Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Why have rules, standards, conventions of conduct? Aren't we free to do as we wish? Why should I give into the establishment, get ‘the man’ off my back; I don’t need no system nor your doctrine. That's the lament we hear these days. Each generation utters the same plea as it seeks to find its place, by defining its order of things. Challenging the agreed protocols, that keep the highway of human existence flowing. Then, over-time, through experience, we comply. Why? Let me muse on a possible explanation.
I used to paraglide. You know, that aerial sport during which you launch from a hill attached to a nylon wing by thin lines. No engine, minimum equipment; only you, and the forces of nature and possibility of flight. I flew for over 15 years until gravity exerted its power - one too many times - on my fragile human body. Broken wrists, two fractures of the spine plus many bruises convinced me to give up. An angry wife venting (again) in front of an entire emergency room can also sway your thinking.
People come to paragliding seeking adventure. It struck me they always spoke of freedom - as free as a bird - soaring on thermals, climbing high with a Black Kite. A serene experience. No motor to disturb the peace. The power comes from a large fusion reactor sitting 150 million kilometres away, as it heats and churns our atmosphere.
Paraglider pilots have a self-image of the maverick. We’re rule breakers, who don't stick to conventions. A breed apart. It’s not a characterisation that holds up. Scratch the surface to reveal the laws that anchor the whole business. With clear boundaries, written rules and unwritten rules, and strict adherence to convention. You don’t want to be that new guy on the hill breaking the community order. It’s terrible for your health, ego and the chances of getting more airtime.
Paragliding is dangerous. That’s an understatement; it's incredibly hazardous. Primarily, if you don't follow the rules. From the set-up on launch to the landing, you operate in a domain of shifting parameters with many unknowns.
Get it wrong and you can go from ‘hero to zero' in seconds. Mistakes are not forgiven. Although, when it all comes together, it’s a thing of sublime contentment, mixed with exhilaration. You enter a state of meditative flow.
Yet, for this to occur you need to have complete faith in the guy in front and behind. Everyone needs to recognise that the situation is hazardous, with potential for collisions. It’s a three-dimensional dance with limited air-space. Each must keep separation and move in the same circuit. No sudden turns, no overtaking to pin a wing against the ridge without an escape route. No close over-flying, keep clear of wash.
Then, etiquette demands that you give pilots struggling for height, space to climb. It’s poor form to block them.
All it takes is one guy to reverse direction, move out of sequence - then the whole structure starts to break up. Pilots lose height; pushed out of the lifting air, forced to curtail their day's flying.
One thing is sure, the guy who caused it is going to get a mouthful. Execration reigned down on him. By dissing the group code, he’s isolated. He won’t be getting offers of a ride to take-off or pickups at the landing field. No one will tell him when its flyable or offer advice.
I flew Queenstown, New Zealand in 2009. Arriving at the take-off, looking down on the majestic Lake Wakatipu, I took my site briefing from a pot-smoking hippy. His guidelines - actually rules - came over in a short direct presentation. Later, as we loitered, he gave me a lecture on the new world order of embracing a non-judgmental ethos. This he asserted would make us prosper.
Later still, he laid this lesson aside to berate a visiting pilot for landing on the wrong rugby field. A drill sergeant’s tirade poured forth from my hippy friend. Impressive.
As a paraglider pilot, you take complete responsibility for your own life. And, that of other pilots with you in the air. Paraglider pilots seek to live by the same code, so that when flying actions are mutually predictable. Head-on with another wing, I know he’ll break right. Likewise, I’ll overtake a slower wing on his inside, so as not to trap him against the hill.
This shared system of actions and behaviours ensures everyone safety. Pilots know what to expect from others. Thus they act together to minimise risk while maximising air-time. Uncertainty gets removed unless the rule-breaker appears. I’ve seen rage, contempt and physical violence on the few who bring disorder. They rarely repeat it.
When it comes together - with everyone sticking to the rules, respecting each others space, it’s a ballet. The shared system of order produces breathtaking aerial choreography with great purpose.
It’s counter-intuitive, but to be free in life, you need to follow the rules, otherwise its chaos. After all, even the hippies drive on the right side of the road.
A small article caught my eye this week. Members of staff on the London Underground are want to post stuff on station signboards. Sometimes it's witty, other times profound and on occasions, it marks an anniversary. Thus, it was at Dollis Hill underground station this week.
A message recalled the battle of Rorke's Drift. The 1879 fight between colonial soldiers and the Zulus is scorched in the memory of every British boy. The movie 'Zulu' can claim credit for that. This 1964 account of the epic struggle, during which 150 troops held off 4000 Zulus, was compulsory viewing as I grew up.
“Front rank fire, rear rank fire”, we've all mimicked it on the playground. It's stirring stuff. OK, so the movie wasn't entirely accurate, but who cares.
You'd think marking the anniversary would inform people of this significant event in history. After all. The message was factual.
Even so, someone took offence. A complaint claimed it celebrated colonialism, and Transport for London capitulated. It apologised saying the message was “clearly ill-judged”. The job-worths' ordered it removed. Setting aside the factual nature of the posting, it contained no celebration. It restated historical events without judgment.
The issue here is the ongoing attempts by revisionists and victim-types to find offence in anything. Let’s be clear. Rorke’s Drift took place, British soldiers and Zulus fought valiantly - fact. The Brits held the Zulus off and won a victory of sorts - fact.
We should recognise that this incident is indicative of a new wave washing over us as a judgmental minority dictate their agenda. This process touches on the right to offend, distortions of history, and even free speech.
In the UK and elsewhere, we see calls and action to remove statues associated with the colonial era. Buildings are being renamed to remove designations that some see as uncomfortable. In the US, vandalised Confederate monuments fall.
