Saturday 25 November 2017

The Little University on the Prairie

Apparently there is a plan in Scotland to pay students £8000 per year to study. Scottish students already have their fees paid by the taxpayer. The idea now is that they should be paid the equivalent of the "living wage" to study. This all begins to get rather expensive for the tax payer. But is it worth it?

A while back I came across an exam paper from the late nineteenth century. The task involved translating various passages from English literature into Ancient Greek. With a bit of effort I could imagine doing the reverse of this. Give me a few months, a dictionary and a grammar and I could probably make a stab at translating a bit of Plato or the Bible. But to translate Shakespeare into the language of Homer, to translate Milton into the language of Xenophon, this is a task I could not imagine being able to do.  Yet there were students from an unsung Scottish university able to do something that nearly all of us today would consider to be impossible.

We have a habit of looking down on the past as something superseded. Look at those awful late Victorians with their “white man’s burden” and their dreadful views about everything. How lucky we are to be so enlightened. How terrible it must have been for them to live in such darkness. But if you ever have the chance to read a work of scholarship from this period, you might be surprised to discover the level that was attained. Civil servants in India would produce scholarly editions of the Vedas as a hobby. Our man in Baghdad could actually speak fluent Arabic in various dialects and understood the history of the area and the people who lived there. It was for this reason that he could give sensible advice to the Government.

The reason these people could do these things is that university education in the late nineteenth century was of a very high standard indeed. Whatever people studied required hard work and serious intelligence. It didn’t much matter what someone studied, because any employer would immediately recognise that a degree from even the most humble Scottish university qualified someone to take on whatever burden was assigned. Does it do that now?

When I wander into the university library the first thing that I meet is a wall of sound. It may as well be Ronnie of the Ronettes telling me to be her baby for all that this present building resembles any previous place I have ever tried to study. I remember going to the University Library in Cambridge and finding silence. Anyone who spoke more than a couple of whispers immediately got a dirty look. No-one went to study with their friends. But we have progressed. Now we have a social space. Now we have collaborative learning. I would prefer frankly to leave collaborating to the French.

 I find myself frequently in a room where I am the only one actually reading a book. I open my book of Russian literature and begin reading. I continue doing this until I’ve read enough and leave. This is what I think studying is. But I am the only one doing it. The first thing that everyone else does when they enter the room is to open their laptop. They then open their mobile phone and proceed to switch attention from the one to the other until this becomes boring and they then proceed to chat with their friends. On the laptop is everything that they need to study. All the lecture notes have been written up with nice bullet points. Nearly everything that has to be read can be found on something called a “virtual learning environment”. It is rarely if ever necessary to even go and look for a book, let alone read it.

Some good work is still being done. Intelligence is a constant. The same proportion of the population is very able as was the case one hundred years ago. But a university degree no longer tells me that someone is even moderately able. Governments increased student numbers to such an extent that people with IQs of 100 and sometimes even less can obtain a degree. This logically follows from expanding numbers towards 50%. The standard has to be lowered otherwise those towards the bottom of the ability range would have to be kicked out. But this also means that those towards the top are unable properly to distinguish themselves from anyone else. It also means that there are courses I have come across where the set texts include Little House on the Prairie.

The tragedy is that I see able students who work hard, who find it impossible to get a job that is suitable for their ability. Sometimes they choose to do a further course to try to distinguish themselves, sometimes they start at the bottom doing a job they could have done at sixteen.  Many jobs that used to be done by school leavers now require five or more years of education, just to gain a piece of paper that is then used to set up a sort of closed shop to protect those who have it from competition.

Degrees that teach something objective have retained some of their merit. But many of the courses in the Arts and Social Sciences are simply teaching young people how to be unemployed. The problem is that far, far too many people are studying these courses. The only merit in medieval history or philosophy is that they provide a mental training that can then be transferred to for instance translating the Vedas or Shakespeare into Greek. But when you make these courses open to those of moderate ability they cease to provide a mental training for the ablest and cease to distinguish the ablest from the moderate. What then do they do? Well you might teach about life on the prairie in the nineteenth century America, but this won’t help you do anything and it won’t distinguish you from anyone else. Anyway we knew all of this already from watching television. 

The Arts and Social Sciences in particular have been taken over by the Left. We now have books dealing with Feminism in Spinoza and post colonialism in Macbeth. The only way to pass is to toe the party line. We now have safe spaces even and trigger warnings. Here's a warning. You are not going to like this blog. Whatever is the latest fad, we must import it. Dare not question it. Is this really worth paying so much for?

At some point in the near future someone is going to demand that I call them “ze” instead of “she” or “he”. Fair warning. I will laugh. I won't be able to restrain myself.  This is what is now coming out of our universities. We must accept without question and without argument whatever the latest left-wing fad is. But to accept in this way is to give up the ability to think for yourself. But the only purpose of going to university to study the Arts and Social Sciences is to question everything, argue about everything and think for yourself. Without this you have nothing and certainly nothing worth paying for.

Saturday 11 November 2017

Bought and sold for RT gold

Does it matter very much that Alex Salmond has chosen to appear on Russia Today (RT)? No. I sometimes glance at this site. It has a perspective, but then again so does the BBC, CNN and the New York Times. RT has a Russian perspective. It’s not a perspective we often have access to in the Western media, so in that sense RT can be useful. I find some of its reporting and opinion pieces to be very biased, but others are no worse than what we get in British newspapers or television. But then every story on every website has to be evaluated critically. The important point to remember is that RT is funded by the Russian Government and it has a goal. This goal is to further the interests and foreign policy objectives of Russia.

Does this make RT illegitimate? No. The BBC World Service likewise has a goal. Do you think that we fund radio programmes in obscure languages out of the goodness of our hearts? In Britain too I find that the BBC has a perspective that it relentlessly pushes. It is most often very fair and balanced in its coverage of politics, but at the heart of it all is political correctness. Most people, perhaps nearly everyone who works for the BBC believes in this or at least won’t question it. I doubt it would be possible to get a job if during an interview someone expressed doubts about aspects of feminism, gay marriage or climate change. So while it is possible to describe much of the coverage on RT as propaganda, so to it is equally possible to describe the BBC.

But why would Alex Salmond choose to appear on RT? It may be chance. He may simply have received an offer from the Russians. He lost his job earlier this summer and has the right to work where he pleases. But it might be worth reflecting for a moment on what he is doing.

During the Soviet Union various Labour politicians and Trade Union leaders made trips to see how socialism was working out. Many of them went to see a collective farm and reported back on how wonderfully it all was working out and how progressive and efficient it all seemed. When travelling around the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in the 1930s they noticed no famine, nor in other parts of the Soviet Union did they notice any repression. This continued right up until the end of the Soviet Union. Various Labour politicians and trade union leaders supported Soviet foreign policy goals, such as nuclear disarmament and in return were given money by the Soviet state.

