Sunday, 30 October 2011

The myth of a Catholic Spain that never dies

In today’s Christian Science Monitor, there is a serious discussion of Spanish protests against the government funding the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. According to the Monitor, the protesters are not anti-Catholic per se, but are arguing that a government that is in terrible financial trouble should not spend up to 100 million euros (132 million Australian dollars) on this when it is making cuts in other areas to deal with a huge public debt.

What is troubling about the Monitor is how it calls Spain “one of the world's most Catholic countries” and says:
“While Spain has been a Catholic bastion for centuries, in recent years the Vatican has clashed with governmental leaders here over the country's turn toward secularism as they have legalized gay marriage, banned mandatory religious education in public schools, and eased abortion restrictions.”
What it does not realise is that for at least eighty years and probably more nearly one hundred and twenty, Spain’s politicians and wealthy classes (especially landowners) have consistently sided with the Catholic Church against the urban working masses over political issues such as religious education and sexual morals. When the Catholic Church was openly campaigning against eugenics in the 1930s, working classes in eastern Spain (Aragon) were strongly campaigning for it and the legalisation of extramarital sex – a legalisation that would have taken place decades earlier than the 1970s if mass opinion in urban Spain had been reflected in the ruling classes. Even when Francisco Franco’s dictatorship tried to use education to promote the teachings of the Catholic Church, it had no long-term, inward effect on a Spanish psyche that was firmly secular, even anti-religion.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

“Tourist” architecture?

By reading a recent post from a rather slyly named website called “ – Europe’s favourite think tank website”, Rod Dreher has argued that one of the reasons for the rebellions that have been taking place in London over the past few months is that modern architecture in the Enriched World has been designed by socialist planners rather than people. The result is that the Enriched World’s population lives almost exclusively in inhuman environments which are exclusively focused on the short-term material wants and give no room for emotional or spiritual development.

Dreher says that people like Jonathan Hale in The Old Way of Seeing say that architects formerly understood “natural” patterns of community that governments pressurised to provide for a working class that would otherwise have voted in outright Marxists. These governments provided what Stephen Masty describes as:

populated by large groups of unsupervised children and teenagers, where peer socialisation can occur between them without the influence of adults.
I can see how such housing systems, typified even in Unenriched Australia by the old housing estates – which look older than they are – leads to people wanting to socialise without any supervision from older people. This is a problem I had as a child: my peers bullied me for bad behaviour which I with hindsight realise I could do little or nothing to correct. The influence of adults would have helped schoolboys realise that they had to work together to

However, my experience of housing in the Enriched World from living in Germany in the Australian summer of 2006/2007 gives an interesting impression: that in fact the growth of mass tourism may be what creates the kind of architecture that people like Dreher are so deploring. For one thing, far more than even Hans Hoppe admits in a brief e-mail I had with him some time ago, tourism in the Enriched World is more often than not a source of extremely selfish and present-oriented attitudes. This is epitomised by the ultra-macho adventure sports that dominate the economies of what before industrialisation were cultures of marianismo where land was used seasonally to provide food and not inhabited during the very cold mountain winters. The tourist apartments I lived in whilst in Germany remind me a lot more of these Italian apartments (from Naples) that any residential architecture I have seen in the Enriched World or the densely populated tropical city of Singapore. Tourism grew extremely rapidly in Europe and Japan during the 1950s and 1960s as a response, perhaps, to the demands of their working classes for more wealth.

Tourist houses will inevitably have a “temporary”, extremely “trendy” feel about them because they serve to house one or a few people for very short periods – and as I said what they seek is a very short thrill of less long-term value that the kind of cultural study I have taken of the evolution of the Enriched World, which looks more deeply at the psyche of these people today as traditional cultural studies biased towards either the past or the desires of conservative ruling classes. The short-term nature of the interaction between tourists and locals who over time have in many places become almost totally dependent upon tourist income undoubtedly shapes the culture of tourism-based Enriched World cities. It is hard to see how this can lead to anything other than an ultra-materialistic culture totally focused upon wealth and money.

As Human Events says:
No. 270 of 365
Ask how come, if liberals are so keen on equality and fairness, they're so much more money-grubbing than conservatives.

According to both the World Values Survey and the General Social Survey, left wingers are more likely to rate "high income" as an important factor in choosing a job, more likely to say "after good health, money is the most important thing," and agree with the statement "there are no right or wrong ways to make money." This was confirmed by Doug Urbanski, former business manager of libtard documentary-maker Michael Moore, who said: “He is more money obsessed than anyone I have known — and that’s saying a lot.”
If liberalism can lead to an obsession with money, it is likely to have worked the other way round in Enriched World cities ever since the Industrial Revolution. Seeing money, as much as mere poverty, has led the working classes of the Enriched World to advocate bigger and bigger government without looking at what motivates them.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Javan rhino extinct on Asian mainland

This year has been a very bad one for rhinos. Poaching, which increased in 2010, has multiplied by about the same amount this year.

Most tragically, following the extinction of the northern white rhinoceros in 2006, the last Javan rhinoceros has disappeared from Vietnam. The species was known before 1988 only from its remaining stronghold in the extreme west of Java, but the a small population was discovered in Vietnam’s Cat Tien National Park. There were even before the current rhino poaching epidemic began grave concerns that the rhinos in Cat Tien were not breeding, but still this news was very surprising since almost all the news about today’s epidemic of rhino poaching comes from Africa or Nepal. In fact, it is popularly thought that the reason for the Critically Endangered status of the Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses is purely and simply the immense destruction for timber and agriculture of Southeast Asia’s forests. However, in reality the Sumatran species at all events is actually much more able than is popularly thought to cope with disturbances in primary rainforest – and a huge proportion of its original range was and is much too steep to farm.