To the revisionists I’d say, we cannot escape the consequences of our history by airbrushing it. Remember during the Soviet era; you could tell who was in or out of favour by whether they remained in leadership photographs. Those considered non-persons faced erasure. The same is happening with our history.
Most of the current fuss arises from a debate about the pros and cons of empire. In particular, the British Empire. As one of the last of the colonial coppers, sent abroad to police the colonies, I have some insight into these issues. My views and reflections are far too broad to cover here. Save to say it was far from the negative portrayal some modern commentators assert.
These removals and renaming are pointless. We gain nothing except assuaging a few bruised sentiments and big-time virtue signalling. Conceivably, we need these symbols as a reminder and warning. The writer George Santayana cautioned us “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
Oxford University recently launched a five-year study to assess the benefits and downsides of the British Empire. It's hoped this can help a balanced debate that sets aside blame agendas. Although, the signs are not promising. The project is already under attack as an absurd “balance sheet argument”.
There is another dimension to this debate that deserves consideration. It’s a dimension that has resonance in the modern world. In essence, it goes like this: if we are strident in being anti-colonialist, because of our imperial past, will we be afraid to come to the aid of those in need?
For example, the West stood-by to watch the 1994 massacre in Rwanda that saw over a one million people killed. Bill Clinton and his cabinet knew it was going to happen; he did nothing. France, Canada, Belgium and the British knew it was going to happen. They did nothing. The inertia was in part fearing criticism of imperial ambitions. Is that the right response?
None of us alive today created the British Empire or any empire for that matter. Although, some people continue to apportion blame on modern day folks. Where does this end? Should I as an Englishman seek to remove references to the Vikings because they invaded the UK? All those unusual Viking names for places could go because I’m offended. Farewell Whitby, Selby, Ormskirk and Skegness.
History is sometimes uncomfortable, but wiping stuff from the record is palpable nonsense. It’s also dangerous.
From my previous articles, you’ll know I’m no fan of Tony Blair. The former British Prime Minister faces hostility for the lies he told that led to an unjustified war. It’s doubtful the British public will ever forgive him or his vile henchman, Alastair Campbell. Both have blood on their hands. The blood of British soldiers, the blood of innocent Iraqi men, women and children. It remains baffling to me that these men are not facing charges for their crime’s against humanity.
And yet, Tony Blair did not only bring death and destruction to Iraq. Often overlooked is the terrible damage he did to thousands of children with his misguided education policies. While this was less kinetic, it nonetheless brought down a generation. Moreover, the impact continues to this day.
Blair came to power in 1997. The new man; a bright dawn for cool Britannia. He immediately moved to address what he perceived to be failings in the education system. His understanding of the detail was sparse at best and in most aspects wrong.
Blair is the archetypal ideologue, who believes he knows all the answers; thus he threw out the experts. He initiated a raft of changes, and when his ideas failed, he blamed others. Ardent religious types are prone to this behaviour. We know Blair was devout despite Campbell’s “We don’t do God” claim.
The evidence is clear. The only students who improved during Blair's tenure attended the so-called public schools. 40,000 more children signed up for these schools as parents sought to avoid the poor discipline and teaching in state schools. At the public schools, government policy was mute.
Blair allowed individuals with radical, unproven ideas, to hold reign on policy. Dismissing standards and common sense, he was confident he'd improve things for the impoverished kids. People like Christine Gilbert, a former director of education, advocated pupil power. The students would decide courses, mark their work and assess their teachers. Exams were to go, replaced by feedback. Blair pushed hard to break the link between education and social class.
As a consequence, the ordinary working-class child saw levels of attainment collapse. Research revealed teachers focused on the few willing kids, while unqualified assistants kept the less able occupied. In short, discipline fell away. By 2007, the Rowntree Foundation discovered the most impoverished kids further behind. Blair, playing his ideological games, doomed them by pulling the rug of education away.
The data is compelling. In 2007, with a decade in power, all Blairs ideas and the millions spent had produced no gain. In fact, standards had fallen. The data from international agencies and independent internal monitors told a grim tale. By 2016, the product of Blairs education initiatives came to university age. The OECD ranked them as the worst in twenty-three developed countries in literacy and second worst in maths. It’s a stinging indictment of his failing.
Blair loved to trumpet how well he was doing on education. None of these claims stood up to the slightest analysis. He spent £88.5 million on an anti-truancy policy that saw rates of absence increase. He committed £1.1 billion to Sure Start aimed at kids in deprived areas. Whether this programme has any impact is debatable because the evidence suggests no tangible gains. The spin doctors twisted any favourable data, but couldn't hide the truth.
Caught out by these failures, Blair put pressure on for improvements in exam results. This drive led to the wholesale manipulation of assessment processes. Pushing pupils into easy courses inflated grades, while 'adjusted' marking schemes helped. Soon grades went up. As an example, sixteen-year-olds sitting the maths GCSE gained a ‘C’ for a score of 16 percent. As the focus was exams, instead of teaching, learning folded.
The next fiddle involved coursework. By including a higher element of coursework in the marks, teachers adjusted scores. Without any proper oversight or scrutiny grades climbed.
The flip-flops, the millions wasted on failed initiatives, it left parents, teachers and kids bewildered. Employers held their heads in their hands in disbelief at the poor quality of people entering the workforce.
Forced from office in 2007, Blair left a legacy of broken education promises. His deceitful peddling of twisted data didn't conceal the truth. Education was costing much more to produce much less. Meanwhile, a third of secondary school pupils have some record of truancy. Most school-leavers left without achieving real skills in literacy and numeracy.