The Soviet Union was Britain’s enemy all through the Cold War. The greatest threat to our existence came from Moscow. We also, of course, were a threat to them. But let’s be clear. There is a word for siding with the enemy during wartime.

I think the West has made a terrible mess of relations with Russia since 1991. We have pushed the EU and NATO right up to Russia’s border and crossed Russian strategic red lines. There was a chance back in the early 1990s to include Russia in NATO and give it some sort of EU membership. We could have had a relationship of cooperation and friendship, but chose instead to continue the Cold War rivalry. No doubt the Russians were to blame also.

The Yeltsin years were humiliating.  Russians may have been treated with some friendship, the Americans even sent aid, but they were also treated as if they were all useless, second rate drunks.  The financial crisis of 1998 showed that democracy and free market economics could lead to poverty.  In order to avoid further descent they turned, or rather returned to the familiar pattern of leadership. Putin has brought Russia back to being something close to a great power again. But in doing so he has come into conflict with the West. He has become our enemy.

The final straw for the Russians was Ukraine. Just as the Americans would not allow missiles to be sited in Cuba, the Russians could not allow Ukraine to join the West. They fought to stop this and they won. But in return the Americans deliberately set out to wreck the Russian economy and achieved that goal. The rouble fell like a stone in 2014 and sanctions had an effect on the living standards of ordinary Russians. But at the same time Russian foreign policy was succeeding. Their intervention in Syria while brutal was the key to defeating ISIS. Russian intelligence actually understood what was going on because they had been in Syria for decades and spoke the language, knew the history and understood the differences between the people there. The CIA as usual understood nothing.

So not only is Putin an enemy, he is a dangerous enemy. His intelligence services are rather good and his military forces are superior to anything we can put in place. If Russia wanted to annex the Baltic States, it could do so almost instantly and there would be nothing we could do to stop them except drop nuclear weapons on Moscow.

The Russians didn’t take kindly to having their economy wrecked. Moreover they didn’t take kindly to how the West once more made a mess of the Middle East by first encouraging revolt in Libya and by means of that example enabling chaos in Syria. They were right of course. It is for this reason that the Russians are out for revenge.

Naturally Alex Salmond understands none of these things. He is bumptious, fanatical about Scottish independence, but not very bright. Putin like every other leader in history has made mistakes, but he is conducting foreign policy in a very clever way. Russian interests are being advanced, Russian power is being increased. Above all he is attempting to weaken the West.

One way in which the Russians are attempting to weaken the West is by encouraging secession movements abroad. The Russians have a rather paradoxical attitude to secession. It’s fine when it’s in Russia’s strategic interest, but otherwise it is forbidden. Thus Crimea is allowed to secede from Ukraine, but any attempt by Chechnya to secede from Russia will be crushed by force. Because Russia will crush by force any secession movement at home, it feels free to encourage, for example, the Catalans in their attempt to secede from Spain.

Spain, of course, is not exactly an important military power anymore and hasn’t really been since it lost its fleet in 1588. Britain on the other hand is rather more serious. We have nuclear weapons and we still have reasonable armed forces, despite David Cameron’s attempt to all but disband them.

Long term Mr Putin is trying to weaken the West and weaken NATO. What better way to do this than see Britain’s armed forces neutralised. If that happened in conjunction with renewed American isolationism, then NATO would cease to be a serious force. It would be left with the Germans and the French. At that point a dash from Smolensk to the Baltic coast in order to get back the Baltic States looks feasible.

So it isn’t accidental that the Russians would want Mr Salmond on their television screens. Mr Putin is happy to stir up trouble in Spain. He will give money, he will use the IT skills at his disposal to help the Catalan secessionists. It will be difficult to prove anything. Were the Russians really involved in the US Presidential Election? Did they interfere with the French presidential election? Who can say? But whatever they are doing they are doing it for a reason. They want to increase Russian power by destabilising the West.

Is Russia our enemy? Yes. I wish it wasn’t, but Russia is acting towards the West in general like a hostile power. I believe we should make peace with the Russians. Make a deal over Ukraine. But until that happens we are in the midst of a new Cold War. What is more Mr Putin has electronic means that were unavailable to his Soviet predecessors.  

So the Russians will give Mr Salmond a platform to preach secession. If he was a leader of a Russian Republic they would kill him for doing so. But that’s OK he is only trying to harm Britain. If he could only succeed in breaking up Britain Russia would have one less enemy to worry about.

Mr Salmond will probably do little harm. I can’t imagine many people wishing to watch his programme. But let us be clear, by taking Russian money and using it to peddle propaganda that the Russians are sympathetic too, he is acting in a rather ignoble tradition.

For long term strategic reasons the Russians would love to see the UK broken up. Russia is acting as a hostile power and is a strategic threat to our allies in Eastern Europe. Anyone who does not recognise this threat is simply uninformed. In any future elections the Russians are liable to take the side of those who hate Britain. They may try to interfere in our democracy too. Perhaps they already have. We must be clear about this. We look back on those who took Soviet money or who failed to see the awfulness of the Soviet Union as naïve, deluded fools or worse. Taking Mr Putin’s money is no better.


Friday 10 November 2017

Bach’s wife

Many people think the greatest composer who ever lived was Johann Sebastian Bach.  There might be some debate about this. Some think Mozart was greater, others Beethoven. It doesn’t much matter. If you look at a list of the greatest composers these nearly always make up the top three. But who is the greatest female composer? Is there a woman composer who ranks with Bach? No. How many women composers would make a list of the top one hundred? Perhaps Hildegard von Bingen a medieval abbess might just sneak into the bottom of the list? Why should this be so?

The assumption made by feminists is that men and women are equal in every respect and that there is no real difference between us. For this reason whenever a difference occurs it must be explained as being not due to difference but due to something else. The absence of a female Shakespeare is explained by Virginia Wolfe as owing to the absence of a room of her own which the hypothetical sister of Shakespeare might have lived in. There is always someone or something else to blame for the lack of female success in any particular area. Usually the prime culprit is a man or men in general. There are no great female composers because women historically have been oppressed by a patriarchal society that prevented them from realising their talent.

The ability to blame someone else for your own failure is the key to that failure. Success is difficult to achieve, far, far easier to blame the dog for my failure to turn in my homework. If you give someone an excuse for failing do not be surprised when they grasp it. A struggling woman composer who is given a ready-made excuse that her failure is due to her sex will find that excuse far more palatable than that it is due to her lack of talent. This is the essence of the problem with feminism and one of the reasons why I am not a feminist. It provides a reason for female failure and someone else to blame other than the woman herself. It causes the failure.

