Thursday, December 29, 2005

Blacks versus Hispanics


John Brimelow recently put up on Vdare a reasonably friendly comment in response to my recent post about New Orleans.  That he calls me a "market supremacist" causes me no grief at all -- though my libertarianism is in fact much broader than mere market advocacy.  What Brimelow implies by calling me that however is a bit amusing.  He is claiming that I ignore the importance of race and genetics.  I am sure that any regular reader of my posts would be falling off their chair laughing at that! 

What Brimelow is bothered by is that I appear to be defending Hispanics.  As he is an anti-immigration warrior that curdles his egg-nog.

 I in fact am also an immigration restrictionist, unlike some libertarians.  I think  that just as a homeowner has the right to say who lives in his house, so a nation has a right to say whom they admit to their home.  And, as an Australian, I am very mainstream about that.  Both of our major political parties support a crackdown on illegal immigration and our government has in fact successfully reasserted control over immigration into our country. 

But none of that should blind us to the fact that not all minorities are the same.  And I think that a comparison of blacks and Hispanics treated as groups definitely favours Hispanics.  I am well aware that the measured mean IQ of Hispanics in the USA is at present low but I have presented reasons elsewhere for thinking that Hispanics will in general eventually rise above that and become good mainstream Americans -- which only a Leftist would expect to happen with blacks as a group.

And Brimelow's claim that wages of up to $15 per hour are unattractive in a country where the national minimum is $5.15 seems to me quite absurd.


Monday, December 26, 2005

Who should thank whom?


As I think I have mentioned here before, I get a lot of email where the sender's address ends in "mil" -- indicating that the sender is either enlisted in the U.S. armed forces or works as a civilian for the U.S. armed forces. And some of those emails do come from servicemen in Iraq. A frequent feature of those emails is that the sender thanks me for what I write in my postings  on my various  blogs. I always feel most unworthy of such thanks. I feel that it is I who should be thanking the men concerned who voluntarily put their lives at risk to serve the welfare of us all. Perhaps I am biased because of my own small service in the Australian army but I think the profession of arms is the noblest profession of all. In what other profession does one consciously volunteer to put one's own life at risk as an integral part of the job? I am therefore pleased that my latest post on Tongue-Tied may be of some help to the men and women serving in Iraq. I reproduce it below:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Monday, December 26, 2005

Can Anyone help?

As I have mentioned before, I get a lot of email from readers of my blogs who are in the military. I have just got an email that I think I should share in case anyone reading this can help:

"The army here in Iraq has apparently blocked the whole 72.x.x.x domain, and that is where Townhall.com is located. Can you contact them and tell them they have fans (and financial contributors) in Iraq that cannot access their site? Maybe they can change their IP address, maybe they have an alternative address, or maybe they can contact someone and complain that their site is being blocked. By law, the army cannot block some sites and leave others accessible unless they have a really good reason.

I think it is pretty disgraceful when a mainstream conservative site like Townhall is blocked.

Monday, December 19, 2005

MERRY XMAS! 2005






Yes. That motheaten guy looking at you above is I -- photo taken this year.

Again not a lot of news to report this year. My blogging keeps me busy in front of my computer for about 12 hours a day so I am the sedentary man. I do however go out a lot to eat -- usually for both brunch and dinner. I have only those two meals per day. There is a small anecdote about my breakfast adventures here and a note about one of my dinner adventures here. [Both of those posts are now reproduced below -- dated 25 Nov and 14 Oct,]

Judith Middleton moved out a few months ago to return to Melbourne and care for her aged father -- who is now very frail. So I was left without a companion for a short while but I now have a new lady by the name of Anne. She is such a keen chorister that she is in two choirs so she and I share a lot of musical interests -- including an interest in early church music. Through her choral contacts she hears a lot of what is going on in the Brisbane music scene so if there is some good Gregorian chant or the like being performed somewhere she lets me know and we go along. That has meant rather a lot of visits to churches lately -- even though we are both unbelievers (though both of us were, coincidentally, once communicants at Ann St Presbyterian church). There is an account of our visit to "Our Lady of Victories" Polish Catholic church here and a memoir of our visit to "Our Lady of Protection" Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church here

Anne is a pretty individualistic lady but she is very kind to me -- perhaps because I am the individualistic type too. She has even been to Iceland -- a place I often talk about but only admire from afar. She is a nurse by trade and tells me that everything you hear about the Queensland Health bureaucracy is true. See here for an example of what I mean.

I reported as follows last year:
"I am constantly in and out of surgery for my skin cancers these days. I just had three lots done at once yesterday. Rather remarkably, all the local anaesthetic the dermo pumped into me seems to have had a lasting but beneficial side-effect: For the last 4 months or so I have had a very sore left shoulder that I could move only in certain ways without pain. I never could work out for sure where the pain came from but it seemed to be tendonitis rather than arthritis. Anyway, six hours after surgery on my OTHER arm, the pain was all gone and I could move both arms any way I liked! I only hope the effect lasts! They put a lot of adrenaline into local anaesthetic so maybe that had something to do with it. Frozen shoulders are a rather common problem among oldies so now you know how to cure it! There are not many instant cures around for anything these days so it may be worth remembering. There was a famous case in America where some sort of surgical anaesthesia cured a kid of his autism so there may be more in these anaesthetics than meets the eye.

And I am pleased to say that my shoulder problems did indeed vanish. I am now as good as gold in that department. My dermatological adventures are however unending and there is a report of the most recent one here. I am now more or less over the procedure concerned but it sometimes takes months before everything is 100% again and that seems to be the way of it on this occasion too.

It's surprising whom you sometimes meet when you frequent hospitals, however, as I noted in October.

My son Joe is now 18 and has just finished his first year at university -- majoring in Mathematics. He got marks of 7 out of 7 for all his mathematics subjects so we are all pretty pleased about that. I have arranged a celebratory dinner in honour of the achievement for this Thursday, at which a bottle of Grange will be opened. For those who do not know the wonders of Grange, it is Australia's most famous wine and costs around $500 a bottle for the current release (1999). So I hope I don't give Joe a taste for it. It will keep him poor if I do. There are some pics of Joe here

I started a new blog recently devoted entirely to Australian politics and events of interest and it seems to have taken off well. See here.

And what about a funny photo to finish up with?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Gregorian chant at Our Lady of Protection Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church



Because both the lady in my life (Anne) and myself are lovers of early church music we tend to end up in churches a fair bit on weekends even though we are both unbelievers. Mentally, I am as atheist as you can get but emotionally I am still Christian. And I can assure you that that apparent inconsistency bothers me not one iota. I have an enormous appreciation (and considerable knowledge) of my Christian heritage.

Last night we went to a concert held after the regular service at Our Lady of Protection Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church here in Brisbane. How a church can be both Byzantine and Catholic is a considerable puzzle. Byzantium is the home of Orthodoxy. But I assume that there was a schism some time in the past where an Orthodox church kept all its Greek rites but decided to recognize the magisterium of the Pope as well. The fact that the church still had a version of the mediaeval "rude screen" between the altar and the congregation supports that. There was also no organ in evidence -- which seemed very strange to an old Protestant like me. Presbyterian/Methodist churches that I know always have an organ with a pulpit in front of it as the focus of attention in a church (rather than an altar).

The first thing I noted in the church was the large number of children and young people in attendance. It made me feel very grateful for our Ukrainian immigrants. After the genocide inflicted on the Ukrainians by Stalin, perhaps they feel an urge to restore their numbers. And, unlike Muslims, Ukrainians don't make the news by harassing Anglo-Australians. I guess having a religion that says "love your neighbour" is a bit different from having a religion that says "Kill the infidel".

The main attraction on the program was a series of Latin chants by "Schola Cantorum" -- a Brisbane choir who seem to specialize in that. The male members dressed in monk's robes so one got a very good feel for how the chants were originally intended. And hearing them in a church with such a prominent mediaeval feature as a rude screen helped with that too.

And the priest was YOUNG! Still in his 20s by all appearances. Great to see that Christianity is alive and vital among this subsection of the Australian population at least.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Philosophy and postmodernism



I rarely read philosophy these days. I went into the basic philosophical questions in my student days and shortly thereafter had published my conclusions about the nature of mind, the nature of ethics, the nature of cause and the nature of self. I have never seen any reason to alter my views about any of the questions concerned in the many years since but I have at times elaborated a little more fully my views about moral philosophy.

And for me any philosophy that fails to give an account of mind, ethics, cause and self is quite simply failed philosophy. And a philosophy that denies that any of those things are real is therefore fit only to be ignored. As it happens, however, there are lots of failed philosophers about and they have somehow conned the taxpayers into paying them a lot of money. They call themselves "postmoderninsts" and, as far as one can make any sense at all of what they say, their essential credo seems to be "nothing is real". When I come across such garbage I tend to be overcome by the wish that I could hit the so-called philosophers over the head with a baseball bat and then say to them: "Don't worry. Nothing is real so I didn't really hit you over the head with a baseball bat. Just carry on as before while I get ready to hit you again". I think reality would be rapidly rediscovered under those circumstances.

