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

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Real art vs the other stuff

Strictly For The Birds… | Orphans of Liberty.

I recently asked why The Guardian was not more supportive of the reputation of William Shakespeare, our greatest native genius. JuliaM has hit upon the answer over at the gloomily-named GroupBlog, Orphans of Liberty. Real art, in Guardian Land, is stuff no-one wants funded by money taken by force from taxpayers. Not Shakespeare's commercial tat. I am embarrassed now to have asked such a naive question.

Why doesn't the Guardian defend this humble, disadvantaged boy?

Cribsheet 28.10.11 | Education | guardian.co.uk.

The new film Anonymous revives the old claim that William Shakespeare, Immortal Bard of Avon, was a mere front man for some better-educated writer. As the film-maker admits, it's not that he has any evidence that - as he portrays it - the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays and poems. Rather, he simply can't believe that a humble grammar school boy from the Midlands could have done it and the good Earl '...has the most going for him...'

This is angels on pinheads stuff, God knows, and ultimately an irrelevance. The works are brilliant, whether or not the man we think wrote them, did. But what always strikes me when this hare is set running is that the motivation is so very clearly snobbery. It's is amazing that in this democratic era there are still cap-doffing, forelock-tugging sorts who think such a genius must have had blue blood.  It's doubly remarkable though that our class warrior friends at the Guardian find nothing in that to comment on. Perhaps there is just too much manly wisdom in Shakespeare's works for Guardian-reading tastes? Perhaps they would like that wisdom tainted by association with the aristocracy they profess to despise?

For myself, I am quietly content that the greatest genius of the English was such a workaday fellow as Bill; a man I would have liked (unlike Goethe or Beethoven) had I met him at the pub. I am particularly content that he was famously a rational economic actor. He wrote for money and stopped when he had enough. Only an English genius would down quills and rest once he had enough to buy the house of his dreams.

Bless his abused memory. When England is gone, there will be Shakespearians yet and the memory of our nation will live on in some future version of a wooden O. History will tell if there will be Oxfordians too. Let's hope there are no Guardianistas.

The Guardian: Offenders should NOT get their just deserts

Reverting to 'tough' justice fails both adults and children | Society | The Guardian.
When someone writes that offenders should "get their just deserts" you assume they are a tabloid journalist.
But when someone thinks offenders should NOT get their "just deserts" and indeed holds the very concept at arms length with disdainful quotation marks, you KNOW he's from that brainless, simpering gangster's moll of newspapers, The Guardian and is thoroughly turned on by a bit of rough.

The charm of leftist incompetence

Bestsellers There is some amusement in the Paine household each morning at the fact that a certain parcel has not been delivered. Since Mrs P. ordered a reading lamp from (aargh) the Guardian online store, other parcels have been ordered (and arrived) from those wicked capitalists at Amazon, L'Occitane, Aveda, Net a porter, Ocado and John Lewis.

Not to mention that iTunes has instantly delivered Lady Gaga's latest offering and several rental movies have been served up both by ITunes and (when Apple's sadly limited offering palls) Virgin Media to while away our housebound evenings.

Yet every morning, the Guardian's parcel reminds us of Billy Bunter's famous postal order. It's only funny, of course, because the Guardian's shop is in competition with others. The NHS monopoly of aspects of our health care (so beloved by the bumbling Guardianisti) is causing rather less amusement chez nous.

Still, Guido need not worry about the implications of the Guardian bookshop's bestsellers list. The books will probably never have chance to do their wicked work on soft Islingtonian brains. In relieving them of their money for inadequate service their agitprop organ of choice is, ironically, delivering an education (if nothing else) to Guardian readers everywhere.


Where is the Guardian's England?

Watching the Royal Wedding, I could not help but wonder who all those people in the streets of London were. Experiencing England, as I have, mainly through its media for the last twenty years, they seemed unfamiliar. They were clearly untroubled by envy, for example. They cheered the succession of impressive British motor cars (as well as the dowdy VW minibuses). Where were the Prius-driving prigs? Where were the equality fanatics? Where were the alienated youths, the anti-Christians and - for that matter - the aggrieved immigrants decrying the home culture (or lack of it)? Who were the polite people processing sedately behind a one-officer-deep police line to get a view of "the balcony scene?"