If I count correctly Bach had twenty children. He had seven with his first wife Maria Barbara and thirteen with his second wife Anna Magdalena. Bach could achieve greatness and he still had the time to father twenty children. How could he possibly have done this? Could a woman have given birth to twenty children and still have had time to achieve greatness as a composer? My guess is that this would simply be impossible. While being pregnant it would be difficult to focus on composing and while looking after all these children it likewise would have been difficult to pay complete attention to your latest string quartet. Nappies and notes do not mix well.

The reason for the absence of female composers is probably due to the difficulty of combining motherhood with composing. But as many women know there is a difficulty in combining anything with motherhood. Having children is a full time job. It’s not the lack of a room that prevented Shakespeare’s sister from writing her plays, it’s that she married and looked after many children. If she hadn’t married she might like Jane Austen have become the greatest English novelist, but instead she chose to create something more important than novels. She created people.

I disagree with feminism and any other ism that strives for equality, because it fails to admit that there are real differences between people and classes of people. I don’t think that women are better than men, nor worse. We are different. Any particular woman is not limited in her talent and has the potential to be the greatest composer who ever lived. But it is contrary to experience to suggest that women and men in general have exactly the same talents. We don’t.

The fundamental difference between men and women is that only women can give birth. It is this general ability that defines who is a woman. It is this likewise which makes it ludicrous to suppose that someone can simply become a woman on a whim.  Approximately half the population can have children while half cannot. This is the difference that is at the heart of human nature. Disaster and nonsense follows if we ignore it. If a society wishes to continue, it is necessary that most women have children and ideally more than two. When Bach was composing many children died either in childhood or due to infant illnesses. It is partly for this reason that his wives had so many children. It was partly also because they didn’t have much choice. But the result was that Germany in Bach’s time did not face the problems that it faces today.

Partly because of feminism and partly because of the pill, Germany is slowly committing suicide. If you look at a list of countries by fertility rate, Germany comes somewhere near the bottom. Every German woman on average gives birth to around 1.4 children. In order for the German population to increase, this rate needs to be around 2.1. Germans are living longer than anyone else in their history, but the number of young Germans who are paying taxes to look after these elderly Germans is falling.

In most of the First World there is exactly the same problem. Japan also has a falling population because Japanese women give birth to on average only 1.5 children. But there is a difference. While the population of Japan may decline and this may bring with it major difficulties, the Japanese population will remain essentially the same. It will stay Japanese. The reason for this is that like other First World Asian countries, the percentage of the Japanese population who are from elsewhere is tiny.

In the Europe and the United States, on the other hand, we have responded to low birth rates by trying to import the missing part of our population. In many parts of the developing world there is a very high average birth-rate. It may not be as high as that of Bach’s wives, but there are many places where women have on average families of five, six or even seven children.

Where is Germany to find the missing children that German women don’t give birth to? It can’t very well get all of them from other European countries, because in practically every European country women have low birth rates. So Germany must look outside Europe.

If you continue long enough down this route, do you still have Germany? Perhaps, but Bach would recognise little about this future Germany. He might not even understand the language spoken.

If there is a solution, it is this. European governments have to make it easier for women to have children. It makes no sense to have free healthcare but not to have free childcare. There is no point spending billions on defence if there is no longer going to be a country to defend thirty or forty years from now. Women have a unique talent: the ability to create life. This is more important than all the symphonies ever written. Bach’s wives did not become great composers, but they gave birth to them. Not only to them, they gave birth to all the generations that followed them. We must pay women to have children or else pay their husbands enough to look after them. We must respect motherhood as the most crucial of roles in society. We must also accept that it simply is not possible to combine composing and childbearing.

Feminism is trying to turn women into men. It is saying we can only be great if we do what men do. But this is to misunderstand that our essence is to do what men cannot do. Women and men should not be limited. We should have the same opportunity and potential and the ability to choose what we do or do not do. But it is vital that we accept that there are inherent differences. The feminist attempt to eradicate this difference and insist that there is absolute equality between men and women means that women are unable or unwilling to fulfil the one role that we alone can fulfil. The role of the mother is more crucial to society than the frivolity of composing. If we had more women like Bach’s wife there would be no demographic crisis in Europe and no need to import people from elsewhere. But instead we prefer to elect women who will never have children and look to them and others like them as the example to be followed. We then complain about the immigration that results from this childlessness. Neither of Bach’s wives was a feminist. If they had been, there would have been no Bach. In striving to make people the same feminism instead sows discord and division. Instead of making people equal it strives to make one half of humanity superior. Far from improving the lot of women, feminism makes them barren, far from being a productive way of thinking it is quite sterile.

Saturday 4 November 2017

The trial of Effie Deans

Imagine if thirty years ago someone had been murdered in Cambridge. Suddenly the police arrive and knock on my door and accuse me of being the murderer. They take me into custody, question me and eventually charge that on the night of November 4th 1987 I did wilfully and with malice aforethought murder one Scott Walters.  What would I say in my defence?

The trial of Effie Deans

I might say that I’m fairly sure I was in Cambridge on that particular night, but I don’t remember anything else about it. All that I can remember is that I didn’t murder anybody. At this point no doubt I would get someone to defend me. What would my lawyer ask?

He would no doubt begin asking the police about their evidence. Do they have any DNA linking me to the crime? No. Do they have any objects, possessions or fibres of clothing linking me to the murder? No. Do they have any witnesses? No. Do they have a confession? No. Do they in fact have any evidence at all? No. Is there a case for me to answer? Obviously not. This we should hope is the same for every crime.

If I am to be accused of grievous bodily harm or burglary or even cheating in my exams there has to be evidence even for a case to be investigated. What’s more in order for me to be put on trial this evidence ought to be such that it can potentially convince beyond a reasonable doubt.

But what if I said that Scott Walters put his hand on my knee or groped my breasts while we were both at the college disco or even that we both got drunk and went to bed without my consenting to this? What then?

Likewise I should be able to provide evidence. Is there any DNA evidence? No. Are there any witnesses? No. Although lots of people were there at the college disco, no-one can remember that particular night in 1987. Is there any other sort of evidence? No. All that there is my testimony that Scott Walters did something awful in 1987.

Should the police investigate? What if Scott Walters says he hardly remembers me? We were at college at the same time, but he can’t even remember what I looked like. Alternatively what if he says that he did indeed sleep with me? He can remember it clearly, but it was consensual.

I might disagree with Scott Walters. I might say he was violent and afterwards I had bruises all over my body because of his assault. The police might then ask me do you have any photographs? No. Are there any witnesses to these bruises? No. Did you tell anyone at the time? No. Are there witnesses to your being distressed? No. Did you go to a doctor or a nurse? No. There is only conflicting testimony and memories that differ.

Under these circumstances is there a case? No. During a trial there is a commonly an accuser and an accused. If people could be relied on always to tell the truth there would be no need for trials at all. Law as we know it would never have developed at all. We would simply ask people to tell the truth and they would do it.

