Friday, August 01, 2014

Did Marshall McLuhan See This?

For your consideration: could this unobtrusive home intruder mean the ultimate death of all mankind?.

Just back for a stroll through my Filipino summer neighbourhood. It is a delight—everywhere, families out playing with their children.

I think I may have hit on why there has been such a collapse in the birthrate in the industrialized world—and, increasingly, in the developing world as well.

It is not the cost of college, though one thinks it ought to be. In Germany and Sweden, college is free, and they have it worse than most.

It is not the availability of old age security. As someone has worked out, in the Third World, without it, the old folks continue to be worth more in income to the family than they cost until quite late in life.

It is not feminism. Feminism is weakest in Japan, and their demographic collapse is legend.

I think it's TV.

We might forget it now, since we don't have them any more, but watching my neighbours, it is borne in to me that kids have a lot of entertainment value. Once upon a time, that mattered, because we did not have all that many other things to do once we came home from work in the evenings.

And exactly the same has happened to other things that were once good entertainment. Church attendance. Membership in voluntary associations: the Masons, the Elks. Bowling leagues. Playing cards. Botticelli. TV killed it all, by offering massive free entertainment at home.

Of course, computers and the internet are only making it worse.

TV showed up in the postwar years, right along with the baby boom, but it only reached 90% of US homes in 1962. And it took at least as long for there to be enough worthwhile stuff for adults to watch.

The baby boom ended, by common calculation, four years later.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Some Common Sense on Homosexuality

A good piece here, making a few important points:

1. homosexuality is a dangerous practice
2. bullying is not about gays in particular
3. homosexuality is often (maybe always) due to sexual molestation when young
4. people really can go from gay to straight. In fact, most "gays" do.


Therese Casgrain

To the manor born.

A lot of people seem to be upset about Therese Casgrain being taken off the $50 bill, and about an award formerly given in her name being renamed The Prime Minister's Award.

I think the shocking thing was that she was on the $50 previously, and that public moneys were being given in her name.

Who was Therese Casgrain? A politician, and a lobbyist. I dislike the Canadian practice of honouring past politicians with public money generally: it is divisive. Most countries don't. But if you must, you should at least choose someone from the relatively distant past, who held a relatively important post. A prime minister, say, at a bare minimum. Then you can make a stab at balancing it politically.

But Therese Casgrain, as a politician, despite seven tries, was never elected to any public office. And she died only in 1981.

By that standard, if there is to be any political balance here, there must be millions of former politicians who must also be so honoured. For which, of course, we do not have the tax dollars available.

Imagine how it would feel for a dedicated conservative politically to find himself given the “Therese Casgrain Award.” The name itself would diminish the honour, as it would imply that he endorsed her ideas. Including things like nuclear disarmament and the nationalization of key industries. All very well if the award is given by a private foundation. But should public money be used in this context? If it is, it implies that the Canadian taxpayer also endorses all these things. If he/she did, why was Casgrain never elected?

Or do our masters know better than we do?

Honouring a lobbyist is even more troubling. There have been thousands, millions of lobbyists, lobbying for thousands of special interest groups. To honour any of them and not all the others is to violate the fundamental doctrine that all Canadians are equal.

You want to argue that, in this context, “women's rights” is special? Then you are arguing that women are special. So much for equal rights.

Therese Casgrain is a poor choice, too, if you are trying to make out the bogus case that women have ever been an oppressed group. She was the daughter of a British knight who married rich. She never had to work a day in her life. I should be so oppressed.

Nor was she particularly successful in her career as a lobbyist. Under her supposed leadership, women got the right to vote in Quebec in--1940. It seems entirely probable, given that record, that Casgrain had a net negative effect as a lobbyist.

The government's solution is more honourable: call the volunteer award “The Prime Minister's Award.” Then at least over time it is politically neutral.

Though it would certainly be better to call it “The Governor-General's Award” and leave politics out of it entirely.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Plague Blankets



You've probably heard all that about the European plan to wipe out the Indians of North America by handing out blankets infected with smallpox. Genocide, clearly genocide.

Yes, it seems it did happen. Once. At the siege of Fort Pitt, General Amherst at least suggested the idea. But I've seen claims it was used in Newfoundland to wipe out the Beothuks, by General Custer on the plains, and just about everywhere else. It just keeps coming up. The false impression is that there was some kind of general policy to do this. And every light-skinned person is guilty.

But hey, did you know that the English actually did use smallpox against the Americans during the American War of Independence? General Howe's idea. They deliberately infected thousands of American civilians, then released them behind Continental Army lines.

