Cures For The Plague

H/T Roobeedoo for a link that led to Cures for the Plague:

Those who stayed in London did all they could to protect themselves from the plague. As no one knew what caused the plague, most of these were based around superstition. In 1665 the College of Physicians issued a directive that brimstone ‘burnt plentiful’ was recommended for a cure for the bad air that caused the plague. Those employed in the collection of bodies frequently smoked tobacco to avoid catching the plague.

“For personal disinfections nothing enjoyed such favour as tobacco; the belief in it was widespread, and even children were made to light up a reaf in pipes. Thomas Hearnes remembers one Tom Rogers telling him that when he was a scholar at Eton in the year that the great plague raged, all the boys smoked in school by order, and that he was never whipped so much in his life as he was one morning for not smoking. It was long afterwards a tradition that none who kept a tobacconist shop in London had the plague.” A J Bell writing in about 1700.

Other methods were also used to keep the plague away. When money was used in day-to-day transactions in shops or at market, it was placed in a bowl of vinegar rather than being handed over to the recipient. At markets, meat was not handed over by hand rather but by a joint being attached to a hook.

The wearing of lucky charms was also common – and recommended by doctors. Ambroise Pare, a physician, introduced new methods for treating gunshot wounds – but he still believed that a lucky charm would keep away the plague. Dr. George Thomson wore a dead toad around his neck.

The Church had a more basic way of protecting yourself against the plague. It recommended prayer and then more prayer.

Those who could afford health certificates were allowed to leave London, such as Dr Alston, the President of the College of Physicians. This mainly meant that the rich could leave London while the poor stayed in the city. Leaving the city was an obvious way of protecting yourself against the plague.

Charlatans who stayed in London set themselves up as doctors. They sold plague ‘cures’ at high prices. There were many who were willing to try these quack cures as few had any other alternative. ‘Plague water’ was a popular cure as was powered unicorn horn and frogs legs. What actually went into powered unicorn horn is not known. Putting the tail feathers of a live chicken onto buboes drew out the poison allowing the patient to recover – so people were told.

Has anything really changed since 1665? Charlatans still set themselves up as doctors. I didn’t know the College of Physicians was already in existence in 1665. I imagine that the entire College of Physicians – all charlatans to a man – wore dead toads around their necks, as their 21st century counterparts in the Royal College of Physicians doubtless still do. I can even imagine that Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies – who has told people to “think of cancer” when drinking a glass of wine – might wear a dead toad around her neck too. What better symbol of magical thinking?

For I’ve begun to think that the medical profession has made no progress in the last 350 years. There was perhaps a brief period, between about 1880 and 1940, when medicine became rational and scientific, and tremendous advances were achieved. But now the briefly-dispelled medieval mindset of superstition and credulity has rolled back in, like a thick fog, and many physicians appear to seriously believe that the habit of smoking is itself a disease, and that environmental tobacco smoke is as lethal as VX gas.

And are all the various pharma products currently available – e.g. Chantix, Champix, Chumpix – really any different from plague water, powdered unicorn horn, eye of newt, or toe of frog? Yes, they’re packaged as pop-out capsules in little white cardboard boxes in the approved 21st century style. But when it’s all boiled down to it, aren’t they just so many blue glass vials holding rhinoceros horn, asafoetida grass, or vinegar, arrayed on the dusty shelves of an apothecary’s shoppe? They are, after all, supposed to work in entirely magical ways to treat diseases that have themselves been magically acquired (simply by smoking cigarettes, “bad air”). The style may be different, but the substance is the same.

I read again today that the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its 1948 constitution as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Perhaps the word they were looking for was “bliss”? It was once bliss to sit in a smoky pub with a beer and a cigarette and a few friends. It was a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. Now, thanks to the meddling witch doctors in the WHO, doubtless all wearing dead toads around their necks, we have complete physical, mental, and social unwell-being.

We’d probably be better off if, instead of taking their pop-out brimstone tablets to treat our smoking-related cholera, we just prayed to St Anthony instead.


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Scare Stories

I used to worry about Peak Oil. I bought a copy of The Limits To Growth back in 1972 or so, and it had all these computer-generated graphs showing peak oil production being achieved in 1990 or maybe 1995. I bought it all hook, line, and sinker. I drank the kool-aid.

peak_chromeAt the time I shared a student flat with a guy who had also read The Limits To Growth, but who was thoroughly sceptical about it. So sceptical, in fact, that he set out to reconstruct the computer model used by the Club of Rome. I never really understood how he managed to do that, but he did. He worked on it for months. And he used his model to show that if you changed the assumptions and the feedbacks slightly, you could produce a whole bunch of completely different graphs. I helped him to generate the graphs using Fortran. We had both just learned how to programme computers, and I knew how to create the unique graphs in The Limits To Growth, which weren’t comprised of lines, but of characters that wandered up and down the page, showing Peak Chromium or something.

