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Elsewhere (40)

Mark Steyn on the hierarchy of phobias and the collectivist inversion of human rights:  

In some of the oldest free societies on the planet we’ve entirely corrupted the concept of human rights. It’s not very difficult. Human rights are rights for humans, rights for individuals. Back in 1215, Magna CartaMagna Carta Libertatum, to give it its full title – couldn’t have made it plainer. Real human rights are restraints that the people place upon the king. We understood that eight centuries ago. Today, we’ve entirely perverted and corrupted the principle. We’re undermining real human rights, like freedom of speech, and replacing them with ersatz rights that, rather than restraining the king, give him vastly increased state power to restrain the rights of his subjects. These new rights are not handed out equally but in different ways to different degrees according to which approved identity groups you fall into. 

The tribal approach to rights and entitlement is discussed here and here. Consequent attempts at attitude management may also be of interest. Though some academics prefer the term “social justice education,” or simply “treatment.” 

Bella Gerens notes the conformist trajectory of the comical Laurie Penny:

She has certainly worked very hard to communicate a message, but I don’t know if it’s the message she intended. Like many people from Wadham [College], she seems to want to improve the world in a certain way. But what she seems to do is reinforce the belief that privileged people from privileged educational backgrounds can, as long as they say the right things, engender trust among the lower classes whilst taking their place among the elite… She is travelling an extremely well-trodden road bearing the placard of thoroughly-explored philosophies. And the destination, reached so many times before, has benefitted no one except the travellers themselves.

And Heather Mac Donald revisits ‘radical’ graffiti and the art world’s double standards:  

Art in the Streets is a classic exercise of the elites’ juvenile dalliance with countercultural norms that they have no intention of adopting in their own protected lives. The Museum of Contemporary Art has never tolerated graffiti on its own premises; none of its wealthy Hollywood and real-estate-mogul trustees would ever allow tagging on their homes or businesses, either. So opposed is MOCA to unauthorised graffiti on its walls that it stationed additional security guards around its premises before the show opened, to guard against the inevitable upsurge in graffiti that the show would (and did) trigger. Yet there is no sign that [MOCA director, Jeffrey] Deitch or his trustees grasp the contradiction. Indeed, in a breathtaking display of stunted moral development, Art in the Streets never even addresses the seminal fact that behind every act of graffiti is an invisible property owner whose rights have been appropriated against his will.

Readers may spot a thematic link with, among others, our academic radical, Alexander Vasudevan.

Feel free to add your own.

Friday Ephemera

Behold the electric dicycle (with active rotation damping). // Now this is just showing off. // Eleven hundred cars roam the Hot Wheels City. // Cat caught barking, cover blown. // A compendium of really bad records. // You don’t want to mess with Russian border guard dogs. (h/t, Herb) // Andrew Breitbart interviewed. Parts 2, 3, 45. // Burnt toast, only $1. // It’s raining ice-cream. // Real headlines. // Desktop terrariums. // Parents and their children (and a transporter malfunction). // Shake. // And via The Thin Man, “Adam Curtis believes that 200,000 Guardian readers watching BBC2 could change the world.” 

It’s Protest So It’s Righteous

Alexander Vasudevan is a lecturer in “cultural and historical geography” with an interest in “radical politics” and “cartographies of protest.” He also, naturally, writes for the Guardian. Which may help explain his belief that proposals to criminalise squatting would create “jarring archipelagos of wealth and poverty” and, more importantly, remove “a potent symbol of protest.” Squatting, see, isn’t opportunist theft, it’s a form of political protest and therefore righteous by default:   

The seizure and reclamation of space (temporary or otherwise) has become a key and potent symbol of protest here in the UK, from campus occupations to the playful interventions of groups such as UK Uncut.

Yes, we’ve seen those playful interventions and the people they tend to attract, many of whom wish to play with unsuspecting members of the public. And note the word reclamation, as if what’s being taken, often forcibly, somehow already belongs to the people who’ve decided to take it. Because… well, being terribly radical, they’re entitled, obviously.

