Aug 302021

One of the most amusing (if you have a sick sense of humour) things about the debate between fans of the current US system (devotees of privatised health care) and those proposing a more rational and efficient system, is the whole “I don’t want to pay towards the care of another”.

Once you get past the level of selfishness approaching a sociopath, and think deeply about how insurance – any insurance – works, you realise something. People with private health care insurance are already paying for the health care of others because that is how insurance works.

The insurance company sets monthly premiums at a level they calculate will leave them with profit after all the healthcare costs and overheads are taken care of. Most of the people paying those insurance premiums are unlikely to ever use up those premiums on their own health care; those premiums are going towards the healthcare costs of those who do exceed the total value of all the premiums they’ve paid. And of course to fill the pockets of the insurance companies.

So the next time someone objects to “socialist” healthcare by saying that they don’t want to pay for the healthcare of others’, just point out that they already are.

Posts in a Foggy River
Aug 092021

This is related to the Scuntthorpe problem although it looks more at the meaning of a word rather than its appearance. This particular issue cropped up when a Facebook group I’m a member of briefly blew up (in a very English way) when Facebook prevented us mentioning that a particular shop was well known for its faggots.

But perhaps I should explain what I mean by faggots; the word itself has had plenty of meanings from bundles of wood (or any bundle) to a naughty child; in the case we’re talking about it is about a British meatball – the faggot.

Now this isn’t a “freedom of speech” thing – I’m not arguing those who denigrate homosexuals should get off scot free. But blindly banning the word “faggot” can have unintended consequences.

That posting on Facebook I mentioned? It went an interesting way – the blame wasn’t put on naïve censorship software but on political correctness itself. Whilst that was a mistake, there is now a few members of that group that will automatically respond badly whenever “political correctness” is mentioned and start talking about edible faggots.

When the blame is squarely with the censorship software that doesn’t take context into account – when you’re talking about “faggots and onions” or “a faggot shop”, you’re unlikely to be throwing rocks at homosexuals.

Jul 192021

Of course it does.

But let us go a little deeper.

First of all, does race really exist? It is notable that the Wikipedia articles on race (1 and 2) distinguish between biological race and the definition of race as it applies to humans. The later seems to be a rather vague term defined differently in different places or circumstances and as someone who likes clearly defined terms the temptation is to go with the biological definition of race and declare that humans are all one race.

But people do insist it exists. So lets take a look at the “white” race; a supposedly monolithic race. But in reality it subdivides up into different “racial” subgroups – the Irish, Finns, Arabs, Jews, and the Romani have all been at times classified as non-white. At what proportion does non-white ancestry qualify one as non-white? In the US, the standard varied from 1/4, to 1/16, or any African ancestry at all (which excludes every single person from being classified as “white”).

Nothing illustrates that US “whiteness” is a qualification for a privileged position (“white privilege”) more than the one-way one-drop rule which although no longer part of the law is still widely accepted socially. If you have one drop of non-white “blood” (ancestry), you are non-white; yet the opposite doesn’t apply – one drop of white “blood” doesn’t disqualify a person from being black.

Which means that racism is little more than an excuse to divide us all into “them” and “us”. Which neatly leads on to the second point.

Many of these ‘isms – racism, excessive nationalism (and xenophobia), … – are just means to an end. To divide us up into “them” and “us” so we can blame “them” for everything that is wrong. Just like the school bullies, we can pick anything to divide people into “them” and “us” – wear glasses, be too tall or too short, gender, a built-in tan, … just about any stupid reason can be used.

With this in mind, racism is using an invented means to divide people just to bully one category. Silly isn’t it?

Lastly some of us have a suspicion that the fires of racism are stoked by those in power as a means of distracting the proles from the real enemy – unrestrained capitalism. Next time you wonder why that immigrant is allowed to steal a well-paid job from you, instead wonder why there aren’t well-paid jobs for both of you.

Standing On The Board

Yes racism exists, but it is as childish as schoolyard bullying and based on little more than the arbitrary grouping of people. And those who promote racism might just have a hidden agenda.

May 092021

I have recently re-read a bunch of stories about the Cold War where the blame for the repressive nature of the Soviet state was placed firmly on the Communist regime. Fair enough you might think, and certainly for most of the 20th century, the former Russian Empire was an extremely repressive regime whilst the Communists were in charge.

Certainly the secret policemen of the Soviets were well known – the GRU, KGB, NKVD, Cheka (where the label “chekist” comes from and all Russian secret police are labelled “chekists”), and others. But the persistent use of Russian secret policemen continues after the collapse of the Communist regime – the GRU is just as strong as they ever were, and there is also the SVR, the FSB, etc. And they’re just as active as ever – including the Salisbury poisonings and similar activities.

What is less well known is that the Russian intelligence services started well before the Communists acquired power in 1917 – the Okhrana. Whilst their headquarters were burned by the revolutionaries, there are persistent left-wing rumours that Okhrana operatives were recruited by the Cheka for their expertise. It is something that is never likely to be proved – these organisations are secret after all, and it did occur over 100 years ago, but the Cheka did become effective surprisingly quickly.