When he’d finished his thesis, which was full up with these character graphs, and his wife had typed the accompanying text for him, and it was all neatly bound and presented to the university, they awarded him a First. And he thoroughly deserved it. He had after all single-handedly reproduced The Limits To Growth with his own sceptical twist to it, debunking more or less everything in it.

I was also writing a thesis, and I had my own computer model. And when it came to typing the whole thing up, I hired an IBM electric typewriter to do it. I figured it would take a week or two to type. But after about 4 days my fingers seized up. They just stopped working. I couldn’t type at all. But fortunately his wife had completed his thesis by that time, and she took my manuscript and finished typing it for me. It only took her a day or two to type it all up. She had no trouble reading my handwriting (amazingly), and she could type very fast. 80 characters a minute, or something. I was very thankful for that. And so my thesis got handed in on time. Afterwards, the university told me that they would have given me a First for my thesis as well, except the rest of the work that I done during the course was more or less non-existent. But I didn’t think I deserved a First anyway. And I thought that he did. My thesis (which I still possess) was an unremarkable compilation of stuff I’d been taught. His thesis was an astounding tour de force. I thought he deserved a First – and I also thought that his wife deserved a Double First.

But even though he’d performed this remarkable feat, I didn’t believe him. He was, after all, just a student in a university. And The Club of Rome probably had an entire university or research facility at its disposal. They were authorities. They knew what they were talking about. So if they said that oil was going to run out in 1995, that was what was going to happen. So I kept in my imagination the looming Day When The Oil Ran Out, when cars would get scarcer and scarcer, and the motorways would gradually get covered in weeds and grass and brambles and even small trees, because nobody ever drove along them.  And people would walk everywhere, or ride ancient rattling bicycles, or horses. I could see it all.

I continued with this vision of the future for another decade or more. Until one day I began to realise that the oil wasn’t showing any sign of running out at all. The cars were still driving along the motorways, in ever greater numbers. There was no sign of any brambles or trees anywhere on them. And I was even driving my own car along them, and I could clearly see the absence of grass and nettles and bicycles and horses and wooden carts with my own two eyes. And that was when the spell broke, and I stopped worrying about Peak Oil. Or peak anything. I didn’t know why the oil hadn’t run out. All I knew was that it hadn’t. And that was really all I needed to know. The Club of Rome had got it wrong.

The Limits to Growth was back in about 1970. It was a precursor of Anthropogenic Global Warming scare in 2000, which is now running out of steam as well. It’s essentially the same format: Computer model written by army of boffins predicts doom in 20 years time. The predictions never come true, but for 20 years or so they generate enough publicity and alarm to to fund lucrative university careers for its high priests, usually somewhere in California.

In fact, I think that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer scare was an even earlier example of the genre. They didn’t have computers back in 1950, but they had the mathematics and the all-important graphs, and the prediction of the lung cancer doom facing the world’s smokers. And it scared the wits out of everybody. It still does, even though despite smokers quitting smoking in millions, lung cancer incidence just keeps on rising.

I’ve been wondering what the next big scare is going to be. They seem to show up every 20 years or so. It should be due any day now. It’s got to be something really scary that is going to happen in 20 years time if you don’t fund an army of boffins to avert it. As ever, the evidence will come in the form of compelling graphs generated by computer simulation models.

And I myself might be perfectly positioned to help start it. I’ve already got the computer simulation model that might do it. It’s the orbital simulation model I’ve gradually constructed over the past 20 years, and have recently been using to reconstruct the orbits of the asteroids that periodically fly past the Earth, like DA14 and the Chelyabinsk superbolide. And I’ve even had the scary idea: dust clouds. The idea is that there are huge clouds of dust, remnants of fragmented comets, in 20,000+ year orbits around the Sun, and when they arrive back at the Sun they dim the sunlight arriving at the surface of the Earth, causing ice ages.

It’s an entirely plausible idea, because there could be such dust clouds orbiting the Earth, with orbital periods of many thousands of years. Nobody knows. At present the reigning theory explaining Ice Ages is that of Milankovitch cycles, which are small cyclical variations in the orbit and rotation of the Earth, such that it’s slightly nearer or further away from the Sun. But the actual record of terrestrial ice ages over the past few million years isn’t as regular as the Milankovitch model would seem to suggest. If nothing else, the Earth has been getting steadily colder for the past 50 million years. It’s why most animals are covered in fur. And we’re currently living in a warm interglacial period that has only lasted for 10,000 years or so.

