Tuesday, March 31, 2009
So I was told by an international dog judge on Saturday. He had been judging dogs for 45 years, and had been evrywhere. I was supposed to be the interpreter. I don't really do French, but the organizers seemed to think that as I spoke 'foreign', I would do. It's part of how I pay for the beer and the fags.
It is fascinating to hear from experts in anything, and experts in something you barely knew existed can open up new worlds and new understanding. Each breed has a standard of hair, colour, teeth, construction, gait and so on, against which the living Canis familiaris is judged, and the one that comes nearest to the Platonic form of its breed is declared the winner.
The owners brush, blow-dry, wipe mouths, straighten tufts, legs and snouts, then make a rather gay-looking circuit of the ring, with lots of bounce and flex in the wrist. The dogs are more interested in each other, in the balls and whistles and squeaky toys the owners use to fix their attention, except the chiuauas and the pomeranians which are prouder and more aloof than they have any right to be with a mastiff on one side and a great dane on the other, and the judges watch every movement, every pose, every detail of the form and colour, and pronounce, via a secretary and an announcer, the winner, who expresses his or her joy with sound and gesture, and the losers walk off trying to look pleased to have taken part, before complaining to their friends that the judge was blind and the whole contest rigged.
Just like football, really.
Very few schools indeed can actually do that. The vast majority do not try, because no one involved in the school- parents, teachers, pupils, heads- has any idea how to do it or why it might be a good idea. It becomes an exercise in stamina and bureaucracy, with the purpose of it completely forgotten.
One change which would bring about a vast improvement in state education is to cease to make it compulsory. This would immediately remove the disruptive and the uninterested, allowing the other pupils and teachers to achieve much more, to rediscover the point of it all, and to value much more highly the education they acquire.
This will not happen because education has been turned into a means of indoctrination by governments. Governments force children to spend their time listening to whatever progressive orthodoxy it is in someone's interest to create. This is now so much accepted that they don't even bother to deny it. Here I gave a couple of examples of people high up in the Spanish education system stating openly that children must go to school so they can be told what to think by those who know best.
And here is another one. The content of the film is not the point, nor is the obvious fact that the story is not reliably told. What is important is the quote from the Education Secretary of the (ruling) Socialist party, the PSOE, which we can assume is verbatim: Se manifestó sobre este asunto y consideró «indignante» que los centros escolares «sirvan de foro para la manipulación» del alumnado. Mostró su «estupor» por lo que juzgó «un ejemplo burdo de adoctrinamiento, profundamente ofensivo con las garantías y los derechos de los alumnos».
"She said that she found it disgraceful that schools should be used to manipulate pupils. She expressed her amazement about what she qualified as a clumsy example of indoctrination, a grave offence against the guarantees and rights of the pupils."
In other words, they may only be indoctrinated by us; they may only hear what we say they can hear.
I offer the following aims of Primary Education, and some specific aims and contents for English, as defined by the new education law. The translations are mine; the blinkered, progressive orthodoxy, the unreflexive repetition of platitudes, the vaguely aspitational phrases, devoid of anything remotely practical, the constant harping on things that have little to do with education as such, the complete inability to explain anything properly, are entirely the Ministery's.
"Primary education will contribute to developing the capacities
which enable children to:
a) Know and appreciate the values and norms of co-existence, learn to behave accordingly, prepare them for active citizenship and to respect human rights and the pluralism of a democratic society.
c) Acquire skills to prevent and to resolve conflicts which will enable them to act autonomously in the domestic and family environment and in their social groups.
d) Know, understand and respect different cultures and the differences between people, rejecting all prejudice motivated by personal, social, economic, cultural, religious or racial reasons.
l) Know and value the animals which are closest to human life and learn to look after them.
m) Develop their affective capacities in all aspects of personality and in their relations with others. Develop an attitude of active defence against violence, prejudices of any type and sexist stereotypes."
"- To make appropriate, coherent and correct use of oral expression in normal situations, by both verbal and non-verbal means, using phonetics, rhythm, stress and intonation as basic elements of communication.