It is easy to blame the communists for their repressive regime, and they certainly deserve plenty of blame but is it really communism that is to blame here? That’s an all too easy assumption to jump on – particularly given the antipathy certain parties (old school European aristocrats and capitalists) have for anything that smacks of depriving them of their ill-gotten gains.

Communism certainly isn’t to blame for the secret police before and after their regime, so wouldn’t it be more accurate to say Russia has a chekist culture that survived two regime changes? Particularly seeing as the current president is a former KGB officer.

The Wild Chained

Does it matter?

Well for a start, Russia is currently a rogue state using intelligence services in an activist way to kill off critics of their current dictator. And it isn’t communist.

And not all communists are authoritarian communists; they may very well be wrong or misguided but they are not all authoritarians.

Mar 052021

Every so often I encounter some statement online which perpetuates some slavery myth or other. Those myths are not entirely unreasonable – they’re very often applicable to the largest group of descendents of victims of one of the most recent episodes of the slave trade.

But they’re still myths and they distort the history of slavery.

1. Slavery is History

Nope. Estimates of the number of people held as slaves today vary from 25 million to 43 million.

And whilst legal slavery has been abolished world-wide, the last country with legal slavery (Mauritania) didn’t abolish it until 1981, and it wasn’t criminalised until 2007. There are supposedly more anti-slavery activists in prison than slave owners.

2. Only Africa

Slavery has existed throughout history and in every part of the world. For example, the Domesday book (1086) documented that 10% of England’s population were slaves. Indeed the port of Bristol owes its success to the salve trade, but not the one involving African slaves, but Anglo-Saxon slaves – 1,000 years earlier.

3. Slave Traders Weren’t All White

When white dudes rocked up at African ports (yes really) and asked if there were any slaves for sale, the slave trade was already centuries old. It’s hard to ascertain just how many free people were enslaved by each group, but what we know of African history makes it plain that many if not most of the slaves shipped to the Americas were sold to slave traders by other slave traders; native slave traders.

For an example look at the history of Dahomey (and this was not an isolated example).

13th Century Africa Slave Trade Routes (from Wikipedia)

4. Not All Slaves Were Black

In the early modern period the overwhelming majority of slaves traded were African, but the slave trade (even during this period) did include white folk.

For example, the Barbary coast pirates enslaved up to a million Europeans by seizing ship’s crews and raiding coastal settlements (mostly Spain and Italy but England and Ireland weren’t immune). Despite punitive military expeditions from all over Europe (and the US), the slave trade wasn’t finished off until the French invaded.

And that ignores the amount of slaves captured by the Ottoman Empire in Eastern Europe.

5. It Wasn’t Just The Atlantic Slave Trade

As you can see from the previous map, the trade in African slaves doesn’t just predate the Atlantic slave trade (and predates it by a long time), but it continued even after the Atlantic slave trade. Numbers are understandably somewhat vague, but it seems likely that the Arabian slave trade was at least half of the Atlantic slave trade (~12 million) and some estimates put it at parity.

6. Britain’s Industrial Revolution was Funded By The Slave Trade

This is still open to argument, and there are serious historians on both sides of the debate. It is common to argue that the profits from the slave trade were used to fund the industrial revolution.

But :-

  1. There are not unreasonable arguments to show that the profits from the slave trade were never enough to fully fund the industrial revolution. Some did for sure, but the aristocratic landlords would have far more money to invest.
  2. Those making money from the slave trade would have been more interested in investing in property than a riskier industrial venture. Social advancement in England/Britain (or any European country at the time) was through agricultural land ownership and in the long term it was profitable too.

The other thing that is overlooked is that considerable profits were made by African slave traders; that money didn’t go towards investment in Britain’s Industrial Revolution.

7. Britain Only Opposed The Slave Trade When It Become Economically Redundant

So Britain only started combatting the slave trade when slavery was no longer profitable for the British? Any number of slave traders (including African slave traders) would have begged to disagree – slavery (or at least the slave trade) remains profitable today or it wouldn’t exist.

And Britain didn’t just oppose the slave trade with words; it put its money where its mouth was and funded the West Africa Squadron. Some say it was the most expensive international moral crusade in modern history.

Final Word

Slavery is repugnant to every decent human being well deserved of its status as a crime against humanity. And there is plenty of blame to go around – Britain should have banned the Atlantic slave trade when it began not several centuries later; so should the Portuguese (who shipped twice as many slaves). Hell, why were African kingdoms fighting wars just to capture slaves not also condemned?

This is not supposed to be a political narrative – specifically this isn’t supposed to support “white supremacy”. The only statement I would say on that kind of subject is that evil-doers can be found amongst all ethnic groups.

Of course this is from the perspective of the whole-world, and more geographically localised slavery may well be different in nature.

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