My facebook feed is full of privileged private-school-educated Oxford students eulogizing Margaret Thatcher for her political achievements,
Conservative is the default political opinion in this university.
Even the lefties admire her “as a person.”
One day these red chino-wearing idiots who have never been north of Watford gap will be running the UK. They’re the bankers whose greed caused a financial crisis, they’re the politicians hellbent on destroying welfare state, they’re the future Little Englanders and Margaret Thatchers of this world.
Oxford is a great place to study with academics, but its also ridden with the kind of entitled right-wing Southerners who produced Blair, and Cameron, and Osborne, and the fucking Milibands - and even Thatcher herself: she might have been a grocer’s daughter but it was the Oxford wankers of this world she cared about, not the kind of people who’ll suffer because of the Bedroom Tax.
Click read more if you want to see my opinion piece on the links between mental health and violent crime. I’ve put it under read more because it deals with the Newtown Tragedy and the media’s portrayal of Adam Lanza. Criticism would be much appreciated, as this is a delicate issue, and I want to handle it as sensitively as possible as this will likely end up in my uni newspaper.
Tomorrow night is my last community council meeting on my island. That might seem dull but I expect blood. The Council have removed the community skip service. Basically, each community council was provided with a rubbish skip for islanders to put their large waste in (the nearest dump being an hour down the road). Each community council was expected to run this service themselves, and my dad and I would visit the skip every Saturday to tidy it up and check how full it was. If it was full the council would take it away and bring another one during the week.
The Council claim they have removed the service because of health and safety issues, satirized by locals as “children were falling in.” The decision was arbitrary and out-of-the-blue, with no consultation with the local community, and no effort to find an alternative service before doing away with the original one.
With no skip, people have nowhere to put their large rubbish. Therefore, fisherman and builders and people clearing their houses will either leave the rubbish lying by the side of the road, bury it on the machair or “throw it in the drink” - i.e. dump it in the sea. A Council which claims to be waste aware is giving people no choice but to litter! (The dump being too far away for most people to be able to reasonably take their large rubbish to it)
Now, I’ll admit the skip service had been abused - some people left white goods beside it, lorries from the next island would fill it up quickly. But the fact it was being abused is evidence the service was well-used, necessary and (because people from other islands had to use it rather than their own) not sufficient.
Yet the Council now want to replace it with nothing! The abuses will get even worse - fly-tipping, people using other people’s bins, leaving dangerous rubbish lying around to rust. This a greater health and safety issues than not trusting people to use a skip safely. If the council don’t want to risk people putting their own goods in the skip, if they don’t trust local communities to run their own waste management services, then its the responsibility of the council to provide an alternative council run service!
I appreciate that this post will come across as boring and irrelevant to all my followers. But the reality is - this is real politics: organizing services for your local community. It’s easy to rant and sit in a dreamworld of the American election or of Tumblr social justice, but if you really want to make a difference politically, you have to get out and try and do something in your local community. It can be difficult, the jobs dull, the Council stubborn. But its worth it, and I’ve enjoyed every minute.
And indeed can’t wait to see our newly elected Councillors squirm as half the island attacks them over their arbitrary, irrational and unjustified decisions!
We were discussing the usefulness of a number of select languages that were available for courses at my friend’s college, as she was requesting advice on which language class(es) she should enroll in. While typing my opinion I was suddenly struck by the fact that all the major European languages, apart from English and Spanish, were in decline. They were exceptionally useful 100 years ago, but they’re almost useless now.
German was once spoken by the upper classes of the Russian Empire, and by the Czars themselves, as well as by many ethnic Germans in Russia. Russia at the time stretching from the borders of Germany to the Pacific Ocean, including Finland and the Baltic States where German was particularly entrenched. Peter Watson attests that the intellectual community in Denmark frequently spoke in German, and even wrote in German. Hjalmar Fors attests that the Swedish academic circles even preferred to speak in German, as many of their academics were in reality German emigrés. In the Austrian Empire, from Bohemia to Romania, and from Galicia to Belgrade, every intellectual, government official, or aristocrat spoke German. The German Empire itself spoke primarily German and extended much farther East than Germany does today, while also including Alsace and Eupen in modern day France and Belgium where German was the main language. German was also once the second most spoken language in the United States, with major German language newspapers in the big cities. German was also the major language of philosophy, of chemistry, of engineering, of physics, and of mathematics. In all of these areas German has practically vanished. Being confined to its original homeland between the Rhine and the Oder.