The education system had fallen victim to a class-war. The most vulnerable pupils lost. So, Blair remains a toxic brand, due to his blood-lust and religious crusades. We should not forget the damage he did to a generation of ordinary kids, whom he consigned to mediocrity.
Of course, Blair didn’t expose his kids to these machinations. As the Spectator magazine reported in 2002, the Blairs arranged for teachers from the elite private Westminster School to home tutor his sons. A more vivid illustration of the man’s hypocrisy would be hard to find.
We should all thank Cathy Newman for her excellent public service. In a 30-minute TV interview, she’s done more than any person to expose modern cultural fallacies. She didn’t intend to achieve that - but that’s unintended consequences for you.
Ms Newman is a British journalist, who works as a presenter on Channel 4. She's an Oxford graduate, a feminist and known for her direct interviewing technique.
As an accomplished journalist, she has several significant stories to her credit. She exposed former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for insisting a donor, Ronald Cohen, get a knighthood. Thus, you can see that Ms Newman is no innocent nor an unschooled person.
So, it's baffling to see her ham-fisted attempt to confront such an intellectual powerhouse as Professor Jordan B Peterson. The Canadian clinical psychologist took Ms Newman apart. In doing so, he caused her to suffer a public case of cognitive dissonance. It was thrilling and disturbing to watch at the same time. I’d ask that you view their whole exchange here.
But, I must congratulate Ms Newman. She afforded Peterson the opportunity to dissemble, then shatter, several falsehoods. Feminism, gender issues, the pay-gap and how culture operates all received attention. Ms Newman facilitated this destruction of myths by her agenda-ladened approach. Sam Harris described her performance as “An almost near-terminal case of close-mindedness.”
Peterson came to the studio armed with decades of research, facts and the rigour of substantiation. Ms Newman went with a few loose points, a load of unfounded opinions; all tied up with an unwillingness to listen.
From the outset, she went on the attack; challenging Peterson on all fronts. Soon her unpreparedness was evident in shallow questions. Next, she was wholly thrown by his responses. Had Ms Newman taken the time to do her research, she'd have discovered Peterson is no pushover.
Peterson, in a forensic-manner, took apart Ms Newman's world-view narrative. Throughout he was eloquent, polite, humorous and firm with the facts. He called her out when she misrepresented him, which she did. Peterson laughed at her attempts to question his thinking. It was never disdainful, but soothing laughter akin to that used with an uneducated child.
In the process, he disarmed her. If you listen to her voice, it’s possible to detect a harsh tone emerge as she struggles to control herself. Witnessing cognitive dissonance spread across her face is possible. At 23-minutes she’s stalled, frozen. She admits to struggling. Defeated and lost, she doubles-down her attacks with stupid questions. That’s when we get; “Tell us about the lobster.”
At this point, she is either seeking to embarrass Peterson or be flippant. She fails again, as he comes back with facts. In his answer, we get millions of years of evolution, a quick insight into a lobster's nervous system and serotonin. Ms Newman took another hit.
Her attempts to label Peterson as Alt-right, when the man is palpably a liberal, were desperate. Clutching to the assertion that his audience is mostly men on YouTube, she couldn’t make the mental leap that Peterson doesn’t choose his audience. The viewer selects him.
I've now watched the interview some five times to assure myself I'm not unkind or too harsh on Ms Newman. Each viewing affirmed my view she was battling with mental confusion. Her narrative on the world is wrong, yet she couldn't process that. Moreover, a cultured brilliant, rational, white-man put her straight. That must hurt.
In response to the interview, the Internet lit up. Ms Newman took a fair amount of criticism, much teasing and some rough language. Hey, welcome to the Internet.
Immediately, the SJWs sought to reframe the interview with Ms Newman as the victim. In a reprehensible article, the Guardian repeated lies that Peterson is Alt-right. Meanwhile, Channel 4 announced security experts would assess the threat to her. This laughable response to moderate criticism added a new level of absurdity. Peterson asked people to lay off with anything hurtful. His intervention was seized upon to assert he controls an army of Internet warriors. That’s real fake news.
Nonetheless, I’m serious. Ms Newman has done a substantial public service. In the end, Peterson affirmed his integrity. Meanwhile, Ms Newman came across as dishonest and a dogmatic ideologue. And yet, towards the end of the interview, you saw a flicker of admiration. If she has any rationality, she’ll be reassessing her world-view.
To his credit, Peterson is not declaring victory or jumping around in glee. He believes there is nothing to gain for advancing human culture by adopting a victory pose. The man wants a proper rational debate without the agenda Newman brought to the table. He’s reached out to her, offering to sit down for a decent conversation. She’s yet to reply.
And, one other thing ... I’ll never eat another lobster!
Trump’s first year in office. He’s not fallen nor is he much diminished nor chastened in his personal view. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the USA's international standing. I’d kinda expected that by now he’d evolve into the role or retreat to the Oval Office; a sullen crest-fallen figure.
For all we know he’s a modern-day Macbeth. His ambition, and the dissembling ways that earned the presidency lead to his crippling paranoia. He sees knives around every corner; mistrust in the eyes of all those around him. This fear leads to him isolating himself. But no. That’s what the left assert. It’s not credible.
He's defining himself with a personal narrative that excludes unhelpful facts and evidence. In many ways, he’s the 'postmodern' president. Meanwhile, he’s moulding an America shaken by an inversion of its order.
“Fire and Fury” reflected on these events, but didn’t land any knock-out blows. Much of the portrayal of events is over-blown as if seen through a distorted prism. I’m tempted to believe that Trump didn’t expect to win the seat in the White House. It’s sure his team felt that way. Thus, when the results came in, he was as shocked as Hillary Clinton.