But, because people commonly tell lies we need evidence. If someone says I was assaulted last night we can find witnesses, we can find DNA we can find fibres or whatever, but we just can’t do this thirty years later.

It is for this reason that we ought not to even attempt to investigate let alone try such crimes if they occurred at such a remote time that there is no longer any possibility of finding evidence. It may or may not be the case that a crime occurred on November 4th 1987, but we unfortunately have no means of discovering the truth.

If I reported that my house was burgled thirty years ago, but that I have no witnesses to the crime and no evidence of damage or even that anything was taken, then I’m sorry but there is not going to be any sort of investigation. Whether or not there was a crime, there is just no evidence. It was all repaired or replaced long ago. There is therefore no case to answer.

Something very ugly however is happening at the moment. We are attempting to convict people without evidence, purely on the basis of testimony. In no other form of criminal investigation would this be considered an acceptable method of arriving at the truth. The best way, indeed the only way to arrive at justice is to make each case depend solely on the evidence. When we convict when there is a lack of evidence or even insufficient evidence to overcome a reasonable doubt then we are certain to have miscarriages of justice.

Sexual assault is an emotive subject, but it must be investigated and tried just like any other serious crime. There has to be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in order for us to be certain that a conviction is justified. If a sexual assault occurs of whatever kind, the person assaulted should report it immediately. This will enable the police to collect evidence, gather statements from any witnesses and look for physical evidence that might still be available. But it cannot possibly be enough that I say he assaulted me, while he says he didn’t. I might be lying or seeking revenge, or trying to extort something. It is human to lie. We are all potential liars.

It cannot also be enough to say I was drunk. No doubt Scott Walters was drunk too. Did I obtain consent from him before sexually assaulting him? Maybe he didn’t want to have sex with me and woke up the next morning regretting it. But like many inhibited British people we had drunken sex. This happens every night on numerous occasions in Britain and between thousands of long term couples. Do we all sexually assault each other because we were all incapable of giving consent? If so we are potentially going to have to turn Britain into one rather large prison. Which of us has never had sex while rather drunk? Go ahead, you throw the first stone.

We live in a permissive society where people meet strangers and immediately have sex with them. This very permissiveness depends on us requiring evidence that sexual assaults have occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. Otherwise who would dare sleep with a stranger? If everyone I sleep with can accuse me of sexual assault based on no more than his testimony, then it would be irrational to sleep with anyone. It could send me to jail for years. This is no longer permissive. It rapidly becomes puritanical even tyrannical.

In order to determine whether a sexual assault has occurred we need the same standards of evidence as any other crime. What are these? We need witnesses, DNA evidence, physical evidence, or confession. We need something objective.

People’s lives and reputations are being ruined because of a simple accusation without any further evidence. Other people are being sent to jail simply because someone said they did something and they cannot prove that they didn’t. We would not allow this situation to exist with regard to any other crime, but somehow we have allowed a situation to develop where the mere accusation of any sort of sexual assault is enough to ruin the life of the one accused. This is unjust. This is dangerous.

I’m sorry but if you were sexually assaulted and there was evidence of it at the time, you ought to have gone to the police. Now that there is no evidence apart from your testimony, there is nothing to investigate. A crime worthy of a long prison sentence may have occurred all those years ago, but whatever evidence there was has long since disappeared. There can be no trial, because there is no evidence. There is no case.

We take as evidence that a serious crime has occurred that people immediately report them. My failure to report a burglary thirty years ago suggests that there may not have been a burglary or that I realised that although there definitely had been a burglary I had no evidence beyond my own testimony that it occurred. But if I didn’t have sufficient evidence thirty years ago, how can I expect to have it now. The fact that lots of people are suddenly accusing others of crimes does not lessen the requirement that I supply objective evidence.   

An ugly witch hunt is happening at the moment. People are being encouraged to make accusations based only on their own testimony without any other tangible evidence. They are described as being brave for doing this. This encourages more and more people to be brave. The mob whips itself up into a frenzy looking for new victims. The mob requires no more evidence than testimony. To accuse is the same as to condemn.

Halloween is past. Let us call off the witch hunt. Rather let the police investigate and if there is sufficient evidence try each case in the courts. But an accusation is not proof of guilt. The assumption of innocence and the requirement to convict only when we are without reasonable doubt is the foundation of the rule of law. The freedom to live our lives without fear of arbitrary arrest depends on it.  Without it we have no justice at all and no way of avoiding miscarriages of justice. Let us be clear. The foundation of the law is evidence. Without it we don’t have law. We have mere arbitrariness and the whim of the police, the caprice of a judge. Evidence is the only thing I have to defend myself with. Without it I have no defence.  But evidence cannot simply be that I remember that you did this to me thirty years ago. It cannot even be you did this to me last night, but I have no further evidence than my assertion. If that is going to be enough to send people to jail, then we will all very quickly fear the law rather than feel protected by it.

We look back upon the courts of the eighteenth century which tried my fictional namesake with horror because their laws were brutal and their punishments worse. But at least there was the rule of law when Effie Deans was tried. If I can be tried today and convicted in an atmosphere of hysteria without any evidence except someone else’s testimony I might wonder whether it might not be better to be locked up in the Heart of Midlothian waiting for my appointment in the Grassmarket.   

Saturday 28 October 2017

The Catalan handkerchief

Spain isn’t greatly liked in Britain. This has been particularly noticeable in the past few weeks as the crisis in Catalonia has developed. Quite a few writers have indulged in the pleasures of Spain bashing and for a variety of reasons. Some Eurosceptic Brexiteers have sympathised with the Catalans and used the crisis to complain about democracy in Spain and the EU. Some people have just found another underdog to champion. Plucky little Catalonia up against nasty Spain only needs Francis Drake to come to the rescue after he has finished his game of bowls.

 I’ve always taken the view that I shouldn’t encourage secession in someone else’s country if I don’t want it in my own. It is grossly hypocritical to do so. One of the features of the Scottish independence campaign that I remembered most was how people from other countries either resident in Scotland or not began taking sides. I lost count of the number of Germans who were desperate for my country to be broken up. When I asked them how they felt about Germany breaking up once more into Saxony, Bavaria etc. they became rather less enthusiastic about German forms of nationalism and didn’t at all like the idea of going back to the days prior to German unification.

Unless you have gone through this an independence campaign and felt the effects of full blown nationalism you don’t really get it. For Pro UK Scots the ongoing campaign to break up the UK is traumatic. We just want to get on with our lives without the constant fear of yet another threat from Nicola Sturgeon. It looks for the moment as if support for the SNP is in decline. The likelihood of another independence referendum happening anytime soon is decreasing by the day. If the SNP loses its overall pro-independence majority at the next Scottish Parliamentary election, which is likely, then we will more or less be safe for the foreseeable future.

