Saturday, August 08, 2009
Back to the source ... the bluesman Champion Jack Dupree actually lived in Halifax in the 1970s and would do occasional concerts around the West Riding - I think he worked for the council. As a young fan it always seemed a trifle unreal that a 'real' blues musician could be living in Yorkshire rather than Chicago or the Mississippi Delta.
Play soft ...
Friday, August 07, 2009
Hat-tip to Martin Kelly and of course to Marshal Stalin for the original concept.
Reflections on the Revolution in Europe is trenchantly written and robustly argued. It is complex and often subtle. It is also fundamentally wrong in both premise and conclusion.
Can't say fairer than that, can you ? Which is presumably why Shiraz Socialist described it as "an excellent point-by-point refutation of the claims made by migration scaremongers", those claims being "the ‘Muslims! Everywhere! EVERYWHERE!’ nonsense" - and on that basis I prepared to take it apart - but, as you might expect from Malik, it turns out to be a bit more complicated than that and there's a lot of detail on which Malik is right and Caldwell wrong. FWIW, I think both Malik and Caldwell (at least as presented by Malik) have got some things wrong or assigned the wrong level of importance to them.
Let's take Malik's 'point-by-point refutation' one point at a time. While Caldwell and Malik are talking about Europe, I prefer to concentrate on the UK - because that's where my children are growing up. Foreigners begin at Calais.
Three basic arguments underlie Caldwell’s thesis. First, postwar immigration to Europe has, he believes, been fundamentally different to previous waves of immigration. Prior to the Second World War, immigrants came almost exclusively from other European nations, and so were easily assimilable. Indeed, ‘using the word immigration to describe intra-European movements makes only slightly more sense than describing a New Yorker as an “immigrant” to California’. The cultural apartness of postwar immigrants, on the other hand, has not just posed problems of assimilation but also undermined the very fabric of European societies. Take away colonial guilt, Caldwell suggests, and ‘the fundamental difference between colonization and labor migration ceases to be obvious’.
Second, Caldwell argues that Muslim migration in particularly has been akin to a form of colonization. ‘Since its arrival half a century ago’, Caldwell observes, ‘Islam has broken – or required adjustments to, or rearguard defences of – a good many of the European customs, received ideas and state structures with which it has come in contact.’ Islam ‘is not enhancing or validating European culture; it is supplanting it.’
And third, Caldwell suggests that Islam’s success has been made easier by a crisis of identity of identity in the West. Europeans, in particular, ‘are coming to despise their own cultures, much as the bigots among their forebears had despised the cultures of other peoples.’ Immigration, Caldwell points out, ‘enhances strong countries and cultures but it can overwhelm weak ones’ – and that is what is happening to Europe.
According to Caldwell, prewar immigration between European nations was different from postwar immigration from outside Europe because ‘immigration from neighboring countries does not provoke the most worrisome immigration questions, such as “How well will they fit in?” “Is assimilation what they want?” and, most of all, “Where are their true loyalties?”.’ In fact, those were the very questions asked of European migrants in the prewar years ... One of the consequences of postwar migration has been to create historical amnesia about prewar attitudes.Well, I'd say on that last point the 'historical amnesia' is the byproduct of the 'nation of immigrants' liberal myth. After all, we welcomed immigrants in the past, didn't we ?
There's a fine quote in Peter Hitchens' 'Abolition of Britain' showing the attitudes of even an educated, left-wing Brit to 'abroad' - and particularly Europe - in the 1930s. Having made the point that Empire ensured many Brits were widely travelled outside of Europe (admittedly their view was often from the butt-end of a rifle) , he quotes the protagonist, a travelling salesman, of a 1937 novel by the thriller-writer Eric Ambler, at the time an anti-Fascist and Soviet sympathiser :
"People come over here for a fortnight's holiday and see a lot of pretty chalets and chateaux and schloesser and say what a fine place it is to live in. They don't know what they're talking about. They only see the top coat. They don't see the real differences. They don't see behind the scenes... I was in sunny Italy when the fascisti went for the Freemasons in twenty-five. Florence it was. Night after night of it with shooting and beating and screams, until you felt like vomiting. I was in Vienna in thirty-four when they turned the guns on the municipal flats with the women and children inside them... I saw the Paris riots with the garde mobile shooting down the crowd like flies and everyone howling 'mort au vaches' like lunatics. I saw the Nazis in Frankfurt ...In Hitchens' phrase 'Britain is the only virgin in a continent of rape victims'
Nice chaps, aren't they ? Picturesque, gay, cleverer, more logical than silly us."
