The closest I came to despair during the long dark political night I hope is now ending was during the affair of Jean Charles de Menezes. It wasn't so bad that panicked policemen made a tragic error in the wake of the 7/7 bombings. That was both understandable and forgivable. Had I been a juror in a murder trial of the officers who blew that poor young innocent's head from his shoulders with soft nosed bullets proscribed by the laws of war, I would have voted to acquit.
I am sure they did not kill him for the hell of it. They believed (or believed their commander believed) that he posed a genuine threat to them and the Londoners around him. Their legal defence would have been self defence under a misapprehension and I would have believed it. They were negligent at worst. They were negligently led. The family of the young Brazilian should have had civil compensation, the Metropolitan Police should have apologised for a tragic error and the officers concerned should have been disciplined and retrained.
My despair was rather driven by the Establishment's response to the incident. It closed ranks on the rest of us and on Justice herself. It lied. It destroyed evidence. It committed crimes. Had you or I killed Jean Charles under the mistaken apprehension that he was a suicide bomber we would have faced trial. His killers were state agents and didn't; making a mockery of equality before the law. They were sent away on holiday at taxpayers expense as a reward. Their identities are still unknown. The government drummed up a stupid "health and safety" case to make the matter sub judice and give ministers an excuse not to comment until the fuss had died down. That was the nadir of Alistair Campbell-style political cynicism — manipulating the law, the press, and the public's limited attention span to mask a terrible injustice and an embarrassing failure of state power.
Justice was not done and was seen NOT to be done. An innocent died with consequences neither to his immediate killers nor to those, police and politicians, who issued the fatal orders. That Labour Government proved once and for all that the Labour Party is nothing more than the political wing of the public sector unions. The rest of us are of little concern — even if we lose our lives — compared to the privileged brothers and sisters under the leftist state's partisan protection. Even Jean Charles's usually-privileged ethnicity didn't count when the state's loyal servants needed protection. I wish I could believe it was different under a "Conservative" government but the sneer quotes say all you need to know of my view on that
This is why I am so saddened to learn that the commander of the unit responsible for this tragedy now heads the Metropolitan Police. She commands the force I rely on to keep me safe in my home town. Her loyalty to the political élites (not to her officers, by the way, as she was cynical in shifting blame down the chain of command) trumps the safety of the public her force exists to serve and protect. Neither ordinary Londoners nor the officers under her politically-correct command should feel safe this morning .
She's the Metropolitan Police Commissioner not on her merits as a police officer but because she fits a Politically-Correct narrative. I would love to celebrate the appointment of the first woman to command this important force - the mother force of world policing. I can't because (for reasons unrelated to her sex) she is unworthy of the rôle. I shall sleep less easy in my bed in London tonight.
Law came into existence for practical purposes. By offering peaceful resolution of disputes, it reduced violence; for example acts of revenge and feuding. By prohibiting force and fraud it facilitated peaceful trading and made the modern world possible. The post-Enlightment West – certainly the Anglo-Saxon Common Law part of it – has therefore usually operated under the practical principle that;
If it is not necessary to make a law, it is necessary NOT to make a law.
The 20th Century may one day be analysed by historians in terms of its retreat from that principle. In Common-law countries, "judge made law" (we Common Lawyers prefer to think of it, quasi-mystically, as "discovered" by the judges rather than made) still develops incrementally for practical reasons, but many modern statutes in both Civil and Common Law jurisdictions are now essentially didactic in purpose. They set out to change "wicked" minds, not inhibit wicked behaviours. Very often they are designed to appropriate an emotional word (e.g. "hate" or "discrimination" or "racism") and constrain its meaning to fit leftist ideology. Or to invent new words like "islamophobia" or "transphobia" to suit an ideological purpose.
As The Diplomad recently observed,
Words have meaning, and the left is very good at ever so subtly altering the meaning of words so that over time those words no longer mean what they meant. Words, of course, are the bullets of intellectual debate. If you allow your opponent to select your ammo for you, well, let's just say you are at a disadvantage.
