Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Gnostics of the Left

Debate is not always democratic. For example, we would not welcome an open debate about whether the right place for a woman is in the kitchen. In this case, debate itself would benefit the anti-woman bigots by allowing them to portray themselves as one legitimate side in a nuanced discussion.

Says London University sociologist David Hirsh. David is a lonely left-wing voice against academic boycotts of Israel and thus far on the side of the angels. Unfortunately it does not follow that his variety of leftism is peculiarly rational, moderate or (at least in the old-fashioned sense) liberal.

"Debate is not always democratic." Very much the view taken in the former German Democratic Republic. What it was democratic to debate was debated and what was not democratic to debate - the leading role of the Socialist Unity Party, for example - was not debated. The parameters are drawn rather more tightly in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea but the principle is the same.

Why should we strive to close down the women-in-the-kitchen debate? Because it would benefit "anti-woman bigots". Well, naturally. Bad Thoughts are thought by Bad People who must not be allowed to clothe them in Bad Words. "Bigot" is obviously not in the same league as "despicable human scum" but the fundamental impulse is the same (and, come to think of it, the imperative to ensure their illegitimacy is recognised does, historically speaking, bring a definite suggestion of bastardliness into play). "If you know what's good for you, you won't go there". it says. You might not get dragged before the firing squad but you can certainly wave goodbye to your career as a sociologist at Goldsmiths, London.

But even granted that we are talking about Bad People, why should the consequences of letting them open their mouths be so dire? Surely this is a win-win situation for the good guys. If they are bigots they will simply expose and reconfirm their bigotedness throuugh their pathetic lack of rational arguments.

And suppose they did come up with a decent argument or two? After all, given the not insignificant part that prescriptive gender roles have played in human history, it would be quite surprising if there was nothing whatsoever to be said in their favour. Wouldn't that too be a good thing? Wouldn't it be of interest to David Hirsh the sociologist? Wouldn't it, if nothing else, help him to make his own case more effectively?

That's just not the way it works in David's professional and political worlds. As with the Gnostics of old, to be On The Left is to possess knowledge of the nature of things which is hidden from the common multitude. David does not need to hear the arguments in favour of an opinion he disagrees with because he already knows it's wrong. Whereas those not yet fully initiated into the knowledge - his students, let us say - cannot be relied on to know that the arguments are wrong, so must be protected from hearing them, lest their innocent minds be corrupted by despicable human scumBad People.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

On All Souls Day

Prayers for two of the lately departed.

Norman Geras, blogger, one of the first go on my blogroll.

Oscar Hijuelos, Cuban-American writer, two of whose novels (The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Mr Ives's Christmas) moved me a lot.

Lord have mercy

Requiescant in pace

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Grumpy in the news (almost) OR What do you do when a prejudice is confirmed?

It's the nearest I've got to being newsworthy for some time. On the way to the bus stop this morning I was passed by a cavalcade of police vehicles. Now, I like to think of myself as reasonably unprejudiced, but I guessed their destination instantaneously - and as it happens I was right.

So was my perspicacity a good thing or a bad thing?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Net price

Inconvenient realities of the aid industry, no. 587: sometimes the stuff you give away suffers the usual fate of unwanted presents.

Note the standard stonewalling tactics from the people who make a comfortable living from spending our money. Step one: accuse the NAO of not giving the full picture because it's only looked at four countries (and it's not like Nigeria is a country of any great size or importance, is it?). Step two: rebut the charge that the programme isn't working by citing stats from Ghana and, er, well, what about Ghana, eh?

Why should they worry? They know they'll get away with it. Business as usual, folks!

Walsall mystery

Last week: bomb left outside mosque. Most serious incident yet in the big enormous Islamophobic backlash.

Then the narrative started to become a little unclear. Having been a little surprised to learn that a 75 year old had been arrested, we then heard that he had been released on bail. And then it all went quiet. Cue indignation from Sunny Hundal at this off-handed treatment of a dangerous terrorist? Apparently not.

What can it all mean?

Friday, 28 June 2013

Hate speech

Graham Linehan, creator of the peerless Father Ted, has revealed that he wouldn't be able to write the show now because he has come to hate the Catholic Church so much.

