29 June 2009

Politeness is bourgeois

The communists thought of politeness as a product of bourgeois fetishism. By now, rudeness has become the norm in this country. Agents of the collective with power over individuals (doctors, teachers etc.) are now amazingly rude by the standards of fifty years ago; and fifty years ago had already seen some slippage from the norm that had prevailed earlier. On the other hand, of course, all agents of the collective are supposed to be above criticism, although there are now so many of them that it is wildly improbable to suppose that a high standard of impersonal motivation or objectivity could be maintained by more than a tiny proportion of them.

The lack of scepticism towards people with some status was certainly not the attitude that I had acquired from pre-socialist literature. One did not give up on thinking about the individual psychologies of headmasters, priests or aristocrats because of their social position.

Actually old-fashioned politeness can be seen as trying not to make it more difficult than need be for other people to remain, or to become, centralised, by showing respect for their territory of decision. Modern social interactions make any centralised position almost impossible to maintain.

I once described myself to an academic philosopher as a bourgeois capitalist, which of course is automatically pejorative in the modern world. I became identified with that position well before I went to the Ursuline school at the age of ten.

By the time I was five I had read the equivalent of what a fairly bright child would get through in their entire primary school education, and by the time I was ten I had read a similar amount as a person would have read by the time they were twenty. The local juvenile library was supposed to provide for readers up to the age of sixteen, and I had exhausted it before I was eleven, supplementing it with what adults at that time read for fun, as found in my grandfather’s library.

There was practically no trace of modern egalitarian or communist ideology in any of this, nor of the modern belief system of psychological interpretations that is now universally encountered.

24 June 2009

A totally lost point of view

It is amazing how completely the modern ideology has wiped out the worldview that was present approximately at the peak of the British Empire, which was the worldview of the books which I read in my grandfather’s library.

It is perhaps no accident that Christianity arose at about the peak of the Roman Empire. Clearly there was a good deal in both situations that would favour centralised psychology, moral relativism and existential awareness.

In both cases you have an upper class with territories consisting of landed estates and servants or slaves, putting its push into sending out armies; thus very militaristic and hierarchical. War makes people very aware of reality as threatening, and the awareness that one’s own life is always at risk may lead to existential perceptions. (As Nietzsche said, ‘Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius ... Live at war with your peers and yourselves.’)

One encounters other civilisations, other cultures, and becomes aware that many social structures, many different power structures, many variants of religious belief are possible. There may be suggestions that some cults or priesthoods have some knowledge of, or access to, psychic forces.

So perhaps you get a kind of open-minded existential agnosticism, like that of Rider Haggard or like my own; and ideas associated with centralised psychology are not far away in the traditions of an aristocratic and militaristic ruling class.

Now the outlook is entirely different. There are all sorts of ideas about ‘social justice’, and an antagonism to centralisation and existential awareness. It is as if everyone has entered into a social contract. The state will protect its citizens from the most obvious threats so that they will never have to think about reality, and in return they surrender their liberty. They will actually have no rights at all; society will own them, and their children, body and soul, and will tell them what they should want and need. If any individual says that he wants or needs something else, he will be told that he does not really want or need it.

22 June 2009

Ideological themes in social work

In an earlier post I discussed the recent case of a mother deemed ‘too stupid’ to look after her own child, and expressed surprise that even conservative journalists no longer find it shocking that children should be removed on such grounds.

This case, discussed at greater length in another recent Daily Mail article, presents a number of interesting issues.

A) The first is the way that reacting emotionally to a stressful situation seems to be taboo, since it is interpreted as implying that your viewpoint is irrational.

Her confrontational, argumentative nature - (she likens herself to a lioness trying to protect her cub ) - must have done her no favours with social workers. In truth, she is not the most sympathetic of characters, her voice steadily rising as she angrily dismisses the 'mad' social workers and lawyers involved in her case as the real 'idiots' or 'bimbos'. She just sounds very, very angry, frustrated and upset - convinced, in her humiliation, that social workers acted out of their intense dislike of her rather than the welfare of the child. [1]

I have referred previously to the idea that anger at the way one has been treated is taken as weakening one’s case. Also taken as weakening one’s case is the expression of criticisms of social workers or other agents of the collective. A similar phenomenon can be observed in another recent case, in which a woman’s twin babies were taken away from her after she joked that their caesarean birth had ‘ruined her body’, which allegedly showed that she felt ‘bitter’ towards her children.

