Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
In the UK men are three times more likely to kill themselves than women. Every week 84 men commit suicide. Homelessness and sleeping rough is a male thing. There is a generation of lost men attempting to navigate their way in a world that has changed at light-speed.
Given the evidence that young men, in particular, are struggling, you’d think attempts to help them would be welcome. Not so. Those who voice concerns, even from a professional capacity, are immediately attacked.
The Guardian newspaper is leading that charge. Hardly a week goes by without an anti-men article. The language used would attract the 'racist' label if applied to any other group. Much of their venom gets heaped on clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson. Why? Well, because he uses facts and scientific arguments to destroy unfounded opinions. In their latest attack, Peterson is "the evangelist of white male resentment”.
In reality, Peterson is pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. And he does it in a way that is so articulate and compelling, that the politically-correct crowd cannot deal with it. Lacking any evidence for their beliefs, they fall back on ad hominem attacks. Dogged and weighed with cynicism, they wave away the facts further underlining their lack of credibility.
If these people bothered to engage their brains, then listen to what he says, they’d see the clarity of his propositions. He's no evangelist. Instead, he attempts to understand the challenges men face and help them overcome these.
Whether we’ll admit it or not, young men as a group are getting left behind amid the shifting economic, social, and technological landscape. Everyone knows a young man who is struggling. Either in school or afterwards. Failing to launch, emotional issues, or poor interactions with the opposite sex, they flounder.
I’ve seen it in working-class friends and boys from well-off backgrounds. The alienation felt by young working-class men of all colours is troubling. In a de-industrialised economy, these young men are lost. In the past, they had jobs as welders, miners and in the motor-trade. This work defined them, connecting them to a community through shared hardships. Telemarketing and shelf-stacking jobs don’t measure up the same.
Of course, if these blokes complain, especially the white men, it’s assumed that any demands come out of their privilege. When all there want is decent employment and then left alone. To suggest otherwise is lazy, damaging to the debate.
The smart folks at the Guardian have an opportunity to contribute to this debate. But like everything in the current melee, this paper seems to be choosing a polarising path. Navigating a balanced route is too hard.
Perhaps more data will help swing them. Boys are well behind the girls in education terms. This gap is stark, starts young and is not new. For 11 years old the difference is six percentage points. By the age of 16, that’s grown to nine percentage points in England. Its impact annually is 30,000 fewer boys than girls are becoming apprentices; 60,000 fewer go to university every year. Fewer men are entering nearly all the professions. And here one for the feminists, young men earn less per hour on average than women, in both full-time and part-time roles.
Things are no better in the United States. A recent Congressional Budget Office report revealed one out of six young men are either not working or incarcerated. Add guns to the mix then things get messed up. Mass shootings have tripled since 2011, with the majority carried out by young men. Meanwhile, adolescent male suicide rates have increased by 50 per cent since 1994.
Similar data exists across all cultures. In Hong Kong, the suicide rate for males aged 15-24 is triple that of females. But, these statistics have no traction because there is an empathy gap when it comes the challenges young men face. As a result, boys are opting out.
For many, virtual reality has become a haven, and in some instances more structured and rewarding than reality. Thus we see the emergence of terms such as hikikomori - Japanese for “pulling inward”. Along with the rise of movements such as Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW).
Who can blame them for wanting to opt out? The shift into alternative realities disconnects them further. Asking what’s wrong with them or why aren’t they motivated the same way young men used to be, aren't the right questions.
A 20,000-person survey sought to understand what is causing motivational problems in young men. The number one answer chosen was conflicting messages from media, institutions, parents, and peers about acceptable male behaviour.
No wonder. With the rise of “toxic masculinity” classes on college campuses, masculinity is almost a disease. Also, there is a decreasing number of positive male role models showing younger men the path to acceptable manhood.
Jordon Peterson is seeking to understand, then guide these young men. He can do without the sneering, ill-informed diatribe from the Guardian and others.
It's natural to compare. Thus, I find myself assessing the situation of the UK against that of my adopted home in Hong Kong. Reading the press in both places, you'd assume a constant crisis. As is often the case, once you move away from the media-hype, the truth is more prosaic. Except is it?
Both places are in a post-colonial period. Although, coming at the process from different ends. Hong Kong is striding ahead. Its parasite economy feeding with relish off China's surging emergence as a world player. A third runway, a bridge across the Pearl River estuary, a high-speed rail link.
That’s not to ignore issues that dog the fragrant harbour. A growing wealth-gap, stagnant social-mobility and pollution top the list. Yet, Hong Kong continues to move forward. Taxation remains low, as does the crime rate. Jobs abound.
The same can’t be said for the UK. The decline that began with the Suez crisis may be gathering pace. Bad decision after bad decision, as signs of post-colonial decay abound. On all fronts of national life, one imbroglio after another is unfolding with embarrassing frequency. Peter Hitchen’s identified the trend some years ago in his “Abolition of Britain”. His account charted the course from self-confidence to self-denigration. That process rumbles on.
Even with rose-tinted glasses, its impossible not to see that institutions are failing. This manifests itself in a sad litany of floundering public services. Some sacrificed to the exigencies of the market, others because of willful blindness. Cue the Jimmy Saville scandal et al, and the awful rape of girls by gangs. All ignored by the police.
For the past three weeks, the railway system came close to complete collapse. Northern Rail has cancelled or delayed 43% of trains. The Lake District, a favoured holiday destination, currently has no train service. Hotels, campsites, restaurants are all feeling the impact. Thameslink services in the south-east are so intermittent the public never knows if a journey is possible. Left stranded late at night, people sleep in the office or seek hotel rooms. Meanwhile, rail bosses are receiving honours from the Queen on top of record salary payouts.
Much of the blame rests with the government. It's pushed a relentless program of outsourcing, intended to drive down costs. In the process, it also drove down accountability and coordination of projects. Delays in the electrification of lines and a lack of trained drivers gets the blame. Underlying this is serious management shortcomings. Despite all the fancy MBAs and technology, coordination of a national time-table appears beyond them.
Take one example. £858 million spent on electrifying the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh cut six minutes from the journey. Yet, the same trip was nine minutes shorter 40 years ago under British Rail. Currently, Thameslink is cancelling 230 trains a day, and Northern 165. Then you've got the delays. Meanwhile, trains that do run are dirty, with shoddy rolling stock. Anyone who has visited Japan would hang their head in shame. So much for outsourcing and public-private initiatives promising better outcomes.
At the same time, the NHS is in a permanent state of crisis. In the latest reversal of policy, recruitment of foreign nurses and doctors is back on. Of course, it’s overlooked that the NHS always relied on overseas professionals.
Passing through Portsmouth last week, I spotted an abundance of expensive navy ships idle at the dockside. The backbone of the fleet, six Type 45 destroyers, costing £1 billion each, are unable to take to sea. Various explanations exist: a lack of crews and engine problems top the list.
With engines able to deal with the cold waters of the North Sea, we are well-covered in that environment. But, the warmer waters of the Middle East cause a shut-down with total system failure. Nobody thought to tell the manufactures that the Navy may need to operate in warm waters. An engine refit will start in 2020.
HMS Dauntless and HMS Defender haven’t put to sea since 2016. The others undertake short missions in suitable waters. Joining these ships is the Navy's pride and joy. The carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth sits passive without any planes. She requires the protection of Type 45’s, otherwise she’d be a sitting duck in a conflict. No worry. She’s unlikely to be ready for service anytime soon. Delays stretch her time at berth. Since commissioning in late 2017, Big Lizzie spent only six weeks at sea.
Those looking after the less fortunate in British society are also faltering. A so-called “universal credit scheme” introduced in 2013 unified a variety of social benefits. The scheme, designed to save money, has proven costly in both financial and human terms. Heralded as a cheaper alternative, the National Audit Office revealed this week it's more expensive. Besides, those in need are not getting their payments. Stories abound of disabled folks, including ex-soldiers, left without money.
In normal times this shambles would be the focus of Parliament. But these are not normal times. Distracted by Brexit, the political class engages in an endless round of bickering. Internecine warfare is raging through both the Labour and the Conservatives parties. Brexiters and Remainers are at each other throats, in endless circular arguments.
The legal disputes associated with Brexit are head-crackingly complicated. Thus ordinary folks disengage or roll-over in boredom. Few people outside the Parliament bubble can explain what's going on, and those in Parliament are too busy beating each other up.
None of this is encouraging because such significant issues are at stake. I suspect that many who voted out of the EU may take a different decision now. Sold as a straightforward issue, Brexit is far from that. Untangling decades of legislation is proving a massive struggle. And that's before you get to issues of the Irish border, security cooperation and policing. The list goes on.
This week Scottish independence got thrown into the mix. Remember the Scots voted 62% to 38% against Brexit. Thus, the Scots nationalists played their cards to make it clear they want a say in the negotiations. Like Nessie rising from Loch Ness, the great scaly monster of national abolition is revealed in all its ugly menace.
I’m baffled how such a country can attain the best Brexit deal. It can’t organise its defences, health-care or public transport system. Theresa May is fighting battles on all fronts, without much to show for it. She is close to being removed by her own party, while only Labour’s disarray prevents a serious challenge from that side.
The impression is of chaotic EU negotiations. You have to be sceptical the outcome will be favourable. The road ahead looks rocky. As a mood of resignation hangs over the UK, Hong Kong looks like the better bet at the moment.
It’s life-affirming when positive experiences upend your opinions. This happened to me during seven days cycling in Normanby. Two matters stand out. First, the French are so polite and accommodating that long-held beliefs evaporated. Second, the sacrifice of the young men who fought over this terrain in June 1944 is humbling.
Arriving in Cherbourg, a portly lady Gendarme greets me with a cheery “Bonjour, Monsieur”. A scan of my passport, I’m waved off. After that, I soon lost count of the number of “Bonjour’s” that came my way. Fellow cyclists, pedestrians, shop staff and even teenagers. Within moments my Anglocentric view of the surly French vanishes in a wave of politeness.
As if to affirm that I’d got it wrong, the French motorists hung back behind our weighty peloton, even as we blocked narrow country lanes. No horns, no frustrated gestures or signs of irritation. Instead, when they finally managed to pass, an unworried wave. A few offered encouragement.
Could this en masse civility be a seasonal affair? With the 74th anniversary of the World War II landings is a British invasion welcomed? Was it the fact we're cyclists in a nation that embraces the sport with such favour. I’m not sure. Either way, it's welcomed.
In the confusion of being abroad, I greeted a chap with a hearty “Bonjour” for two mornings, until he revealed himself as a fellow Yorkshire. Without a hint of shame, we switch to the vernacular. I suppose Alan Bennett would construct a play out of such happenings.
