Religion

Some Guardian Nuance

Our favourite postcolonial studies lecturer, Priyamvada Gopal, is troubled by the cover of Time magazine’s August issue. The cover features an 18-year-old Afghan woman named Bibi Aisha, whose nose and ears were cut off by order of the Taliban as punishment for fleeing her abusive in-laws. The image shows not an accident of war, but Taliban justice. With the support of the Grossman Burn Foundation and Women for Afghan Women, Aisha, who lives under armed protection in a women’s shelter in Kabul, is soon to head to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery. However, Ms Gopal isn’t happy about Time magazine “condensing Afghan reality into simplistic morality tales”: 

Misogynist violence is unacceptable, but...

Ah. The but.

 ...but we must also be concerned by the continued insistence that the complexities of war, occupation and reality itself can be reduced to bedtime stories.

Readers can peruse the Time articles accompanying the image and decide for themselves whether the complexities of war and “occupation” are being “reduced to bedtime stories.” Ms Gopal’s own article - titled, somewhat bizarrely, Burkas and Bikinis - has a subheading that reads:

Time magazine’s cover is the latest cynical attempt to oversimplify the reality of Afghan lives.

Simplifying reality is a bad thing, see? “Afghans,” we’re told, “have been silenced and disempowered” by simplistic Western stereotypes. But the people who actually do, physically, silence and disempower Afghans – with threats and knives and acid, for instance - don’t seem to register as worthy of discussion.

The mutilated Afghan woman ultimately fills a symbolic void where there should be ideas for real change. The truth is that the US and allied regimes do not have anything substantial to offer Afghanistan beyond feeding the gargantuan war machine they have unleashed.

So no simplification there. Apparently, the restoration of education for millions of Afghan girls doesn’t count as “real change,” and nor do those dastardly and imperialist school building projects, which the Taliban so righteously endeavour to destroy. When not burning food aid intended for pregnant women or spraying acid in the faces of schoolgirls. And I suspect the Afghan woman who chose to be photographed for Time’s cover in the hope of encouraging even more dastardly imperialism might regard her disfigurement, and that of other women in Afghanistan and elsewhere, as more than mere symbolism. Though the perpetrators of such acts are very much aware of symbolic value, with their handiwork often serving as a warning to other women who presume to misbehave.

Undaunted, our esteemed educator continues,

In the affluent west itself, modernity is now about dismantling welfare systems, increasing inequality (disproportionately disenfranchising women in the process), and subsidising corporate profits.

Yes, of course. That’s all modernity is about. We are insufficiently socialist, so who are we to judge barbarism? I’m sure these things must be foremost in Bibi Aisha’s mind as she prepares for her flight to America and reconstructive surgery. Truly, she is heading for the belly of the beast.

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Reheated (12)

For newcomers, three more items from the archives

Being Reasonable

Intruders, self-defence and “reasonable force.”

Is it “reasonable” to assume that the intruder is merely a thief who doesn’t mind terrorising those whose homes he violates and whose property he steals, but isn’t prepared to do actual violence to his victims, even when cornered? And on what is that assumption based? Given the situation, and the fact your heart is pounding, do you really have the time and means to fathom the intruder’s motives and take them into account before acting – and acting without “excess”?

Naming the Devil.

The basic flaw of Islam is its founder. Dishonesty won’t change that.

By whitewashing the concept of jihad and its fundamental importance in Islamic history, apologists, moderate believers and those to whom they appeal are tactically wrong-footed. Moderation so conceived is essentially a sleight-of-hand and, however well-intended, is at odds with history and Muhammad’s own exhortations to violence. It isn’t enough to pretend that jihad was originated and understood as something fluffy and benign. (In May 1994, when Yasser Arafat called for a “jihad to liberate Jerusalem,” it wasn’t entirely obvious how such a thing might be achieved by an inner spiritual struggle with no physical connotations.)

Overlords

In order to fix us, someone has to be in charge.

