Thursday, 13 October 2016

Breasts are very powerful things. Discuss.

What a great general paper question for undergraduate historians that would make.

Off the top of my head, I'd mention Lola Montez (whose bust measured 50 inches) and the Bavarian revolution of 1848. 

Lola Montez was a courtesan and dancer, famous for her 'spider dance', which involved her being forced to disrobe because of a spider that crawled into her dress. Lola Montez was her stage name. She was an Irishwoman of good family and her real name was Marie Gilbert. She was a liberal (by the standards of Germany at the time) and, in the year in which she was King Ludwig's mistress and had a lot of power in Bavaria, she made an enemy of the Jesuits and the Church. Her unpopularity led to her royal lover losing his throne.

Had her bust been smaller, as someone said of Cleopatra's nose...

I was meant to be a historian.

I know about her bust from a curious 19th century medical book that I once dipped into. She approached the author, a doctor, to see if she could have her breasts reduced in size.

Of course tastes in beauty change. I think a character in a Noel Coward play said that when you see photographs of women who are well attested to have made entire trainfuls of men spontaneously stand up to look you find that they look like men themselves. I fail to see from photographs why many women were considered famous beauties, including Marie of Romania, who modestly said  that she was not necessarily the most beautiful woman in Europe but she was certainly the most beautiful queen.

There are some unflattering pictures of Lola but this one explains why the King of Bavaria was captivated.

Image result for lola montez

A true conservative

"If there is a class war—and there is—it is important that it should be handled with subtlety and skill. ... it is not freedom that Conservatives want; what they want is the sort of freedom that will maintain existing inequalities or restore lost ones."Maurice Cowling, "The Present Position," Conservative Essays , Portillo ed., 1978.

I read Conservative Essays as a VIth Former with fascination and agreed with much of it but disliked a certain amount. This cumbrous sentence shocked me when I read it aged 18. I still don't believe in class war (though he was writing in the 1970s) but I do believe inequality and hierarchy are good and necessary things.

Maurice Cowling wrote in 1981 to the editors of the London Review of Books,

“Argument is not what it seems to me suitable to do with opinions. What one does with opinions—all one needs to do with them, having found that one has them—is to enjoy them, display them, use them, develop them, in order to cajole, press, bully, soothe, and sneer other people into sharing (or being affronted by) them. To argue them is, it seems to me, a very vulgar, debating-society sort of activity.”
How very much I wish I had gone to Peterhouse and been taught by him and by the great Edward Norman.

I am very certain that were he alive Cowling would be a strong supporter of Donald Trump.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Why do we care more about preserving lions than indigenous cultures?

What will our children say after we let all the lions die?

That was the Guardian headline. 

I asked myself, 'What will they say after we let all the European national cultures die?'

But I know the Guardian wouldn't publish an article under such a headline. In fact, a conservative paper like the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mail wouldn't.

The modern world and the liberalism that has ruled it since 1991 has given us unprecedented prosperity and peace for many, an amazing reduction in Third World poverty, huge medical advances, technological miracles, the internet, loss of rural life, secularism, the financial crash, unjust wars, abortion, sexual equality, non-judgmental sexual morals, many more democratic countries but grave restrictions on freedom in established democracies, and, most significant of all, waves of migration unprecedented for a thousand years.

If you think I exaggerate, figures for my own country show that almost a third of primary school children in England and Wales have 'an ethnic minority background'. For some reason Ukrainians and Poles are not counted as 'ethnic minorities' for official purposes. Only non-white ethnic groups count. More than a quarter of children born in England and Wales in 2015 were born to women born outside the UK. A third had at least one immigrant parent.

Similar things are happening in most European countries, except the ones in the former Communist bloc.

My Oxford-educated friend Rebecca, in her 40s, used to work for the Labour Party. I pressed her on whether there were any conceivable proportion of British children with immigrant parents that she would think too many. '50%? 70%?' She answered that she would be happy if it were 100%. 

I mention Rebecca because she speaks for so many influential people in Britain, not just in the elite but, equally influential, schoolteachers, clergy, trade union activists and high-minded people of all kinds, in all social classes.

Mass immigration into Europe is powered by low birth rates in the developed world, but it would be happening without them. It began during the baby boom. Its deeper causes are huge pressures from the poor world and lack of will to refuse immigrants.

The people who run Europe think the end of predominantly ethnic states is inevitable, though they do not say so. People who don’t think so are silenced.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said in October last year, 

“Diversity is now in some parts of Europe seen as a threat. Diversity comes with challenges. But diversity is humanity's destiny. There is not going to be, even in the remotest places of this planet, a nation that will not see diversity in its future. That’s where humanity is heading. And those politicians trying to sell to their electorates a society that is exclusively composed of people from one culture, are trying to portray a future based on a past that never existed, therefore that future will never be.”

By 'diversity', which already exists in trumps in Western Europe, he meant the end of nation states. Europe as a collection of immigrant countries, like the USA.

Japan however takes another view. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, said at the weekend, 

“As an issue of demography, I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, by elderly people and we must raise (the) birthrate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants.”

Liberalism is by far the most influential stream of thought favouring immigration in modern Western Europe. Insofar as democratic socialists do so, it is partly because they are liberals too.

But the far left (and in the UK that includes Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition, and the ‘Corbynistas’) have another aim, revolution. A revolution to get rid of their two enemies, conservatism and national pride, which they call false consciousness.

Every crisis presents the hard left with the opportunity for revolution and though the economic crisis of 2008 failed to be the crisis of capitalism to which they have looked forward since Stalin, they see in a mass migration of people from war zones in the Middle East and Asia as another chance.

The masses in the European colonies were identified by Lenin as the victims of capitalism and non-whites remain so in the left-wing imagination. Now immigrant masses can be the troops that overturn the system without bloodshed.

The soft left, the moderates and the Blairites don’t want revolution but they share this desire to use immigration to weaken small 'c' conservatism, which has the happy effect of adding millions of left-wing voters and clients to the electorate.

They don't see that immigrants are like salt. A reasonable amount is necessary for flavour. Too much spoils the soup.

Clearly, Theresa May has many strong reasons, philosophical and partisan, for wanting to reduce immigration sharply, and she wants to do so very badly, but she has failed to do so and will continue to fail. She will at most slow down the transformation of her country.

Please click on this wonderful article by Niall McCrae, The real hate crime is the Left’s loathing of Britain, in The Conservative Woman, about a Socialist Workers' Party (Trotskyite) meeting he attended. This is a quotation.
To the far Left, every crisis is an opportunity to bring down the established order. It did not happen after the global economic shock of 2008, but the migrant crisis presents much greater prospects of destruction. Immigrant masses are the storm-troopers, and no bullets need be fired for the system to be overturned. Meanwhile, the danger of terrorism is cast as a racist trope. 
Niall McCrae asked the speaker if there were an upper limit on the number of immigrants Britain should absorb and received no reply, from which he understood, rightly, that for Trotskyites there is not. 

Nor is there for Jeremy Corbyn. Nor for my friend Rebecca.