I was triggered off into this little tirade by a book I have just been having a look at. It is called Explaining postmodernism and is by Prof. Stephen R.C. Hicks, who undertakes the heroic task of trying to make some sense of postmodernism and trace its historical roots. As irrationality has always figured largely in human experience, it is no surprise that he finds the sources of postmodernism to be many and varied and to go back a long way. He traces postmodernism back to Kant but he could have gone back much further if he had wished to look at lesser-known writers.

His conclusions are in general also mine, though he is more polite than I would be. In my view postmodernism is simply a juvenile tantrum about how unco-operative reality is with socialist thought. Socialism has of course long had big appeal to intellectuals because it offers the simplifications that intellectuals tend to seek. The only trouble is that the simplifications don't work. From the French revolution on through Stalin and Hitler to Pol Pot we all now know of the horrors that it regularly leads to. So having had their childish simplifications taken away from them by reality, Leftist intellectuals stamp their foot and say that it is reality which is at fault. By denying reality they are in some insane way able to hang on to their faith in socialism.

My only quarrel with Prof. Hicks is that he uses the term "Right" in a peculiar way -- no doubt through political expediency. He seems to think you can be of the political Right and also be a socialist! That enables him to avoid upsetting the applecart with regard to Hitler. He admits that Hitler was a socialist who differed only in detail from the Communists but still calls Hitler a Rightist! Calling Hitler a Leftist would in academe cause Prof. Hicks to be consigned to outer darkness, of course. The only sense I can make of Prof Hick's usage is that he is using "Right" to be synonymous with "Nationalist" but that is pretty sloppy when one considers that, at least from Napoleon on, there have been plenty of Leftist nationalists. Perhaps he just has not read Friedrich Engels, who was as fervid a German nationalist and racial supremacist as Hitler was. (See, for instance, here and here and here and here). And, yes, the Engels I am talking about is the co-worker of Karl Marx. Or were Marx & Engels not Leftists? I think in this matter I have to say that Prof. Hicks gets himself into absurdities as big as those he ennumerates among the postmodernists. Or perhaps he just does not know his political history. He reads this blog, however, so I suspect that he knows it better than he can afford to admit, which is a bit sad. But he has to survive in academe after all and he is only a young man yet.

In most normal usage, Rightism would be identified with conservatism and if anybody wants to know what history shows about the nature of conservatism, I have just updated my account of the matter here.

Academic books and papers very commonly end with the conclusion: "More research is needed" and Prof Hicks is no exception. He feels that postmodernists have been allowed to flourish by the fact that realist and empiricist philosophers have not given final and uncontrovertible answers to the puzzles that they consider. He seems to think that if realists and empiricists had done a better job then postmodernists would not have flourished. I think however that such a conclusion runs counter to his own observation that postmodernism fulfils a psychological need rather than having any real intellectual function. I cannot see that a completed program of realist philosophy would have stopped the absurd tantrums of the postmodernists. And the day that there cease to be questions in philosophy, it will no longer be philosophy.

There is another review of the book here which claims that Hicks does not describe the thought of the philosophers he covers in enough depth. My own view of that is that Hicks is a hero to have waded as deeply as he did into such dog's vomit. My own essay on postmodernism is here



Thursday, December 8, 2005

Illegality may be a good way to filter immigrants



I recently put up an excerpt from this NYT article, which pointed out that by Mexican standards most of the illegals were Mexican mainstream rather than dross. I should have said what I see as the implications of that. I think it supports the view that GWB has taken on the matter -- that these people deserve some respect as enterprising, hard-working people. All immigration is a selective process and it well behooves us descendants of immigrants to think of immigrants as a bit better than their parent populations. I know that I am much struck by this view whenever I am in England. The English who still live in England seem a VERY grey lot compared to the many Englishmen I know who have emigrated to Australia. Englishmen abroad are so much more self-confident and dynamic than the ones who have remained passively behind in England and who look forward only to the day when they will become OAPs (State-supported seniors).

Emigration is always a selective process of some kind and the only issue is what the particular selective pressure is in any given case. And I frankly think that the selective pressure of getting into the USA illegally is probably as good a filter as passing any of the normal bureaucratic barriers that I know of. It is obviously true that the illegals do also contain a significant criminal element but, as a social scientist, I look at the process overall and conclude that the USA is probably not worse off genetically for its Hispanic influx. There are a lot of good genes coming across the border too.

And now for my usual anecdote, another breakfast one as it happens! When I think of Hispanics, I think of the guy that I used to get breakfast off in NYC. I used to order ham and eggs at his little diner and I went there because it was both cheap and a good breakfast. And was that guy efficient! He moved like greased lightning. I have never seen anybody butter toast with one swoop of a knife before but he always did. So he could serve twice as many customers per unit time as most eatery workers. It was a splendid example of capitalistic incentives at work and also a splendid example of the sort of immigrant you get when you make them pass a heavy filter.

Monday, December 5, 2005

When England was still English



"What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'

Hopeless old sentimentalist that I am, that coda to a great speech still moves me to tears. And I fear that Churchill was more prophetic than he could have realized. I think WW2 may indeed have been Britain's finest hour. At that time England was still English and Scotland was still Scottish. No more of course. England is now a mish-mash of the world -- including some very unsavoury bits of the world. And London, I am told, is now about 50% black.

I spent a year in Britain in 1977 and at that time most of England was still English. Brixton was already not a good place to go and Notting Hill was a bit dubious but there were plenty of London pubs etc that were still as English as they had ever been so I was able to get an impression of what England was like when it was still all English. And I understood and appreciated Englishness not only because of my ancestry but also because I was a bookworm as a kid and almost all the boys' books I read at that time were written and printed in England. The scene that those books portrayed was very alien to what I experienced in my own environment in tropical Australia but because I steeped myself in it, it became a second world that I grew up with. So when I did go to London I felt totally at home there.

So I do understand what the English have now lost and will almost certainly never regain. To have lost something as wonderful as an English England is a great loss indeed.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

RECOVERING



Well my big surgical procedure seems to have gone OK. Many thanks for the good wishes I have received from many readers. I felt like shit when I came out of the anaesthetic but after a few hours of post-operative testing they let me go home, whereupon I fell straight into bed and have just woken up after a few hours of sleep, feeling fairly normal. There was some morphine in the cocktail that the anaesthetist poured into me however so I am not sure if that has worn off yet or not.

I went into one of Brisbane's many private hospitals where my treatment was faultless: lots of competent and attentive staff. Maybe I should give the hospital a free plug: It was North West Private hospital, a for-profit hospital. My lady-friend Anne is a nurse and her her loving presence during my recovery period helped a lot too. The procedure was a dermatological one and I have frequent more minor dermatological procedures so I was on first-name terms with the surgeon. We even had a few laughs before proceedings began. I had had a couple of small excisions (SCCs) done by him just six days before and he in fact took out the sutures resulting from them while I was on the table -- as they were already well-healed. It is lucky I am a good healer.

For those who take an interest in such details, the hospital staff that I encountered were all white and all spoke perfect Australian English -- which helps a lot as I am a bit deaf these days. I don't think I should sit up for long at this stage so I don't think I will post to all my blogs straight off but I may get more up during the day. It is just after midnight here in Eastern Australia at the time I am writing.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Encountering the Muslims and the Chinese


Social scientists and others rely (or should rely) on extensively sampled data to support generalizations that they make.  Valid generalizations can hardly arise from anything but sampling of a wide range of relevant data.  To generalize about a given population, you at least need to sample it in some way.

Nonetheless, statistical generalizations do NOT seem to be very persuasive to most people.  Not unreasonably, people tend to be much more influenced by observations and events that they know personally or that people they know have told them about.  So generalizations will not usually gain much traction without illustrative examples.  Anecdotes are at least as persuasive as well-founded statistical generalizations.

So what I want to do below is give two small anecdotes from my life that do in my view illustrate at the personal level two generalizations that I believe are well supported by other historical and psychometric data:  That many Muslim populations are emotionally immature and that the Chinese are innately a highly civilized people.  There are exceptions to every rule of course but what I want to do is give examples that illustrate the rule.

I often eat out for breakfast.  And in highly multicultural Australia the providers of breakfasts are ethnically highly varied.  And the “ethnics” often do not understand English well.  So getting a breakfast from them can sometimes have its communication difficulties.  On one such occasion, I was having difficulty getting what I had ordered from a Muslim (Iranian, I think) business.  After communication had repeately failed, I began to get a bit irate.  When I did so, however, the Muslim owner got irate with me and accused me of insulting him.  At that point I simply turned on my heel without another word and walked out— and I never went there again.  He went broke a few months later.

