Noam Chomsky on public education

Mark at Oz Conservative has an intriguing link to an interview with Noam Chomsky. Chomsky might be a leftist but he has some interesting things to say.
The bit that caught my eye was this:

“Mass public education was introduced in the United States in the nineteenth century as a way of training the largely rural workforce here for industry — in fact, the general population in the United States largely was opposed to public education, because it meant taking kids off the farms where they belonged and where they worked with their families, and forcing them into this setting in which they were basically trained to become industrial workers.”

Mass public education is one of the most sacred of all sacred cows. While it’s now obvious that the main purpose of public education is indoctrination it’s sobering to realise that it has historically played a major role in destroying traditional communities.
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globalists, divide and rule and identity politics

At first glance it might seem odd that globalists are so keen on identity politics. Globalists want us all to be obedient consumers within one vast globalist super-state. They want us all to think alike because they want one global market.
Identity politics being inherently divisive might seem to be at odds with this. It makes sense though once you realise that a globalist super-state is in fact an empire. The easiest way to control an empire is by using divide and rule tactics. Dividing the population along ethnic or cultural or even regional lines would however be dangerous. It Italians were to feel an intense pride in their Italian identity they might start thinking that it would be nice to have their own country and control their own destinies. We can’t have that. Nationalism is the enemy of any empire.
Dividing people along completely artificial lines such as “gender” or sexuality or race is much safer. There’s not much danger that homosexuals will demand their own country.
Identity politics also appeals because it encourages antagonisms. While women are hating men for being patriarchal oppressors they’re not noticing that globalism isn’t really doing anything for women. While blacks are hating whites as racist oppressors they’re not noticing that globalism isn’t making life better for ordinary blacks. 
Apart from nationalism the great fear of the globalists is that people might notice that class still matters and that only one class benefits from globalism.
It’s vital, from the globalist point of view, that society be divided only along totally artificial lines.
Any genuine sense of identity must be crushed. Family, religion, culture and regional traditions offer an organic sense of identity that gives people a sense of being more than mere consumers or mere servants of the state. Our duty as subjects of the empire is to buy more consumer goods and obey orders.

immigration, housing and the environment

There are countless reasons to oppose mass Third World immigration but there are a couple of arguments that in my view have not been given enough emphasis.
The first of these is housing. It’s a matter of basic supply and demand. If you have rapid population growth fueled by immigration, as we have in Australia, then obviously housing is going to get more and more expensive. In fact home ownership will be placed out of the reach of an increasingly large share of the population while renting will become more of a financial burden as well.
I live on the semi-rural fringes of Sydney. At least it used to be semi-rural. Now the remaining farmland is disappearing at a terrifying rate, being replaced by more and more housing estates. House prices have gone through the roof. We have very few immigrants here. What we’re seeing here is an indirect rather than a direct effect of immigration – which makes it all the more pernicious since most people don’t make the connection.
Housing is an issue that Mark at Upon Hope raised not long ago (in his post Affordable Housing, How Do We Get Back To It?) and it’s a vital issue. It’s also an issue on which anti-immigrationists should be able to get some real political traction.
Of course there’s another related issue. In our area we’re not just seeing skyrocketing housing prices we’re also losing out quality of life. We moved here to get away from the horrors of Sydney – crime, drugs, multi-culturalism, noise, overcrowding, traffic congestion. Now all these horrors are following us, and as long as immigration continues at current rates all this is only going to get worse.
Another issue that anti-immigrationists don’t focus on enough is the environment. Now personally I believe that global warming is utter nonsense but (sadly) most people seem to believe in it. And even if global warming is nonsense there are genuine environmental concerns that shouldn’t be ignored. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure out that rapid population growth as a result of mass immigration will have an impact on the environment.
This is an issue on which the globalists and the SJWs are particularly vulnerable. The environment is sacred after all. 
These are the kinds of issues on which real political headway can be made.

The Search for the Nile (1971)

The Search for the Nile was a very ambitious project for the BBC in 1971. It features a good deal of location shooting and the results are certainly impressive. documentary-style historical drama about African exploration is in its own way an astonishing television achievement. 
Even more astonishing is that it’s not an exercise in political correctness. It deals with colonialism in a complex and nuanced way. It also deals with slavery but the slavers encountered here are Arabs and Africans. 
In the middle of the nineteenth century the hot topic in geographical circles was the source of the River Nile. In fact it had been a hot topic in geographical circles for around two thousand years and no-one was any closer to finding the answer.
This is more than just a story of exploration. It is a race. The rivalry between Captain Sir Richard Burton and Lieutenant John Hanning Speke for the honour of making the great discovery is an epic in itself. Burton and Speke undertook joint expeditions as well as solo expeditions and the relationship between the two men was uneasy and complex. It is difficult to imagine two men less suited to work together in harness and Burton’s decision to choose Speke to accompany him on his first major attempt to find the source of the Nile in 1856 is at first sight surprising. The one thing they had in common was the obsession to unravel this greatest of all geographical mysteries.
There was also another potential runner in this race. Scottish missionary David Livingstone  was rumoured to have an interest in finding the source of the Nile as well and the depth of Livingstone’s knowledge of Africa made him a formidable rival. There would be others joining the race later, most notably Sir Henry Morton Stanley.
Burton was one of the most extraordinary men of the nineteenth century (a century that produced more than its share of remarkable men). He initially gained fame as the first European non-Muslim to visit Mecca, an incredibly foolish and dangerous undertaking  as the city was absolutely off limits to non-Muslims. Burton mastered countless languages and gained as much fame as a translator of eastern classics as he did from his journeys of exploration. His interest in eastern erotica scandalised Victorian England. He immersed himself in non-European cultures to an extent that raised eyebrows. He was wildly eccentric and unconventional and nothing pleased him more than to shock English society.