As, for instance, when squatters invaded and occupied the home of Lisa Cockin’s mother, recently deceased, then used it as a venue for some rather lively parties. When the intruders were finally evicted, the Cockin family were left with repair costs and legal bills of several thousand pounds. Or when squatters stripped the home of Denise Joannides – even ripping up its floors - in what I’m sure could be construed as an act of radical protest.

What is at stake here is the further criminalisation of occupation-based tactics, which could severely limit the ability of vulnerable communities in particular to assert and stake their own geographical “right to the city.”

Protestors - at least those of a kind congenial to Mr Vasudevan - apparently have a right to storm and occupy a private business, a private home. How liberating it must be to have such moral certainty and a convenient disregard for boundaries and reciprocation. Note too the deployment of the Vulnerability Card, thereby implying that the nation’s squats are currently heaving with the frail, the elderly and the disabled. A strange insinuation, given that squatters are very likely to be young people like these, also gorged on “radical politics,” and whose only obvious disability is a failure to perceive their own absurd double standards.

Readers who wish to reclaim the belongings of Mr Vasudevan – say, his laptop or his phone – should head for the University of Nottingham.

Update, via the comments:

Continue reading "It’s Protest So It’s Righteous" »

The Arts, They Ennoble

Performance artist Millie Brown creates a new work, Nexus Vomitus, accompanied by singers Patricia Hammond and Zita Syme.

Thanks to Anna, who stumbled across this milestone in cultural enrichment, the full 34-minute performance can be endured experienced here. In it, Ms Brown “explores the relationship between music and performance art via self-induced vomiting.” The word explores is of course obligatory and, given the context, entirely devoid of meaning. Unless we’re to believe that the fruits of this alleged mental activity will redefine human knowledge and shake the world when finally, dramatically revealed to the public. On her regurgitation of coloured milk, Ms Brown says this:

The use of canvas is a natural progression from my early performances. I started puking down myself in various outfits, but wanted more longevity from the end result. Canvas allows me the room to experiment with pattern and colour. I have learnt to manipulate the process to produce artwork that I consider separate from the performance that produced it, both are equally important to me.

Aesthetes among you may detect the influence of Professor Keith Boadwee, whose colonic evacuations and “explorations of identity politics” are seared into the art world’s collective memory. And doubtless that of his students. Likewise, there’s a whiff of Jubal Brown, who gained fleeting notoriety by vomiting dye onto Mondrian’s Composition in Red, White and Blue, supposedly in an act of righteous artistic criticism. Others may be reminded of Albert Reyes, whose dribbling on the road requires at least some degree of precision. 

Now may be a good time to revisit Pwll’s rules of art appreciation. There is, after all, a difference between shock and awe, and a difference between wonderment and tedious disgust. Those who don’t know the difference, or who’ve chosen to forget in the name of transgression, are left with little to do besides screaming at passers-by and begging for attention.

Hard liquor and ammunition are, as usual, available at the bar.

Friday Ephemera

People disguised as robots in disguise. Watch the car. // Animals dressed as other animals. // Does your yacht transform into a plane? // The doll you’ve always dreamed of. // Desktop robots. // High wire walkers. // When the government has your house keys (and it’s for your own good). (h/t, TDK) // Artists and their bodily fluids. // Ian Fleming meets Raymond Chandler. // Famous objects from classic films. // Kitten plays invisible harp. // The Human League channelled through the Stella Starlight Trio. // Shoe sculptures. // Manhattan street views, 1982. (h/t, MeFi) // Bohemian Rhapsody played by Finns in a small VW car.

All Pop Music Will Henceforth Be Terrible

Owen Hatherley is pondering the return of the pop band Pulp and their “acute class consciousness.” In doing so, he offers up one or two contenders for our series of classic sentences:

Pulp’s upending of class stereotypes, their anger and their experimentation matter now more than ever, as a government waging naked class war elicits no response at all from our cowed, moribund pop music.