I think that's a pity but I can understand how he feels.

I'm just wondering whether he will now be free to enter the United Kingdom.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Things we got up to...

...before we were really human.

On a related topic, I note that the Cornish councillor who went off on one about "putting down" disabled children fell on his sword last week. That'll teach him to spurn the offer of equality and diversity training. So having enjoyed our fit of righteous indignation, all that is left for us to do is to, er, stop putting down disabled children.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Wasting police time

Things the police can't quite manage to get round to.

Because they're up to their eyeballs investigating serious crimes (via DJ).

I'm not aware that any Gipsy blood runs in the Grumpy veins, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out. So if you wish to comment on my fashion sense and personal hygiene standards, I advise you to choose your words very carefully indeed.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Farewell, Pope Benedict...

... and thank you for everything.

Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us!

All angels and saints, pray for us!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Unfree to marry?

I thought it would be a good discipline to read a reasoned exposition of the case for same-sex marriage today. So I clicked on Norm's post. To be told that the time for reasoned exposition is past. Norm's patience is at an end, and it's time for the reductio ad Hitlerum (copyright Ed West). Being against same-sex marriage makes me like a slaveowner and a Nazi. Because the differnce between instrumentalising marriage laws for some vile economic or political purpose and insisting that marriage as a good in itself must have a non-arbitrary definition is way too subtle for a humble emeritus professor of politics. "Marriage" can mean whatever Norm wants it to mean and so can "Nazi". I am a Nazi because it is politically expedient that opponents of same-sex marriage be so stigmatised.

Well, you really know how to win friends and influence people, Norm. Next time you're looking for support from folk like me over, say, the demonisation of Israel, you just might find us a little less than enthusiastic. After all, what do you expect from a Nazi?

As an aside, it may be noted that historically the Jewish community itself has not been over-keen on those who "marry out", and not without reason. Jews who take for granted their entitlement to marry wherever lurve leads them are, one might think, responsible for diluting Jewish culture to a degree that would have dear Adolf grinning in his grave if he had one. It's maybe none of my business, but I think it will be a tragedy if Jewish culture ends up reduced to strident fundamentalism on the one hand and a handful of Unitarians with special dietary requirements on the other.

I digress. Let me close with a couple of pictures of people who, by Norm's lights, must be accounted no better than slaveowners. Here's slaveowner Lilian Ladele:

and here's slaveowner Gary McFarlane:

What do you mean, thy're not slaveowners? If Norm wants to call them slaveowners, he can. Because words can change their meaning, you know.

Gay marriage: a hopeless procrastinator writes to his MP

Dear MP,
I am writing as a constituent to voice my appreciation for your opposition to the ill-considered proposals on marriage which the Government is putting before Parliament without any mandate. I would also like to express the hope that you will be present to vote on the Second Reading tomorrow.
I am deeply concerned about the divisiveness of the proposals and the impact on those upholding the traditional understanding of marriage if the changes become law. Marriage will go from resting on a bedrock of social consensus to being an instrument of social engineering, putting powerful weapons in the hands of those who see it as their mission to forge a new consensus by means not excluding legalised intimidation and coercion. Whatever the Prime Minister claims it is a profoundly unconservative way to govern.
I am wholly unconvinced by the assurances of safeguards for religious groups, both because the Government is promising what, as it must know, it does not have the power to deliver and because they are in any case much too narrowly drawn. We have already seen a marriage registrar and a marriage counsellor hounded out of their jobs for their refusal in conscience to accept civil partnerships as equivalent to marriage, and the attempted demotion of a housing association manager who expressed his views in a context completely separate from his job. It must surely be inevitable that there will be many more such cases once the law has ceased to recognize that there is anything special whatsoever about the lifelong relationship between a man and a woman.
As I trust you will agree, the exclusion from marriage that the Government ought to be tackling as a matter of urgency is that suffered by the one in two teenagers who do not live with both of their parents. Turning couples who by the nature of their relationship cannot have children into stakeholders in marriage is simply a step in the wrong direction.
I am sure you have heard from many constituents expressing similar views. Thank you again for listening.
With my best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
Mr Grumpy

A wrong 'un

I'm actually not a bit surprised. James Delingpole on the right to break the law and get away with it by "technically" committing perjury.

