Friday, October 01, 2010

I keep reading CiF threads in the Guardian where the right-on castigate the xenophobes and racists who've somehow turned up on the threads.

That's nowt to what you'll get when the Chinese People's Daily takes a pop at India. A lot of history gets dug up. Seem to be nearly all Indian commenters except for perhaps a few Pakistani nay-sayers. A fascinating cross-section of views.

"The Chinese are so drunk on their power and they are working hard to destroy our nation using every means possible, including arming the Maoists and giving nukes to Pakistan. This is only because they feel threatened by our rise and want absolute and uncontrolled domination over our people. But their children will pay, for if they fail to destroy us, the rest of our people will hate them for the next 1000 years for what their people are doing now."
It's not all jingoists though :

China should abandon its policy of being condescending towards neighbours who are smaller in size, population, etc.China should first learn the art of speaking to disgruntled elements within itw own territory as India has been doing. Without resolving the issue of tibet and the far western corners of xinchiang through methods that are peaceful, China cannot aspire to gain the confidence of the rest of the world, leave alone its neighbourhood.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chinese Eugenics

Well strike a light :

In other sports, size is more important - and the government appears to be discreetly trying to influence this too. Top basketball coach Wang Libin says the government encouraged the exceptionally tall mother and father of Yao Ming, the 7ft 6in superstar of the American basketball league, to marry. They did the same for his own parents, and for him and his wife - both basketball players. Their daughter is only 15, but she is 6ft 4in tall and dreams of playing in the 2012 London Olympics. Now, he says, tall people are exempted from the one-child policy so that they can breed more tall offspring.
Hmm. If they'll do that for a few gold medals, what might they not do for a few Nobel-winning scientists ?

UPDATE - apparently a Chinese law of 1994 provides for the compulsory sterilisation of those who carry serious genetic disorders and wish to marry. "Wish to marry", eh - how quaint and old-fashioned that sounds to a Brit. I have to assume there aren't many Ed Milibands in China. In fact :

"it is illegal in almost every province for single women to have a child and that people who have children out of wedlock must pay "social compensation fees" (29 Feb. 2009, Sec.1.f). The US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) reports that those who give birth to a child outside of marriage can face fines six to eight times the amount of their income from the previous year (US 31 Oct. 2008, 97). According to a 2005 article in Reproductive Health, very few children are born out of wedlock in China (11 Aug. 2005, 3)."

I'm not surprised. But has anyone told Andy Newman ?

The Fate of Empires - Part 2

More from Glubb Pasha :

The inadequacy of intellect

Perhaps the most dangerous byproduct of the Age of Intellect is the unconscious growth of the idea that the human brain can solve the problems of the world. Even on the low level of practical affairs this is patently untrue. Any small human activity, the local bowls club or the ladies' luncheon club, requires for its survival a measure of self-sacrifice and service on the part of the members. In a wider national sphere, the survival of the nation depends basically on the loyalty and self-sacrifice of the citizens. The impression that the situation can be saved by mental cleverness, without unselfishness or human self-dedication, can only lead to collapse.

Thus we see that the cultivation of the human intellect seems to be a magnificent ideal, but only on condition that it does not weaken unselfishness and human dedication to service. Yet this, judging by historical precedent, seems to be exactly what it does do. Perhaps it is not the intellectualism which destroys the spirit of self-sacrifice—the least we can say is that the two, intellectualism and the loss of a sense of duty, appear simultaneously in The life-story of the nation.

Civil dissensions

Another remarkable and unexpected symptom of national decline is the intensification of internal political hatreds. One would have expected that, when the survival of the nation became precarious, political factions would drop their rivalry and stand shoulder-to-shoulder to save their country.

In the fourteenth century, the weakening empire of Byzantium was threatened, and indeed dominated, by the Ottoman Turks. The situation was so serious that one would have expected every subject of Byzantium to abandon his personal interests and to stand with his compatriots in a last desperate attempt to save the country. The reverse occurred. The Byzantines spent the last fifty years of their history in fighting one another in repeated civil wars, until the Ottomans moved in and administered the coup de grace.

Britain has been governed by an elected parliament for many centuries. In former years, however, the rival parties observed many unwritten laws. Neither party wished to eliminate the other. All the members referred to one another as honourable gentlemen. But such courtesies have now lapsed. Booing, shouting and loud noises have undermined the dignity of the House, and angry exchanges are more frequent. We arc fortunate if these rivalries are fought out in Parliament, but sometimes such hatreds are carried into the streets, or into industry in the form of strikes, demonstrations, boycotts and similar activities. True to the normal course followed by nations in decline, internal differences are not reconciled in an attempt to save the nation. On the contrary, internal rivalries become more acute, as the nation becomes weaker.

