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March 2014

Scenes of Extended Fretting

It all began for me more than a decade ago, with the “mangetout moment”; a passing conversation with my editor at the Guardian about those pangs of consumer guilt that wash over us, but upon which we rarely act. 

Ah, consumer guilt. I bet you’re feeling its sting right now. 

Those moments when, for example, you pick up a plastic-wrapped packet of mangetout in a supermarket, fleetingly dwell on their food miles or the likely exploitative wage of the Kenyan farmer who grew them, but still pop them into your shopping basket and shuffle towards the next aisle.

Such are the recollections of Mr Leo Hickman, whose ten years of struggling with ethical purity will be known to long-term readers. And who believes that the way to make poor people rich is to not buy their goods. 

Our experiment was never framed as anything other than a personal journey. It certainly was never meant to be a finger-wagging sermon – more a fumble and a feel through some of modern life’s most chewy dilemmas.

Yes, Mr Hickman and his equally fretful colleagues shied from any hint of such competitive piety, honest, and instead merely had debates on subjects ranging from ethical sandwich-wrapping and the immorality of fireworks to whether it’s acceptable to employ a cleaner and alternative uses for inherited fur coats – among them, dog bedding and indoors-only fashion. And debates on whether roadkill could be an alternative ethical food source for Guardianistas who “hate waste.” Those “chewy dilemmas” that bedevil us all. 

And Mr Hickman’s moral guidance was often reciprocated by his readers:

A woman from Derbyshire wrote to enthusiastically explain how she hung her “washable menstrual products” out to dry from the guy rope when camping.

It’s good to know these things. And such wisdom was not without influence:

Continue reading "Scenes of Extended Fretting" »

Friday Ephemera

The circus arts, Indian-style. // A tediously accurate scale model of the solar system. // Head for the hills, the robots are coming. // Father-son bonding. // A collection of abnormal frogs. // Underwater fashion. // Film restoration. // Flames. // The random teleporter. // At last, a see-through-tipped marker pen. // Soy sauce. // This I like. // Lunar map catalogue. // The digital comics museum. // Goats in sweaters, obviously. // Deep trench beasties five miles down. // A small compendium of Chinese hair. // Assorted porn search terms, presented in low-key relaxing manner. (h/t. MeFi) // And finally, somewhat shockingly: “An argument on the internet has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties.” 

Elsewhere (113)

Theodore Dalrymple on demographic quotas: 

Quotas are intrinsically divisive and discriminatory (in the worst possible sense) because the number of categories into which humanity can be divided is infinite: only some categories, therefore, can be favoured, leaving others resentful and liable to seek political redress as their supposed salvation. Quotas therefore not only politicise life but embitter political life itself. They formalise favouritism, thus reinforcing the very problem they are meant to solve. They necessarily inflate the role of government, for someone has to enforce them. Before long, the demand for equality (of a kind) undermines freedom because private associations are no longer able to make the rules they wish, a necessary condition for a truly liberal society in which government is not overweening or preponderant. The imposition of quotas is founded on the belief that everyone is a bigot unless forced by administrative fiat to be otherwise.

On a similar theme, Thomas Sowell on “fairness” and cultivated idiocy: 

The front page of a local newspaper in northern California featured the headline The Promise Denied, lamenting the under-representation of women in computer engineering. The continuation of this long article on an inside page had the headline Who is to Blame for This? In other words, the fact that reality does not match the preconceptions of the intelligentsia shows that there is something wrong with reality, for which somebody must be blamed. Apparently their preconceptions cannot be wrong.

For some reason, this item from the archive sprang to mind

And Daniel Hannan on unflattering facts:  

One of my constituents once complained to the Beeb about a report on the repression of Mexico’s indigenous peoples, in which the government was labelled right-wing. The governing party, he pointed out, was a member of the Socialist International and, again, the give-away was in its name: Institutional Revolutionary Party. The BBC’s response was priceless. Yes, it accepted that the party was socialist, “but what our correspondent was trying to get across was that it is authoritarian.”

Hannan’s piece prompted this by Tim Stanley, which in turn prompted this by Jonah Goldberg. It’s a topic we’ve touched on here before

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.