And when the desperate mother lost her temper at social workers who had taken her babies, officials said she had ‘anger problems’ and could pose a threat to her twins. [2]

B) A second issue raised by the article about the 'stupid mother' case relates to the concept of property.

... Rachel has been fighting to get back the child she claims was 'stolen' from her ... She has a one-track mind: the child belongs to her, no matter what. [1]

It is well known that left-wing ideology has tended to be hostile to the idea of property. But this scepticism about its moral defensibility has now become more or less universal, and is no longer confined to people who think of themselves as left-wing. Even people as ostensibly pro-property as libertarians now seem uncertain about defending it. The recently established British Libertarian Party has avoided the word ‘property’, dropping it from the more traditional libertarian slogan of ‘life, liberty, property’ in favour of ‘life, liberty, prosperity’. The concept of prosperity is ill-defined and does not, without qualification, imply an individual territory of decision.

The mother says her child has been ‘stolen’: this is supposed to show she has a ‘one-track mind’, i.e. she is (allegedly) wrong to think in terms of the child belonging to her, or being part of her territory of control.

C) The third issue raised by the 'stupid mother' case is unrealism about human psychology, and ignorance (actual or feigned) about the underlying power relations of a social interaction, particularly between an individual and an agent of the collective.

... as with many such cases, nothing relating to Rachel's story is entirely clear-cut. Listening to her, it is impossible not to feel sympathy for her distress. And yet who would envy the social workers charged with making these difficult decisions? [1]

‘It is impossible not to feel sympathy for her distress.’ But evidently possible to the extent of acquiescing in the outcome. Analogously, outside observers may think they experience some reservations about such cases when encountering face-to-face the suffering caused, but it is clearly possible for most people to allow such suffering to continue nonetheless, presumably on the basis that a decision by an authorised agent of the collective legitimates the outcome, however gruesome.

‘Who would envy the social workers?’ Lots of people, I should think. Many people find power enjoyable, and quickly become desensitised about the suffering their decisions cause. ‘Mmm, lots of difficult decisions to make about whose lives to destroy and in what way. What fun!’

[1] How dare they say I'm too dumb to be a mum: defiant mother speaks out after courts rule she's 'too stupid' to care for her child, Daily Mail, 4 June 2009
[2] 'Social workers took away my twins after I'd joked that birth spoilt my body', Daily Mail, 20 June 2009

16 June 2009

Extract from She

Certain works of fiction, significant during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, are no longer read much, but contain elements of a certain outlook – relatively aware of existential reality – which is almost totally absent from modern culture. That this is so is no accident. The outlook in question is incompatible with the ethos which now prevails, after the cultural revolution we have had. The following extract is from Rider Haggard’s She. I may comment on it in detail in a future post.

'I brought you,' went on Ayesha presently, 'that ye might look upon the most wonderful sight that ever the eye of man beheld the full moon shining over ruined Kôr ...

Court upon dim court, row upon row of mighty pillars, some of them (especially at the gateways) sculptured from pedestal to capital space upon space of empty chambers that spoke more eloquently to the imagination than any crowded streets. And over all, the dead silence of the dead, the sense of utter loneliness, and the brooding spirit of the Past! How beautiful it was, and yet how drear! ... Ayesha herself was awed in the presence of an antiquity compared to which even her length of days was but a little thing; ... It was a wonderful sight to see the full moon looking down on the ruined fane of Kôr . It was a wonderful thing to think for how many thousands of years the dead orb above and the dead city below had gazed thus upon each other, and in the utter solitude of space poured forth each to each the tale of their lost life and long-departed glory. ... and the untamed majesty of its present Death seemed to ... speak more loudly than the shouts of armies concerning the pomp and splendour that the grave had swallowed, and even memory had forgotten.

... she led us through two more pillared courts into the inner shrine of the old fane.

... in the exact centre of the court, placed upon a thick square slab of rock, was a huge round ball of dark stone, some forty feet in diameter, and standing on the ball was a colossal winged figure ...

