On Cambridge University, post-modernism, climate change, Oppenheimer’s Razor, and the Re-Enlightenment
By Neil Lock
In the early 1970s, I studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge. I enjoyed it at the time, but was left with a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Although I scraped a First, and was offered a place on Part III of the Tripos, I decided to go out into the real world instead. Never did I make a better life decision.
Over the intervening decades, I have come more and more to question the value of universities. I would have expected the remit of a university to be (1) to seek, (2) to develop, and (3) to pass on, ideas and practices to improve the human condition, both today and in the future. There should be no dishonesties in their processes, no imposed orthodoxies, and no restrictions on the freedom to seek, or to tell, the truth. Yet, universities – not just at Cambridge, but world-wide – seem to have become bastions of political correctness. Anyone in the faculty, who doesn’t toe the party line and parrot the narrative of the moment, will find difficulties in funding or in getting papers published, or may even be in danger of dismissal. Peter Ridd in Australia and Susan Crockford in Canada are topical examples.
Homer, Vergil and the Culture War
22nd February 2020
The Classics Faculty at the University of Oxford is considering whether to remove from its undergraduate courses the compulsory study in their original languages of Homer and Vergil. The reasons given are that students from independent schools, where some classical teaching is kept up, tend at the moment to do better in examinations than students from state schools, and that men do better than women. I regard this as the most important news of the week. I do so partly because I make some of my living from these languages, and so have a financial interest in their survival. I do so mainly because I see the proposal as a further enemy advance in the Culture War through which we have been living for at least the past two generations. Read more
LGBTs, Leftists and Libertarians
By Duncan Whitmore
In a previous essay posted on this blog, the present writer explored the poisonous proliferation of identity politics in today’s political discourse. One of the themes of that essay was that identity politics has served to create false group identities which misrepresent the interests of the individuals who are supposed to make up those groups, solely for the purpose of being able to pit each group against other groups for political gain. The actual interests of the individuals within each group are served poorly, if at all.
Continuing on a similar theme, we will, in the present essay, examine how various minority groups that have been championed by the left – many of which, such as those characterised by race, religion or sexual orientation, have won genuine and much needed victories against prior legal repression – are being exploited by the left in the current culture war. Although libertarians are right to welcome a renaissance of traditional, local, cultural and religious values as bulwarks against the metastasising growth of the state, it is not minority groups (or the vindication of their rights) per se which are a threat to traditional cultures; rather, the genuine threat is the attempt by straight, white, middle class virtue signalling liberals to grant legal privileges to these groups in an attempt to attack and weaken what remains of Western civilisation. Far from having their own, long term interests preserved by allying themselves with the left, these minorities may well be leading themselves over a cliff edge if they are swept up in the backlash against leftism that is manifest in the resurgence of populism, nationalism, traditionalism and anti-globalism. Consequently, we shall why it is libertarianism that can allow minority groups to flourish, and why members of minority groups should become libertarians. Read more
This is the last of a set of seven essays, in which I have been trying to understand and to diagnose the political, economic and ethical ills of our times. Today, I’ll try to pull together all the strands I have explored, and to sum up where we are today. And I’ll seek to “turn the corner” towards the not so small matter of how to cure these ills.
Starve the System, Feed Yourself:
The Joys of Buying Second-Hand
26th June 2019
Though not at all rich in terms of income, I think my net wealth is somewhat above the average for men of my age. I have achieved this by spending less than I earn and by avoiding debt. Of course, I wish I could earn more than I do. A newer car than the one I have driven for ten years would be nice. On the other hand, I have not had a conventional job since I resigned in 1990, and I have spent the past generation mostly doing things that I enjoyed or that contributed to less immediate enjoyment. In this essay, I plan to make one explicitly political point. For the rest, I will explain one of the strategies by which my women and I live well and within our means. Read more
Today, I’m going to compare and contrast the two sides in the big battle of our times. I call them Convivials and Politicals. Much of what I say today, I’ve already said in earlier essays. What is new, though, is how I choose to organize it. Think, if you will, of a large, milling mass of people, which re-arranges itself before your eyes into two opposing armies.
The word “convivial” means living together, and in particular living together well. Convivials, or convivial people, conduct themselves in a convivial way. Convivial conduct is treating others peacefully, tolerantly, honestly and civilly, and respecting their rights – as long, of course, as they do the same for you. It is the habitual behaviour of those who are, generally speaking, good people to have around you. It can be summed up as: “Don’t be an asshole.”
The word “politicals,” on the other hand, is one I haven’t used before. I’ve often referred to some of them loosely as “the political class.” But I also include as “politicals” those that hang on to the coat-tails of the political class. Politicals are those that promote, support or take profit from damaging, unjust or rights-violating policies of political governments. They include those that seek to impose ideological, religious or lifestyle agendas on others; to unjustly enrich themselves or their cronies; or to use government power to get away with acts that, objectively, are crimes.
Globalisation – the Baby and the Bathwater
By Duncan Whitmore
If the liberal-left was hoping that the recent state visit to the UK by Donald Trump would provide the perfect opportunity to (once again) castigate him for his supposed “racism”, “misogyny”, and a fervour for “nationalism” that apparently puts him on par with Hitler, they have probably been left disappointed. In fact, the visit seems to have come off rather well for the 45th President. Sadiq Khan, London’s leftist mayor, succeeded only in burying himself in a Twitter spat that began before Air Force One even touched down on the tarmac. The anti-Trump protests in Parliament Square – at which, for want of imagination, the Trump “baby blimp” was re-deployed (and subsequently burst by a Trump sympathiser) – failed to attract the anticipated attendance. Instead, news reports of Trump being received warmly by the Queen, behaving graciously and courteously at the state banquet, and delivering a positive and optimistic joint press conference with the Prime Minister about the future of the US-UK relationship, have most likely lent him an air of statesmanship that he has previously lacked. Even the BBC was forced to concede that the trip has, somehow, “normalised” Trump, and that, rather than banishing the orange-faced “fascist” from our shores forever, we should probably recognise that he is “here to say and [so we] had better get used to him”. Read more