Thursday, 29 September 2016

It’s The Simpatico, Not The People

Ed Latimore has a really good post in the "34 lessons I've learned from X" genre. It's well worth reading. I’d like to riff on this item:
People are the most important thing. No matter how much money you make or how good a time you are having, if you don’t have people you like to share it with then it really is meaningless. It is a special kind of torture to be around people but not really feel connected with them.
This is two unrelated points. Second one first.

It surely is a special kind of torture to be around people but not really feel connected with them. If you feel you should be connecting with them because you want to be one of that gang or because they seem to be having a great time. Otherwise you're just stuck with a bunch of people with whom you are not simpatico and being stuck with people like that is another special kind of torture.

As to the first point, there are some activities that don't make a lot of sense done on one's own. Playing (but not watching) any team sport, or playing in string quartets or other bands. Some things kinda necessarily involve people. Almost every other activity can be done alone, and the better practitioners often prefer to go solo. Ed Latimore isn’t talking about that though. He’s talking about “sharing experiences”.

“Sharing” experiences is a problematic idea. Consider a Cy Twombley painting, The School of Athens

Most people would see a series of meaningless scribbles. Over the years I’ve read a book on him, seen the exhibitions that came to the Tate and the Serpentine gallery, and it makes a little more sense to me, but there are people who can explain why it’s a great painting. Don’t even ask how much that would fetch at auction. Looking at a Twombley is not a shareable experience unless the on-lookers have very similar backgrounds in culture and education. What Ed Latimore is talking about is sharing-experiences-with-someone-a-lot-like-you, and I’m thinking that the real value there isn’t so much the experience as the being-with-someone-you-know-is-a-lot-like-you.

The older we get, the fewer people are like-us: we acquire a bunch of life events and experiences each one of which is shared by others, but very few people (very few = maybe two other people in the UK) has the combination, and it’s the combination that makes us who we are.

One of the skills a single person must learn to the point of reflex is being able to enjoy themselves on thier own: eat at the bar alone, read in the cafe alone, snooze on the beach alone, go to movies and galleries alone. Once he learns to appreciate cultural objects on his own, it seems strange having another person there. How do they add to his appreciation of the painting / movie / scenery / food/ whatever? Unless they are pretty damn special, they usually detract from it. He has to deal with their comments, boredom and need for attention.

There are people, of whom I am one, who have learned to treat the world as a giant art-exhibition-cum-obstacle-course. The obstacle course consists of finding and keeping jobs, clients, somewhere to live, something to eat, stuff to keep us warm, taxes, laws, regulations, HR policies, parking zones, and all that logistical / economic jazz. The art exhibition is everything else. It's there to be looked at, interacted with if it's one of those performance art or installation things, and otherwise appreciated and moved on from. People are both obstacle course and art-object. Then there are a handful of people who are actually people, becuase I have a history with them and they understand what I'm saying.

There's one little change I'd make to this piece of advice: Simpatico people are the most important thing. If you can't find those - and there is no guarantee you will, for many reasons - then learning to appreciate stuff without people to share it with is the next most important thing.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Why Your Sensible Friends Go In For Virtue Signalling

Your friend is a Good Person. Like you, he is not one of Donald’s Deplorables, he is not racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic or Islamaphobic.

He has a decent job in a blue-chip company, lives in a nice part of town a mile away from the nearest public housing projects, watches art movies, read more than one book a year, and his friends don’t have football team logos tattooed on their bodies. He doesn’t come into contact with poor people, immigrants or other races. It’s not deliberate, it’s just how his life works out. It’s a function of his interests and cultural choices, which are pretty darn highbrow European.

Catch is… the bigot next door lives the exact same lifestyle as he does. She works in a blue-chip because blue-chips tend not to sacrifice performance for social justice, unlike the public sector, which does. She lives in a nice part of town because the estate agents know to say that a house in "under offer” when the wrong people want to look at it. She likes art movies as much because the audiences are much better behaved and the mainstream cinemas are full of diversities. She does read, but it’s right-wing politics and female pornography fantasy where the hero is always a straight white man. If she keeps her lip buttoned in polite society, nobody will know she really believes that Muslims should go home if they like Sharia law, that white women should not consort with black men, that queers should not parade in public and damn foreigners should not take jobs from decent folk.

There is nothing in the way they live that distinguishes them.

Your friend is wondering if he should like Mia Hansen-Love movies, because she does.

How can your friend distinguish himself from her? How can he show that his is not a well-cultured bigot? Without getting into arguments about Deplorable beliefs, which can rapidly get heated, and are often a clash between bigoted facts and Good wishes for a different world.

Enter a hundred campaigns suggesting he wear a badge, wrist-band or colour, to “show his support” (which might giving money, but rarely means giving time) for some edgy cause. He flashes the hash-tag (#NeverTrump, #giveyourmoneytowomen) or works in a code-word or phrase that other Good People will recognise. No need for any arguments with the oafs, or for actual good works, all he has to do is speak or wear the password.

The problems start when Goodness gets hi-jacked. It used to mean a broadly liberal tolerance for people on the rather large fringes of a rather narrow society - which Anglo countries had in the Good Old Days (aka the 1950’s, which weren't). As tolerance for minor deviance become normal, two things happened: first, the intolerant people who are left are the more extreme ones; and second, that in order to appear more tolerant and hence morally superior to the normal person, one has to champion ever greater deviance.