Understanding his first year is challenging. Why? Because we have nothing tangible against which to measure him. While defenders seek to retrofit him into the political styles of various predecessors, none of it works.
Let's review fundamental team changes. The author of Trump’s presidency Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is gone. Cast out; he still asserts allegiance. Bannon would always go rogue. Worse yet, he can only spout venom. Insiders moved against him in August following rioting in Charlottesville. His ill-considered advice to Trump backfired in national outrage. Fired, resigned or let go - depending which version you believe.
Sean Spicer, the press guy, soon morphed into a figure of fun. He single-handedly reenergised late-night comedy. He went as the ‘Mooch’ arrived. Anthony Scaramucci came from central casting when the request arrived for a ‘wise guy’.
Trump wanted brains. Instead, he got a mongrel cross between Alastair Campbell and Tony Soprano. Without the finesse. His foul-mouthed manner meant he lasted ten days. Reince Priebus, the Chief of Staff, lasted until August when John Kelly took over. Kelly was responsible for kicking the ‘Mooch’ out.
Since Kelly took the helm, the ship has steadied. The ex-military guy has brought discipline to the White House. Unfortunately, he’s done little or nothing to roll back on his bosses childish tweets. It’s become weird ambient noise. Plus pushing other leaders out of his way and knee-jerk reactions to every slight makes your eyes-roll. The ‘big-button’ tit-for-tat with Kim proved entertaining, partly because there is no button.
His insults got him uninvited from the 2018 society occasion of the year. A royal wedding in the UK is a must-attend event for anyone wanting to be a player. Prince Harry’s marriage to US citizen Meghan Markle should be a shoe-in for a US President. Except his presence would provoke massive protests. Beleaguered Prime Minister Teresa May rolled-back on an invite, fearful of rioting. It’s never agreeable to have the citizenry smashing up your capital when the Royals are parading. Brenda doesn't like that.
Trump earns my praise for a couple of things. First, he’s devolved ‘rules of engagement’ for military operations to front-line commanders. This decision is smart. It removes the delay in decision making, making troops safer in the process. Folks sitting in command posts are usually ill-informed, thus leading to reduced quality decisions. Trump re-established lessons learnt down the decades.
The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital is long overdue. Palestinians will continue to bleat, but until they stop firing missiles, they hardly hold the moral ground. Likewise, they are content to take American aid while attacking its policies. Some dismiss Trump’s move as pure pandering to the Jewish lobby. That’s likely true. Although, it does not change the fact that the current unhealthy stalemate needs dissembling. Time will tell.
Which leads us to North Korea. Trump’s uncompromising stance, often compared to Nixon’s ‘mad-man’ doctrine, is bearing fruit. Sanctions are hitting hard, as China strengthens its borders in recognition of troubles to come. Isolated and starved of resources, the North Koreans want to talk about the Olympics.
They’ve taken a face-saving opportunity to ease the tension. It's right that Trump can claim credit for standing tough in the face of Kim’s threats. Real-politics dictate that if Kim crosses a line, he faces destruction. Trump keeps signalling he's capable of delivering that blow.
On a negative note, Trump’s travel ban is going to make America dumber. The blanket nature of the prohibition excluded stem-cell researchers and computer experts. Silicon Valley is already feeling the pinch. The first attempt at implementation proved a nightmare as airports ground to a halt. It looked inept, because coordination was non-existent. Perhaps the most significant impact will come in smart foreigners viewing the US as unwelcoming. They will take their expertise elsewhere.
And yet, unemployment is at a 17-year low, and the stock market is booming. The economic numbers are looking solid. Companies are scrambling to appease Trump with investments. Corporations, fearing punitive tariffs for transferring jobs abroad, are stepping carefully. This plays well with his core support, who see the ‘America first’ approach showing tangible results.
As Trump’s first year in office arrives, the US government is in shutdown. That’s not a first. Bill Clinton faced the same situation in 1996. With official staff gone from the White House, Clinton relied on interns during an impasse with a Republican Congress. One of those interns went beyond the call of duty. But that’s another story.
Meanwhile, the ‘Russian thing’ is a slow burn as the investigation trundles along. Whether it will detonate into something more serious remains unknown. In the interim, Trump is holding Jared Kushner as fodder for ejection when things get too close. That should deflect attention.
Over the past year, a whole industry has developed around analysing Trump. There are many different versions. Hysterical elements in the leftist media state he’s crazy. They trot out so-called experts to pontificate on details of his movements, diet, utterances and policies. It’s all somewhat lazy, headline-grabbing stuff. Then it gets unprofessional when psychologists and such get involved. To be clear, he’s not mad. I agree he has some odd behaviours and may want to be a tyrant at times, but isn’t accomplished enough.
I’m not going to bother trying to predict what comes next. Let's sum up. Trump proved to be a game changer, as he cast aside norms and traditions while fighting on all fronts. Republicans and Democrats alike faced his spleen. We can expect more of the same, as nothing is the same.
I’m on a journey of discovery. I'm seeking to understand why a polarised world emerged in recent years. Many of the conventions that underpinned society face rejection or disdain. It's a slow process, but I’m beginning to understand why this confused state has arisen.
One possibility, and it’s disturbing, is the pernicious nature of postmodernism. What I find most troubling is this may be happening before our eyes, as we sleepwalk into it. You may argue these are Ivory Tower issues, confined to college campuses. And yet, we know what happens in colleges spills into broader society within ten years. Many folks don’t understand how it arises, but they will have seen its consequences. In this article, I seek to unpick these issues.