- To value the foreign language and languages in general as a sign of cultural richness and as a means of communication and understanding between peoples of different origins, languages and cultures, avoiding any kind of discrimination and linguistic stereotype.
- To show a receptive, interested and confident attitude to one’s own learning ability and the use of the foreign language and using previous knowledge and experience with other languages to acquire the foreign language more quickly, efficiently and autonomously."
"- Developing basic strategies to back up understanding: associating words and expressions with visual and gestural elements; using aspects of phonetics, or rhythm, stress and intonation, and of previous knowledge of known languages.
- Valuing the foreign language as instrument of communication and showing interest in using it in different situations.
-Interest in knowing information about the people and culture of the countries where the foreign language is spoken.
-A receptive attitude towards people who speak another language and have a different culture from our own.
Confidence in one’s own ability to learn a foreign language and pleasure in co-operative work."
Get some real classroom activity out of that, if you can. It tells you nothing except that there is a very clear slant towards certain attitudes and opinions, the only ones permitted.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
He’s absolutely right, of course, but as a politician he should know better than to talk sense. It’s the quickest way to get dismissed as an extremist or a nut.
The Guardian, Obama and a disturbing number of powerful people really do believe that all money belongs to them, and that if you manage to keep a bit you’re cheating them. It’s very hard to argue with people who are incapable of questioning their own arguments, or understanding yours.
Anyhow, nice one, Dan Mitchell.
The only legitimate reason for taxing people in the first place is to be able to pay for things that the individual cannot provide for himself- defence, police, healthcare? poor relief? etc; the idea that tax rates must be set, not to cover the cost of these things, but to engineer some vision of social justice (and avoid competition between states) is the sort of demented socialism which has me reaching for the nearest lamppost.
A further reflection:
Like "unfair tax competition", "transparency" is an invention of people who want to take your money. It is useful, indeed essential, to governments to know what we have and what we do with it, so they can take it from us. And so they try to turn "transparency" into some kind of moral imperative, when it is no such thing.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
They are not an important union; they were once important, during the war, but as a political movement, which is what it still is, in fact, insofar as it is anything at all. But it gets no publicity, it is ignored even by the government, and so cannot even pretend that they are doing it to draw attention to the crisis.
They were demanding the creation of jobs. This is not a bad idea, of course; when an increasing number of people are out of work, I think we can assume that even the idiot who thinks he is in charge here realizes that it is important to reduce that figure. He just doesn't know how to do it. The CNT probably imagine it can be done by raising taxes and having the government invent jobs for the unemployed. (It is fairly obvious that making it more difficult for the productive sectors to grow, in order to expand the non-productive is not the way to stimulate the economy, but some people cannot see beyond their noses). But they are not just ignorant far-lefters, they are supposed to be anarchists, which makes you wonder why they are so keen to see the government taking even more control of the economy.
As we passed, I speculated whether it was a condition of membership to have a silly moustache, no dress sense, and generally to look like a total prat, but Mrs Hickory suggested it was not the best moment to ask.
BTW, the said imbecile has just announced, unilaterally and without warning, that he is removing the Spanish troops from Kosovo. In fact, it looks as though it was his Defence Minister who made the decision without consulting him, and without informing the allies. Ally is a concept which this government does not understand, along with loyalty, freedom, education, economics and leadership. Zapatero is not a leader, any more than Brown is. They are both where they are by a combination of chance, favours owed, and fratricide among the better men. Neither is capable of captaining his house at cricket, let alone running a country. They are both of the type that begs to be allowed to keep the scorebook so they can pretend they are part of the team. They are both bumbling incompetents on the world stage, an embarrassment to their countries.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Gangs of worthless layabouts who know nothing of economics and care nothing for the poor of the world will see this again at the G-20 meeting next week, but they will not notice or care. They are too busy having fun and feeling righteous to understand why they are wrong. I would speak more about this, but it has been done rather better, and saves me the trouble.
