Friday, 16 December 2011

Not on speaking terms

So Mrs Vali Chapti has lost her appeal against the ruling that her Indian husband must learn some English before he acquires the right to live with her in the UK. How does the BBC feel about this? There are some clues: the Chaptis' lawyer. Manjit Gill QC, is quoted at greater length than the judge, and a pro-immigration lobbyist gets considerably more space to air her disappointment than the Immigration Minister gets to express his satisfaction. Same old same old, as we bloggers used to say.

I can agree with Mr Gill on one point: this is about racism. We learn that the Chaptis 'have divided their time for 15 years between Leicester and India', so it seems reasonable to conclude that Mr Chapti has spent a total of several years lving in an English city. During that time he has not felt moved to acquire the most basic English (which, lest we forget, is one of the national languages - in many respects the national language - of his native India). That being the case, he can never have held a conversation - never so much as said 'nice weather we're having' - with the citizens of the country which he wishes to make his home. Or rather, only with the ones who belong to his own ethnic group.

This goes some way beyond a natural preference for mixing with one's own kind, does it not? Give Mr Chapti a paler complexion and he would be Dr Verwoerd's idea of a model citizen. Question 1: why doesn't the Beeb see it that way? Question 2: how many more Mr Chaptis are there living in Leicester? Question 3: how surprising is it if some of the people in Leicester who Mr Chapti doesn't talk to are drawn to the EDL or worse?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Deadly serious

Apple is cool. Abortions are cool. The BBC is a great and impartial national institution.

Compare and contrast. Rhetorical mass murder by the nation's favourite wind-up merchant? Cue instant grovelling apologies. Whereas endorsement of actual industrial-scale killing? I won't hold my breath.

And I'll back the Sack Clarkson campaign just as soon as I hear that I can retire on a full pension at 60, thank you very much, Brother Prentis.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Good non-secular persons rejoice

The Royal Mail has issued its Christmas stamps, which this year feature pictures of the Nativity.
Praise the Lord - and the even better news is that they also feature the Annunciation and the Epiphany. Doubts as to how clearly the Beeb's scribe understands what the Nativity is can only be magnified as we read on...
The company said the stamps were inspired by verses from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
True BBC impartiality! But never mind, we have clear acknowledgement here that Christmas is a a Chrsitian festival. Or do we?
Last year's Christmas stamps featured animated characters Wallace & Gromit. Royal Mail's policy for its official Christmas stamps is to alternate non-secular and secular themes each year - but non-secular festive issues are always available.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

St Paul's latest

Protester Naomi Colvin told the Today programme the demonstrators wanted any decision to leave to be theirs, and it would come only when they had achieved their objectives in the current location.
Ms Colvin, aged thirty one and three quarters, also said that the demonstrators had come to a democratic decision that it was up to them when they went to bed and that neither parents, the ex-Dean of St Pauls nor anybody else had any business telling them it was bedtime.

Update: the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has announced his resignation. In a statement just issued by Lambeth Palace, he said that since over the last fortnight the demonstrators had gained a far larger audience for woolly leftish moralising than he had managed in all his years in office, he felt somewhat surplus to requirements. He was confident that he was leaving the conscience of the nation in safe hands, and was looking forward to resuming his research on the Arian heresy and the late Roman banking system.

Reports of uncontrollable laughter from somewhere beyond the clouds were unconfirmed.

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Messiah: exclusive photo and interview

Vastly entertaining front page of the Grauniad today. What a very naughty thing to do to to shy, retiring Dr Fraser.

Actually the interview is by no means lacking in good sense, albeit with a generous helping of cant mixed in. E.g.:-
I mean, if you looked around and you tried to recreate where Jesus would be born – for me, I could imagine Jesus being born in the camp.
What a thing it is to have a vivid imagination. Nobody much seems to be spending the night in those tents, never mind giving birth.

Then there's this:-
"Money is the number one moral issue in the Bible and the way the Church of England goes on you would think it was sex,"
Dear me, I must have been going to the wrong churches during my time in the C of E.

As for the guff about rediscovering the Incarnation in Bethnal Green, this is a man whose career so far has included an Oxford college chaplaincy, the cure of souls in Putney and, of course, one of the plum jobs at St. Paul's. There are, I believe, plenty of vacancies in inner-city parishes, but when he asserts that "Christianity is one of the most materialistic of the world's religions" he is perhaps revealing rather more about Giles Fraser than he intended. I'd love to know what Trollope would have made of the whole business.

If you want a more humbug-free Anglican voice I recommend George Carey.

One question raised by pro-protest commenters on Carey's piece is "what does St Paul's need £20,000 a day for?". The obvious answer is of course "to maintain one of the finest buildings in Britain", but there's an even more fundamental one, namely "none of your business". Those who fail to understand that are totalitarians at heart.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Not where you might expect

Euro judges join forces with German tree-huggers to interfere with hardworking British wealth-creators

I'm sure they'd make the headline a lot more snappy, but doesn't it have all the ingredients for the front page story in the Daily Mail? So you might be a little surprised by the destination of this link.