There is a school of thought that postmodernism is the most significant threat to civilisation. Professor Jordon B Peterson, a clinical psychologist, is at the forefront of warning us. Noam Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins go with him. We’d better sit up to take note when such esteemed thinkers are pointing out the peril. As postmodernism creeps into all aspects of life, it’s having a profound impact on evolved cultural norms, primarily as the law enforces its precepts.
We already see the consequence of postmodernism in the gender debate. The postmodernists have driven this one hard to enact laws in some jurisdictions. Today in Canada it's a hate crime to criticise someone’s fashion choices. That's a result of the misappropriation of the legal system to prevent people feeling offended. This is so dangerous. Harnessing the legal system to support subjective-opinions, that have no basis in evidence, is wrong.
How did this come about? Postmodernism has its origins in the failure of Marxism. Doctor Stephen Hicks, an American philosopher, makes the case in his book “Explaining Postmodernism.” In many ways, the postmodern philosophy is a lineal descendant of Marxist theory. It arose as the left sought to reconfigure their ideas as the awful truth of the Soviet Union’s disastrous Marxist experiment emerged. In short, the revolution failed. It left millions dead from torture and starvation. For example, collectivisation wiped out the productive farmers in Ukraine, plunging millions into poverty. Enforced doctrine rather than pragmatic evolved-systems prevailed.
It dawned on the leftists in late the 1950s and early 1960s that their narrative was no longer sellable. At the same time, capitalism improved the lives of the working man in the West. As Marxism floundered, the Chinese dropped the principles; opened their economy and then stood back. The human capital released from doctrine then transformed the country.
Scrambling to keep some credibility, the European leftist philosophers pulled a trick. They switched the ‘control of economic issues’ that underpins Marxism for ‘power-oppression.' But for that to work, you need an oppressor. The white man fitted the illegitimate mould the postmodernists created from nothing.
Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher, in part drove this process. His ‘destruction’ theory challenged everything, without thought for the consequences. In turn, that led to the collection of ideas now known as 'postmodernism.'
At the centre of these ideas is the belief that the world is a battle-ground between identity groups. Defining these groups is race, gender and ethnic lines. The postmodernists assert that the ‘white man’ sits at the pinnacle of society. He directs all actions and controls policy to keep his dominance. Further, they contend there is no truth, just personal narrative.
Postmodernists seek to dethrone this mythical ‘white man’; then push him to the margins. They will then claim the centre, although exactly who, when or how this works is never stated. Given the view that all that matters is race, gender or ethnic grouping, it's likely they will replace one power group with another. It's lost on them that these absurd ideas achieve nothing. Noam Chomsky asserts it’s all meaningless. He notes it adds naught to human knowledge or experience.
Of course, the fact that postmodernists focus on one group as the enemy is racist. In their minds, any and all white man are responsible for the evils committed down the aeons. It is of no consequence to them that you were not born at that time, only that you are guilty of being white and a man. This statement captures the evil at the heart of postmodernism. Group guilt is the central pillar.
A grave concern is legal systems supporting the postmodernist agenda. By stealth, and in support of real causes, the postmodernists hijacked judicial systems. In Canada and parts of the United States, they gained laws that impose minority views on the majority.
But don’t expect the postmodernist to debate their ideas. They reject such debate as useless. Language and words are the creations of the white man, used to dominate those at the margins.
Even a child can invent thought-experiments that erode postmodernist ideas. When you point out that in Japan it’s Asian men that dominate, the postmodernists remain mute. In some Pacific island nations females dominant society. Postmodernism crashes and burns when measured against these cultures. This comparison exposes the falsehood and deceit of postmodernism. After all, using skin-colour and gender to define your nemesis, means postmodernism is a snake eating its tail.
Over time postmodernism has morphed into a philosophy of victimhood. You can hear that lament in the rants of the social justice warriors.
At the extreme of the postmodernist movement are those who reject science. Again, all evidence-based ideas and even human progress are artificial constructs. For instance, we know that biology determines gender. Overwhelming DNA evidence supports this assertion. The postmodernists argue that science is just one version of the truth. To that there is only one response - their ideas are foolish. Science works, planes fly, and magic carpets don’t. Gravity is not a version of the truth; it’s a fact. If the postmodernists doubt it, you should invite them to jump off a building.
In rejecting biology, the postmodernists have decided that gender is a choice. This approach has spiralled into a multitude of invented sexes. I have no issue with what folks wish to call themselves. Except you can't use the law to impose these ideas on the rest of us. That is unacceptable.
Moreover, history tells us that when you use the law to change values, the outcomes can be awful. The Soviet Union sought to use laws to create a utopian world. It was all done with noble intent. In no time, the consequences unfolded as mass detentions, death camps and pogroms. Millions suffered terrible deaths as a result.
We must guard against the nasty bleak nature of the postmodernist. They seek to overturn the enlightenment, science and evidence-based debate. What is surprising is that these ideas are spreading from university campuses. Usually from the soft subjects, such as the social sciences and ‘gender studies.' Meanwhile, in craven capitulation, university administrators have surrendered to this nonsense.
Students at US universities sought exemption from exams citing their ethnicity. Asserting themselves as victims, they pushed colleges to give them degrees without sitting exams. That’s how postmodernism is spreading.
While the primary focus of attack for the postmodernists is the ‘white man’, that's not the only target. For example, they had no qualms about going after Germaine Greer, a leading feminist. When she dared to challenge the postmodernist view on transgenders, she earned their wrath. They acted to ban her from universities, shutting down free speech in the process. This incident highlights their perfidious intent. No debate, no questions allowed.
This action is not because they are incapable of debate or they fear shame. The underlying motive is much more sinister. The radical postmodernists don’t believe the consensus is possible between different identity groups. Thus discussion or debate is irrelevant. For them, the only option is conflict.
