Saturday, April 03, 2010

Google Maps and Genocide (and Trainspotting)

Google Maps (the satellite view) is both a great boon to the armchair traveller and a tremendous time waster - I remember using it when it first came out to trace the long-vanished railway lines from the Clydach Gorge to Abergavenny, and then followed the line at small scale all the way through Hereford to Colwall !

My record time-waste occurred after blogging the Skeleton Coast diamond excavations in Namibia, which can be seen on Google Maps. Bleak and inaccessible places have always appealed to my imagination, and that night I sat up for hours tracing the Skeleton Coast all the way from Oranjemund to Walvis Bay, with frequent stops to zoom in on some remote diamond working. And that's still only half way up the Namibian coast !

Why genocide ? Well, I was reading the wiki for Walvis Bay, as one does.


In Walvis Bay there are different fishing companies like Hangana Seafood,Caroline Fishing, Benguella Fishing Company, Genocide of Namibia, Etale Fishing Company... WHAT ?

Genocide of Namibia ? I bet their produce just flies off the shelves ! A quick Google gave me this, on the events of 1904 when Namibia was a German colony :

On 2 October, Trotha issued an appeal to the rebellious Herero tribe:

I, the great general of the German troops, send this letter to the Herero people... All Hereros must leave this land... Any Herero found within the German borders with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot. I shall no longer receive any women or children; I will drive them back to their people or have them fired upon. This is my decision for the Herero people.

Unable to achieve a conclusive victory through battle, Trotha ordered that captured Herero males were to be executed, while women and children were to be driven into the desert. Leutwein complained to Bülow about Trotha's actions, seeing the general's orders as ruining any chance of a settlement and intruding upon the civilian colonial jurisdiction. Having no authority over the military, the chancellor could only advise the Kaiser that Trotha's actions were "contrary to Christian and humanitarian principle, economically devastating and damaging to Germany's international reputation." After a political battle in Berlin between the civilian government and the military, Wilhelm II countermanded Trotha's decree of 2 October on 8 December, but the massacres had already begun. When the order was lifted at the end of 1904, prisoners were herded into concentration camps and given as slave labourers to German businesses. Many prisoners died of overwork and malnutrition.
The whole story is not a nice one, to put it mildly. Which brings to mind something Norman Geras wrote a while back (in a review of the remarkable story of the life and death of far-left academic Malcolm Caldwell - a story worth a post all on its own) :

That Nazi ideology was pregnant with the danger of terrible consequences is true, as virulent racism always is; but it is debatable - and indeed has been intensively debated in the historiography of Nazi Germany - whether the genocide against the Jews was a matter of fixed ideological intention from the moment Hitler took power or rather something that emerged only after the war in the East (Operation Barbarossa) had begun and out of the policy-making interactions of different parts of the Nazi regime. Given Hitler's own obsessive hatred of the Jews, Nazi ideology was bound to have disastrous consequences for European Jewry after 1933; but whether Auschwitz and the Holocaust were an inevitable product of that ideology is more open to question.
I think Norm's point is that Nazism may have been a necessary but not alone a sufficient trigger of the Shoah. I tend to wonder if there's not just a Nazi dimension, but also a German one. Wee Adolf was but a sprog when Lothar von Trotha issued his orders. Obviously not everyone in Germany felt that way - von Bulow for starters - but it was only four years since Kaiser Wilhelm had addressed German troops on their way to put down the Boxer Rebellion in these stirring words:

"Just as the Huns a thousand years ago, under the leadership of Attila, gained a reputation by virtue of which they still live in historical tradition, so may the name Germany become known in such a manner in China, that no Chinese will ever again dare to look askance at a German."

Not exactly a call to moderation, I think you'll agree - in fact almost an invitation to the kind of stuff the Japanese were doing nearly forty years later.

(I would never suggest the Germans had a monopoly on attempted genocide - if not one of the human universals, it must alas come reasonably close. Think in recent years of Indonesians and Chinese, Hutu and Tutsi, Gabra and Borana, Kalejin and Kikuyu. The big difference was that a major 'civilised' state, efficient and mechanised, was doing the killing. I'm sure if the organisation and capability of 20th century Germany had existed in 11th century England, the tolls of St Brices Day and the Harrying of the North would have been higher still.)

I digress greatly from the original theme - Google Maps and armchair travelling.

