SOME MEMOIRS -- by John Ray
Some occasional personal notes from a quiet life...
John Ray's Home Page; Email John Ray here. The Blogroll. Photo album for this blog here. A link to memoirs from previous years can be found just above the flag at the foot of this page. More sites for John Ray's blogs: Greenie Watch, Dissecting Leftism, Political Correctness Watch, Education Watch, Gun Watch, Recipes, Australian Politics, Tongue Tied, Immigration Watch, Eye on Britain and Food & Health Skeptic.
Old folk at lunch
MOTTO: As Oscar Wilde might have said: Life is too important to be taken seriously
19 December, 2005
Yes. That moth-eaten guy looking at you above is I -- photo taken this year.
Summary of my year:
Again not a lot of news to report this year. My blogging keeps me busy in front of my computer for about 12 hours a day so I am the sedentary man. I do however go out a lot to eat -- usually for both brunch and dinner. I have only those two meals per day. There is a small anecdote about my breakfast adventures below and a note about some of my dinner adventures here.
Judith Middleton moved out a few months ago to return to Melbourne and care for her aged father -- who is now very frail. So I was left without a companion for a short while but I now have a new lady by the name of Anne. She is such a keen chorister that she is in two choirs so she and I share a lot of musical interests -- including an interest in early church music. Through her choral contacts she hears a lot of what is going on in the Brisbane music scene so if there is some good Gregorian chant or the like being performed somewhere she lets me know and we go along. That has meant rather a lot of visits to churches lately -- even though we are both unbelievers (though both of us were, coincidentally, once communicants at Ann St Presbyterian church). There is an account of our visit to "Our Lady of Victories" Polish Catholic church below and also a memoir of our visit to "Our Lady of Protection" Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church
Anne is a pretty individualistic lady but she is very kind to me -- perhaps because I am the individualistic type too. She has even been to Iceland -- a place I often talk about but only admire from afar. She is a nurse by trade and tells me that everything you hear about the Queensland Health bureaucracy is true. See here for an example of what I mean.
I reported as follows last year"I am constantly in and out of surgery for my skin cancers these days. I just had three lots done at once yesterday. Rather remarkably, all the local anaesthetic the dermo pumped into me seems to have had a lasting but beneficial side-effect: For the last 4 months or so I have had a very sore left shoulder that I could move only in certain ways without pain. I never could work out for sure where the pain came from but it seemed to be tendonitis rather than arthritis. Anyway, six hours after surgery on my OTHER arm, the pain was all gone and I could move both arms any way I liked! I only hope the effect lasts! They put a lot of adrenaline into local anaesthetic so maybe that had something to do with it. Frozen shoulders are a rather common problem among oldies so now you know how to cure it! There are not many instant cures around for anything these days so it may be worth remembering. There was a famous case in America where some sort of surgical anaesthesia cured a kid of his autism so there may be more in these anaesthetics than meets the eye.And I am pleased to say that my shoulder problems did indeed vanish. I am now as good as gold in that department. My dermatological adventures are however unending and there is a report of the most recent one below. I am now more or less over the procedure concerned but it sometimes takes months before everything is 100% again and that seems to be the way of it on this occasion too. It's surprising whom you sometimes meet when you frequent hospitals, however, as I noted below in October.
My son Joe is now 18 and has just finished his first year at university -- majoring in Mathematics. He got marks of 7 out of 7 for all his mathematics subjects so we are all pretty pleased about that. I have arranged a celebratory dinner in honour of the achievement for this Thursday, at which a bottle of Grange will be opened. For those who do not know the wonders of Grange, it is Australia's most famous wine and costs around $500 a bottle for the current release (1999). So I hope I don't give Joe a taste for it. It will keep him poor if I do. There are some pics of Joe here
I started a new blog recently devoted entirely to Australian politics and events of interest and it seems to have taken off well. See here.
And what about a funny photo to finish up with?
18 December 2005
Gregorian chant at Our Lady of Protection Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church
Almost all blogs contain a fair bit of comment about the personal life of the blogger. There is not much of that here so maybe my occasional personal anecdote helps keep a balance. My anecdotes are always fairly didactic anyway.
Because both the lady in my life (Anne) and myself are lovers of early church music we tend to end up in churches a fair bit on weekends even though we are both unbelievers. Mentally, I am as atheist as you can get but emotionally I am still Christian. And I can assure you that that apparent inconsistency bothers me not one iota. I have an enormous appreciation (and considerable knowledge) of my Christian heritage.
Last night we went to a concert held after the regular service at Our Lady of Protection Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church here in Brisbane. How a church can be both Byzantine and Catholic is a considerable puzzle. Byzantium is the home of Orthodoxy. But I assume that there was a schism some time in the past where an Orthodox church kept all its Greek rites but decided to recognize the magisterium of the Pope as well. The fact that the church still had a version of the mediaeval "rude screen" between the altar and the congregation supports that. There was also no organ in evidence -- which seemed very strange to an old Protestant like me. Presbyterian/Methodist churches that I know always have an organ with a pulpit in front of it as the focus of attention in a church (rather than an altar).
The first thing I noted in the church was the large number of children and young people in attendance. It made me feel very grateful for our Ukrainian immigrants. After the genocide inflicted on the Ukrainians by Stalin, perhaps they feel an urge to restore their numbers. And, unlike Muslims, Ukrainians don't make the news by harassing Anglo-Australians. I guess having a religion that says "love your neighbour" is a bit different from having a religion that says "Kill the infidel".
The main attraction on the program was a series of Latin chants by "Schola Cantorum" -- a Brisbane choir who seem to specialize in that. The male members dressed in monk's robes so one got a very good feel for how the chants were originally intended. And hearing them in a church with such a prominent mediaeval feature as a rude screen helped with that too.