Could it be that England has not changed as much as the Guardian would have us believe? Could it be that the carefully-cultivated BBC and Guardian view is only a bad dream from which we might wake at any moment? Like my illustrious namesake I am a republican, for reasons to be discussed some other day, but today - thanks to the Royal family's celebrations - London felt like home. As G.K. Chesterton put it;

...we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet

Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

We are a funny bunch, no doubt, but from the scenes on the streets of London today, we are not finished yet.


How real Leftists approach alcohol

Mrs P. and I ventured out for an afternoon stroll and ended up at a bar. Sitting under a canopy outside on a warm, rainy evening, we did some people-watching here in the Peoples' Republic. It was all very enjoyable, despite being surrounded by (gasp!) smokers. Picking up the drinks menu (accustomed as we are to the conflation of leftism and puritanism back home in Guardian-land) how we laughed to read the following on the cocktails menu.

Xintiandi1
Quite different from all that miserable drinkaware.co.uk stuff, eh? I realise you must all be very worried about us, so let me hasten to report that Mrs P and I managed to "consommér avec moderation" despite the bar owner's wicked and self-interested recommendation. As far as we could see (as there was none of the behaviour that keeps middle-aged couples out of city centres on weekend evenings back home) so did everyone else.

And all without any advice from a government. Remarkable.


We will trust them when they deserve it.

Society needs institutional anchorage | Antony Lerman | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

Antony Lerman's conclusion that politicians must "empower" citizens is somewhat irritating. From where, if not from us, does he think he they derive their powers? If they want to "empower" us, why don't they simply stop taking power from us?  We don't need them to "empower" us but to stop disempowering us!

Lerman tells us public institutions have lost our trust. He is right. Infuriatingly he seems to think it's our fault. Researchers at Cambridge University, he says, have found a correlation between public happiness and trust in public institutions. That makes perfect sense. To a rational person it's obvious that people would be happier if their institutions prove generally worthy of trust. Only a Guardianista could twist that to mean we would be happier if only we were more gullible.

In the New Labour era, the institutions of the British State have involved themselves in every aspect of our lives. Not happy merely to administer public services and protect us from force and fraud, they decided they were there not to serve but to rule. They told us how to think, what to eat, what to drink, how to work and where to smoke.  They have subverted beloved charities, turning them into tools of state power. They have even tried to modify the very nature of our beast; eliminating the hunter from the hunter gatherer beneath our modern veneer. What fool, having lived through all that, could seriously say it is our fault that we do not trust our public institutions?

He sneers at the Catholic Church as an outdated institution but he is as devout as the simplest parishioner when it comes to his own loyalties. Just as some churchmen seem annoyed with victims of child abuse for damaging the Church's name, so Lerman seems to resent our response to the incompetence, dishonesty and corruption of the Blair/Brown era.  Lerman's ilk gleefully broke down the old loyalties to "God, Queen and Country." They sneered at the simplicity of those who felt them. Now it seems they did not seek to replace them with rationality. They just wanted to substitute blind loyalty to new institutions of their making.

If the British State wants respect, let it earn it. It can begin by acknowledging our mastery. Let our servants not speak as if they were rulers. Let them not speak of our money - hard earned by our honest endeavours - as if it were their own. Let's hear no more of money "taken out of" or "put into" the economy, for "the economy" is all our budgets, not just the State's. Let our MPs caught with their hands in the till stop speaking ruefully of being scapegoats. Let them embrace their servitude with joy and treat their masters with the deference we deserve; not just at election time neither.

Lerman writes that we rely on institutions:
"...not just to manage the functions of society they cannot organise on their own, but also to give meaning to our lives..."
If he truly thinks that, he is a damn fool and a pitiful apology for a human being. The meaning in our lives comes from the joy of deploying our talents to make us independent; from looking after the people we love; from caring for families and delighting in the company of friends; from the free exercise of such creativity as we are lucky enough to have - whether in fine arts or cookery or just in telling a good story to amuse a friend. it comes from being fully human, which is to say fully free. He goes on;
Institutions must arise out of responsibility and generosity. Sometimes they seem to be part of a war against what politicians see as the worst individualist instincts of the people. In these circumstances, the legitimation of institutions, which Jürgen Habermas argues means citizens' sense that the institutions within which they live are just, benevolent, in their best interest, and deserving of their support, loyalty, and adherence, will constantly be problematic.

See that? It's not trust itself that's important; genuine trust earned by honest performance. No, it's a "sense that the institutions ... are benevolent"  - and to hell with whether it's true. Well, Mr Lerman, that's not how it works. If you want it, you have to earn it. 