Speke was more of an enigma, a man driven by burning ambition that led him to make great discoveries and tragic errors of judgment. Speke was rather straitlaced and while Burton was fascinated by other cultures Speke hated everything about Africa and its people. Their joint expedition would prove that they were disastrously ill-suited to the task of working together. 

The TV series deals not just with this one epic journey of exploration but with a whole series of expeditions led by an assortment of extraordinary larger-than-life and often eccentric characters – Burton, Speke, Livingstone, Samuel and Florence Baker and Henry Morton Stanley. The search for the source of the Nile proved to be elusive and frustrating. Each of the various expeditions filled in some of the missing pieces but it seemed that the final solution to the puzzle was always just out of reach.
The journeys of exploration make fascinating viewing and the personal dramas of these remarkable human beings provide even greater interest. 
The excellent cast is a major asset. Kenneth Haigh is splendidly extravagant and outrageous as Burton. Michael Gough is equally good as the obsessive, saintly but amiable Dr Livingstone. John Quentin landed the most challenging and potentially most thankless role as Speke. Speke’s motivations remain mysterious and although he gave the impression of being something of a straight arrow his conduct on several crucial occasions is difficult to explain except as the actions of a man whose excessive ambition drove him to behave selfishly and dishonourably. It isn’t easy to make Speke sympathetic but Quentin does manage to make him a tragic figure.

James Mason adds a touch of further class as the narrator.

The location shooting is stunning and by the standards of 1971 British television it’s really quite spectacular. 
This being 1971 the material is handled in a pretty even-handed manner with surprisingly little preachiness. The viewer is assumed to be capable of making his own judgments. It’s actually a little surprising that the BBC has finally allowed this series to be released on DVD – this is an historical series for grown-ups who do not require everything to be filtered through a lens of political correctness.
The Victorian era produced an immense number of colourful larger-than-life heroic figures like Richard Burton and (albeit in a very different way) David Livingstone. These were men whose achievements and virtues were on the grand scale, and at times their vices were on an equally grand scale. They were complex men and this series takes them seriously and generally speaking it takes them on their own terms without trying to judge them by late 20th century standards. The courageous and indomitable Florence Baker, who accompanied her husband Samuel on his expedition down the Nile, showed that Victorian women could be just as remarkable and just as heroic.
This is intelligent literate television and it’s also immensely entertaining. Very highly recommended and it looks great on DVD.

Churchill’s Grand Alliance

John Charmley’s 1995 book Churchill’s Grand Alliance: The Anglo-American Special Relationship 1940-57 is part of a kind of trilogy dealing with the period from the late 30s to the late 50s. In this case the cut-off date is very significant – 1957 marking the end of British foreign policy as a truly independent nation.
As Charmley sees it the problem with the wartime alliance between the “Big Three” – Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States – was that the British government (and Churchill in particular) failed to understand that these three great powers not only had few interests in common, their interests were in fact fundamentally in conflict. Churchill clung to the belief that this would somehow all resolve itself once Hitler was beaten. Churchill also clung to the belief that by establishing a personal relationship between himself and Stalin and between himself and Roosevelt British interests could be protected. By early 1945 he knew he had miscalculated in regard to Stalin but he was never able to comprehend that US interests were in many respects diametrically opposed to Britain’s. He also failed to understand the depth of American hostility towards the British Empire.
In the postwar period the Cold War initially seemed like a godsend – surely this would bring the US and Britain closer together. The problem here was that the Cold War became an obsession for the US while Britain had other vital interests totally unconnected with that conflict. For Britain the Empire was an economic necessity. For the US the British Empire was a relic of the bad old days and an obstacle the new world order they hoped to create, a new world order that would coincidentally be entirely in the interests of the United States.
The British Empire was also an obstacle to one of the centrepieces of American postwar grand strategy – the unification of Europe. The US believed that European unification would not be viable without Britain but the problem was that as long as Britain had her Empire she not only had no need to join a European federation – it would be against Britain’s interests to do so. Coincidentally European unification would be very much in the interests of the US in the context of the Cold War – whether it would actually be in the interests of Europe was not a consideration.
The Middle East was where the Anglo-American Special Relationship really caused trouble. Britain had very vital economic interests indeed in this region. The US felt that the best solution was for American influence to displace British influence in the region. As Charmley points out there was nothing morally reprehensible about the US ruthlessly pursuing its own interests. The problem was that the British were living in a fantasy world in which they thought that if they supported the US where US interests were at stake (such as the Korean War and Central America) then the US would support Britain where British interests were at stake. 
The crisis came in 1956 over Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal. This being of absolutely crucial importance to Britain the British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, assumed that the US would support the British and French use of force to reverse Nasser’s action. After all Britain and France were independent nations with a right to protect their interests. He was wrong. The US responded by trying to wreck the British economy. Eden’s successor, Harold Macmillan, would not make the mistake of thinking Britain had the right to an independent foreign policy.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is Charmley’s reassessment of Sir Anthony Eden. Eden emerges as the last British Foreign Secretary, and the last British Prime Minister, to believe that Britain both should and could pursue an independent foreign policy. Eden was always remarkably consistent in this respect. He had ruffled feathers during the war for his conciliatory approach to the Soviet Union. Eden was in fact merely being brutally realistic. The war was clearly going to end with the Soviet Union in possession of large chunks of eastern Europe. Making an issue of this was simply futile. The Soviet Union, of which he heartily disapproved, was a reality. The best course of action was to accept reality and try to establish sensible relations with Stalin. 
Eden’s attempt to pursue an independent foreign policy failed but this does not necessarily mean it was a bad idea.
Charmley also has interesting things to say about colonialism. He does not accept that the dissolution of the Empire was inevitable. The Empire was not going to go on indefinitely in its existing form but then the British government had recognised that in the 30s.The hope was that it could be transformed into something based on co-operation and common interests rather than direct rule, something that would satisfy nationalist aspirations and be of benefit to all parties. The war, and fierce US opposition, put paid to such ideas. This may in retrospect have been a tragedy.
As always Charmley is provocative and fascinating. Highly recommended.