I started toying with the idea back in February, and began constructing models of dust clouds. My idea was that some 50 million years ago some very large body passed through the Solar System, and broke up into gradually lengthening clouds – hence the gradual subsequent cooling of the Earth. And if you examined the record of glaciations, it should be possible, using Fourier transforms, to extract the orbital periods of the various clouds in exactly the same way as the wavelengths of sound can be extracted from a piece of music, and you’d be able to predict when they’d show up next.

But I’ve never done a Fourier transform, so that’s as far as I’ve managed to get. But it might be a nice mathematical project to figure out how to do Fourier transforms, and apply them to the geological record. Last year’s mathematical project was to figure out how to construct Keplerian elliptical orbits, and it was as a result of this advance that I started thinking about dust clouds in very long period orbits.

Anyway, if it’s going to be worked up into a good, industrial-strength scare story, either the mathematics has to predict an approaching dust cloud, or a dust cloud needs to be spotted by astronomers in the constellation of Leo or somewhere, due to make perihelion in 20 years’ time, causing rapid global cooling.  One years’ time is too soon: nobody will be able to do anything about it. And 50 years’ time is too late: most people will be dead by then, and won’t care. 20 years is about right. Rich foundations and governments will then start funding crash research programmes to figure out how to avert the threat. Dust cloud science will be as big as AGW or Peak Oil or the tobacco cancer scare. Movies about the coming icy apocalypse will feature everyone wearing thick, padded, electrically-heated survival suits, holding candles, and be shot in semi-darkness in snowdrifts, while intrepid astronauts in deep space struggle to deploy the vacuum cleaner to suck up the dust.

And when the dust cloud finally shows up, if it shows up at all, it’ll prove to be a damp squib, posing little or no threat to anyone. But by then an army of dust cloud scientists and government departments will have got rich off the back of it, as will numerous authors and movie companies and movie stars. But by then the next big scare will have already started up, this time about the fleshing-eating Zorg virus just discovered in the Congo.


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The End Of Economic Growth

Via ZeroHedge:


I argue periodically that the current global slump/recession/depression is one consequence of the tidal wave of smoking bans that swept around the world over the past decade or two. The effect of these bans is to evict smokers from bars and restaurants and any number of other venues – theatres, cinemas, etc. And the effect of this eviction is that the smokers spend less money in these places, and also less money on transport to and from these places, and less money on the clothes and shoes to wear there, and less money on deodorants and aftershave (or lipstick and eyeliner). And since smokers comprise some 20% of the population of the Western world, and even more elsewhere, that’s a lot of lost customers, and not just for bars and cafes. And since smoking bans are always being extended to parks and beaches and the streets near schools and hospitals, the extent of eviction (and loss of custom) is always growing.

But no economist ever seems to put forward this argument. Most economists seem to think that if people have got money, they’ll automatically spend it on something. And if they can’t spend it on one thing, they’ll spend it on something else. So if you can’t buy roast beef and Yorkshire pudding in some restaurant, you’ll happily settle for Peking duck and noodles. They never seem to consider the customer who sits down at a table and studies the menu and decides that he doesn’t want to eat anything on it, and so just gets up and leaves. For when I go shopping, I usually have some list of things to buy. And if I can’t find them, I don’t usually buy something else instead. So if I go into a hardware store looking for a hammer, but can’t find one, I won’t buy a screwdriver or a drill or a bag of nails instead: I’ll just turn round and walk out.

It’s the same with smoking. As a smoker, I want to be able to sit down somewhere with a beer and a cigarette, and maybe read a newspaper or talk to somebody about how bad the weather is. It’s what I want, just like I wanted the hammer or the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. And if I can’t get what I want, I won’t buy. The chair and table and beer and cigarette and newspaper and talkative acquaintance are a complete package, and if any of them are absent, I won’t buy. Just like I won’t buy roast beef if they’re out of Yorkshire pudding or roast potatoes or boiled carrots, or because there’s a potato and carrot ban. Or I won’t buy a house that’s got walls and roof and doors, but no windows. Windows are part of the package of things that come under the umbrella name of “house”. If it’s got no windows, I won’t buy it. I’ll go looking for a house that has got windows.

