Roots

Back in about 1955 we lived in an old brick house on the Telegraph Road a hundred yards or so back from the beach in the town of Bathurst (now called Banjul) on the river Gambia in West Africa. It had big airy rooms, and tall wooden shuttered sash windows, and wooden floorboards you could see between into the rooms below, which were full of whirring, clattering telegraph equipment. There was no running water, and the toilet had a bucket under it that got removed at night, sometimes when you were sitting on it. Drinking water came in small quantities from a condenser. Milk came from milk powder mixed with this water. There were big spiders on the ceiling, that bounced off the floor if they fell. We slept under mosquito nets, and if you slept with an arm against the net you’d wake in the morning with the skin raw where mosquitoes had bitten through the net.

And there were big iron rings set into the wall beneath the balcony that overlooked the beach. My father said was that was where slaves used be kept in chains. And maybe they were. After all, this was one of the ports of departure of slaves to the New World, and the house was probably 150 years old – old enough to have seen slaves.

The garden around the house was all sand, because Bathurst was really just a sand spit. There were mango trees in the garden, and we ate lots of their big juicy purple mangoes. Hairy fruit bats with leathery wings also fed on the mangoes at night. And there were tall steel frame telegraph masts at each end of the garden, a hundred feet high, aerial wires stretched between. And there were scampering lizards that shed their tails when chased – then grew new, sometimes double ones.

Between the house and the beach there was a Muslim cemetery from which the yellowing bones got slowly washed out onto the beach. And further up the beach there were big dead sharks that the local fishermen had caught, with only their conical heads remaining attached to a cartilaginous spine, all the flesh stripped off. Further up the coast there was a creek, inhabited by crocodiles, their twin eyes poking out of the water that ran out between the mangrove swamps onto the beach. In the surf on the beach there were occasionally sharks patrolling. And on the sand there were numerous whitened cuttlefish shells, and stranded iridescent swollen Portuguese Men o’ War with long blue threaded stinging tails. We often watched the sun setting on the western horizon after an afternoon on that beach.

There was also a tide rip on the beach, where two shore currents met, and a resultant strong current flowed out from the beach. One day some sailors from a British naval ship visited the beach and happened to pick the precise spot where the tide rip was to go swimming: two or three of them were drowned.

The port near the centre of the town consisted of a jetty made of palm trees that had been pile-driven into the sea floor off the beach. Just inland from it was the governor’s palatial mansion.

It was baking hot and humid most of the time, with a faint odour of decay. But sometimes there were tremendous storms, torrential rain, thunder and lightning. One night lightning even took big branches off the mango trees.

We had a black gardener called Charlie who used to carry me on his shoulders. But instead of just walking sedately around, he used to crouch down low, and run, making me scream with laughter.

One day the old house got torn down by an engine that pulled out the brick walls with steel cables looped round them. It was replaced by one built of concrete blocks, which had running water and two bathrooms and a kitchen. There were no gaps in its concrete beam floors.

The river Gambia was the place upon which Alex Haley’s Roots was based. But I have roots there too. After all, I once lived there.

It was the most primitive place I ever lived. It’s also the place of which I have the most vivid memories, of scorching heat and torrential rain and mosquitoes and bats and sharks and crocodiles. Modernity had only just started to arrive. It was called the White Man’s Grave, and it had an air of the imminence and the reality of death about it. Death was never far away: I once watched a big snake writhing on the ground as it was being killed with spades on a road nearby.

One day we boarded a Dakota and took off from the primitive airport with its uneven steel mesh runway. I  never went back. I never wanted to. It’s probably all very modern and civilised now, and I’d hate it. I never like going back to anywhere I once lived, because the changes always shock me.

Last I heard, it had become a tourist resort with the beaches lined with hotels. I doubt there are any more crocodiles left in its creeks, or dead sharks and human bones on its beaches. I knew it at a time when it was in transition from one era to another, before its raw, elemental nature had been completely overlaid with a cushioning buffer of civility, with streetlights and roadsigns and traffic lights and adverts and bars and discos and drive-in burger bars.

But it’ll all still be there, six inches beneath the surface. And when the tide of modernity has eventually subsided it’ll be reclaimed by the lizards and bats and mosquitoes and spiders and snakes and crocodiles and sharks.