And the priest was YOUNG! Still in his 20s by all appearances. Great to see that Christianity is alive and vital among this subsection of the Australian population at least.
10 December, 2005
Philosophy and postmodernism
I rarely read philosophy these days. I went into the basic philosophical questions in my student days and shortly thereafter had published my conclusions about the nature of mind, the nature of ethics, the nature of cause and the nature of self. I have never seen any reason to alter my views about any of the questions concerned in the many years since but I have at times elaborated a little more fully my views about moral philosophy.
And for me any philosophy that fails to give an account of mind, ethics, cause and self is quite simply failed philosophy. And a philosophy that denies that any of those things are real is therefore fit only to be ignored. As it happens, however, there are lots of failed philosophers about and they have somehow conned the taxpayers into paying them a lot of money. They call themselves "postmoderninsts" and, as far as one can make any sense at all of what they say, their essential credo seems to be "nothing is real". When I come across such garbage I tend to be overcome by the wish that I could hit the so-called philosophers over the head with a baseball bat and then say to them: "Don't worry. Nothing is real so I didn't really hit you over the head with a baseball bat. Just carry on as before while I get ready to hit you again". I think reality would be rapidly rediscovered under those circumstances.
I was triggered off into this little tirade by a book I have just been having a look at. It is called Explaining postmodernism and is by Prof. Stephen R.C. Hicks, who undertakes the heroic task of trying to make some sense of postmodernism and trace its historical roots. As irrationality has always figured largely in human experience, it is no surprise that he finds the sources of postmodernism to be many and varied and to go back a long way. He traces postmodernism back to Kant but he could have gone back much further if he had wished to look at lesser-known writers.
His conclusions are in general also mine, though he is more polite than I would be. In my view postmodernism is simply a juvenile tantrum about how unco-operative reality is with socialist thought. Socialism has of course long had big appeal to intellectuals because it offers the simplifications that intellectuals tend to seek. The only trouble is that the simplifications don't work. From the French revolution on through Stalin and Hitler to Pol Pot we all now know of the horrors that it regularly leads to. So having had their childish simplifications taken away from them by reality, Leftist intellectuals stamp their foot and say that it is reality which is at fault. By denying reality they are in some insane way able to hang on to their faith in socialism.
My only quarrel with Prof. Hicks is that he uses the term "Right" in a peculiar way -- no doubt through political expediency. He seems to think you can be of the political Right and also be a socialist! That enables him to avoid upsetting the applecart with regard to Hitler. He admits that Hitler was a socialist who differed only in detail from the Communists but still calls Hitler a Rightist! Calling Hitler a Leftist would in academe cause Prof. Hicks to be consigned to outer darkness, of course. The only sense I can make of Prof Hick's usage is that he is using "Right" to be synonymous with "Nationalist" but that is pretty sloppy when one considers that, at least from Napoleon on, there have been plenty of Leftist nationalists. Perhaps he just has not read Friedrich Engels, who was as fervid a German nationalist and racial supremacist as Hitler was. (See, for instance, here and here and here and here). And, yes, the Engels I am talking about is the co-worker of Karl Marx. Or were Marx & Engels not Leftists? I think in this matter I have to say that Prof. Hicks gets himself into absurdities as big as those he ennumerates among the postmodernists. Or perhaps he just does not know his political history. He reads this blog, however, so I suspect that he knows it better than he can afford to admit, which is a bit sad. But he has to survive in academe after all and he is only a young man yet.
In most normal usage, Rightism would be identified with conservatism and if anybody wants to know what history shows about the nature of conservatism, I have just updated my account of the matter here.
Academic books and papers very commonly end with the conclusion: "More research is needed" and Prof Hicks is no exception. He feels that postmodernists have been allowed to flourish by the fact that realist and empiricist philosophers have not given final and uncontrovertible answers to the puzzles that they consider. He seems to think that if realists and empiricists had done a better job then postmodernists would not have flourished. I think however that such a conclusion runs counter to his own observation that postmodernism fulfils a psychological need rather than having any real intellectual function. I cannot see that a completed program of realist philosophy would have stopped the absurd tantrums of the postmodernists. And the day that there cease to be questions in philosophy, it will no longer be philosophy.
There is another review of the book here which claims that Hicks does not describe the thought of the philosophers he covers in enough depth. My own view of that is that Hicks is a hero to have waded as deeply as he did into such dog's vomit. My own essay on postmodernism is here
8 December 2005
Illegality may be a good way to filter immigrants
I recently put up an excerpt from this NYT article ...
Which pointed out that by Mexican standards most of the illegals were Mexican mainstream rather than dross. I should have said what I see as the implications of that. I think it supports the view that GWB has taken on the matter -- that these people deserve some respect as enterprising, hard-working people. All immigration is a selective process and it well behooves us descendants of immigrants to think of immigrants as a bit better than their parent populations. I know that I am much struck by this view whenever I am in England. The English who still live in England seem a VERY grey lot compared to the many Englishmen I know who have emigrated to Australia. Englishmen abroad are so much more self-confident and dynamic than the ones who have remained passively behind in England and who look forward only to the day when they will become OAPs (State-supported seniors).
Emigration is always a selective process of some kind and the only issue is what the particular selective pressure is in any given case. And I frankly think that the selective pressure of getting into the USA illegally is probably as good a filter as passing any of the normal bureaucratic barriers that I know of. It is obviously true that the illegals do also contain a significant criminal element but, as a social scientist, I look at the process overall and conclude that the USA is probably not worse off genetically for its Hispanic influx. There are a lot of good genes coming across the border too.
And now for my usual anecdote, another breakfast one as it happens! When I think of Hispanics, I think of the guy that I used to get breakfast off in NYC. I used to order ham and eggs at his little diner and I went there because it was both cheap and a good breakfast. And was that guy efficient! He moved like greased lightning. I have never seen anybody butter toast with one swoop of a knife before but he always did. So he could serve twice as many customers per unit time as most eatery workers. It was a splendid example of capitalistic incentives at work and also a splendid example of the sort of immigrant you get when you make them pass a heavy filter.