But the economists seem to think that when I check my wallet, all I see inside it is money to burn, and if I’ve got £50 in my wallet I’ll just head straight into town and blow the whole lot on anything I can lay my hands on. But it’s not like that. I spend my money very carefully. I’ll weigh up whether I really want to buy two expensive Dartington glass tumblers, or whether the money would be better spent elsewhere, or put back under the mattress.

Lots of people borrow money. They borrow money from banks, and pay it back later with interest added. These days interest rates have fallen to near zero. It’s very cheap to borrow money these days, and people ought to be borrowing lots of this cheap money, but they’re not. People aren’t spending money. And I suspect that the reason they’re not spending is because there isn’t much they want to buy. The shops may be full of all sorts of things, but there’s nothing that they actually want to buy. The banks can lower their interest rates to zero (or even set them negative, and pay people to borrow money), and people still won’t spend money on things they don’t want to buy. In my case I want to buy the table and chair and beer and cigarettes package, but they’re no longer on sale. Even if interest rates go negative, I still won’t start buying what I don’t want to own.

We have a situation right now, it seems to me, where on the one hand we’re being encouraged by low interest rates to borrow and spend money, but on the other hand we’re being dissuaded or prevented from buying what we actually want.

And it’s not just smokers who are being cajoled and bullied and banned from buying what they want. The global anti-smoking campaign is just one of countless anti-something campaigns. For there’s also anti-alcohol campaigns, anti-food campaigns, anti-sugar campaigns, anti-salt campaigns, anti-obesity campaigns, anti-car campaigns, anti-hunting campaigns, anti-gun campaigns, anti-coal campaigns, anti-nuclear campaigns, anti-war campaigns, anti-carbon dioxide campaigns, anti-whaling campaigns, anti-seal hunting campaigns. Name more or less anything, and there’ll be some organisation campaigning to ban it, usually with a government grant to do so. And a great many people now live in a chronic state of guilt about eating too much, smoking too much, drinking too much, travelling too far, owning too much.  They’re being told every day to stop spending on more or less everything. And if they’re made to feel guilty enough, they won’t actually need to be banned by law from doing things because they’ll ban themselves from doing it anyway.

There’s now an ubiquitous, global, anti-consumerist movement of which the antismoking movement is just one very small cog. Its devotees are anti-everything. They’re anti-industry, anti-trade, anti-growth, and above all anti-human. If they have any discernible goal, it seems to be a wish to return the whole Earth to being a green planet inhabited only by plants and animals, completely devoid of human life. Human life is now seen as a plague, economic growth as a disease. Guardian columnist George Monbiot, writing in October 2007 (shortly after the UK smoking ban was introduced), Bring on the Recession:

Is it not time to recognise that we have reached the promised land, and should seek to stay there? Why would we want to leave this place in order to explore the blackened wastes of consumer frenzy followed by ecological collapse? Surely the rational policy for the governments of the rich world is now to keep growth rates as close to zero as possible?

The governments of the rich world would seem to have been taking Monbiot’s advice to the letter for the past 9 years.

I imagine that Save The Whales is probably now just another taxpayer-funded, environmentalist political organisation like Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace. But here’s some people in a small boat actually saving a whale.

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Full Circle

I suppose that, very roughly, the world in which I grew up was divided in two. On the one hand there was the democratic Free West, with the USA as primus inter pares. And on the other hand there were the one-party state-controlled Soviet Union and Communist China. An Iron Curtain divided the two. Proxy wars were continually fought, first in Korea, and then Vietnam, and elsewhere.

The political argument between the two sides was essentially between bottom-up free market capitalism and top-down state control. In Britain we had a compromise between the two, a “mixed economy” with nationalised state-controlled industries side by side with private enterprise. And there was a robust political debate between the statist Labour party and the free market Conservative party, which eventually resulted in the the Thatcher Conservative government in which most (but not all) state-owned enterprises were sold into private ownership, with the NHS as the principal state-controlled industry.

And at about the same time, the Soviet one-party state dissolved, and Russia became a free-market economy with multi-billionaire oligarchs. Something similar happened in China. After decades of top-down control, the Chinese economy began to boom. The Cold War came to an end. In both Russia and China there remained a remnant one-party state.

It now seems that the two sides may have simply changed places, and exchanged ideologies. For as Russia and China liberalised their economies, the formerly free-market West began to show more and more signs of becoming a top-down-controlled one-party state. For while Europe had long remained a family of democratic nation states, it now began  to metamorphose into something akin to a Soviet one-party state, with an unelected Central Committee issuing innumerable rules and regulations. The resulting sovietisation of Europe unsurprisingly began to stifle the European economy, which began to sink into a similar bureaucratic stagnation as the Soviet Union, with mounting unemployment.