 

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Yet Another Attempt to get rid of Donald Trump

I’ve been trying to understand what’s happening in the USA. Rush Limbaugh:

RUSH: We’re smack-dab here in the middle of a revolution. We’re in a cultural war, a cultural civil war. And I’ve made the point here that it is a culture war as opposed to political. And as time goes on we’re learning more and more and more about the relatively small group of people who are engaging in this and, in many ways, paralyzing the country, frustratingly so….

These generals, Mattis to Milley to all these guys that have come out and basically disavowed anything to do with Trump to, say, the trip over to the church in Lafayette Park. They’ve made it clear, if Trump calls out the U.S. military to restore law and order, that they may not do it, that they may tell Trump to go take a flying leap somewhere. And he’s aware of this….

…that CHOP zone in Seattle, crack heads, go in there and fix this, enough is enough, let these people know who the boss is, that it isn’t them, restore order, restore private property.

And, yeah, that makes all the sense in the world except, folks, the reason he can’t do it is because the governor and mayors in these places don’t want order restored or they would do it. They are benefiting from this, they think. And the primary way they’re benefiting from it is getting rid of Trump. That remains the overall objective of all of this.

Steve Turley:

Gun Sales SURGE as Massive Forces are RISING UP Against ANTIFA and FAR LEFT!!!

Victor Davis Hanson:

Will the Military back President Trump?

My impression: It’s got nothing to do with race, It’s simply that yet another attempt is being made to get rid of Donald Trump.

Why? Because he’s not a member of the established political class. He’s an outsider who should never have been elected. They want their own people in the top job: Hillary, Romney, anyone would be better than him. More or less the entire mainstream media, and the Democratic party, and quite a few Republicans, are against him.

But that’s precisely why the American people like him: he’s not just another cardboard cut-out politician.

So I think they’re going to vote him back in again in November.

And they’re getting angry, and buying guns, and joining right wing militias.

The most worrying thing to me is these rogue generals. The USA is starting to look like a South American banana republic in which the military periodically overthrow elected leaders.

I think there’ll be big, big trouble if Trump isn’t re-elected. And maybe big trouble if he is.

UK politics is never like this.

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Hate Speech

Some people think that smoking causes lung cancer, and some people don’t.

Some people think human CO2 emissions are causing catastrophic global warming, and some people don’t.

It’s a wonder that anyone has any opinion at all, given that we know little about either cancer or climate or anything else.

Except it  seems that the less we know about anything, the more certain we are about it: complete ignorance is a form of certainty.

And most of our opinions are secondhand: they’re what we’ve been taught by other people. Education is indoctrination. We’re all indoctrinated in one way or other, whether we know it or not. We attend one school, and read one newspaper, and watch one TV channel, and have one set of like-minded friends, and we keep each other in line, like soldiers on parade.

But these days the internet is a new source of multiple divergent opinions. The internet allows everyone to express their own opinions, And that results in a plurality of opinions rather than a singularity.There’s no longer one teacher, one school. one newspaper, one TV channel, one church. And increasingly everybody disagrees with everyone else.

Does that matter?

Can’t we agree to disagree?

But perhaps sometimes it does matter. Sometimes – as in a time of war – we need to all be of one opinion. And then an attempt is made to enforce a singularity of opinion. Dissenting voices are silenced.

And so the current pluralistic internet era will probably one day give way to a singular orthodoxy, from which all dissent is suppressed.

One day my blog will be closed down. And so will everybody else’s. They’ll be replaced by a singular orthodoxy. We’ll all say the same thing.

It could happen very suddenly.

It’s already happening. Dissent is becoming “hate speech“:

Facebook changing hate speech, voter suppression policies

Facebook will now take on an approach similar to that of Twitter, labelling posts that may violate its policies but are allowed to remain on the platform because they are deemed newsworthy.

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What Defiles A Man

Simon Clark has asked me to be a guest speaker at a webinar on smoking and pubs next week. I shouldn’t have too much difficulty: I’ve been writing about it since 2009.

What might I say?

I suppose the main thing about 1 July 2007 (a day I still vividly remember) is that it was the day that I was expelled from society. I’ve never been able to accept the smoking ban that was imposed that day. I’ve been an outsider ever since. And I’m still as angry about it as I was back then. The anger is never going to go away.

I was born in England and I’ll always be English, but England ceased to be my country that day. I became an exile in my own land.