So-called "Hate Crime" is a classic example. Why does it matter what motivates someone who offers you violence? Is your injury worse? Are the consequences greater? Of course not. If you are dead the killer's motives (while analysis of them may help the police to catch him or her) scarcely matter to your loved ones. They certainly won't care whether the killer's reason was logical or not. If you are injured it doesn't matter to you either. As folk-singer Tom Paxton used to joke about his military training in the use of the bayonet,
Oh no, here comes someone with a bayonet! What'll I do if he yells at me?!
The purpose of "hate crime" is to promote the political view that the life and safety of protected group x, y or z is more valuable than that of group a. In one of those dog-chasing-its-own tail contradictions that only leftist "intellectuals" can truly enjoy it is (by their own warped logic, which I deny) hate speech against group a — the group it implies is comprised of "haters" unworthy of the law’s fullest protection.
Let's say my gay pal and I meet some anti-social gentry on our way home from the pub. They call him "queer" and me "fat". Both statements are meant to be hurtful and both are accurate. Then they knife us and we die. Or maybe they call him queer and say nothing to me. Maybe they just kill me because I am a witness. Am I less dead? Is my murder less heinous? Of course not. In the classic Age of Reason formulation all humans are equal before the law. The very idea of "gay rights" is offensive in those terms, because one only needs to be human to have equal rights. No other attribute is required. It's perfectly reasonable, if a society discriminates legally against a type to eliminate that error. As chairman of my University's Conservative Association in the 1970s I led my colleagues to take part in a "gay rights" march calling for the remaining crimes pertaining to homosexuality to be repealed in Scotland and Northern Ireland. We were protesting, very rationally, a shortfall in legal rights for homosexuals. But it's the very same error we opposed to go on from that to demand gays acquire greater rights.
The law in Western social democracies now differs from that rational, even commonsensical, view. My gay chum's murder is a hate crime and more serious than mine. If he were black, brown or yellow, the same. And what if they are themselves gay or black and kill him for fraternising with me? Is it hate crime then? Oddly, no. That, in modern left-wing thinking, is just karma.
Hate crime is a legal concept born of the Marxist social “sciences” (sneer quotation marks entirely deliberate). Like all the social “sciences” it is designed to create contradictions in society that can only be resolved by deploying state violence to raise funds with which to employ social “scientists” in unproductive jobs with fat pensions. This rot should have been stopped decades ago. No lives have been saved by it. Some may have been lost. Certainly the affection for groups thus "protected" has not increased. The people who promoted the concept however have achieved their sinister goals. They have dubious statistical evidence that hatred is (a) endemic in the majority population and (b) rising as they constantly tweak the definition to that end.
In reality, the purpose of the “hate crime” concept is to generate hate. Committing such a "crime" is pointless to an actual bigot. If you are a bigot with power, you will silently exercise it in line with your bigotry. If you are a bigot without power, you don't matter. Such actions benefit instead the class of "victims", whose elevated legal status it justifies and the class of government-employed busybodies and academic social "scientists", whose parasitical existence it supports. Which accounts for the phenomenon of "fake hate crime".
I strongly suspect on the basis of Cui bono? that much "hate crime" is of this type. The Left has a supply-and-demand problem with bigotry: there isn’t enough to go around to support their world view – and the "equalities" industry on which so many of them fruitlessly live. Given that they claim that US college campuses are more rife with rapes than war zones, they make those up too. "The Patriarchy" is the most widespread conspiracy theory in the world and as laughable as Icke's lizards. As a former partner in a City of London law firm I think, if it existed, I would have been invited to the meetings.
