Friday, July 04, 2008

Professor David Canter

He's the media head from Liverpool Uni who recommends leaving presents out for burglars and hiding your school uniform while walking home in London.

Here he takes a page to say about the dreadful torture/murder of two French students what John le Carre could say in two short sentences.

Professor Canter's personal anti-crime initiative doesn't consist of not crossing estates or leaving out presents for burglars. Like Sir Ian "people in Haringey leave their doors unlocked" Blair, who commutes to his Met job from a large house in an Oxfordshire village, he finds a small village in the monocultural sticks is a pretty good solution.

"I've always loved the Welsh countryside and when I started working in Liverpool I felt it would be much more pleasant to live in Clawddnewydd," he said.

Prof Canter now spends most of his time working from home ...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

God and Reason

Flying Rodent (parental advisory - swearing and moderate verbal violence) on atheism. While he's a man without religion aka Godless infidel, he doesn't think the ills of the world are going to vanish if only enough people read Richard Dorkins - far from it.

He's knocking out some good stuff at the moment - this is enjoyable too.

I posted Churchill's views on God and Reason for him - and I think they're worth sharing. From his My Early Life.

My various readings during the next two years led me to ask myself questions about religion. Hitherto I had dutifully accepted everything I had been told. Even in the holidays I always had to go once a week to Church, and at Harrow there were three services every Sunday, besides morning and evening prayers throughout the week. All this was very good. I accumulated in those years so fine a surplus in the Bank of Observance that I have been drawing confidently upon it ever since. Weddings, christenings, and funerals have brought in a steady annual income, and I have never made too close enquiries about the state of my account. It might well even be that I should find an overdraft. But now in these bright days of youth my attendances were well ahead of the Sundays. In the Army too there were regular church parades, and sometimes I marched the Roman Catholics to church, and sometimes the Protestants. Religious toleration in the British Army had spread till it overlapped the regions of indifference. No one was ever hampered or prejudiced on account of his religion. Everyone had the regulation facilities for its observance. In India the deities of a hundred creeds were placed by respectful routine in the Imperial Pantheon.

In the regiment we sometimes used to argue questions like 'Whether we should live again in another world after this was over?' 'Whether we have ever lived before?' 'Whether we remember and meet each other after Death or merely start again like the Buddhists?' 'Whether some high intelligence is looking after the world or whether things are just drifting on anyhow?' There was general agreement that if you tried your best to live an honourable life and did your duty and were faithful to friends and not unkind to the weak and poor, it did not matter much what you believed or disbelieved. All. would come out right. This is what would nowadays I suppose be called 'The Religion of Healthy Mindedness.'

Some of the senior officers also dwelt upon the value of the Christian religion to women ('It helps to keep them straight'); and also generally to the lower orders ('Nothing can give them a good time here, but it makes them more contented to think they will get one hereafter'). Christianity, it appeared, had also a disciplinary value, especially when presented through the Church of England. It made people want to be respectable, to keep up appearances, and so saved lots of scandals. From this standpoint ceremonies and ritual ceased to be of importance. They were merely the same idea translated into different languages to suit different races and temperaments. Too much religion of any kind, however, was a bad thing. Among natives especially, fanaticism was highly dangerous and roused them to murder, mutiny or rebellion. Such is, I think, a fair gauging of the climate of opinion in which I dwelt.

I now begin to read a number of books which challenged the whole religious education I had received at Harrow. The first of these books was The Martyrdom of Man by Winwood Reade. This was Colonel Brabazon's great book. He had read it many times over and regarded it as a sort of Bible. It is in fact a concise and well-written universal history of mankind, dealing in harsh terms with the mysteries of all religions and leading to the depressing conclusion that we simply go out like candles. I was much startled and indeed offended by what I read. But then I found that Gibbon evidently held the same view; and finally Mr. Lecky, in his Rise and Influence of Rationalism and History of European Morals, both of which I read this winter, established in my mind a predominantly secular view, For a time I was indignant at having been told so many untruths, as I then regarded them, by the schoolmasters and clergy who had guided my youth. Of course if I had been at a University my difficulties might have been resolved by the eminent professors and divines who are gathered there. At any rate, they would have shown me equally convincing books putting the opposite point of view. As it was I passed through a violent and aggressive anti-religious phase which, had it lasted, might easily have made me a nuisance. My poise was restored during the next few years by frequent contact with danger. I found that whatever I might think and argue, I did not hesitate to ask for special protection when about to come under the fire of the enemy: nor to feel sincerely grateful when I got home safe to tea. I even asked for lesser things than not to be killed too soon, and nearly always in these years, and indeed throughout my life, I got what I wanted. This practice seemed perfectly natural, and just as strong and real as the reasoning process which contradicted it so sharply. Moreover the practice was comforting and the reasoning led nowhere. I therefore acted in accordance with my feelings without troubling to square such conduct with the conclusions of thought.