At this point I feel constrained to point out that "this time it really is different". In times past, if there was a crisis, at least the competing factions could agree that the crisis existed, even if they were at loggerheads as to what to do about it. But in the UK, while many British people think there's a crisis of national decline, our rulers - of all parties - disagree. Indeed, many of the phenomena evinced as symptoms of decline are celebrated by them. "We are comfortable with modern Britain and that we believe our best days lie ahead" is a typical comment.

Which brings us on to :

The influx of foreigners

One of the oft-repeated phenomena of great empires is the influx of foreigners to the capital city. Roman historians often complain of the number of Asians and Africans in Rome. Baghdad, in its prime in the ninth century, was international in its population—Persians, Turks, Arabs, Armenians, Egyptians, Africans and Greeks mingled in its streets.

In London today (written in 1978 - LT) , Cypriots, Greeks, Italians, Russians, Africans, Germans and Indians jostle one another on the buses and in the underground, so that it sometimes seems difficult to find any British. The same applies to New York, perhaps even more so. This problem does not consist in any inferiority of one race as compared with another, but simply in the differences between them.

In the age of the first outburst and the subsequent Age of Conquests, the race is normally ethnically more or less homogeneous. This state of affairs facilitates a feeling of solidarity and comradeship. But in the Ages of Commerce and Affluence, every type of foreigner floods into the great city, the streets of which are reputed to be paved with gold. As, in most cases, this great city is also the capital of the empire, the cosmopolitan crowd at the seat of empire exercises a political influence greatly in excess of its relative numbers.

Second- or third-generation foreign immigrants may appear outwardly to be entirely assimilated, but they often constitute a weakness in two directions. First, their basic human nature often differs from that of the original imperial stock. If the earlier imperial race was stubborn and slow-moving, the immigrants might come from more emotional races, thereby introducing cracks and schisms into the national policies, even if all were equally loyal. Second, while the nation is still affluent, all the diverse races may appear equally loyal. But in an acute emergency, the immigrants will often be less willing to sacrifice their lives and their property than will be the original descendants of the founder race.
Third, the immigrants are liable to form communities of their own, protecting primarily their own interests, and only in the second degree that of the nation as a whole. Fourth, many of the foreign immigrants will probably belong to races originally conquered by and absorbed into the empire. While the empire is enjoying its High Noon of prosperity, all these people are proud and glad to be imperial citizens. But when decline sets in, it is extraordinary how the memory of ancient wars, perhaps centuries before, is suddenly revived, and local or provincial movements appear demanding secession or independence. Some day this phenomenon will doubtless appear in the now apparently monolithic and authoritarian Soviet empire. It is amazing for how long such provincial sentiments can survive.

Historical examples of this phenomenon are scarcely needed. The idle and captious Roman mob, with its endless appetite for free distributions of food—bread and games—is notorious, and utterly different from that stern Roman spirit which we associate with the wars of the early republic. In Baghdad, in the golden days of Harun al-Rashid, Arabs were a minority in the imperial capital. Istanbul, in the great days of Ottoman rule, was peopled by inhabitants remarkably few of whom were descendants of Turkish conquerors. In New York, descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers arc few and far between. This interesting phenomenon is largely limited to great cities. The original conquering race is often to be found in relative purity in rural districts and on far frontiers. It is the wealth of the great cities which draws the immigrants. As, with the growth of industry, cities nowadays achieve an ever greater preponderance over the countryside, so will the influence of foreigners increasingly dominate old empires. Once more it may be emphasised that I do not wish to convey the impression that immigrants are inferior to older stocks. They are just different, and they thus tend to introduce cracks and divisions.


As the nation declines in power and wealth, a universal pessimism gradually pervades the people, and itself hastens the decline. There is nothing succeeds like success, and, in the Ages of Conquest and Commerce, the nation was carried triumphantly onwards on the wave of its own self-confidence. Republican Rome was repeatedly on the verge of extinction—in 390 B.C. when the Gauls sacked the city and in 216 B.C. after the Battle of Cannae. But no disasters could shake the resolution of the early Romans. Yet, in the later stages of Roman decline, the whole empire was deeply pessimistic, thereby sapping its own resolution. Frivolity is the frequent companion of pessimism. Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. The resemblance between various declining nations in this respect is truly surprising. The Roman mob, we have seen, demanded free meals and public games. Gladiatorial shows, chariot races and athletic events were their passion. In the Byzantine Empire the rivalries of the Greens and the Blues in the hippodrome attained the importance of a major crisis.