5 December 2005
When England was still English"What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"
Hopeless old sentimentalist that I am, that coda to a great speech still moves me to tears. And I fear that Churchill was more prophetic than he could have realized. I think WW2 may indeed have been Britain's finest hour. At that time England was still English and Scotland was still Scottish. No more of course. England is now a mish-mash of the world -- including some very unsavoury bits of the world. And London, I am told, is now about 50% black.
I spent a year in Britain in 1977 and at that time most of England was still English. Brixton was already not a good place to go and Notting Hill was a bit dubious but there were plenty of London pubs etc that were still as English as they had ever been so I was able to get an impression of what England was like when it was still all English. And I understood and appreciated Englishness not only because of my ancestry but also because I was a bookworm as a kid and almost all the boys' books I read at that time were written and printed in England. The scene that those books portrayed was very alien to what I experienced in my own environment in tropical Australia but because I steeped myself in it, it became a second world that I grew up with. So when I did go to London I felt totally at home there.
So I do understand what the English have now lost and will almost certainly never regain. To have lost something as wonderful as an English England is a great loss indeed.
30 November 2005
Well my big surgical procedure seems to have gone OK. Many thanks for the good wishes I have received from many readers. I felt like sh*t when I came out of the anaesthetic but after a few hours of post-operative testing they let me go home, whereupon I fell straight into bed and have just woken up after a few hours of sleep, feeling fairly normal. There was some morphine in the cocktail that the anaesthetist poured into me however so I am not sure if that has worn off yet or not.
I went into one of Brisbane's many private hospitals where my treatment was faultless: lots of competent and attentive staff. Maybe I should give the hospital a free plug: It was North West Private hospital, a for-profit hospital. My lady-friend Ann is a nurse and her her loving presence during my recovery period helped a lot too. The procedure was a dermatological one and I have frequent more minor dermatological procedures so I was on first-name terms with the surgeon. We even had a few laughs before proceedings began. I had had a couple of small excisions (SCCs) done by him just six days before and he in fact took out the sutures resulting from them while I was on the table -- as they were already well-healed. It is lucky I am a good healer.
For those who take an interest in such details, the hospital staff that I encountered were all white and all spoke perfect Australian English -- which helps a lot as I am a bit deaf these days. I don't think I should sit up for long at this stage so I don't think I will post to all my blogs straight off but I may get more up during the day. It is just after midnight here in Eastern Australia at the time I am writing.
20 November 2005
Celebrating the feast of Christ the King at "Our Lady of Victories"
It has from time to time been said on this blog that if you want to live in an entirely white society, you need to move to Eastern Europe. In Brisbane you can do that with relative ease. This Sunday morning, I attended a mass at "Our Lady of Victories" church -- Brisbane's major Catholic church with an entirely Polish congregation. The service was mostly in Polish but, being a bit deaf, I found it hardly more incomprehensible than the service at the Metropolitical Cathedral of St. John -- a marvellous stone Anglican church to which I also occasionally go for the music. Being a great fan of early church music (the Missa Papae Marcelli by Palestrina is my favourite in that department) I am often to be found in places where few atheists go.
Anyway, the service at "Our Lady of Victories" was overwhelming. The congregation was of course entirely pink-skinned and mostly elderly. There was Gregorian chant even before the service began and young nuns in wimples were much in evidence. The service began with a magnificent ecclesiastical procession with all sorts of flags, banners and uniforms -- with the distinctive caps of the heroic Polish armed forces much in evidence. There was no order of service or prayer-book handed out. People KNEW what to do and when to do it. Sanctuaries were opened and closed, bells were rung and trumpet fanfares were sounded. And best of all was the heartfelt singing of Polish hymns. And, quite amazingly, after the service was over and we left the church, we all processed right around the church and resumed devotions while standing outside it -- with the clergy officiating from the entrance staircase. There was a definite reluctance to let go of a great community occasion. It was all pretty foreign to my poor old Presbyterian heart (the lady I was with was also of Presbyterian origins) but the power of the occasion was still very evident to me nonetheless.
So, yes. I do appreciate the ways of my Volk -- with that term VERY broadly defined -- and I believe that they are so powerful that they will never go away. That the Poles have endured so much and still emerged victorious in all the ways that matter is proof of that.
October 26, 2005
ISRAEL, JEWS, IMMIGRATION
The heading above draws attention to some of the most emotive issues in today's world but I have never been one to run from controversy and I am not going to start now. I just feel sorry for the Jewish people that the mere mention of their name is an "issue". I am myself a great supporter of Israel. The Israelis have bent over backwards to be fair to the other inhabitants of their ancient land and got only mass-murder of their people as a response. So I am delighted to note that our present Australian conservative government is also a resolute friend of Israel. A small excerpt:"The Howard-Downer duumvirate in Australian foreign policy has changed our position on the Middle East at the UN in a way that is wholly remarkable, not only independent but positively brave, utterly politically incorrect and undoubtedly right in principle; and, amazingly, is meeting with success. Australia has always been a strong friend of Israel... the UN has established a vast bureaucracy dedicated to blackening Israel's name....
Most nations that Australians would regard as like-minded, such as the west Europeans, the Canadians and some others, traditionally find this all too hard to deal with and seek a coward's solace in abstaining from most anti-Israel resolutions and activities. Until about two years ago, that was Australia's way as well. But then came the wave of terror attacks on Israel, Israel's fence and the absurd overreaction to it. Alexander Downer and John Howard decided enough was enough.... it wasn't going to go along with the usual Israel bashing. In truth it was a proud moment in Australian foreign policy and certainly one of the deepest independence....