Italian was once spoken by Italian communities in the Aegean islands, in the Ionian islands, in Crete, in Cyprus, across North Africa, in mainland Greece and the Peloponnese, in Albania, along the entire length of Dalmatia, even in Istanbul. Italian was a major language of art and culinary art. Not to mention Italian, too, was once spoken widely across the US, especially the North-East. Italian was also the primary language of Malta. These Italian speaking communities have all but disappeared. Even in Corsica Italian is dying, as it is in Nice (Nizza).
French in ages past was once the lingua franca of high society in the entire Western world. Every educated person, and especially diplomats, spoke French as a second language. It was the language of art, fashion, philosophy at one point, of literature at one point. French was THE prestige language. French speaking communities stretched from North America to the Far East. Now French is no longer widely spoken by upper classes in Europe or North America. French has been dumped by the wayside as the language of diplomacy. Though French remains spoken South of the Sahara desert, it has withered and died North of it, and in the Middle-East and Far East. French has mostly disappeared in North America, save for Quebec and other areas of Eastern Canada.
Now we come to Russian. Russian in the time of the Soviet Union was a major language of science, especially aeronautics and publications about space. Russian was spoken by all the educated classes of the Soviet Union, as well as many people in Eastern Europe, and by Mongolia. Russian has since declined everywhere outside of the current Russian Federation. Though Russian is still spoken by many people in the former Soviet Union, I’d wager that will not last long and will not be the case in a couple of generations.
Next, Polish. Polish was the great language of elites in Eastern Europe, especially in Lithuania, the Ukraine, White Russia, and Russia proper. Polish was a major literary language in Eastern Europe, and in many areas had supplanted Latin as the lingua franca. With the collapse of the Commonwealth and the rise of its neighbours, elites adopted other languages and Polish was severely cut back in all areas. It was further reduced by the expulsion of Poles from lands annexed by the Soviet Union after WWII. Now Polish is barely spoken outside of Poland itself.
Lastly we come to Greek. It is by no means a major language now, nor even was it 100 years ago, but I’m including it because Koine Greek united people from the island of Sicily to the River Indus in antiquity. Greek had been steadily supplanted by Arabic, Persian, Italian, and most recently and dramatically, by Turkish. Greek also gave way in the Balkans to Slavic languages, and is now restricted to its original homeland along the Aegean littoral and the Greek islands.
So it’s actually quite fascinating how these languages went from a position of dominance to a position of more or less international irrelevance. 100 years ago if you spoke French or German you could have talked to anybody educated in Europe. Now you’d be hard pressed. It just makes one wonder what the future of the last two great European languages will be.
Regarding French and German. Though the EU lists it 23 official languages as working languages, in practice only English, French and German are used regularly in Europe-wide politics, diplomacy and finance. It’s interesting to note that while France and Germany are considered the core EU countries, contributing the most money and generally running the show (because Britain lacks the Euro and is more isolationist), they use English as their de facto lingua franca. German is the most common mother tongue in the EU, and French is the local language in Strasbourg and Brussels, but its actually English the European elite uses the majority of the time!!! So, the French and German elite are themselves abandoning their own languages in favour of English as the ‘serious’ language of government…
Predictions of perpetual peace are the highlight of any history of hubris. Chamberlain is classic and quotable. The various Paxes (from Austrialana in New Guinea to Romana in Europe) are inevitably followed by a decline and fall. Francis Fukuyama famously prophesized the end of history and the triumph of a pacific liberalism – only for his tower to topple with the return of ideological violence in the form of 9/11.
Steven Pinker, however, is clever than that. The Harvard professor – psycholinguist by training, public intellectual by trade – is careful to avoid playing the futurist. The Better Angels Of Our Nature finds it surprises in the past instead, with Pinker working hard to prove to us that violence has in fact declined, using some three score graphs and hundreds of pages of analysis. Marshalling together the datasets of obscure criminologists and military historians, he ably demonstrates that homicide rates, battle casualty rates, execution rates, abuse rates and hate crime rates have all fallen over the last millennium.