Studying these issues, you begin to get a perspective on the bizarre mindset of the postmodernists. Their distorted ideas are emerging into the public domain with gender issues, safe-spaces and laws imposed on the majority. At its core postmodernism is anti-science, anti-reasons and anti-logic. Unless we stop this nonsense, an insane tyrannical postmodernist world awaits.
Ordinarily, terrorists rarely get beaten in the field. Granted the security forces have the occasional victory or takedown. Except for the 1950s Malay campaign, most long-term terrorist engagements either fade-out or drift to a stalemate. Eventually, a political solution of sorts takes centre stage.
Conversely, when terrorists play the game of conventional warfare, they get their butts kicked. ISIS or ISIL (whichever name you prefer) soon discovered that going ‘conventional’ left them vulnerable. Since 2015, they’ve lost territory including Tikrit, Baiji, Ramadi and Fallujah. Today, Islamic State has given up 98% of the land it once controlled. Pockets of militants have fled to remote areas, including along the Euphrates River Valley. In the process, their revenues face depletion.
The ethos of terrorism means you don’t play by your rules. No set piece battles, no laws of war, and no distinction between combatants and civilians. Terrorism, similarly, is continuously changing, evolving with rapidity. Thus you don’t win the war on terror in swift military operations with aircraft-carriers and tanks. Nevertheless, to succeed you need tireless focus, innovation and to be as dynamic as your opponent.
The so-called ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland illustrates the point. The British Army, the intelligence services and robust policing was unable to defeat PIRA in 30 years of struggle. At its height, PIRA had an estimated 30,000 members, but only about 500 were active soldiers. Confined to a small geographical area, you’d assume that surveillance with overt tactics would soon round up the terrorists. It did not happen. Working in ‘cell-structures’ PIRA was able to remain active. The efforts to disrupt its activities failed.
The security forces had some wins. Ambushes caught PIRA units ‘in flagrante’ as they sought to bomb police stations. Despite this, PIRA survived as a functioning entity. When it decommissioned as part of the peace accord in 2005, PIRA produced a vast store of arms. Included was over 1000 rifles, two tonnes of explosive, 30 heavy machine guns and seven surface-to-air missiles. This cache of weapons illustrates the point.
As the London bombing of 7 July 2005 awoke the UK to the failure of its multiculturalism, the shortcomings of the security services were evident. 56 people, including the four bombers, died in the attacks. These home-grown terrorists had no affiliations nor support network. What they did have is a sense of alienation from their host nation. In their suicide videos, they mentioned al Qaeda amongst other influences.
Osama bin Laden’s genius was to franchise terrorism by harnessing Islam and the Internet. The call to jihad acts as an ideological bond to unite fighters across borders and diverse groups. His idea transcends typical structures, as he leveraged religion for this purpose. Without a hierarchy or unified command, al Qaeda operates through a networked system. Eliminating al Qaeda by force is impossible. To defeat it you need to tackle the idea that drives the radicalism.
‘Religion poisons everything’ is the sentiment espoused by polemicist Christopher Hitchens. At the forefront of the current wave of poisoning is Islam. None of this is possible without conditions that drive people to terrorism to seek the change they desire. The social conditions in the Middle East help the spread of militant Islam. It’s playing the role of providing a focal point for the disaffected and those seeking an identity.
The intrinsic nature of Islam is not the pivotal point; instead, it acts as the rally point. It may be that broader inclusiveness could damper the ardour of young men that rush to actions. For this to work, it will need improvements in the underlying economic and social factors. Then young men can enrol in regular societal activities.
"In the long term the best way to beat radical ideas is to make them redundant," says Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a critic of fundamentalist Islam. She believes we need to give young men (its mainly men) an alternative narrative. Radical Islam offers them one version of events. In simple terms that description is the West hates us and wants to dominate. By switching that story, you in effect immunise young Muslims.
When the Muslim Brotherhood says Islam is the answer to political and economic problems, we must provide reasons to why it's not. Islam may meet your spiritual needs, but can't realistically address all societies problems.
There is a historical precedent for this approach. Accelerating the fall of Marxist ideologies was information why the communist system failed. In the 1990s, Eastern Europeans embraced an alternative narrative, leading to the fall of governments.
These days the radicalisation message passes through tools Facebook and Twitter. Accordingly, the first step to derailing that process is to occupy the space with a better narrative. Take part in the debates, make counter-arguments and disrupt the extremists.
For this, to work it's vital to listen to what the radicals are saying. Do your research on their branding and objectives. Understand their means of recruitment and the hooks; what are they saying to get people on their side. Once you know that tact, you can then compose a counter-narrative.
Of course, none of this is glamorous work. Neither is it headline-making nor easy to sell to a public seeking quick answers after a terrorist attack. Cruise missiles and the deployment of special forces make for superior PR, but poor long-term outcomes.
It's getting crazier by the day. Sir Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader, has endorsed a report that drug users should not be called addicts or junkies. Amid claims that so-called insensitive language may stigmatise, Clegg wants to ban the use of words that offend drug addicts.
He’s suggesting that these words portray drug addicts as lazy and unintelligent. Next, he goes on to say we shouldn’t label them as flawed. So, not only is Clegg seeking to control the words we use, he wants to dictate how we think. All this from a so-called liberal.
Well, I can say, I’m dazed by this nonsense. Having had to deal with a few drug addicts in my professional life, I have some insights. I take the Peter Hitchens view that “drug taking is the purest form of self-indulgence.”