Most of those who shout in front of my house want the same thing- other people's money, which they seem to think they are entitled to, for some reason. They invariably bring megaphones and whistles; people have to know you are there, of course. Today it was the farmers union, a bit different, as the leader is a right-winger- I know him personally- and they brought sheep, four, on ropes, and a car with loudspeakers braying out terrible 1960's pop songs. It got people's attention, which was the point, and the leader got to repeat the usual slogans and sound like an orator.
This happens often, with one group or another. A couple of months ago the friend of Hamas were there, complete with banners calling Jews Nazis. They didn't cause any real trouble, in fact, but it coulkd have escalated, if Israel had not left Gaza when it did, and none of those responsible for keeping the peace seemed bothered. The photo I include because I happened to take it. I haven't really thought of moving, but it annoys me that these mobs think they can do this at any time and that those of us who live here do not count.
I wonder what is planned for Wednesday. Some bunch of ignorant thugs will try something, I am sure, convinced of their rightness.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I begin to wonder if it is worth trying to argue with people about certain things, or indeed at all. There are many people with whom you cannot argue, because they do not listen, would not understand, and are not interested. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since most people have better things to do than consider abstractions of no consequence to their lives. But there are people who try to argue, who have opinions which they try to defend, and whose position is apparently open to debate, but who are capable of understanding that their position might in fact be open to question.
There is a certain type of socialist with whom it is impossible to discuss education because they believe that all children are born with the same intellectual potential and it is only the difference in the quality of the schools that the working class attend that prevents them achieving what the professional classes achieve.
There are people who genuinely believe that all money belongs to the government and that everything we do not pay in tax is stolen from the workers/people/state etc; it is impossible to explain basic economics or even morality to such people, and it is not worth trying. There are people, some of whom have influence, who believe that the absolute truth is the most recent thought that flitted through their mind. Some are astute enough to make a living from these fleeting thoughts, but usually they do not realize that they do not in fact have anything to say.
They do not, of course, have the slightest understanding of reason or science. It is perfectly clear that they do not seek truth in any form, they start from a belief, then attempt to use the twisted, vacuous language they have been taught to defend that belief from an arbitrary starting point, following a process which is often more stream of consciousness than constructed argument. Not only do they strengthen their own belief this way, by imagining that they have in some sense it proved it, but the random thoughts they have had along the way, loosely tied to and perhaps vaguely expressing equally random emotions, then become part of the dogma, to be used by themselves and others as though they were demonstrable truths, fundamental facts about the world.
This process is not thought, it can take you nowhere and prove nothing. It is entirely useless and exists for the self-glorification, self-satisfaction, and professional justification of these creatures. They are destroying parts of our universities, and the future of generations of fine minds. But it is not possible to argue with them; they have imposed rules of debate which means they never have to address criticism, they only denounce the critic. Our target should be the proper thinkers, the real scientists and academics who share the campus with them and sit on committees with them. They must be ridiculed, exposed and expelled from the Academy by those who have the power to do it.
If there is no truth, there is no knowledge, no understanding, nothing means anything, nothing can be tested or learnt from, nothing can have any more importance than anything else, nothing can actually matter, unless you shout louder, whine more and scream abuse more relentlessly than those who do not share your view. The cultural studies mob, dedicated to the pursuit of ignorance, the ennoblement of the inept and the imposition of incompetence on their students, have found in post-modernist relativism and its spawn a magnificent vehicle for creating their own unassailable superiority, precisely by these means, shouting, whining and accusing.
I do not have to fight for tenure. I make my own living outside the Academy and I have the inestimable luxury of ignoring them, exposing their errors or laughing at them, as I see fit. It is the best weapon. They do not understand criticism, since they have created rules for themselves which allow them to be always, automatically right, and they denounce reason and objectivity as tools of oppression which rob them of their freedom to (be truly themselves, reclaim their past and their present, glory in their stupidity, vilify anyone they don’t like, make a living from their prejudices, insert whining grievance here).
The Academy is ours; it rightly belongs to the thinkers, the seekers of knowledge, the purveyors of truth and the tools of thought to the young. It is not theirs. Let us throw them out.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
There have been fewer posts than I intended on these people. There will be more, I promise, but for now I am pleased to discover that I am not alone. David Thompson is doing it- among other things- better and with more energy than me, and Keith Windschuttle also does it, also much better, and he even uses Homi Bhabha as an example, which I am very happy about, having been forced to read some of his empty, self-serving, hate-inspired ramblings.
