THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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June 2009

All blacked up and nowhere to go

 BBC NEWS | UK | England | Kent | School bans black-face Morris Men.

Sir Thomas Beecham said one should try everything once, except incest and folk-dancing. I quite agree. Nonetheless, God help us, Morris dancing is part of England's cultural heritage. No matter what colour face paint the dancers wear, there can be no rational objection to an authentic traditional performance in a school.

I hate all those "isms" daily used by leftist idiots as lazy substitutes for thought. However, isn't there something "raaaayshist" in the idea that white people blacking their faces is necessarily mockery? What's wrong with being black? If there's nothing wrong, what's to mock? Why should it not be seen as a compliment? Do black people actually care about this stuff? Aren't any of them offended by the absurd paternalism of the Left? I certainly would be.

These black faces are anyway nothing to do with race. The Morris Men of this tradition used burnt cork to disguise themselves when begging for money. Who can blame them? You would not catch me Morris dancing without a far more effective disguise. Seriously, the men who long ago began the tradition would never, whatever the BBC's historical advisers may have told them, have met a black person. Burnt cork simply happens to be black.

It is not enough to bemoan this nonsense. It's not funny, it's not clever and it makes the English feel uneasy in the one place where they need not be embarrassed by Morris dancing; England. It also plays into the hands of the BNP. I hope a Conservative Minister of Education in the next government will formally discipline every head teacher who has made such a stupid decision in the last decade.

A spell in detention listening to English folk music might be a suitable punishment.

The "right" to talk?

Anglican Mainstream » Blog Archive » Doctors want right to talk faith.

This article is distressing. In my opinion, the NHS has no right to discipline its employees for discussing anything with patients. The patients are the true employers. The NHS is merely a monopolistic state agency between them and their medical carers. If a patient didn't want to talk about religion and asked a carer to stop, that's another issue. Asking for the "right" to talk faith (or talk about anything else) implies that the state has the right to dictate the content of private conversations. It doesn't.

A line has been crossed

Benefit payouts will exceed income tax revenue - Telegraph.

How can Britain's taxpayers fail to erupt in rage at this information? Their income taxes are not enough to cover defence, education or health any more. Every single penny ripped from their hard-earned income in tax now goes to those on state benefits!

In fact, far more than that and not only because income tax receipts fall short of benefits payments on the figures in the linked article. Don't forget those figures include money paid as "income tax" from state salaries, which is of course quite ridiculous. Those paid by the taxpayers pay their taxes from taxpayers' money. The transaction is entirely circular and pointless. They contribute no created wealth to the Treasury. Only private sector taxpayers can do that. They, poor souls, are an abused minority, relentlessly exploited by Labour and its client vote.

I don't understand why it remains safe for Labour Party members to walk the streets. What is the matter with the oppressed taxpayers of Britain? Are they cowering in fear of the parasitical majority Labour has created?

Friends vs "Friends"

All friends With the growth of social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, all of which revolve around the idea of "friends", I have to wonder what the word really means now. Apart from my "friends" on such sites (both in my capacity as Tom and as my alter ego - all of whom I am very happy to have) I also have a number of Second Life "friends." One or two of them might not deserve those quotation marks, even though I have only virtually clapped eyes on them.

Can one really have so many friends? I don't know about the rest of the world, but the  Anglo-Saxons/Celts already use the word more freely than Germans, Poles or Russians. There's a big difference between a freund, a sportfreund and a geschäftsfreund in German for example. You might play squash or do business with someone you would never dream of bringing into your home. The word for "friend" in Polish is quite rare. An Englishman might think that's because przyjaciel is so hard to say, but it trips readily enough off a Polish tongue. Use the female variant carelessly and you may imply rather more than intended. Someone a Brit or American would cheerfully call a friend is more likely - to a Pole - to be a znajomy (literally someone known, i.e. an acquaintance). Many a dobry znajomy or "good acquaintance" probably feels closer than many Anglosphere "friends".

It seems to me that in other cultures, the obligations of friendship are taken more seriously and therefore not given or accepted lightly. When I read that Tony Blair's son had been left drunk in a London gutter by his "friends" years ago, I thought them unworthy of the word. No Russian friend would have done that. He would have seen the unfortunate chap home as, ahem, I can vouch for from personal experience.