If Parliament wants our trust again, let it serve our interests honestly and not those of its members. If the Equality & Human Rights Commission, MI5 or the Cabinet want our trust, let them earn it. How? By making only promises they can keep and then keeping them. By admitting their mistakes when they make them (as they must). By telling the truth, not only when it suits their political objectives, but even when it interferes with them.

Institutions are human and therefore defective. They can perform wonders and commit crimes. Our trust in them, if rational, must be provisional. Institutions are valuable to the precise extent they serve us well. We no more exist to serve the modern state, than our forefathers existed (whatever they may have thought) to serve the Church or the Monarchy. If they lose that provisional trust, it is their fault. I damn Lerman's impudence for lecturing us about how happy we would be if we trusted them regardless.

The whole stupid article could be summed up in three words;

"Ignorance is bliss"

To hell with that.


In which Tom almost becomes an anarchist

Colin Ward obituary | Society | The Guardian.

I love Guardian obituaries. Usually, they are fascinating accounts of the reassuringly wasted lives of leftist eccentrics. I derive great pleasure from noting the damage deceased Guardian-reading busybodies entirely failed to do in the course of their pointless lives of bickering and writing pamphlets read by no-one. This one caught my eye though, at first for the wrong reasons. I laughed at the idea of an anarchist working for the Town & Country Planning Association. When I read a little more about him, I realised the laugh was on me.

Apparently, famous anarchist Piotr Kropotkin (what was he doing in the Home Counties?) said of the empty and overgrown landscape of Surrey and Sussex after the Industrial Revolution;
...in every direction I see abandoned cottages and orchards going to ruin, a whole population has disappeared...
In his book Cotters & Squatters, Colin Ward observed;
Precisely a century after this account was written, the fields were empty again. Fifty years of subsidies had made the owners of arable land millionaires through mechanised cultivation and, with a crisis of over-production; the European Community was rewarding them for growing no crops on part of their land. However, opportunities for the homeless poor were fewer than ever in history. The grown-up children of local families can’t get on the housing ladder.
His suggested solutions included community land where people could build their own homes;
...and they should be allowed to do it a bit at a time, starting in a simple way and improving the structure as they go along. The idea that a house should be completed in one go before you can get planning permission and a mortgage is ridiculous.

He was quite right of course. State-enforced housing standards are a 3D equivalent of the minimum wage; at the bottom of the social heap, they spare you the indignity of poor housing by first denying you housing (and then throwing you into "social" housing as a solution to your problem). How did such a good bloke make it past the Guardian's editors, even in death?

I could not agree more with his idea that politics is about "strengthening co-operative relations" (by providing legal frameworks for co-operation, not orders from above) though I am not sure if it could ever really be described as "supporting human ingenuity". In my experience politics only ever develops human ingenuity by functioning as a kind of gym. Some of the most ingenious entrepreneurs I have met developed their skills in the black markets of the former Eastern Bloc, for example. Colin Ward, however (as must have slipped the obituary editor's notice) is no Honecker nostalgist;

Can there be social organisation without authority, without government? The anarchists claim that there can be, and they also claim that it is desirable that there should be. They claim that [my emphasis] at the basis of our social problems is the principle of government. It is, after all, governments which prepare for war and wage war, even though you are obliged to fight in them and pay for them; the bombs you are worried about are not the bombs which cartoonists attribute to the anarchists, but the bombs which governments have perfected, at your expense. 

Allelujah, brother! Don't praise the lords!! Before this blog starts flying the black flag however, let's read a little further;

It is ... governments which make and enforce the laws which enable the 'haves' to retain control over social assets rather than share them with the 'have-nots'. It is, after all, the principle of authority which ensures that people will work for someone else for the greater part of their lives, not because they enjoy it or have any control over their work, but because they see it as their only means of livelihood.

Hmm. There it is. The "Property is theft" sign on the gate at Anarchism's boundaries. Not to mention the give-away use of the word "social" to mean "ours, not yours, though you earned it". Still he clearly raised some interesting questions;

Why do people consent to be governed? It isn't only fear: what have millions of people to fear from a small group of politicians? It is because they subscribe to the same values as their governors. Rulers and ruled alike believe in the principle of authority, of hierarchy, of power.