But it’s been tough. Australians don’t have to worry about their country breaking up, nor do Japanese. Most people around the world don’t have this worry. It may all be good fun for the Scottish nationalist. They may enjoy this process of trying to break up the UK. But I don’t enjoy it. Out of all of the bad things that have happened in my life I would put Scottish nationalism somewhere near the top. I would rather see bubonic plague in Scotland than the disease of nationalism as the former is far easier to cure.

It is partly for this reason that I am not one of those Scottish writers who tries to see the good side of Scottish nationalism. I don’t want to play fair with these people. I don’t feel sorry for them when they keep losing. I don’t feel sympathy for their pain. I just want to defeat them and see them fully recognise that their defeat is permanent.

Nationalism is the best political card that you can play. Appealing to people’s sense of identity is tapping into something very basic and very powerful. Successfully playing this card can lead to almost anything. For the sake of their identity people are willing to lie, cheat, steal and kill. The only card historically that is stronger than nationalism is religion. Until a few hundred years ago in Europe people were willing to kill in order to make someone else believe one thing about Jesus Christ rather than something else. Most of us now believe in freedom of religion. We have put theocracy behind us as something primitive. But we haven’t yet put nationalism behind us.

The fact that nationalism is the strongest card in the deck means that responsible politicians should never play it. When things go wrong you get Spanish police bashing in the heads of people trying to vote. When things go very wrong you get Yugoslavia or Ukraine.

What have we learned?

1. There is no right to secession in European democracies. Anyone who doubts this should reflect that no-one will recognise a Catalonia that has achieved independence illegally. Therefore Catalonia is not independent. Just because I declare something to be so, it doesn’t make it so.

2. There is no right to have an independence referendum. This may be granted as was the case in the UK or in Canada. It may also be refused.

3. It is not undemocratic to refuse to allow a vote on independence. Germany, France and the USA would not allow their constituent parts a vote on independence and would certainly be willing to use force to prevent secession. They are all democracies.

4. Going down the illegal route to independence leads to capital flight and businesses deciding they no longer wish to have their headquarters in your territory. We don’t yet know if this capital will return to Barcelona and if these businesses will go back. Events are unfolding and markets don’t like uncertainty. Some capital will return as will some businesses, but some won’t.

5. People vote with their feet. Nationalism is very unpleasant for those who are not nationalists. Catalonia has many people who feel Spanish, or both Spanish and Catalan. If Catalan nationalism becomes unpleasant enough they will relocate. The same obviously is the case in Scotland. People who feel British or both Scottish and British will eventually give up on Scotland if we continue down the divisive path. Why spend your life with this sort of unpleasantness and uncertainty? The last thing either Catalonia or Scotland needs is the loss of people who don’t share the feelings of Catalan or Scottish nationalists. If nationalism makes either place unpleasant enough, these people will leave. Many of those who will leave will be those with the most talent and the best brains. If they could reflect this just might give the Scottish and Catalan nationalists the chance to reflect on the damage that they do.

6. Nationalism is a disease that is spread by nationalists. This is why I encourage the use of “Typhoid Nicola”. Scottish nationalists hope Catalonia gains independence, because if it did it would make Scottish independence more likely. Secession gives rise to secession. Yugoslavia starts with one and ends up with many. Nationalists see the example of someone else gaining independence and immediately think why not us. If you let this disease get out of control it, will come to your country eventually.

7. The European Union does not want to encourage independence movements. An independent Catalonia would start life outside both the EU single market and the Spanish internal market. Catalans may be better off now than most other Spaniards, but how much does this depend on them being part of Spain?  

8. Using force to prevent people from voting, even if this voting is illegal is stupid. Spain should simply have told pro Spanish Catalans to boycott the illegal referendum. They should have allowed pro-independence Catalans to vote freely hoping that they would win 100% of this illegal vote. Spain should then have pointed out that the vote was illegal and ignored it. All nation states have the right to enforce the law in their territory, but writing a cross on a piece of paper is not violent and need not be prevented by force.

9. There is a balance between the forces of unification and secession. We should not try to unify that which is too dissimilar. This leads to empires. Nor should we attempt to split that which is nearly the same. This leads to fragmentation. The sovereign nation state is the foundation of our security, wealth, freedom and democracy. It arose from the conflicts of early modern Europe and was developed as a means of solving these conflicts more peacefully. It is the only thing that prevents us from descending into barbarism. The sovereign nation state has rights which we all must respect or else “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

10 Nation states have the right to defend themselves against those who wish to destroy them. They have the right whether these enemies are internal or external. For this reason it is crucial that nationalists are not too relentless in their struggle. Catalonian independence hasn’t happened and won’t happen. It may take a while to sink in, for many Catalans are at present deluded by the zeal of their nationalism, but really it is best soon to accept defeat and get on with your life. All you have achieved is the temporary loss of devolution. Would that the British Government had the guts to do the same next time Typhoid Nicola started issuing one of her threats. It would require a simple majority at Westminster to repeal the Scotland Acts of 1998 and 2016 and it would take just a few bulldozers to rid us of her place of work.  Edinburgh would have one less eyesore and she could be sent homewards to think again.

Catalonia will still be a part of Spain one hundred years from now. Spain has made misjudgements. But the amount of blood spilt in defending Spanish unity while unfortunate should not be exaggerated. Leroy Pope Walker a politician from Alabama thought that the secession of the Confederacy would spill no more blood than could be wiped up with a handkerchief. He rather underestimated. Did the USA have the right to defend its territorial integrity? Yes. Does Spain have the right? Unquestionably. If sense prevails, no more blood need be spilled in Spain. But if Catalan nationalists show the same relentless refusal to give up and accept defeat as their Scottish counterparts we will need rather a lot of handkerchiefs. 

Friday 20 October 2017

The casting coach goes back to the cave

How many fat, ugly sixty five year old men do you know who have an addiction to sex? How many have beautiful wives or girlfriends in their twenties? I don’t know very many. Aging academics may chase after girls who could be their daughters and sometimes even their granddaughters and some may even succeed in catching them, but still it is not a common sight to see fat ugly sixty five year old men with the problems associated with addiction to sex with the youngest most beautiful women in the world.

Strangely I don’t know any women at all who while approaching pension age chase after handsome, athletic young men. I likewise don’t know any women at all who are addicted to sex, or who seek to have sex with multiple people who they barely know. Perhaps such women exist, but I have never met them.

The prospects for most men or women who have arrived at middle age of sex addiction would anyway appear to be bleak. How many of us could go to the latest nightclub with the expectation of finding someone young and beautiful to share the night with. Even if we should try to feed our sex addiction every night it is unlikely that most of us could succeed in satiating it unless like so many other addictions we were willing to pay. There are no doubt some fat ugly men who feel the need to pay for this sort of company. But how many could obtain it for free?