Pinker believes we have been conditioned to believe that these are indeed the worst of times – school history consists of little more than World War Two and the Holocaust; TV shows like Law & Order meet rapists and serial killers every week; and the news media obsesses over civil wars and psychopaths. But was the 20th century really the most violent in history? The absolute figures speak of 50 million deaths in WW2, including six million victims of Nazi genocide. Nonetheless for Pinker – a secular Jew – this body count is too simplistic an analysis. The numbers may horrify but what do they really say about how violent the century was?
The thesis of the book depends on using proportions rather than plain figures. For instance, archaeology and anthropology have revealed that pre-state societies often kill up to 15% of their people in war, while the figure for the entire 20th century is just 3%! The decline is very real: for homicide, we have up to 300 deaths per 100,000 in pastoral tribes, then 50 per 100,000 in medieval England, and 8 per 100,000 for the planet today, which to falls to just 1 per 100,000 in Europe. By using rates instead of absolute numbers we get a nice figure for how likely it is a particular person will die a violent death in a given society.
Yet from a God’s eye perspective six million deaths is clearly worse than six. It seems crass and offensive, for example, to suggest the Holocaust is a lesser tragedy than a raid in New Guinea. But compare six million murders in a population of one billion to six in a population of a hundred. From my perspective, I’m ten times as likely to die in the second society – I’d have a better chance of surviving the genocide than the raid!
In gerontology, there seems to be an inverse correlation between how much sex you have and how long you live. Now, we know that the Japanese gene pool has more life-prolonging alleles in it [see Lane: 2010]. I wonder then if the fact a higher proportion of the Japanese population (as compared to, say, France) are predisposed to live longer means a higher proportion of Japanese people are also predisposed be less sexually active. I hazard a guess that this predisposition would only have a tangible effect when cultural demands to marry early and have many kids have been overturned by liberalization…
This, of course, is just speculation.
“Whether they’re too busy lining up for new Apple Inc. gadgets, reading questionable manga or watching videos of pop group AKB48, it seems Japan’s male youth is increasingly united on one thing – a lack of interest in real-life sex.
At least according to a study published Thursday by the Japan Family Planning Association, that is. In the latest survey of attitudes to sex conducted September 2010by the agency, part of the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, fully 36% of males aged 16 to 19 surveyed described themselves as “indifferent or averse” towards having sex. That’s a near 19% increase since the survey was last conducted in 2008.
As if that weren’t enough of a red flag for a country plagued by a low birthrate and an ageing, shrinking population, women seem to be even more reluctant to consider having sex. While no one is suggesting people of that age group should automatically be procreating, a whopping 59% of female respondents aged 16 to 19 said they were uninterested in or averse to sex, a near 12% increase since 2008.
Still, perhaps the reported interest levels in the younger group should be taken with a grain of salt, and as something subject to radical change as younger generations grow up. The new survey also showed that the only group that seemed to feel a greater attraction to the idea of sex in the last two years was men aged 30 to 34, with just 5.8% of respondents disinterested, as opposed to 8.3% in 2008.
Nonetheless, the speed of change between the 2008 and 2010 findings do give pause for thought. “A comparison of the 2008 and 2010 findings show that men indeed have become ‘herbivores,’” commented Mr. Kunio Kitamura, head of the Japan Family Planning Association. “Herbivore men” is a term that gained increasing currency in Japan in 2010, describing young men who are passive and less ambitious in their romantic relationships with women than previous generations. Speaking on NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization, Mr. Kunio explained, “The findings seem to reflect the increasing shallowness of human relations in today’s busy society.”
The study, which surveyed 1,301 people aged 16 to 49, also provided a glimpse of sexual behavior amongst married couples. It found that approximately 40% of married respondents had not had sex in the past month, a 4% increase from the same survey conducted two years earlier and nearly 10% higher than in 2004. The 330 married respondents cited “vague reluctance after child birth,” “can’t be bothered,” and “fatigue from work” as the top three reasons for not being proactive about having sex.”