You don't have to go back to the Gordon Riots (which to be fair, were as much anti-Catholic English as anti-foreigner) or the St Brice's day massacre to find these attitudes to immigrants. Here's that well-known social historian Thomas Hardy, writing about 1804 :
Hmm. That public notice wasn't exactly in the spirit of the Government responses to 9/11 and 7/7, was it ? Similarly the Irish influx to the mainland was greeted with hostility - yet they (mostly - a few were still inveterate enemies) integrated - to the point where they themselves were hostile to newcomers. From Robert Roberts' classic A Ragged Schooling, Salford :
'He took from his pocket a piece of the single newspaper which circulated
in the county in those days, and she read--
"The magistrates acting under the Alien Act have been requested
to direct a very scrutinizing eye to the Academies in our towns
and other places, in which French tutors are employed, and to all
of that nationality who profess to be teachers in this country.
Many of them are known to be inveterate Enemies and Traitors to
the nation among whose people they have found a livelihood
and a home."
'He continued: "I have observed since the declaration of war a marked difference in the conduct of the rougher class of people here towards me.
Syd's father, in his teens, had been a well-known 'scuttler' - one of the gangs of hooligans who, in the nineties, infested northern slums... for a time, the activities of this gang (Cope Street) gained even national repute. Mr Carey, once a leader there, now looked upon himself as a model citizen. But in his cups at the street corner, drivelling over 'happy days', he would tell of 'how we stopped them bloody ****'. A Jewish dealer, we heard, had opened a second-hand clothes shop in the district, only to see his goods pulled out onto the pavement and burned openly by scuttlers, while a policeman stood by to see fair play. 'That kept 'em out ! We got no more of the buggers ! He felt he had performed a social service.What of those outside 'the rougher class ?' As I've written before of the early 20th century , "the exotic (but relatively tiny) immigrant quarters of London, with their Jews, Russians, Letts and seafaring communities provided colour for a generation of crime and adventure writers, from Dorothy L Sayers to Dornford Yates" (in America similar immigrants inspired fiction like Lovecraft's The Street). As late as 1962, Paul Gallico is writing (in Scruffy, set in WW2) of upper-class Englishmen who don't want their babies delivered by 'that Jewish fellow' - an eminent gynaecologist.
So I take Malik's point - that suspicion of foreigners, even those as physically close as the French, has a long history in Britain. But I would agree with Caldwell that post-war immigration is fundamentally different, while disagreeing with him on the nature of the difference - on grounds of scale - the numbers - rather than of nature.
However Caldwell's Point 1 also impacts on and is impacted by his Point 3 - the cultural collapse. The more-or-less aggressive, suspicious attitude of pre-60s Brits to foreigners was a reflection of a self-confident culture which has almost vanished among educated natives. What is the character of current immigration, Caldewell and Malik might have inquired, if the demoralised, decultured Brits can be brought to the point where they are still asking the questions their self-confident forebears asked ?
Malik seems to skip straight past Point 2 - that Muslim immigration has been akin to a form of colonisation. Instead he takes a pop at "the claim that Islam poses a fundamental threat to Western values" - an interesting subject, but not the one a point by point refutation would address, so let me just link to the Bradford experience (emboldening is mine) :
This of course is also related to Point 3 - the collapse of self-confidence in the host culture. As I pointed out in the linked post, it's no coincidence that the change from immigrants to colonists coincided with the collapse of the host culture's self-confidence.
The first generation of immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh came here as "immigrants". They came expecting and wanting to integrate to some extent into the existing community. The collection of photographs taken of the first generation by the photographic studio in Manningham Lane illustrates this. The first week’s wages went on a Burtons suit and the men proudly displayed watches, pens and radios, mostly supplied by the photographer.
Immigrants come to a country expecting to change their lifestyles. They can and often do maintain key elements of their culture for generations, particularly their religion, but in many ways they adopt the dominant culture in such aspects as work, dress, leisure, housing and family composition... however, this process seems to be thrown into reverse in Bradford. The Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities now expect to recreate the environment of their country of origin. They have settled in village patterns which reflect their origins and they constantly reinforce this by bringing in new members from the country of origin. This, in turn, leads to spatial and social immobility, communities which are internalised on themselves and are relatively self-sufficient in social and cultural terms although reliant in many ways on the economic and government resourced infrastructure.
On Western values, Malik again has a point.