As socialism itself is hate-driven ideology (the National variety based on race hate and the International variety on class hate) perhaps it's not surprising that the Left promotes the concept so ferociously. As I noticed in decades of practice as a commercial lawyer, the wrongs people most fear are the ones they are themselves most likely to visit on others. The violent conduct of the "Love Trumps Hate" protestors across the United States at the moment suggests that it's still best to characterise people by their actions, not their words. If the current insurrection against political correctness in the West achieves nothing else, let's hope it makes the law once more reflect that simple truth.
I like women. I have always had more female than male friends. This, despite the fact that while (pace my late wife's trenchant view to the contrary) men and women can undoubtedly be friends, sex quite often does get in the way*.
This also despite my not buying into — even to be polite — the stupid conspiracy theory called "the Patriarchy". It doesn't exist. It never existed. Women have simply, as society has developed and free markets and technology have liberated them from traditional roles been able to enjoy a steadily more fulfilling life with a wider range of possibilities. Which is good news, right? I am happy modern women have more options than their grandmothers. What's not to like unless you have a stupid zero sum notion of economics?
I never hankered for the life my grandfathers enjoyed. I was happy to have a more fulfilled and therefore more interesting partner than — with the best will in the world (and I loved my grandmothers) — they had.
I honestly believe that there are more women who fantasise about dominant males than men who fancy it. Who bought "Fifty Shades of Grey?" Not men. Nor did a man write it. Nor do straight men go in much for body shaming. Men are attracted to low-maintenance women who believe in their own attractiveness without any need for constant reassurance. If you think you're beautiful, you are as far as we are concerned. You'll only get an argument from the non-heterosexual world of fashion (and from each other). Don't look at us.
If equally qualified women were underpaid, cynical employers would hire them in preference until the market ensured equal pay for equal work. That is actually what has happened if you calculate comparitive pay by the hour. Women on average earn less in a lifetime because women on average still make different life choices. As they are entitled to do. But by the hour they earn what their similarly qualified and experienced male colleagues do.
Relations between the sexes have changed in some ways but not in others. We are now accustomed to working together professionally in a wide variety of roles, but we still fancy each other rotten and with very poor discrimination and have to deal with the awkward social issues sometimes arising from that. Some of them, like effects on the children of broken homes, more serious than that sentence made them seem.
Third wave intersectional feminists, perhaps just addicted to being outré, are trying hard to make continued mischief but feminism per se is now mainstream to the point of banality. If you are a feminist Ché Guevara, bored with the success of your revolution and hankering for violent struggle, you have to adopt some pretty weird stances now to justify it. Socially determined gender identity anyone? Sewing on floppy ears makes you a spaniel?
If in an era when the Conservative Party has twice been led by a woman, when the Chancellor of Europe's leading country is female, Israel and India have long since had women PMs and the favourite to be the next US President is a woman, you are still banging on about "women's ishoos" I am therefore cheerfully going to ignore you. Especially if you are from a party that has never come close to electing a woman leader. But if you are an interesting and intelligent woman who likes a chat, let's have coffee.
*A French friend once told me this is exclusively an Anglo-Saxon problem as Latins just get it out of the way and get on with being friends.
Woman and men are in this life together and bound by the most powerful of bonds. By which I don't mean sex. Sexual partners (and not just heterosexual ones) often move seamlessly from love through hate to damnable indifference. But that rarely happens to the love of mothers and sons, sisters and brothers or fathers and daughters. If you believe in the conspiracy theory of "the Patriarchy" you have to believe that the men in all those relationships don't give a damn about them.
For most of modern history, most institutions, religious, philosophical or legal, were built to square a cruel biological circle. To transmit her genes successfully, a woman needs to nurture her helpless child until it can itself reproduce . A man however can take the route successfully followed by the Great Khan. Sixty percent of modern Asian males carry his DNA because he impregnated and ran. Many of his offspring died but he is as near to being the father of Mankind as any alpha male has come.
If you think the likes of Genghis are no more, consider the behaviour of the modern "Big Dog" male. His wealth is largely the means to access – more and for longer into his old age – the women drawn to the protection it offers their progeny. Hello Rupert Murdoch. Hello Donald Trump. Hello Bill Clinton. Yes, I am talking to you.