I had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances before 1 July 2007. The acquaintances all vanished that day, and the friends all followed the one by one over the next 10 years, usually when they banned smoking in their own homes, and I no longer wanted to know them.

I’m not a believer in the supposed health risks of smoking. In large part this is because the first antismoker I ever encountered – Dr W – referred to it as a “filthy habit” – which indicated that his was an aesthetic rather than medical objection. But I also don’t think that so-called antismoking “science” is any sort of science at all. To me antismokers seem to be no different from antisemites who also hate an entire class of people for what they are. They are people who think more of themselves by thinking less of others.

I don’t know why it is that some people are so concerned about what  goes into people’s mouths, whether eaten or drunk or inhaled. But I think Jesus had it about right:

And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

I don’t think the antismokers will ever succeed in stamping out smoking. I instead think that it will be the antismokers who will be stamped out.

I belong to the pot-smoking generation of the 1960s. They couldn’t stamp out pot back then, and they won’t succeed in stamping out tobacco now.

I’m sure that there’s much more that can be said, But those are a first few thoughts.

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Car Parks

Telegraph:

Pubs allowed to turn car parks into beer gardens under plans to bolster hospitality industry

Is this something new? For it conjured up a vivid memory of visiting a large ivy-covered pub with my parents on the 1950s. and sitting in the car with our drinks, because my brother and I were too young to go inside, and so my father brought the drinks out to the car park. It was something we did quite frequently.

On the other hand, I don’t remember anyone else doing the same thing.

In fact I hardly remember any other cars in the car park. Back in the 1950s hardly anybody seemed to visit English pubs. My mother had something of a terror of alcohol. and regularly regaled me with tales of ancestors who had drunk themselves to death, frequently expressing the fear that I would do the same as soon as I got the opportunity to do so, and imploring me not to. My father had no such fears, and it was a source of regular bickering between my parents.

In the event I never got anywhere near drinking myself to death.  And pub car parks are now full of cars. And so are the roads, which were largely empty in the 1950s. And cars were smaller back then, everyone crammed inside like sardines. My mother also had a terror of any speed above about 40 mph, and this was also a source of regular bickering between my parents. My father was far more adventurous than my mother – but he was a sailor, and sailors are naturally adventurous.

There was no terror of tobacco in 1950s Britain. Over the next 50 years, tobacco seems to have replaced alcohol as the principal cause for alarm. I don’t remember my mother ever recounting tales of relatives who had smoked themselves to death. And now alcohol is easy to buy, and tobacco far harder. The locus of terror has moved on.

And perhaps it has now moved on to coronavirus, and we will all start wearing masks and practising social distancing and  washing our hands – until some brand new terror alights upon us.

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State Political Control

Guardian:

Consumers in England may be asked to check in when they arrive at pubs and restaurants, as part of the the government’s plan for reopening the hospitality sector, Matt Hancock has said…

Asked about reports that ministers are considering plans to ask diners and drinkers to register as they enter a venue, he said: “I wouldn’t rule that out. There are other countries in the world that take that approach.”

In New Zealand, the public use their phones to scan codes as they go into hospitality outlets to build up a “digital diary” of where they have been, so that if a new case emerges, anyone who has been at the same outlet can be contacted easily.

It’s political control, if everyone has to report where they are all the time.

Add to that keeping two metres apart, and wearing masks.

The new coronavirus has provided excellent justification for tight social controls.

We’ve had six months of it already. If there’s a second wave, that’ll mean another six months. Will the restrictions ever be lifted?

Vaclav Klaus:

Q: The “emergency measures” and the restrictions that have been imposed on civilians’ basic rights have served as a reminder of the true extent of the state’s powers. Do you find this worrying and do you see a risk that these new, extraordinary powers might not be as easy to roll back once the crisis is over?

VK: The restrictions on basic civil rights that were introduced so swiftly and so easily demonstrate the power of the modern state, with all its new, “smart“ technologies and drastically expanded enforcement capabilities. Economists often talk about the so-called “ratchet effect”, or the limited ability of existing processes and dynamics to be reversed and to return to normal once a specific event has radically altered them. It is true of prices, of productivity and it is also true of social and political systems. Therefore, I am afraid it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to return to the pre-corona days.

CG: In your view, what can we do to take back at least some control of our own future?