Judging by the time and space allotted to them in the Press and television, football and baseball are the activities which today chiefly interest the public in Britain and the United States respectively. The heroes of declining nations are always the same—the athlete, the singer or the actor.
Food for thought, eh? And this was thirty years before X Factor. Next instalment - Glubb Pasha looks at 10th century Baghdad, then, would you believe, the Swinging London of the Muslim world.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ed Miliband - the Verdict

R4's World at One today opened with a series of soundbites from friends and colleagues of Ed Miliband. I paraphrase :

"This illustrates the sort of person he is - in his college, one of his friends had a room where the radiators didn't work ..."
Laban, always looking for the good, waits for 'and he didn't hang around waiting for the college to fix it - he got a spanner and a key and fixed it for him. He's always been a good-natured, can-do type".

"And Ed presented this as an indictment of the college maintenance systems ... to him, everything was political"


Monday, September 27, 2010

The Fate of Empires - Part 1

An excerpt from The Fate of Empires, by Sir John Glubb ('Glubb Pasha'), soldier, historian and Arabist, who died in 1986. I found it here thanks to a link here, and OCR'd it into text. Published by Blackwell in 1978 (in total opposition to the then zeitgeist), it appears to be unobtainable - can't even find a copy on ABE Books.

While I'm not at all sure that the one-third of call centre employees who have degrees were motivated by the desire for academic honours (I think they probably believed the innovative market theory that you could quintuple the number of graduates with no impact on graduate salaries, and thought they'd get well-paid jobs), and I don't get a hint of Paul Kennedy's later thesis that 'while the point of becoming a great power is to be able to fight major wars, the way to remain one is not to fight them', the pattern Glubb lays out seems a fairly good fit with what we see.

Let us now, however, return to the life-story of our typical empire. We have already considered the age of outburst, when a little-regarded people suddenly bursts on to the world stage with a wild courage and energy. Let us call it the Age of the Pioneers.

Then we saw that these new conquerors acquired the sophisticated weapons of the old empires, and adopted their regular systems of military organisation and training. A great period of military expansion ensued, which we may call the Age of Conquests. The conquests resulted in the acquisition of vast territories under one government, thereby automatically giving rise to commercial prosperity. We may call this the Age of Commerce.

The Age of Conquests, of course, overlaps the Age of Commerce. The proud military traditions still hold sway and the great armies guard the frontiers, but gradually the desire to make money seems to gain hold of the public. During the military period, glory and honour were the principal objects of ambition. To the merchant, such ideas are but empty words, which add nothing to the bank balance.

The wealth which seems, almost without effort, to pour into the country, enables the commercial classes to grow immensely rich. How to spend all this money becomes a problem to the wealthy business community. Art, architecture and luxury find rich patrons. Splendid municipal buildings and wide streets lend dignity and beauty to the wealthy areas of great cities. The rich merchants build themselves palaces, and money is invested in communications, highways, bridges, railways or hotels, according to the varied patterns of the ages.

The first half of the Age of Commerce appears to be peculiarly splendid. The ancient virtues of courage, patriotism and devotion to duty are still in evidence. The nation is proud, united and full of self-confidence. Boys are still required, first of all, to be manly — to ride, to shoot straight and to tell the truth. (It is remarkable what emphasis is placed, at this stage, on the manly virtue of truthfulness, for lying is cowardice — the fear of facing up to the situation.)
Boys' schools are intentionally rough. Frugal eating, hard living, breaking the ice to have a bath and similar customs are aimed at producing a strong, hardy and fearless breed of men. Duty is the word constantly drummed into the heads of young people.

The Age of Commerce is also marked by great enterprise in the exploration for new forms of wealth. Daring initiative is shown in the search for profitable enterprises in far comers of the earth, perpetuating to some degree the adventurous courage of the Age of Conquests.

The Age of Affluence

There does not appear to be any doubt that money is the agent which causes the decline of this strong, brave and self-confident people. The decline in courage, enterprise and a sense of duty is, however, gradual.
The first direction in which wealth injures the nation is a moral one. Money replaces honour and adventure as the objective of the best young men. Moreover, men do not normally seek to make money for their country or their community, but for themselves. Gradually, and almost imperceptibly, the Age of Affluence silences the voice of duty. The object of the young and the ambitious is no longer fame, honour or service, but cash.
Education undergoes the same gradual transformation. No longer do schools aim at producing brave patriots ready to serve their country. Parents and students alike seek the educational qualifications which will command the highest salaries. The Arab moralist, Ghazali (1058-1111), complains in these very same words of the lowering of objectives in the declining Arab world of his time. Students, he says, no longer attend college to acquire learning and virtue, but to obtain those qualifications which will enable them to grow rich. The same situation is everywhere evident among us in the West today.