(That’s where transgender activism came from. As soon as Gay Pride went world-wide and politicians all over the civilised world marched in high heels along with it, the moral elites needed a new cause to shock the now-accepting bourgeoisie. Gay now being non-shocking and hence passe, transgender became the new thing.)

So that’s why your seemingly sensible colleagues make silly remarks about how STEM oppresses women, or donate to Breast Cancer when they are men. They want you to know they are Good People. And they want to be sure that you are a Good Person as well. Because they are leading lives that look indistiguishable to the Bigot Next Door.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Government’s Duty to Repatriate the Non-Contributing Non-Native

The conceptual problem many people have with forceable repatriation of unwanted immigrants is that a person’s nationality is not morally relevant. Plenty of people born in a country can’t or won’t make a living for themselves either, but are tolerated and even housed, clothed and fed by welfare. The mistake of this objection make is that repatriation is not done on the basis of nationality, but of contribution.

It is a moral duty of any resident in a country to pay their own way, usually by being employed and paying taxes. This duty is waived for extreme disabilities of birth or accident. Someone who will not work or lacks the skills and temperament to be employable is a free-loader. They are failing in one of their duties as a resident, and if they can be sent home, they should be. Their place can then be taken by someone willing to contribute. No country or community is under any obligation to take in and support people who are lazy, work-shy or who lack the skills and temperament to be usefully employable. Nor is any country under any obligation to train or to socialise adults from other countries who force themselves across its borders.

Castro may have been the first to export his criminals and psychiatric cases to the West as a form of warfare. The Russians certainly exported their Jewish criminals to Israel. The latest version has been the influx of vigorous young men of military age from the Maghreb and other Muslim countries into Europe. They are not refugees.

Real refugees are families with children: equal numbers of men and women and of all ages and classes. If the young Muslim men are in mortal danger, what has happened to their mothers, grandmothers, sisters and nieces? Why haven't these young men died defending their women? Because their sisters and mothers are in no danger. Which means the young men are in no danger either. Most have been sent by their families, villages or local governments to farm welfare benefits from Europe. By definition of the process, they are the least-skilled, the least-well-adjusted, the least valuable in their own countries. (And some, the criminal and the disruptive and the mentally-ill, were let loose by governments and warlords.)

No country, wealthy or poor, Occidental or Oriental, is under any obligation to take these young men. Indeed, any government is under an obligation, to its native population, to remove them.

Removing over a million vigorous young men by force would be a mis-use of the police and armed forces. Since they have been sent to farm welfare, they must not be paid welfare. (Fed and housed for humanity’s sake, but the bill comes off that country’s foreign aid budget.) The unskilled must not be offered jobs or training and they must be confined to camps, where they can sit and rot until they sign up to be sent home. If they try to escape, they can be deported as criminals. They were sent because they were the least useful people in their families and communities, and they can be sent back for the same reason. They are not the receiving country’s problem. They are the sending country’s problem. Their fate is not on the conscience of the receiving country.

Look carefully, and what the people are doing is letting these young men rot. Some are not, and more fool them, for all their good intentions. It is the first duty of any government to protect and advance the interests of its citizens. The British reminded its government of that duty recently. The Austrians, Americans, Germans, French, Dutch and many others will follow. We can only hope.

I have no problem with Westernised people coming to the West and wanting to work hard and do well. If they are not Westernised, they won't be productive, and so they won't be making any contributions.

Today, in Greece, an EU country, poor Greeks cannot afford bread even at 50 cents the loaf. There is a scheme where people with money can buy a loaf for a poor person who comes in later.

If there is any wealth to spare in the "rich" EU, maybe it should go to the Greeks, fellow EU members first. Or what is the point of being in the EU, or any other association?

Monday, 19 September 2016

The Official Theme Song of This Blog

A couple of Saturdays I spent the day doing bits, pieces, printing out some photographs to make a collage, and playing not a few Cameo videos on You Tube. This is now the official theme song of this blog. The dancing is terrific, especially the solo guy on stage doing those whirls.


If you’re not familiar with Cameo and the weird imagination of Larry Blackmon, search You Tube for “Cameo”, hook the iPad up to the TV and settle down for a treat.

I’m not living the single life portrayed in the video. Not with plastic stuck to my teeth and a daily routine that means I’m getting to sleep when most people are starting to do something indiscreet after one drink too many. And with this much grey hair.

But I’m living a single life. I don’t thank God in my morning prayers for not having made me a married man but that’s only because I don’t do morning prayers. I would if I did.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Burqinis and Astroturf

The Burqini, was created in 2004 by a Lebanese designer. How many women have been seen on French beaches wearing one? Very few. This summer, the designer's PR company sent a handful of women to the beaches of Nice and asked them to go paddling in a burqini. PR stunt. Call the Press, make an anonymous call to the Mayor’s office and maybe the Police.

The Mayor of Nice played along. He, along with many of his colleagues, needed some way to indicate to the ivory-tower politicians in Paris that he has genuine security concerns that he doesn't have the resources to address. And that it would be very useful if France didn't take any more of Angela's Army. So he picked on Mutual benefits for the Mayor and the designer. Bright green astroturf.

A simple provocation can rapidly become "the biggest story from Boston to Budapest”. Whenever we see a provocative story, we should ask: which PR agency or organisation arranged it? Whose cause does it publicise? Is it genuine grass or just astroturf? The presumption must always be that it's astroturf.