It was the winged figure of a woman of such marvellous loveliness and delicacy of form that the size seemed rather to add to than to detract from its so human and yet more spiritual beauty. She was bending forward and poising herself upon her half-spread wings as though to preserve her balance as she leant. Her arms were outstretched like those of some woman about to embrace one she dearly loved, while her whole attitude gave an impression of the tenderest beseeching. Her perfect and most gracious form was naked, save and here came the extraordinary thing the face, which was thinly veiled, so that we could only trace the marking of her features. A gauzy veil was thrown round and about the head, and of its two ends one fell down across her left breast, which was outlined beneath it, and one, now broken, streamed away...

'Who is she?' I asked ...

... 'It is Truth standing on the World, and calling to its children to unveil her face. See what is writ upon the pedestal. Without doubt it is taken from the book of the Scriptures of these men of Kôr,' and she led the way to the foot of the statue, where an inscription of the usual Chinese-looking hieroglyphics was so deeply graven as to be still quite legible, at least to Ayesha. According to her translation it ran thus:

'Is there no man that will draw my veil and look upon my face, for it is very fair? Unto him who draws my veil shall I be, and peace will I give him, and sweet children of knowledge and good works.'

And a voice cried, 'Though all those who seek after thee desire thee, behold! Virgin art thou, and Virgin shall thou go till Time be done. No man is there born of woman who may draw thy veil and live, nor shall be. By Death only can thy veil be drawn, oh Truth!'

And Truth stretched out her arms and wept, because those who sought her might not find her, nor look upon her face to face.

'Thou seest,' said Ayesha, when she had finished translating, 'Truth was the Goddess of the people of old Kôr, and to her they built their shrines, and her they sought; knowing that they should never find, still sought they.'

'And so,' I added sadly, 'do men seek to this very hour, but they find not; and, as this scripture saith, nor shall they; for in Death only is Truth found.'

11 June 2009

Even more people involved in the oppression of children

I see that family courts are now to be open to journalists, instead of secret, which may conceivably be a consequence in part of our drawing attention to some of the more obvious horrors on our blogs. Actually this will do no good; one only tries to highlight one or two of the worst cases to illustrate the fact that this is bound to result from the principle of individual freedom being violated. In fact what is proposed will make court processes even more cumbrous and costly to the taxpayer, thus increasing the violation of individual liberty involved.

Whether my blog has actually had any effect in producing this worsening of the situation I do not know. I always try to put in my commentaries that what is important is the immorality of there being social workers and family courts at all, funded by taxation, and that this immorality should be recognised and reversed. But I continue to be suppressed, and treated as if I do not exist, so that I get no opportunity to express publicly my views as they really are.

The reaction that a situation will be improved by more people being involved in oppressing the individual is a standard one. People often refer to the concept of ‘checks and balances’ as if that made intervention/interference all right in principle. When I describe the horrors of my ‘education’ to educational experts, they often assert that decisions are now referred to a larger number of people, and not left to isolated individuals – such as, presumably, the Reverend Mother at my convent who nearly let me have a chance in life.

In fact, on that occasion, large numbers of people did wade in and prevent her from letting me have my chance. As I said to a couple of educational experts whom I met in Oxford some years ago, if you have schools at all, the only hope for the exceptional individual is that he encounters an individual who feels free to allow him exceptional opportunity without consulting others. Certainly if a committee or a plurality of people are involved, he will only get oppression instead of opportunity. A chain is as strong as its weakest link, and a committee is as enlightened as its most oppressive member.

Neither of the educational experts I met offered me any help at all in getting back into (or rather, started on) a suitable academic career. They could each have contributed £1000 a year out of the salaries which they were so lucky as to have, for example, or come to work for me for a few weeks every year in their holidays to contribute to the infrastructure of my squeezed and deprived academic institutional environment.

05 June 2009

Pretending to be shocked

Would a court have decided a 24-year-old single mother was ‘too stupid’ to care for her three-year-old daughter if this wasn’t so? According to a weekend news report, ‘Rachel’ – her full name withdrawn for legal reasons – has had this happen to her.