A much bigger deal than Fort Pitt.

And yet, when did you last hear of this one?

Conclusion: a dead Indian is worth more than a dead European.

Here's another one: much has been made in recent revisionist history of the claim that there was some slavery (a little) in Canada too, before it was abolished throughout the British Empire in 1833. So Canadians should feel some guilt towards blacks too, right? Worse, because we've been trying all along to cover it up. Self-righteous crackers. Never mind that Upper Canada was one of the first jurisdictions anywhere to pass actual laws against slavery. Never mind that Canada offered freedom for decades to any US blacks who could make it through the Underground Railroad. That's just whitewash. Whitewash.

But just a minute. Did you know that most of the slavery in Canada was practiced by Canadian Indians? Did they mention that bit? It was part of the traditional Indian culture; everywhere. The sainted Joseph Brant, mighty loyalist and leader of the Mohawks, kept 40 black slaves. Probably the largest slaveholder anywhere in Canada.

No offense, guys. But it's just possible people with pale skin are not quite the devils they've been painted as, and people of other colors are not universally morally superior.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Women are Increasingly Unhappy

It's only justice, but how could they not have seen this coming? It was obvious from the beginning of feminism that this was the way it would go: single, too old now to have kids, lonely, exhausted, and bitterly disappointed.

A few thinngs the article does not say: in every "underdeveloped" country and culture, women are significantly happier than men. It is only where feminism has taken hold that women are less happy than men.

And this has absolutely nothing to do with sharing the workload at home. That is less likely to happen in less developed countries. Less work does not make you happier. Notice that the happiest people now are men with senior management positions. I doubt most senior managers have a lot of free time.

Perhaps the real problem here is that we, and modern women in particular, have lost all sense of what life is about.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Whatever Happened to Northern Ireland?

If present trends continue, Northern Ireland will have a Catholic majority as of January or February, 2016. This upcoming demographic deadline has a lot to do with the current peace in Ulster: the Unionists have realized they have no option but to moderate and seek allies. (And a sumilar deadline faces Israel).

According to the Good Friday Agreement which acheived the current peace in Northern Ireland, reunification of the North with the Irish Republic must occur if and when majorities in both North and South vote for it.

This might now actually happen, and rather soon.

Add this to the legal possibility that Scotland might declare independence as a result of the upcoming referendum, or some future one.

Will Britain be reduced to the United Kingdom of England and Wales? Can Britain live with this?

I think such an event might be one more factor encouraging the creation of a formal anglosphere, in which England, Scotland, and Ireland reassociate as equals within a larger comity including some or all of Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, India, Singapore, and some of the Caribbean islands.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

John Stuart Mill on Education



Before state schools were introduced, John Stuart Mill saw clearly why they were a bad idea:

A general State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another, and the mold in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation.
In proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body. An education established and controlled by the State should only exist, if it exist at all, as one among many competing experiments carried on for the purpose of example and stimulus, to keep the others up to a certain standard of excellence.
In other words, school vouchers. Mill suggests these be backed up with standardized tests from government in certain designated essential skills:
The instrument for enforcing the law could be no other than public examinations, extending to all children, and beginning at an early age. An age might be fixed at which every child must be examined, to ascertain if he (or she) is able to read. .... Once in every year the examination should be renewed, with a gradually extending range of subjects, so as to make the universal acquisition, and what is more, retention, of a certain minimum of general knowledge, virtually compulsory. Beyond that minimum, there should be voluntary examinations for all subjects, at which all who come up to a certain standard of proficiency might claim a certificate.
He then turns to the professions--and sees immediately the danger of government certification here:
The examinations, however, in the higher branches of knowledge should be entirely voluntary. It would be giving too dangerous power to governments, were they allowed to exclude any one from professions, even from the profession of teacher, for alleged deficiency of qualifications. Degrees, or other public certificates of scientific or professional acquirements, should be given to all who present themselves for examination, but such certificates should confer no advantage over competitors, other than the weight which may be attached to their testimony by public opinion.
In other words, nobody should be prevented by law from setting themselves up as or from employment as a pharmacist, or an engineer, or a lawyer, or anything else. Such restraint of trade leads inevitably, as it has led, to self-interested cartels with no regard for the public interest.

It is that simple--it is all predictable. If we have nevertheless ended up with compulsory public schools and government-regulated professions, it can only be because this was the deliberate intent. Those in power wanted to protect a ruling class, and to impose conformity on the rest of us.

This, according to Mill, is not tolerable in a free society.