It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is an admirable work, and I studied it intently. The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts. They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more. In this or some other similar book I came across a French saying which seemed singularly opposite. 'Le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connait pas.' It seemed to me that it would be very foolish to discard the reasons of the heart for those of the head. Indeed I could not see why I should not enjoy them both. I did not worry about the inconsistency of thinking one way and believing the other. It seemed good to let the mind explore so far as it could the paths of thought and logic, and also good to pray for help and succour, and be thankful when they came. I could not feel that the Supreme Creator who gave us our minds as well as our souls would be offended if they did not always run smoothly together in double harness. After all He must have foreseen this from the beginning and of course He would understand it all.

Accordingly I have always been surprised to see some of our Bishops and clergy making such heavy weather about reconciling the Bible story with modern scientific and historical knowledge. Why do they want to reconcile them? If you are the recipient of a message which cheers your heart and fortifies your soul, which promises you reunion with those you have loved in a world of larger opportunity and wider sympathies, why should you worry about the shape or colour of the travel-stained envelope; whether it is duly stamped, whether the date on the postmark is right or wrong? These matters may be puzzling, but they are certainly not important. What is important is the message and the benefits to you of receiving it. Close reasoning can conduct one to the precise conclusion that miracles are impossible: that 'it is much more likely that human testimony should err, than that the laws of nature should be violated'; and at the same time one may rejoice to read how Christ turned the water into wine in Cana of Galilee or walked on the lake or rose from the dead. The human brain cannot comprehend infinity, but the discovery of mathematics enables it to be handled quite easily. The idea that nothing is true except what we comprehend is silly, and that ideas which our minds cannot reconcile are mutually destructive, sillier still.

Certainly nothing could be more repulsive both to our minds and feelings than the spectacle of thousands of millions of universes—for that is what they say it comes to now—all knocking about together for ever without any rational or good purpose behind them. I therefore adopted quite early in life a system of believing whatever I wanted to believe, while at the same time leaving reason to pursue unfettered whatever paths she was capable of treading.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Maybe that's why people rate him ...

Not a great deal of time for Will Self, but this affectionate father's day piece is really rather good.

As we come to resemble our fathers, so we re-encounter the individual who reared us. I turned 42 four years after my father died. Since then, with each succeeding year I feel I’ve come to know him better and better: I feel him in my habits of mind and my physical quirks.

It's true that many of us, after a youth spent trying to be as little like our parents as possible, come to accept, even to celebrate, the similarity. But it seems that parenthood is a necessary condition for this process. Suddenly you become much more aware of the struggles they'll have had - and much more sympathetic to them. (But in my case, my father having left when I was three, it was my mother who was the influence. The influence of my father was that on becoming a dad myself I was determined not to do what he did.)

"Just you wait 'til you have children of your own" said my mother. And would you believe it, she was right.

I noted during a comment debate at Philobiblon "it’s only when I became a father that I realised just how many of my mother’s attitudes and ideas I’d absorbed". I would imagine that if you don't have children, it's possible to forever remain disconnected and even to celebrate that deficiency - like Janet Street Porter.

Anyone Got A Horsewhip ?

Adrian Chiles has split from the very wonderful Jane Garvey.

"Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe."

Monday, June 30, 2008

"He is not a gora belayeti"

No, he's one of us (albeit with non-existent Nepali). Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik visits Nepal.

"Al Qaeda Organisation of Rotherham"

More comedy capers from the New Wave of British Jihad (© Laban Tall 2007).

A white Muslim convert planted a hoax bomb on a bus full of people with a note saying that 'Britain must be punished', a court was told today. Nicholas Roddis, 22, is thought to have disguised himself with a long black beard before planting the fake home-made nailbomb on a crowded bus in Rotherham, in May last year.