On a second more recent occasion, a similar situation transpired in a business run by a Chinese man.  Did his “honour” get besmirched by my annoyance?  Not a bit of it.  He was apologetic and conciliatory. I did not walk out of HIS eatery.  I enjoyed my breakfast when I eventually got it and I will eat there again.  I shook his hand as I left by way of apology for my bad temper.  And I am betting that he won’t go broke.  Give me the Chinese any day.  I have known Chinese people since childhood and have had umpteen opportunities to observe their behaviour here in Australia—and the example I have just given is absolutely typical of them in my experience: Truly smart, patient and civilized people..

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Celebrating the feast of Christ the King at "Our Lady of Victories"




It has from time to time been said on this blog that if you want to live in an entirely white society, you need to move to Eastern Europe. In Brisbane you can do that with relative ease. This Sunday morning, I attended a mass at "Our Lady of Victories" church -- Brisbane's major Catholic church with an entirely Polish congregation. The service was mostly in Polish but, being a bit deaf, I found it hardly more incomprehensible than the service at the Metropolitical Cathedral of St. John -- a marvellous stone Anglican church to which I also occasionally go for the music. Being a great fan of early church music (the Missa Papae Marcelli by Palestrina is my favourite in that department) I am often to be found in places where few atheists go.

Anyway, the service at "Our Lady of Victories" was overwhelming. The congregation was of course entirely pink-skinned and mostly elderly. There was Gregorian chant even before the service began and young nuns in wimples were much in evidence. The service began with a magnificent ecclesiastical procession with all sorts of flags, banners and uniforms -- with the distinctive caps of the heroic Polish armed forces much in evidence. There was no order of service or prayer-book handed out. People KNEW what to do and when to do it. Sanctuaries were opened and closed, bells were rung and trumpet fanfares were sounded. And best of all was the heartfelt singing of Polish hymns. And, quite amazingly, after the service was over and we left the church, we all processed right around the church and resumed devotions while standing outside it -- with the clergy officiating from the entrance staircase. There was a definite reluctance to let go of a great community occasion. It was all pretty foreign to my poor old Presbyterian heart (the lady I was with was also of Presbyterian origins) but the power of the occasion was still very evident to me nonetheless.

So, yes. I do appreciate the ways of my Volk -- with that term VERY broadly defined -- and I believe that they are so powerful that they will never go away. That the Poles have endured so much and still emerged victorious in all the ways that matter is proof of that.

An article that slipped through the net


It is part of the conventional religion among psychologists to believe that conservatives are the ones who are “authoritarian”.  Joe Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers party just did not happen, you see.  And like most Leftist beliefs, this one is impermeable to evidence.  I have reported in the academic journals heaps of carefully conducted research  showing the belief to be false but I was wasting my time of course.  You can’t argue with something that people need to believe.

Still, every now and again, a piece of research pops up which questions the orthodox faith and one such article is: “Is political conservatism synonymous with authoritarianism?”, in The Journal of Social Psychology of Oct 2005, volume 145, issue 5,  p571ff. by H. Michael Crowson, Stephen J. Thoma and Nita Hestevold.  Their research is of course the usual rubbish that passes for science in psychology:  No attempt at sampling, no awareness of what the questionnaires they use actually say, internally inconsistent indices treated as informative, negligible correlations reported as if they offered useful information etc. but it is still nice to see a challenge of sorts to the orthodoxy being put up.  I would give a more detailed critique of what they did but I don’t want to discourage them too much.  They should probably read this and this and this, though.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

ISRAEL, JEWS, IMMIGRATION




The  heading above draws attention to some of the most emotive  issues in today's world but I have never been one to run from  controversy and I am not going to start now.  I just feel sorry for the  Jewish people that the mere mention of their name is an "issue".  I am  myself a great supporter of Israel.  The Israelis have bent over  backwards to be fair to the other inhabitants of their ancient land and  got only mass-murder of their people as a response.  So I am delighted  to note that our present Australian conservative government is also a  resolute friend of Israel.  A small excerpt: 
"The  Howard-Downer duumvirate in Australian foreign policy has changed our  position on the Middle East at the UN in a way that is wholly  remarkable, not only independent but positively brave, utterly  politically incorrect and undoubtedly right in principle; and,  amazingly, is meeting with success. Australia has always been a strong  friend of Israel...  the UN has established a vast bureaucracy dedicated  to blackening Israel's name....

Most nations that Australians  would regard as like-minded, such as the west Europeans, the Canadians  and some others, traditionally find this all too hard to deal with and  seek a coward's solace in abstaining from most anti-Israel resolutions  and activities. Until about two years ago, that was Australia's way as  well. But then came the wave of terror attacks on Israel, Israel's fence  and the absurd overreaction to it. Alexander Downer and John Howard  decided enough was enough....  it wasn't going to go along with the  usual Israel bashing. In truth it was a proud moment in Australian  foreign policy and certainly one of the deepest independence....

This  vote was not a one-off. It has become the pattern of our voting on  Israel-related issues. Canberra has attempted to use its influence with  Pacific Island nations, and even in Southeast Asia, to try to produce a  change. And, get this, it is working. Canada has joined Australia on  some critical resolutions and the attitude towards Israel at the UN has  begun to change noticeably."

And I again want to draw  attention to Isi  Leibler's article which shows, quite appallingly, that in Britain  the Leftist intelligentsia  are a greater source of antisemitism even  than  the Muslims.  Thank goodness that their official leader, Tony  Blair, is a decent man.  If his name had been Adolf .....

Hooray!   The good sense and moderation of ordinary British people has won the  day again.  There was an  official move to ban members of Britain's anti-immigration party  (the BNP) from being employed as firemen (firepersons?) in Dorset but  the  Dorset Fire Authority Committee rejected the  move
"One member of the committee stated: 'I think  it is totally inappropriate to single out one political party in this  way! The fact of the matter is, if any member or firefighter acts in an  improper way, he will be dismissed."  "And I don't see why we should  single out this particular party. It is not proscribed, it stands in  general elections, and I think it is totally wrong!" "If we were going  to do it, we'd have done it with the Communist Party that had strong  membership of the fire brigade union 20 years ago!" "We didn't do it  then and I don't see why we should do this now!"  The motion to reject  the proposal was seconded, and a unanimous  vote rejected the motion to ban BNP members from the Dorset Fire  service." 

And in my view it is the sense of moderation  and fairness displayed above that has made Britain Great and which  makes me proud of my British origins, remote though they now are.  "First  they came for the BNP ...." and in Britain people DID speak up.   And I myself have spoken up in the  most practical way that I know.




Sunday, October 23, 2005

AUSTRALIANS ONLY HAVE FIVE COMMANDMENTS



(We are great abbreviators). The quiz I put up recently about knowledge of Australian slang seems to have been very popular so I thought I might re-post the observations below:

From its foundation in 1788, Australia has always been a traditionally unholy place with a very low rate of churchgoing. Americans trace their founding fathers to religious zealots but Australians trace their foundations to convicts. And other major population elements in the white settlement of Australia -- such as goldrush "diggers" and Irish rebels -- did little to alter the culture originating from our convict origins. Only about 3% of modern-day Australians have convict ancestors (I am one of the 3%) but the early days formed a culture that has been passed on to others as they arrived -- just as only a small minority of Americans now have primarily English ancestry but English is nonethless the language of America. And Australia's only national hero to this day is Ned Kelly -- an Irish highway robber who eventually was hanged for his undoubted crimes.

So how come Australia is a civil, prosperous and pleasant place to live? It is because Australians DO have a widely agreed-on moral code -- but it is not a Christian one. It originates from the values of the English working class of yesteryear and can perhaps be conveniently summed up (in its original Australian slang) as the following five "Commandments":

* Thou shalt not dob in thy mates
* Thou shalt not bung on an act.
* Thou shalt not be a tall poppy
* Thou shalt give everyone a fair go
* Thou shalt be fair dinkum

Translating these into standard English yields APPROXIMATELY the following:

* You must not incriminate your friends to the boss, the police or anyone else. Loyalty to your associates is all-important.
* You must not be ostentatious or pretend to be what you are not.
* You must treat others as your equals. If you are seen as being better than others in anything but sport you will be made to suffer for it.
* You must be fair and permissive in your treatment of others.
* You must not be insincere or dishonest.

From Hammurabi onwards, most moral codes have had much in common and the Australian and Christian moral codes do also have things in common but the Australian moral code is not preached in churches. It is simply traditional and widely heartfelt.

UPDATE:

A mate has reminded me that I forgot one:  "Thou shalt not crawl to the boss"  -- a very important one indeed.  It's actually a sub-set of No. 5 above.  Insincere talk designed to ingratiate oneself with your employer is forbidden.