Contrary to "gender studies" orthodoxy, historical religion, law and social mores were developed not to lock women into subjection but to contain the male beast so that civilisation could be built.
Technological advances gradually enabled changes in the male/female relationship. The Married Womens' Property Act of the nineteenth century. Votes for Women in the early twentieth. In living memory, birth control provided the final key to a completely changed relationship. For the most part, I don't think men are much interested in resisting that change. They want improvements in the lives of their mothers, sisters, daughters, partners and female friends. Why wouldn't they?
I admit I still encounter occasional men who have chosen "little women" to look up to them (or pretend to). But even in the dark ages of the 1970s I actively sought an intellectual equal as my partner. I could not imagine living with a woman whose intelligence I didn't respect. As it turned out, in my teenage hubris, I may have overshot. The late Mrs P was intellectually formidable and no sufferer of fools. But though our relationship was not always smooth, I still don't think that was our problem.
Before she died, in contemplating her daughters' future, Mrs P. became alarmed at the direction feminism was taking. She was all for the removal of legal, social, institutional or educational obstacles in her daughters' paths, but she feared the sexual revolution had removed more constraints on men than women. Woman had kept all their old responsibilities but were also under pressure to be "Superwomen" and "have it all". If they failed the opprobrium from their "sisters" was vicious.
She worried that a pattern was emerging where young men paired up happily with female peers pursuing their "Superwoman" goals. By the time the women were finally ready to have children, their men – as often as not – skipped off to have them with a younger woman. It seemed to her that it was men who were "having it all".
Our daughters' response to her worries was interesting. They told her they we live in a transitional time. "The old ways have gone but new ones have not emerged yet." They assured her that they were alert to the risks and would do their best to build happy lives. She needed to hear that but I hope that's not the only reason they said it.
For what it's worth, I think their analysis is essentially correct. We can't turn the clock back, even if we wanted to. They (and I) certainly don't. My concern is that the current feminist movement is not even trying to build on its achievements but rather veering off into wild conspiracy theories and ever more ludicrous radicalism.
"Female Eunuch" author Germaine Greer is banned from most British campuses, for example, because she doesn't accept that gender is a social construct to be changed at will, with or without surgery. Asking her doctor to sew floppy ears on her, she observed, would "not make her a fucking spaniel". This earthily practical observation – with which no sane person can disagree – has made her an outcast.
I want my daughters – and all modern women – to have all choices open to them that their skills, inclinations and ambitions support. I want them – all other things being equal as economists say – to earn the same for the same economic input. I want them to be able to choose paths traditionally reserved to men. But I am inclined to agree with Milo Yiannopolous that the "third wave" feminism now attacking the fabric of reality itself is a catastrophe.
Part of the problem is natural enough. Revolutionaries in politics (like entrepreneurs in business) have a different mindset to the rest of us. When the loathsome sadist Guevara achieved his revolution in Cuba, he was bored. When shooting people he deemed "enemies of the people" lost its novelty, he went off to fight another revolution and die. When Peter Tatchell won his campaign for "gay rights" he didn't settle down to enjoy his new sexual liberty with a partner. He has led a celibate life as a fanatic, constantly raising the victimhood stakes to perpetuate the "struggle" he craves.
In business we know that we need the mad, ballsy entrepreneurs to take the high risks involved in opening new businesses. But the businesses that work then need sane, risk-sensitive people to manage them. Similarly, when the revolution has been won, the revolutionaries need to move on so that sensible people can build a stable, productive and potentially happy new society. When, if ever, is that going to happen with feminism?
Every little girl and boy, that's born into the world alive,Is either a little Liberal or else a little Conservative
I thought some of you might like to watch in full the talk at the IEA's "Think" conference last year that was referenced in my previous post. Dr Stephen Davis, the IEA's Director of Education, talks about driverless cars, 800 year life-spans and (which I forgot to mention, but is fascinating in its own right) "vertical farming".