The English language is able to make all these important distinctions of course, but from a social point of view it's difficult to do so politely. I did not know whether an Austrian client was a friend or not for years, because his cheery bonhomie in English was so indiscriminate. Only when he described me to someone else in German as his "very good business friend," did I understand my true position. In the Anglosphere, the situation is blurring further as social mores change. My instinct to frost a young salesperson who uses not only my first name, but the chummy abbreviated form, is no longer understood when I visit Britain. I still do it, mind. I suppose they think I am a crusty old sod. I have never bought anything from anyone who does it, which is adequate vengeance for now. Soon though, I shall be unable to shop in person.

When, as I do, one works across cultures, all this can be a cause of confusion. It's perfectly possible, in a recession, for an Englishman to find himself firing someone he has called a friend. Whether the friendship will survive is, admittedly, another matter. In other cultures, it would be simply unthinkable.

I have heard "friend" defined as someone who would come to your funeral, even if it was raining. I am not sure that's a good definition either. I have gone to the funerals of employees who were not my personal friends, to show my firm's respect and gratitude. I know elderly people who go to funerals merely for the social possibilities; a rather maudlin analogue Facebook. Funerals are a poor test.

If a friend is someone who will be there for you if you are in trouble; someone on whose shoulder you could cry if the need arose, how many friends do we really have? Certainly not the large number leaving chirpy messages on Facebook.

How, dear reader, would you define a friend?

Unsentimental education

Labour to junk Tony Blair's flagship school reform | Politics | The Guardian.

What Labour seems now to be saying, with such announcements, is this;

"When deciding whether to vote for us, please forget what we did in the last 12 years. Please judge us on these policies we have stolen from the party we fear will crush us."

Democracy in action? To a point. The problem is that, whatever it says about education, Labour always harms it. Labourites believe academic achievement to be the unfair product of social and material (perhaps even genetic) advantages. And we all know how much they hate "unfairness." They hate it more than they love art, science, literature, justice or, sometimes I fear, life itself.

Except, it seems, where it's an outcome of sucking up to them.

Can pupils be expected to achieve with such people in control? Yes, thank goodness. There will always be a handful of geniuses no mediocrities can keep down. There will be the strong ones who pursue their dreams regardless. The cunning ones who masquerade as "cool" kids, but study on the sly. For a while yet there will be those lucky enough to live near the few remaining grammar schools. There will be those whose parents can pay for private schools and who are getting better value for their money than for generations; thanks to Labour. Labour may close them one day, but they will simply move to Ireland or Switzerland.

Can a modern, technological society survive with only those minorities well-educated? Doesn't it need education for the weaker masses; those who want to fit in and can't be expected to swim against the current? Can a modern democracy survive with an electorate that is economically illiterate? Voters who, literally, don't know where wealth comes from and don't care? Has Labour made itself the natural party of government; its rule only intermittently interrupted for an emergency economic clean up by "the nasty party?" Is that true, however insane Labour's policies and however incompetent its leaders, because indoctrinated voters form a permanent majority?

There was a time when the Labour movement, through working men's institutes and the like, encouraged poor people to study widely. For working people, Labour was long associated with a quest for educational opportunity. That's ancient history now. For all my life, Labour has destroyed opportunity on doctrinaire grounds. It has been the party of class war, not class sizes.  It almost seems to fear what will happen if working class kids are allowed to escape from the party's voter farms. Perhaps it has a point. Look at David Davis. Look at me. We are not what they want, are we?

Everything that is wrong with modern Britain is to do with Labour's dominance of British education. From the front line teachers through the lecturers who train them, the educational "advisors" who police them to the professors who design the courses, education in Britain is under the influence of the left. Pupils can pass through the whole system with no exposure to the ideas of classical liberalism; the ideas that are the foundation of the West. If they hear of "the West" it will be as a pejorative. What civilisation before has ever taught its schoolchildren to despise it? Many university students have to pay lip service to the left in their essays and exam answers, or be punished for their heresy.

Tinkering with funding will make no difference as Balls knows full well. It's not how schools are funded that matters, or even, to a great extent, how well they are funded.  What matters is what's taught in them and by whom. Who will change that? And how?