Friday, October 21, 2005

NOT ALL BLACKS ARE EQUAL



I was just leaving Wesley Hospital (A top Brisbane private hospital) yesterday after one of my regular encounters with the surgeon's knife (for skin cancer) when I saw a very recognizable figure walk in -- a member of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG). He seemed rather surprised when I greeted him but he shook my hand anyway. I remember writing a congratulatory letter to him about something or other in the 1980s (though I forget what it was about now) so it was a pleasure to shake his hand. And I think it is the only time I have shaken hands with a Prime Minister anyway.

Paias Wingti had a couple of terms in the 1980s and 1990s as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. He is of course a Melanesian ("black islander"). I grew up with Melanesians around the place and rather like them (as I have noted previously) -- which I would not say of certain other dark-skinned populations. Note however that I say "populations". There are good and bad individuals in all populations.

That got me thinking about Melanesian IQ. Lynn & Vanhanen give the mean IQ for Papua and New Guinea as 84 and at first glance that seems well justified. Melanesians have only recently emerged from the stone age. But it doesn't gell with my experience of them. I have met lots of Africans (both in Africa and in the USA) and I have met lots of Australian Aborigines and I have no doubts whatever about the accuracy of the mean IQ quoted for both those groups. But Melanesians seem in my experience of them to be a lot brighter than that. And with the difficulty of measuring ANYTHING cross-culturally (see e.g. here), I think I am entitled to reserve judgment on the matter.

But if Melanesians are reasonably bright, how come they were in the stone age within living memory? Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and I think this is one case where one of Marx's ideas was right (though Engels tried to talk him out of it). Marx believed in geographical determinism -- a common 19th century idea from which we get the phrase "blood and soil" as a description of what is important to people.

Mostly the idea is rubbish but I think it explains New Guinea. New Guinea is very large but it is also extraordinarily mountainous. It is probably the earth's most wrinkled bit of geography. And the people of course live in the many small valleys and are very effectively cut off from one-another by the surrounding mountains -- which is why every valley has its own language. So I think it was simply the isolation of the New Guineans that kept them in the stone age. There was little communication with outsiders and hence no diffusion of ideas. And that of course contrasts greatly with the relative ease of communication across the great Eurasian landmass.

And for some reason New Guinea has very little fauna to hunt. Birds and tree kangaroos are about it (Yes. Some kangaroos do live in trees). So living in those isolated valleys was pretty challenging and meant -- as in Northern Europe -- that you could only survive by planning ahead -- which the New Guneans did by planting their "gardens" and raising pigs. Basically, if your garden did not feed you, you starved. And gardens are not equally productive all the year round so root crops such as cassava had to be grown that could be kept aside for when there was nothing else to eat. So that's my contribution to the theoretical biology of Melanesians anyway. For very different reasons, I think they had pressures on their mental development that were similar to the pressures that produced modern Europeans.

I might mention that the Melanesian population in mainland Australia is small but they generally fit in well, are peacable and are well-liked. I mentioned my own positive view of Melanesians to the lady in my life -- who was for a time a nurse on Thursday Island -- the most populous bit of Melanesia that is still part of Australia -- and her response was simply: "They're lovely". And she is certainly in a position to know.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

MORE CRAP PSYCHOLOGY



Given the compulsive Leftism that permeates the social sciences, it is not surprising that the standards of scholarship in social science writing are normally so slight as to require a metaphorical microscope to find them. For many years I regularly wrote formal critiques of the most egregious examples of bad scholarship in psychology and sociology and I usually got them published in the academic journals concerned. It was however a great waste of time -- as both facts and reason are noted in the social sciences only insofar as they accord with Leftist prejudices. I think I should however keep the pot boiling to some extent so I do from time to time note on this blog and elsewhere how absurd various current claims from psychology are -- even if I can no longer be bothered to do a full formal critique of the particular article concerned. So I am going to make a few comments today on: Hastings, B.M. & Schaffer, B.A. (2005) "Authoritarianism and sociopolitical attitudes in response to threats of terror". Psychological Reports, 97, 623-630. It is fairly typical of the rubbish that psychologists produce in the guise of research so a critique of it might serve as a useful proxy for critiques of many similar such articles.

As is the usual fashion among psychologists, the authors make no attempt to sample any known population and proceed to base broad conclusions about human psychological processes on the answers to questionnaires given by 61 women and 10 men drawn from various classes at the small Mt. Aloysius College in Pennsylvania. The results are therefore of totally unknown generalizability. For the sake of the exercise, however, let us assume that there is some generalizability to their results and ask how those results were obtained.

What they did was to correlate several "scales" (standard collections of questions) with one another. They found that scales allegedly measuring Right-wing authoritarianism (the RWA scale), Democratic Values and Militarism tended to correlate with one another. They seem to think that this constitutes proof that conservative "authoritarians" are anti-democratic and militaristic. What a laugh! I won't bother reproducing any of the items of the three scales here but all three scales include many statements that would normally and uncontroversially be taken as indicating conservatism. So all that they have shown is in fact that people are consistent in their conservatism. People who express conservative views on one "scale" also tend to express conservative views on all three scales. Big deal! It is what scientists call an "artifactual" (researcher-induced) finding. I have been noting that sort of charade among psychologists for many years (see e.g. here).

The other thing they found, if I read it aright, is that people got more "authoritarian" (Read: "conservative") when they felt threatened. That is however just a regurgitation of the old New York adage: "A conservative is a liberal who was mugged last night". And everybody knows how conservative the armed forces are. As a former Army man myself, it has never surprised me (but has always pleased me) how many supportive emails I get with "mil" at the end of the sender's email address. So even if we take the Hastings & Schaffer results far more seriously than we should, we find that their final conclusion is little more than a commonplace. What would have been interesting is if they had explored WHY encounters with reality make people more conservative -- but that enquiry would have led them in very uncomfortable directions, I fancy.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

WHY I BLOG



Keith Burgess Jackson has suggested that I explain to all and sundry my motives for being such a dedicated blogger. I post daily to six blogs of my own and also contribute frequently to three other group blogs. So I suppose that is indeed in some need of explanation.

Unlike most bloggers I rarely make comments on my blogs about events in my life but, for some reason that is rather opaque even to me, I do put up a few reports of my personal doings on Majority Rights. It is a high-traffic blog but I don't think that has anything to do with it. I think I do it because that blog is mainly concerned with something that has a high emotional component -- immigration. And as someone who thinks that most (but not all) immigration, is OK I qualify there as the extreme Leftist in the group! (My views on that subject are however mainstream in Australia). So many of my posts are designed to move my co-bloggers and readers of the blog generally towards a greater acceptance of some types of immigration -- legal and selective immigration in particular. And I feel that personal anecdotes are more persuasive in that sphere than are rational arguments.

But that brings me to what I think is Keith's central enquiry: Do I think my blogging makes any difference? And I can answer that very easily. I know it does because my readers often tell me so. I doubt that I have ever converted a single Leftist from his Leftism but a lot of people of conservative views email me to tell me how my blogs are a sort of emotional and intellectual lifeline for them in the sea of liberalism that surrounds them. I am seen as one of the few voices who will invariably speak the plain truth, no matter how unpopular and politically incorrect it may be. Rarely does a day go by when someone does not email me with a grateful message of that kind. And I in turn greatly appreciate and am encouraged by such feedback.

But there is also a certain sense in which I blog for posterity. As an atheist, I have no hope of immortality of any kind so the ancient Greek idea that the only immortality you can have is in men's minds has some resonance with me. And some Greeks even achieved it. Will Socrates or Leonidas and his 300 Spartans at Thermopylae ever be forgotten? And over the period of my lifetime I have already seen many of the views that I have held move from being absurdities to realities. So I think I already have some basis for feeling that, in the future, I will be recognized as someone who got it right when most others did not. I repeatedly find that my theories and assumptions about the world work out in practice (even on the stockmarket!) and I think that, as time goes by, my way of thinking will become more influential precisely because it does yield good predictions. So I actually hope for more influence in the future than I have in the present.

So, like many scientists, my goal is to further human knowledge and understanding but my views on most things are so out of the mainstream among intellectuals now that only the future holds any promise of my achieving that. And since many scientists were ridiculed in their lifetime for putting forward what are now accepted truths, I don't think I am being totally unrealistic in that. In particular, I hope that my dissection of the motivations behind Leftism will one day win broad acceptance and thus reduce the evils that Leftists are forever trying to inflict upon us.

And how do I manage to write so much? One reason is that as a retired man I have the time for it. I spend about 12 hours a day in front of my computer screen. Another is that I am a born academic: Writing is what I have always done. And a third reason is that I find the world of ideas far more exciting than any other so I have few other interests in life. And there always seem to be women in my life who put up with that, rather surprisingly. Women are such fine creatures that I will never understand homosexuals.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Asian culture



There is a constant emphasis on this blog to the effect that everyone else is tribal and we Anglos are the only fools who are not.  I don’t dispute that there is a lot of tribalism about but it is not what rules Asian culture—and Asians are a rather large slice of the earth’s population.  As anybody who really knows Asians will be aware, Asian culture is a culture of reciprocity.  Like everybody else, they do like it best if you come from their own language group but that fades into insignificance if there is an exchange of favours involved.  And they are acutely conscious of any obligation that they incur or may be thought to incur.  And I want to illustrate that with an anecdote.