Mick Hartley has taken a break from attacking the Catholic Church to point out the photographs taken by Jan Smith of the many abandoned vessels around the peninsula of Nouadhibou, at the very top end of Mauretania (NW Africa). The place is a massive ships graveyard, though I'm not sure why. This site says it's cheaper to dump than scrap :

For years, Mauritanian harbour officers were so corrupt, that they let ships be discarded in the harbour in exchange of some cash. Discarding a ship is quite expensive for a company, so during the decades, lots of unwanted ships ended up in the Harbour of Nouadibou. A few years ago, the situation was so out of control, that even Mauritanians started to worry. Nowadays there’s a project from the European Union to refloat all these junk and take them away, or destroy in situ (with explosions) the remaining wrecks.
While Jan Smith says its something to do with insurance - "they are most vestiges of the rampant insurance fraud (where boats are simply abandoned) that takes place in those waters" - how dumping a ship in plain sight makes fraud possible I don't know - wouldn't it be better to sink it ?

Either way, one can waste much time in scanning Google Maps for boats. But what's this on Wikipedia ?

"...the largest industry is processing iron ore transported by train from the interior mining towns of Zouérat and Fdérik. These freight trains can be as much as 3 km long, reputedly the longest in the world. The railway also carries passengers and calls at Choum. "

Another line to follow ! The railway company has a neat zoomable map of the line here. It's easy to find the iron ore terminal on Google maps, and there are railway maintenance sheds just to the north, but tracing the line across the desert is tricky. It can be done, however, and the line eventually ends up in the scarred, nightmare umber open mines at Zouerat and (especially) Fderik. You can spot a few trains en route, but none 3km long - more like 1.5. In Arizona a couple of years back we stopped to film a container train which took 15 minutes to pass.

(For more armchair travelling, samples from John Marsh's The Skeleton Coast, and a little further south and a lot colder(their discoverer, Marion du Fresne, christened them "Iles des Froides"), the full text of No Pathway Here, the story of South Africa's annexation of the remote Prince Edward and Marion Islands, lying in the Southern Ocean halfway between South Africa and the Antarctic. Lots of stories of shipwreck and (sometimes) survival.

Those South Africans call a spade a spade. "Human waste flows into the sea at Shit Creek")

Friday, April 02, 2010

Immigration: the need for controls

I don't think I can disagree with a single word of this WalesHome piece by Michael Jones, a former open borders advocate. Here's a paragraph or two, but read the whole thing :

Some people say soothingly that one should relax about this. The whole history of Britain’s population, they assure us, is one of ebb and flow of different peoples and tribal groups. All of these facts are correct, but the way they are presented is thoroughly questionable. Past migrations, of Jews and Jutes, of Celts and Romans, of Angles and Saxons, have never been on anything like the current scale. Around 95% of Britain’s pre-war population had been born here, and the other 5% was mostly made up of English and Scots whose parents had happened to be serving the Empire.

Historically, we have been a country of emigration, not immigration. Ashkenazis entered Western Europe by the tens of thousands, not by the millions. The Normans, although they seized land and power, were a tiny elite. The Dutch who arrived in the 16th Century were, in proportion to the whole population, a much tinier group. Even the 50,000 Huguenots from France only ever amounted to a hundredth of Britain’s total population, and they arrived over a period of 50 years.

Today, immigration adds 1% to Britain’s population every two years, or more than 5% every decade. Inevitably, this has led to changes in the queuing system for council housing, which once kept established working class communities together, but has now been adapted to meet the needs of new arrivals, who have tended to occupy housing units in higher densities and have settled in enclaves, cut off from their neighbours by great walls of ignorance, by impossible language barriers and by a growing, cold dislike. In the south east of England and around the Pennine towns in the north, there are places where people from different racial origins never meet, never talk, never go into each others’ homes. The result is the worst of both worlds: stoking up resentment against foreigners: and stoking up resentment against the authorities. The question that pro-free movement advocates should ask is: will the descendants of today’s huddled masses join the middle class or form a new underclass?

Of course, we have no crystal balls, but leaders with sound judgment on core policies don’t play dice with the fabric of organisational life. We’re lucky to live in a country cautiously built up by our ancestors through institutions like Parliament, the monarchy, Magna Carta, the system of justice and, at a more modest level, the pubs, chapels, local choirs, co-operatives, county regiments, trade unions, local rugby teams, and thousands of other local voluntary clubs and societies. Without a stable population there cannot be the values, habits, understandings and loyalties that enable us to live as we do and perhaps sometimes to act for the benefit of others in less fortunate places.

I chipped in with a comment about the secondary impact of immigration on Wales - the westward shift of the English which is damaging so many Welsh-speaking communities - and which I have blogged here, here , here and here.

Lackey and Sweeney

Hippies, VW camper van, autoharp, guitar, denim skirts, 1973 - what's not to like ? Pull up a floor cushion and have another piece of barm-brack with that Earl Grey !