Something similar seems to have happened in the USA, which also began to suffer from increasing state regulation under presidents who seemed to exercise greater and greater personal power, and experienced less and less restraint by the houses of Congress. And the US economy –  once the locomotive of the free world –  has become stagnant like the Soviet Union.

In Britain, the formerly robust debate between the parties gave way to an almost complete uniformity of opinion. The Labour and Conservative and Liberal parties all became slightly different flavours of The Party. You could still vote, but The Party would always be elected, whoever you voted for.  And the mainstream media – the BBC and all the other TV stations as well as the newspapers – all became mouthpieces of The Party.

Nothing expressed all this better than the 2007 UK smoking ban. This appeared as an overnight edict from on high, backed by a propaganda campaign in the mainstream media that Soviet propagandists of the Stalin era would have envied. Numerous other edicts followed, replacing perfectly serviceable incandescent light bulbs with dim and short-lived ones. Useless windmills appeared everywhere. Carbon dioxide was demonised. Gay marriage was rushed through by supposedly conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.

And so we now have a world that has been turned completely upside down. The formerly free West has become replica of the Soviet Union, and the formerly one-party states of the Soviet Union and Communist China have become plausible replicas of the formerly free market West. It would seem that while the communist East was learning how to become capitalist, the capitalist West was learning how to become communist.

The current US election might best be understood as a power struggle inside the Soviet Union, with Donald Trump playing the role of Boris Yeltsin, and trying to overthrow a US Communist one-party state which, much like in Britain, comes in two flavours – Republican and Democrat.  If he wins the election, stifling top-down control will give way to deregulated free market capitalism, much as happened when the old Soviet Union disintegrated. If he doesn’t, stagnation and corruption will continue.

It may simply be that power always tends to become concentrated in the hands of single individuals, who may in different eras be despots or tyrants or kings or emperors or party chairmen or presidents or prime ministers. The absence of any restraining power on these individuals results in increasingly arbitrary and ill-considered and in many cases completely crackpot decisions. The resulting misgovernment eventually becomes unendurable, and the despot is overthrown, either in a bloody revolution or a bloodless election which hands power to a number of people, perhaps even the entire population. And with that, the cycle repeats itself, with power gradually becoming concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, until the next despot emerges.

In this respect, the Eastern and Western cycles are completely out of sync with each other. The Eastern world in 1950 was dominated by two despots – Stalin and Mao -, while the Western world had power dispersed in parliaments and assemblies. Over the subsequent 50 years, the despotic East gradually liberalised, and the liberal West gradually became despotic. We have come almost full circle.

I’m not a betting man. I place bets on average once every 10 years or so. But last Friday I went into a betting shop and placed a £10 bet on Donald Trump to be elected as the next President of the United States, at odds of 4 to 1. Because I think we have arrived at the point in the cycle where power has become too concentrated in the hands of unaccountable and slightly mad individuals at the top, and needs to be returned to the plurality of commonsensical people at the bottom.  If the US electorate doesn’t manage to do this in a bloodless election in a couple of weeks, I fear they will do it in a bloody revolution a few years later.

If Trump wins, top-down state control will be slashed, the US economy will be deregulated and begin to boom, and the current absurd new Cold War will end. And also most likely Britain will leave the top-down-controlled EU, which will disintegrate back into a diverse collection of self-governing sovereign states. If he doesn’t win, I would expect both the USA and UK and Europe to become even more despotic (quite possibly with the equivalents of Stalin or Mao emerging), and their economies even more stagnant, and the people ever more angry.  And Britain forced to stay in the EU.

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The Culture Of Place

The recent EU referendum in Britain, and the current US election, have set me thinking seriously about national identity. Why is it that people in one place so persistently regard themselves as in some way different  from geographically adjacent peoples?

I focused today on one single question: Why is there an England, a Scotland, and a Wales. Why isn’t it all just Britain? And I simplified the question to just this: Why is there a Wales?

Perhaps the terrain map below, which shows the Welsh border with England as a thick red line, may offer a very simple explanation:

walesThe border follows almost exactly the line where the Welsh hills rise above the English lowlands to the east. Almost the entirety of Wales is hill country. In the north of Wales there are even mountains.

In what way does that mean that life in Wales was likely to have been different than life in England?  Well, for a start England’s gently rolling hills are covered in farms growing wheat and corn and barley and oats and potatoes and cabbages and turnips and any number of other plants. But there is very little such arable land on Welsh hills, and so the Welsh largely kept livestock: pigs, sheep, cattle. So probably the Welsh ate different foods than the English. And since Wales is bounded by a coastline on three sides, we might guess that they ate rather more marine fish than did the English.