In my big post about my racial attitudes written last month (See here), I said this:

And the claim that Asian cultures are tribal is a grave misconception. Asian culture is a culture of reciprocity. So if you treat them well or do them a good turn you generate enormous feelings of obligation in return. So when I walk into an Indian shop where I am known and buy three samoosas for my lunch I will occasionally get a fourth one popped into the bag as a gesture of goodwill. What is problematical about a culture like that?

At the bottom of the same post I also mention a bit about the Japanese Sushi Train restaurant that I regularly dine at and I note the typically Japanese impassivity of the chefs there.  Because I am such a frequent customer there, however, reciprocity has now come into play there too and has overcome even Japanese reserve.  Not only does one of the normally silent chefs say a few words to me now and then but I have even been given free sushi on a couple of occasions.

In other words, because I do them the slight favour of being a frequent customer, they feel under an obligation to me and reciprocate with friendliness and the odd dish of free food.  I am not remotely of their tribe.  They do not treat me well because of my tribe.  They treat me as an individual and treat me unusually well because I treat them well (from their perspective).  What was that saying that some old prophet once said?  Something about “Do unto others…”  It works, tribe or no tribe.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A memoir of the Brisbane floods


I was living in Sydney at the time so have no first-hand knowledge of what happened

Back in the 70's, my wife, baby daughter, and I lived in Goodna, Queensland, a suburb of Brisbane. We were young and inexperienced and like most couples our age lived pretty much hand to mouth. It was a struggle to make ends meet. Any savings we had went as a down payment on the home we were buying. Once a week my wife went shopping and bought the food and supplies we would need the following week.

Like the Southeastern United States, the area we lived in was subtropical and prone to cyclones (same as hurricanes). One day a cyclone approached our area. It wasn't a big one as cyclones go, so we weren't too concerned. We figured 6-12 hours of high winds and all would be back to normal. Except things didn't go exactly according to plans. The cyclone moved in over top of us and hit up against another pressure front and stopped dead. And there it sat for two days. Not too much wind but oh did it rain. An inch an hour for 48 hours. That's right - we got nearly four feet of rain.

Now Brisbane is built on the Brisbane River, not an impressive river as rivers go - only a few feet deep and a hundred feet wide in the western suburbs where we lived. At least during normal times. Four feet of water over several hundred square miles is one hell of a lot of water. Trust me on that one - I've seen it. And all of that water all had to get to the sea via the Brisbane River. During the night, our little Brisbane River rose and rose. The police were magnificent. They woke people up and evacuated thousands of homes during that long night. Only two people drowned in our area - residents of a mobile home park whose trailer was swept away. The police commandeered trucks and backed them up to the local grocery store and loaded all the food and necessities, drove them to high ground and parked them.

By mid morning the river was 60 feet deep and three miles wide. We lived on a hill so we weren't submerged. When you walked over the crest of the hill and looked down into the valley where there was once a highway, railroad line, shopping centers, and thousands of homes you were stunned into silence. All you could see was water everywhere. No electric poles, no roof tops, nothing. Everything was under water.

We took stock of our situation - it wasn't good. The flood came on our weekly shopping day so the house contained very little food. We had some candles and a flashlight. Nothing else. There was no electricity or water. Fortunately it was warm weather.

We were in stunned disbelief. So were our neighbors. However, we decided we had better quickly organize ourselves. We knew we were going to be isolated and without water or power for some time. We started collecting all the rain water we could. Without it we were screwed. We dismantled and reassembled a non-mortared barbecue under our carport. We started collecting all the firewood we could find. We assessed the food situation. Some people had full freezers. We separated what we could eat over the next several days and dug pits and buried the rest. Everyone shared what they had without a single word of what came from whom.

Needless to say we survived - and in good shape. The R.A.A.F flew some food supplies in (especially fresh bread that the local prison was baking and fresh, unpasteurized milk from local farmers.) by helicopter. In fact I look back on those days with some fondness. Our carport became the hub of the neighborhood. At night we would just sit around the fire and talk.

The thousands of people who were displaced didn't go to refugee camps. They went into the homes of those not flooded - sometimes friends or relatives, often strangers. Nobody forced you to take in another family, everyone just did it.

Hundreds of millions of dollars was raised throughout Australia. The relief agencies didn't screw around with the money either. As soon as the water receded in a weeks time, they set up centers in every hamlet. Anyone who was submerged was given an initial $4,000 in CASH to tide them through. More came later. Was there some abuse? A few instances but not many and the there was follow-up to deal with that.. Was there any looting? Virtually none.

https://web.archive.org/web/20060729010728/http://www.strangemilitary.com/content/item/110652.html

Monday, August 15, 2005

ASIANS -- SOME COMMENTS FOR WHITE NATIONALISTS



I have lived my entire life in a highly multicultural society so I am acutely aware of racial and ethnic differences. I grew up in an Australian country-town (Innisfail) that was only half Anglo. The rest were Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, Maltese, Yuogoslavs, Chinese, Sikhs, TIs (Melanesians) and Aborigines (blacks). And when with that perspective I look at my fellow Anglo-Australians I see people of admirable restraint, fortitude, good humour and moderation in all things. But that is only the majority. There is also a minority who are shitheads and morons.

Now I could sound like an uncomprehending elitist in saying that. Maybe I am just wiping off working class people and glorifying middle class people like myself. It is however if anything the reverse. If anything I find something like three times as much good sense in the workers as I do in the bourgeoisie. But there are shitheads in both camps. And I find that even the difficult cases among the workers are not much of a problem to me personally. Because I was born into an Australian working class family, working class thinking and conventional wisdom is an open book to me. I know all the key words and key phrases and I defer to no-one in my knowledge and enjoyment of the brilliant Australian slanguage. And I certainly did put all that to the test when I spent a couple of years as a boarding house proprietor in a "depressed" area (Ipswich) of Brisbane. I was really dealing with the hard cases there. A significant number of them in fact came to me directly from "the big house" (jail). Yet such is the power of a shared culture that I was in all cases able to handle to my satisfaction the people concerned. I always knew the right words to use. The people concerned were a considerable problem to others (and to themselves) but they were well within my capacity to handle -- though the time I threw a druggie through a closed door was approaching my limits. Words are wasted on druggies. So there is no doubt that I am as much an insider to basic Anglo-Australian culture as anyone ever will be. I am of my culture and I appreciate it and enjoy it.

But much as I am at home among my own people, I am still delighted at the sterling qualities I find in Asians. I find scarcely any shitheads among them. And I put my money where my mouth is. I actually share my large house with Asians -- mostly South Asians. None of them are of course flawless human beings but when I think of their relaxed good humour, their intelligence and their unfailing politeness and restraint I cannot see that they are inferior to anyone or that they are anything but an asset to any environment they inhabit.

Now somebody will want to tell me that it is different in England. And it certainly is different superficially. The way just about EVERY small business in London is run by South Asians is pretty amazing (though the way English shop-assistants treat their customers makes it a lot less amazing). And when I am in England and I walk into one of those Asian shops I am greeted with the wariness and reserve that experience has taught the proprietors concerned. But I only have to exchange half a dozen words with the people concerned before all that changes. Because I genuinely like and admire Indians, that message gets through almost as fast as a bullet and it is soon smiles all round. I remember once when I was in an Indian shop in London and some old English prick was telling the Indian proprietor how great the English were and how the world owed them a living. As I walked out, I "accidentally" shouldered him hard enough to knock him over. I felt embarrassed that a fine Sikh gentleman had to put up with such crassness from the prick concerned.

And nor am I talking about immigrant Indians only. I have also lived in Bombay and I can only admire the cheerfulness, enterprise and good humour of the street-people there.

I certainly don't think that all races are equal any more than I think all people are equal but I also think it is absurd to say that there is something special about someone just because his skin is pink. Each case must be judged on its individual merits but it seems to me that on any non-racial scale of values the Asians average out well ahead. And we live in a century that will see that proven. Ironically, the poison that has held the Asians back so far is of Western origin -- socialism. If any people are instinctive capitalists it is the Indians and Chinese.

And the claim that Asian cultures are tribal is a grave misconception. Asian culture is a culture of reciprocity. So if you treat them well or do them a good turn you generate enormous feelings of obligation in return. So when I walk into an Indian shop where I am known and buy three samoosas for my lunch I will occasionally get a fourth one popped into the bag as a gesture of goodwill. What is problematical about a culture like that?