And then there’s the leftwing think-tank, the New Economics Foundation, whose Head of Social Policy, Anna Coote, tells us we would become “better parents, better citizens, better carers and better neighbours” if only our incomes were dramatically reduced. “We,” she says, will be “satisfied” without the “dispensable accoutrements of middle-class life,” including “cars, holidays, electronic equipment and multiple items of clothing.” The preferences of the British electorate – whose taxes fund the NEF - don’t figure in this brave new world and the NEF’s deep thinkers simply know what’s best for us. What’s best for us is “introducing measures to reduce the gradient between high and low earners,” “growing our own food,” and “mending and repairing things.” According to Ms Coote, “freedom” will be found in sameness, make-do and unpaid manual labour.

And by all means fondle the greatest hits.


It Pays To Be Unobvious

A while ago, in a post on Professor Jere Surber and his prodigious self-regard, I noted a feature of academia’s less reputable corners:

In many arts subjects, especially those tethered only loosely to evidence, logic or practical verification, there’s often pressure to avoid the obvious and prosaic, even when the obvious and prosaic is true. The obligation to be unobvious, if only for the benefit of one’s academic peers, may help explain the more fanciful assertions from some practitioners of the liberal arts. Consider, for instance, Duke’s professor miriam cooke, who refuses to capitalise her name, thus drawing attention to her egalitarian radicalism and immense creativity. Professor cooke’s subtlety of mind is evident in her claim that the oppression and misogyny found in the Islamic world is actually the fault of globalisation and Western colonialism, despite the effects predating their alleged causes by several centuries. Professor cooke also tells us that “polygamy can be liberating and empowering” – a statement that may strike readers as somewhat dubious. It does, however, meet the key criteria of being both edgy and unobvious.

In a review of Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society, Theodore Dalrymple touches on a similar point: 

Intellectuals, like everyone else, live and work in a marketplace. In order to get noticed they must say things which have not been said before, or at least say them in a different manner. No one is likely to obtain many plaudits for the rather obvious, indeed self-evident, thought that a street robber cannot commit street robberies while he is in prison. But an intellectual who first demonstrates that the cause of an increase in street robbery is the increase in the amount of property that law-abiding pedestrians have on them as they walk in the streets is likely to be hailed, at least until the next idea comes along. Thus, while there are no penalties for being foolish, there are severe penalties (at least in career terms) for being obvious.

As Dalrymple notes, the obligation to be unobvious can lead some to make claims that are original only insofar as more realistic people would not be inclined to take them seriously. Or as Sowell puts it elsewhere

If you’ve mastered the writings of William Shakespeare and convey that to the next generation, who have obviously not mastered it, you’re performing a valuable service. But, that’s not going to advance your academic career. You’ve got to come out with some new theory of Shakespeare. You’ve got to go through and show how there is gender bias or the secret gay message somewhere coded in Shakespeare. You’ve just got to come up with something.

Thus, Dr Sandra Harding, a “feminist philosopher of science,” can claim that it’s both “illuminating and honest” to refer to Newton’s Principia as a “rape manual,” while insisting that rape and torture metaphors can usefully describe its contents. Likewise, Professor Judith Butler – a high priestess of the ponderous and opaque – can dismiss clarity and common sense as inhibiting radicalism. (Sentiments shared by, among others, Ralph Hexter, Daniel Selden and Mas’ud Zavarzadeh, who disdains “clarity of presentation” and “unproblematic prose” as “the conceptual tools of conservatism.”)

Occasionally, Judith Butler’s politics are aired relatively free of question-begging jargon, thus revealing her radicalism to the lower, uninitiated castes. As, for instance, at a 2006 UC Berkeley “Teach-In Against America’s Wars,” during which the professor claimed that it’s “extremely important” to “understand” Hamas and Hizballah as “social movements that are progressive, that are on the Left, that are part of a global Left” and so, by implication, deserving of support. Readers may find it odd that students are being encouraged to express solidarity with totalitarian terrorist movements that set booby traps in schools and boast of using children as human shields, and whose stated goals include the Islamic “conquest” of the free world, the “obliteration” of Israel and the annihilation of the Jewish people. However, such statements achieve a facsimile of sense if one understands that the object is to be both politically radical and morally unobvious.

Thomas Sowell discusses his book with Peter Robinson here. Parts 2, 3, 4, 5.


Reheated (11)

For newcomers, three more items from the archives

Postmodernism Unpeeled

A discussion with Stephen Hicks, author of Explaining Postmodernism.