And as most of England consists of gently rolling hills, it also meant that it was relatively easy to move around England. The Roman roads of England undoubtedly made it even easier. Not so in Wales. It takes much more effort to move around hill or mountain country. Agricultural and manufacturing products could be easily transported and traded throughout England. And so also could languages and customs and beliefs and ideas. So while English society was fluid and dynamic, relatively isolated Welsh communities were far more self-sufficient and resistant to change.

And so Wales retained (and still largely retains) its own Celtic language – the language that Britons probably spoke during the Roman occupation. The English language is really an amalgam of many languages, including Celtic and Latin and French and Danish. England is a melting pot in which languages and beliefs and ideas are always being blended, and probably very quickly blended, because England is not a large country. And English is, as a result, a highly portable language that is the product of rapid linguistic evolution over many centuries.

rainfall_europeOne might also imagine that people who live in hill country, and climb hills every day, are almost certainly stronger and hardier than lowlanders who walk on its plains, or ride horses and carriages across them. And since Wales has a higher level of rainfall than England, the Welsh might have been expected to spend more of their time indoors, and to have worn sturdier clothing.

Add together all these slight differences – and a great many other slight differences -, and you get two distinct cultures, and quite likely two different attitudes to life.

All of the aforementioned differences between England and Wales are also the differences between Scotland and England. For Scotland is even more mountainous than Wales. And while the Romans succeeded in conquering Wales, they never succeeded in conquering Scotland. Neither did the Normans. And so Scotland has also retained its own language, unmixed with either Latin or French. And they also retained distinct clans in pockets all over Scotland, something reflected in the cantons of the even more mountainous Switzerland.

If the differences between the English and the Scots and the Welsh have greatly diminished over the past century or two, it’s probably because roads and railways and canals and bridges have made the movement of agricultural and manufacturing products – and also language and customs and beliefs – much easier between them. Most Welsh and Scots now speak English. And so do the Irish. In fact, a great many Europeans now speak English in addition to their native languages. English has become a global language, more or less in my own lifetime.

Dogged resistance is perhaps one of the principal cultural traits of the Welsh, the Scots, and the Irish. And easy accommodation is perhaps a principal cultural trait of the English. After all, the English readily accommodated first the Romans, and then the Danes, and then the Normans, in rapid succession. The others would not. And if I personally have mounted a bit of a spirited resistance to smoking bans, it may well be simply because I am descended from Welsh mariners, Scilly Isle lighthouse keepers, and the peat-burning Irish of the Bog of Allen – and such people always doggedly resist any yoke placed upon them.

The arguments I’ve raised in this essay have all been physical arguments. That some places are more hilly or mountainous than others. That some have more productive soils than others. That some are colder or wetter than others. My suggestion throughout has been that the land on which people live shapes the people who live on it. I’m even inclined to suggest that any foreigner who lives long enough in any country will become as much a native of that country as its true natives. And anyone who visits Paris or Venice or Barcelona just for one day becomes a citizen of those cities in some fractional degree.

The English are much more shaped by England than they have ever shaped it. They are surrounded today by the same hills and valleys as their ancestors. The same is not quite true of England’s towns and cities. London has been almost entirely built and rebuilt by Londoners, but Londoners are also formed and shaped by the London built by prior generations.

And since every land is different from every other, there will be different people living everywhere. And they will have different cultures, languages, clothes, foods, customs, and beliefs.


And these cultural differences are not trivial. They are the product, in most cases. of many centuries of gradual change. And there are often ineradicable differences: for example, Scotland will always be colder and more mountainous than England. And because there are so many different cultures around the world, no single one-size-fits-all European project or globalist New World Order will ever be able accommodate all of them, any more than one size shoe will fit all feet. People are not blank slates from which beliefs and values can be erased and over-written with new ones – because the culture inherent in the places they inhabit is already deeply etched into them. So there can be no such thing as a single set of “European values” or a single  species of “European citizen”: they are pipe-dreams, and any attempt to construct either will be bound to fail.

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Collective Madness

Yesterday I mentioned A.J. Ayer talking about Logical Positivism with Bryan Magee, and noted that Ayer had lit a cigarette 7 minutes and 30 seconds into their discussion.