‘What secular Europeans call “Islam”’, he (Caldwell - LT) points out, ‘is a set of values that Dante and Erasmus would recognize as theirs’. On the other hand, the modern, secular rights that now constitute ‘core European values’ would ‘leave Dante and Erasmus bewildered.’ There is, in other words, no single set of 'European values' that transcends history in opposition to Islamic values.Now I don't pretend to know much about Dante or Erasmus, but I'd agree that our grandparents and great-grandparents would in many areas find their values (examples here) expressed better in the mosque than in the Guardian or on the BBC (I'd also agree that outside the single important exception of Christianity, there's not historically been a huge amount of commonality between the values of Europeans over the last 200 years). "The average middle-class Labour activist and the average Ibrahim in the mosque are 180% apart on social issues." But again, that comes down to the cultural collapse - aka Caldwell's point 3 - which has at its heart the decline of Christianity. The current confusion about values is because - well, because there's confusion about values. The moral putsch of the cultural revolution stands on very shaky foundations.
Point 2 never really got addressed. Point 3 :
"He is right."
Huzzah ! Caldwell, Malik and Laban agree ! But :
But it is an argument that sits uneasily with claims about the inherent cultural apartness of Third World and Muslim immigrants. Many immigrants want to join the club, Caldwell seems to be saying, but they can’t because the club has lost its rulebook.Yay ! He broke the code ! As Spiked put it :
This explains the immense difficulty the government has with drawing up guidelines for immigrants. The exercise of trying to tell immigrants how to be British is becoming an embarrassing demonstration of the fact that the elite doesn't know itself.And why don't they know ? Because the cultural revolution destroyed the existing common culture while not replacing it. There's little shared culture any more - just lots and lots of cultures, some co-existing, some competing. There is one overarching national culture - the culture of our liberal elite, of the grown-up suburban revolutionaries - perhaps that of Kenan Malik - but it is extremely fragile, and is aware of the fact. That awareness is why school bus drivers get sacked in Bradford for being BNP members.
Malik throws in this criticism :
Caldwell clearly thinks that Europe cannot be the same with different people in it. But in asking the question Caldwell confuses the diversity of peoples and the diversity of values. People of North African or South Asian parentage, he seems to believe, will inevitably cleave to a different set of values than those of European ancestry. Why? Being born to European parents is no passport to Enlightenment beliefs. So why should we imagine that having Bangladeshi or Moroccan ancestry makes one automatically believe in sharia?which IMHO is a bit of a straw man. While Islam is a religion not a race, the vast majority of Muslims in the UK are brown-skinned people whose forbears (and often marriage partners) hail from Bangladesh or Pakistan - which is what enables people to shout 'racist' when Islam is criticised. My view is that social cohesion is simply made that much more difficult when culture and ethnicity are so closely aligned. To be fair, plenty of people are similarly 'confused' :
MY MUSLIM PRIDEIt's Malik's last paragraph that's key to the whole thing :
I WILL NT HIDE
MY PAKISTANI RACE
I WIL NT DISGRASE
There are no such things as ‘European values’, of course. What has eroded is faith in the idea that it is possible to win peoples of different backgrounds to a common set of secular, humanist, Enlightened values. And that is the real problem: not immigration, nor Muslim immigration, but the lack of conviction in a progressive, secular, humanist project.
For him, the 'cultural collapse' to be worried about is not the revolution (paralleled to a greater or lesser extent throughout the advanced capitalist nations) in British thought since the 1960s. Dr Malik's formative political years were the years of counterculture triumph - the Thatcher years when the cultural war of the 'left' was won as surely as the economic wars of the left were lost. He's an intelligent, widely read man - surely he can't think it's always been that way here.
And that's where we part on the diagnosis. For left apostate Laban, the years after the cultural revolution are an interregnum (see this post), not the natural order of things . There's not IMHO a cat in hell's chance that 'a progressive, secular, humanist project' can build the sort of society which people are willing to die to defend - unless you think Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia were such societies. What we currently have is best described in Caldwell's words - fear masquerading as tolerance. Unless the physical changes - the medical advances, contraception, labour-saving machines of the last sixty-odd years - have triggered a fundamental change in human mentality, the lesson of history is surely that such societies will fall.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Now those wee neds are all grown up :
A man who became notorious for making a v-sign behind Scotland's former justice minister during a TV interview has been jailed for assault. Jamie Smith, 20, is the 25th person to be prosecuted for a gang attack on passers-by in Cumnock, Ayrshire. Smith from Auchinleck, was sentenced to six months in prison.
He was 16 when he was filmed making obscene gestures behind Labour's Cathy Jamieson as she launched a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.
Unlike Ms Jamieson's policies, our young "Superned" is bearing fruit :
The Record told in 2006 how Smith and his then girlfriend Lisa Wilson, both 16, were expecting their first child.
And slowly, inexorably, Nature's majestic benefit dependency cycle makes one more turn ...