Mar 312018

If you read any history at all, you will encounter many incidents of exploitation – the English exploiting the Irish, the Irish exploiting the Scottish (see Dál Riata), the English exploiting the Scottish, the Scottish exploiting the English, everyone exploiting the Welsh, etc.

As an example of how it wasn’t as simple as sometimes claimed, there is a small sliver of Anglo-Irish ancestry in my family history. Undoubtedly they exploited the Irish back in the 18th century and before, but whilst they started as English, in every generation they married into the Irish aristocracy; so in at least one case the exploiters of the Irish were half or more Irish themselves.

And that is just one small corner of the world – it was happening just about everywhere.

Take another example – slavery. Everybody immediately thinks of the Atlantic slave trade, but those who look closer are in for a surprise – firstly that most slaves were made slaves by African slavemasters. And secondly the African slave trade had been going on uninterrupted since the Roman era – chiefly to the east.

At the same time the Atlantic slave trade was going on (16th-19th centuries), the Barbary pirates were also taking slaves – European slaves. It is estimated that 1-1.5 million were taken, although these figures are disputed, it is also the case that the Barbary slave raiding caused many small towns and villages to be deserted along the coastlines of Spain, Italy, and other places with a Mediterranean coastline.

And the early history of Europe is awash with slavery – Romans, Vikings, Angles, Saxons, and others, all participates in raiding for slaves – for local use, to Rome (in the early days), and to Byzantium (later on).

It is easy to look at one historical incident, and see the English exploiting the Irish, the Europeans exploiting Africans, etc. And there is an element of truth in that.

But it can also be seen not as the members of a nation exploiting the members of another nation, but as a type of person exploiting another type of person. The pure Marxist would claim it is the rich exploiting the poor, and there is an element of truth to that, but it is overly simplistic.

It is really more that the exploiter is the kind of person willing to do almost anything to enrich themselves including exploiting others. There isn’t anything wrong with getting rich or being rich as long as it is done honestly and reasonably.

There is a certain kind of person who does not care what level of suffering they cause to another person. For convenience let us call these people “sociopaths”.

In every example of exploitation in history, no matter what we label those responsible I am sure that the exploiters were sociopaths.

Now this is all very intellectually interesting, but perhaps the real question here is what should we do about the invisible sociopaths in today’s society? Because there are plenty – we might call them bankers, or slum landlords, or Russian oligarchs, or other things, but in the end what they all have in common is that they are sociopaths.

Giving The Sky The Finger


Feb 202016

2012-05-19-sheep standing guard.small

The whole Welsh carnally like sheep thing is pretty funny? Plenty of opportunities for jokes in there. But do you know where it comes from?

Unfortunately I don’t have a source for this (I’m a bad historian!), but I do remember reading it from a respectable history book.

In medieval times, there were two crimes you were likely to be charged with if you were caught in possession of sheep you didn’t own back then. One charge (sheep stealing) was dealt with by the King’s courts and dealt harshly with any property crime – sheep rustlers could and frequently were hung for stealing sheep.

The other charge (unlawful carnal knowledge of a sheep) was dealt with by the Church courts who were somewhat more lenient, and the punishment was more likely to be a fine or a short imprisonment.

Anyone with half a brain would opt for the Church courts, and it seems from the records that the Welsh picked up on this legal loophole very rapidly. After all being known as a sheep-shagger is somewhat preferable to being hung.

Jun 092015

And Just How Dumb Are Welsh Politicians?

According to the news this morning, the Welsh assembly is to prohibit vaping in enclosed public spaces in the same way that smoking is banned; a bit of cut&paste on the old law. You might expect a moron in a hurry to look at vaping, and say "It looks like smoking so it must be bad." but you should be able to expect that politicians would make a decision based on the available evidence.

However it appears that Welsh politicians have more in common with a moron in a hurry than an idealised poltician.

Before I carry on, let me explain that despite being a vaper (and ex-smoker), if I were to live in Wales, this ban would make practically no difference to me. I don't vape at work (in the office!), in pubs, shops, on trains, or anywhere you can expect the Welsh ban to take effect. I do sometimes wish there was a vaping lounge I could go to on occasions.

The main reason this is such a stupid ban is that it treats vaping as if it were as harmful to the health as smoking. There is not a single serious person who would claim that vaping is as dangerous as smoking. And treating it the same as smoking tells smokers (remember the moron in a hurry) that there's no point in switching to vaping instead because vaping is just as harmful.

There is an argument that whilst the risks are unknown for sure (there is no evidence that secondary vaping is harmful; and plenty of studies that show that secondary vaping is harmless [1], [2], [3]), that it would be nice to stop vaping in public enclosed spaces; just not on the same level as smoking. For example :-

  • Allow pubs to decide whether they allow vaping or not. And to encourage a bit of trendy localism: Why not allow the pub regulars to vote on whether vaping should be allowed or not?
  • Ban vaping in restarants (some of the strange flavours could easily put people off their food) but allow vaping in a lobby area or other ventilated but isolated space.
  • Allow other work-places to set up isolated "vaping lounges".

The intention is to minimise a probably non-existent risk to non-vapers whilst letting vapers get away with just a bit more than smokers. 

Amusingly enough, by consigning vapers to the same sin bin as the smokers, these dumb politicians open themselves up to a class action suit in the future – why should I have to endure the risk of secondary smoking?

There are two daft arguments that I heard used this morning which indicate that some of the Welsh politicians realise just how dumb they're being :-

  1. Allowing vaping in enclosed public spaces normalises smoking. It doesn't normalise smoking unless you're a moron in a hurry – it's quite easy to tell the difference between vapour and smoke. The smell of vapour is far nicer! It "normalises" vaping as a better choice than smoking.
  2. It acts as a gateway to smoking. No; it's a gateway out of smoking. 

Even if you were to disagree with my assessments of these two arguments, the fact they are being made at all indicates just how poor the argument for banning vaping in public really is. 

Jun 222008

I’ve always been interested in the origins of landscape words … Rithe, Bourne, etc. In Britain, there are a fair number of rivers called the “Avon” and I used to idly spend some time wondering where that name came from. The origins are quite amusing for someone like me.

It so happens that the Welsh word for river is “Afon” and I used to wonder if the similarity to “Avon” was due to some sort of miscommunication between the native Brythonic population and incoming Saxons. It turns out that I was not the only one to think so.

So all the rivers called Avon are really named “River River”. One can imaging how this might occur :-

Saxon: “So, native what is this river called ?” (in Old English)

Native: “It’s a river you dumb Saxon ox” (in proto-Welsh)

Saxon: “Avon? That’s a funny name, but I guess I can remember it” (OE)

Native: “Yes, a river with water in it”

Of course the real reason may have been that the Brythonic population didn’t want to give too much information away that would help the Saxons militarily. And of course the misunderstanding (or misleading answers) means we have lost the original names for the rivers in question.

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