Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Rudolph the Valued Member of the Reindeer Community

“[I]nclusive school programming may allow children to perceive . . . reindeer such as Rudolph as a reindeer, not as a ‘red-nosed reindeer’.”

Susan Gately, “A Textual Deconstruction of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Utilitarian, Mechanistic, and Static Constructions of Disability in Society and in SchoolsEssays in Philosophy, Vol. 9:1, January 2008, wherein we happily learn that “Rudolph eventually rejects the institutionalized notion that one with a red nose has no worth.”

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Out of Sobriety

Apartheid — let us give thanks for a word as holy as it is useful in the defamation of all that is private, selective, and independent! For it is with due reverence that we can say today that schools “dedicated to excellence . . . [but] detached from the mainstream national education system” have created “the apartheid which has so dogged education and national life in Britain since the Second World War”. [1] If only we had known it was apartheid all these years! — then we would have done something about it: we would have gone on marches, had benefit concerts, bought posters and t-shirts, and done badly in our exams in solidarity with our state-educated brothers. As it was, we had forgotten “that our work in the sphere of education is part of the struggle for overthrowing the bourgeoisie” [2]; and, as it is, the realisation has come late, such that the situation is now dire:
Privately educated people dominate politics, the civil service, the judiciary, the armed forces, the City, the media, the arts, academia, the most prestigious professions — even, as we have seen, the Charity Commission. [3]
What is to be done? “[W]ho is prepared to fight the necessary class war?” [4] I tell you: there is nothing for it but to shut down these divisive schools, carpet-bomb Islington and Hampstead, and have the Home Counties placed under quarantine, a course of action that would be fully in accordance with our new-found sobriety.
[1] Anthony Seldon, “Enough of this educational apartheid”, The Independent, 15th January 2007.
[2] V. I. Lenin, Speech at the First All-Russian Congress on Education, 28th August 1918, from V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Ed., Vol. 28, tr. and ed. by G. Hanna (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1966), pp.87, reproduced online at From Marx to Mao.
[3] George Monbiot, “Only class war on public schools can rid us of this unhinged ruling class”, The Guardian, 22nd January 2008. (Mr Monbiot is one amongst several privately educated people in the media who stands nobly and resolutely by his position in furtherance of the cause of putting an end to the dominance in the media of the privately educated.)
[4] Ibid.

From the BBC

I heard a BBC reporter call the British Council “scrupulously non-political”, a phrase which I must suppose has the sense of: prevailing left-liberalism indistinguishable from that of the BBC.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Fewtril #224

It is said that our age of machines and mass-movements discredits the whole ethos of chivalry as the useless relic of another age — such words wherefrom we learn that utilitarian minds do not reckon otherwise: that it is a lack of chivalry and the triumph of utility that discredits our age.

Fewtril #223

Art, we are told, must be accessible to all, as if it must serve the purpose and attain the status of a public convenience.

Fewtril #222

Those who deplore the stance of us-and-them adopt it towards those who laud it.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Further Decadence

HM Government has employed someone to tell us that Britain is about to undergo a “new Renaissance” that will produce “the greatest art yet created”. [1] Well, say what you like, but when our government tells jokes, it tells them well. (Speaking of jokes, is it not funny that we have a minister of state for culture in a land sincerely devoted to trash?) The present minister for culture, James Purnell, hopes for “the reclamation of excellence from its historic elitist undertones”. [2] On we go, comrades!

[1] Sir Brian McMaster, “Supporting Excellence in the Arts”, quoted by John Harris, “Britain on verge of ‘new Renaissance’, minister claims”, The Guardian, 5th January, 2008.
[2] Quoted by John Harris, ibid.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

The Bishop and the Wordmonger

The Bishop of Rochester is a “vicious bulldog” who has used “unholy tactics”, the effect of which has been “to suffuse toxic fear through the land” — or so says Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, foreigner to understatement and perennial foe of moderate language. “Whatever his psychological flaws”, says she, “his latest rant in a right-wing newspaper cannot and should not be forgiven.” [1] His great offence: — to speak of no-go areas “where adherence to [Islamic] ideology has become a mark of acceptability” and where “[t]hose of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work” [2], a state of affairs to which Ms Alibhai-Brown herself as much as admits: “There are indeed some localities where Wahabi Islam has taken a hold and imposed cultural separatism between those believers and the rest”. [3] Perhaps then the offence is that the bishop took to speaking of this matter without the leave or consultation of mediators such as Ms Alibhai-Brown, professionals who might always be trusted to find the right words.
[1] Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, “No-go areas that are all in the bishop's mind”, The Independent, 7th January 2007.
[2] Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, “Extremism flourished as UK lost Christianity”, The Telegraph, 7th January 2008.
[3] Alibhai-Brown, op. cit.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