My main reason for being in Normandy was to visit the landing sites that rose to fame on 6th June 1944. We all know the general thrust of the narrative. The Allies, led by General Eisenhower, parachuted, glided and rushed ashore in a momentous invasion.
Up until that point, the Russians did most of the fighting in the meat-grinder that was the Eastern Front. Side-shows in Africa and Italy tied up some of Hitler's troops, but along with Stalingrad, this operation was a turning point. The figures are staggering: 150,000 soldiers from 12 countries, over 11,000 aircraft and 7,000 vessels. While impressive, it’s the individual acts of courage that stand out. A narrow foothold was secured as the Nazi’s fretted that the attack was a diversion.
One of the most audacious operations involved the taking of Pegasus Bridge. British glider-borne troops arrived just after midnight on 6th June. The bridge straddles the Caen Canal, and with its sister bridge over the Orne River, provides access eastwards. The Germans recognised the importance of the location, protecting it with troops and gun emplacements.
Five gliders managed to land within meters of the bridge, startling the defenders. The sergeant pilots achieved remarkable accuracy, flying at night to land in a tight space. This proximity allowed the troops to gain complete surprise. Lieutenant Brotheridge led a charge across the bridge to become the first to die as a result of enemy-fire that day. Within 15 minutes the site was secure. Later reinforcements arrived.
Further west, a visit to Pointe du Hoc can’t fail to leave a deep impression. A depleted force of US Rangers climbed the nine-story-high cliffs under a hail of gunfire and grenades. Their target a German gun battery threatened the landing beaches except that big guns were not in place. Unaware, the Rangers pressed home their attack. They took fearful losses before overpowering the defenders.
Rangers then held the site for two days against determined German counter-attacks. As a high point at the fulcrum between Utah and Omaha beaches, Point Du Hoc had vast importance. Of the 225 Rangers who landed, only 90 men remained active when the position was relieved on the 8th June.
It’s impossible not to feel moved by the sight of the American cemetery above Omaha Beach. Immaculate lines of crosses stretch into the distance. Each one has a story to tell of courage in the face of terrible odds. In that setting, the extent of the sacrifice of these young men is the sheer number of crosses.
The British cemetery at Bayeux summons similar emotions. Lads from East Yorkshire, Lancashire and every corner of Great Britain rest here. Standing there, my daily worries dissolve as trivial concerns. You find yourself embraced by a new perspective on the machinations of life. Even the young had the decency to put away their mobiles, in quiet in respectful contemplation. There is hope.
Throughout my trip, I saw re-enactors resplendent in uniforms. US Paratroopers, Sailors and British infantry. These guys came from all nations. Poles dressed as US troops; French as British paratroopers and Swiss in Free French uniforms. To add to the authenticity, Sherman Tanks, Willy Jeeps and anti-aircraft guns rolled into villages. At first, I was unsure. It all looked a bit too showy, with a hint of juvenile wargaming.
These people came across as sincere in their attempt to portray a crucial historical event. Respectful, they took time to talk to students explaining the significance of the event.
The true embodiment of the period I encountered at Arromanche and Pegasus Bridge. Elderly veterans posed for pictures. My “thank you” sounded lame. It's far from substantial given the enormity of the task these men undertook. Dewy-eyed they answered questions from wheelchairs. Advancing years have failed to remove the signs of grim-visaged war from their faces. Meanwhile, the surrounding charming pastoral Normandy landscape defies the carnage that took place.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
A trip back to Blighty affirms a view that something has gone astray with British policing. Once the gold standard, by which others measured themselves, their standing is damaged. Meanwhile, they are on a road of mind-boggling silliness. The police have lost direction, as political correctness and its bastard offspring "being offended" continue a relentless rise.
In the process, ordinary folk are confused, confounded and angry. But beware. Don't let that anger surface in public, otherwise, you'll risk the wrath of the ever-present thought-police. These days the police have taken it upon themselves to interfere in free speech. It’s a shame they can’t summon the same vigour to deal with real crime.
Don't believe me, consider this. Police responded to a call to investigate a "racist" dog that barked at a group of men. Then a father asserted a tennis umpire made line-calls against his daughter based on her race. Again, the police got involved.
Race is not the only thing cited. A lady took offence when compared on Facebook to the cartoon character Peter Griffin. She felt it appropriate to call the police, who accepted her report.
In 2015/16 the police dealt at our 11,000 so-called "hate" incidents. No wonder when you consider the classification of "hate": "hostility based on personal characteristics, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or if a person is transgender".
Such a broad definition is bound to catch out most of us. Be honest, we all make statements that may offend. These could get us in trouble, especially when "hostility" is a perceived act by self-appointed victims. Never-mind that this broad definition also infringes on free speech. Further, it plays into the hands of the "safe-space" crowd, who can’t handle contrary opinions.
Which leads us to Tory MP Antoinette Sandbach. The MP for Eddisbury can’t handle critical comments. When one constituent challenged Sandbach, she ran to the police.
Pensioner and churchwarden, Linda Bandhan, was unhappy with Sandbach's stance on Brexit. She had the audacity to email Sandbach asserting the MP is "untrustworthy" and "disloyal". A fair and rational opinion. Sandbach responded by blocking Ms Bandhan. Next, she reported the matter to the police. Fortunately, this blatant attempt to shut-down free-speech backfired. In a moment of sanity, the police declined to investigate.
In the process, Sandbach earned the ridicule she deserved. If Sandbach can’t handle such mild opinions, she’s in the wrong job. How is she going to stand up in a robust debate? This incident is proof of how far the PC culture has penetrated into society.
Meanwhile, Britain is experiencing an unprecedented level of real crime. Reported robberies, murders, burglaries and thefts continue to escalate. In urban centres, moped-muggers are riding around with impunity snatching valuables. In London alone, 22,000 reported cases occurred in the past year. The police are reluctant to give chase for fear the "culprits" get hurt in a pursuit. In other words, the safety of the culprits takes priority. In effect, the police have forfeited control of the situation.
And yet police spent time investigating a bus driver who allegedly gave a passenger a "racist" look. Officers also attended a report of a man standing too close to a lady. As a non-conforming-gender-specific lesbian, she felt intimidated by the man’s proximity. This incident occurred on a busy street. I’m not making this up.
In private, front-line police officers express their frustration. The same can’t be said for their hapless leaders. A National Police Chiefs Council spokesman upheld current practices as "defending the vulnerable". This somewhat sweeping statement ignores the victims of real crime.
With manpower stretched, tying-up officers to deal with wounded feelings is not viable. Ordinary coppers despair, while their office-bound bosses polish their credentials as social justice warriors.
Once again it appears the police hierarchy's motivation is fear of a "racist" or some other "ist" label. This same fear allowed police to ignore the rape of young girls by Asian gangs. It let the activities of nascent terrorists to go unchecked.
The same fear means they won’t investigate alleged crimes by travellers. Citing safety, they’d instead allow the victim to suffer rather than deal with the offence. Police twist health and safety to avoid taking action. In one instance Cambridgeshire Police displayed cowardice by declining to enter a travellers camp to recover a stolen caravan.
Past police failings led to campaigners labelling them as "institutionally racist". The long-term consequence of this branding is a reluctance to tackle criminal activities in minority groups. Hence the constraints on "stop & search" that led to carnage in the black community. Political and community leaders all bear a responsibility for this state of affairs. Although, I suspect they will spin their usual dishonest discourse to twist the truth.
In the meantime, while the police attend to these nonsensical cases, robberies and murders continue unabated. It’s about time a more rational approach prevailed. Police leaders need to step forward to assert they will no longer pander to the self-appointed victims. The police have no business controlling the narcissistic playgrounds of the weak-willed and the cowardly. It would be helpful if they reverted to the primary role of preventing and detecting crime, and by crime, I mean robbery, theft, murder and such.
Every generation complains about the next: “The kids these days!” Since our ancestors chased down the first mammoth, we’ve lamented the upcoming lot aren’t as accomplished as us. It’s nonsense, and we know it. For starters, we weren’t as good as we remember, and anyway, we created and moulded our kids. That makes us partly culpable for any perceived failings, real or not.
We compound our guilt by telling kids their unique and they needn’t worry because we’ll protect them. It’s bollocks. We should be saying them life is complicated, get ready for a few knocks. Plus, set aside the desire for instant gratification.
Hong Kong graduates protest they can’t afford a flat while splashing money on holidays and fancy restaurants. The new norm is frequent job hopping, chasing that elusive career. Is the intrinsic nature of the Internet a factor? The fast-moving games, rapid turn-over, all snap-chatty culture, with no looking down the road.
Long-term, the outcomes from such behaviour, are not healthy. Both the individual and society suffer. A rat trained to move a lever to receive food will over-indulge. The theory is open to challenge, but it illustrates a point. Too much food leads to bloat, overweight and then possible death. The rat can't see the consequences of its actions. Humans have that ability.
Likewise, the young people who focus on the present displace troubles to their future-self. The issue doesn't go away. Those troubles for ‘future-you’ arise from things you don't deal with now. These await you in the coming days, months and years. And the worst thing is that parents are complicit in this process.
I know a 31-year-old man, actually a man-child, who lives at home. He's reliant on his parents, never had a full-time job and isolated. The parents lament this situation. They created it. The man-child is a direct result of their unwillingness to enforce rules. Allowed to drop school, he played no rough games, avoided all difficulties.
Deluded by a strange concept that they could be pals with their son, discipline and guidance were absent. The end product is sitting in his bedroom, playing on a computer. He has no friends, is resentful, angry, disengaged and self-involved. Further, he despises his well-intentioned, yet misguided parents. Their lack of firmness has created the opposite of their desires. And he’s not isolated example. It's happening across the world.
When the bedroom hermit deems to grace us with his presence, he vents forth about the world of privilege. He claims success gets given to some because of their connections. These delusional rants ignore his parasite existence, his failings and the comforts he enjoys on the back of his parents. A nihilistic individual, everything is someone else's fault.
Then you have the earnest student who sacrifices his free-time to study hard. There is no immediate reward. While his friends enjoy themselves in the bar, he'll be head down in the books. His gratification will come later. Better exam results open the door to a career with long-term prospects. His sacrifice pays in his future. A future he shaped.
Such a person has mastered his impulses, controlled those basic animal instincts that demand an immediate reward. These instincts served us well as evolving creatures when food and water are scarce. We’d eat as much as possible when the food arrived. Then over time, we learnt to store some.