Speeding is not a "victimless crime" It encourages others to believe that "everyone's doing it". Some of those others will be good drivers, some won't.

If the Daily Telegraph has not sacked Delingpole by this time tomorrow we will know that Britain does not have a serious conservative national newspaper.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Tomorrow's power elite?

Here's a piece which doesn't exactly fill me with confidence about the future of America. Especially in view of the subject being examined.

Moral agency

Buried somewhere in this Beeb story is an oblique hint to the effect that if gay men persist in playing Russian roulette with their health by having unprotected anal sex with numerous strangers, it may not entirely be the fault of an uncaring homophobic society. But you have to work at finding it - in fact, you have to work your way to the final sentence. In between there's a lot of stuff about how various fake charities need more of our money so they can hang up "Caution, stable door open, bolting danger" signs and count the horses periodically to establish how many have gone awol since the last time.

The case for gay marriage is made in a way that is curiously detached from the facts on the ground* as alluded to by Yusuf Azad. Is it intended as an alternative to the "gay scene" or as an add-on to it? Or is that just none of our business?

Meanwhile, Harry's Place, in stereotype-busting mode (ee, bah goom, lad, it's tough up North London, and no mistake), has no doubts whatsoever about moral agency. If a couple of civil partners can't get a joint appointment at a beauty salon, then the proprietor should be driven out of business. And preferably hung, drawn and quartered and his remains left for the vultures to dispose of.

When Mr G was a student Leftie, he and his comrades in arms aspired to nationalise the top 200 monopolies under workers' control and management. If he was a student Leftie today he'd be campaigning for a boycott of the homophobic beauty salons of Woodford Green, apparently. Somehow, a wider vision has gone missing.

*A little number-crunching: the number of gay men living with HIV is comparable to the number living in civil partnerships.

It's also interesting that the average age of new civil partners continues to be fortyish (bizarrely but perhaps revealingly, the average age of those dissolving a partnership is actually lower), which does rather suggest that it's what you do when promiscuity begins to seem a bit like hard work. Now I'm not saying there aren't plenty of straight men who would be very happy to build up their sexual CV along similar lines, given half a chance. But the whole point is that, unless they have the good fortune to play in the upper reaches of the Premiership, they aren't given the chance.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


Britain has some of the highest childcare costs in the world, with many mothers with two or more children saying it does not make financial sense to work.
What the writer is trying to say is not that the Swedish system has driven costs down by having one carer per five hundred kids and paying the carers just enough to subsist on bread and water. He/she is complaining that the British state does not pick up as much of the tab as others do. Because when the state pays, there is no cost to any actual people, right?

Just like the free-at-the-point-of-use BBC, come to think of it. With an outfit like this forming voters' opinions, is it any wonder that Gordon Brown spent like there was no tomorrow and Cameron and Osborne dare not cut as if yesterday really happened?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A stopped clock...

...  tells the right time twice a day. We're about due for a replacement for this rather stale metaphor and I must confess to having none to offer, but I can reveal that it applies even to Diane Abbott. Unless she is merely making a pitch for the Blue Labour/Mail reader vote.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Me, Sharmi Chakrabarti and my Christian employees: a statement from UK taxpayer Mr Grumpy

"The message coming from Strasbourg is that although people are entitled to hold religious views, that right is severely limited in the workplace when it comes into conflict with the rights of other people. The judgement also hands considerable discretion to employers to set reasonable policies and then insist that employees follow them whatever their religious beliefs."
- Robert Pigott, Religious affairs correspondent, BBC News.

“British courts lost their way in her case and Strasbourg has actually acted more in keeping with our traditions of tolerance. Let’s hope that some of those who threaten to pull out of the ECHR remember this case in the future. However the Court was also right to uphold judgments in other cases that employers can expect staff not to discriminate in the discharge of duties at work.”

Sharmi Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty
Dear Everyone,

As an employer I welcome yesterday's rulings from the ECHR and would like to take the opportunity of clarifying my employment policies as they relate to those working for me who are Christians.

I should begin by emphasising that I cannot speak for British Airways. Echoing Robert Pigott, however, I take the view that as a private company it should, I believe, in principle be free to exercise its own discretion with regard to its employment policies.