Read them, and consider carefully what they say.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
- There is no spirit of the tax law.
- Tax avoidance is not frowned upon.
- Anyone who pays more tax than they have to is a fool.
- Anyone who does not organize their affairs so as to be liable to as little tax is possible is, therefore, a fool.
- Anyone responsible for a company (or other peope's money in any form) who does not do everything possible to limit the tax liabilty of the company is wasting his employer's or shareholders' money, an should be sacked.
- Tax is an administrative matter. We must obey or we will be jailed or fined, but the only possible meaning 'right' and 'wrong' can have in this context- if they mean anything at all- is acting in accordance with the administrative framework defined by the law. In other words, getting the paperwork right.
- Tax avoidance is, by definition, legal. It simply means paying no more tax than you have to.
- There is no 'spirit' of the tax law. The concept is meaningless.
Criminal law, and in some cases civil law, attempt to frame a greater moral sense of right and wrong perceived to exist within the society that produces that law, and to provide a means by which society may express its moral sense and defend itself from those offend it. There is a very real understanding that the law itself is subordinate to that moral sense, and derives its importance from it. Administrative law is paperwork. It states how thing should be done. It does not attempt to encapsulate any prior sense of right and wrong held by the society it regulates.
It is particularly absurd for the Treasury to say that tax avoidance is frowned upon since it is they who make the rules that define what may or may be done in this regard. To complain when people obey them is quite ridiculous.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I had lunch today in a volcano. Choricillos al infierno, flambéed meats, grilled vegetables and chilis with everything. OK, it was the one on the right, and the menu was more cheese sandwich than fondue, but it's a genuine volcanic crater. There's water in it, and birds, and mud mixed with ash, and volcanic rock lying beside, er, other kinds of rock. And trees and reeds and almost total quiet except for the idle chatter of the livelier birds and the softest whisper of the breeze among the branches. And the inane wittering of Hickory reflecting aloud on the wonderfulness of it all. Very relaxing.
It was a longish walk out there and we Alarcos from below- we didn't climb up this time- with the shrine and the mediaeval castle standing on an Iberian village which is still being excavated. And an old bridge that crosses the river with the ruins of a mill and a couple of factories. Warm and sunny, and looks like staying that way.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Well, we've done this before, but the angle was slightly different. On Sunday Mrs Hickory and I walked out to the reservoir a few miles north of here, crossed over it and walked along the opposite bank to the bridge near, as attentive readers will remember, the old thermal spring and baths.
The difference from the bank we are used to is that the fishermen you look across at are backed by dark rock and bushes, instead of light clay, and the island that many of the birds live on is much closer. To reach it you would still have to swim, but you can see it clearly, and the nests which are shared by vast tribes. There were many young birds, varieties of duck and small herons mainly, trying to get airborne, with mixed success and for no real reason that I could see. Perhaps they just like to spread their wings. There were eagles about, gliding in slowly travelling circles, a deceptively lazy movement which suggests they are just floating along the currents of air to get a bit of a tan on a warm, sunny day, until they spot a mouse or a rabbit that is. And a crane on an electricity pylon. Just one; it's not a place for cranes.
The rock dam at the other end near the bridge was full of Rumanians fishing, again. I don't really know why. Their equipment looked like what keen fishermen use, expensive and copious, and they were teaching their children. Perhaps it is just very big in Rumania and the first impression- that ther is some kind of commercial purpose- may be quite wrong. It would have been simpler just to ask them, but you don't like to talk to fishermen- they always look as though they've left their vocal cords at home. It seems to mean that fishing is the quantum unit of human activity; it is impossible to do less than to fish.