I have been with Typepad for a while now and I find it more elegant and easy to work with than Blogger. As it should be. It costs money. Blogger is free.

I have had complaints from readers who find it hard to comment here. That's bad. Reading my own blog is boring, because I know what I am going to say! My contributions are the price I pay to hear your views on issues that I care about. Many Typepad users have taken this up with the company and improvements are promised. In the meantime, it all gets easier if you can take a moment to register. The blog will "remember" you and commenting should become simpler. If you are a regular commenter, I would be grateful if you could take a moment to do it.

The Last Ditch has just moved to the latest version of Typepad. I may try some new features in the coming weeks. It's tempting to go to town with all the gizmos on offer, but I am aware that's not why you come here. Many readers visit the way I do other blogs (when I occasionally exit the wonderful Google Reader); scanning the post to see if it's of interest and moving on before the page has finished loading. I have rearranged the layout so that you should not have to wait for fripperies to load before you get the text. I hope this is working for you.

Please let me know in the comments if there are improvements I can make to your experience here. I began my blogging career thinking a blog was an electronic soap box. In fact, hard to believe, I first blogged before even reading another blog. Such arrogance! I have learned that blogging is a conversation and I love it. Anything I can do to help you join in, I will.

As for other bloggers reading this, I have just one request. If you are a wordy sort, please set your RSS feed to deliver a short extract, not the whole thing. Some of my favourite blogs are eclectic, which means some posts are fascinating to me and others are, erm, not. Scrolling pages of Google Reader to get past the "erm, not" posts is a waste of my waning life. Thanks a lot.

Sticks, stones and sexism

Quaequam Blog! » Iain Dale calls Lib Dem candidate a “whore”.

I don't usually cross-post or refer to my contributions elsewhere but not all my readers may visit the Quaequam Blog by LibDem James Graham. I recently took him mildly to task for accusing Iain Dale of sexism, earning this stern retort;

I have to say that I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard so-called libertarians criticise people employing their own freedom of speech when they choose to use it to criticise people for being bigoted and rude. It is as if “politically correct” language has some kind of magic power that all other language somehow lacks.

Why this blind spot? I genuinely don’t understand it.

With apologies, I repeat some of my latest response here;

If this class of defective thought is as important as you think, then perhaps you should (suggestion, not prescription) make the accusation with care and consideration, not just lob it willy nilly when you want to damage an enemy.

You devalue ideas about which you care deeply because you are so casual in invoking them. For example, the Northern working classes have been called “racist” so often as they struggled with the consequences of mass immigration, that many no longer care. They regard it (at best) as casual abuse designed only to shut them up. That perception has helped, not hindered, the BNP. Overuse the antibiotic, and it ceases to work.

“Whore” has many everyday uses as metaphor and simile, as you might have remembered if it had been used by a political ally. Used by Mr Dale, of course, it’s “sexism”. As I said, he uses such thought-substitutes himself, so is hoist by his own petard.

I found it almost as amusing as when he lobbed it at Michael White and “you too yah boo sucks” ensued. White was called (idiotically) a sexist and suddenly his accuser was a sexist too. My point is that this is about the level of thought that typically goes into the use of such words as “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobe” and “islamophobe”. Most of the time, they are no better than playground abuse and are registering as such with the man and woman in the street. That should be a problem to you. No?

What do other "so-called" libertarians think? Feel free to chip in, here or there.

Truth in comedy

YouTube - Steve Hughes on Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow.

Michael McIntyre is funny and his Comedy Roadshow is a good programme. Of course, most of his guests are right-on, politically-correct comedians, but not this guy. I cheered as well as laughed at his set. Dick Puddlecote (to whom, a tip of the hat for the link to the YouTube excerpt) asks if it's more social commentary than comedy. I think that misses the point. Observational humour works because it is true. The audience, reassuringly, seemed far from shocked by it.

I am glad I have found a way to watch the BBC's iPlayer from Moscow. It's worth the subscription just to hear someone tell it like it is, wittily, on national TV. I fear we may not see much more of Steve Hughes. The aparatchiki of the BBC will have marked his card. But for a few minutes, watching him, it was like being from a free country again. Do watch it all, you will enjoy it.