VK: It’s quite simple. The people should say “NO” to all of it. Otherwise, what lies ahead is a real-life approximation of the dystopian “Brave New World” of Aldous Huxley.

 

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Disbelief

Infowars:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the polarising director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, slammed everyday Americans for refusing to go along with ‘authority’ on medical matters, and accused people of ‘amazing denial’ when it comes to ‘truth’.

Speaking on a podcast called Learning Curve, produced by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Fauci charged that “unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are — for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable — they just don’t believe science and they don’t believe authority.”

Why should anyone believe authority? Why should anyone believe science?

I don’t automatically believe authority. I don’t automatically believe science. I’ll listen carefully to scientific authorities. But I’ll have my doubts about about the veracity of what they say. Science is a process of discovery, and implicit in the idea of discovery is the recognition of ignorance: there are a lot of things that nobody understands. In my view, an unquestioning belief in scientific authority amounts to credulity: believing everything you’re told. I don’t believe everything I’m told.

I’ve spent the past two years building my own climate model, precisely because I don’t believe what I’m told by climate scientists (who all disagree with each other anyway). I want to try to think for myself. I used once to construct heat flow models, so I know roughly how to do it. Yet I also don’t trust myself. I’m never certain about anything.

I was in hospital for a couple of weeks recently, but I don’t think the doctors knew what was the matter with me. None of them claimed to know either. Some of them guessed that I’d had a heart attack, but it was just a guess. Truth was that they didn’t know. And neither did I.

But that’s how it is with everything, all the time. We just don’t know.

Does anyone understand the new coronavirus pandemic? Not really. Different countries have responded to it in different ways, and that in itself indicates that there is a plurality of opinions about it, and they can’t all be right. If they knew what needed to be done, they’d have done it by now. So the pandemic is still sweeping the world. And this will continue until it eventually dies out, if it eventually dies out

For the past few days I’ve been watching historians give talks on YouTube about WW1 (like this and this and this). That’s something else I don’t understand. How could millions of men blaze away at each other with rifles and howitzers for four whole years? It was crazy. Completely crazy.

After listening to lots of the historians, who had lots of interesting things to say, it was clear that they didn’t know either. And they all had slightly different opinions anyway. I came away with the feeling that it could all happen again the next time some archduke gets shot somewhere, and nobody will know why it’s happening.

But that’s how it is with everything: we don’t understand. Nobody understands. And maybe they never will.

In such circumstances it is the right thing to do to not believe authorities. and not believe science.

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Thunderstorms

We had the first thunderstorm of the year in Herefordshire yesterday, and I found myself wondering if this was supposed to be evidence of  a “climate crisis” or even a “climate emergency”:

in January 2020 issue of the scientific journal BioScience, a group of over 11,000 scientists argued that describing global warming as a climate emergency or climate crisis was appropriate.[14] The scientists stated that an “immense increase of scale in endeavor” is needed to conserve the biosphere

But over the past 70 years of my life I’ve seen lots of thunderstorms in England, and yesterday’s  seemed no worse than any of the others. There was nothing unusual about it.

I simply don’t see any “climate emergency” or “climate crisis” happening.

I might feel differently about it if there were thunderstorms and torrential rain every day, but there aren’t any more than before. I see little or no change in Britain’s climate.

What I instead see is an attempt to use exaggerated claims of climate change to justify not just political change,

NASA’s Dr. Kate Marvel: “Climate justice and racial justice are the same thing, and we’ll never head off climate catastrophe without dismantling white supremacy.”

but also a Marxist-Leninist revolution:

Lund University academic: ‘To Halt Climate Change, We Need an Ecological Leninism’

along the lines of the coronavirus lockdown:

“If you were able to intervene to protect us from the virus, you can intervene to protect us from the climate crisis as well, the implications of which are much worse.”

I wonder what Lenin would have made of it all.

Anyway we now have meaningless “climate justice” rubbing shoulders with equally meaningless “racial justice” and “white supremacy.”

And now cancer is being added into the mix

Physicist Dr. Ralph Alexander: “Now the most preposterous claim of all has been made, that climate change causes cancer.