Writing in Innovations of Antiquity, Ralph Hexter and Daniel Selden dismissed “transparent prose” as “the approved mode of expression for the society and values of the newly empowered middle class.” In the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Mas’ud Zavarzadeh denounced “unproblematic prose and clarity of presentation” as “the conceptual tools of conservatism.” The rejection of transparency as “conservative” is particularly odd, since transparency makes a claim amenable to broad critical enquiry, and thus public correction. Without transparency, what do we have? A private language shared only by likeminded peers in which one is free to assert largely unopposed? [...] Presumably, if you prefer arguments that are comprehensible and open to scrutiny, this signals some reactionary tendency and deep moral failing. On the other hand, if you sneer at such bourgeois trifles, you’re radical, clever and very, very sexy.

Blunting the Senses in the Name of Fairness

The Dalai Lama gets it wrong. Cultural equivalence debunked at length.

Rosie O’Donnell was happy to assert that, “radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America.” But while red-faced evangelists may say, for instance, that gay people are wicked, damned to hellfire, etc, I don’t know of any internationally renowned Christian leaders who are calling for the imprisonment and killing of gay people. Unlike the supposedly “moderate” Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who insists that gay men and lesbians should be “killed in the worst manner possible.” Not condemned, ‘corrected,’ prayed for or pitied, or any of the usual nonsense spouted by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson et al; but murdered - as brutally as possible.

The Flow of Ideas

Professor Sharra Vostral exposes the humble tampon as an “artefact of control.”

Note the professor’s confidence as she rushes to the podium on Mount Grievance. She is righteous and wise, and apparently telepathic. Non-literal uses of the term “patchwork” must assume whatever sequence of ideas suits Professor Vostral’s worldview. Used metaphorically, the word “patchwork” must signal disdain for quilt making, quilt makers and, by implication, an entire gender too. There can be no doubt about it. “Patchwork” simply is a “gendered insult” - one “based in derogatory understandings” of a “woman-based art form.” It’s “embedded,” apparently.

Excavate the greatest hits.


Great Minds

[Cough] Classic sentence. [Cough]

Terry Eagleton has been one of the great minds of the European left seemingly since Cromwell.

This addition to our ongoing series comes from the author and Nation columnist Dave Zirin. It’s his opening line. The second line, however, notes Eagleton’s “absence of understanding” and subsequent sentences explain why the professor’s most recent article, discussed here, is a dusty old trope and “elitist hogwash” - a polemic that’s “more about Eagleton’s alienation than our own.”

I’m sure Professor Eagleton would have some achingly clever reply, given his ability to compare suicide bombing with “avant-garde theatre.” And bearing in mind our recent discussion, it’s perhaps worth noting the professor’s belief that, “being a champagne socialist is better than being no socialist at all.” This was said while gushing over the “great communist poet Hugh MacDiarmid,” a man who wrote a series of Hymns To Lenin, who renewed his party membership in 1956, and whose death, according to Eagleton, spared him from the “dark night of Thatcherism.” An elected Conservative government being so much worse than, say, Soviet tanks in Budapest and hundreds of thousands of fleeing dissidents.

Those who’ve followed Eagleton’s pronouncements will have spotted that the professor is often hostile to dissent, in particular to those whose thinking and experiences take them away from the boneyards of the left. According to the professor, the knighting of Salman Rushdie was “the establishment’s reward for a man who moved from being a remorseless satirist of the west to cheering on its criminal adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.” No evidence for this dastardly conspiracy was deemed necessary and Rushdie’s supposed “fondness for the Pentagon’s politics” is apparently all that needs to be said, signalling as it must the man’s innate wickedness.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Eagleton’s umbrage on the subject was shared by Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini, who told the world that the decision to praise “the apostate” had “insulted Islamic sanctities” and was “a blatant example of anti-Islamism.” While the Guardian’s Priyamvada Gopal railed against Rushdie’s apostasy as only a lecturer in postcolonial studies can. Rushdie’s divergence from Ms Gopal’s own cartoon worldview - including his dislike of tyranny and his defence of such heresies as intellectual freedom - had apparently reduced the author to “a giggling hack corralled into attacking his ruler’s enemies.” 