This vote was not a one-off. It has become the pattern of our voting on Israel-related issues. Canberra has attempted to use its influence with Pacific Island nations, and even in Southeast Asia, to try to produce a change. And, get this, it is working. Canada has joined Australia on some critical resolutions and the attitude towards Israel at the UN has begun to change noticeably."
And I again want to draw attention to Isi Leibler's article which shows, quite appallingly, that in Britain the Leftist intelligentsia are a greater source of antisemitism even than the Muslims. Thank goodness that their official leader, Tony Blair, is a decent man. If his name had been Adolf .....
Hooray! The good sense and moderation of ordinary British people has won the day again. There was an official move to ban members of Britain's anti-immigration party (the BNP) from being employed as firemen (firepersons?) in Dorset but the Dorset Fire Authority Committee rejected the move:"One member of the committee stated: 'I think it is totally inappropriate to single out one political party in this way! The fact of the matter is, if any member or firefighter acts in an improper way, he will be dismissed." "And I don't see why we should single out this particular party. It is not proscribed, it stands in general elections, and I think it is totally wrong!" "If we were going to do it, we'd have done it with the Communist Party that had strong membership of the fire brigade union 20 years ago!" "We didn't do it then and I don't see why we should do this now!" The motion to reject the proposal was seconded, and a unanimous vote rejected the motion to ban BNP members from the Dorset Fire service."
And in my view it is the sense of moderation and fairness displayed above that has made Britain Great and which makes me proud of my British origins, remote though they now are. "First they came for the BNP ...." and in Britain people DID speak up. And I myself have spoken up in the most practical way that I know.
23 October, 2005
AUSTRALIANS ONLY HAVE FIVE COMMANDMENTS
(We are great abbreviators). The quiz I put up recently about knowledge of Australian slang seems to have been very popular so I thought I might re-post the observations below:
From its foundation in 1788, Australia has always been a traditionally unholy place with a very low rate of churchgoing. Americans trace their founding fathers to religious zealots but Australians trace their foundations to convicts. And other major population elements in the white settlement of Australia -- such as goldrush "diggers" and Irish rebels -- did little to alter the culture originating from our convict origins. Only about 3% of modern-day Australians have convict ancestors (I am one of the 3%) but the early days formed a culture that has been passed on to others as they arrived -- just as only a small minority of Americans now have primarily English ancestry but English is nonethless the language of America. And Australia's only national hero to this day is Ned Kelly -- an Irish highway robber who eventually was hanged for his undoubted crimes.
So how come Australia is a civil, prosperous and pleasant place to live? It is because Australians DO have a widely agreed-on moral code -- but it is not a Christian one. It originates from the values of the English working class of yesteryear and can perhaps be conveniently summed up (in its original Australian slang) as the following five "Commandments":
* Thou shalt not dob in thy mates
* Thou shalt not bung on an act.
* Thou shalt not be a tall poppy
* Thou shalt give everyone a fair go
* Thou shalt be fair dinkum
Translating these into standard English yields APPROXIMATELY the following:
* You must not incriminate your friends to the boss, the police or anyone else. Loyalty to your associates is all-important.
* You must not be ostentatious or pretend to be what you are not.
* You must treat others as your equals. If you are seen as being better than others in anything but sport you will be made to suffer for it.
* You must be fair and permissive in your treatment of others.
* You must not be insincere or dishonest.
From Hammurabi onwards, most moral codes have had much in common and the Australian and Christian moral codes do also have things in common but the Australian moral code is not preached in churches. It is simply traditional and widely heartfelt.
18 October 2005
NOT ALL BLACKS ARE EQUAL
I was just leaving Wesley Hospital (A top Brisbane private hospital) today after one of my regular encounters with the surgeon’s knife (for skin cancer) when I saw a very recognizable figure walk in—a member of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG). He seemed rather surprised when I greeted him but he shook my hand anyway. I remember writing a congratulatory letter to him about something or other in the 1980s (though I forget what it was about now) so it was a pleasure to shake his hand. And I think it is the only time I have shaken hands with a Prime Minister anyway. Paias had a couple of terms in the 1980s and 1990s as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. He is of course a melanesian (“black islander”). I grew up with melanesians around the place and rather like them, as I have noted previously—which I would not say of certain other dark-skinned populations. Note however that I say “populations”. There are good and bad individuals in all populations.
That got me thinking about Melanesian IQ. Lynn & Vanhanen give the mean IQ for Papua and New Guinea as 84 and at first glance that seems well justified. Melanesians have only recently emerged from the stone age. But it doesn’t gell with my experience of them. I have met lots of Africans (both in Africa and in the USA) and I have met lots of Australian Aborigines and I have no doubts about whatever about the accuracy of the mean IQ quoted for both those groups. But Melanesians seem in my experience of them to be a lot smarter than that. And with the difficulty of measuring ANYTHING cross-culturally (see e.g. here), I think I am entitled to reserve judgment on the matter.
But if Melanesians are reasonably bright, how come they were in the stone age within living memory? Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and I think this is one case where one of Marx’s ideas was right (though Engels tried to talk him out of it). Marx believed in geographical determinism—a common 19th century idea from which we get the phrase “blood and soil” as a description of what is important to people. Mostly the idea is rubbish but I think it explains New Guinea. New Guinea is very large but it is also extraordinarily mountainous. It is probably the earth’s most wrinkled bit of geography. And the people of course live in the many small valleys and are very effectively cut off from one-another by the surrounding mountains—which is why every valley has its own language. So I think it was simply the isolation of the New Guineans that kept them in the stone age. There was little communication with outsiders and hence no diffusion of ideas. And that of course contrasts greatly with the relative ease of communication across the great Eurasian landmass.