Apparently, and here's a fact to confuse a libertarian, the war on drugs has led to advances in horticulture. Driven underground, those cultivating illegal drugs have developed techniques that could lead, if more widely applied, to mankind feeding itself using 10% of the land currently being farmed. Great areas of the planet could be returned to prairie, steppe or forest. Of course it's also possible that we will simply feed ten times the number of humans from the same land and/or (I suppose, deviating imaginatively from Dr Davis's script) use these techniques to colonise other planets.
Libertarians foxed by the idea that suppressing an activity can enhance its efficiency will take cheer from the fact that these advances have only become available because several US states have legalised cannabis – at least as "medical marijuana". As the marijuana farms become public, other growers can both marvel at and copy the innovations the former criminals made in secret.
islands of repression in a sea of freedom
Much of what they say is relevant to the current storm on social media in the wake of Brexit. I suggest it may partly account for the division between "educated" and "uneducated" in the referendum vote. I would love to see a breakdown of the Remain vote (but no academic will research it and no productive person would waste the time or money) between what Americans call "liberal arts" graduates and those from harder disciplines such as STEM, law and accountancy. Most of our "education", particularly since Blair forced up the numbers attending "uni" (as those on whom it was wasted always call it) is actively damaging to its victims' intelligence. They come out stupider than they went in.
"In comparison", as Hoff Sommers puts it, "to what?!"
Thou shalt teach both sides of the argument
My Sunday Times today has an article about the booze culture of Westminster. It's an interesting enough piece but what struck me most was the title; "Drunk in charge of the nation". Are our political leaders — drunk or sober — really in charge? Does the government "run the economy?"
The Executive and its minions in the Civil Service run the state. The Legislature determines (directly, or by delegation to Quangos or treaty organisations) the extent of that state's rôle in the affairs of the nation. The Judiciary adjudicates disputes both between citizens and between citizen and state. But the state and the nation are not the same thing.
The British state is undoubtedly too big, too costly, too intrusive, too wasteful, too stupid and generally too big for its boots but we, the more or less willingly governed, are the nation. The state and its employees are our — more or less humble — servants. The money they mostly squander comes from (or in the case of its drunken sailor borrowings is underwritten by) the private sector in the broadest sense of the term. Everyone who pays taxes from earnings *not* paid to them by taxpayers funds the state.
The state is to some extent a necessary cost to the nation. In Britain, as in the rest of the free world, political debate largely turns upon the "someness" of that extent.
In that crucial debate, confusing the ideas of "state" and "nation" helps statists. It allows them to brand as disloyal any opposition to state projects. I certainly saw that during my days in Russia where the ruling kleptocracy allows no such distinction. Though the Russian nation is as cultured, enterprising and lovable as the Russian state is vile, vulgar and putrid the fallacy that to oppose the state is unpatriotic prevents rational debate. In truth, as Edward Abbey (and not, as mistakenly suggested on the Internet, my illustrious namesake) said
We anti-statists don't help clarify this state/nation confusion by constantly focussing on the centrality of the state. Almost everything that's good about our nation; its culture, its wealth, its inventiveness, its civil society, its philanthropy, its charity, even its sport flourishes in spite, not because, of the great bloated parasite that hectors, lectures, condescends to and tyrannises us.
In our darkest moments perhaps we should remind each other that our nation may not flourish as it deserves because of our defective state, but that it still flourishes. Only a healthy beast could gambol on with such an enormous bloodsucking parasite draining its vitality. Certainly not one that was "run" or "controlled" by it.
I agree with Harriet Harman that she is being smeared, but I struggle to feel as sorry for her as I should. She who lives by the sword shall, with a bit of luck approximating to karmic justice, perish by it. It is simply delicious that a women who has worked so tirelessly to undermine liberty and the rule of law is now in need of both. She doesn't seem as keen on 'the court of public opinion' now that she faces 'trial' herself.