Anyhow, we got the beginninjgs of a suntan, tired our legs and exercised our lungs and our spirits. Today's illustrations are brought to you, therefore, courtesy of the river and the sun.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Mathematics has also found a use for evolution. Many areas of mathematics and engineering now use heuristic algorithms to create or solve complex non-linear models for certain values. These now include Genetic Algorithms, which use iterations called generations and parameters called chromosomes, which are retained or rejected for subsequent generations according to their fitness with the constraints of the model. Another metaphor, but a rather good one.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
G.E. Moore noted the absurdity of statements on the lines of 'It's raining but I don't believe it is.' It is fairly obvious that no one would actually make such as assertion, since it cannot have any meaning in the way that it is formulated, nor is it a statement that, in its English form anyway, could reasonably be said by someone who meant something else. It is generally expressed in this anodyne form because (that's the way Moore said it and) it precludes the confusion caused by emotion: 'Elvis is dead but I don't believe it' might be ellipsis for 'They say Elvis is dead... ' which contains no contradiction, or it might be an expression of some emotionally inspired double-think, possibly playful. (English, like other languages, has carefully made distinctions, such as that between 'I don't believe' and 'I can't believe', precisely for this purpose). Moore's phrase does not seem to permit these interpretations, and the problem only arises if the sentence is understood as he intended it to be.
Much is made of the fact that both of these assertions may be simultaneously true, without contradiction and they may be stated by somone else, using a third person: 'It is raining and he doesn't believe it'; or they may be affirmed without contradiction by the original speaker at some later point in time, using a past tense: 'It was raining and I didn't believe it'. But I cannot make these assertions about myself in the present without a contradiction.
None of this would be given much consideration, I imagine, if Wittgenstein hadn't taken it so seriously. It's interest lies, presumably, in the fact that it is an example of a true statement whose truth cannot be asserted in certain circumstances. This is genuinely interesting, but it is scarcely paradoxical- the (deceptively simple) context of the assertion has been carefully constructed so that it is logically impossible for the speaker to simulaneously know that two statements which are (or may be) true, are, in fact, true.
In essence, the main pragmatic effect of an assertion is to affirm the truth of the information given. An unqualified assertion of this type is taken to include an assertion of the speaker's own belief in the truth of what he says. Therefore the simultaneous denial of that same belief is necessarily contradictory.
To me it doesn't seem worth getting worked up about. There are much richer paradoxes that can be formulated in just as simple terms.
Bronislaw Malinowski is not a name that brings images flooding into most people's minds, evoking memories of great moments of our youth, or of inspiring achievements that staggered and changed the world. One does not respond to the name as one might to that of Geoff Hurst or Ian Botham, Charles Darwin, Julius Caesar, Albert Einstein or Winston Churchill.
OK, the point is made, I think, but in the fields of applied linguistics and social anthropology he is acknowledged as having developed a new background against which to set research, so important as to change the nature of these fields. His great contribution was context.
Malinowski wasn't in fact a linguist, but an anthropologist. He was born in 1884 in Krakow, then still a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He is said to have been inspired by Frazer's 'The Golden Bough', in which he is not alone.
He was doing field work in the Trobriand Islands when the First World War broke out and he had little option but to stay there. He was thus forced into much closer observation of and contact with the local tribes. His research covered their languages, societies and the Kula system of ceremonial exchange.
During this period he developed the concept of particpant observation, setting out in great detail the procedures he had found essential to a proper understanding of the ways in which not only language, but all forms of social interaction, including the cultural, commercial and ritual, came about and came to have specific meaning. In other words, the context.
'Argonauts of the Western Pacific' is a very fine book, not easy to make sense of but providing, if you make your way through it, a grounding which will change the way you approach the interpretation of other people's behaviour.
The real reason I mention him, however, is that his life could be made into a very decent film script, with the nucleus of the story being the years he spent in Papua. Film scripts are not really my thing, and I don't see it as a novel, so I offer the idea to anyone who wants to do something with it.
Friday, March 6, 2009
One of the things that matters is the Athletic Club de Bilbao. Why this should be I do not know, and I sometimes wish it were not so, but that's the way it is. I speak of them as we, and spend Sunday afternoons in an agony of suspense listening to the radio or watching the television when I dare to. Sundays determine how Mondays will be, and whole weeks can be blighted by a defensive error, a misdirected shot or a blind referee.