And New Guinea has very little fauna to hunt. Birds and tree kangaroos are about it. So living in those isolated valleys was pretty challenging and meant—as in Northern Europe—that you could only survive by planning ahead—which the New Guneans did by planting their “gardens” and raising pigs. Basically, if your garden did not feed you, you starved. And gardens are not equally productive all the year round so root crops such as cassava had to be grown that could be kept aside for when there was nothing else to eat. So that’s my contribution to the theoretical biology of Melanesians anyway. For very different reasons, I think they had pressures on their mental development that were similar to the pressures that produced modern Europeans.
I might mention that the Melanesian population in mainland Australia is small but they generally fit in well, are peacable and are well-liked. I mentioned my own positive view of Melanesians to the lady in my life—who was for a time a nurse on Thursday Island—the most populous bit of Melanesia that is still part of Australia—and her response was simply: “They’re lovely”. And she is certainly in a position to know.
October 16, 2005
MORE CRAP PSYCHOLOGY
Given the compulsive Leftism that permeates the social sciences, it is not surprising that the standards of scholarship in social science writing are normally so slight as to require a metaphorical microscope to find them. For many years I regularly wrote formal critiques of the most egregious examples of bad scholarship in psychology and sociology and I usually got them published in the academic journals concerned. It was however a great waste of time -- as both facts and reason are noted in the social sciences only insofar as they accord with Leftist prejudices. I think I should however keep the pot boiling to some extent so I do from time to time note on this blog and elsewhere how absurd various current claims from psychology are -- even if I can no longer be bothered to do a full formal critique of the particular article concerned. So I am going to make a few comments today on: Hastings, B.M. & Schaffer, B.A. (2005) "Authoritarianism and sociopolitical attitudes in response to threats of terror". Psychological Reports, 97, 623-630. It is fairly typical of the rubbish that psychologists produce in the guise of research so a critique of it might serve as a useful proxy for critiques of many similar such articles.
As is the usual fashion among psychologists, the authors make no attempt to sample any known population and proceed to base broad conclusions about human psychological processes on the answers to questionnaires given by 61 women and 10 men drawn from various classes at the small Mt. Aloysius College in Pennsylvania. The results are therefore of totally unknown generalizability. For the sake of the exercise, however, let us assume that there is some generalizability to their results and ask how those results were obtained.
What they did was to correlate several "scales" (standard collections of questions) with one another. They found that scales allegedly measuring Right-wing authoritarianism (the RWA scale), Democratic Values and Militarism tended to correlate with one another. They seem to think that this constitutes proof that conservative "authoritarians" are anti-democratic and militaristic. What a laugh! I won't bother reproducing any of the items of the three scales here but all three scales include many statements that would normally and uncontroversially be taken as indicating conservatism. So all that they have shown is in fact that people are consistent in their conservatism. People who express conservative views on one "scale" also tend to express conservative views on all three scales. Big deal! It is what scientists call an "artifactual" (researcher-induced) finding. I have been noting that sort of charade among psychologists for many years (see e.g. here).
The other thing they found, if I read it aright, is that people got more "authoritarian" (Read: "conservative") when they felt threatened. That is however just a regurgitation of the old New York adage: "A conservative is a liberal who was mugged last night". And everybody knows how conservative the armed forces are. As a former Army man myself, it has never surprised me (but has always pleased me) how many supportive emails I get with "mil" at the end of the sender's email address. So even if we take the Hastings & Schaffer results far more seriously than we should, we find that their final conclusion is little more than a commonplace. What would have been interesting is if they had explored WHY encounters with reality make people more conservative -- but that enquiry would have led them in very uncomfortable directions, I fancy.
October 15, 2005
WHY I BLOG
Keith Burgess Jackson has suggested that I explain to all and sundry my motives for being such a dedicated blogger. I post daily to six blogs of my own and also contribute frequently to three other group blogs. So I suppose that is indeed in some need of explanation.
Unlike most bloggers I rarely make comments on my blogs about events in my life but, for some reason that is rather opaque even to me, I do put up a few reports of my personal doings on Majority Rights. It is a high-traffic blog but I don't think that has anything to do with it. I think I do it because that blog is mainly concerned with something that has a high emotional component -- immigration. And as someone who thinks that most (but not all) immigration, is OK I qualify there as the extreme Leftist in the group! (My views on that subject are however mainstream in Australia). So many of my posts are designed to move my co-bloggers and readers of the blog generally towards a greater acceptance of some types of immigration -- legal and selective immigration in particular. And I feel that personal anecdotes are more persuasive in that sphere than are rational arguments.
But that brings me to what I think is Keith's central enquiry: Do I think my blogging makes any difference? And I can answer that very easily. I know it does because my readers often tell me so. I doubt that I have ever converted a single Leftist from his Leftism but a lot of people of conservative views email me to tell me how my blogs are a sort of emotional and intellectual lifeline for them in the sea of liberalism that surrounds them. I am seen as one of the few voices who will invariably speak the plain truth, no matter how unpopular and politically incorrect it may be. Rarely does a day go by when someone does not email me with a grateful message of that kind. And I in turn greatly appreciate and am encouraged by such feedback.
But there is also a certain sense in which I blog for posterity. As an atheist, I have no hope of immortality of any kind so the ancient Greek idea that the only immortality you can have is in men's minds has some resonance with me. And some Greeks even achieved it. Will Socrates or Leonidas and his 300 Spartans at Thermopylae ever be forgotten? And over the period of my lifetime I have already seen many of the views that I have held move from being absurdities to realities. So I think I already have some basis for feeling that, in the future, I will be recognized as someone who got it right when most others did not. I repeatedly find that my theories and assumptions about the world work out in practice (even on the stockmarket!) and I think that, as time goes by, my way of thinking will become more influential precisely because it does yield good predictions. So I actually hope for more influence in the future than I have in the present.