If you find any trace of balance and impartiality, let me know.

Friday, 16 September 2011

The inconvenience of democracy

Via Daniel Hannan I came across a bleak assessment of Europe's prospects written in June by Martin Kettle. Kettle is a Guardianista of the better sort, but even so I was struck by the way this passing remark reveals perhaps rather more than the author intended:-
'Any commentator who forecast victory for the AV referendum should not quote himself too proudly.'
Time to elect a new people?

Abortion - a must-read

A quick "if you don't read anything else this week" post to advertise Mary Wakefield's excellent piece on abortion from last week's Spectator.

'Well, let me put my cards on the table straightaway (I have two cards as it happens). The first is that I am a religious nut job. I’m Catholic and a convert to boot. But whether you believe it or not, my religion isn’t the cause of my concern. For one thing, most Catholics were hostile to the Dorries amendment (which they see as a measly sop and a tactical mistake). For another, you don’t have to be Catholic, or even Christian, to think it odd to adopt a completely cavalier attitude towards the unborn. I thought this long before I considered the Church, and considered the Church because of it.'
Very much where I come from; here's something I wrote five years before becoming a Catholic.

Did you know that Germany's abortion rate is half as high as ours in Britain? I didn't, despite having lived in Germany for five years - it's not something that's shouted from the rooftops and it's not a result of the country being full of swivel-eyed Catholic fanatics. Just under half the population is nominally Catholic, and the prevailing brand of Catholicism is decidedly liberal.

So, to echo Mary's question, if there was an entirely non-coercive way of nudging Britain in the direction of Germany, who could possibly object, and why? Well, of course we have seen that all kinds of people object vehemently. Choice is no longer the real issue. It's about abortion as a good in itself, a badge of liberation from the interfering killjoy in the sky.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

AD or CE: multiculturalism in a nutshell

One of these days I will find myself agreeing with a post by Norm which has nothing to do with Israel. Here he considers the trend towards replacing BC and AD with BCE and CE. He starts promisingly:-
'Some Muslims, Jews, atheists or other non-Christians may take offence at the reference to Jesus Christ in BC and AD, but they shouldn't. If that is the year that marks the beginning of the new calendar and also the year of Jesus's birth, then the noting of this should be no more offensive to us non-Christians than it would be for someone to say of an idea of yours that it was Confucian or Hegelian or Rawlsian (if this is what it indeed was).'
But there's a but...
'However, a calendar which is in international use doesn't have to be named in a way signalling the birth of a figure central to one particular religion. It can be named more 'openly' - as the BCE/CE terminology in fact achieves. So why not? What serious objection can there be to a more inclusive designation?'
My objections, whether serious or frivolous I leave the reader to judge:-

1. The fact that the calendar is in international use doesn't mean that everyone has to use the same names. Diversity, anyone? I suspect that BC/AD is objectionable in China or Iran due to precisely those sensitivities which Norm dismisses as unnecessary. Well., that's entirely up to them - provided that we don't feel under pressure to follow suit.

2. If Norm is going to start feeling excluded by the facts of his country's history, isn't it time for him to get acquainted with the Serenity Prayer?

3. BC/AD ties our dates to the life of a person. Few doubt that he existed; nobody can deny that he is a figure of surpassing significance in world history and in the development of British culture specifically. If we shed all that cultural baggage in the name of inclusiveness, what do we get to replace it with? A faceless abstraction redolent of nothing but academic bureaucracy.

Significantly, Norm's quote from the Christopher Booker piece doesn't include the bit about a big publisher pulping a book about Christianity because it used the politically incorrect date notation. I don't feel very included by that.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Till ennui us do part?

In´Čüdelity, which formerly topped the list of reasons for marriage breakdown, has been surpassed by couples saying they no longer felt in love and had "grown apart".

As a sign of the times, this appears depressing beyond words. Can we really have reached the stage where an erstwhile commitment to love and to cherish until death do us part has come down to so casual and seemingly frivolous a reason for walking out on the union, and quite possibly children, too?
- Angela Neustatter in the Telegraph, quoted by Norm.

Norm disagrees:-
To get to the crux of the thing, there are going to be marriages which people should walk away from: not to do so may be life-wrecking and the lives wrecked may include the childen's. Some indicative guidelines there may well be, but staying the course won't always be worth the effort, and indeed it may be hellish. Isn't it obvious that it's all a matter of the specifics?
But actually there's a more fundamental shared assumption. Norm reckons if you've grown apart it's probably not worth the bother of trying to grow back together; Ms Neustatter wants to make the case that the rewards can justify the effort. In both cases the bottom line is a hedonistic calculation of self-interest - how much time and effort is it worth investing in this person? At least in Ms Neustatter's case I sense that she sees this as the only kind of argument that will cut any ice with those she hopes to persuade.

What happened to the notion that we ought to keep our promises? How does it impact on the kind of society we live in if we all decide we are fee to make promises and break them as soon as that is to our advantage? And is there no inherent merit in the specific kind of promise made in marriage? Is the work of growing back together not a good in itself?