It’s naked class war, see? And only Pulp can save us, armed as they are with a “relentless, uncomfortable attention to class.” I’m not at all sure that pop bands should be taken quite this seriously, but class is clearly a fixation of Mr Hatherley, such that he uses the term no fewer than nineteen times. And the “cowed, moribund pop music” of which he speaks is apparently the result of “a ruling class… having waged successful class war” and our society therefore being insufficiently leftwing:

But with the decimation of the infrastructure that produced them, from access to education to arts council grants to the dole itself, has the British political and pop cultural landscape changed so much that a group like Pulp is now impossible?

Why, it’s the end of music, obviously.

At some point in the 1990s this literary-experimental pop tradition disappeared. Some reasons are structural – workfare schemes meant that claiming the dole as a “musicians’ grant” was less and less practicable, art schools were absorbed by universities, council flats were unobtainable for any but the desperate, and squats became rarer, so the unstable alliance between bohemia and estate was broken.

Making vaguely alternative pop music is, it seems, all but impossible without indefinite subsidy, an Arts Council grant, a subsidised spell at art school and a bohemian squat to call your own. Yes, these young titans of the left need the state to make them edgy and countercultural. And there can be no better use for taxpayers’ money than indulging would-be pop stars while they become “class conscious” and find themselves, musically. However long it takes. 

Readers may recall the 2006 Reading Festival being animated by a sing-along music video titled Cunts Are Still Running the World, which had been sent across the English Channel by Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, along with an appeal to “smash the system.” No doubt Mr Cocker’s admirers could feel the heat of his socialist belly fire all the way from the singer’s second home in Paris.

Friday Ephemera

Life-sized Hot Wheels. // “I’m not a crazy person.” (h/t, The Thin Man) // Comet, fireworks, lightning. // Chile’s Puyehue volcano. // Release your inner giant scary child. // Puppies grow so fast. // Find a dog that suits your features. // How hovercraft should be. // Did you brush today? // Survive the apocalypse with Tactical Sammiches. // Little people. // Rollable digital screen. // Cinema etiquette. // Lions lick and sniff camera; then steal it. // Cuttlefish can mimic pictures. // There’s no such thing as a jellyfish. (h/t, Julia) // Translucent specimens. // Trapping antimatter for fifteen minutes. // Water doesn’t usually behave like this.

Socialist Hearts Are Just Bigger Than Ours

Zoe Williams is unhappy. Miffed, you might say.

The Ark Gala Ball takes place on Thursday night behind Kensington Palace. Tickets are £10,000 each, so with 900 guests that’s £9m raised before they even start their charity auction… Ark stands for Absolute Return for Kids, and was set up early this century by a group of hedge fund managers… Their aim is to change the life chances of children – from India to Romania, South Africa to Southwark. In Africa they distribute retrovirals and have been fighting HIV/Aids since before the South African government would admit there was a link. In Romania, they took on the orphanages; in the UK they took over failing secondaries to create Ark academies.

Zoe tells us that the Ark Gala raises “extraordinary sums - £14m in just one night in 2007.” And all for good causes. So, er, what’s not to like?

Nevertheless, I object to high-net-worth philanthropy in principle.

Feel the warmth of that great big socialist heart. Helping orphans is objectionable if the people doing the helping are wealthier than Zoe Williams. Principles, see?

It is often presented as a politically neutral act, motivated by pure goodness.

I suspect the beneficiaries of such fundraising won’t be overly troubled by the personal motives in play, pure or otherwise. And perhaps we’re supposed to believe that goodness is the exclusive attribute of Guardian columnists, who are by definition the measure of human virtue. Like Kevin McKenna, for instance, whose ideas of fairness and compassion entail thwarting the educational opportunities of certain children. A topic on which Zoe has also had interesting things to say: “As for vindictive, ha! Good.” Like so many supposed egalitarians, Ms Williams struggles with malicious inclinations and today is no exception:

Go nuts, you individuals of high net worth; bid the farm in your charity auction. Anthropologists, by the way, call these auctions “tournaments of value.” It underscores how much more attractive aristocrats were when their tournaments involved horses, and some prospect of injury.