The number of fat, ugly women on the other hand who could succeed in sustaining such an addiction to young beautiful men must be vanishingly small. I have never met one, nor even heard of one. Very few men indeed would marry a woman a lot older than them. I can think of Mr Macron and a certain presently unemployed Scottish politician, but there are very good evolutionary reasons why this situation is rather rare. Marrying your mother may well be comforting, but it is unlikely to give you any children. So if this trait in masculinity ever existed it probably was evolved out some time ago.

Here we arrive at the fundamental differences between men and women. Despite what feminists and other left-wing theorists may contend there are real differences between men and women that are not going to go away. These are due to our natures as human beings being different. It is therefore simply contrary to human nature to try to make that which is different the same. To try to do so damages both.  Instead of trying to reform human nature, which is the continual goal of the Left, the task ought to be to accept it for what it is and work with it so that all human beings have the best chance to arrive at something approaching fulfilment and happiness.

Women, of course, have desires, but they are different to the desires of men. There is no casting couch for male actors whereby female executives appraise the latest talent and then attempt to bribe them to have sex with the promise of acting jobs. There are no harems where a single powerful woman has hundreds of beautiful young men so that she can have a sex with a different one every night. Women, at least for the most part, simply don’t want to have sex with multiple young men. A harem might be a male fantasy, but even the role of the sultana is a female nightmare.

Men are attracted to physically fit, beautiful young women. If you doubt this please explain why successful Hollywood actresses are generally young and beautiful rather than old and ugly? Is it because acting talent is unevenly distributed amongst the population so that it is mostly associated with the young and the beautiful? Why isn’t the latest female lead in the latest Hollywood blockbuster unfit, middle aged and plain? Shouldn’t we just pick the most talented actress, no matter what they look like?

But why do men like beautiful, fit young women? Isn’t this terribly unfair to the rest of us? Perhaps it is, but it is also down to human nature. We are as we were forty-thousand years ago.  Consciously or not, we are all conditioned to do that which will bring most children into the world. Men differ from women because they can have children with multiple women at once and because they can have children until they are much, much older. Women desire one man who can look after her while she is having children. A female movie executive doesn’t have a casting couch, because it doesn’t help her get what she wants. A harem with one woman and one hundred men is simply a waste, for the sultana needs only one man to get her pregnant, while the sultan if he has enough energy can make all one hundred wives give him children.

Men desire youth and beauty. For this reason and for this reason alone we have fashion and supermodels. Likewise, men like to watch young and beautiful women even if they cannot have relationships with them. This is why we have Hollywood and other things beside that the Internet is useful for. Ordinary men, especially ordinary old and ugly men have no chance whatsoever of sleeping with young beautiful actresses or even young beautiful shop workers. But rich, powerful men can and do even if they are old and ugly. Why is this? The reason is that women are conditioned by human nature to find men who can look after us the most attractive. The man who can provide a young woman with a cave and who can provide her with food is a better bet even if he is forty than a man of the same age who doesn’t  yet have a cave or a steady supply of mammoth meat. 

It is because riches and power bring with it the possibility of sleeping with young women that men value these things and strive to obtain them. It is for this reason also that so many men wish to display their riches and power, frequently for instance, buying a car that is much more expensive than they need. Riches and power on the other hand don’t particularly help women find a husband. What qualities are most likely to get a woman a husband? The answer is obvious: youth and beauty. It is for this reason that women value these things. It is women who obsess about fashion and clothes and creams that give the secret to eternal youth. Men don’t buy these creams.

Women traditionally gained wealth and power not by themselves but by means of marrying someone wealthy and powerful. The key then to riches and power for women was beauty and youth. Therefore men sell riches and power in order to buy young women, while young women sell youth and beauty in order to gain riches and power. Once you grasp this, you grasp human nature. It may be unfortunate, but that is how it is.

There is a lot of controversy at the moment about rich, ugly fat sixty-five year old men sleeping with beautiful young actresses. But how many actresses today are where they are because of acting talent? Do Hollywood talent scouts go to the best drama schools and pick those actresses who show the most talent as judged by the various academics. Do we likewise pick supermodels on the basis of who can best walk down a catwalk? I would suggest that we pick neither models nor actresses in this way. We pick them because they are young and beautiful.  Having been picked because they are young and beautiful (but no more talented than the rest of the population), is it reasonable for these people to complain when they find it hard to gain work when they become old and ugly?

It appears that the route to Hollywood success for many actresses has frequently involved a rather unpleasant interview and bargain with rich, powerful, ugly old men. This has been the case since Hollywood began, but unfortunately it has also been the case since the world began. Men and women are involved in trade. There is something we both buy and something we both sell.

I once listened to a conversation in a Moscow café where two beautiful Russian women discussed where they could have belly-dancing lessons. They maintained that this was the best way to attract a rich husband. I likewise remember in one Russian university seeing beautiful women arriving for class looking as if they were going to a nightclub with full make-up. They didn’t spend their time before class looking at books, rather they spent it doing their hair in the mirror. Their primary goal in going to university was to meet someone wealthy. Did these belly-dancers think too much about the personalities or the looks of their future husbands? Did they mind that they would have to sleep with these people in order to obtain their riches and power? Not a bit of it. This was all part of the deal. They were willing to trade the commodity they had (youth and beauty) for the commodity they wanted (riches and power) even if it involved marrying someone who they otherwise would not have chosen. But I’m sorry this story has been going on since the world began.

If every single woman rejected selling youth and beauty it would no longer be a valuable commodity. This would likewise be the case if every man ceased to use riches and power to buy it. But this would also require us to reject our nature as human beings.

No-one should be forced to do anything. I believe in choice. But if my belly-dancers want to use this way to find a husband, let them. It isn’t my way of trying to get a comfortable, happy life, but for them perhaps it is the only alternative to a life of drudgery in a dead-end job. Who am I to judge?

How many ugly footballers have models for wives? Is it because these footballers possess charm, wit, personality and intelligence or is it rather because they have money? We may think it unconscionable that men are willing to use their wealth to buy young beautiful women, but then it is equally unconscionable that women are willing to sell themselves.  The existence of the casting couch depends on their being rich, ugly, old executives who want to buy youth and beauty by promising acting success, but it likewise depends on these actresses being willing to sell. If there were no women willing to sell themselves in order to obtain success in acting, there would be no casting couch.

It might be better if the route into acting was based on studying at university and going to acting classes. But this would not lead to the present multi-millionaire actresses working in Hollywood. Acting talent does not equal youth and beauty.