High Noon

That which we may call the High Noon of the nation covers the period of transition from the Age of Conquests to the Age of Affluence: the age of Augustus in Rome, that of Harun al-Rashid in Baghdad, of Sulaiman the Magnificent in the Ottoman Empire, or of Queen Victoria in Britain. Perhaps we might add the age of Woodrow Wilson in the United States. All these periods reveal the same characteristics. The immense wealth accumulated in the nation dazzles the onlookers. Enough of the ancient virtues of courage, energy and patriotism survive to enable the state successfully to defend its frontiers. But, beneath the surface, greed for money is gradually replacing duty and public service. Indeed the change might be summarised as being from service to selfishness.


Another outward change which invariably marks the transition from the Age of Conquests to the Age of Affluence is the spread of defensiveness. The nation, immensely rich, is no longer interested in glory or duty, but is only anxious to retain its wealth and its luxury. It is a period of defensiveness, from the Great Wall of China, to Hadrian's Wall on the Scottish Border, to the Maginot Line in France in 1939. Money being in better supply than courage, subsidies instead of weapons are employed to buy off enemies. To justify this departure the mind easily devises its own justification. Military readiness, or aggressiveness, is denounced as primitive and immoral. Civilised peoples are too proud to fight. The conquest of one nation by another is declared to be immoral. Empires are wicked. This intellectual device enables us to suppress our feeling of inferiority, when we read of the heroism of our ancestors, and then ruefully contemplate our position today. 'It is not that we are afraid to fight,' we say, ' but we should consider it immoral.' This even enables us to assume an attitude of moral superiority.

The weakness of pacifism is that there are still many peoples in the world who are aggressive. Nations who proclaim themselves unwilling to fight are liable to be conquered by peoples in the stage of militarism—perhaps even to see themselves incorporated into some new empire, with the status of mere provinces or colonies.
When to be prepared to use force and when to give way is a perpetual human problem, which can only be solved, as best we can, in each successive situation as it arises. In fact, however, history seems to indicate that great nations do not normally disarm from motives of conscience, but owing to the weakening of a sense of duty in the citizens, and the increase in selfishness and the desire for wealth and case.

The Age of Intellect

We have now, perhaps arbitrarily, divided the life-story of our great nation into four ages. The Age of the Pioneers (or the Outburst), the Age of Conquests, the Age of Commerce, and the Age of Affluence. The great wealth of the nation is no longer needed to supply the mere necessities, or even the luxuries of life. Ample funds are available also for the pursuit of knowledge.

The merchant princes of the Age of Commerce seek fame and praise, not only by endowing works of art or patronising music and literature. They also found and endow colleges and universities. It is remarkable with what regularity this phase follows on that of wealth, in empire after empire, divided by many centuries. In the eleventh century, the former Arab Empire, then in complete political decline, was ruled by the Seljuk sultan, Malik Shah. The Arabs, no longer soldiers, were still the intellectual leaders of the world. During the reign of Malik Shah, the building of universities and colleges became a passion. Whereas a small number of universities in the great cities had sufficed the years of Arab glory, now a university sprang up in every town. In our own lifetime, we have witnessed the same phenomenon in the U.S.A. and Britain. When these nations were at the height of their glory, Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge seemed to meet their needs. Now almost every city has its university. The ambition of the young, once engaged in the pursuit of adventure and military glory, and then in the desire for the accumulation of wealth, now turns to the acquisition of academic honours.

It is useful here to take note that almost all the pursuits followed with such passion throughout the ages were in themselves good. The manly cult of hardihood, frankness and truthfulness, which characterised the Age of Conquests, produced many really splendid heroes. The opening up of natural resources, and the peaceful accumulation of wealth, which marked the age of commercialism, appeared to introduce new triumphs in civilisation, in culture and in the arts. In the same way, the vast expansion of the field of knowledge achieved by the Age of Intellect seemed to mark a new high-water mark of human progress. We cannot say that any of these changes were 'good 'or' bad '. The striking features in the pageant of empire are:

(a) the extraordinary exactitude with which these stages have followed one another, in empire after empire, over centuries or even millennia; and

(b) the fact that the successive changes seem to represent mere changes in popular fashion—new fads and fancies which sweep away public opinion without logical reason. At first, popular enthusiasm is devoted to military glory, then to the accumulation of wealth and later to the acquisition of academic fame.