In fact, on closer examination, I found that this was probably Ayer’s second cigarette, and that he had lit his first cigarette after just 4 minutes and 27 seconds:

The video was made in 1976, when nobody noticed cigarettes. It was probably still possible for it to have been made in 1996, when discussion programmes like After Dark featured people sitting around a table, smoking and drinking as they talked. But I doubt if it could have been made very much later than that.

Because now, 4 minutes and 27 seconds into the programme A.J. Ayer may as well have produced a live hand grenade from his pocket, and pulled the pin out. The programme would have been halted. Bryan Magee would have been helped away, coughing and spluttering. The studio would have been cleared. Firemen would have rushed in to douse the cigarette. And A.J. Ayer would have been arrested, handcuffed, and led away. And of course the discussion would have terminated. The screen would have gone black, and displayed “Normal Service Will Be Resumed As Soon As Possible.”

That’s how crazy it’s become. Many people have become so sensitised to cigarettes that they’ll start coughing and spluttering, and having asthma attacks, at the mere sight of one. And in fact I notice cigarettes just as much as anyone else – although my reaction to seeing someone lighting up is one of thankfulness and relief that there’s another smoker present. I know this because when I saw Ayer light up, I  was initially delighted – before I started getting worried about what would happen next, and lost the thread of the discussion (as did Mandy Vincent): Lit cigarettes now trump Logical Positivism.

Rather mercifully, A.J. Ayer died in 1989 before this collective madness had become a tidal wave. But if he had been around today, he would have been told – or would already know – that he wouldn’t be permitted to smoke while he discussed Logical Positivism with Bryan Magee. And, since quite clearly he would have wanted to have lit up as they talked, he would have been under slight stress throughout the discussion. He would not have been at ease. And almost certainly the result would have been that he would have spoken slightly differently. He might even have terminated the discussion at the earliest opportunity.

The only people with whom smokers can now speak easily and relaxedly are other smokers. The cigarette between the fingers has become the identifying symbol of a certain kind of easy-going tolerance. And its absence has become a warning sign.

Which has led me to believe that in the near future, smokers will form separate societies, or become confined to ghettos. For it won’t just be that non-smokers won’t want to be around smokers, but that smokers won’t want to be around non-smokers. The forces of mutual repulsion will be equal and opposite. Smokers and non-smokers will cease to co-exist with each other. Co-existence will have become impossible. Society will be visibly seen to be broken in ways it has yet to be.

But it’s not just smokers who are being subjected to exclusionary measures.  It’s happening to all sorts of other “undesirables” – like drinkers and fat people – as well. Even dog owners:

Dog walking has been banned or cut back in thousands of parks and open spaces in the past two years, it is claimed.

Public Space Protection Orders, aimed at stopping threatening or violent behaviour, allows councils to ban various activities in certain areas.

Kennel Club estimates, based on figures from its own contacts with councils, show dogs have been banned from at least 2,205 public places in England and Wales, The Daily Telegraph said.

Some parks, playing fields and beaches are among the places which have been put out of bounds and dogs have also been stopped from running or playing off a lead in 1,100 others places, it was claimed.

I’ve never owned a dog (they’re far too demanding for me), but lots of people do, and dearly love them. If smokers can be easily expelled from society, how much easier will it be to expel dogs and dog owners? It’s not going to be too hard to make a case that dogs pose a Public Health threat far greater even than cigarettes. Dogs can attack and kill people. Many probably carry fleas (or can be plausibly claimed to so do). And of course they defecate everywhere (as does every other animal in the natural world). Canine Control will require dog owners to obtain licences (that probably happens already). Dog “addicts” will be offered inanimate fluffy dog substitutes, and encouraged in canine cessation programmes to give up their dogs. Canine Control officers will comb neighbourhoods shooting dogs, cats, budgerigars, parrots, hamsters, and any other animal they encounter (Here are several graphic reports of dogs being shot on sight by police in the USA).

Absolutely everything is under attack. Marriage is under attack. Gender differences are under attack. Christianity is under attack. Nation states are under attack. Borders are being thrown open. Everything that was once perfectly normal is being derided and de-normalised. The world is being turned upside down.

An explosion is coming.

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Loathsome Politicians

What is it about politicians that makes them all so loathsome?

I can remember every single British Prime Minister all the way back to Harold Macmillan, and I can safely say that I loathed every single one of them.

In fact, I don’t think I loathed Harold Macmillan that much. I don’t remember seeing that much of him. But I remember the rest of them, and I loathed them all.

I think maybe it’s just that I saw too much of them. They were on TV or in the newspapers far too much. You kept seeing their faces staring out at you like Big Brother.

They all started out as being fresh, interesting, new faces. And then they became familiar faces. And then the loathing started. And once the loathing had set in, it only ever got deeper and deeper.