Women do not need to sleep with anyone to obtain happiness and success in the modern world. We can study and we can find a job that will pay us enough to live comfortably. We can likewise choose a husband on the basis of his personality, his looks and his intelligence. At various points in our life people may offer us something we cannot obtain otherwise unless we sleep with them. There is a word for this. It isn’t a very nice word. However we must accept that in the world as it is huge numbers of women are willing to make this transaction, either because they don’t think they have the talent to obtain what they want otherwise or because they think the transaction is worth it.

Rich, powerful, ugly old men can persuade young women to go to bed with them. They can do this in order to give them a job, or to give them a new dress or because they are willing to spend a large amount on a meal out. It would be better by far if women rejected these transactions and were not impressed by flash cars and large bank balances. It would be better too if men simply used their personalities, intelligence and conversational ability to persuade women to share their beds. But don’t let’s be quite so outraged at the fact that rich, powerful, older, ugly men can obtain sex because they too have something to sell that women want to buy. This transaction has been going on for some time now. Indeed it is the oldest profession. 

Friday 13 October 2017

An unknown face for a new Conservative party

The great moment in modern British politics upon which all else turns was the election in 1979. The decade that followed brought in fundamental change, not because the Conservative Party sought consensus and the centre ground, but rather because it decided to take a different direction. There was disagreement, there was struggle. Sometimes it was even violent. But the results of the decade that followed are still with us.

Britain had been in decline since 1945. Both Conservatives and Labour had come to accept that governments intervened a great deal, that trade unions were powerful and had to be consulted, that nationalised industries would take a great deal of public money and produce little as a result and that the task of each party was simply to manage our decline. If this had continued, we would probably now be a rather second rate economy. The average standard of living for everyone in the UK would today be much lower if a radical Conservative Government had not been elected in 1979.

At one point it looked as if the election of Tony Blair in 1997 was also a turning point. He had embraced social democracy rather than socialism and had fundamentally changed the nature of the Labour Party. Here was the chance for something quite new and for a while it worked. The Labour Party more or less accepted capitalism and hoped to use the profits generated to increase public services and benefit everyone.

Blair’s legacy failed not because social democracy doesn’t work. There are many examples of it working in Europe and elsewhere. It failed because Blair himself became so poisonous that any idea associated with him becomes poisonous too. All of the reforms he made have now been thrown out. Labour didn’t so much go back to how politics was prior to 1979. It went further. Corbyn repudiates everything that was done to reform the UK in the 1980s. He doesn’t hope to reform capitalism, he hopes to overthrow it. He hopes to go back to October 1917.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn would be a radical turning point in British history. Of course such a government would make an almighty mess of the economy.  No doubt, after a few years of this the British public would come to its senses and vote Labour out. But would we get the chance? The problem with the Far Left is that they are not really democrats at all. They are revolutionaries. These people don’t always give up power without a struggle. This is why it is so dangerous for moderate Labour people to support Corbyn.  Perhaps they think that they could control and moderate him if he was Prime Minister. Perhaps they don’t really care what a Far Left Government would do to Britain just so long as it was a Labour Government. This above all is why voting tribally is so dangerous. Some people hate Tories so much they would prefer communists. But moderates forget what happens to Menshevism and democratic socialism when the Far Left wins. If you are lucky you get to repent for your sin of moderation, if you are unlucky you don’t.

But how should Conservatives respond to this threat? Firstly trust the British people. Labour did well at the last election partly because no-one thought Corbyn could win. This is not going to be the case at the next election. People will take it seriously that Corbyn might become Prime Minister. Secondly we must delay the next election for as long as possible. There are things that need to be done. We need above all to get out of the EU. Who knows what Labour would do with the negotiations, so don’t for goodness sake give them the chance to be involved.

For this reason Theresa May must be allowed to stay as Prime Minister until at least we leave the EU. However much some people dislike her, what matters is not to let Corbyn into power. Would it be possible to have a leadership election without having a new General Election? Would the Government even survive the bickering? This is all completely unnecessary. The task now is to wait.  

When considering who should be the next Conservative leader it is crucial to think about ideas rather than people. Few people had heard of Tony Blair much before he was elected leader, the same was the case for David Cameron. What matters is not so much the person as what the person believes.

The major problem that the Conservative Party has faced since the election of David Cameron is that it has not had a leader who really believes in anything. Cameron was concerned mostly in how to get the Conservatives into power. He therefore did all he could to occupy the centre ground. He wanted in essence to become Tony Blair. The difference between these two is essentially trivial. Both are in reality social democrats. They believe in capitalism, but they think that its purpose is essentially to fund state spending. Neither views the goal of government is to become smaller and neither wish to lower the amount that the state spends.

Theresa May takes a similar view. Worse still despite the occasional stern face she completely lacks conviction. She just wants to manage Britain as well as possible while spending as much as possible on nice things. She didn’t even really have an opinion on the EU. She campaigned half-heartedly for Remain and then became a Brexiteer. It is because she doesn’t really believe in Conservatism that she comes up with mush and incoherence and thinks the solution to all problems is to drift to the Left and end up in the centre ground.

Naturally the task is to get elected. But for what? There is no real difference in ideas between Tony Blair, Nick Clegg and Theresa May. This is the problem facing British politics. It doesn’t matter if we have New Labour, Lib Dems or Tory Wets. It will all just go on the same way.

Corbyn’s Labour offers a real choice. He has passion and conviction. To oppose that do you just put up a composite of Blair, Clegg and May? If you do you may well find that the British public finds it lukewarm, just more of the same thin gruel. Don’t be surprised therefore when it spits you out. 

Trust in politicians is very low. People from all parties have been telling us lies and trying to deceive us for too long. We were promised a Common Market and instead found ourselves something rapidly becoming a United States of Europe. For how long have we been promised by politicians that they would take seriously our legitimate worries about how unlimited immigration was affecting the nature of our country? These promises never amounted to anything. The New Labour, Lib Dem, Tory Wet consensus has been taking our country in a direction most people don’t want to go. One alternative is to vote for Corbyn. The other cannot simply be a new version of the establishment that the electorate has come to despise.

What we don’t need is someone who thinks the task is to limit the damage from Brexit. We need someone who realises that leaving the EU is a turning point that can improve life in Britain. We therefore above all else need a Brexiteer to lead the Conservative Party. We need someone who actually believes in free markets, lower taxes and smaller government rather than someone who thinks that price controls are a sensible idea because Ed Miliband gained a few percentage points when he suggested them. Don’t let’s try to steal Labour ideas, let’s come up with new Conservative ideas.

We don’t need a new leader yet, but start preparing for the time when we will need one. Find the brightest minds in the Conservative Party, give them the task of coming up with the new ideas that will break us free from the cosy establishment consensus. These must actually address the genuine worries that ordinary British people have about our country. Let no idea be forbidden. But above all else make sure we develop Conservative ideas for a new Conservative Party. When that is done find the best communicator, perhaps someone we’ve never heard of, to present these ideas. Then believing in what we stand for,  with ideas that we believe to be true and important let us take on Labour and win. That just might just give us a new turning point. 