Eagleton also hissed at Christopher Hitchens, denouncing him as an “establishment groupie” who has “made his peace... with capitalism” and “learned how to stop worrying about imperialism and love Paul Wolfowitz.” Like his Guardian colleague Bidisha, our esteemed literary theorist imagines he has some proprietary claim on proper, radical thought. Such that radical thought must entail “questioning the foundations of the western way of life,” which in turn must entail having opinions almost exactly like his own. Norm Geras, a lefty in an altogether different league, took apart Eagleton’s assumptions with admirable patience. A venture for which Norm will no doubt be condemned and cast out in due course. 


A Telekinetic Battle of Minds

Here’s a thing.

When a famous tantric guru boasted on television that he could kill another man using only his mystical powers, most viewers either gasped in awe or merely nodded unquestioningly. Sanal Edamaruku’s response was different. “Go on then - kill me,” he said.

Mr Edamaruku had been invited to the same talk show as head of the Indian Rationalists’ Association - the country’s self-appointed sceptic-in-chief. At first the holy man, Pandit Surender Sharma, was reluctant, but eventually he agreed to perform a series of rituals designed to kill Mr Edamaruku live on television. Millions tuned in as the channel cancelled scheduled programming to continue broadcasting the showdown.

Thankfully, there’s a clip of the most tense moment of this paranormal confrontation, complete with chilling music.

First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic’s hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive.

All of which is flimsy excuse to post a link to this.

Via Peter Risdon.


But Left Equals Virtue...

A few days ago, my piece on the political vanities of Professor Jere Surber was linked from a message board where Karl Marx quotations are displayed triumphantly and the following question still hangs in the air:

And what’s with this historical revisionism that keeps creeping up that puts Hitler on the left?

Readers may find it odd that there are people who resent Hitler’s Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – National Socialist German Workers’ Party – being regarded as in any way leftwing. Albeit not quite as leftwing as Stalin’s communism, with its more... international flavour. If Hitler wasn’t a socialist, or a type of socialist, it’s odd that he should give his party an overtly socialist name and outline his economic programme in overtly socialist terms: “We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system... and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.” [Adolf Hitler, speech, May 1, 1927.] It’s odd too that Hitler should subsequently inform the “bourgeois” newspaper editor Richard Breiting that the Nazi economic programme “demands the nationalisation of all public companies, in other words socialisation, or what is known here as socialism.” Perhaps there are those who imagine the word “left” is, and always must be, universal shorthand for “good hearts, decent people and unassailable virtue.” If contributors to the aforementioned message board are visiting today, they may find what follows a tad bothersome. Here’s Stephen Hicks noting some interesting thematic links:

Baader-Meinhof was a far left terrorist group, and one of the most violent, killing dozens and maiming more during the 1970s. Its “official” name was Rote Armee Fraktion (“Red Army Faction”). The logo shows a nice big socialist red star with a Heckler Koch submachine gun. The group’s two most prominent members were Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. Here is one of Meinhof’s explanations: “Auschwitz meant that six million Jews were killed, and thrown on the waste-heap of Europe, for what they were: money Jews. Finance capital and the banks, the hard core of the system of imperialism and capitalism, had turned the hatred of men against money and exploitation, and against the Jews… Anti-Semitism is really a hatred of capitalism.” [Source.]

Which is of course right out of Karl Marx: “What is the profane basis of Judaism? Practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money. Very well: then in emancipating itself from huckstering and money, and thus from real and practical Judaism, our age would emancipate itself. [...] As soon as society succeeds in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism - huckstering and its conditions - the Jew becomes impossible… The social emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation of society from Judaism.” [Source: On the Jewish Question (1843), in The Marx-Engels Reader, pp. 48, 52.]

Which is what Hitler agreed with: “Today I will once more be a prophet. If the international Jewish financiers, inside and outside Europe, succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevisation of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!” [Source: Hitler, speaking in the Reichstag on January 30, 1939.] As did Goebbels, in speaking of “the money pigs of capitalist democracy”: “Money has made slaves of us.” “Money is the curse of mankind. It smothers the seed of everything great and good. Every penny is sticky with sweat and blood.” [Sources: Goebbels, 1929, quoted in Orlow 1969, p. 87 and Goebbels 1929, quoted in Mosse ed., 1966, p. 107.]

Bonus question: Who said this?