Billy Lackey and Kathleen Sweeney from "Junk Store Songs For Sale", a 1973 Village Thing LP recorded somewhere in Gloucestershire.

I know nothing about them except that Kathleen was pretty obviously at that period of her life a Type 2 girl, and that an LA guitarist called Steve Waddington has one of their hand-made Appalachian Dulcimers. Whether that be this Steve Waddington I dinna ken.

What Day Is It Today ?

According to Google, it's Hans Christian Andersen's 205th birthday.

I'm sure the writer of The Loveliest Rose In The World would have preferred that another, slightly more important event be marked.

Old Hans was quite a modernist :

"It was another Easter morning, bright as that morning when Valdemar Daae thought he had found the gold. Among those tumbledown walls beneath the stork's nest I could hear a faint voice chanting a psalm. It was Anna Dorothea's last hymn.

"There was no window with glass, only a hole in the wall; but the sun set itself there like a lump of gold, and as she gazed on its glory her heart broke and her eyes grew fixed. The stork had given her shelter to the day of her death. I sang at her funeral," said the Wind, "as I had sung at her father's; I know where his grave is, and her grave, but no one else knows.

"Now there are new times, changed times. The old highway is lost in the fields, old cemeteries have been made into new roads, and soon the railway will come, with its train of carriages, and rush over graves where lie those whose very names are forgoten. All passed away, passed away!"

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not Just America

Edward Harrison at Credit Writedowns :

At the heart of America’s problems is an economic policy which is designed to keep wages down but consumption up. That necessarily means more bubbles, more debt, more wealth and income inequality, and consequently more strife and social unrest when the gravy train ends. You cannot expect to hollow out a country’s manufacturing base, set up a bunch of McJobs to replace it, and still have consumers spend to support the economy.
Well, you can, but it can't go on indefinitely. What's keeping wages down ? A toxic combination of union weakness and mass immigration. What keeps consumption up ? Debt. That scenario sounds like the UK to me.

Smash Your Discrimination and Leave Ours Alone !

Who'd have thunk it ? India is cool with outlawing British forms of discrimination - we've just got to leave Indian forms of discrimination alone.

India is set to clash with Britain over Westminster's new Equality Bill which outlaws caste discrimination as a form of racism.

Ministers in London have become increasingly concerned about discrimination and persecution against lower caste Indians in Britain following a report last year which claimed thousands had been ill-treated because of their caste. The report, by the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance, surveyed 300 British Asians and cited cases of children being bullied at school, bus inspectors refusing to work with lower caste drivers, and employees being sacked after their bosses discovered their caste status.

Until now victims of caste discrimination in Britain have had no recourse to law. India also has legislation outlawing caste discrimination but is fiercely opposed to any comparison with racism. The Indian government has made its views known to British delegations at the UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva and at a European Union-India Human Rights Dialogue last month.

"India's position on this issue has been clear and consistent. Caste and race discrimination are two separate issues and there is no case to equate the two. We are opposed to attempts at international fora to equate the issues," said an official source.

Obviously some forms of discrimination are more acceptable than others. It's the culture, innit ?

UPDATE - for those interested, I wrote about caste killing in India here, caste privilege (not what you'd think - there are government privileges/quotas for lower castes) in India here, and noted a caste killing in Europe here.

Charles le Gai Eaton 1921-2010

The original canary and author of Islam and the Destiny of Man has died. I blogged his take on "The Wishy-Washy Standards of Contemporary Christianity" and also linked to this snippet of biography.

But the half was not told me. He really was a poor little rich boy :

The book tells how, for 10 years before her son was born in 1921, Eaton's mother Ruth – a feminist, Ibsenite, Wagnerian and Nietzschean by his account – had been the mistress of Francis Errington, an eminent ecclesiastical lawyer many decades her senior. Errington was unhappily married to a "lady of title" with whom he already had a grown-up family. When Ruth became pregnant with their only child she refused an abortion, but agreed to collude in an elaborate deception that would preserve them both from scandal.

This involved her making a short trip to Canada where (after a whirlwind romance) she would "marry" a fictitious husband – the "father" of her child. The phantom was given a name, Charles Eaton (after a department store in Montreal); a face (a photograph of a handsome young officer friend of Errington's who had died in the trenches); and a cover story that would explain his absence.

Eaton, the story went, was a mining engineer who would be offered a wonderful job in Italy. Shortly after the birth of his child there on April 5 1921, he would die of a ruptured appendix, leaving Ruth a "widow" with a baby in tow.

As the Italian doctors who "failed" to diagnose appendicitis were "not to be trusted", her child would be born at a hotel in Lausanne. That element of the story was true at least. But Charles Le Gai Eaton was born not in April but three months earlier, on January 1 1921, with his real father, Francis Errington, dancing attendance nearby.