Self-induced stupidity in the extreme, that’s what drug taking amounts too. You intentionally disconnect from the world for a momentary delight, which then needs repeating. The damage done to your body is one aspect. Also, there is a moral argument that you sever the link between hard work and reward, making deferred gratification appear a waste of time.
In one step, you throw all moral principles out the window to pursue your relentless pleasure. Then you expect society to look after you with medical care. By the way, who pays for that medical care? Honest people, who manage to control themselves, hold down a job and pay their taxes.
No doubt the defenders of drug use will summons up the addiction argument. A person takes a drug, gets addicted and needs to keep on going. And yet, addiction cannot be shown by any scientific test. It's the high that the junkie seeks.
The fact is, drug takers are responsible for untold damage to themselves, their families and society as a whole. Thus, I baulk at the suggestion that we should roll over to portray them as victims.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy warned there is a drug perception problem, which is making it harder to help users. I don’t accept that. Indeed, drugs do create a negative perception. That shouldn't be a surprise nor is it a bad thing.
To suggest that different words would be beneficial is facile. I would argue that the very negative image of drugs does much to prevent use. Clegg’s initiative will make it more acceptable to be a junkie.
Clegg doubles-down on his argument to state that portrayals of drug users in the media increases stigma. Yep, he’s right. It does, and that’s a fitting message that drug use has terrible outcomes.
Changing words will do nothing to change attitudes. Clegg's proposals are nonsensical and counter-productive. Meanwhile, as Clegg seeks to protect the sensibilities of drug addicts, I’m offended by his attack on my freedom of speech. He aims to use the law to control words I may use. What next?. Control of my thoughts or addressing bank robbers as ‘value redistribution practitioner’.
Society must express its disapproval of drug use. Never forget that people take drugs because they like it. And then, they expect the cash-strapped hospitals to spend time and money rehabilitating them. With such behaviour don’t expect me to treat them as victims or be too concerned about offending them. Most importantly, I’m offended by their lack of self-control.
Following the Christmas knife attacks across London, that left four dead, Commissioner of Police Cassandra Dick, announced a new policy.
“These people have suffered some adverse experience when they are young and poor parenting. All things that can lead to other negative outcomes.”
Thus, henceforth, criminals will be classified as victims and their victims as criminals. Dick noted this initiative would bring the immediate benefit of pushing up her detection rate, although not bringing down crime.
“My officers are instructed to arrest stabbing victims because they caused it by their presence on the streets.”
Noting that those wielding the knife came from deprived backgrounds, Dick went on to say;
“You can't blame them for slashing open the stomachs of others. Most only have one PlayStation at home.”
The Met is already making significant progress with its investigations under the new policy. “We finally caught her” noted Superintendent Belter Cross-Dresser of the Knife Crime Unit. “She was hard to track down, but we found her in the critical care unit of Woolwich Hospital.” Mrs Beryl Wood, aged 72, who sustained 22 cuts in an attack last Wednesday, is now in custody.
Under the initiative, police funding goes from bobbies on the beat to youth activity. Ms Personal Pronoun of the Tower Hamlets Yoof Support Group welcomed the funding;
“Our fencing classes and samurai sword fighting lessons are now oversubscribed.”
A weekend crackdown, Operation Cleanup, saw 900 people arrested in knife crime areas. It’s shocking, says Chief Inspector S. J. Warrior, observing they had to bring in a family of six for strolling on Croydon High Street.
Commissioner Dick welcomed police officers from across the country to a five-day conference on the new policy. The meeting is to be held in Bermuda after health and safety assessments deemed London too dangerous.
Nobody does incompetence like the Hong Kong Government. The ineptitude came into focus this week with the appointment of the new Secretary for Justice.
Let's remind ourselves of some recent history. In past years, officials and prospective officials got caught with illegal structures on their homes. Henry Tang, wannabe Chief Executive, proved the most significant scalp. Although, the list is lengthy. Thus, you’d have thought our officials could organise some due diligence before appointing people. It appears not.
The rumours started last year that Rimsky Yuen, Secretary for Justice, wanted out. During his tenure, the poor chap faced many difficult tasks. He prosecuted the Occupy people and then he pursued police officers. Between a rock and a hard place, he was unable to please anyone. But, hey, that’s the job, and that’s why you get the big bucks.
By all accounts, the quest to find a replacement was not easy. With a charged political atmosphere, quality legal minds prefer to make money elsewhere. It's easier than facing the wrath of an agitated public. Anyway, the intrusive scrutiny of the role calls for brave soul. After rejections by several potential candidates, the government settled on Teresa Cheng.
You’d think after the Henry Tang debacle that sound checks existed to screen prospective officials. These investigations would look for any potential embarrassing acts or omissions. Integrity checks as such are pretty standard in most modern societies. Further, given that land use and building details are available to anyone, it's straightforward. Scanning the records is quick. Evidently, this did not take place.
Are we expected to believe that our officials are competent when this simple step appears beyond them? In the end, the only conclusion is that this is a problem of the governments making. No doubt they will be scrambling to repair the damage this week. We can expect announcements about committees to review procedures. They will utter the usual rote response from civil servants to their mistakes.
Meanwhile, the spin that accompanied Ms Cheng’s appointment is now looking vapid. You can’t argue that someone is savvy, astute and well-suited for a legal position when they don’t recognise these issues. Likewise, you can’t have your most senior justice official engaged in illegal acts. Immediately, the integrity of your legal system goes out the window.
This is a delicate time, with many significant legal issues to be addressed. Not least is the cross-border high-speed rail check point arrangements. Asking whether Ms Cheng should remain in the post is difficult to answer. If she’s retained the government has a millstone around its neck. To remove her, affirms your incompetence. Auribus teneo lupum.