We’re indignant if the rights of mothers are asserted and children die as a result. We’re indignant if social work professionals and courts assert what they see as the rights of children. There are no reliable general rules here. It’s particular circumstances. So I’m reluctant to get carried away about this case. Of course, it’s offensive to say someone’s too stupid to look after children, but it doesn’t mean this is always wrong. So let’s stop pretending to be shocked about it. (Peter McKay, Daily Mail, 1 June 2009).

"We’re indignant if the rights of mothers are asserted and children die as a result."

Perhaps some people have been brainwashed into believing that if a child dies because of parental neglect, this is because ‘the rights of parents have been asserted’, and the implication is that we should oppose the ‘rights’ of parents. But this is obviously a highly tendentious way of putting it.

"Of course, it’s offensive to say someone’s too stupid to look after children, but it doesn’t mean this is always wrong."

It is curious that McKay thinks what is objectionable about the concept ‘too stupid for the normal restrictions on state removal of children to apply’ is merely the part about calling someone stupid. It is strange that this view of the situation, ignoring the moral principle involved, is being expressed by a journalist in a supposedly conservative newspaper.

There have always been plenty of parents who, depending on the criteria applied, would have been deemed ‘too stupid’ to bring up children. It is a long way from there to the position that children should be taken under the supervision of strangers, whenever agents of the state judge parents to be inadequate.

"Let’s stop pretending to be shocked about it," suggests McKay. If pretending to be shocked is all the resistance we have left to this appalling system, we had better keep pretence rather than nothing. When even the pretence is gone, what will be left to prevent the continuation of this process to its horrific but logical extreme: that children are the responsibility first and foremost of the state, and parents will only be allowed to interact with them if they first get permission?

04 June 2009


At my last seminar an Iraqi lady commented that the way we had been treated sounded like what happened in an authoritarian regime, only where she came from they would shoot you for expressing any criticism of the system, not merely suppress you. Later she asked, ‘What are they threatened by?’
I wrote her the following letter after the seminar.

Dear ...

When we met, you seemed to feel that we should be able to express our critical views of modern society and ideology. We believe that our best chance of building up personnel to enable us to be productive is probably from immigrants who were not brought up in the ideology now prevalent in this country. If you know of any other Iraqis in this country we would like to meet them so that this section of the population knows something about us and about our ability to support and subsidise temporary and part-time workers of all kinds, especially for work not requiring too much knowledge of English.

We would be happy to entertain you and/or any Iraqi friends for lunch at the Bat and Ball pub in Cuddesdon, up to a total of three people at a time. We would of course pay for you, as our guests.

If you or anyone else would like to come any time, it would be helpful if you could let us know the day before so we could book a table, and arrive about 11 or 11.30, in preparation for lunch at 12.30. If you let me have the names and addresses of any friends who might be interested in our books we could send them complimentary copies.

Susan Boyle’s ‘mental health’

Susan Boyle ... was admitted to a private clinic under the Mental Health Act by doctors worried about her state of mind on Sunday. Professor Chris Thompson, chief medical officer of The Priory, where the singer is being cared for ... added ‘I read Susan Boyle was assessed under the Mental Health Act. It implies compulsory admission. It implies there was a degree of personal risk. Secondarily that implies she did not want to come into hospital voluntarily.’ (Daily Mail, 3 June 2009).

A television talent contestant called Susan Boyle has, if this story is to be believed, been deprived of her liberty and incarcerated in a ‘mental hospital’ because socially appointed medical sadists, quite likely with low IQs, considered that in their opinions she was a risk to herself. She had apparently done nothing actually illegal, such as injuring a person or damaging some of their property, and if she had there should be a clearly defined penalty for it.

Now she cannot get out of prison until she convinces some other socially appointed sadists that she is no longer a ‘risk’ to herself. This is an extremely decentralising position to be in, quite enough (in my opinion) to drive anyone round the bend (i.e. what is considered to be round the bend on normal terms).

Even if the story is incorrect, and Susan Boyle is having psychiatric ‘help’ voluntarily and not compulsorily, it illustrates the immorality of what can happen to people under the rules of the modern ‘health’ profession: involuntary incarceration by agents of the collective even when you have broken no law. The ‘doctors’ involved in such compulsory ‘admissions’ are clearly all fundamentally immoral people or they would not consent to exercise such a role.