Next, we started sharing stored resources with our fellows. If one group had an excess of food, it provides to the less fortunate. On that basis, you expect something in return. Over thousands of years, this evolved as trading as a social contract develops between us. Do something now, earn a reward later. That rule still underpins society as a cultural norm.
Young people need to recognise this evolved value in human culture. Although, I suspect these days we've lost the courage to give them the right steer. Confused parents need clarity. Some are fearful of limiting their kid's freedoms, in case it suppresses some natural creative force. This approach is nonsense.
You can see it every day. A kid is misbehaving, yelling, and creating a scene at the supermarket. Embarrassed the mother falls back on the risible excuse "She's very clever and artistic.”
The little darling may well be creative. That doesn't change the fact that she has to fit into society by obeying some simple rules. Even the most liberated hippy recognises we drive on one side of the road to avoid accidents. Likewise, kids who fail to socialise or learn to cooperate with others, face a difficult life. Over-protective parents shield the child from hurt feelings and the opportunity to learn.
A Yale University student yelling at her professor in anger over a Halloween costume is another symptom. Such a young person is unfit to venture into the world to face harsh realities. Setting aside terrible manners, how is such a person going to handle genuine hardship. Triggered by such a minor issue, this person is useless as a lawyer, who has to listen to stories of rape and assault. Such a person is no value as a police officer or social worker.
What's to be done? For a start, adults - especially parents - need to be honest with themselves and their children. Life is tough, things will go wrong, and most things don’t come easy. Most successful people work hard for their gains. Plus, it’s never an easy journey. They face setbacks, reversals, failures, but bounce back. They don’t claim victimhood or curl-up in a ball bleating.
Sacrifice and hand-work will generally pay off, even if only in modest ways. A life of constant instant gratification offers no such outcome as you end up eating your tail. I’m not suggesting young people need to live like a monk. Far from it. But, they need to recognise they have a narrow window of opportunity that won’t arise again.
Moreover, parents need to be clear that their role is to guide a child to be a useful member of society. Failure to do so is the sin of omission. Remember, you're a parent, not their best mate.
I said I wouldn't write this article. Then my morning stroll today led to an encounter with Jack and Marleen from Portland, Oregon. After the usual exchange of pleasantries about the weather, Marleen ventured "You didn't get an invite to the fairytale wedding.”
I bit my tongue.
So as not to offend, I pointed out the fairytale description is most apt. Then, I reminded my new American friends that fairytales have monsters, ugly sisters and nasty step-parents. Plus, plot twists to keep you on the edge of your seat. This piece is an attempted response to the playful attitude hanging over this Royal wedding.
This Saturday, an ex-British Soldier marries an American actress. So far, so good. She had a role in a TV series called 'Suits'. I've never seen it. He’s had a decades-long role in the unfolding drama of Britain’s longest-running soap opera - the Royal family. Harry, as the son of Princess Diana of Harrods, has remained front-page fodder for his entire life.
We've followed him as he walked behind his Mum’s coffin. Even at a tender age, thrust into the open at the most tragic of times. We’ve followed his gaffes, ups and downs. We cheered him on, as he sprinted for his death-spitting attack helicopter, to bring justice to the Taliban. His target may well have been an innocent tribal wedding or a school outing, depends how the systems functioned that day. Let’s not get side-tracked.
Harry has grown up with us watching and appears to be a decent sort. In recent years his relationship with Ms Markle sent the media into a frenzy. Apparently, she’s black and a divorcée. Although, I have to say I didn’t notice the former. It was a case of “Really, and what’s the issue here?”. Then once the engagement came about, we entered ‘fairytale’ land. This narrative is the troubling part.
Like the start of any decent fairytale, the omens are not promising. In the movie "Men who stare at Goats", Kevin Spacey's character is clairvoyant. Attending a wedding, he congratulates the couple. Then he utters, “Shame, it doesn't work out between you two.” I’m not clairvoyant, and, yet, let’s be honest, it hasn't worked out for many who entered the weird world of the Windsors.
A dark shadow is cast by Diana, Fergie and Captain Mark Phillips. Even Phil the Greek had to surrender himself as subordinate to the Queen. A proud naval officer, a bit of a lad, he gave in and rolled over. Although, he later won the nation’s heart with his mildly racist, grumpy-old-man routine. A sort of upper-class Victor Mildrew, cankerous in a manner old folks get away with. I like him.
Also, this is the first American divorcée to marry into the Royal family in 81 years. The last time it happened a constitutional crisis erupted. Eventually, the King opted to step aside for his brother. There are no such worries this time, as Harry is some distance from the throne.
The relationship between Mrs Simpson and Edward VIII scandalised Britain. This reaction was in part because she remained married during their affair and the morals of the time meant this was unacceptable. Anyway, times have changed.
Nonetheless, for me, the events of 2018 have a sense of deja vu. Doesn’t this sound familiar. In 1981, a similar fairytale rolled out; Charles and Diana. That fable ended with a Mercedes Benz wrapped around a pillar in a Paris tunnel. The Prince in that story married his first love, a shoe-in for the part of the ugly sister. A happy ending of sorts I guess. Meanwhile, the death of Diana wrong-footed the Queen. In an uncharacteristic moment, she misjudged public sentiment and paid the price. Being a sharp operator, she soon recovered.
Never forgot that the Windsors call themselves the 'firm'. That parlance recognises certain basic truths. The modern Royals are a business. Their core product is popularity, which shores up their legitimacy in the eyes of a fickle public. As I've before mentioned, the Royals have a certain utility. By acting as a sort of social glue at times of crisis. To achieve this deft act, they operate outside the political domain, adroitly remaining above the fray. The Queen is exemplary in this capacity. Although, it’s something Brian appears not to understand.
For her new role, Ms Markle has one distinct advantage. She's an actress. Joining the cast of the ‘Windsors’ she's a perfect modern-day fit. This lady has a social-conscious, is a feminist (not too ardent) and of mixed race. It’s almost as if she’s summoned up for the role. Though she will need to stick to the agreed script. Remember, Fergie didn’t play the game, went rogue and paid the price. In the process, she became something of a national joke. That’s worse than getting booted from the ‘firm’.
I detect that Ms Markle may hold strident opinions. While there is nothing wrong with that, caution must prevail. She shouldn’t change her views, except to remember that the English have ‘satire instead of revolution’. This approach doesn’t mean we are too kind. After all, for the English irony is a lethal weapon that can collapse a government. I fear her opinions could expose her to unwelcome ridicule as someone who is ‘pushy’. She’d be well advised to keep things in check, with a degree of modesty. Her future father-in-law suffers because he can’t keep his disjointed ideas to himself.
This weekend will see a period of ‘cultural remission’ as the English do strange things. They will cheer, wave flags and may even talk to strangers. You can have all your pomp and ceremony, the teacups and tea towels. Enjoy the show. But remember these two young people are part of a massive operation. Their marriage, if it succeeds, will keep that operation rolling along. Good luck to them
The SJWs and their journalist friends are running scared. There is a new bogeyman on the block, who is invading their safe-spaces. Plus, he's brandishing something terrible. In the process, he’s challenging their distorted world-view.
That man is Dr Jordan Peterson. And he’s using something called ‘facts’. Peterson rose to worldwide fame after he unintentionally eviscerated Cathy Newman in a Channel 4 interview. He already had a profile for standing against the gender-pronoun nonsense forced upon people in Canada. The Newman interview took him to the next level.
In his interview with Newman, he astutely exposed the bias inherent in parts of the media. He then flipped her ‘right to question’ back at her, and she went into a moment of dissonance. She faltered, looking lost, as her world-view fell apart. Newman adopted the only defence possible; she portrayed herself as a victim. She and her company inflated the following adverse social media reaction.
They went running to the police. Despite the fact that Peterson received more hate mail than her. But, hey, the facts don’t matter as she demonstrated during the interview. She has since declined to sit down with Peterson for a rational discussion, something he’s offered to do.
With Peterson’s profile growing, the SJWs are struggling to shut him down by mounting personal attacks. They say he’s right-wing, when in fact the man is a classical western liberal. He’s branded the poor white man's intellectual, a label that reveals a bias in the mind of its authors. It appears that some don’t wish to see white-man have thoughts or opinions unless dictated to them by the Left.
Peterson is totemic. He is popular because he is erudite, compassionate and accurate with his words. He’s embraced by men, in particular, young men, looking for direction in a confusing world. He uses science and facts. This approach undercuts the casual dogma of the gender warriors, the feminists and lunatic fringe that is busy no-platforming people.
Without facts to support their dogma, the Left relies on personal attacks to damage Peterson and others. For example, all the data indicates that boys do much better in a family unit with a female mother and a male father. This fact is an anathema to some. They assert such a statement is discriminatory to single parents and gay couples. To them, it's a coincidence that our jails fill with boys from single-parent families.
Peterson is not saying that single parents are wrong or that gay couples shouldn’t have kids. He’s pointing out a truth. This approach scares progressives. That’s why they’re screaming and ranting at such a fever pitch. They know they have a fight on their hands, as Dr Peterson rips open their pieties and hollow bromides.
The latest tactic is to portray Peterson as someone who is on the side of anti-semitism. Forward Magazine ran an article that made such an assertion. To make the point they ran a composite image of Peterson next to Hitler giving a Nazi salute. The whole article is shameful and defamatory.
Peterson’s crime was to attribute Jewish success to the fact that the average IQ of Ashkenazi Jews is the highest of any ethnic group. This statement feeds anti-jewish sentiment in the distorted minds of some. The allegation is that far-right groups weaponised this fact to assert Jewish intellectuals used their brain power to dominate the world.
Peterson stood accused of being in cohorts with the far-right. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support this. But some feel it's acceptable to spread such nonsense. For the record; the original research came out of Cambridge University. So, Peterson's mistake was to repeat the findings of credible research.
All this is part of a broader trend that seeks to reverse the Enlightenment, returning us to the dark ages. Peterson has displayed fantastic fortitude as the Left unleashed its vile attacks. The Guardian newspaper cites him as connected to the alt-right and fascist groups. Again, there is no evidence to support such a statement, and the opposite is true. But the Left cannot accept his razor intellect cutting through their bullshit. Thus, fury vents forth.
The battle lines are drawn. On one side, facts and evidence, and the other….'feelings and opinions’. And yet, for people so convinced of their superiority, the SJWs are incapable of mustering rational arguments. Instead, they reference each other in ever decreasing circles of bias and groupthink.
These intellectually dishonest people are losing the argument. To protect themselves from further damage, they no-platform their opponents. Then they yell as loud as possible to drown out any rational arguments.