There have been good times and there have been bad times. Mostly good, of course; you learn to make the most of the good and forget the bad, or it wouldn't be worth it. And the bad makes the good better. A lot like life, really.
On Wednesday we beat Sevilla 3-0 in San Mamés (home) and are in the Cup Final for the first time in 24 years. I wasn't there, but the atmosphere must have been tremendous. There is no track, no space between the crowd and the pitch, you just hang over them and chew the ears off the opposing wingers as they pass. When the fans don't want it to happen, nobody wins in San Mamés.
We lost that final in 1985, but we won the year before, beating Barcelona, and Maradona went crazy at the final whistle and put two of our players in hospital. We have always been the great Cup team- we have 23 of them- but in the years since Barcelona have reached 24. We want that record back, and in Valencia on the 13th of May we have the chance to beat them. I'll let you know. Meanwhile, I shall be getting on with the trivia of existence.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Mr Aloysius Crancey
23B Montmorency Terrace
Mj Patrick Bromley
Dear Mr Clancey,
I thank you for your recent letter, though I find it confusing and, in many ways, dispiriting. You ask my advice on certain matters, and in so doing you show that you will never understand them. I shall, however, attempt to explain my position. If you cannot yourself make use of it, and your manifest self-doubt suggests you cannot, you might be able to pass it on to others.
One does not seek evil, Mr Clancey, one is Evil. (Evil with upper-case E is noun, not adjective. I hope you understand the difference. I précis my leaflets here.) Ideas of the devil are a distraction. Those who pretend to worship a personification of Evil will never become Evil, though they might become evil. To seek it outside yourself is to waste yourself. It is to doubt your ability and your courage. Evil is in all of us. It only exists within us. It can only be found within us. To become Evil is to discover what is within oneself. It is very important to understand this. You Are Evil. But you reject yourself. You refuse to be Evil. I repeat, You Reject Yourself. Do not personify, do not compare yourself with others. That is the way of the worldly and the weak. It can never lead to satisfaction.
As to what Evil is, that can be called a theoretical matter, susceptible of being studied and learnt. In the end, however, it must be understood within us. It is not enough to internalize a series of definitions. They must cause the Evil within you to resonate and desire to express itself.
Dispense again with the idea of Evil as the opposite of good. Good is an invention of man to justify his cowardice. Nothing more. It is then turned into some form of force, or being. Again this ridiculous urge to personify. It is a typically stupid failing of common humanity. They could all rise above it if they wished, but they do not. Given the chance to be Men, they choose to be animals. There is no hope for most of them, they have determined the course of there life, and they prefer it to be empty of all purpose.
Dispense also with the idea that Evil is selfishness. Dispense, rather, with the term, and the importance that is given to it. The Evil consider self, certainly, but because to do otherwise is simply to cringe in fear of oneself, one’s weakness, and one’s mortality. (Mortality, incidentally, is an essential part of our humanity. We should celebrate ours and, especially, that of those who fear it. It is doubtful whether we could be Evil were we not mortal. This is a point on which I have not reached a definite conclusion, and which is, of course, irrelevant to us, but I rather think not.)
To be human, and to dare to live a meaningful life, is to think only of self, since only there will we find meaning. (There are those who suggest that we cannot be sure other people are not simply a product of our imagination, or that anything at all exists outside ourselves. While this is, perhaps, a possibility, it seems unlikely, and to use it as a defence is an error of weakness. We need no defence.)
I have said that we do not seek Evil; we are Evil. Remember also that we do not serve Evil. We do not do Evil. These forms of expression can shape our thought. They are attempts to place outside ourselves something we continue to fear. They show ignorance or, worse still, weakness. We Are Evil.
Evil, then, is nothing more than the use of our will, our courage, and our character to the highest possible extent, free of the limits man imposes on himself, free of fear and weakness, free of the inventions of irrational cowards, designed to serve those weaknesses, free of the customs they let themselves become used to and accept as absolute laws. The greatest exponents of Evil, those who have come closest to complete understanding of themselves, rarely commit acts at all. When you exist almost entirely as pure Evil, there is no need to express Evil externally. Such people- I am not yet of that number- do not share themselves even to the extent of doing Evil to others. They have no such need.
