Thursday, 1 September 2005
Wednesday, 31 August 2005
.....According to a report in The Sunday Telegraph (28th August 2005), the GCSE in Leisure and Tourism sets such tasks as “Describe what customers need to do to receive a delivery service from an Indian take-away restaurant”, and “Other than Indian food, name one other type of food often provided by take-away restaurants”. (Regarding the latter task, I feel it is only fair that the writer of the examination paper ought to be set with a task such as “Other than the one here, give another example of a tautology”.)
.....If I were to speculate about the future of education, then I would say that thirty years hence we might see a GSCE in Bolstering One's Self-Esteem, an A-Level in One's Petty Personal Opinions, and a PhD in Feeling Good about One’s Self through Bogus Scholarship. But this would be easy speculation; for these are already present in all but name.
Wednesday, 24 August 2005
.....As I say, Weekly Worker is the organ of the CPGB (PCC), and it shows all the sore sedition of its socialist forebears, and no fewer of their fantasies. Therein, for instance, a chap by the name of Peter Manson writes with all the bolshiness that a brat can bring to bear. Perhaps if daddy had bought him that pony for his thirteenth birthday, he would have turned out to be an altogether different man. Perhaps then little Peter wouldn’t have determined to continue his tantrum all the way into his adult life. What is certain, however, is that the now adult Mr Manson is angry at the West, and wishes us to glimpse a better world of solidarity, slaughter and socialist revolution:
Just as the ruling class knows who its main enemy is, so too do we. That is why we are for the defeat of the US-UK occupation [in Iraq] and, what is more, uphold the right of the peoples of Iraq to expel the invaders. However, we are not indifferent to the political programme of the Iraqi resistance. In fact there is not a single resistance: there are many resistances, including those who at present are not using the methods of armed struggle......True, if we had to choose, we would prefer the victory even of the islamists or Ba’athists to that of the imperialists. But we do not have to choose between these two forces. We favour the imperialists being driven out at the hands of a working class-led movement, and, crucially, using the crisis caused by the occupation of Iraq to bring about regime change in both the US and UK.
Peter Manson, “Defend the ‘Traitor’ George Galloway”, in Weekly Worker, 589, Thursday, 11th August 2005.
Tuesday, 23 August 2005
.....Empirically, breeds in dogs and races in humans are similar. Yet in cherished belief, they are wholly different. Under no political compulsion to see breeds of dog as anything but what they are – as having biological reality –, we can see breeds of dog for what they are. But under political compulsion to see human races as anything but what they are – as having biological reality –, we can be compelled into thinking them a social myth.
.....At least this is how it is in the West. In Japan, for instance, the claim that human races are a myth would strike most as utterly against all evidence; and so it is, but then the population of Japan has not yet been reduced to the level of useful idiocy that the West now enjoys. In England, the mere mention of the possibility of the biological existence of race brings everyone out in a sweat. Good people just know that race is an outdated and unscientific concept, so outdated and unscientific, in fact, that any rational discussion or modern scientific evidence to the contrary is deemed heretical.
.....It is not only race that we are not allowed to see. In England nowadays, to come to one’s senses and see the world aright is treated as the grossest solecism. We must all commit ourselves to some sacred and binding falsehoods, lest we cause offence to the readily and expediently offendable; we must all repudiate the evidence of our senses and place our faith in the sayings of our intellectuals, lest we be denounced. For have you not heard? While our senses are irredeemably corrupt, and reason a useless organ, the political sayings of our opinion-shapers and masters are the hardest facts and the unchallengeable tenets of truth.
.....Every fallen age has its sacred falsehood to which it is a heresy not to commit, and this age is no different.
Monday, 22 August 2005
The aim of this study was to investigate the themes of masculinity revealed in television professional wrestling programs and to explore the way in which these themes of masculinity were constructed by these programs.
In total, 118 episodes of WWE programming were recorded and analysed for themes of masculinity.
During the initial viewings, it became apparent to the researcher that the announcers, audience and performers were intimately involved in the construction of masculinity. . . . [Moreover] . . . the following major themes were revealed to be significant markers of masculinity and are consistent with the dominant hegemonic masculinity prevalent in North American society: aggression and violence, emotional restraint, dominance, achievement and success, competition, toughness, risk-taking, courage, and heterosexuality. These themes effectively define what it means to be a man in professional wrestling as well as the larger society.