“The worker in a capitalist state - and that is his deepest misfortune - is no longer a living human being, a creator, a maker. He has become a machine. A number, a cog in the machine without sense or understanding. He is alienated from what he produces.”

Answer: Joseph Goebbels, in his 1932 Those Damned Nazis pamphlet.

I talk with Stephen Hicks here. Should any visiting Marxists resent parting with money for Dr Hicks’ book Explaining Postmodernism, it can read here, for free.


Elsewhere (20)

A happy, fluffy Islam edition.

Virginia Haussegger on beer, public whipping and the gentle kiss of Sharia.

Who gives the government the right to do moral policing and why should a personal sin be turned into a crime against the state? 

An article by Taslima Nasrin “causes” rioting in India

Shimoga and Hassan cities witnessed widespread violence on Monday following protests by Muslim organisations against the publication of an article in the Sunday magazine section of a Kannada daily. The article is a translation of an essay by Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen on wearing of the burka by Muslim women, and contains remarks that could be considered religiously insensitive and provocative. [...] Several persons were injured and there was large-scale destruction of property in different parts of the city. Police reports stated that at least 15 two-wheelers, three auto rickshaws and a large number of shops in the main market areas were set on fire. It is stated that three persons with bullet wounds were admitted to the McGann Hospital in a serious condition. A person manning a telephone booth on Nehru Road was seriously injured when a petrol bomb was thrown at him.

Readers may recall Ms Nasrin’s earlier, firsthand experience of Muhammadan umbrage when a book launch ended in the author being violently assaulted by Islamic lawmakers and members of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, whose piety entailed throwing chairs at a terrified woman. Hyderabad police subsequently filed a case against Nasreen for allegedly “creating religious tensions” and writing “provocative literature.”

And Bruce Bawer interviews Geert Wilders

Thomas Mertens, a law professor at universities in Nijmegen and Leiden, argues that Wilders, by seeking so urgently to clarify for the general public the truth about Islam, is actually undermining the central precept that underlies the Dutch social contract which has been in place for centuries: namely, the agreement among members of different faith traditions to tolerate their theological differences – to close their eyes, as it were, to one another’s truth claims. What Mertens and others like him refuse to acknowledge is that the willingness of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Catholics, Calvinists, Lutherans, and others to agree to disagree about theological abstractions has no relevance whatsoever to the present situation, in which the Netherlands, and the West generally, are confronting a faith tradition for whose most committed adherents theological abstractions have calamitous real-world consequences. 

As usual, feel free to add your own.


Earthquake Machines

Here’s a thing.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the United States of causing the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, which killed possibly 200,000 people. Chavez believes the U.S. was testing a tectonic weapon to produce eco-type devastations.

Blimey. One wonders how this revelation will go down among the Great Man’s admirers here in the UK.

But I’m confused. I thought only “The Jews” had such diabolical technology. As revealed in December 2007 when Hamas MP Ahmad Abu Halabiya informed Al-Aqsa TV that,

It is not impossible for the Jews to generate an artificial earthquake... in order to accomplish their goal of destroying the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Needless to say, The Guild of Evil™ has been conducting research of its own with this mobile apparatus.

Update: Not what it seems, it seems.


Elsewhere (15)

Stuart Taylor takes another look at Duke University, where its infamous far left faculty has dug in even deeper.

Duke’s rules define sexual misconduct so broadly and vaguely as to include any sexual activity without explicit “verbal or nonverbal” consent, which must be so “clear” as to dispel “real or perceived power differentials between individuals [that] may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.” The disciplinary rules deny the accused any right to have an attorney at the hearing panel or to confront his accuser. The rules also give her - but not him - the right to be treated with “sensitivity”; to make opening and closing statements; and to receive copies of investigative documents.

Jeff Goldstein notes why Duke’s infestation will persist. 

The fact is, the people who make up these activist identity groups need their “isms.” And because fighting a particular “ism” is what gives them their identity to begin with, they cannot allow the “ism” ever to be stamped out without, in effect, obviating their own identities.