The Epoch of the Ant-Hill

A society that is subjected to the glare of sociology comes to be regarded, for the sake of understanding, as an example of an abstract system of relations and forces, rather than as an instance of the affairs of actually existing persons. In its scheme, men as persons no longer exist; there are only men as perfected type-individuals. Outside the dreams of sociologists, bureaucrats and other miscreants, such a society does not exist — as Margaret Thatcher notoriously and rightly indicated — but the great threat of its approximation looms whenever sociology finds its way into the minds of the powerful, wherewith — no longer merely descriptive but prescriptive — it tends to make a society in its image.
.....It is of great importance, therefore, to note the turn of thinking that has come with the monstrous presumption that society — that is to say, all those persons and associations conceptualised as a unity under the jurisdiction of the powerful — is something that can be run, not guided, not ruled, but run as if it were a machine-system; and yet, as it happens, it can be run, but only to the degree of the dissolution of the persons that are its actual constituents.
The age of great men is going; the epoch of the ant-hill, of life in multiplicity, is beginning. The century of individualism, if abstract equality triumphs, runs a great risk of seeing no more true individuals. . . . [S]ociety will become everything and man nothing. [1]
It is atomised individuals — stripped of character and personhood, place and belonging, and therein made equal to one another — who make the most perfect mass-men. Yet, imbued with a set of causes and crusades, and with a political moralism that strives for universality, they can become whole again — but not whole persons.
[1] Henri-Frédéric Amiel, 6th September 1851, Amiel’s Journal, tr. M.A. Ward (London: Dodo Press, 2006), p.52.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Fewtril #221

It is perverse that the leaders of a modern nation feel they must honour the memory of the great men to whom that nation owes what it possesses in high culture and civility, and yet, were those great men alive today, they would be reviled for holding opinions that those leaders profess to find uncultured and uncivilised and unfit for the standing of a modern nation.

Fewtril #220

Fair consideration of impolitic or outmoded views requires an effort that can be more profitably spent in seeking favour with the times, whereby it is more efficient simply to hate them.

Fewtril #219

Through a strength of confidence hitherto unknown, the frivolous have learnt to take themselves and their works seriously — precisely those things for which their frivolity is apt.

Fewtril #218

With principles that leave the dirty work to others, one can enjoy a spotless conscience by which to condemn those others.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Amidst All This Bustle

“There is nothing which is not the subject of debate, and in which men of learning are not of contrary opinions. The most trivial question escapes not our controversy, and in the most momentous we are not able to give any certain decision. Disputes are multiplied, as if every thing were uncertain; and these disputes are managed with the greatest warmth, as if every thing was certain. Amidst all this bustle ’tis not reason, which carries the prize, but eloquence; and no man needs ever despair of gaining proselytes to the most extravagent hypothesis, who has art enough to represent it in any favourable colours.”
David Hume, Introduction to A Treatise of Human Nature (New York: Dover Publications, 2003), p.ix.


“The security-council of the Feminist Association of Iceland has accused the directors and management of Valitor (Visa Iceland) of working for and taking part in the distribution of pornography.” [1] I must admit that I am taken aback — the Feminist Association of Iceland has a security-council! I cannot deny that I should be most delighted if it transpires that they also have an underground base with a monorail and a central control-room with a large screen showing a world-map. Suffice to say, a couple of sour-faced old trouts sitting around in the study-room of some dreary building at the University of Reykjavik plotting ways to sound more important doesn’t excite my romantic sensibilities quite so much.
[1] [“Öryggisráð Femínistafélags Íslands kærði forstjóra og stjórn Valitor - Visa Ísland, fyrir að stuðla að og taka þátt í dreifingu kláms.”] Auði Alfífu Ketilsdóttur, “Femínistafélagið kærir Vísa-klám”, (Morgunblaðið), 11th December 2007.


Just as “there are no human races, just the one species: [H]omo sapiens”, [1] so there are no equine breeds, just the one species: Equus caballus; for, since intra-specific categories are subsumed by definition under just the one species, those categories are somehow obviated.
[1] Simon Underdown, “Race against time”, Comment is Free (The Guardian’s weblog), 12th December 2007. (Italics and capitalisation added.)