After a period in Switzerland, Ruth and her baby returned to the family home in London, where Gai was brought up in an almost entirely female household, the object of his mother's possessive and eccentric devotion. He shared her bed until he was six and learned nothing at all about religion, Ruth having warned a succession of nursemaids that they would be dismissed if they ever mentioned God.

Apart from the elderly gentleman Gai knew only as "Uncle", outside the family they had few friends – Ruth having advised her son that the English in general were "cold, stupid, lacking intellect, lacking culture, and either sexually repressed or perverts".

In 1933 Errington's wife died, and three months later an astonished Gai wrote in his diary: "Maman is going to marry Uncle... Uncle is no real relation of ours. He was a great friend of my father." When his mother suggested the boy address her new husband as "father" and change his name to Errington, Gai demurred, confiding to his diary that it would be unfair to the memory of his "real" father who had died so tragically young.

It was when he was 16 and at Charterhouse that his mother finally told him the truth, although she made him promise never to let Errington know that he knew. So began an elaborate charade: "On April 5 each year [Gai] received a birthday gift from his father, both of them knowing this was not his birthday, and each year in the Christmas holidays his father took him to a Swiss resort to skate and ski so that they were constantly together. Still his lips were sealed."

Blimey. Poor kid. It's true that children are adaptable, but all the same ...

The upshot of such a complicated web of deception was that Gai "became obsessed with the need to discover Truth".
Well you would, wouldn't you ? His mother sounds like a "woman of character" - a.k.a. utter pointy-head. I wonder what her maiden name was - from the above it sounds as if it may not have been Eaton ? In fact (the wonder of google and genealogy) she was born Ruth Frances Muddock.

"There were long periods when she was so infuriated with the English that she forbade English to be spoken around the house, only French and Russian were acceptable"

It was not long before he was reintroduced to an old acquaintance, a Jamaican artist, Corah Hamilton, who was living in London. They married in 1956 and she soon gave birth to the first of their three children.

Their happiness, however, seems to have unhinged his mother, Ruth, who became viciously abusive about her new black daughter-in-law, and it was with some relief that in 1959 Eaton accepted an offer of a post as director of the Colonial Office's information office in Jamaica.

Hmm. One knoweth not what to say. But he had a robust view on Muslim immigration :

Eaton decried the despots and human rights abuses in the Muslim world, and, closer to home, held a hard line on Muslim immigrants: "It is time for the Muslims in Britain to settle down, to find their own way, to form a real community and to discover a specifically British way of living Islam," he noted. "The constant arrival of uneducated, non English-speaking immigrants from the subcontinent makes that more difficult. This is no curry island."
He was wrong about that last sentence, wasn't he ? The Telegraph obit also contains this wee factoid :

Until about 1990, Britain's white converts were reckoned to number 5,000; that number is now thought to have grown to between 10,000 and 20,000.

UPDATE - "A philosopher, author of genius and profound insight, Gai Eaton was widely revered by the community as the closest thing to a towering patriarch in articulating Islam for modern Britain", said Dr. Muhammad "Two million Muslim terrorists" Abdul Bari.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Military Question

I've been re-reading Arthur Bryant's 'Turn of the Tide', the memoirs of the Brit WW2 C.I.G.S. Alan Brooke, in which Alanbrooke laments the slaughters of the first world war. The young subalterns who died in those days would have been the senior officers of 1940, and Brooke had a low opinion of many of those filling their places.

" my capacity as Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, and later as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, one of my major difficulties arose from the paucity of real high-class leaders. The First World War had unfortunately taken the cream of our manhood. Those that had fallen were the born leaders of men, in command of companies or battalions. It was always the best that fell by taking the lead. Those that we had lost as subalterns, captains and majors in the First World War were the very ones we were short of as colonels, brigadiers, and generals in the Second World War."

Alanbrooke, Notes On My Life, Ch 3.

He thought the best and the bravest had gone, leaving the second-raters, a view which seems to have been widely shared between and after the wars (in James Barlow's 1960 novel the Patriots, the hero, an Arnhem paratrooper, beats up a man for airing them, seeing it as a slight on his dead comrades).

Yet the Germans lost a lot of people in WW1, but still were the best fighting army in WW2, with excellent generals too. A good job Hitler kept over-ruling them.

Did they lose fewer young officers in WW1 than we did ? Did their juniors not 'lead from the front' ? Or was the WW2 performance down to the generally-admitted high standards of competence and (especially) initiative of German NCOs ? In other words, why did the WW1 slaughter seem to harm us more than them ? Or were the same theories about the consequences of the lost leaders aired in Germany too ?