Instead of doubling down on the identity politics gibberish, wouldn't a period of reflection better serve these individuals? You can't keep pushing this hysterical, illogical, biased view of the world that others do not recognise.
If the radical left is to avoid irrelevance, then it needs better arguments. Ones that convince the public that they have not lost the plot. Most of society is tuned out at present, and this is bad for democracy and consensual politics. Instead of attacking Peterson, the so-called progressive folks need to recognise the folly of their ways. Remember, knowledge and facts will ultimately triumph over unsupported opinions.
Post Script: Forward Magazine has taken down the picture juxtaposing Hitler and Peterson. It acknowledges its error.
I’m Cassandra-like in this article. Hong Kong faces many threats, yet often overlooked is extreme weather events. These have the potential to do massive damage and even kill. Moreover, in our headlong rush to develop land, we may have made one threat much worse.
On 1st September 1937, an unnamed typhoon tracked westward over the top of Hong Kong Island. Wind speeds soon reached 125 mph. The storm was small, intense and nimble. The Observatory anemometer broke having exceeded its designed tolerance. Later assessments put the winds at up to 149 mph.
Victoria Harbour, packed with ships, suffered the initial impact. Vessels dragged from their berths, crashed ashore. Captains gave up the battle to allow their boats to run aground. Some 600 ships report damage, as hundreds of crafts sunk.
At the same time, a storm surge sent water crashing through Wanchai, Causeway Bay and Central. Basements flooded, as ground floor premises were overwhelmed. Food stored in waterlogged godowns are now beyond use, as streets turned into rivers. Only the steep terrain prevented further damage.
As the storm tracked west, the back-end was to have a far more destructive effect. At around 1 am, the eye of the storm crossed to the Mainland, dragging behind it terrible winds and rain. Unfortunately, the height of the gale coincided with a high tide. The swollen waters of Mirs Bay pushed west with considerable force, swept up Starling Inlet, Tolo Harbour, and Tide Cove.
Constrained by the terrain in the Tolo Channel, the surge gathered momentum. It stored energy. As it hit the shore, that energy was unleashed. A wave the height of two double-decker buses swept inland without mercy. The residents of Shatin and Tai Po had no warning.
The area was much less populated than now. The Shatin valley, a narrow floodplain, hosted a farming community. Villages and hamlets sat in clusters. The Kowloon Canton Rail-line ran along the west-side following the route is uses today. There is no highrise, no concrete channels as the Shing Mun River weaved its way to the sea. No race-course existed, while Ma On Shan was a small community. The destructive wave charged inland. It devastated everything in its path.
All along the coast from Ma On Shan to Tai Po Market, roads, bridges and homes disappeared. The railway embankment swept away, then the rail tracks collapsed. At Tai Po Market 60 homes disappear with their occupants. The flood rolled to Tai Po Kau, over half a mile inland. It carried battered humans, cattle, pigs, dogs, ducks, and debris with it.
Estimates of the number killed vary from 10,000 to 12,000. And yet, this was not the first such surge. Similar events occurred in 1874, 1906 and 1923.
The public laid the blame on the Observatory. Working with rudimentary science, the Observatory's warning proved inadequate. Gradually the significance of storm surge forecasting came to prominence. Indeed by 1975, it was essential. The development of new residential and industrial areas on reclaimed land increased the risks. New towns meant more folks were sitting in harm's way.
In the 1970s the Observatory computerised the study of surges. Tide monitors, satellites and other technology fed data into the system. Modeling with computers means better predictions. The government then established a dedicated Storm Surge Unit in January 1978.
Nonetheless, predicting the surge is one thing. It doesn’t address the question what should you tell people to do. What are the escape routes, where should people shelter and who is coordinating?
Moreover, the scientists I’ve spoken with tell me we need to be worried. Modern developments reduced the capacity of Tolo Harbour to absorb a tidal surge. In fact, we’ve amplified the risk. The Plover Cove Dam constructed in 1968, took away space. The engineers understood this, although the link to a possible tidal surge didn’t register with the policymakers.
Since the 1980s, developments in Shatin, Ma On Shan and Tai Po have encroached on Tolo Harbour. Reclamation and construction lowered the ability of the area to dissipate a tidal wave. The Science Park is sitting on reclaimed land, as are sections of the Tolo Highway. The small wetland area at Tai Po Kau, hemmed in by concrete, can't help absorb the impact.
With the Shing Mun River fixed by embankments, it will act to funnel any surge inland. Research suggests that a 1937 level event taking place today could produce a wave three double-decker buses high. Amplified by the restricted space, the consequences are dire.
Pause and think about it. Imagine such a wave roaring down the Shatin valley. The first thing hit is the Marine Police Base at Ma Liu Shui. Next, it would smash through the Shatin Sewage Works picking up everything to carry it inland. A wave of toxic sewage is now thrusting inland. The Shatin Racecourse is under three feet of water. Walkers on the promenades swept away have no escape. The Tate’s Cairn Highway disappears as the surge presses through the ground floor of the Shatin Hospital.
Shoreline properties at Siu Lek Yuen are flooded. Underground carparks fill with foul stinking water. The surge reaches Shek Mun. On it presses. Shatin City One residents get off lightly. The raised estate protected by its podium levels. Across the river, Wo Che and Lek Yuen Estates are not so lucky as ground floor flats are submerged. New Town Plaza and Sha Kok Estate are next.
Finally, the wave barrels into the narrow streets of Tai Wai. Che Kung Temple is waterlogged. Meanwhile, power is failing as sub-stations shut down. Thousands trapped in lifts are unreachable by the Fire Services. With roads flooded, access is impossible. The sheer number of calls overwhelms the mobile telephone system, which shuts down.
Shatin Police Station grinds to a halt with a flooded compound. Ma On Shan Police Station is higher and spared the worse. Tin Sum Police Station is likewise saved by its elevation, although operating on emergency power.
Meanwhile, similar things are unfolding in Tai Po. The low lying industrial estate is awash. The gas plant enters automatic shut-down as fail-safe systems kick in. Parts of Tai Po Town centre are underwater. The East Rail and Ma On Shan lines come to a halt.
Tragically residents in Providence Bay, next to the Science Park, pay a terrible price. Their waterfront homes take the full force of the surge. The ground floor flats submerge in water and debris.
Across Shatin and Tai Po, thousands are dead. Many more injured. The receding waters leave behind a pile of untreated sewage, human remains and sludge. The risk of disease is high. Tolo Harbour filled with floating cars, bodies and assorted debris empties towards the sea.
I’m sure these days plenty of warning would come before a surge. Thus hopefully avoiding much death and destruction. For that to happen a well-resourced, tested and executed plan must be in place. While just under one million people are living in the Shatin, Ma On Shan and Tai Po area, not all are at risk. Many developments are on high ground and so unlikely to be directly affected. Although, they could have power outages, cut transports links and disruptions to the water supply.
Of course, avoiding this is possible. The construction of a surge barrier across the Tolo Channel would protect the area. At its narrow point, the channel is about 1.5 km wide. A movable flood-barrier akin to the Thames Barrier should be technically feasible and indeed may be necessary as sea levels rise.
In the interim, the government needs a robust evacuation plan. The quick extraction of citizens from low-lying vulnerable areas is crucial.
There is no room for complacency. It’s happened before; it will happen again. Are we ready for this?
For me, there are two fundamental problems with the British Labour Party: Jeremy Corbyn and Diana Abbott. The recent local elections in the UK should have seen Labour sweeping the Conservatives off the map. It didn’t happen, despite the Tories facing crisis after crisis, and deep division in their ranks.
Alastair Campbell, former Labour press secretary, said: “Frankly if we cannot beat this shambles of a Tory party, we don’t deserve to be in the game”.
Labour remains a deeply flawed entity. The Blair years saw it evolve into ‘Tory-lite’ although the Tories also shifted ground towards the centre. They’d each swap and drop policies, although claiming a different founding philosophy.
Labour espouses social justice as its core mantra. A problematic stance when you account for the prejudices that are at the nucleus of the party. I have a particular problem with Jeremy Corbyn, the party leader.
The deep-seated antisemitism is an excellent place to start as it illustrates a point. Labour supports the Palestinians and thus by default is against Israel. Then this morphs into a hatred of the Jews, that in turn gives oxygen to the holocaust deniers. Here we are in 2018, with a progressive social democrat party, with members who question the holocaust. That is disturbing.
The 2016 Chakrabarti inquiry into allegations of antisemitism in Labour produced a whitewash. The whole exercise compromised by the author’s sudden appointment to the House of Lords. Was a deal done? In fairness, Chakrabarti denies it. Unfortunately, at the launch of the report, a Jewish MP was verbally attacked by a Labour member. Corbyn did nothing. Say no more.
It’s worth recalling that Corbyn supported Jawad Botwah and Samar Alami, who carried out the 1994 car bombing of the Israeli Embassy in London. Corbyn raised funds for their appeal, which failed. He addressed the Home Secretary to question their guilt in the face of overwhelming evidence. He said little about the potential harm a car bomb could have wrought on a busy London street.
In a similar vein, Corbyn is silent on the unfolding horrors in Venezuela. Despite the abundance of media reports showing the regime’s brutality, he won't criticise President Maduro. Corbyn ignores the arrest of opposition leaders, and protesters shot in the street.
This approach is part of a broader problem in the Labour Party and the far left. Labour gives a free pass to specific groups and individuals because it designates them 'victims'. There are many examples of this. Volleys of rockets from Palestine into Israeli villages brushed aside, while any response from Israel is a war crime. The life of Jewish children, hiding in bunkers, counts for less in Corbyn's accounting. Facts inverted, truths ignored.
This likewise operates at an individual level. For example, Labour gives considerable leeway to Diana Abbott, the shadow Home Secretary. By any rational measure, she is incompetent. Her press appearances are a disaster as she demonstrates an inability to master her brief. She fails to enunciate coherent policies, becomes flustered, defensive and is intellectually incoherent.
Her truthfulness is also in doubt. She was absent from a crucial vote claiming to be unwell. And yet, she seen in a Westminster pub enjoying herself. She also stands charged of hypocrisy. She seeks to abolish public schools, yet elected to send her son there.
You must understand that in the Labour world Abbott is a victim. She is from a minority group and thus by default the recipient of special treatment. Such includes ignoring questions of competence, sound judgement and the other qualities we seek in leaders. And if you dare to point out these issues, you are by default a racist. Once that label is unjustly applied, you are next evil and need vilification as an oppressor. The treatment of commentators such as Melanie Phillips, who dares to speak the truth, proves this point.