Yes, for Zoe, charity would be much more satisfying if the donors were getting hurt.

Continue reading "Socialist Hearts Are Just Bigger Than Ours" »

Elsewhere (39)

Darleen Click quotes William Voegeli on taxes and welfare:

One way to describe the difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals want government spending to be the independent variable that determines tax levels, and conservatives want government spending to be the dependent variable determined by taxes… 

I’m a conservative because I think it's democratically healthy to confront the hard question about taxes first and directly, and then let our answer to that question determine the budget perimeter for our welfare state. It is democratically unhealthy to proceed the way liberals have habitually dealt with the problem, by promising generous programs that will “pay for themselves” or even “pay for themselves many times over,” and only later, after people have come to expect and depend on the stream of government benefits, fess up about the taxes required to sustain them.

Related: How much extra tax would you volunteer to pay?

Raedwald ponders Darwinism and the arts:

Milan Kundera termed the support of awful art by controlling political regimes the “absolute denial of shit.” By supporting and promoting the dreadful, the sense of common discrimination is dulled, the people gulled, and the power and voice of worthwhile and original art and culture suffocated beneath the drek of lesbian dance collectives and men who exhibit painted plaster casts of their penis. The deprivation of meritocracy from art and culture, the protection of the awful from Darwinian winnowing, the blurring of our power of discrimination, is all, Kundera says, an effort by the politically powerful to isolate the people from uncomfortable truths.

And the Devil runs a salty tongue over Caroline Lucas:

Lest we forget and imagine that Lucas is qualified to prognosticate on anything useful, your humble Devil would like to remind his faithful readers that Caroline earned her doctorate with a thesis entitled Writing for Women: a Study of Woman as Reader in Elizabethan Romance.

As usual, feel free to add your own in the comments.

The Impervious Toynbee

Another classic sentence from the you-know-what: 

By deliberate misrepresentation, drip, drip, week after week, the powerful interests of wealth deliberately distort reality.

So says the leftwing millionaire Polly Toynbee, whose own intermittent relationship with facts and logic is of course quite famous, even earning her the honour of an entire website devoted to listing and correcting her various errors and distortions. One glorious Toynbee article contains no fewer than five factual errors in a single 21-word sentence. Sadly, this effort to correct the finest Guardian journalism has since become dormant, its author possibly having collapsed under the weight of the endeavour.

Ms Toynbee’s own struggles with realism often take intriguing forms, not least in her belief that the state should “become the best possible nanny to all babies,” and her enthusiasm for the idea that “disruptive 16-year-old boys” should be taken out of class to spend a term being taught the finer points of dance, thereby resulting in a “transformation in the whole year group.”

When not curing classroom delinquency with the thrill of modern tap, Ms Toynbee rails against “the unjust rewards of the rich,” by which she means, “the 1.5% who earn over £100,000.” These, she says, are the “extravagant earners” who “feel profoundly entitled to take what they like in salaries… untouched by public disgust or a sense of propriety.” Toynbee’s Guardian salary, for years a subject of speculation, was eventually revealed as £106,000 - excluding royalties, advances, media fees, etc. Curiously, Polly’s own financial rewards are not deemed “extravagant,” “unjust” or in any way improper, such is her ability to apprehend reality.

And let’s not forget Ms Toynbee’s conviction that obesity isn’t chiefly a matter of inactivity and overeating but instead has a more pernicious cause, i.e. a lack of socialism:

It is inequality and disrespect that makes people fat.  

To bolster this radical insight Toynbee made a number of further claims regarding economic inequality and expanded waistlines, each of which proved to be either misleading or untrue.

But Polly is by any measure a complicated woman, one whose on-again-off-again infatuation with Gordon “the Viking” Brown is now the stuff of legend, and whose property portfolio – including a £2.4 million London townhouse, another home in Lewes and a Tuscan holiday villa - is maintained with the proceeds of writing about the poor.