Saturday 7 October 2017

A senseless struggle about nothing

There are two forces going on in human nature, the desire to unify and the desire to separate. The reason that we have nation states at all is because people have felt the need to unify with others who are similar to them.  In antiquity each small village had its own ruler, its own customs and often its own variety of language. Historical progress across the world has involved the process of people uniting to form nation states. These are the building blocks of international relations and without them there would be chaos.

The process of separation has occurred when nation states have overreached themselves and tried to include people who are too dissimilar. There is an ebb and flow throughout history. The Austro-Hungarian Empire broke up into its constituent parts, but the United States was able to unify much of the North American continent into a single nation state, made up of many states.

In recent decades we have on the one hand seen the European Union attempt to gradually form a nation state out of its parts, while on the other there has been a marked increase in nation states breaking up since the fall of the Soviet Union. While Germany provides a recent example of unification there are many more examples of separation.

But where is the optimum? At what point do we say this nation state is stable? It neither needs to separate nor to unify. One problem is that modern European nationalist movements want to do something that is inherently contradictory. They wish both to unify and to separate.

Scottish nationalists think that it makes sense for Scotland to separate from the United Kingdom, but to remain a part of a European Union that has the aim of becoming a United States of Europe. But the problem is this. If Scots cannot make a success of being part of a nation state called the UK, how on earth are we to make a success of being part of an eventual nation state called the EU?

The same obviously goes for Catalonia.  If Catalans cannot bear to live in a nation state (Spain) with people who are similar to them, how will they be able to bear to live in a nation state (the EU) with people who are dissimilar? If Spain, which has been a nation state for centuries cannot hold itself together we can have no long term expectation that the EU itself will remain intact.

I think this is why the EU has responded to the crisis in Spain in the way that it has. Secession has become all too frequent in Eastern Europe since the fall of the Soviet Union, but if this spreads westwards then the EU is bound to find itself going in the opposite direction to the one in which it intends.

Moreover, if the aim is to have a federal EU what does it matter if a border happens to be here or there? If the aim is to be borderless why be so bothered about so called independence at all. A state in the eventual United States of Europe would be no more independent than Kansas or California. It won’t matter under these circumstances what is or is not called a state or where a supposed boundary is drawn.

In this sense the struggle that is taking place in Catalonia looks like it is about nothing at all. Both Spain and Catalonia want to be part of the EU. But then they are struggling over the boundaries of a nation state while at the same time both intending to give up this nation state.

The problem is that many people have contradictory ideas about the EU. They think somehow that it will be possible to remain a nation state while taking part in the process of EU unification. But this is a form of self-deception. The nation state called East Germany ceased to exist when it joined with West Germany. At an earlier point in history independent nation states like Saxony and Prussia eventually ceased to exist and simply became regions of Germany. For a hypothetical Bavaria to struggle to be independent from Prussia while both seek to join together to form Germany involves muddled thinking. It is a fight about nothing at all, a completely senseless struggle.

The problem is that for the moment it is just about possible to maintain the illusion that a nation state can remain independent and sovereign while being a part of the EU. It is this above all that fuels sub-nation nationalism. The Holy Grail of European nationalist movements is to argue that life will go on more or less the same, but we will be independent. We might even get a bit more because we won’t have to share our wealth with those English, or those Spaniards.

If there were indeed a United States of Europe, they would in one sense be right. It barely matters at all today that West Virginia split from Virginia in 1861, because each is now part of a larger nation state and neither is independent. Borders are not noticed. But being part of a nation state also means that we share and share alike, so this whole concept of what is mine and what is yours ceases. It’s not oor oil, because it belongs equally to all citizens of our nation state. But then as soon as the EU treats all its citizens as having an equal claim to the wealth of the whole, then the concept of independence (this is ours rather than yours) ceases. Not noticing borders in the end involves not having independence.

There are two ways to end the dreams of sub-nation nationalism. One is to leave the EU. People in England (e.g. Philip Hammond) with very little real experience of nationalism and only a distant understanding of what went on in Scotland should cease trying to be clever about the EU. It’s not clever. It’s thick.  Get us out and get us out quickly. It is this and this alone that will hold the UK together.  As I argued long before the EU referendum, the UK’s leaving the EU means that the SNP can no longer argue that life would go on much the same after independence. It turns independence into a radical step, that only a minority of Scots wish to make. It is for this reason that we will not face scenes in Edinburgh like we saw in Barcelona.

Spain could leave the EU. That would stop Catalan nationalism very quickly. But this won’t happen and perhaps can’t happen because of Spain’s membership of the Euro. The second option then is to make it clear that if Catalonia somehow obtains independence it will be outside the EU and outside the Eurozone. It will cease to be part of Spain’s internal market and it will cease to be part of the European Union’s Single Market. It is hard to imagine that this will benefit Catalonia economically. The issue of how much it does or does not share with Spain will hardly then arise.

The danger however is that this would involve a Greek style ejection from the Euro and a shock to the European economy that none of us would like to go through. These things tend to be contagious.  This might encourage the Catalans into thinking that the EU wouldn’t dare expel them. Perhaps they are right, but it is a very dangerous game to play. Careful what you wish for dear Nats. A Catalan let alone a Spanish default might affect your savings too. 

Scottish nationalists may hope that an independent Catalonia or indeed an independent Kurdistan might help them towards their dream. On the other hand scenes of violence or even war may remind everyone once again that nationalism is always a very dangerous political card to play and therefore is best put back in the deck. I suspect though that most Scots who are not already obsessed are not paying much attention. This will continue unless things get much worse.

Nationalism begets nationalism and no doubt it is in part because of Typhoid Nicola that Scottish flu has spread to Spain. Get well soon Spain. But remember the best way to do this is to relax and be patient. Let the fever subside. With tender care it will.  Don’t go bashing people’s heads in. It isn’t the most likely way to persuade them to remain a part of your country. Enforce the law by all means, but far better to simply take law breakers to court and fine them a few Euros, than to do anything more horrible than that.

Above all the EU should now explain to nationalists that if they want to be part of the EU then they will not have any independence. The EU has tried to achieve European unity in such a way that no-one will notice and with the illusion that everything will somehow remain as it was. But this fiction of maintaining independent nation states within a united European nation state is now fuelling nationalism. It is time to be honest, open and direct about where the EU is heading. It is abolishing Spain as an independent nation state and unifying it with all the other European nation states. This means that to fight for Catalan independence only to later abolish it is senseless. It is not worth one truncheon, hitting one head. It is time therefore for both the Spanish and the Catalans to realise that, given they both wish to be part of the EU, they have in fact no dispute at all and that they are in fact fighting over nothing.