter because their numbers are practically limited with current technology, in the case of terrestrial national channels severely limited. There is also a considerable difference between writing a letter or article for publication, which most people should either be able to do or to find someone who is willing to write on their behalf, and broadcasting a coherent reply, which would be beyond many people. However, many would be able to cope with the demands of a pre-recorded broadcast and those
who could not cope could have a written statement read on their behalf.

The great problem is that of a general bias within the elite, especially the mainstream media. In the case of broadcasters there are already formal restraints on bias, but these are honoured almost entirely in the breach. To a degree bias is mitigated by the internet, but we are still a very long way from an equality of readership or prestige between the mass media and the Internet. A right to reply would further shift the balance towards fairness, but there would still be a massive advantage for those who share the liberal internationalist ideology currently
favoured by our elite.

There is an obvious danger in governments becoming directly or even indirectly involved in controlling what the media should publish. Nonetheless, the danger of government censorship and propaganda can be largely obviated if a law places the regulation of the media in the hands of the ordinary citizen through a mechanism which contains two facets. The first is that the obligations it places on the media must be properly defined. For example, the law must not merely state that balance must be achieved, which it does in connection with broadcasting already, it must clearly define what balance means in practice. This could mean that in any television or radio debate on a contentious subject the participants in the debate must be balanced in numbers as well as views – goodbye to the beloved BBC “balanced” interview of three liberal internationalists “debating” a subject.

The second facet is that the enforcement of the law must be free of government influence such as one will invariably get in the appointment of a regulatory authority. Such a mechanism could be the right of any individual to challenge imbalance in the courts not as a matter of judicial review which is expensive and contentious in its application, but through a relatively cheap and simple procedure, such as exists in the application for an injunction.

To prevent political restrictions on free expression, we need a written constitution which explicitly guards the right to free expression. To do that it must forbid any government from introducing either laws which restricts it or practices such as codes of conduct for public servants which gag them from exposing bad behaviour in public bodies or force them to promote political views, such as happens now with the practitioners of political correctness.

The constitution should also contain provisions to ensure that the police (1) do not abuse their powers to harass and intimidate those whose views do not meet with the approval of those with power and influence and (2) apply the law equally to all, something they manifestly do not do at present in politically inconvenient cases.

Conclusion

At present we have a very restricted range of permitted opinion, which is becoming ever narrower through new laws and the tightening grip of political correctness. The fact that public figures bleat ever more frenetically of our “right to free expression” reminds me irresistibly of the lines:

‘The more he spoke of his honour,

The faster we counted our spoons’

The dangerous truth is that we are moving towards a situation where we shall not only have no free speech spoons to count, we shall not even be allowed to mention their loss. If we wish to preserve our freedom, we must realise that such liberty as we enjoy is an ineffably hard won and fragile right which has been won over four centuries or more and that what was gained so slowly may be lost in a day if a government has the tyrannical urge.

Freedom of expression is an absolutely necessary condition for a free society. It is the fulcrum of freedom because he intellectual point at which a society may place a moral lever to lift it above tyranny.

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