Why could not all these legitimate, and indeed beneficent, activities be carried on simultaneously, each of them in due moderation? Yet this never seemed to happen.

There you have the UK round about now. What happens next in the story of Empire? Does it go on to greater heights? I think probably not ....

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Quote of the Day

Lord Tebbit in the Telegraph. I must say he is a great blogger, in that, like Peter Hitchens in the Mail, he responds in each column to the comments from the last. More power to his keyboard.

The good news however is of the stirrings of revolt across the continent. It is not, as some have called it, the rise of the far right even in Sweden. A yearning to live amongst one’s one countrymen and women and to enjoy one’s own nation’s culture is neither left nor right. It is perfectly healthy.
To which I replied :

"A yearning to live amongst one’s one countrymen and women and to enjoy one’s own nation’s culture is neither left nor right. It is perfectly healthy."

Absolutely correct. Which is why I can't blame the inhabitants of Manningham, Blackburn or Sparkbrook for wanting (and getting) to live among their own countrymen and for enjoying their own nation’s culture. But the fact that the culture is not British has profound implications for us.

Fornicating Frontman

The cultural dominoes are tumbling. Nick Clegg was AFAIK the first openly Godless party leader in British history - and, while not the first politician to notch the bedpost, the first to share his score with the electorate.

Now Ed Miliband is (AFAIK) the first party leader to be openly cohabiting and the first to be openly producing children whose parents aren't married.

The Guardian are outraged that the Mail has pointed this out - after all, aren't all family structures equally valid ? (having lived communally for more than 40 years, he is survived by seven children)

Laban into the breach :

Why is that anyone's business?

Because the personal is political. The Miliband/Thorntons are stating that "they don't need no piece of paper from the City Hall".

A view which is perhaps defensible when Daddy was born into our ruling class and Mummy is a highly-paid lawyer. But for Mr and (especially) Ms Average that view's a disaster.

Remember the UNICEF report a few years back ?

"The UK is bottom of the league of 21 economically advanced countries according to a "report card"' put together by Unicef on the wellbeing of children and adolescents, trailing the United States which comes second to last."

Did you know that one of the indicators of child well-being used in that report was whether a child lived with both biological parents ?

"The use of data on the proportion of children living in single-parent families and stepfamilies as an indicator of wellbeing may seem unfair and insensitive. Plenty of children in two-parent families are damaged by their parents relationships; plenty of children in single-parent and stepfamilies are growing up secure and happy. Nor can the terms 'single-parent families' and 'stepfamilies' do justice to the many different kinds of family unit that have become common in recent decades. But at the statistical level there is evidence to associate growing up in single-parent families and stepfamilies with greater risk to well-being – including a greater risk of dropping out of school, of leaving home early, of poorer health, of low skills, and of low pay. Furthermore such risks appear to persist even when the substantial effect of increased poverty levels in single-parent and stepfamilies have been taken into account (although it might be noted that the research establishing these links has largely been conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom and it is not certain that the same patterns prevail across the OECD)."

And what's one of the key producers of one-parent families ? Cohabiting partnerships a la Miliband.

# Cohabitation is one of the main routes into lone parenthood. Between 15% and 25% of all lone-parent families are created through the break-up of cohabitating unions.

# Children born into married unions are estimated to be twice as likely as those born into cohabiting unions to spend their entire childhood with both natural parents (70% versus 36%)

So there. The new Labour leader is setting a dreadful example - albeit one that's being followed by an ever-increasing number of his countrymen.

You could of course produce the beautifully circular argument, as the Institute of Fiscal Studies did a while back, that while it's true that cohabitees are more likely to split up, maybe they are just the sort of people who are more likely to split up. An unanswerable assertion.

"it is true that cohabiting parents are more likely to split up than married ones"

"it seems simply that different sorts of people choose to get married and have children, rather than to have children as a cohabiting couple, and that those relationships with the best prospects of lasting are the ones that are most likely to lead to marriage. "

So a/c/t the IFS, maybe cohabitees just aren't that serious about their children's welfare....


"For Bush may come, and Blair may go, but I go on forever"

She's back. And while she seems less unbalanced than of old, her idiosyncratic mental hobgoblins haven't gone away, you know.

"Beneath the surface glamour and exciting TV shows about death, America still yearns for savage modesty and the right to burn uppity women."

Except they don't want to burn the uppity Sarah Palin or Christine O'Donnell, something which Ms Kennedy finds both inexplicable and infuriating.