Sunday, 25 June 2017

The pitfalls of displacement

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In 1968 Conservative British MP Enoch Powell made a hugely controversial address to the Birmingham branch of the Conservative party in which he criticised the British immigration policy. In the speech Powell contended that although many thousands of immigrants wanted to integrate, the majority did not, and that some had vested interests in fostering racial and religious differences with a view to actual domination, initially over fellow immigrants, and then over the rest of the population.

Although Powell always referred to it as the ‘Birmingham speech’ it is more widely known as the ‘rivers of blood’ speech, a title derived from its allusion to a line from Virgil’s Aeneid. Although the actual phrase ‘rivers of blood’ does not appear in the speech itself, Powell did include the line: “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding, like the Roman, I see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

I thought about this last week when we saw the survivors on a London footpath outside the Grenfell Tower after an horrendous fire had destroyed their abodes. Judging by the dress codes and the accents, most of these appeared not to be of conventional British stock. We were told that this apartment building was tenanted by poor people, although situated in an affluent neighbourhood.

Indeed, Amazing Spaces TV star George Clarke agonised that he lived next door, but felt helpless as he witnessed women and children screaming from the top floor windows begging to be rescued.

I wouldn’t want to speculate as to whether these people want to eventually dominate the population of Great Britain, but it did occur to me that most of them would have come to England’s green and pleasant land looking for a better life. Notwithstanding the fire itself, I doubt that many of them will have found Utopia.

Many of the London’s immigrant and refugee population would have travelled from the warmer climes of the Middle East. Some will have fled their homes due to circumstances beyond their control and would probably find the English weather somewhat of a challenge.

The ‘Arab Spring’ might have meant a winter of discontent for many misfortunate migrants.

I’m not sure to what extent Britain encourages immigrants - we know many sneak across the English Channel illegally - but we do, and according to our ruling-party politicians and our entrepreneurial business leaders, not to do so would be disastrous for our economy.

And so to house them we build dubiuos multi-storey apartment buildings in Auckland.

It’s as though we don’t learn from other people’s mistakes.

Given the Powell speech was made nearly 50 years ago it’s surprising just how accurate his predictions have been; perhaps in an ideal world we should all stay put where we were born.

Certainly the Maoris will be wishing that Abel Tasman and James Cook had never taken up sailing; their adventurous endeavours brought disease and a white honky culture that was an anathema to Maoridom and a seabed and foreshore eventually awash with plastic waste.

Conversely of course the Moas would have wished that the Maoris had never left Hawaiiki.

“Remember you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life.” - Cecil Rhodes


Sunday, 18 June 2017

The one thing you can't hide

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When I attended Wairarapa College I took a professional course especially designed for students who wanted to go into business. It was called Academic Three and differed from Academics’ One and Two by substituting the language courses with something more suited to our future endeavours.

Latin and French were replaced with bookkeeping and commercial practice.

Our main tutor for these two subjects was Mr Brown and I remember him telling us that the world of commerce was transacted in American dollars and the English language. He therefore advised us to take as much notice of our English teacher as we did of him.

“To be able to express yourself well in English is as important in your pathway to a successful business career as knowing how to keep accounts and understanding the rudiments of commercial practice” he would intone.

I wonder if the same advice is given today. We know that there is a texting language that debases English to such an extent that two words can become just two letters and whole phrases can be expressed in acronyms. The language on the street is punctuated by expletives that make even me blush and when some young people of both genders open their mouths I cringe at the profanity and lack of diction.

There is an enlightened debate going on as to whether students today should be taught Te Reo from an early age which is probably appropriate in the current contentious climate, just as Latin and French was in our time.

Maori are justifiably concerned that many of their people are in the lower end of the socio-economic scale. This discrepancy needs to be addressed and I can understand them wanting us all to learn their language, but in the 1950s black and white world of Mr Brown it would have been considered that there was no economic rationale to do so.

In his best-selling book, Losing the Race: Self-sabotage in Black America, black American linguist Professor John McWhorter dares to say the unsayable: “Racism’s ugliest legacy is the disease of defeatism that has infected black America.”

Losing the Race explores the three main components of this cultural virus: the cults of victimology, separatism and anti-intellectualism that are making blacks their own worst enemies in the struggle for success.

There are obviously parallels for us here and in another context McWhorter writes that he despises the desire for keeping languages alive which he says have often outlived their usefulness and ought not to be sustained by artificial means. He believes a multiplicity of languages encourages segregation and ultimately apartheid.

I’m not suggesting for one minute that the Maori language or Maori culture has outlived its usefulness; far from it. It’s part of what defines us as an exciting nation and is largely why we are admired from afar, but to create economic success may mean encouraging our young students to embrace English more emphatically.