Let me now turn to the cases involving people who were working for me. As a Council Tax payer employing registry office staff.I expect registrars to keep abreast of the latest ideological trends and update their own views accordingly. Yes, Mrs Ladele, I'm you sure are warm and enthusiastic and the couples you married loved you, and I have taken due note of your ethnicity, but you can't seriously expect me to let you opt out of bits of your job just because you say they're against your conscience. I don't pay you to have a conscience, and how am I supposed to run a diversity policy if everybody insists on being different?

As for relationship counsellors, I emply them indirectly via the "charity" Relate ("Relate's 'voluntary' income is predominately made up of grants from statutory & other bodies"). This makes no difference to my expectations of them, which are exactly the same as for those who report to me directly  As an employer committed to nurturing diversity I expect those who work for me to think as I think.

It has been put to me that Mr Gary McFarlane is an able and conscientious counsellor, and that he belongs to an ethnic group which is underrepresented in Relate's workforce. Questions have been raised as to whether it was reasonable to dismiss him not because of anything he had done but because of what he said he would do in a hypothetical situation which had never actually arisen in the course of his work. It has been suggested that requests for sexual counselling from same-sex couples could easily have been fielded by his colleagues.

Mischievous comparisons have been drawn between the right of conscientious objection granted to pacifists during the war against Hitler and the non-negotiable requirement for Mr McFarlane to be prepared to teach gay couples how to do sex.


Phew, that feels better already.

With regard to the wonderful nurses who work for me in hospitals around the country, I will be brief. Anyone needing to be treated in an NHS hospital can rest assured that, whilst it may not be possible for busy nursing staff to provide them with drinks of water on a more than weekly basis, they will be absolutely safe from the health and safety risks associated with religious jewellery. I operate a strictly zero tolerance policy in this matter and I have zero sympathy with anyone falling foul of it. Good nurses are ten a penny - Shirley Chaplin please note.

Returning to the quotes with which I began, I am delighted to announce that Robert Pigott of the BBC is my Employee of the Month. This award is in recognition of his clear-sighted understanding of my prerogatives as an employer. Please join me in congratulating him.

I was going to share the award between Robert and Sharmi Chakrabarti, until it was pointed out to me that Sharmi doesn't actually work for me (though I am thrilled to be able to support her work through the charitable status enjoyed by the Civil Liberties Trust). Thank goodness for people like her who appreciate that whilst liberty is a fine thing in its proper place, those who accept employment from me leave their liberty (and their consciences) at the workplace door. Nothing must stand in the way of my ensuring that people like me are not permitted to work for me.

With my very best wishes for the year ahead,

Mr Grumpy

PS If you ever feel you would like to work for me, Sharmi, my office door is always open. Just reach out.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Some sad news

My strictures against my one-time newspaper of choice do not extend to its excellent crosswords. Veteran setter Araucaria, alias the Rev John Graham of Cambridge, has used a puzzle to announce that he is dying of cancer. May God bless you, "friendly vicar", you've been a blessing to many people for many years.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Human rights latest

Proof positive that human rights are an infinitely movable feast: there is now a human right to broadband. The BBC says the UN says so, so who are we to argue?

The classic sea shanty "Boney was a Warrior", which I sang in one of its many variants at primary school but which I strongly suspect is no longer considered appropriate for impressionable young minds, clearly needs modernisation:-

He went to Saint Helena,
Away, a-yah!
There he was a prisoner,
Jean Francois!

That isle, it had no broadband,
Away, a-yah!
Thus from Twitter he was banned,
Jean Francois!

Boney broke his heart and died
Away, a-yah!
Away in Saint Helena
Jean Francois!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Vee heff vays

Just been watching a documentary about Victoria and Albert. I won't bore you by enumerating the ways in which it irritated me, instead merely noting that the actor reading quotes from the Prince Consort did so in what Frau G speedily diagnosed as a fake German accent. Even if they couldn't get Andrew Sachs (a German who, come to think of it, himself owes his celebrity status to a fake accent), we have a sizeable German community and one or two of them must surely hold Equity cards. Strange, when it has become unthinkable for an actor to black up, that it's still OK to pretend to be a Kraut.

PS Happy New Year.