As Jeff, myself and others have pointed out, the relevance and power of identity politics advocates requires a cultivation of grievance among those ostensibly being championed. The grievance narrative must never be allowed to go away, whatever the actual situation, since grievance (or professed grievance) is the principal source of leverage, influence and funding. Even if this entails exaggerating minor slights or distorting statistics, or framing the issue so tendentiously that almost any kind of dissent can be deemed oppressive and malign. See, for instance, the ludicrous campus rape claims of Barbara Barnett, formerly of Duke, or the reactions of many feminists to factual correction by Christina Hoff Sommers, or the outrageous treatment of Keith John Sampson and Thomas Thibeault.

And Ophelia Benson notes some routine moral flummery at the BBC.

It had to report on this al-Shabab guy trying to kill Kurt Westergaard so therefore it had to make sure you didn’t get the wrong idea and think it, the BBC, didn’t think Kurt Westergaard deserved it, at least a little bit.

Indeed. Yesterday morning, the BBC’s Today programme performed much the same manoeuvre, suggesting the attempt to murder the 75-year-old cartoonist with an axe showed the strength of “feeling” on the issue and the “anger that still exists over what he did.” A more realistic response might stress instead a psychotic sense of vanity and barbarous presumption – one that validates the point of Westergaard’s cartoon.

Feel free to share your own items of interest.


Whose Vanity is Visible Here?

Since 1994, a Pakistani activist who founded the Progressive Women’s Association “has documented 7,800 cases of women who were deliberately burned, scalded or subjected to acid attacks, just in the Islamabad area. In only 2 percent of those cases was anyone convicted.”

When terrorism is personal.

A word of caution. The images are graphic and possibly distressing. Note how often the captions read “familial dispute” or “rejected him for marriage.”

Via Brain Terminal.


The Privileges of Piety

From the Telegraph:

Faith groups are to be given a central role in shaping government policies, a senior minister has vowed. John Denham, the communities secretary revealed that a new panel of religious experts has been set up to advise the Government on making public policy decisions. Mr Denham argued that Christians and Muslims can contribute significant insights on key issues, such as the economy, parenting and tackling climate change.

Oh happy day. Islam and Gaia, together at last.

The minister said that the Government needed to be educated by faith groups on “how to inform the rest of society about these issues.”

Perhaps someone could explain why it is we even have a “communities secretary,” and why this one is so eager to defer to “experts” whose, um, expertise lies not in parenting, economics or climatology, but in affairs of an altogether more elevated nature. Sadly, Mr Denham doesn’t reveal which particular “significant insights” will be brought to bear by the aforementioned “faith groups”. Nor is it terribly obvious how being Muslim or Christian might bestow a parental or economic wisdom unavailable to less pious human beings.

Which leads us to another item featuring one of those “experts” - Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury - self-described “hairy lefty,” palace-dweller, figure of ridicule, apologist for terrorism and chief executive of a failing religious enterprise. Dr Williams’ latest musings on mortal affairs are also aired in the Telegraph, where we learn “higher taxes would be good for society”:

Dr Rowan Williams said that taxation should not be seen as a way of stifling business or redistributing wealth but helping to make the world a better place in which to live.

You may want those sunglasses. It’s dazzling stuff.

He called for new levies to be introduced on financial transactions and carbon emissions, and an end to the idea that unlimited economic growth is desirable... “Taxation builds a habitat - already, quite properly, through state welfare provision, but potentially in other less familiar ways.”

Whatever Dr Williams chooses to believe, higher taxation and “new levies” are a very good way of stifling business, and base commerce is ultimately how we pay for all of those good deeds the Most Revered One likes to bang on about. And if the implied individual belt-tightening is so “good for society” – that’s you, dear reader - why isn’t it good for government too? Or should the state become larger and more righteously engorged, “making the world a better place” with publicly funded diversity policy officers, tobacco control officers, undercover waste bin spies and other consciousness-raising efforts? As, for instance, when the Arts Council saw fit to spend £150,000 of your taxes on sending Jarvis Cocker to the Arctic for “inspiration,” along with Marcus Brigstocke, Kathy Barber, Julian Stair and Beatboxer Shlomo:

The ambition of the expedition was to inspire the creative team to respond to climate change... It was an amazing journey; 10 days of artistic inspiration, debate, discussion and exploration.

I’m sure it was a hoot. And when it comes to “artistic responses to climate change” you just need to include a third-rate leftwing comedian, a “billboard hijacker” and a maker of ceramics.

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