Saturday, August 6, 2005

How to improve majority rights



I want to improve majority rights. I have a whole separate blog, Political Correctness Watch, where I document the favouritism that is extended to minorities of all sorts. It is of course a matter of mere logic that to extend favouritism to one group is to discriminate against other groups.

In my moderate, tolerant Anglo-Saxon way, I am not greatly disturbed by some degree of favouritism towards disadvantaged groups—though I think that any help should be aimed at the individual with problems rather than at any group that he or she might belong to. The situation today, however, has got very much out of hand. Discrimination against some groups who are conceived of as the majority has become almost as brutal in its effects as the discrimination that was once aimed at blacks and Jews. Far from being defeated, racism of one sort has been replaced by racism of another sort.

And the target of most racism today is in fact itself a rather small minority—straight white middle-class males. There are special favours for women, special help for the poor and all sorts of favoured treatment for sexual and racial minorities. The target for all hate, blame and discrimination are straight white middle-class males. This is enormously unjust in almost any morality and would be regarded as thoroughly obnoxious were any other group so targeted.

But again in my tolerant, balanced way I don’t see that group—one to which I belong—as suffering greatly from most of the measures aimed against it so am inclined to write most of the discrimination off as just another one of the many follies of the world.

There is however one way in which the pervasive racism of the modern world DOES badly effect my minority group and it is also something that this time really does affect the majority—the fact that group favouritism greatly impedes law enforcement and has led to considerable danger and suffering for many innocent and decent people. Some of the especially privileged groups—blacks and illegal immigrants in particular—have a very high propensity to crime and are yet allowed to rampage more or less unchecked in many instances. So I think every effort should be made towards eliminating this form of discrimination. Whether a gang is black, Latino, Asian or white should not matter a hoot. It should be cracked down on with all the force that the law can muster. And regardless of what the population of a particular neighbourhood might be, if there is a lot of crime there then there should also be a heavy police presence there. If the “zero tolerance” policies of Giuliani and Bratton drastically reduced crime in NYC, tough policing procedures can work anywhere.

There are of course many other ways in which the racism of the current era is offensive and I sympathize with the offence that many people feel in that connection but if we REALLY want to make a difference it is no good just sitting down and praying for utopia: We have to concentrate on the one most urgent problem—crime. And only when we have got effective and non-discriminatory law-enforcement does it make sense to start pursuing less urgent goals. And it is my personal belief that once we have got effective and non-discriminatory law-enforcement, other forms of discrimination will be much weakened and other problems will be much reduced.

So how do we go about removing the handcuffs from our police and other law-enforcement officials? It will not be easy. The publicity that the Minutemen give to the silly games that go on at the U.S./Mexico border is an excellent start but ultimately the solution has to be political. And I can see no way in which what I have advocated is at odds with the claimed ideology of either of the major political parties. So people who share my concern should join whichever of the major political parties they feel most comfortable with and become single-issue campaigners within that party. There really is no other way.



Thursday, July 28, 2005

THE SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF WOOLLY HATS



Just to take our minds off more serious concerns for once, I thought I might point out something I have noticed that other people might or might not be able to confirm from their own experience. I have noticed that people whom Australians would call "drongoes" (foolish and stupid people) are very prone to wearing woollen hats -- beanies etc. Australians very rarely wear hats of any sort even when they should (given our high incidence of skin cancer) so people wearing warm head-coverings do tend to stand out. And from listening to such people and observing them for many years I am much struck by the low-grade intelligence that seems to prevail among such wearers. No doubt that would not apply in really cold countries such as Russia where furry hats significantly enhance survival but Australia is a generally warm country where few people feel the need for top-deck insulation. So when I see a beanie-clad head in the streets, I immediately identify the person concerned as one best kept away from: as someone with a probably significant tendency to crime and violence. Having been for some years a boarding-house proprietor in a down-market suburb, I am well aware of the fact that crime and violence is a common way for drongoes to cope with life.

So why the association between social pathology and a desire to keep the head warm? I think it is no mystery at all. The brain uses up about 20% of the body's energy. It is a huge consumer of calories in relation to its mass. So the head is normally the last part of the body that feels cold. Having the brain inside the head working is like having a radiator inside it. And as far as I am aware, active brains use up more calories than less active ones. So the people with the relatively inert brains put out less heat from the head and thus feel the cold in their heads more than others do. So an unusual need for warm head-coverings suggests an unusually inactive brain. That's my theory anyway.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Why I like East Asians


Let me just tell a few little stories: When my son Joey was about 2 he discovered that putting things into rubbish bins was great fun. So once when we were dining in a Chinese restaurant I had used a paper napkin and screwed it up after use. Joey immediately spotted his opportunity and declared loudly “In the Wubbish”. He seized the napkin and trotted towards the back of the restaurant. In their usual observant way, the Chinese staff of course saw within seconds this little blond moppet trotting towards them and by the time Joey got to the back of the restaurant, there were three Chinese staff bending over and giving Joey every attention with huge smiles on their faces. They directed Joey carefully to a bin and shepherded him gently back to us with every sign that they had had as much fun out of the episode as we did. And anybody who knows anything about the Chinese love of children will not be remotely surprised by any of that.

The second story is about the time I took a ride on the Hong Kong Metro (subway, underground railway). It was offpeak and my wife and I were the only occidentals in the carriage. A little Chinese boy came trotting down the carriage and spotted this strange white individual (me). Being just as much a tease then as I am now, I made “big eyes” at him. And of course in Chinese iconography, wide eyes are associated with demons etc. So the dear little boy ran screaming back to his parents. Again in their usual observant way, however, the Chinese in the carriage had observed what went on and saw the joke. They had a great (but of course restrained) laugh. There is nothing wrong with the Cantonese sense of humour!

And there is this Malaysian Chinese restaurant that I go to regularly. And there is one dish that I particularly like and I always order it. So when I walk in, not only am I greeted with a big smile by the receptionist, but the kitchen staff wave to me and smile at me too. And my dinner arrives with express speed. They put it on as soon as they see me.

And my next two stories are about the Japanese. Again when Joey was about 2 we took him to a local Koala sanctuary here in Australia. And the Japanese love Koalas so there were lots of them there. But when they saw this little toddler with golden-blond hair, sky-blue eyes and paper-white skin being wheeled about they were utterly entranced. I think there were as many photos of Joey taken that day as there were of the Koalas!

And finally there is the Sushi Train restaurant that I often dine at. There are Sushi train restaurants everywhere these days so I am sure readers will know what I am talking about. And my local version does seem to be staffed entirely by Japanese—a head chef and two assistants. And the amazing thing about them is that they are utterly silent. If the restaurant were staffed by Cockneys it would be an absolute bedlam of chatter. But the Japanese are so well-organized that they need to say nothing to one another. They just silently and steadily go about their great art of producing the most wonderful fresh Japanese food. And they are totally impassive 99% of the time. I greatly value my British heritage and thoroughly appreciate British reserve. But Japanese impassivity makes British reserve look like emotional outpouring. So the head chef misses nothing but the expression on his face never changes. But guess what? They too have noticed that I am a dedicated customer so I do occasionally get a fleeting smile from the head chef when he sees me there again. And to get a smile from him is an honour indeed.

And with such experiences of these gentle, hard-working, family-oriented and utterly civilized people of Asia, how can I not love them?

In case the major point of the above post is not clear, I will say again what I have said before: Asian culture is NOT a primitive tribal culture. It is culture of reciprocity. And if you treat them with appreciation and respect, you will get the same back. As Solomon said 3,000 years ago: “Cast thy bread upon the waters ....”

I won’t explain that quote from Solomon. If you don’t understand it, it is about time you learnt more about your own Christian culture.

Friday, July 22, 2005

PATRIOTISM, IMMIGRATION AND THE SUDANESE



After having lived for various periods of time in the USA, the UK and India, I am firmly convinced that Australia is the best place in the world in which to live. I imagine that 99% of Australians would agree with that. But I have never been patriotic. I have always seen faults as well as advantages. I am pleased to be an Australian but not proud to be Australian. If I identify with any group at all, it is with the Anglo-Saxon population worldwide. The Anglos versus the non-Anglos seems to me the differentiation that is most useful in identifying locations of civility and moderation.

But I don't see even the Anglos as a whole as being the pinnacle of anything. Most things in this life could be improved (with the exception of J.S. Bach) and I think that applies to populations as well. But how? I see some role for eugenics as long as it is voluntary and the success of the NYC Ashkenazim in almost eliminating Tay-Sachs disease from their community is a shining example of that. And human genetic engineering will undoubtedly in the future be a great boon too.