And I loathed some much more than I loathed others. I had a peculiarly intense loathing for Harold Wilson. He had a bumbling insincerity that I came to detest. And I loathed Edward Heath’s sickly wooden smile. And of course I loathed Margaret Thatcher. And most recently Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and David Cameron, who were all equally loathsome, but in different ways.

I haven’t started loathing Theresa May yet. Kitten Heels remains an interesting new face. She hasn’t done anything too awful yet. I  saw a clip of her speaking at the dispatch box in parliament a couple of days ago, and making a slightly risqué joke that had the house roaring with laughter. She can tell jokes. That’s good. Margaret Thatcher couldn’t tell jokes. Neither could Edward Heath.

But if I haven’t started loathing her yet, I’m sure I soon will. It always starts up sooner or later. It took a long time for me to start loathing Tony Blair. He was a rather likeable, regular guy when he first entered Downing Street. And the charm took a long time to wash off. But eventually it did, of course.

It’s not just that I loathed all the Prime Ministers. I loathed all the drab, grey, interchangeable ministers around them as well. And all the trade unionists. Remember Arthur Scargill? And all the London mayors: e.g. Ken Livingstone. Although I haven’t learned to loathe Boris Johnson yet. He’s still rather fun. But the humour is wearing thin.

And of course there was Old Rivers of Blood with his thin crocodile mouth. And the bellowing Reverend No Popery of Northern Ireland. They were deeply – even spine-chillingly – loathsome too.

I reserve my loathing exclusively for British politicians. I very seldom loathe foreign politicians. More or less every French or German politician seemed like a statesman by comparison with the slime in the UK parliament. Charles de Gaulle. Helmut Kohl. Bettino Craxi. Towering figures. Even Soviet leaders had a grim charm about them. Nikita Krushchev, Leonid Brezhnev. And of course the very affable Mikhail Gorbachev. And now the razor sharp Vladimir Putin.

And US Presidents are, as I wrote last night, pretty much Roman emperors. You can’t ignore them. But I haven’t loathed many of them either. John F Kennedy was a superstar, although I think that may have been because he was married to the infinitely refined and beautiful Jacqueline. JFK minus Jackie might well have been just another boring US president, like Gerald Ford. The only US president I got to loathe was Richard Nixon, but that was only during the Watergate affair. And right now I can’t say I even loathe Hillary Clinton. I feel a bit sorry for her, if anything. Although if she ever sets foot on British soil in one of her dumpy pantsuits, as President of the United States, my loathing will be intense.

melaniaIn this respect I think that Donald Trump’s secret weapon is his wife, Melania Trump. She’s another Jacqueline Kennedy. I think she can knock men dead at a range of two miles with those laser eyes of hers. I think she could stop an army with those eyes.

I was listening to Michael Savage complaining yesterday that the Trump family were all so good-looking. Didn’t they have a drooling aunt Norma somewhere, he asked. But actually I don’t think Donald Trump is at all good-looking. He’s ugly like Pompey the Great. And his sons are too. He’s got the face of a bar-room bruiser who’s been in too many fights. It’s really only Melania who is absolutely stunning. Or at least those killer eyes are stunning. If Michael Savage thinks they’re all good-looking, it’s really only because she’s so good-looking that she’d make any doofus she stands next to seem like Cary Grant. Melania Trump is probably the single best reason there is for voting for The Donald: to put a goddess in the White House.

Anyway I think that it’s probably just over-familiarity that makes politicians loathsome. After you’ve seen a face enough times you can see all the flaws in it. And in the end you can only see the flaws. You can see the greed and conceit and mendacity oozing out of every pore of it. And you can also catch it in every inflection of their voice.

If politicians want to stay popular, they should stay out of the public eye. Once they’ve become familiar faces, loathing is sure to follow, like an army of ants. If you want to remain interesting, you must remain unfamiliar. Once they catch up with you, you’re dead meat.

The only reason that artists like David Bowie remained popular for their entire lives is probably because they kept changing their public persona, kept re-inventing themselves, so that nobody ever caught up with them. They remained enigmas. Nobody got the measure of them. The pursuing wolf pack never caught up.

In some ways, a public persona is always changing. If nothing else, it changes as people age. After a while, everyone gets a new persona, automatically.  When the obese Chancellor Nigel Lawson went on a diet, and wrote a diet book, he slimmed down into a different man. And with the lost pounds, my loathing for him also evaporated. Even loathing departs after a while.

A.J. Ayer finally lights up after 17:30 minutes.


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