(Danielle Soulliere, "Masculinity on Display in the Squared Circle: Constructing Masculinity in Professional Wrestling", Electronic Journal of Sociology (2005))
Now, for the sake of brevity, I have left out some of the finer details of the method, such as the swallowing whole of the theory of social constructivism; and for the sake of sanity, I have not included all the fatuous results. It is enough to say that, after umpteen-hours watching – sorry, investigating, exploring and analysing – the blusterous exertions of spandex-clad baboons, Ms Soulliere has concluded, firstly, that wrestlers behave like blusterous baboons in spandex, and secondly, that this behaviour is socially constructed.
.....The whole tedious affair could have been boiled down to the following non-argument:
I, and some of the writers I cite, think that masculinity has certain characteristics and is socially constructed.
That which is banal in this study is already known: that society affects men and men affect society. And that which is absurd is yet to be shown: that society constructs masculinity in toto. If I might venture an opinion, I would say it all sounds like a well-paid, socially flippant waste of time.
Friday, 19 August 2005
Thursday, 18 August 2005
Tuesday, 16 August 2005
Darwinism implies that the only eternal life we have is in the recycling of our atoms. I find that comforting.
(“A Life with no Purpose”, The Guardian, 16th August 2005.)
.....Perhaps I do the man a disfavour; for I must concede that I do not know what it is like to be George Monbiot. It may be hell, than which anything – even everlasting oblivion – is more agreeable. If that is the case, then I should like to join Mr Monbiot in finding the thought of his death quite comforting.
Monday, 15 August 2005
.....According to Mr Dowell of The Sunday Times, “The decision to stage the new Cosi . . . is part of an attempt by David Pickard, general director of Glyndebourne, to attract younger audiences to the medium.” The illogic of this ruling philistine goes something like this:
The youth of today is not attracted to x,
Therefore, in order that it is attracted to x, we must make x not-x.
Charlie Parker, a hip-hop producer and creative consultant to this travesty, is quoted as saying: “Traditional British people have to start re-examining themselves and their culture in terms of addressing the new age.” In other words, it is imperative that we destroy all vestiges of culture.
Friday, 12 August 2005
Wednesday, 10 August 2005
Tuesday, 9 August 2005
.....An assumption underlying this claim is obvious: that patriotism is a cause of unhappiness and danger. Another is not so obvious, and may be one of two: that patriotism is either not a cause of happiness and safety, or, if it is, that the happiness and safety brought about by its absence outweighs the happiness and safety brought about by its presence. These two assumptions together are necessary and sufficient for Mr Monbiot’s assertion that an absence of patriotism would see the world “a happier and safer place”.
.....The first assumption is largely uncontroversial: there can be little doubt that patriotism is the proximate cause of some of the world’s unhappiness and danger. But the second is different. Is patriotism not also a source of happiness and safety? Do men not feel happiness in the love of their homeland, and do they not find safety amongst their like-minded fellows? If Mr Monbiot concedes that patriotism is a source not only of unhappiness and danger but also of happiness and safety, then the onus is on him to show that the happiness and safety of its absence outweighs those of its presence.
.....This is not easy to do. One of the hard edges of reality is that man tends to prefer the familiar over the foreign. Against man’s natural proclivities, therefore, a war must be fought if he is to be changed at the intellectual’s preferred pace. The claim that he will be happier and safer because of this war against him, however, is one that can only find a place in the perverse and philotyrannical utterances of intellectuals; for we have seen this war against man’s nature, and nothing has been more productive of slaughter and slavery.
.....There is no doubt that the attitude that Mr Monbiot evinces is more common than it was a hundred years ago; and this must fill Mr Monbiot and other “Friends of Humanity” with hope. Indeed the following statement of his might stand as a gloomy mantra of modern decrepitude:
I am not ashamed of my nationality, but I have no idea why I should love this country more than any other.
Monday, 8 August 2005
Not every part of humanity knows how to do arithmetic,
Arithmetic ‘facts’ are not universally true.
It takes no great brain to spot that the conclusion does not follow from the premise. The conclusion that logically follows is: Arithmetic know-how is not universal. An established anthropological fact this may be, but then I don’t know that it is – I am told so by some anthropologists, but given the past commitment of some anthropologists to using their field not as a means of gaining knowledge of other cultures, but rather as a political tool in the cultivation of their own, I remain sceptical of the claim. Of course, I know that arithmetic know-how is not universal in one sense: amoebas, for instance, cannot add up, and British school-children have great difficulties, but then I doubt these are what the chaps have in mind when they use the phrase “universally true”. So what is meant, then?