One thing I would particularly like to see is the minimization of the "Yobbo" or "Chav" component of Anglo-Saxon communities. And I think that SELECTIVE immigration is the only way of doing that which is currently feasible on a large scale. Just because the percentage of "good" genes (however defined) in one population is slightly higher than the average does not mean that there are no similarly "good" genes elsewhere. So a rational immigration program would aim to bring in the bearers of those good genes from wherever they are found and thus dilute the percentage of "bad" genes in the immigration-receiving country. And that I think is broadly what Australia's past immigration policy has done. We have very civilized Asian minorities which greatly enhance the amenity of our country.

The "refugee" component of our immigration program is however a worry. There appears to be some degree of selectivity even in that component of our program but only time will tell if it is sufficient. The disastrous situation in Sudan has led the Australian government into allowing into Australia a considerable number of Sudanese and I see them even in the streets of suburban Brisbane. Given the social pathologies that are uncontrovertibly associated with populations of African origin worldwide, I think it is most likely that the quality of life in Australia will be diminished by the Sudanese presence. I make no apology for predicting that Australian kind-heartedness will have been to our detriment in this instance.

So I am glad Prof. Fraser has raised the issue for debate here in Australia.



In case anybody thinks that I get it wrong above by attributing to genes what should be attributed to culture, I can only say that studies come out almost daily which show that more and more human attributes are genetically determined. Read here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here just for starters.



Saturday, July 2, 2005

Booms and Busts and how to do well in real estate



I gather that the housing boom is still ongoing in the USA. All such booms come to an end, of course. Australia’s recent boom started earlier but has now well and truly finished. I thought it might be easier to show how these things work by looking back on an earlier boom in Australia:

One thing that seems very hard for most people to assimilate is that the economy goes through cycles of booms and busts. The reason why it is hard to assimilate is presumably that the booms and busts concerned can last quite a few years and their beginnings or endings can never really be predicted. So in a boom, most business people act as if the boom will go on forever. The price for so acting, however, is almost always eventual bankruptcy. The mid to late 80s in Australia were a classic example of this. Both Real-Estate and share values seemed to be constantly rising and fortunes seemed to be there ready for the making in return for only a little risk-taking. So people bought all sorts of property with borrowed funds in the expectation of being able to resell the properties concerned at a very large profit after only a very short time. And many people did just that. They DID make large profits. So then they went out and tried to repeat the trick, didn’t they? Like the gambler who has a big win, they never knew when to quit. And note that even the real smarties came unstuck at that game. Almost ALL the high fliers of the ‘80s lost the lot. Some even ended up in jail over their activities (e.g. George Herscu and Alan Bond). And the not-so-smart went broke at a great rate too. An amazing number of hitherto successful Australian businesses—household names even—went to the wall at the end of the 80s and into the 90s.

{As just some examples that spring to mind, David Jones, Woolworths, A.V. Jennings Homes, L.J. Hooker Real Estate, Budget Rentacar, Tooths Brewery, Castlemaine Perkins Brewery, Swan Brewery, Fosters Brewery, TV Channels 7, 9 & 10, Fairfax Group (publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age) all went broke (or their owners did)}.

Nobody seemed immune. Many businesses (large and small, recently established and of long standing) closed for good. Nobody wanted to take them over at any price. And the banks too lost billions in unrecoverable debts and most were very shaky for a while. And virtually the whole States of Victoria and Western Australia went broke with even banks and other financial institutions failing.

I however, am one of the very few who came out of the 80s much better off than before—perhaps twice as well off as I was in the early 80s. So how did I do it? How did I come out ahead when so many other people lost everything? A major reason is that I managed debt more skeptically. I saw that all bets were off (i.e. norms and customs were being violated) in the business world at that time and was retiring (paying off) debt when other people were increasing their debts.

I sold the last three of my Sydney properties at the height of the boom and used the proceeds to retire debt and buy unencumbered houses in Queensland. What I bought during the boom had to be reasonably priced as I bought it not for speculation but on the criterion of its capacity to generate a good long-term income stream. What I sold during the boom I bought BEFORE the boom and then sold to the boomers at boom prices. For instance, I had two quite comparable properties in Sydney (1/31 Elizabeth Bay Rd., Elizabeth Bay and 4/13 Hughes St., Potts Pt). One I sold before the boom for $28,000 (I bought it many years before that for $7,000). The other I sold during the boom only a year or so later. So how much did I get for the second one? Not $28,000 but $70,000! Do you like it? That is what booms are like. A capital gain like that sure helps pay off your debts. At the beginning of the 90s I was actually totally debt-free and owned income-generating houses outright.

The boomers, by contrast, borrowed heavily on the basis of inflated valuations and had not sold when the crash came. So when their shares or properties were eventually sold, the sales bought in much less than had been borrowed so both the borrower and the lender generally got burnt. Many properties built during the 80s were eventually sold for around half of what it cost to build them {e.g. the Brisbane Myer centre}. That is a bust for you. Even the smarties couldn’t win in that sort of situation. The average Joe and the bit-above-average Joe had no hope, therefore. Lesson? Don’t speculate unless you can afford to lose the lot. Most gamblers end up skint and property speculators are no exception. Most gamblers periodically think that they are on to a “cert” (certainty) and so do property speculators. The reality, however, is that there are NO “certs”.

At rock-bottom the reason why I did so well is simply that I did NOT speculate. I just kept on right through the boom with my normal careful business practices. I followed a long thought-out financial plan throughout the 70s and 80s and benefitted accordingly. Even my big capital gains on the three Sydney properties I sold during the boom were not as great a killing as they seemed. I actually sold twice as many of my Sydney properties BEFORE the boom and on those I sometimes came out only modestly ahead. ON AVERAGE, my real capital gains on my Sydney properties were probably less than 10% p.a. The boom prices I received were, then, in a sense foreseen and budgetted for. They did however take longer to arrive than I foresaw—which is why I benefitted from them in respect of only three property sales. So while everyone else was getting carried away by the boom I just continued to put flesh on my broad financial plan—which in its early stages (from 1971 on—well before SEVERAL booms) was aimed mostly at asset accumulation (using a lot of debt, but debt that was conservatively budgetted for using fixed interest loans) to a final phase aimed mainly at income production (using essentially no debt). In short, I largely IGNORED the 80s boom. Is that wise? I guess I think so—and I can talk, can’t I?

These days, however, I am out of real estate and into the stockmarket—but that is another story.



Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Female Friendships



A psychologist’s reply to some feminist boasts

Feminists quite routinely hold their friendship structure up as an example to men. They say that females have supportive friendship networks that men lack and that they are emotionally stronger for it. They see men as incapable of the intimate friendships that women have and see this as a weakness that explains many of the problems that men have. They say how much they value their friends, how often they talk to their friends and relate how helpful friends have been to them in times of crisis.

This is in fact, however, only one side of the story and overlooks both the different evolutionary role of men and the full reality of female friendships. In her book Lip Service, American feminist author Kate Fillion notes part of the downside in female friendships: The difficulty women have in being honest with one another. If a woman’s friend is wearing a ghastly dress or hairstyle that does not suit her at all, it is almost impossible for her friends to tell her that. The nearest the friend can go is to say something like: “You’re looking well today”. The friend is supposed to note that she and not the dress was complimented and draw the conclusion that the dress is awful. As nobody wants to receive or believe negative messages about themselves, however, the import of such extremely indirect criticisms is often missed and woman carry on gaily looking awful when honesty might have helped them. So emotional support is given but realistic help is withheld. Men, by contrast, are much more used to giving and receiving criticism and have nothing like these severe barriers against it.

Another problem with female friendships that seems often to be conveniently overlooked is that female “friends” can often be extremely bitchy. If one female seems to be getting ahead of the pack in any way, that female will tend to be put down. If, for instance, she is a sexually attractive older woman who dresses in a way that shows her attractiveness, she will be told that, “You don’t want people to say that you are mutton dressed up as lamb, Dear”, in an endeavour to get her to dress in a more dowdy way. Great stuff! Really helpful!

It also takes a woman to really rip a woman to shreds. When I read in a newspaper an article about some woman that really tears her into small and odious pieces, I know what I will find if I look at the byline: It will be written by another woman.

The bitchy and trivial-minded nature of female friendships seems to be the major reason why there is in fact a considerable minority of women who have little in the way of female friendships and prefer the company of men. Attractive women, in particular, often remark that they prefer the company of men as they get much more ready acceptance there and much less trivial conversation.

There are however undoubted differences between men and women in their emotional makeup. Men do have their “mates” (Australia) or “buddies” (USA) and these friends do help in emotional crises. They do so differently, however. They do not try to help by listening for hours to a repetitive outpouring of problems, for instance. Women seem to believe that repetition has almost magical powers but men are much less enamoured of it. If a man is “having troubles with his Missus”, his mates will, for instance, “take him fishing to get his mind off it”. Men are interested in solutions to their problems. They seldom find it helpful just to talk about their problems.