Thus, we are left with poaching for horn as the culprit for these two most critically endangered rhinoceros species – this in spite of the fact that the Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses yield a very small amount of horn and prices for them are not nearly so well-documented as those of Indian and African horn. It is interesting to imagine if rhino horn dealers actually hold stockpiles of Javan and/or Sumatran horn that they do not offer for sale to rhino horn customers even at much more than the typical asking price of $100 per gram for Indian rhino horn??

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Are Rolling Stone’s readers copying Blender?

A few years ago, the now-defunct magazine Blender made a list of the fifty worst songs of all time. The number 1 choice was Starship’s “We Built This City”, a song that was the 66th top single of the 1980s in Melbourne and a staple of my travels in an old XC Ford Falcon to Currajong Special School on the modern 624 bus route.

Now, Rolling Stone, which has probably absorbed a lot of Blender’s readership since the latter magazine ceased publication, has asked its readers to vote for the worst songs of the 1980s. Although as a child I listened consistently to the commercial music of the eighties, since reading Joe S. Harrington I have been completely turned away from it. The list voted for was:
  1. Starship - “We Built This City” (On Rock and Roll)
  2. Europe - “The Final Countdown”
  3. Chris de Burgh - “The Lady in Red”
  4. Wham! — “Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)”
  5. Men Without Hats — “The Safety Dance”
  6. Falco — “Rock Me Amadeus”
  7. Bobby McFerrin — “Don’t Worry Be Happy”
  8. Toni Basil — “Mickey”
  9. Taco — “Putting On the Ritz”
  10. Rick Astley — “Never Gonna Give You Up”
The strange thing is that according to those who reported on the list, “We Built This City” was nominated as the worst song by a huge margin, and that the reason it was so hated was not the song itself, but the fact that so many fans of Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick’s former band of the 1960s, did not want her singing stadium rock which was designed only for commercial success.

in fact, I have never found “We Built This City” anything like so bad as Jefferson Starship’s other songs of the 1980s like “Jane” or “No Way Out” which were less successful but far worse examples of “We Built This City”. All the other songs on the list, however, really are very bad, and most are staples of these lists with at least three being repeats from the 2005 Blender list. The similarity with “We Built This City” and the more-deserving “Mickey”, “Don}t Worry Be Happy” and “The Final Countdown” is so striking I really wonder if the readers took their cues from it.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Greenhouse sceptics as a carryover from Stalinism in China?

Today in the Sydney Morning Herald, there is some strange news that it is not only Australia where greenhouse sceptics have tremendous political influence. I outline in the link the fact that greenhouse sceptics are more often than not ordinary working people who would suffer a great deal from serious moves to reduce greenhouse emissions and believe adaptation is cheaper and more efficient than mitigation. The trouble with this view is that adaptation is very likely to make the problem worse, especially in a nation like Australia possessing a surfeit of fossil fuel resources.

What the Sydney Morning Herald is surprisingly showing is that in formerly Stalinist China, despite privatisation and extremely rapid economic growth, greenhouse sceptics may have more influence in academia than they do in Australia:
"Global warming is a bogus proposition," says Zhang Musheng, one of China's most influential intellectuals and a close adviser to a powerful and hawkish general in the People's Liberation Army, Liu Yuan.

Mr Zhang told the Herald that global warming was an American ruse to sell green energy technology and thereby claw its way out of its deep structural economic problems.
According to another Australian source, Zhang is a "left leaning" intellectual. If this is remotely true, it suggests that for all its rapid economic growth, China remains in many ways a fundamentally Stalinist nation whereby the interests of a dictatorial ruling class dominate despite growth of a type Mao Zedong could never have wanted or even imagined. What the ruling class of China will do in the future is an interesting question given the country's demographic decline as outlined by The Economist in Graysia a month ago. It may make it hard for China to adapt new technology, especially with such an old population and extreme scarcity of flat land. China is also turning to the much-discredited policy of farm subsidies to stabilise its economy: Beijing now pays more in farm subsidies than even France or Germany. As I outlined with Japan here, this may be a key cause of its low birth rate since removing farm subsidies would permit construction of affordable housing.

Still, once China's population falls into free-fall, one cannot say even a China that lags behind Europe in efficiency is a threat to the planet's ecosystems as an Australia with a pacified working class and a surfeit of fossil fuels.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Name changes that are silly beyond belief?

Time magazine this week has made a list of the top ten most absurd name changes.

Whilst I have loved to note name changes and even love to use the phrase g.k.a. (generally known as) for a pseudonym and to refer to a person by their real name, I have rarely laughed at the use of pseudonyms, even though I know that in some spheres of sport and religion changing names is mandatory for those of high rank.

Time's list was:
  • Lisa Bonet to Lilakoi Moon
  • Ol' Dirty Bastard to Big Baby Jesus
  • Caryn Johnson to Whoopi Goldberg
  • Mark Duper to Mark Super Duper
  • Mark Sinclair Vincent to Vin Diesel
  • Ron Artest to Metta World Peace
  • Prince to a Symbol
  • Steven Demetre Georgiou to Cat Stevens to Yusuf Islam
  • Puff Daddy to P. Diddy to Diddy
  • Chad Johnson to Chad Ochocinco
Of these, I can easily see a great deal of merit and reasoning in all Time's inclusions with the exception of Cat Stevens, for the simple reason that if Stevens was converting to Islam then there is every reason why he should want to change his name as the Islamic faith in its strictest forms requires him to do so.