Like it or not, we are judged by our peers and we risk revealing the hitherto hidden incapacity to express ourselves comprehensively the minute we open our mouths.

CU nxt wk. LOL.

I enjoy Pidgin English…even though I am referred to in that splendid language as “Fella belong Mrs Queen”. - Prince Philip


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Fanatical facts and falsehoods

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The Governor of California Jerry Brown is furious with President Trump for stepping aside from the Paris Climate-Change accord. In an angst-ridden outburst Mr Brown reckoned habitats will be destroyed, we’re all going to die and insects will take over the Earth.

I once flew across America in a daylight flight from California to Florida. From my window seat I was keen to observe civilisation from 29,000 feet, but all I saw was wilderness. We flew over no cities and I concluded that America looked more like Davy Crockett’s version than Jerry Brown’s. It’s possible that if you draw a straight line from Los Angeles to Miami you actually don’t pass over any inhabited areas, but after that flight I was curious to know just where 300 million citizens lived. It seemed to me that given the vast greenery below me there was ample vegetation to absorb the carbon dioxide these undetected people produced to be turned into oxygen in the photosynthetic process.

And so I have become a bit of a global-warming sceptic. I tend to empathise with New Zealand’s two great climate-change-denying “scientists” Mike Hosking and Leighton Smith who have apparently abandoned their laboratories and Bunsen burners in Auckland and taken up broadcasting on Newstalk ZB.

The trouble for us more mature citizens is that we’ve witnessed authorities cry wolf before.

Since the 1970s here’s the track record on doom: the population explosion would be unstoppable, global famine would be inevitable, crop yields would fall, a cancer epidemic caused by pesticides would shorten lifespan, the deserts would advance by two miles a year, rainforests would disappear, acid rain would destroy forests, oil spills would worsen, oil and gas would run out, and so would copper, zinc, chrome and many other natural resources, America’s Great Lakes would die, dozens of birds and mammal species would become extinct each year, a new ice age would begin, sperm counts would fall, mad cow disease would kill hundreds of thousands of people, genetically modified weeds would devastate ecosystems, nanotechnology would run riot, computers would crash at the dawn of the millennium bringing down civilisation, the hole in the ozone layer would cause blindness and cancer on a huge scale.

I’ve just scratched the surface of the doomsday predictions, but these melodramatic forecasts are what fuels green political party participation.

However environmental scientist Ranga Myneni of Boston University says that data from satellites is proving that much of the planet is getting greener and overall in the last 30 years there has been roughly 14 percent increase in vegetation on planet earth. Myneni said that about half of this greening was a direct result of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, as along with water it is the raw material that plants use to make carbohydrates. This will be news to those accustomed to alarming tales about deforestation, overdevelopment and ecosystem destruction.

Meanwhile Governor Brown has gone off and signed a climate-change accord with China. Ironic when you consider the Paris agreement allowed China to increase its CO2 emissions.

Oops, a giant grasshopper is about to devour my computer.

“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” - Edmund Burke


Sunday, 4 June 2017

The precarious march of progress

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I nearly jumped clean out of my cotton pickin’ socks when I read the headline “School uniforms to become gender neutral.” I wondered out soft if this meant the boys will be wearing skirts and blouses, but I should have known better; it seems the girls want to dress like boys. No surprises there. Pagani has already closed and I suspect many of the world’s frock shops are fearful about their futures as women become more assertive and have no qualms about reminding their mere menfolk who really wears the pants.

America went a step further when Obama signed into law gender-neutral toilets. This probably means urinal manufacturers will eventually go the way of frock shops.

We can laugh about all of this, but it’s amazing how many changes we are blissfully accepting over recent times that would have been unheard of twenty years ago.

I might be drawing a long bow here, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is all to do with the march of secularism and a rise of an alternative progressive morality.

The Australian Enquirer editor Paul Kelly says, “The new morality arises from neither dogma nor revelation. Its focus is diversity, human rights, self-expression and identity politics. It is a set of values and a way of relating to others. Its essence is the discarding of the worth of tradition and enshrining in law rules and procedure for contemporary cultural norms. It’s best seen as the comprehensive politicisation of our culture.”

British socioligist Frank Furedi captured its manifestations: “Conflict over values have acquired an enormous significance in political life. Recent debates on abortion, euthanasia, immigration, gay marriage and family life indicate that there is an absence of agreement on some of the most fundamental questions facing society.”

For New Zealand you could add to that list the potential legalisation of cannabis.

Our Western societies were initially established on an agreed consensus between secularists and Christians regarding the ultimate questions. The model allowed deference to both God and Caesar. The secular state was neutral between believers and non-believers, a system that allowed religions to flourish. The laws of the state and the laws of the church co-existed in a tolerated and often beneficial settlement that empowered a successful society.