So, like many scientists, my goal is to further human knowledge and understanding but my views on most things are so out of the mainstream among intellectuals now that only the future holds any promise of my achieving that. And since many scientists were ridiculed in their lifetime for putting forward what are now accepted truths, I don't think I am being totally unrealistic in that. In particular, I hope that my dissection of the motivations behind Leftism will one day win broad acceptance and thus reduce the evils that Leftists are forever trying to inflict upon us.
And how do I manage to write so much? One reason is that as a retired man I have the time for it. I spend about 12 hours a day in front of my computer screen. Another is that I am a born academic: Writing is what I have always done. And a third reason is that I find the world of ideas far more exciting than any other so I have few other interests in life. And there always seem to be women in my life who put up with that, rather surprisingly. Women are such fine creatures that I will never understand homosexuals.
26 Sept 2005
Muslims and Chinese experienced
Social scientists and others rely (or should rely) on extensively sampled data to support generalizations that they make. Valid generalizations can hardly arise from anything but sampling of a wide range of relevant data. To generalize about a given population, you at least need to sample it in some way.
Nonetheless, statistical generalizations do NOT seem to be very persuasive to most people. Not unreasonably, people tend to be much more influenced by observations and events that they know personally or that people they know have told them about. So generalizations will not usually gain much traction without illustrative examples. Anecdotes are at least as persuasive as well-founded statistical generalizations.
So what I want to do below is give two small anecdotes from my life that do in my view illustrate at the personal level two generalizations that I believe are well supported by other historical and psychometric data: That many Muslim populations are emotionally immature and that the Chinese are innately a highly civilized people. There are exceptions to every rule of course but what I want to do is give examples that illustrate the rule.
I often eat out for breakfast. And in highly multicultural Australia the providers of breakfasts are ethnically highly varied. And the "ethnics" often do not understand English well. So getting a breakfast from them can sometimes have its communication difficulties. On one such occasion, I was having difficulty getting what I had ordered from a Muslim (Iranian, I think) business. After communication had repeately failed, I began to get a bit irate. When I did so, however, the Muslim owner got irate with me and accused me of insulting him. At that point I simply turned on my heel without another word and walked out- and I never went there again. He went broke a few months later.
On a second more recent occasion, a similar situation transpired in a business run by a Chinese man. Did his "honour" get besmirched by my annoyance? Not a bit of it. He was apologetic and conciliatory. I did not walk out of HIS eatery. I enjoyed my breakfast when I eventually got it and I will eat there again. I shook his hand as I left by way of apology for my bad temper. And I am betting that he won't go broke. Give me the Chinese any day. I have known Chinese people since childhood and have had umpteen opportunities to observe their behaviour here in Australia-and the example I have just given is absolutely typical of them in my experience: Truly smart, patient and civilized people..
AUGUST 15, 2005
ASIANS -- SOME COMMENTS FOR WHITE NATIONALISTS
I have lived my entire life in a highly multicultural society so I am acutely aware of racial and ethnic differences. I grew up in an Australian country-town (Innisfail) that was only half Anglo. The rest were Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, Maltese, Yuogoslavs, Chinese, Sikhs, TIs (Melanesians) and Aborigines (blacks). And when with that perspective I look at my fellow Anglo-Australians I see people of admirable restraint, fortitude, good humour and moderation in all things. But that is only the majority. There is also a minority who are shitheads and morons.
Now I could sound like an uncomprehending elitist in saying that. Maybe I am just wiping off working class people and glorifying middle class people like myself. It is however if anything the reverse. If anything I find something like three times as much good sense in the workers as I do in the bourgeoisie. But there are shitheads in both camps. And I find that even the difficult cases among the workers are not much of a problem to me personally. Because I was born into an Australian working class family, working class thinking and conventional wisdom is an open book to me. I know all the key words and key phrases and I defer to no-one in my knowledge and enjoyment of the brilliant Australian slanguage. And I certainly did put all that to the test when I spent a couple of years as a boarding house proprietor in a "depressed" area (Ipswich) of Brisbane. I was really dealing with the hard cases there. A significant number of them in fact came to me directly from "the big house" (jail). Yet such is the power of a shared culture that I was in all cases able to handle to my satisfaction the people concerned. I always knew the right words to use. The people concerned were a considerable problem to others (and to themselves) but they were well within my capacity to handle -- though the time I threw a druggie through a closed door was approaching my limits. Words are wasted on druggies. So there is no doubt that I am as much an insider to basic Anglo-Australian culture as anyone ever will be. I am of my culture and I appreciate it and enjoy it.
But much as I am at home among my own people, I am still delighted at the sterling qualities I find in Asians. I find scarcely any shitheads among them. And I put my money where my mouth is. I actually share my large house with Asians -- mostly South Asians. None of them are of course flawless human beings but when I think of their relaxed good humour, their intelligence and their unfailing politeness and restraint I cannot see that they are inferior to anyone or that they are anything but an asset to any environment they inhabit.
Now somebody will want to tell me that it is different in England. And it certainly is different superficially. The way just about EVERY small business in London is run by South Asians is pretty amazing (though the way English shop-assistants treat their customers makes it a lot less amazing). And when I am in England and I walk into one of those Asian shops I am greeted with the wariness and reserve that experience has taught the proprietors concerned. But I only have to exchange half a dozen words with the people concerned before all that changes. Because I genuinely like and admire Indians, that message gets through almost as fast as a bullet and it is soon smiles all round. I remember once when I was in an Indian shop in London and some old English prick was telling the Indian proprietor how great the English were and how the world owed them a living. As I walked out, I "accidentally" shouldered him hard enough to knock him over. I felt embarrassed that a fine Sikh gentleman had to put up with such crassness from the prick concerned.
And nor am I talking about immigrant Indians only. I have also lived in Bombay and I can only admire the cheerfulness, enterprise and good humour of the street-people there.