Leeds Crown Court was told Roddis, of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, had recently learnt the teachings of Islam in a move to convert over to the religion and had even recorded the preachings of disgraced cleric Abu Hamza. Prosecutor Edward Brown QC told Leeds Crown Court Roddis's conversion had been noted by work colleagues and he had alienated a childhood friend by talking about bomb-making.

On May 8 last year, a man disguised with a long black beard boarded a bus with two carrier bags, he told the jury. Not long after he disembarked, leaving one bag behind. A passenger checked inside and saw three packages with nails, wire, a working clock and a note with foreign writing on it. The writing on the piece of paper was in Arabic and read "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is the messenger of Allah. God is great, god is great, god is great. Britain must be punished." It was signed Al Qaeda Organisation of Iraq.

Hmm. This report isn't quite so funny. But be fair. The mobile, computer, diary, acetone and nails could all be found somewhere chez Laban. Perhaps the acetone is to get varnish off nails.

There are also 11 counts of possessing an article for a terrorist purpose, on July 11 2007. They relate to containers of hydrogen peroxide and acetone, a mobile phone and a computer, a quantity of nails, railway detonators, a bomb-making recipe, a diary, and a list "which included the particulars of terrorist acts".

Big Thoughts ...

Floating around at the back of Laban's brain are three embryonic posts which he'll get round to one of these days (not today).

One is on corruption. We're importing people from a fair few countries where corruption is endemic without any attempt at integration. We're simultaneously beating ourselves up that, say, 39% of the population of Trumpton are from minority x, yet only 2% of the local magistrates are. I don't know what magic the soil of the UK posesses, but our rulers are apparently convinced that the moment you set foot on it all the 'bad' practices of the old country fall off you, leaving only the good bits - you know, the ones that enrich us.

Absent such magical soil, I'd expect that as more magistrates/tax officials/police whatever are appointed from (unintegrated) minority x, so levels of corruption/violence/whatever will depart from those we've experienced in the last 150 years, and move closer to those in country x.

This thought was inspired by the news that apparently 7,500 people have died in police or prison custody in India in the last 5 years.

Post 2 will be on religion, how we got where we are, and whether, as Shuggy asks, the decline of Christianity isn't a bit of a conservative myth (as you'd imagine, I don't agree).

Post 3 will have to wait till I've read Arnold Toynbee's 'A Study of History'. At a glance, it seems to fit the bill pretty well.

He argues that the breakdown of civilizations is not caused by loss of control over the environment, over the human environment, or attacks from outside. Rather, it comes from the deterioration of the "Creative Minority," which eventually ceases to be creative and degenerates into merely a "Dominant Minority" (who forces the majority to obey without meriting obedience). He argues that creative minorities deteriorate due to a worship of their "former self," by which they become prideful, and fail to adequately address the next challenge they face.
Blimey. That seems pretty spot-on for our rulers - right down to the worship of the former self (see the BBC '1968' retrospectives for details).

Somebody - I thought Martin Kelly or David Duff but I may be wrong - blogged about this book a week or two back, but I can't find the post. If thou art that blogger, then identify yourself and receive credit where due.

UPDATE - Martin Kelly's posts were here and here.

On corruption - the BBC - and Pickled Politics for that matter - often report some of the bad things happening in India, which makes for an easy link. But the very existence of such reports show that it's taken seriously - and some fairly senior people get nailed - although some don't. But at least the slew of reports show someone's taking an interest - or more to the point, is able to take an interest without ending up shot dead at the side of the road. It's the countries where you don't get a lot coming out from that are probably worse.

During the agitation (I signed the Downing Street petition) to free Mirza Tahir Hussain, Guardianistas, the Muslim Council of Britain and Uncle Tom Cobley queued up to tell us how corrupt Pakistan was. Yet by some miracle any corruption in Pakistani culture apparently falls off that country's people somewhere on the way to Karachi airport. The same, of course, applies to the good people of Russia - another place where investigative journalists end up dead - but for some reason the only Russians who come here are successful large-scale plunderers of Soviet assets - who want to hang onto their ill-gotten gains.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Doomed ...

Jackie Ashley :

Talking to ministers over the past few weeks, I have been struck by how fatalistic they have become. They do not seem, in the main, to be rebellious, angry or even despairing. Despair is too energetic a word. They seem clinically depressed, tired and flat.

H.P. Lovecraft

There was something of stolid resignation about them all, as if they walked half in another world between lines of nameless guards to a certain and familiar doom.