This appears to be connected with differences in the male and female brains. Recent work in brain physiology suggests that (as would be expected on evolutionary grounds) a much larger proportion of the female brain is devoted to emotional processing. Male emotional processing, on the other hand, tends to be connected to “fight or flight” brain centres. So emotional problems will first be worked on in a practical way by men but if that is not successful, the problem will be dealt with by the man “leaving the field” (either physically or emotionally) rather than by worrying further. So males and females find different things emotionally helpful but that is about all you can say about it. Claiming that the female way is better is simply dogmatic.

It does seem true, however, that many men do have few or no close male friends in later life. This is due to the different sex-role specializations that men and women have. Women are the socio-emotional specialists (specialists in emotional relationship maintenance) as part of their biological role as mothers and men are much more task-oriented as part of their biological role as providers and protectors. In later life, these roles are well set for men because they have by then committed much of their life to their generally competitive role as breadwinners. In an endeavour to provide for their families they have developed the competitive side of their nature and neglected their emotional relationships—in the expectation that the woman in their life will look after that side of things. This is a perfectly normal example of specialization of roles—and it is role specialization that is mankind’s great trick, a trick that is a large part of the advantage mankind has over the other animals. At times of marriage breakups, then, it is little wonder that many men in later life suffer much more emotionally than women do. The specialization of women tends to leave them with friends whereas the specialization of men does not.

Even there, however, while men may have greater emotional difficulty from breakups in the short term, it seems to me that it is women who have the long-term problems. A breakup does not usually cause men to “leave the field” where it very often does for women —particularly if the breakup occurs while the woman is in her 40s. Men tend to keep trying to form a new relationship after a breakup (even with a Filipina if nobody else is available) whereas women quite commonly give up on men entirely after a divorce. They are in fact often severely damaged emotionally by a relationship breakdown of any sort and react by tending to avoid future relationships. They may eventually come out of their withdrawal but only after years alone. They let one bad experience put them off life, in effect. They are often seem to be so fragile emotionally that they cannot stand just one disappointment. After one man is “bad” to them they overgeneralize frantically about the desirability of all men and say to themselves and to others: “That’s it! I’m off men for good. Never again. Men are just no good.” Not all women react that way but very many do.

The poor dears! Cutting themselves off from love just because of one or two bad men! It seems like weak character to me. How foolish to let just one bad man put you off life, love and relationships! If that is not letting the bad guys win, I do not know what would be. I suppose all I can say in extenuation of such folly is that perhaps such women have never had a good relationship and therefore do not know what they are missing.

There are of course plenty of red-blooded women who are going out with men again within weeks of a big disappointment (I have known some of them) but I have also met lots of women who have had an unhappy divorce and then deliberately avoided relationships for ten years or more —mostly during their 40s. How do I know that? Because they tell me. Why do they tell me? Because eventually (particularly around the 50 years of age mark) they do tend to change their tune and seek out relationships again—when the prospect of a lonely old age is looming before them. How foolish can you get? Fancy missing out on the joy of a loving relationship for a significant fraction of one’s life. That sounds a quite disastrous and irremediable loss to me.

So the idea that women withstand later-life relationship breakups better than men do seems to me to be only very partly true. In the long-term most women (particularly women after 40) seem to deal with relationship breakups very badly and maladaptively. Men after 40 may be more distressed initially by breakups but divorced or separated women in their 40s tend to have attitudes which lose them a lot more when looked at over their life-spans. They would therefore benefit themselves greatly by being less supercilious and more generous in spirit to the men about them. I was once at a party for single over-40s when a very attractive woman I know said to me, “Where are all the men?”. I pointed out that there were roughly as many men as women at the party. She replied: “No, not THOSE men!”. Since she went home with me, however, I couldn’t really accuse her of being too fussy.



Monday, June 27, 2005

A spot of ethnography: The Parsees



I have had quite a bit of contact with Parsees in my personal life and think highly of them. In part for that reason I have done survey research among them both in Australia and in India -- research that did get into the academic journals. (See here and here). So I thought I should perhaps give a bit of background about them

Sometimes called “the Jews of India” (though India does have a few real Jews) the Parsees are descendants of Zoroastrian true-believers who fled the Persian empire at the time of its conquest by Muslims about a thousand years ago.  They took refuge in what is now the Indian State of Gujurat and have Gujurati as their native language to this day.  Perhaps because of their typically Iranian energy or their very un-fatalistic religion, they have prospered mightily in India.  They founded India’s steel, nuclear, computer and airline industries and one of their sons (Rajiv Gandhi) even became Prime Minister of India for some time while another (Sam Manekshaw) headed the Indian Army.  Other distinguished Parsees could be mentioned.  Two even sat in the House of Commons as representatives of British constituencies many years ago.  Such achievements for a population of only 90,000 people out of 900 million Indians are truly staggering.  It certainly shows what a small minority can do both to maintain itself and lead the larger society.

So in spite of India’s generally abject poverty the Parsee living standard has long been more or less at a Western level.  Their over-representation among the upper strata of Indian society makes any eminence that Western Jews have achieved seem puny by comparison.  If “jealousy” is the reason behind the persecution of Jews, the Parsees should be the most persecuted minority on earth.  Yet amid the seething hot-bed of religious, racial, caste and communal hatreds that is India, the Parsees have remained unscathed.  They are, in fact, somewhat popular.  How do they do it?

The answer is rather simple.  The Parsees have always been grateful to the host community that gave them safe refuge from the Muslims. Instead of regarding their hosts with fear and reserve, they actually tend to appreciate their hosts.  They certainly make great efforts not to offend their hosts (e.g. they tend to avoid eating beef and pork not because Zoroastrianism forbids it but because one offends Hindus and the other Muslims).  This has beneficial results at many levels, not the least of which is the interpersonal level.  The level that is most visible, however, is the ultimate level when Parsees are deciding what to do with the fortunes that many of them accumulate.  Such fortunes are almost always used for charitable ends.  Parsee charitable foundations are in fact legendary.  Such foundations usually have as their first duty the succour of any needy Parsees but as the Parsee community is very small Indians generally are also major beneficiaries.  The Parsees, in other words, not only say “thank you” but say it very nicely and very convincingly.  There is nothing in Zoroastrianism that tells them that they are “chosen” in any way.  They are quite endogamous (though a lot are pretty brown so past intermarriage has been considerable) but this is normal and understood in India.  In fact, their endogamy seems Indian rather than Zoroastrian.  Zoroastrianism teaches that the help of all men is needed in the fight against evil.

So the Parsees show pretty plainly that a prosperous and dominant minority can have both earned their position fairly and have done no harm in doing so.

A fuller ethnography of the Parsees than the few notes given above is to be found in Kulke, E. (1978) The Parsees in India: A minority as agent of social change New Delhi: Vikas.  There is an oldfashioned but informative article about them here and there is more than you will ever want to know about them here





Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A quiet night out



All those who grumble about how multi-ethnic their environment has become could do worse than emigrate to Australia—Brisbane in particular. Last night I dined at what the English would call a working man’s club—the Yeronga RSL (the RSL is our veteran’s organization). I go there often because they have a brilliant Dutch chef who does magic to everything he touches.

The dining room is large and was pretty full—as befits the talents of the chef. And all the people there were conservatively-dressed, quietly spoken in English, mostly older and pink-skinned. There was one very stylishly dressed Chinese girl there but she was apparently the girlfriend of a certain young blonde-haired male diner.

And I was there with Judy—who has an ethnic and cultural background virtually identical to mine. So I was able to speak broad Australian with her—which is a relief after all the standard English I write on blogs. I was able to say things like: “I’ll give it a burl” (translation: “I will try it”) and be instantly understood. So if you want to dine on first-class food in a pleasant modern ambience among other diners who will not bother you for a moment, I recommend the Yeronga RSL! I guess the environment was not as Anglo-Saxon as England in 1065 but it would not be far off.

My other regular dining spot is overwhelmingly Chinese and that is a delight too.



Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A shared culture



Culture is an amazing thing. And it’s particularly amazing in Australia. Judy and I grew up roughly 2000 miles apart (Melbourne versus Cairns) and yet it was as if we grew up in the same town. We speak the same slang and have very similar recollections of our early years. The hymns she learnt and still loves from her Methodist church past overlap mightliy with the ones I love from my Presbyterian background. We are both total unbelievers now but it is still a great pleasure to reminisce by singing the old doxologies and hymns.

And I hope I share that delight with Protestants everywhere: Bunyan’s marvellous Pilgrim hymn (“Who would true valour see, let him come hither”); the great seaman’s hymn set to Sibelius’s “Finlandia: (“Eternal Father strong to save, whose arm hath bound the restless wave”); Blake’s incomparable British Israel hymn “Jerusalem” (Did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountains green.. “); Rock of Ages, Be still my soul, and much more.

I hope everybody reading this knows what I am talking about. Anybody who has missed that great communion with our emotional past has been robbed of a mighty heritage.