I certainly don't think that all races are equal any more than I think all people are equal but I also think it is absurd to say that there is something special about someone just because his skin is pink. Each case must be judged on its individual merits but it seems to me that on any non-racial scale of values the Asians average out well ahead. And we live in a century that will see that proven. Ironically, the poison that has held the Asians back so far is of Western origin -- socialism. If any people are instinctive capitalists it is the Indians and Chinese.
And the claim that Asian cultures are tribal is a grave misconception. Asian culture is a culture of reciprocity. So if you treat them well or do them a good turn you generate enormous feelings of obligation in return. So when I walk into an Indian shop where I am known and buy three samoosas for my lunch I will occasionally get a fourth one popped into the bag as a gesture of goodwill. What is problematical about a culture like that?
JULY 28, 2005
THE SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF WOOLLY HATS
Just to take our minds off more serious concerns for once, I thought I might point out something I have noticed that other people might or might not be able to confirm from their own experience. I have noticed that people whom Australians would call "drongoes" (foolish and stupid people) are very prone to wearing woollen hats -- beanies etc. Australians very rarely wear hats of any sort even when they should (given our high incidence of skin cancer) so people wearing warm head-coverings do tend to stand out. And from listening to such people and observing them for many years I am much struck by the low-grade intelligence that seems to prevail among such wearers. No doubt that would not apply in really cold countries such as Russia where furry hats significantly enhance survival but Australia is a generally warm country where few people feel the need for top-deck insulation. So when I see a beanie-clad head in the streets, I immediately identify the person concerned as one best kept away from: as someone with a probably significant tendency to crime and violence. Having been for some years a boarding-house proprietor in a down-market suburb, I am well aware of the fact that crime and violence is a common way for drongoes to cope with life.
So why the association between social pathology and a desire to keep the head warm? I think it is no mystery at all. The brain uses up about 20% of the body's energy. It is a huge consumer of calories in relation to its mass. So the head is normally the last part of the body that feels cold. Having the brain inside the head working is like having a radiator inside it. And as far as I am aware, active brains use up more calories than less active ones. So the people with the relatively inert brains put out less heat from the head and thus feel the cold in their heads more than others do. So an unusual need for warm head-coverings suggests an unusually inactive brain. That's my theory anyway.
JULY 22, 2005
PATRIOTISM, IMMIGRATION AND THE SUDANESE
After having lived for various periods of time in the USA, the UK and India, I am firmly convinced that Australia is the best place in the world in which to live. I imagine that 99% of Australians would agree with that. But I have never been patriotic. I have always seen faults as well as advantages. I am pleased to be an Australian but not proud to be Australian. If I identify with any group at all, it is with the Anglo-Saxon population worldwide. The Anglos versus the non-Anglos seems to me the differentiation that is most useful in identifying locations of civility and moderation.
But I don't see even the Anglos as a whole as being the pinnacle of anything. Most things in this life could be improved (with the exception of J.S. Bach) and I think that applies to populations as well. But how? I see some role for eugenics as long as it is voluntary and the success of the NYC Ashkenazim in almost eliminating Tay-Sachs disease from their community is a shining example of that. And human genetic engineering will undoubtedly in the future be a great boon too.
One thing I would particularly like to see is the minimization of the "Yobbo" or "Chav" component of Anglo-Saxon communities. And I think that SELECTIVE immigration is the only way of doing that which is currently feasible on a large scale. Just because the percentage of "good" genes (however defined) in one population is slightly higher than the average does not mean that there are no similarly "good" genes elsewhere. So a rational immigration program would aim to bring in the bearers of those good genes from wherever they are found and thus dilute the percentage of "bad" genes in the immigration-receiving country. And that I think is broadly what Australia's past immigration policy has done. We have very civilized Asian minorities which greatly enhance the amenity of our country.
The "refugee" component of our immigration program is however a worry. There appears to be some degree of selectivity even in that component of our program but only time will tell if it is sufficient. The disastrous situation in Sudan has led the Australian government into allowing into Australia a considerable number of Sudanese and I see them even in the streets of suburban Brisbane. Given the social pathologies that are uncontrovertibly associated with populations of African origin worldwide, I think it is most likely that the quality of life in Australia will be diminished by the Sudanese presence. I make no apology for predicting that Australian kind-heartedness will have been to our detriment in this instance.
So I am glad Prof. Fraser has raised the issue for debate here in Australia.
In case anybody thinks that I get it wrong above by attributing to genes what should be attributed to culture, I can only say that studies come out almost daily which show that more and more human attributes are genetically determined. Read here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here just for starters.
APRIL 23, 2005
IN MEMORIAM: Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen (1911 - 2005)
I think all my Australian readers will know who "Joh" was but I would be surprised if any of my American readers do. Joh was for nearly 20 years Premier of my home State of Queensland. An Australian Premier is much more powerful than an American State Governor because he controls both the legislature and the administration. Australia seems to get on perfectly well without the American docrine of the separation of powers and, in a famous remark, Joh once revealed that he did not even know what the separation of powers referred to.
Joh led the National Party -- of which I was a member -- and was pro-business to a fault. As a result, Queensland saw an unprecedented rise in prosperity under his rule. During his time in office, Brisbane (the Queensland State capital) seemed to make the national news as often as Canberra (the national capital) because of Joh's total disregard for all Leftist pieties. In 1974, he gained a remarkable 59% of the popular vote. He was a great Queenslander and I miss him.