You further ask why Evil should be considered the purpose of our existence. Here you show more promise, in that one who asks the question is on the way to understanding the answer. Existence is suffering. The possession of a body and a mind, of senses and emotions, means that most things will be unpleasant. Most people do not know how to limit suffering, but can only complain and hope it will not become unbearable, as they fear death so much. If there is so much suffering in the world it is necessary that there be those who inflict it, and to make the conscious choice to cause suffering of all kinds, to reduce as far as possible the pleasure someone can take from life, is to control suffering, including one’s own. To despise the suffering of others is to give value to one’s own life. To cause suffering enhances that value and the understanding of that value, and reduces the suffering we experience ourselves. It is the only way to give ourselves purpose. Real purpose, that is.
I say reduce the pleasure others take from existence as far as possible, because there is a limit. We do not want them to value death more than life, for then they would cease to suffer, unless, once that state is reached, we can deprive them of death, while perpetuating in them the desire to die. This requires great skill, and, except on occasions, in individual cases, is usually best not attempted. And so, I repeat, there is a limit to the practice of Evil. To the attainment of Evil within ourselves, however, there is no limit. This is why the greatest of us refrain from action altogether.
(There are those who embrace death, not out of desperation at their own suffering, but deliberately, believing it will alleviate the suffering of others, or will give them bliss in some future life. Against these, saints, martyrs, lunatics, etc, we can do nothing. Fortunately their numbers are so tiny as to make no difference. Do not, by the way, confuse these with those who merely say they expect to experience eternal bliss. There are a lot of these, and they provide endless scope for the expression of Evil.)
This last paragraph is still awaiting work. I hope to be able to develop the idea contained there. In regard for your interest in the matter, I shall be certain to let you know when I do.
So far, so normal. As I have pointed out before, politicians don't do it for you and me. But Harman is quoted in the Guardian (left-wing newspaper, for those not familiar with the details of the British press) in the following terms (Fred Goodson is a man who was employed at a high level by a bank which lost a lot of money):
'The deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman, today stepped up the pressure on the former RBS chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin to waive his £693,000 pension, saying the government aimed to take the money back from him.
"The prime minister has said that it is not acceptable and therefore it will not be accepted," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.
"It might be enforceable in a court of law, this [pension] contract – but it is not enforceable in the court of public opinion, and that is where the government steps in."'Fred Goodwin entered into a contract with a private company which apparently included a (very) substantial pension if certain conditions were met. Although the government blames him (though it may have been more their fault than his) for the losses it has made, the conditions have been met, as the government itself admits. That a government minister would threaten to overturn a private contract (government contracts are next to worthless, of course) whose legality is not questioned, simply because they do not like it, or to attempt to gain electoral advantage, is Fascism, tyranny, naked despotism. It is not democracy.
One of the things which allowed Britain to become free and prosperous was the law of contract. I refer to the fact that any agreement made between competent adults is enforceable in the courts. In Roman Law contracts must take certain specified forms and can be challenged and voided retrospectively. The effect of this is to constrain trade and freedom, and to give power to those who determine whether a given contract is valid. In England any agreement that can be shown to exist (and this includes oral contracts) may be pursued through a court.
This woman, like Mandelson, who has spoken of this before her, is moved by panic at the likely prospect of losing the next election. It is not at all clear what sort of Labour party she would have left to lead, since it may well disintegrate. But the result of her panic, and the egomania inherent in the idea that she cannot allow herself to lose importance, is that a government minister has stated publically that the Prime Minister plans to use his interpretation of public opinion, which he has himself stirred up, to justify a breach of contract which no court would accept (and probably won't; Parliament cannot set aside law in this manner, and even if it could, he will not find the courts accommodating, and I doubt, in fact, whether even Parliament will lend itself to this).
In a couple of days the press will have moved on to something else, but this woman has affirmed her, and the government's, power to ignore the law arbitrarily. Unless it is challenged, the precedent will be there.