As things stand, New Labour as brought forth by Blair is dead. The replacement is still confused, conflict-ridden and in desperate need of a coherent strategy. It’s position on Brexit remains unclear, as does its approach to many issues. Estranged from its old working class base across England, Labour is pretty much finished in Scotland.
Don’t forget that Corbyn is a product of the liberal metropolitan-elite, who despise the ordinary working man. Although, they'd never openly say such. He was born into a middle-class family, educated at a grammar school. He’s never held a job outside the political or campaigning domain except for a short spell as a reporter.
Corbyn seeks to play down his support for terrorists. He's proven capable of quite remarkable levels of cynicism and dishonesty. When questioned, he spins the ‘peacemaker' story. Thus it's odd he only met one side during the Northern Ireland troubles. Sean O’Callaghan, an ex-IRA terrorist, comments “Corbyn played no part ever, at any time, in promoting peace in Northern Ireland. Any suggestion he did is cowardly, self-serving lie.”
The public need to know that while the IRA killed innocent British citizens, Corbyn provided political cover. It remains a stain on his character. He’s relying on the public ignorance of these details to maintain an image.
Corbyn will not be the next Prime Minister nor do I ever see him in the role. I believe that middle England doesn’t trust him. His support of terrorists, antisemitism, unclear policies and hypocrisy register with people. His three marriages, plus many affairs suggest an unsettled man. In this regard, he mirrors Trump. In 1979, Corbyn left his first wife to go on a motorcycle tour of East Germany with Abbott.
The Conservatives should be taking a much more significant hit in the local elections. Their Brexit strategy is a national embarrassment. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Theresa May is content to face Corbyn because she looks more credible than him. At the moment, Corbyn is the most significant asset the Conservatives have.
‘2001- A Space Odyssey’ is fifty years old. It remains for me the pinnacle of movie production. Although, I realise, not everyone agrees. It’s painfully slow at times, with no dialogue for the first and last 20 minutes. Depending on which view you take, 2001 is either an adaptation of ‘The Odyssey’ or a pretentious and self-indulgent art house film. Others see it as a bold statement about mankind’s evolution. Some argue its a propaganda film arising from the Cold War. The list of options is endless. Take your pick.
Watching it again last evening, I'm struck by how well the special effects stand-up. Even in the digital age, it sets the benchmark by which others get judged. Frank Poole jogging in the renowned tracking-shot remains an unchallenged technical achievement. Enacted and then filmed, the camera takes us inside the upside-down world of space travel. Likewise, the stunning moment when Dave Bowman ejects from the capsule to enter the airlock.
Yet, 2001 nearly never existed as we see it today. Original drafts proposed the date as 1987. Also, Arthur C Clarke’s first draft reveals a tone that is somewhat different. The story is one of political intrigue as a US Senator seeks to establish the origins of a strange signal from space. Even the Monolith changed shape at the last minute. The drafts had it as a tetrahedron, mirroring the pyramids.
Then Clarke, working with Kubrick, evolved the themes that appear in the final version. The movie took four years to make, to then receive lacklustre reviews on release. Kubrick expressed disappointment. Nonetheless, he knew it would gain recognition and declined to make major revisions. He did edit 19 minutes of footage, acknowledging it didn't help the narrative.
Throughout the arc of the story the Monolith is pivotal. Acting as a catalyst. It makes four appearances that herald a transformation in the fortunes of humankind. Each defines the four acts of the story.
On the first appearance, it imparts something to our ape ancestors. They realise the utility of bones as tools, including weapons. Having defeated an opposing group with 'weapons' the apes secure a waterhole. Jubilant, one hurls a bone sky-ward. In a short cross-cut we pass through millions years of human history. In a sudden we are in space above Earth on the way to the Moon. This is audacious.
The Monolith next surfaces on the Moon, buried in a pit. As sunlight strikes it for the first time, a signal goes forth to the heavens.
Now we are deeper in space, heading towards Jupiter on a massive spacecraft Discovery One. On board are a crew in stasis, except for two rather unemotional chaps, who are monitoring systems. Watching over everything is our main protagonist, HAL 9000. A sentient computer, with a secret.
HAL, tasked with getting the crew to Jupiter, must also keep his secret under-wraps. As HAL’s algorithms dwell on this, suspicions grow as his thoughts turn neurotic. HAL then goes on a killing spree. The one survivor, Dave Bowman, manages to disconnect HAL's higher functions. At this point we witness the single emotional outburst in the whole movie. HAL pleads to remain conscious, before reverting to a child-like nature. His systems shut-down.
The Monolith appears again as Bowman approaches Jupiter. Hanging in space, it beckons him forward. What happens next is open to interpretation. Bowman passes through a portal of sorts, but to where is unclear. He finds himself in a room. The furnishings are modern renderings of the post-enlightenment period. Bowman then ages, although he remains stoic and unflustered. The Monolith makes it's final outing by appearing at Bowman's deathbed. Bowman reaches for it, mimicking his ape ancestors millions of years distant. His finger is pointing to God in a nod to Da Vinci’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ Sistine Chapel painting. Transformed, Dave is a star child, hanging above Earth.
What does this all mean? Is anyone bothered? Well, it's generally accepted the movie is exploring themes of evolution, gods and how we humans transition. There is a ‘circle-of-life’ narrative with loads of other stuff going on. Someone pointed out that even the spaceship resembles a giant sperm. It trundles through space taking the seeds of our future.
I'm certain the Monolith is the product of a higher intelligence. The makers are so advanced they appear god-like to us. What form they take or indeed if they have form we don't know. Bowman in the room may well be in captivity, held in a zoo or lab as part of an experiment. The surroundings seek to meet his every needs including fine dining with wine. Thus, I'd surmise whoever is holding him has benign intent.
Throughout the movie, HAL is the only entity who displays strong emotions. The others come across as understated, unfeeling and even cold at times. Poole and Bowman are ultra-rational; devoid of feeling. A touching birthday message from parents millions of miles away fails to stir any feelings.
Programmed by us, HAL manifests our worse human qualities especially when conflicted. This interpretation is personal. And, I suspect that Kubrick meant for each viewer to draw their own conclusions.
There a couple of things that are notable. Women only play support roles. Even the Russian female scientists are subordinate to their male colleague. Is Kubrick signaling that male aggression drives change in human culture. Anthropologists believe that to be true. The restlessness of young men, the desire for dominance and power, pushing our evolution.
HAL remains my favourite character. He’s not Frankensteins monster, nor is he evil. He’s a refection of human frailty. Unable to tell the truth his moral compass goes off kilter. There is a message in this. When we play god by imprinting our values on a smart machine, our imperfections also get transferred.
People will still be arguing about the meaning of 2001 in another fifty years.
Theresa May when serving as Home Secretary decided the police were racist. Fed false data, she believed officers stopped and searched a disproportion number of black kids. May thought it a swell idea to hold the police back. Her decision released a wave of crime that continues to this day. With 36 people fatally stabbed in London since the beginning of this year, the consequences of her decision play out.
The London Police recorded 37,443 knife offences in 2017. Black teenage boys are the vast majority of the victims. While seeking to appease the human rights types, May unwittingly started a cull of young black man. The killings show no signs of abating.
In 2015, May had another great idea. Police should stop chasing kids without helmets on motorbikes. She feared the little darlings might crash and injure themselves. What happened next? The theft of mopeds by teenagers exploded. In audacious incidents, gangs drove through shopping centres snatching mobile phones and wallets. The police watched, passive, unable to respond because of May's edicts. Later withdrawn, the damage done. By then the kids had already recognised their ability to flee. Hence, the die is cast.
Hong Kong officials have shown themselves far more astute. Deciding not intervene in police operational tactics. On 11 February a driver and his passenger died in a police pursuit. Officers slowed traffic ahead of the fleeing vehicle, in a ‘rolling roadblock’. The fleeing vehicle then plowed into slowing cars. Besides two killed, four people sustained injuries including an officer.
The police faced accusations of using the public as 'human shields’. Commentators blasted the Force, noting similar incidents in the past. In 2009 officers used taxis, a lorry and a private car to halt illegal racing in Kwun Tong. Eight people sustained injuries in a pile-up.
Then Commissioner of Police, Tang King-shing, was quick with an apology. Earning the unfair nickname 'Sorry Sir’ in the process.
In the latest incident, Police made matters worse by issuing the injured drivers with ‘notice of intended prosecution'. The blind following of procedures rubbed salt in the wound. Then a clumsy PR strategy failed to recognise public sentiment. Relying on the ‘standard procedure’ excuse invited more scorn.
In the later furore, the Force was robust enough to defend the ‘rolling roadblock' tactic as legitimate. Police rejected calls to outlaw this option. They are correct to do so. As the UK experience shows, hampering police operations can have unforeseen consequences.
Drug traffickers, drunk-drivers and terrorist would enjoy the freedom to commit their crimes. Knowing the police are impotent, they'd race around with impunity. It would be only a matter of time before the failure to stop these people results in more deaths.
Public safety is paramount. Every officer has that drummed into him. In light of that, all tactics must remain on the table. Only by retaining a full range of tactical options can officers protect the public. That’s not to suggest rash or thoughtless tactics; the opposite.
The decision to use a ‘rolling roadblocks’ is a tough call. It's taken quickly with limited information during fast-paced and dynamic incidents. Officers are in an invidious position. Doing nothing would be easy. Let the drunk driver continue on his way or the drug shipment through.
Police officers understand the risks. In the early hours of 14th July 1983, police constable Cheng Man-fai was helping to dismantle a roadblock in Princess Margaret Road. A Volvo motor-car struck him causing brain injuries from which he died on 23rd of that month. Later Dennis Chiu Tat-shing was found guilty of the manslaughter of constable Cheng.
Hardly a year goes by without an officer killed on a roadblock or during traffic duties. On 22nd March, Senior Constable Lum Hoi-wan, 51, was dealing with a traffic accident in Kowloon. A truck hit him and killed the officer. At least three police vehicles were on site with warning lights. Cones marked off the scene. Nonetheless, a driver managed to hit the officer.
In 1992 officers stood accused of the death of bystanders during an illegal road-race. Inaccurate media reports claimed officers failed to stop the road-race on Canton Road. Criticized for acting and then attacked for not acting, no wonder the police feel they can please no one. Road racers are determined to evade capture, putting police officers and the public at risk.
In my view, it’s right and proper that the ‘rolling roadblock’ remains an option. I’ve used it a multitude of times to slow down and halt illegal road racers. Other options also have inherent risks.