popular but forgotten Australian writers – Arthur W. Upfield

In a recent comment by Roy mention was made of popular Australian writers of the past such as Nevil Shute, Morris West and John Cleary. I’d add Arthur W. Upfield to that list. Upfield’s Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte mysteries were immensely popular from the late 1920s up to at least the 1970s. They now seem to be out of print.

Upfield’s books enjoyed considerable international success at the time.

The Bony books, dealing with a half-Aboriginal detective, might not satisfy modern standards of political correctness although in fact there’s nothing even remotely racist about them. On the other hand Upfield carefully refrained from the modern practice of lecturing his readers.

The novels formed the basis of a successful (and extremely good) 1970s Australian television series, Boney, which now seems to have vanished without trace. I’m not even sure if the series survives but it certainly hasn’t been released on DVD.

James Laurenson as Boney in the TV series

The TV series caused some minor angst because a white New Zealander, James Laurenson, was cast in the title role. In fact the producers tried to find a suitable half-Aboriginal actor but without success.

I’ve just posted a review of one of the more celebrated Bony mysteries, Wings Above the Diamantina, at my Vintage Pop Fictions blog. Here’s the link.

Both the novels and the TV series are a great deal of fun.

As for Nevil Shute, I think No Highway is an absolutely superb novel. I think I read most of his books years ago.

I know I’ve read a couple of Morris West’s books. I’m afraid I’ve never read anything by John Cleary though.

random thoughts on the importance of unsettling history

I came across an interesting quote a couple of days ago. As invariably happens in such cases I now can’t find the damned thing but the gist of it was as follows. Getting an education should make you uncomfortable, and even at times horrified. If your education makes you feel safe and secure then whatever it is you’re getting it isn’t an education. I find myself strongly agreeing with this. 
I’m sure it applies to every subject but I think it’s particularly applicable in the case of history. If an historian is doing his job then reading his work should make you feel unsettled and it should challenge your assumptions. You might find yourself disagreeing with the historian but if that’s the case then at least you’re being challenged to think about why you disagree.
Napoleon once described history as “a set of lies agreed upon” and there’s much to be said for this view. Every historian has an axe to grind. An historian without an axe to grind wouldn’t be worth reading – his history would be merely a list of events without any logical connection. In most cases we know what happened in history. Knowing what happened isn’t very interesting or informative. We want to know why the events occurred. And knowing why the events occurred involves not so much collecting evidence as interpreting it. To a certain extent every good historian is a revisionist historian, because a good historian has to be prepared to look at the evidence and ask himself – does this mean what other historians have assumed it to mean? Are there other possible interpretations?
Of course this does not mean that all revisionist history is good history, nor does it mean that we can interpret historical evidence in whatever manner we choose. We do not need to go down the rabbit hole into complete subjectivity and relativism. Historical evidence can often be interpreted in different ways but if you’re going to offer a fresh interpretation you’d better be able to demonstrate that your new fresh approach actually makes sense and actually fits the evidence, and does so at least as well as (and preferably better than) the existing consensus. If it fails to fulfill these criteria then it’s merely another conspiracy theory for the tin-foil hat brigade.
The mere fact that a particular interpretation of history is unsettling does not disqualify it from consideration, although in the world of modern academia it seems that anything that is even mildly unsettling is out of bounds. History is not supposed to be a safe space. It is not supposed to offer us reassurance.