This is a good, if faintly depressing, answer to the question so often posed in the libertarian blogosphere; "Why do we put up with it?" The principle of authority is one we learned at our mother's and (if we were lucky) our father's knee. Ward's obituary led me to this more encouraging passage (by which Old Holborn is currently trying to live);

'The State’ said the German anarchist Gustav Landauer, ‘is not something which can be destroyed by a revolution, but is a condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.

Whatever the overall merits of his ideas, Colin Ward lived outside the grim, grey Guardian norms of thought and for this he must be praised. RIP.

Those of a Guardian disposition, move along. Nothing to see here.

Jeremy Clarkson Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 Spyder review | Driving - Times Online.

Jeremy Clarkson is a hate figure of the Left. Read the linked article to find out why. Here's a short sample to give you a flavour;

It was, I think, the most enjoyable drive of my life: to be in a car that good, with its V10 bark echoing off the limestone and a bit of Steely Dan on the stereo, doing about a million with a man who truly knows what he’s doing at the wheel. This is what those of a Guardian disposition don’t understand: that a car can be a tool but it can also be so much more. It can be a heart-starter, it can be a drug, it can be a piece of art, it can stir your soul and it can get you from Marbella to Ronda before the bar closes.

Truth is, Jeremy is more fully alive than a whole London borough of the miserable little self-satisfied soulless zombies. And he can write better too.


A degraded nation

Baby P's father to sue Haringey Council - Telegraph.

The natural father of Peter Connelly, "Baby P", with no apparent sense of irony, is suing Haringey Council for negligence in the discharge of its duties. The council's social workers, he says, failed to protect his son. For shame.

Relationships end, of course. Fathers often have to leave their children in the care of their ex-partners. Indeed, due to what Harriet Harman might (if she were at least consistent in her foolishness) call "institutional sexism" on the part of the family courts, men can seldom obtain custody. Yet if ever a father could have done so, it was this man. If there exists a mother less fitted to the care of her child than Tracey Connelly, I hope never to meet her. His father must have known the true character of Peter's mother. Knowing it, how could he leave his son in her care?

Peter's parents lived together for the first three months of his tragic life. After their relationship ended, and the monsters who killed Peter moved in, the father had continued access to his son. Given what we know now, it is hard to conceive that a loving parent could have failed to notice his distress. A loving father with occasional sole charge of the boy had more opportunity to clean off the chocolate smeared on Peter's injuries than a social worker. We are told that Peter reached out to him, screaming "Daddy, Daddy!" when handed back to his tormentors shortly before he died. The best that can be said for this hopeful litigant is that Peter thought him a better carer than his mum. It's hard to think him more than slightly better.

So, the more true his accusations against Haringey's social services, the greater his own guilt. If he is innocent because he was deceived by Ms Connelly (who would have to be considerably more cunning than she looks), so much more so (given their lesser knowledge of her and access to the child) are the social workers.

StepfatherAccomplice If I were him, I would be too tormented with guilt to function, let alone to calculate the monetary value of my loss. But this product of the Welfare State is made of sterner stuff than me. He confidently denies all suggestions that he might be to blame. He believed his ex's explanation for Peter's injuries; that the child was "clumsy," though he had opportunities to observe Peter himself. Are we to believe he didn't know his son was on the child protection register? Are we to believe he could not discern the true nature of the brutes who lived with Peter and his mother?

I am sure he is as sincere in his claim as in his desire for £400,000 in damages. It makes sense in the warped logic of underclass Britain. How could he think himself to blame when the Welfare State denies the very notion of  personal responsibility? The "caring" apparatus of the "progressive" British state deplores the concept, as witness the agonising over the cruel fate, not of the dead child, but of his killers. After all, they are not responsible either. They are the products of their social environment; mere automata to be successfully reprogrammed if only the taxpayers would not be so mean about employing enough social workers. Haringey Social Services may not like being sued on this occasion, but they share Peter's father's underlying objective; to supplant the responsibility of the parent with that of the state. If he wins his claim, they will soon realise they have been given a stick with which to beat the ungenerous taxpayers.

Not only the jobs, but the ideological integrity of its employees depends upon the notion that the citizen is a passive product of his environment; that he can't take care of himself, can't educate his children, can't look after his family without their benevolent intervention. By their own logic, as they are the only truly responsible people, this man's claim should succeed. But by the same logic, since in truth the health and welfare of every human depends on self-reliance and the loving support of family and friends, we are all damned to some (let's hope lesser) variant of Peter's fate.