Some places deploy spikes. These can bring a car to a halt, although the chance of a vehicle going out of control exists. Innocent motorist can get caught by spikes, making them a risky option. Manufacturers claim that spikes will safety deflate tires to stop the vehicle. That doesn’t take into account the desperate driver who continues on his rims.
The name roadblock is incorrect. These typically consist of cones leading drivers into a narrowed lane. As such, no 'block' exists. Thus the determined will get through. A road closure with blocking vehicles or physical barrier remains the only option. And then, some nutter will still have a go.
And please, don’t mention shooting out tires or drivers. This is the real world, not a Hollywood fantasy.
The innocent drivers who suffered in the recent incident deserve compensation. I’m sure they will receive such. Being caught in such an event would make anyone angry. With a sympathetic stance, the police could have mitigated the criticism against them.
So, what to do? If the public decides they're prepared to accept drunk-drivers and road-racers, then the police can relax. Instead of proactive tactics, the police will investigate after the event. Although the question remains, what is the consequence if officers do nothing? We don't want to be the UK position of rampant crime and a hamstrung police force.
Workplace violence is unacceptable. Except when a male politician attacks a female civil servant in our parliament. That’s the tacit line taken by politicians Claudia Mo and Audrey Yu, who seek to defend an attacker. Their assertions beggar belief.
I’ve written before about the loutish behaviour of Hong Kong’s democrat community. Just when you think they’ve learnt a lesson, along comes the next clown to prove these people are clueless. The democrats claim that Beijing is working to undermine them at every turn. Well, Beijing doesn’t need to disrupt their standing. They are capable of that without any help or cajoling from anyone.
In the past, they’ve thrown things at officials, threatened harm, and created a scene to garner attention. The LegCo chamber looks like a circus rather than a place of honest debate. Hiding behind their status, they evoke privileges to do things that would earn criminal charges for ordinary folk.
In the latest episode, Democratic Legislator Ted Hui attacked a female civil servant. He snatched her phone and papers, then ran into a toilet. He then appears to have accessed the phone’s contents. I don’t use the word ‘allegedly’ because Hui has admitted most of this in a series of cringe-worthy apologies. This repeated genuflecting has taken on a farcical tone. Standing like a silly schoolboy, head bowed, chastened; he refused to answer questions.
And the best bit. Mr Hui is a solicitor. He’s not some unknowing dilettante or street-thug with no understanding of the law. He’s a member of Hong Kong’s legal fraternity. A fact that speaks volumes about the quality of that profession.
According to reports, Hui now faces possible charges for his disgusting actions. Robbery, theft and indecent assault may be suitable depending on the evidence. Even his party has turned against him, although they are wobbling on what to do next.
Meanwhile, Claudia Mo has declined to stand with her sisters to decry this attack on a woman. Instead, she makes mealy-mouthed excuses, folding the truth in a contortion of spitefulness. Mo and her cohort don’t wish to see Hui censured. In other words, they give an endorsement to an attack on a female.
Even the strident Emily Lau, former head of the Democrats, and not above creating scene, has condemned Hui. She has not chosen to sanction violence against women, something Claudia Mo appears willing to do.
But why has this sort of thing developed? For too long the lunatic fringe in the democratic movement has held sway. Staging stunts to create publicity they've pushed the boundaries. All this lowers the bar on acceptable behaviour. Norms of civilised conduct eroded as Long Hair threw bananas, while Claudia Mo yelled like a banshee. Aggression, threats and violence is the new benchmark.
These antics then spill over to the streets. Young protesters took their cue from these legislators. Some believed it’s acceptable to assault security guards and police officers. When the courts finally get involved, after lengthy delays, it comes as a shock to face jail. Without a hint of shame, the democrats, who fostered this environment, lay the blame on the government. ‘Alice in Wonderland’ twisting of the truth fills their speech. Words such as ‘crack-down’ and ‘suppression’ weaponised to undermine legitimate legal processes.
Hui joins a steady line of democrats facing legal proceedings. In most cases, their arrogance and sheer foolishness brought the downfall. Before Hui, we had Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang (his real name) and Yau Wai-ching. Both won stunning election victories in 2016. Then they threw it away with childish stunts during their oath taking. Next, we have Leung Kwok-hung, Lau Siu-lai, Yiu Chung-yim and Nathan Law. All disqualified for failing to make their vows correctly.
Topping this list is prize clown Howard Lam. He’s pending trial for allegedly faking his kidnapping and assault. You can’t make this up.
The democrats appear to be on a suicide mission. It would be entertaining, except it undermines our governance. However, we’ve learnt a valuable lesson from this episode, the likes of Claudia Mo and Audrey Yu are willing to sacrifice their sisters for cheap political gain.
The shocking treatment of the Windrush generation by the UK scratched an old sore of mine. The whole saga is no surprise. It avows my view that you need to hold officials, and their mealy-mouthed political masters, to account. I realise this is not a unique opinion, but experiencing it first-hand is affirming.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, a struggling UK sought people from the colonies to rebuild a nation broken by war. Cheap labour from the West Indies arrived on the first ship ‘Empire Windrush’. Hence a generational name. On arrival simple ‘landing cards’ recorded personal details. This process was the only documentation of new arrivals for many years to come.
Move forward many decades. The Windrush folks have toiled in hospitals, kept public transport running, paid their taxes, raised families.
Then things start to go astray. With the 'landing cards' destroyed in 2009 or 2010 (depending who you believe) they can't prove they've landed legally. Meanwhile, an aggressive Home Office is pursuing them. Theresa May laid the foundations of this approach during her tenure as Home Secretary. As many have no documents, they're trapped. Denied access to medical care, some face deportation, as their lives get torn apart.
Meanwhile, the politicians are busy pointing fingers at each other as a human tragedy unfolds. The countries moral standing is in the toilet. The fact that the Windrush generation is black tinges the whole saga with a hint of racism.
Let's be clear, Britain has a record of double-dealing and insincerity in its immigration policies. In 1948, Clement Attlee, the Labour Prime Minister, sought to acknowledge the debt owed the Empire for helping win the war. He created ‘Citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies’. With this status came ‘right of abode’ in the UK. Since then it’s rolled back on those undertakings.
The 1981 British Nationality Act deprived Hong Kong citizens of those rights. Timing is everything. With 1997 negotiations looming, did the UK fear an influx of Hong Kong Chinese? Later in 1983, the UK receded the provisions applying to the Falkland Islanders. It granted them full British citizenship. Admittedly the number involved was small, yet a nasty taste remains in the mouth.
As a serving RHKP officer, these matters come into sharp focus for me in the mid- 1980's. Married to a Hong Kong lady, we had young kids and faced a dilemma. With the return of Hong Kong announced in 1984, I'm encouraged to stay on for continuity. The sudden departure of officers could disrupt policing. And yet the immigration status of my spouse and children remained uncertain.
As negotiations rumbled on between Britain and China, many of us couldn’t wait for answers. In an attempt to provide us reassurance, a series of chinless mandarins arrived from the UK. Politicians, accompanied by patronising officials, relayed the message ‘Britain would act with honour’. It didn’t help that officials couldn't hide their annoyance as we challenged them for details. We were a nuisance, who should shut up.
Some senior police officers were also unhelpful, suggesting we ‘shouldn't rock the boat’. As these men would be gone by 1997, their self-interest was ugly and contemptible.
And yet, the message of ‘honourable’ behaviour didn’t appear to have reached the Home Office. Officers who sought the Home Secretary’s discretion to wave UK residency requirements as members of a 'designated service’ met resistance and rejection. Applications disappeared into the system; then we heard nothing for years. One couple waited three years for a rejection.
Matters came to a head in June 1989. The events in Beijing shook Hong Kong’s confidence. The Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe heard it first hand on 4th July 1989. With nerves frayed, weeks after Tien An Mun, he met with the Hong Kong Police Staff Associations. He took robust views from officers frustrated at the UK's intransigence.
In an attempt to shore up confidence, the UK responded with a meagre offer of 50,000 passports for Hong Kong. The inequity of these arrangements didn't go unrecognised. In a June 1990 Parliamentary debate MP Steven Norris noted:
" ... the extraordinary proposition that if an ethnic Chinese obtains a passport under the scheme and his wife, who is a substantially better position than the ethnic Chinese wife of a British citizen... "
Still, Home Office officials refused to budge. Except that word leaked that officers in specific sensitive departments did get a concession. At the same time, local officers received reassurances in confidential briefings.
Faced with this situation, we opted to go to London. We wrote, visited and canvassed MPs across all parties. In October 1990, we gained a meeting with the cross-party British Hong Kong Parliamentary Group. There was instant understanding and support.
Suddenly, the Home Office awoke. As one MP told us, officials don’t like them prying and asking questions about process. The Home Secretary found himself able to grant an exemption.
The Hong Kong Immigration Department told to cooperate, expedited action. Acting as the UK's agent, it processed and verified applications. Things then got farcical. It was necessary that the wives undergo an English assessment. A Hong Kong official conducted the test, struggling with his pronunciation. Bemused ladies shrugged it off.
The inconvenience we went through was nothing compared to that inflicted on the Windrush generation. I do not suggest to equate the two. The comparison sits in the negative and hostile attitude of the Home Office. Even back in the 1980's, with an opportunity to resolve matters, officials refused to move. They ignored us, scorned us and then only deemed to act as political pressure mounted.
As a vocal, well-resourced group of insiders, we harnessed the media and politicians to campaign. We rejected unworthy voices that told us to keep quiet. Nor would we accept empty verbal assurances. How much more terrible it must be for people without the clout we wielded. It pleases that the Windrush generation's plight is now public. Besides, Mrs May needs to act to restore a sense of decency in the UK.
On Monday a man didn’t get shot and die on a Toronto street. Despite the fact he drove through pedestrians, killing ten innocent people. He lived.
As a single police officer moved in to deal with the culprit, Alek Minassian, he claimed to have a gun. Demanding "Shoot me in the head" Minassian is brandishing something in his hand. He points it at the officer. Still, the bad guy doesn’t go down in a hail of gunfire.
"Get down”, officer Ken Lam shouts again and again, as he moves in to restrain Minassian. Lam switches to his baton, holstering his pistol before he applies the handcuffs.
It's not gone unnoticed that this scenario would have played different some 20 miles away in the USA. In all probability, the culprit would have received a single verbal warning before the shooting started. He'd likely be dead.
Some have argued this incident gives weight to the view that the US police are using excessive force. I'm not so sure. Comparisons are fraught with contradictions when so many variables come into play.