The coronavirus lockdown was, of course, itself the unnecessary  response to yet another exaggerated threat,

The result, as Nigel Farage points out, is loss of trust in the mainstream media:

“Whenever I turn on the BBC, it could be Channel 4, it could be Sky, it doesn’t matter… we are completely bombarded by a narerativ that somehow we are awful, terrible, backward, knuckle-dragging, racist people, and we should be deeply ashamed. Not just of who we are today, but everything we’ve ever stood for as a nation. That message, that narrative is coming out of mainstream media constantly, day on day on day,” he lamented.

Everyone is just switching off.

With luck there’ll be another thunderstorm today.

And another one tomorrow.

Hurray! We’ve just had another thunderstorm.

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Political Volcanoes

James Delingpole asks:

how much time needs to elapse before a historical crime is considered expiated?

Should the Italian government be paying Britain reparations for the indignities its legions and slave-keeping elite inflicted on our people from 55BC to 388AD?

The imposition of slavery was an ancient crime of such magnitude that it might still demand reparations nearly 2000 years later.

In addition a commentator called David Frum, from the other side of the political spectrum, described (2:20) Donald Trump as

“The worst human being ever to enter the presidency – and I include all the slave-holders.”

What was so bad about slavery that both Left and Right unite to condemn it?

This is a serious question. Slavery was ubiquitous in antiquity, yet neither the Greeks or Romans (nor anyone else) seem to have regarded it as immoral. They seem to have regarded it as an unremarkable fact of life. Were they in some way morally deficient in ways that we enlightened moderns no longer are? At what point did slavery become reprehensible?

The answer to the second question seems to be that: Slavery became intolerable as soon as we no longer needed slaves. And we no longer needed slaves once we had replaced them with machines during the industrial revolution.

In fact much the same thing happened with the coal that initially powered the steam engines during the industrial revolution. Once coal began to be replaced with other fuels, it began to be regarded as a toxic, dirty fuel, and carbon dioxide produced by burning it became a dangerous greenhouse gas. After using it for several centuries, we now demonize carbon and carbon dioxide.

It is as if, after ceasing to need something, we suddenly discover everything that’s wrong with it. Or we suddenly find that the disadvantages of using it outweigh the advantages. We suddenly start emphasizing the costs rather than the benefits.

And it seems to be an overnight step change in perception, a moral revolution in which all the values change. People start seeing the world in a new way.

Or some of them do, while the remainder continue to see it the way they did before. And this brings them into collision with each other.

This seems to be what happened in the American Civil War, when the northern states industrialised and the southern states did not. In the north slavery became not just redundant, but intolerable. In the south it continued to be accepted as the necessary underpinning of an agricultural economy. This set up a clash between two value systems that couldn’t co-exist.

Slavery was tolerable while some people – slaveowners -benefited from it, and could be relied upon to support it. It became intolerable when it ceased to benefit anyone, and losers started outnumbering winners. And that’s when the value system inverted.

If America is now (rather suddenly) once again near the point of civil war, might it be that the moral conflict that led to civil war one and a half centuries ago is still present, and still active? Why are we only now being told that “Black Lives Matter”, when it would have been far more relevant in a time when there actually was slavery in America? Does it not suggest that the moral conflict is still as intense as it was one and a half centuries earlier? How long does it take for these disputes to fade away? Do they ever entirely vanish?

I’ve recently been reading about how Europe moved from peace to war in 5 weeks in 1914, And I’ve generally been reading it with the belief that such a war would be inconceivable today. But within Europe there are the same kinds of ancient moral disputes as there are in America today. We are all sitting on the top of political volcanoes that can erupt as suddenly as Vesuvius in 79 AD.

 

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Meaningless Mantras

Do we have a “Climate Crisis”?

I keep hearing about it. It even has is own Wikipedia page.

But I still haven’t seen it anywhere. So I don’t think there is one.

And what is “Climate Justice”?

What the heck has the climate got to do with justice?

Nothing.

Bill Maher” on Defund the police”:

Many people are simply unclear about what “Defund the police” even means, he said during his opening monologue.

So that’s meaningless too. Some people are saying that “Defund the police” actually means “Reform the police.” But “”defund” doesn’t mean the same thing as “reform”.

And what about the latest: “Silence Is Violence”?

Silence is not violence. They just happen to end in “-lence”. That’s all they’ve got in common.

All these confections of words are essentially meaningless.

And there are more and more of them. Readers can no doubt think of several more.

Using them is a way of ending debate, because nothing is being said by using them.

And that’s probably the intention: To prevent debate.

 

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