If Norm really wants to say that marriage vows are a mug's game, well, fair enough, we know where we are. The Germans have coined the cynical term Lebensabschnittspartnerschaft, literally "life segment partnership", and perhaps Norm would wish to see marriage formally re-invented on those terms. Better to revalue the currency than to turn marriage into a kind of Zimbabwean billion dollar bill - "I promise to pay the bearer,,, well, nothing much worth having, actually."

Much better still, though, to stick to the gold standard. Those committed to doing so may, perhaps, be more inclined to make sure they marry someone fascinating in the first place. It does help. As Iris Murdoch is supposed to have said:-
Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.
Time to stop before I get intolerably smug.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

At the Zoo

A Grumpy family reunion was arranged for Bank Holiday Saturday, venue London Zoo, and a good time had by all.

The last time I'd been there was on a school trip. How long ago that must have been you may judge from the fact that when I came across an information board commemorating Goldie the golden eagle I realised that I remembered following the saga of his escape on the wireless.

You would not expect this post to be moan-free. So here goes.

1. The twenty quid Frau G and I saved with our train tickets and a two-for-one voucher were recouped by the Zoo as soon as we paused for a cup of tea.

2. The presentation is remorselessly populist - "we're your friends and we just want you to have a good time, there's nothing difficult to understand here". Is this necessarily what kids want? Are they really so incapable of coping with the proposition that some things in the adult world are intellectually challenging?

3. In view of the supposed shortage of jobs in the riot-ravaged neighbourhoods just a bus ride or two down the road, it was remarkable how many openings the Zoo has created for young immigrants. From the Zoo's point of view they undoubtedly make better employees than third generation benefit claimants would. But what's best for the Zoo is not necessarily best for the rest of us.

4. I was much jostled by small persons with loud voices. I don't mind this too much in itself - it is a kids' place par excellence, and if you're six you're unlikely to feel that a stranger who could be your grandfather needs an uninterrupted view of the Galapagos tortoises or the poison dart frogs as badly as you do. What did bother me was that I didn't once hear a child being urged to show consideration for others by its parents. Aware as I am of the dangers of constructing a mythical Golden Age, I am pretty sure that things were different when Goldie was on the loose.

End of moans. Notwithstanding, it's a good day out.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Archbishop reflects

The other day I charged the Archbishop of Canterbury with having had nothing to say on the riots until he addressed the House of Lords. Not quite true, it appears. Shortly before setting out for the House he delivered himself of some reflections.

I'm afraid it's not looking any better for him. Reading what he has to say, I note the following:-

1. Says the Archbishop, "those who have been involved have achieved nothing except to intensify the cycle of deprivation and vulnerability".

As so often with the Archbishop, if one bothers to cut through the verbiage and render the thought in plain English, it turns out to be plain wrong. Any looters who avoid arrest (as doubtless a fair few will) have achieved the acquisition of some stuff they fancied without having to pay for it, thus, materially speaking, reducing their "deprivation".

Against this must be set the fact that they have broken God's commandments and thereby imperilled their immortal souls (I write as a fellow sinner, and, no, I don't need reminding that the greedy bankers and the expense-fiddling MPs and the phone-hacking Murdoch minions are in the same boat). At least that's what I reckon. Does Dr Williams agree?

2. If he does he's keeping that reflaction to himself. In the last sentence he gets round to using the word "Church". This is absolutely the only hint that he is any kind of religious believer, never mind an Archbishop. Try changing this to "Labour Party" and read the piece again. If I'd told you it was a statement from a member of the Shadow Cabinet, would you have rumbled me?

3. The reason why I suspect you wouldn't is not only the complete absence of God-talk but also the fact that the message boils down to "more public spending". It really is that simple: if people who owe everything they have to the taxpayer's bounty feel that they are entitled to some more and make the point by helping themselves to it, that is sufficient proof that the entitlement is a reality, placing an obligation on the taxpayer to unbelt further.

To quote the sublime Theodore Dalrymple:-

'"We're fed up with being broke," one rioter was reported as having said, as if having enough money to satisfy one's desires were a human right rather than something to be earned.

'"There are people here with nothing," this rioter continued: nothing, that is, except an education that has cost $80,000, a roof over their head, clothes on their back and shoes on their feet, food in their stomachs, a cellphone, a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator, an electric stove, heating and lighting, hot and cold running water, a guaranteed income, free medical care, and all of the same for any of the children that they might care to propagate.'

In the argument between the rioter and the good doctor, the Archbishop is squarely on the side of the former. You might hope for at least a token effort to transcend the agendas of Left and Right in the quest for something distinctively Christian, but no, the one-time Editor of the New Statesman is absolutely true to form.

In the young Rowan the traditions of the Valleys united with the spirit of '68 to engender core convictions which, beneath the subsequent accretions of eruditions, have not changed one jot. And I'm not talking about Christian convictions. When the Archbishop utters the mandatory pieties about "communities" he has in mind intermediaries for the munificence of the state. The notion that dependency might undermine community, and self-reliance strengthen it, is alien to him.

As I said last time, not fit for purpose.