During my police career, I was never a ‘gun-guy’. Many of my colleagues took the same view as me; the gun was a tool you'd rather not deploy. While I enjoyed the range courses, the day-to-day carriage of a firearm could prove a nuisance. I can only recall drawing the gun from its holster twice for an operational reason. I never fired it except at the range.
In the early days of my career, the under-powered Colt 38 was secured by a lanyard in a flimsy leather holster. The lanyard was a sensible move. Chasing a pickpocket down Jordan Road, my revolver clattered along behind. Not a good look.
In the 1980s our revolver training consisted of firing at paper targets. You’d be either static standing or kneeling behind a barrier. You fired a single shot, re-assessed and fired again. The target didn’t move except to swivel into view. None of this simulated the distractions we’d face on the streets; traffic noise, people in the way and mayhem.
Later came the video ranges. These proved a vast improvement with evolving stories and real human shapes. Things moved, the lighting changed, and noises acted to distract. The video range put you in the scene to test that you used the appropriate ‘degree of force’. As events unfolded, you’d switch to baton, pepper-spray or revolver. And yet, we never fired multiple-rounds in rapid succession. It was either single shot or two at most. Once hit, the culprit went down. The lights came on as you breathed a sigh of relief.
In 2010, I tasted a different approach to gun training. As 'active shooter’ incidents escalated worldwide, we needed to understand the best international practices. As part of a fact-finding exercise, I found myself undergoing training with a US Police Force. Other officers went elsewhere.
I received a warm welcome. A Brit serving in the Hong Kong Police is an exotic creature to our American cousins. With cultural reference being Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee, it took some time to disavow them of my Kung Fu skills. They qualified me on the Glock pistol. Then my actions somewhat perplexed the instructors.
Put through a scenario in the 'combat house' with an actor firing paintball rounds back at me; I soon discovered my single shot approach didn’t work. With a moving culprit in cover, he kept coming back at me.
Covered in bruises, I soon learnt to multi-fire. Double-tap, keep going until he was down and out. Then quick reload. Put through the drill again and again; car stops, room clearing and always rapid fire. The thing with training is that it works. You revert to things practised as muscle memory kicks in.
You can argue that the US police approach is aggressive, that it will result in deaths. This assessment is a misreading not only of the training but the logic behind the drills.
In the US, because of the prevalence of guns, officers face a significant threat at each encounter. Moreover, events have shown that when they don't act the consequences can be tragic. Officer survival is paramount, it forms the basis of training and shapes policy. Some are on edge with disproportionate responses. Thus the deaths of young black men encountering US Police remains an issue of grave concern.
Officer Lam of Toronto deserves recognition for his cool and well-executed capture of Minassian. But to extrapolate that to cover all incidents is wrong. Every event a police officer encounters is different. He or she doesn't have the luxury of time or the ability to consult before making fatal decisions. For that reason, I'm reluctant to be judgmental of the officer who opts to fire.
Personally speaking, respect belongs to the officer who is actually in the arena, who faces a threat with adrenaline pumping. Striving valiantly to do the right thing, some will err, some come up short or adjudged incorrect. Still, they deserve credit. Even failing merits acclaim over those cold and timid souls who are critical but neither know victory or defeat for fear.
If any lessons or comparisons are to be drawn, it may be worth assessing the training and coaching given officers. Escalating to firearms can become a reflex action if the threat is the only issue in an officer's mind. The quality of training must have an impact on the outcome of incidents. In the US training is far from consistent, with smaller police forces struggling to provide standardised regular coaching.
US Police academies spend on average about 110 hours training recruits on firearms skills and self-defence. Conflict management, mediation and appreciation of situations are covered in eight hours. Meanwhile, the Canadian Police training places a high emphasis on de-escalating situations. Canada’s far lower rate of gun crime certainly plays a role in shaping their approach. Yet it’s something the US needs to consider in the long-term if its to reduce the average 980 people killed each year by police shooting.
A side-note: Officer Ken Lam’s father served in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force.
The evidence is stark and clear. Societies that empower women flourish. Across cultures, across continents, the effect is pronounced and almost immediate. Moreover, women who gain control of their reproductive cycle bring compounded gains. No longer broodmares, these ladies excel. And we all benefit, men included.
But there is a price to pay. As society prospers and becomes affluent, then child-care and education become more expensive. Ultimately, this means only the well-off folks can marry given the costs of raising kids. Financial expenses, emotional investment and the sheer hardship of the process deter many.
Thus, you see in countries like Japan a huge one-third plunge in population predicted by 2060. Surveys suggest that as many as half of Japanese young women are not interested in raising a family. These ladies exist for their jobs, a consumer lifestyle and having fun. The same is happening in Hong Kong, where young women have pets instead of babies.
Meanwhile, in the West, the radical feminists assert that women have everything stacked against them. Pay is not equal, while for women opportunities are cut off. The evidence suggests otherwise. Nonetheless, that’s their mantra.
This simple assertion does not stand up to critical analysis. Ultimately women shape their futures by personal decisions. Mythical conspiring male-dominated structures have no role. Thus, to blame ‘white male patriarchy’ is palpable nonsense. It’s also a lazy analysis of a complex situation. Of course, as a white male, I’m risking life and limb pointing out these facts.
Worldwide, female literacy rates now equal or exceed males. The disparity in education has evaporated in the face of determined action. And educated girls are healthier, more productive and have far fewer children. The only exception is Afghanistan, where the appalling Taliban closed schools to girls.
Women are doing much better than men in education. With a superior academic performance, the numbers going through colleges are higher. And this then leads to career opportunities. As such, there is no end to the possibilities opening up.
We know that women are entering such professions as a lawyer in higher numbers than ever before. They then rocket up the career ladder, working 80-hour weeks to make partner in their early 30s. In the process, they’ve out-performed the majority of their male colleagues. Then a good portion leave.
It's believed that as women reach the upper echelon's of organisations, the reality dawns on them. A future of long-working weeks, the endless chasing of deadlines. Either the desire for a family gets shunted aside as you keep at the top of your game or something gives. If you relax or divert your energies, someone will forge forward to take your hard-won position. Men face the same challenge. But for men, there is one distinct and subtle difference. Men are not evolved to give birth to children.
An added complication for women is bearing most of the risks in opting to have a child. Potential medical issues are apparent; then there is insecurity brought about by a partner’s action. In general, it's the women who struggle to raise a child as a single parent.
Some argue that’s the reason we have marriage. It bounds the couple together in the interests of the child and the broader community. No matter how you cut it, a growing child needs Mum and Dad. The outcomes for single parent kids, in the main, are not favourable.
Evolution has factored this into human behaviour. When selecting partners, women opt for men who are older and of higher income. Women are 93 percent more likely to marry men with a higher salary than themselves. They do this to ensure that resources are available for the care of the child. Again, all cultures have this phenomenon.
For the high-flying woman, there are a unique set of challenges. Based on the high-income criteria, she is seeking a partner in a smaller pool of eligible candidates. Further, she is competing for that elusive man with ladies in lower income earning groups. Also, men hesitate to form marital relationships with women who have both more education and higher salaries than they do.
Research from Canada tracks high-flying ladies who opt out in their early 30s. It’s a complicated dynamic, with some evidence suggesting having a family is more important than a hard-driving job that consumes all your energy. They then return to work-force later, often in less-demanding jobs.
I’m sorry, but in the end, it's a rigged game. Biology and evolution have conspired to put ladies at a disadvantage when it comes to childbirth. And that’s not the fault of men. The feminist may as well blame the sun for rising in the East.
Nature balances the equation by having men face their own set of risks and challenges. Males do the vast majority of dangerous and outside jobs. If guys weren’t prepared to work on oil rigs or above the arctic circle, then oil and gas wouldn’t be available to keep us all warm and on the move. These professions have a higher death rate. Women are capable of doing these jobs but don’t.
Thus each sex has to deal with fairness and unfairness. None of this is a result of social structures, nor was put in place by a group of conniving men. The machinations of men and women’s status down the ages is an extremely complicated thing. Unfortunately, that complexity evades the most strident feminists. They adopt a simple viewpoint to demonise men.
I want a fair game for my daughters. What I’m not prepared to accept are idle, unsustainable and non-sensical arguments. I suspect radical feminists perpetuate the patriarchy argument because it's simple. It's an easy victimhood sell, ideal soundbite material. It doesn’t make it right. The reasoning starts to disintegrate when you throw the plight of poor, underprivileged white males into the equation.
All I know is that as a white male, a hate figure in the minds of some, I’m fighting for my daughters to do well. So, that makes me a feminist.
The old days are gone. In my callow youth, we had ‘Kai Tak Rules'. Boy’s trips to the Philippines for some R&R, away from the tensions of policing Hong Kong, passed without selfies. No social media record nor GPS tracking our movements. In those days what took place after wheels-up at Kai Tak remained under wraps. It was our ‘What happened in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ pledge.
These days the indiscreet enjoy no such shield. With every citizen a potential broadcaster, armed with the ability to reach the world, not much goes unnoticed. This new zeitgeist all came into sharp focus over the weekend, as I helped at the Hong Kong Rugby 7s.
My small role involved keeping the public safe in the South Stand. Thus, I spent hours observing the various ‘tribes of the terrace' interacting. Ribbing each other, posturing, challenging other groups, but mostly enjoying themselves.
The South Stand has a reputation for hard partying. As the alcohol kicks-in and the day lengthens, some of the behaviour borders on the outrageous. The lack of sleep, jet-lag and heat further impair judgement. 99.9% of the people are laughing, singing, letting off steam with good-humoured banter. Also, in the main, the South Stand polices itself.
But it’s not a rule-free zone. A number of the wayward faced removal in the interests of safety. Unfortunately, a few let down their guard to behave in ways they’ll later regret. Social media feeds that guilt.
The streaker who vaults the fence, runs to the centre of the pitch and drops his trousers, gets a cheer. Then it’s over. What's coming next is not so fun. He’s about to experience Hong Kong’s judicial system. Detained, whisked to a police station, processed through charging, he then appears before a Magistrate. Reality sinks in, as those seconds of euphoria give way to apprehension, regret and remorse. That naked run no longer seems such a smart idea. A fine, a criminal record and your picture in the paper are the start. Social media is about to amplify your antics.
Bad behaviour tends to trend on the Internet. Employers are unlikely to take kindly to their staff appearing nude at a major public event. If your role involves dealing with customers, expect to move on. If you’re lucky, you don’t become a meme or gif. Then the interest may die down. After all, the Internet is a restless place, so the audience clicks-on when a new attraction arises.