Don’t panic. I’m not inviting you to wear lycra. But, no matter how you add it up, bikes make sense. They improve people’s health, are better for the environment than cars, and are an investment in societal well-being. Studies from Purdue University in the US have shown that regular cycling can cut your risk of heart disease by 50 percent. Cycling just 20 miles a week reduces your risk of heart disease.
Those benefits are felt across the whole of society. Research in the Nordic nations reveals a one to eight return by investing in cycling infrastructure. That gain comes in fitter people, fewer hospital visits and less air pollution. Layered atop that is the phycological merits of exercise; better mood, with stress levels reduced.
Meanwhile, if you drive for an hour in any major urban centre during rush hour, you’ll spend over 30 minutes going nowhere. Your average speed just 7mph. Get on a bike, and the average speed is around 12-15mph.
Building cycle paths changes the topography of a city, moulding the ebb and flow of people. It’s a case of you build it, then they will come. Bike hiring and sharing schemes supplement the process. The best outcomes result from separating motor vehicles and bicycles.
The Dutch kicked the process off in 1965. Anarchists started taking back the roads from cars, citing the congestion and pollution. Mass rides, the blocking of roads and such activities created a political movement. That then brought about policy changes. This grassroots activity forced officials to act.
These days most modern cities recognise that car use needs discouraging. Meanwhile, cycling policies create routes and the supporting structures. You generate the opportunity; the public does the rest.
In this regard, Hong Kong has made some progress, although the government policy is arcane. It portrays cycling as a recreational activity, thus ignoring the potential for commuting and delivery of goods. Given the thrust of the system, the cycling network covers the NT. Both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon are lacking provision.
The cycle tracks that exist are excellent in places, while shoddy in others. Illegal parking blights some sections, especially in the village areas. Powerful local interests resist enforcement action. Encroachment by construction work is a constant threat. Construction traffic routinely blocks the cycleway between Shatin and Tai Po. Again, government agencies appear unwilling to address this.
Some assert that Hong Kong’s climate and geography make cycling a minority interest. It's sure you wouldn’t want to be climbing the Peak on a regular commuter ride. Leave that to the professionals. That’s not the point. Most of the Kowloon peninsula is ideal for bikes; it's flat. Yet, it has no cycling infrastructure. Not even shared-use bike lanes or bike priority areas. This is despite the evidence that a bike could move people and materials quicker. Those congested concrete canyons look to remain. The north shore of Hong Kong Island is perfect for bike commuting. Except, no cycling infrastructure.
Hong Kong’s progress in building cycle tracks is moving at a slow pace. In places, it’s stalled by vested interest. The much-trumpeted circular route from Tsuen Wan to Shatin is now looking unlikely. In Sham Tseng, residents and shops have objected, despite the fact that cyclists would bring business to the area.
The car lobby and others often argue that cyclists don’t pay road tax. They object to bikes on 'their' roads, as if owning a car gives a privilege. They pay to use the road, and cyclists should do the same. It’s an interesting argument. If motorists paid the full cost of road use, they’d be unlikely to afford a car. Setting aside the fact that no such thing as road tax exists, let's weigh up the numbers.
The data tells us that one mile of protected cycle track is between fifty to hundred times cheaper than one mile of road. Different construction materials and terrain account for the variation. Thus, in the worse case for one mile of road, you get to build a cycle track 50 miles long. Then you’ve got the environmental cost of burning hydrocarbons. Add to that the disposal cost of a car once it reaches the end of its life; that would give us a full life-cycle costing.
The final tally is stunning. Over a five year period an average car, including purchase, will cost the owner HK$488,600-. That’s about half a million dollars. A reasonable quality bike over the same period will cost the owner HK25,000-. Thus, you’d save HK$463,600 by cycling. And that’s without calculating the health gains.
Besides, biking is the fastest and cheapest way to open up full transportation systems. Think about it, for every cyclist a seat is vacated on public transport. Plus, you don’t need car-parking spots downtown. No matter how you cut it, bikes make economic and environmental sense. The numbers speak for themselves.
Granted a bike can carry one person, but most private cars are only moving one person on the daily commute. I’m not suggesting the bike can replace the car in all situations. For lengthy commutes, from remote areas, and for groups of people, the vehicle may be the best option. I recognize that severe weather is a deterrent, while the summer heat may discourage some.
To open up new areas, shared use paths are an option. In fact, that's what you’ve got because joggers and pedestrians normally use the bike paths. On the bike sharing front, Hong Kong is experiencing a massive experiment. This uncontrolled trial may or may not work. There is some dispute about whether you make money from shared schemes. No one can agree on that, but that’s not the point.
What is important is to apply the optimum approach. For instance, dock-less bike schemes bring challenges like the above picture shows. An oversupply of bikes can congest pedestrian walkways. This annoys people, turning attitudes. Docked shared bikes is the best option as seen in London. That entails planning, construction of docking space, with a consequential increase in costs. Thus, there is a balance that needs assessing.
Hong Kong faces stumbling blocks to integrate cycles into the city. Car-centric policy-makers are calling the shots with stiff resistance from entrenched interests. Until cyclists get themselves organised, its doubtful much will change.
It’s unquestionable that the demand for bike routes exists. Venture to Shatin any weekend to witness the hundreds of thousands out cycling. Two years ago, I participated in the largest cycling safety lesson in history. This Guinness Book of Records event had 504 people turn up to ride. It's clear, by establishing cycling habits and acknowledging the utility of bikes, the benefits will come.
I don’t argue that the bicycle can replace the car. That’s unrealistic. What I’m seeking is infrastructure that allows bikes to integrate safely within the urban area. In the end, we all gain.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.