Tuesday, 3 November 2009

A Tale of Two Whingers

Being an annoying busybody is apparently pretty lucrative these days:

'The ruling marked the end of an eight-year battle by a Finnish-born mother, Soile Lautsi. She took her cause to court after failing to get crucifixes removed from the school at which her two children were being taught at a town in north-east Italy...

The court disagreed. "The presence of the crucifix could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign, and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion," it ruled, ordering the Italian state to pay Lautsi €5,000 (£4,476) in damages.'

8 years?! An immigrant spends eight years trying to change the way of life in a country that has been generous enough to let her live there, and instead of telling her to get a life and go away, she is awarded with £4,476

I find this whole thing very bizarre. I am in favour of population movement within Europe, but think that the individual states have a right, if not an obligation, to be bullish about their values. Otherwise they will end up a multicultural mess like the USA, where small pressure groups can tilt the 300,000,000 inhabitants any way they want. Apparently the European Court of Human Rights thinks that Lautsi is more than an excruciating, self-pitying busybody and want to shower her with gold.

As a Brit, I feel pretty uncertain about the EU. I just don't know if our neo-liberal shower will destroy our values and civil liberties faster than Brussels will. The EU is a more optimistic idea than post-imperial Britain, but satan can create optimism as much as God can.

In my previous post I wrote about a busybody- sorry, human rights activist, who was paid handsomely for her 8 year struggle to change the popular laws of the country that was kind enough to give her residence. Johann Hari also seems to have found that modern Europe amply rewards self-serving hysterical secularists. And this article demonstrates just what level of journalism gets awarded in modern Britain.

Firstly, it is a classical example of how farcical the whole 'debate' about Darwinism v Intelligent Design is. Whilst I do not think that 'Intelligent design' is a credible theory, I don't think that many Darwinists actually realise what Darwinian evolution is. This article by militant atheist Hari conveys the impression that Darwinism is atheist Intelligent Design:

'Think about the hunter-gatherer tribes that we lived in a few minutes ago (in evolutionary terms). Those ancestors of ours who identified the most powerful or abundant people in their group, worked their way into their entourage, and imitated their ways were obviously more likely to survive. Seeking out celebs had an evolutionary advantage – so they passed this instinct on to us. The people who thought it was dumb to act this way dropped off the human family tree.'

Really? So there is the inheritance of acquired characteristics after all? Those who beat the drum loudest for Darwin don't seem to really get his ideas.

The article itself is far more interesting as an artefact than as a work. As is often the case, Hari tries using the English language to attack religion. As always, the English language gets the worst abuse:

'Our innate celebrity-instinct used to be directed in really dangerous ways – towards finding revering (?) warriors like Achilles, who killed so many people that Homer ran out of names; or towards fanatics like the Catholic saints who believed God was talking to her.'

'Her' is not a plural pronoun and 'finding revering'? It is sad, in a sense that our papers don't seem to employ writers with much grasp of the English language. Or ideas. Hari's argument is that celeb culture is fine because otherwise people would be totally religious and fanatical and stuff. It doesn't occur to him that the Iliad is a stunning work of poetry, and not a literal guide to what happened in Troy. Furthermore, in an age where one would probably die of tooth-decay or septic cuts, being chopped to pieces by some foreigner would probably be a pretty groovy way to go.

As an article it is painful to read.

Hari wrote previously about celeb culture, criticising people for attacking Jade Goody after she died. I did agree with him on that account, but thought it notable he didn't mention Michael Parkinson's contributions to the criticisms. Whilst I don't think Parky chose the best time to draw attention to Goody's shortcomings, he is himself from a working class background, and is a relic from a vanishing age when Britain's working class children could expect a proper education and become literate and articulate members of the media class. The strange paradox is that whilst there is an appalling dumbed-down celeb culture, due to the education system, working class children probably have less chance of becoming educated figures in the media establishment than they have ever had. Having said that, the British middle classes are as vulgar as anyone else, and as immersed in celeb culture as the people they love to hate.

Still, these two articles sound the death knell of the 'left'. I regard myself as centre left because I dislike neo-liberalism, believe that a society has a moral duty to care for the most vulnerable members and dislike statist right. However, the left is crumbling in standing up to the neo-liberal right (ironically enough, when neo-liberalism is weakest) and has come to support positive discrimination for big mouthed whiners.

So what will replace the left?


  1. Hi Gregor,

    Presumably the Finnish immigrant is paying taxes which pay for the Italian school system and is entitled to a say in the running of the school? You seem to use the word immigrant in a pejorative sense but I don't see why an immigrant shouldn't have a say in influencing a country through that country's legal system.

    Personally I think it's probably best to keep religion out of education and let people make up their own minds about whether they want to follow a religion when they are old enough to make their own decision - not influenced by family/ peers.

    I do agree that Johann writes complete rubbish though...