Harman was one of the puritanical Left's Witchfinders in the scandal surrounding the allegations of under-age sex (but not paedophilia in his case) involving Jimmy Savile and other 1970s celebrities. Yet as in-house lawyer at that time to the National Council of Civil Liberties (now Liberty) she saw no need to advise her client that it was a problem to have the Paedophile Information Exchange as an affiliate. Indeed she seems to have worked on some of the outrageous papers supporting some of PIE's positions that NCCL published at the time. One might wonder how a newly-qualified solicitor found herself in such a role, but that's another issue. NCCL was pretty much a captive of the Labour Party and young Harman was already firmly on the left, where ideology always takes priority over talent or expertise.
Mysteriously she won't accept that her failure to give such advice was a mistake. I didn't qualify until 1982, so she is senior to me in our profession but I would certainly have acted differently in her place. Nor do I know any colleagues of that vintage who would not. I don't think the sexual mores of Britain changed very much between the mid 1970s and the early 1980s, but that's irrelevant according to Ms Harman. She has loudly insisted - when it suited her political position - that they haven't changed in forty years.
That's hypocritical nonsense of course. We are talking of the era of The Little Red Schoolbook; an era of profound sexual upheaval. I still have my copy somewhere; a relic of my time as a teenage leftist in Harman's era at NCCL.
Not even the Daily Mail mentions now that PIE originated as a special interest group of Outright Scotland or that it merged with Paedophile Action for Liberation (itself an NCCL affiliate before the merger) - an offshoot of the South London branch of the Gay Liberation Front. It's not too surprising (if you are not an hypocrite who refuses to acknowledge that times change) that paedophiles, gay and straight, should have latched onto the gay movement's campaign to normalise what were then 'alternative' sexualities. Nor should a non-hypocrite seek to smear the gay movement for its failure - in those heady, underfunded, radical days, to differentiate as precisely between 'correct' and 'incorrect' attitudes as it now expects of others. It had not yet won the victory that now allows it to demonise those who fail to keep up with its ever-changing thought-crimes.
It really was a different world, in short, and the currently rather prudish Left have been foolish to intensify their attacks on the Catholic Church and Savile's showbiz circles by saying that it wasn't. As His Grace points out in the linked post;
The thing is, Pope Benedict XVI spent much of his pontificate issuing profuse expressions of remorse and repentance on behalf of his church for the heinous acts of paedophile priests and the post-conciliar hierarchical conspiracy of cover-up. And the BBC is still apologising over its 1970s "groupie" culture of misogynistic permissiveness and predatory paedophilia. Both institutions are horrified and appalled - 40 years on - that they did nothing to protect so many vulnerable victims over such a long period. But at least the perpetrators are now being held to account - one of them even post mortem.
These institutional apologies have not protected either, of course, from the relentless smears of the Left. Yet, for all their failings, neither the Catholic Church nor the BBC ever sought to justify the misconduct or, still less as the NCCL did, to argue that it should be normalised.
Conservative commentators are reacting to this story in a generally gentle and seemly way. Iain Dale is taking the Milliband line. The Spectator is magnanimously pointing out that
There is no continuity of between the positions Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt adopted in the 1980s and their thought today. In office, Harman led a group of Labour women politicians who worked to make the law friendlier towards rape victims. Hewitt, Harman and Harman’s husband Jack Dromey (who was at the NCCL at the time) have not campaigned to reduce the age of consent to 14 or 12, or to abolish it.
I am glad that the non-Left is being reasonable and refusing to make the kind of vicious demands for intemperate action that characterise 'righteous' leftists when they taste the blood of political opponents. It does them great credit and I hope voters notice. That said, the Daily Mail has really done no more than pick up Harman's and Dromey's own discarded grenades of hypocrisy and political dishonesty and lob them back into their trench.