This however is now under threat.

The deployment of multiculturalism has even weakened the Christian symbols; Cadbury’s weren’t game to put the word “Easter” on their chocolate eggs and bunny’s this year.

The emerging differences are fundamental given the push to legalise killing in the cause of humanitarianism, the restriction of free speech on the basis of causing offence, the promotion of gender fluidity, the rejection of the boy/girl gender paradigm and the manipulation of schools for ideological, sex, gender and climate programmes.

Given the rise of Islam with its more assertive character the role of the Islamic theocratic state will likely become even more comminatory, begging the question: what sort of opposition will it encounter?

Call me old fashioned, but my fear is a Western culture, in gender neutral clothing, where secular ideology has become less tolerant of Christianity and as a result more vulnerable to any ideology.

“Unlike Christianity which preached a peace that it never achieved, Islam unashamedly came with a sword.” - Sir Steven Runciman


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Flawed features in saving the planet

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I don’t really consider myself to be an environmentalist though from time to time I have endeavoured to reduce my carbon footprint, but with little actual success.

I have owned three hybrid cars, but eventually realised that the fuel savings were never going to overcome the extra cost of the technology. Disregarding this experience I then covered a large portion of the roof of our home with photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity and substantially lower our power account. Given that I have passed the milestone of three score years and ten I should have realised that once again the technology was unlikely to produce a positive financial outcome until well after I had gone (hopefully) to a higher plane.

I thought about this the other day when I read about the resourcefulness involved in building wind towers to generate electricity. A two megawatt wind turbine weighs about 250 tonnes including the tower, nacelle, rotor and blades. It takes about half a tonne of coal to make a tonne of steel. Add another 25 tonnes of coal for making the cement and so you end up using 150 tonnes of coal per turbine.

And so it requires enormous quantities of coal, the number one bogey in the environmentalists list of hobgoblins, to make “clean green” wind power.

Another problem is the wind itself. It’s a fluctuating stream of low-energy density. The modern world stopped using it for mission-critical transport and mechanical power long ago for a very good reason: it’s totally unreliable.

Meanwhile out of sight and out of mind is the dirty pollution forged in Inner Mongolia by the mining of the rare-earth metals vital for the magnets in the turbines. This process apparently generates toxic and radioactive waste on an epic scale which is why the phrase “clean energy” is preposterous.

And so well-prescribed efforts to create carbon-neutral gadgetry appear to be falling short of the gadget makers best intentions.

That leads us to the Paris climate treaty which New Zealand is a signatory to, but is falling short of meeting its promised reductions in carbon emissions.

Danish climate-change scientist Bjorn Lomborg reckons the whole process is flawed anyway. His computer modelling has found that if all the promises made by the U.S., China, the EU and the rest of the world were implemented, and then sustained to the end of the century, it would only reduce the rise in global temperature by 0.17 C in the year 2100.

“Current climate change promises will do little to stabilise the climate and their impact will be undetectable for years,” Lomborg says “and this invisible achievement would come at a staggering cost, somewhere between $1 trillion and $2 trillion a year. Paying $100 trillion for no recognisable advantage is not a good deal.”

Lomborg wants Trump to can the Paris agreement, which he emphatically judges to be a feel-good gesture that distracts attention from aggressive research into low-emitting, cost-efficient technologies which is the only realistic way to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

My cogent advice for Mr Lomborg’s researchers however would be to look beyond wind towers, hybrid cars and solar panels.

I live in New Hampshire. We’re in favour of global warming. Eleven hundred more feet of sea level rises? I’ve got a beachfront property. You tell us up there ‘By the end of the century New York City could be under water’ and we say, ‘your point is?’ - P. J. O’Rourke


Sunday, 21 May 2017

Is music sustenance for the soul?

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It's probably due to my complete naivety, but as a teenager I was not aware of anyone in my age group or beyond ever contemplating or actually committing suicide. If I’m right, then I’m not sure what has happened in the interim, but I have a sneaking suspicion that music may play a crucial role.

I’m certain our generations euphonious offerings were more edifying compared to the fare that young people seem to seek solace in today.

In my dotage I listen to a radio station called “Magic” which plays the music of the fifties, sixties and seventies to an ever-increasing audience of baby boomers.

Back in “my day” Bill Haley wanted to dance all night, Elvis was enamored with his blue suede shoes and Cliff Richard’s girlfriend was a living doll. Cliff had lucky lips but was determined to remain a bachelor boy, Doris Day reckoned everybody loves a lover, and Jim Reeves crooned that he loved his lover most of all because she was “you.”