  2. Hi Gareth

    Thanks for your comment. Entitled to a say in running the school is one thing. She was obviously in the minority, so most people would accept the democratic decision, and shut up. But she waged an eight year campaign, enforced a legal decision and then the arm of the Italian state was twisted by a monolithic bureaucracy in another country.

    As for using 'immigrant' in the pejorative sense, far from it. Not only are most of my closest friends immigrants, but I am myself considering migrating. If I did go to Greece I would show utmost respect for their institutions and values, which I think is only fitting for an immigrant. Ironically enough, obnoxious immigrants like her are a gift for nationalists and may see the collapse of the EU's free population movement which has been an especial blessing to me.

    Secondly, it was not 'influencing a country through that country's legal system', but going to a foreign court to impose a decision which the Italian state overwhelmingly opposed.

    Presumably you are in favour of democracy, so don't you find it worrying that Brussels can decide to change a custom supported by over 80% of Italians? You are entirely entitled to your view on secularism (which I don't strongly disagree with re secular countries like Britain or France) but when a nation overwhelmingly opposes it, don't you think they are also entitled to their opinions?

    Sadly, it seems to me that the left is increasingly blind to bigotry if it is against host nations: and this Finn seems a perfect example of this. As my hero Erast Fandorin says, 'if you live in a country you can do two things: cherish it or leave it'. No one was forcing that Finnish woman to stay in Italy, but rather than showing gratitude for their hospitality, she got a foreign bureaucracy to force them to change.

    If I did move to Greece and disliked it, I would return to Britain. Yet I would feel gratitude that they at least let me try to live there.

  3. Hi Gregor

    I am a right-winger and I do believe that the society should take care of its most vulnerable. I also think that the state should provide adequate education to everyone so that social mobility is ensured. I do not think these things are hard to deliver even with my righ-wing point of reference. Unfortunately the left has been focusing too much on ensuring material equality instead of social mobility.

    I am starting to be really irritated by these 'groovy' atheists. They are getting even more obnoxious than certain of these Evangelical Christians.

  4. Hi Leos
    Great to hear from you and hope the studies are going well. Interesting you say what you did because one of my favourite left wing journalists* has written something similar recently:


    In a sense I agree with you as well, but I would phrase it as 'the left has been expanding welfare to patch up the damage of neo-liberalism rather than reinvigorating manufacturing and creating both working and academic employment'.

    However, do you believe that 'the invisible hand' will do this? It seems to me that this is what the 'right' believe.

    In a sense I suppose it is fairly simple being British because we have such an awful Conservative party which has only two interests: a religious adoration for the USA and preserving the Brit plutocracy. Highly qualified Tories who differ (Clark, Rifkind) will be shoved aside for superficial PR creeps like Cameron.

    *Neil Clark has been hounded out of The Guardian and other positions despite being one of the most articulate and well-travelled left wing journalists. Seeing most of the rabble that now write for Te Graun demonstrates that being left wing now means being a social liberal internationalist war-mongerer rather than someone who believes in helping the working class, helping communities and preserving national cultures.

    I could do without Neil's nostalgia for Janos Kadar, but at least he prints comments of those who disagree with him and politely replies.

  5. I believe the invisible hand needs to have at least some handcuffs on. Although this does not sound very right-wing capitalist my proposition goes contrary to the neo-liberal agenda. The neo-liberals view the whole world as one free market arena, I am more of a protectionist, nationalist and isolationist. You will have a welfare class in this country as long as your industries will be transfered to Eastern Europe or Asia in the name of profit.

    If Burberry wants to transfer to China, I'd place heavy taxes on their products as a punishment. Italian clothing is still made in Italy. I am no econominst however so I can't explain why that is.

    The left in my view is those that promote borderless world. And honestly I believe neo-liberalism is more left-wing than right.

  6. Hi Leos
    It seems that we agree more often than not, but some points to consider.
    1) I think that 'left' and 'right' are terms lacking any objective meaning and can only be applied to the present battle lines. At one stage the British Conservative party were well to the left of modern Labour.
    2) When Pat Buchanan tried running on a protectionist-conservative ticket he received a minute fraction of the vote. This suggests to me that if you define 'right' as you do, then very few people are 'right wing'. Pat Buchanan (a Ron Paul supporter) was described as 'an economic leftist' by Andrew Sullivan (a Barack Obama supporter). This may seem crazy, but given the strange popularity of Sullivan, I would say that is how we'll have to define the spectrum.
    3)British/American 'right wing' papers frequently refer to Berezovsky as a dissident. By contrast it seems only the left is now willing to point out the silliness of the oligarch=dissident viewpoint
    4) As someone who is proud to be a European and who thinks that for all its faults, Europe is a bright continent, I do think that the modern left is gradually offering the best way of preserving our cultures and values. I don't agree with all that he says, but I think Neil Clark's blog offers some interesting stories on left wing European parties who detest racism but oppose neo-liberalism.