In my day evidence of such indiscretions was in a smaller circle as idle talk carried the message. No pictures, no images for Mum, Dad and the relatives to view. Our past remained unseen, as we denied the story or suggested embellishment. No such luck these days.
This material is a bonanza for researchers, due-diligence folks and the intelligence community. One recorded moment of silliness and that job application is looking less promising. With hundreds chasing lucrative work, recruiters are looking for reasons to chop applicants. That 10-seconds of bum on the TV furnished the justification.
I’m not sure this is fair, given that we all make mistakes. Don't forget that people grow from these errors into well-rounded individuals. I know senior police officers, judges and several leading lawyers who are thankful their younger-self remains in the shadows. All these guys, and it's all men, now make a valuable contribution to society. Let's recognise that our social-media drenched world has unhealthy outcomes. And thus we need to balance our judgments of people with a broader view. Why? Because the loss of the old ways means folks often don’t have the space to make mistakes and learn.
Social media is a fantastic tool. It can bring families together, reunite old friends and provides us with fast communication to many. However, it can also be a liability. Just as social media has the power to strengthen a reputation, it also can tear one down. And, when you behave stupidly in public, you have no control of that process. Social media giveth, and social media taketh away.
Us Brits love lording it over the Americans with talk about how safe our country is. Comparisons with the United States are routine dinner party talk, as we sanctimoniously assert our superiority. Well, that smug attitude doesn’t match up with the data. London, the nation's capital, has suffered 31 deaths from knife-crime so far this year. That exceeds the murder rate of New York City, and they have guns.
In 2017, 80 people died in knife attacks in the capital. Four on New Year's Eve alone. The vast majority of the victims and culprits are black youth. Following a wave of stabbings London Mayor Sadiq Khan, said he was "desperately saddened”. His empty words display an indifference.
Eight Londoners, all under 30, murdered in the six days between 14th and 20th March. That’s the only detail you’ll get from the British media. No mention of the fact that a gang war is underway between black youth across whole swaths of London. These soaring levels of knife-crime are a national scandal. Meanwhile, the hapless Commissioner of Police, Cassandra Dick, blames social media.
How that works is beyond me. You read a post on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram, then elect to thrust a knife into another human being. I'm missing something.
A few weeks ago Dick was muttering about knife-crime being a public health issue. She is clutching at any excuse. Constrained by her fear of the racist taunt, she has limited options at hand. Robust policing by enforcement action is beyond her. Shut in a self-imposed silo of inaction; she has foresworn traditional policing. Meanwhile, police policy is driven by a shameless political agenda ignores evident truths.
There are some who stand passive, allowing the death of young black men rather than support police action through stop and search. Why? Because enforcement action offends their sensitivities. And don’t come at me with the argument that the application of stop and search is racist or ineffective. That false narrative is another trope of the metropolitan elite.
Humans use information to make decisions, that then lead to actions. Since the Enlightenment, we have sought to set aside wrong ideas that are not supported or indicated by data. That's evolutions great gift to us. It is thus profoundly troubling that the dogma of a few invades public policy without any factual support. Their perverse and lopsided ideas result in dangerous consequences.
The accepted narrative is one of stop and searches applied in a discriminatory manner by racist cops. This version of events is untrue.
In 2000, Home Office researchers went out and counted the population stopped and searched. They discovered no racial bias. In fact, the police questioned more white people than other groups based on who was available. The police targeted specific areas with the highest levels of street crime.
Further research is 2004 (Waddington, Stenson & Don) affirmed the case. Other studies have shown similar findings. Granted, being on the receiving end of a stop can be an unpleasant experience. Nobody likes its. Tension is bound to result. But the data is robust on the point that blacks or other ethnic groups are not targeted.
Even Teresa May, as Home Secretary, couldn’t be honest fearing a backlash. In 2014 she asserted that the police’s use of stop and search was “unfair, especially to young black men”. In this instance, there is a suggestion that the Home Office deployed misleading data to support her false assertion.
I’ll grant you cause and effect is a tricky issue. Statistics are open to interpretation, while deterrent effects are always hard to quantify. But consider this, an increase in knife attacks since reduced stop and search. That’s surely indicative. Simply put, as stop and search have fallen off, crime escalates. Then there is the inescapable point that a knife in the stomach is not a data-point, but a person dying.
It’s hard to see how things can improve without robust policing. Let's consider the many benefits of that approach. It would show that the police are pro-active, serious about the issue and not resorting to ‘youth club’ solutions. That, in turn, pushes up public confidence by demonstrating crime is not tolerated. This activity will gather intelligence, which drives targeted-policing based on a rational approach. That’s what police forces used to do.
Believe me, it works. I’ve applied it to issues in Hong Kong, and the results were immediate. I hear you shouting that London is different. And yes, you are right, London is very different. Fear of accusations of racism shapes everything in London. But blood will continue to flow as long as misguided sentiments shape enforcement action. Rotherham and Telford taught us that much.
How would the metropolitan elite react if white middle-class Hampstead boys faced similar threats? They'd be screaming for action. I can only conclude certain things. It’s not the stop and search that concerns them, nor that black youth are dying. It's their credentials as life-members of the liberal classes. They need to maintain their emotional comfort over rationality. Plus their physical separation from the suffering communities makes them unworthy advocates.
Rather than confronting the issue in an honest manner, Commissioner Dick and her friends will continue to have their judgment clouded by an engrained PC culture. Young black men are the ultimate victims. Nothing will be done as these victims are seen as cannon fodder in the war of political correctness.
Post Script - As I write this news comes in of a 17-year-old girl killed and a 16-year-old boy in a critical condition after two separate incidents in London. The statistical trend point to 180 young people murdered in London by the end of 2018.
To be sure, much has been written about the MacLennan case. The colonial police inspector's death in 1980 has always drawn considerable attention from the chattering classes. Much of this crass idle speculation or outright distortion. Amateur sleuths, plus armchair detectives allied to conspiracy theories, held forth for decades. I cannot recall the number of times people have told me ‘it is not possible to shoot yourself five times with a gun’. What then follows is a futile attempt to assert the facts of MacLennan's suicide.
This book, ‘A Death in Hong Kong’ is probably the last word on the issue, unless new evidence comes to light. Nigel Collett, the author, has conducted painstaking research. He has coupled this detail with a clear explanation of the timeline. The examination is forensic, balanced for the most part, as he seeks to give an honest account of events. He portrays the key players, sets the scene and speaks to their motivations. Also, he adds details that are significant and new to me.
Having read the TK Yang’s 1981 Inquiry report, one came away with a sense of sadness. Collett’s book reinforces that sentiment.
Collett lays bare the machinations of a colonial government, concerned with appearances over the truth. Nobody comes out of this story smelling of roses. Even ardent campaigner Elsie Elliott (later Tu), who did so much to seek the truth, was not above using misleading statements. Having said that, she is the least guilty in this sorry saga. The same cannot be said of the government officials, including Sir Murray MacLehose.
As said at the time, the story reached ‘from the gutter to Government House’. Gradually the Inquiry got closer to the Governor, having ‘mis-fired’ and run out of official control. Governor MacLehose fought to reign in TL Yang and the forthright counsel John Beveridge. The Governor's alleged interference in an inquiry lays bare the falsehood of ‘British’ justice. If the current post-1997 administration attempted a similar move, London would be screaming about the ‘rule of law’. The irony is splendid.
This book serves to remind us that colonial governments exercised power with a ruthless leaning. MacLennan was easy fodder, while allegations against others, more senior, went un-investigated. The evidence points to colonial officials, including legal officers engaged in paedophile activities. These people retired without the veracity of the claims tested. What we’ve since learnt from such cases in the UK, is that you can’t take official denials at face value.
During my service, I witnessed the infractions of senior folks ignored or explained away 'for the greater good'. The same violation by junior officers resulted in their careers ruined, as the full weight of the discipline system fell on them. The response to indebtedness illustrates the point.
I’ve spent many an evening debating the MacLennan case, including with people mentioned in the book. Yet, I never knew that he had a rich lady-friend, who furnished him with a car. It's now clear he was bi-sexual. This fact changes the trajectory of the story.
The narrative given the public was of a rogue police unit pursuing MacLennan of its own volition. That action, it's asserted, drove him to his death. Collett shows that throughout the SIU remained under the tight control of senior legal officials. This fact destroys the myth that MacLennan faced pursuit in a vendetta by a cowboy police outfit. Granted, while a couple of the investigators had anti-gay sentiments, this alone is circumstantial to what evolved.
We know that briefings went up the chain of command, and the instructions came down. MacLennan was a target, not of the police but the colonial administration. In simple terms, the police served as a willing tool. Meanwhile, MacLehose sought to exculpate his Attorney General, the Commissioner of Police and those suspected of paedophilia. This shameless exercise of power erodes his achievements.
If I have any quibbles with the book, these are minor and don’t detract from the thrust of events portrayed. For example, I don’t buy the suggestion that officers adopted corruption because funding was inadequate. The instance of buying typewriters gets cited. The scale and the organisation of the corruption that existed suggest greed was a motive. Besides, the syndicates drew everyone into their realm with payments. This action was a form of protection against the ICAC.
There is some conjecture about the Yuen Long incident being a set-up of MacLennan. I agree with the assertion that Bob Wilkinson wouldn’t be a party to such an action. I met him on my third day in Hong Kong, and he always impressed me as the most upstanding of individuals. Moreover, there is no tangible evidence to suggest Rab Nawaz was culpable. I’d question whether any set-up existed.
A couple of details surprised me. That MacLennan didn’t tell Elsie Elliot of his reinstatement when they met on 28th November 1978, is perplexing. Was he confused or seeking to apply more pressure on senior police managers? Also, Fulton, the informant, giving gifts to his handler, CIP Quinn, after a trip overseas. That’s an odd detail. I’d infer from that a close relationship, which sits uncomfortably with the allegation that Fulton was under pressure.
The book mentions reporter Ian Whitely seeking to prove it’s possible to gain access to MacLennan’s flat through a bathroom window. I recall watching that attempt, which failed. Whitely almost fell down the building light-well. He had a history of such stunts, including once testing security at Government House. He climbed the perimeter wall, only to injure himself.
The story of the handling of MacLennan’s remains is deplorable. An incorrect name and a drop-off at Aberdeen instead of the family home shows crass insensitivity. The Police Force should be ashamed of that process.
The book is a must read for anyone seeking to understand a sad episode in Hong Kong’s history. It affirms that the simple assumption of murder as a cover-up is palpable nonsense. Although, you will still hear that scenario uttered today. The truth is more complicated and intriguing, but as disheartening.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.