Meanwhile a chimpanzee and a monkey got married and had an abadaba honeymoon.

It wasn’t all a bed of roses. Marty Robins was dressed in a white sport coat and was sporting a pink carnation when his partner to the prom left him all alone in romance, Connie Francis was furious to find lipstick on her boyfriend’s collar and Dr Hook pleaded with Mrs Avery to let him talk on the phone to her daughter, Sylvia.

All in all, pretty tame stuff.

And then last week a modern day musician apparently took his own life. It seems Chris Cornell was universally admired. Fans were naturally grief-stricken and tributes poured in. The news media showed us many clips of his band Soundgarden and ran stories over a number of days. We were told that he had visited New Zealand on two or three occasions and had regaled us on how much he liked the place.

To the best of my knowledge I had never heard anything by Soundgarden; they wouldn’t have been on the Magic playlist, so I decided to expand my horizons and Googled the lyrics to evaluate their songs.

I will be offending Chris Cornell’s fans here and I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but the best word I can find to describe them is incomprehensible.

Better pens than mine are more definitive. The music genre is “grunge” and is described as being “typically dark, nihilistic, angst-filled and anguished. Using negative experiences or feelings; the main themes being alienation and depression, but with an ironic sneer, violent and often obscene, shorn of ideals and the impulse for political action.”

Typical topics of grunge lyrics are homelessness, suicide, rape, broken homes, drug addiction and self-loathing.

And so into the valley of death ride our young people; earphones plugged into a newly- minted device we call the smartphone, spewing out desperate themes into impressionable minds. These lyrics were said to have developed as part of the generation X malaise, reflecting that demographics feelings of disillusionment and uselessness.

But surely you’d have to ask: which came first, the music or the malaise?

“The rock music business is a cruel and shallow trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men lie like dogs. There is also a negative side.” - Hunter S. Thompson


Sunday, 14 May 2017

Getting your priorities right

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In 1986 I flew on my own from a remote airport in Amazonia to Miami in a recklessly-maintained aeroplane. I was keen to get to an English-speaking country after struggling conversation-wise in Portuguese-speaking Brazil where I had just spent six weeks on a sponsored study tour.

I was therefore bitterly disappointed to discover that most people I encountered in Miami spoke Spanish. Tens of thousands had fled Cuba after the revolution and had stuck to their culture and their language.

I suspect nothing will have changed much in the intervening 30 years except there will be more Spanish-speaking citizens all over America thanks to the porous Mexican border.

These people are rapidly absorbed into the American economy, often working for less pay than their American counterparts causing angst in areas like the “rust-belt” where angry voters were largely responsible for Donald Trump taking up residence in the White House

Mr Trump wants to build a wall to stem the tide. Previous administrations had already started this wall; to date around one-third has been completed. The remaining two-thirds however will encounter difficult terrain including mountain ranges and rivers and will cost a small fortune.

No, make that a large fortune.

I suspect the Australians have the same distaste for us as many Americans have for the “illegal aliens” who pour over their border. The Tasman Sea hasn’t stopped tens of thousands of kiwis fleeing to the lucky country seeking fame and fortune with the vast majority finding neither.

The Aussies are not happy and so there is retribution. First off, despite the Kiwis paying taxes like everybody else, they are denied welfare of any kind. And then last week Prime Minister Turnbull said no more subsidising of New Zealanders who study at their tertiary institutes.

To some extent we only have ourselves to blame. We gave them “Mr Asia” and Joh Bjelke-Petersen and are constantly thrashing their hapless rugby teams. Claiming dubious ownership of Phar Lap, Pavlovas and Russell Crowe will hardly have endeared us to the mainstream Australian and I’ll bet they think ill of us for having the temerity to rename Chinese gooseberries, kiwi fruit.

On a per-capita basis our ex-pats apparently commit more crimes than any other nationality in Australia and once sentences have been served they’re thrown in to a detention centre on some remote island surrounded by sharks and eventually deported back to the land from whence they had once fled.

Game, set and match to Mr Turnbull and the Ockers are laughing all the way to their barbecues.

Mild-mannered Kiwis take all this in their stride. In America the rent-a-protest crowd are constantly rioting in the streets, but no one here, with the possible exception of Labour’s Kelvin Davis, could give a tinkers cuss.

From Miami I flew to Los Angeles where the nervous man behind the airport counter told me that President Reagan had bombed Gaddafi’s compound in Libya and accidentally killed Gaddafi’s daughter, Hana. Gaddafi had threatened to retaliate with a terror attack on one of America’s major airports.

Suddenly recklessly maintained aeroplanes and foreign languages didn’t seem all that important.

“I like terra firma. The more firma, the less terra.” - George S. Kaufman