There are obits of him here and here. I have a previous comment on him here
APRIL 7, 2005
WHY I AM A LIBERTARIAN CONSERVATIVE
I normally mention my own political outlook only in passing. I am more interested in understanding what is happening in the world about me than I am in proposing my own grand theories. And in that respect I think I am a mainstream conservative. Conservatives don't like grand theories. I do however find libertarian ideas a very useful framework for thinking about problems. I think that most of society's problems are caused by governments usurping choices that could better be made by individuals and that government is just about the worst way of doing almost anything. So libertarians normally have a good answer to most social problems -- allow more freedom for individual choice. Libertarians have ideas and concrete proposals with a clear rationale and persuasive precedents. And that is a great contrast with the dismal Leftist reflex of solving everything via ever more pervasive coercion. And libertarian proposals in most spheres are normally congenial to conservatives too.
Where libertarians normally part company with conservatives is over moral issues. Conservatives want less regulation than Leftists but they do want some regulation. Exposing part of a black woman's breast at a major sporting event upsets some conservatives dreadfully, for instance. I am afraid that I remain a total libertarian on such issues. What people do with their own bodies seems to me to be supremely their business. And all arguments that some idea or claim should not be uttered or made known simply suggest to me that the idea or claim concerned is a powerful one that cannot easily be opposed. I would not go so far as to say that any censored idea or claim is automatically correct but I think there is a strong presumption in that direction. So the argument that sexual restraint should be fostered by censorship of sexual expression suggests to me that the arguments in favour of sexual restraint are weak.
Where I part company with many libertarians is that I find them too doctrinaire. I DON'T believe that there is one simple recipe that solves all problems. That to me is a Leftist outlook. As conservatives generally do, I see the world as infinitely complex and as not reducible to any simple rule. And in fact many libertarians agree with that. The extreme form of libertarianism is anarcho-capitalism -- the idea that NO government is needed for any purpose. I know all the arguments in favour of that view but see them as contrary to all human experience. Man is a social animal who has always throughout history felt at least some need for a government to perform certain tasks and I am perfectly confident that that will always be so. So as far as I can tell, most libertarians are not anarcho-capitalists. They are Minimal Statists. They believe that there are certain functions (such as defence) for which a government is needed. I am one of those.
So the distinction between Minimal Statists and Conservatives is one of degree. Conservatives have always wanted to limit the size and power of the State (I document 1500 years of history to that effect here) but they still want a much bigger State than Minimal Statists do. And I am a pretty minimal Minimal Statist. I think the USA could abolish its whole alphabet soup of government agencies (FDA, EPA, DEA etc) to great net advantage (for instance).
Where I appear to be in a minority among libertarians, however, is over the issue of immigration control. I am in favour of control. I am far from totally alone in that view among libertarians but I think it is pretty clear that a majority of libertarians believe in open borders. I think that is naive. Not all people are equally compatible with one-another and if a householder has a right to say whom he will welcome into his house then I think nations have an equal right to say whom they will welcome into their nation. Fortunately, I live in one of the few advanced countries in the world (Australia) that does effectively control its immigration. And my views on that matter make me very much a mainstream Australian. A huge majority of Australians agree with our government's policy of control.
Another way in which I depart from most libertarians but am very much in harmony with conservative traditions is that I do believe us all to be limited in various ways by human nature. Libertarians have no obvious place in their thought for the concept. They know it is a factor but see it as simply one of the many mysterious factors that determine people's preferences. For them only the preferences matter. What determines those preferences is for them unimportant. But conservatives think human nature is VERY important. They think it greatly limits what we do and can do and use it to explain WHY collective action is to be avoided where possible. They give reasons for preferring liberty, instead of simply asserting the desirability of liberty, as libertarians usually do.
That is not to say that libertarians have the same view of human nature that Leftists do. Leftists normally insist that human nature does not exist and that therefore any human being can in theory become anything he wants to be or can be "educated" into being. Libertarians, by contrast, are simply uninterested in whether that is true or not. Leftists think little boys can be "educated" into preferring dolls to trucks as playthings whereas conservatives think they cannot. A libertarian, by contrast, simply says that little boys should be given a choice of what to play with and who cares what they choose. Unfortunately, however, a lot of people do care so the conservative argument does have to be made. I personally agree with the libertarian policy in the matter but I think that policy does normally have to be backed up with conservative arguments about human nature to get it implemented.
Conservatives also have to make more of an issue of individual differences than libertarians do. That people are different and should be allowed to make different choices is axiomatic to libertarians but they normally take that as given rather than arguing for it. With their perennial "all men are equal" doctrine, however, Leftists are always trying to deny or minimize individual differences. Conservatives believe that doctrine to be disastrously wrong and argue vigorously against it. Conservatives believe, for instance, that some people work harder and smarter and therefore rightly get more money for what they do. Leftists however think (or claim to think) that all men are equal so unequal rewards must be unfair and the work of a flawed system. So whether or not individual differences are important is a major Left/Right issue -- but libertarians simply assume it away without debate. I spent most of my academic career researching individual differences so I am obviously in the conservative camp there.
And one way in which I differ from almost everybody these days is that I say out loud that there are some differences between the major races and nations of mankind and that some (but only some) of those differences are important. Up until the middle of the 20th century just about everybody believed that but the fact that Hitler used arguments of that general sort in justifying his deeds has made such arguments generally unmentionable in the modern world. I am however a psychometrician by trade. My expertise is in measuring psychological differences between people. I have had over 200 papers published in the academic journals reporting research in that connection. And perhaps the most solidly proven and replicated finding in psychometrics -- a finding that has always emerged in around a century of research -- is that people of African ultimate origin do have much lower average scores on general problem-solving ability (IQ) than do people of European ancestry and that variations in IQ are largely genetic. So, knowing what I know from my own field of expertise, I HAVE to say that the Leftist approach of treating blacks and whites as intellectually equal is doomed to failure. Somebody has got to say that the emperor has no clothes and I am prepared to be that person when required. Most people seem to think that makes me a "Right-wing extremist" or a "white supremacist". I think it simply makes me an honest scientist.
January 8, 2005
I have crazy interests for an atheist so I thought I might list the books I keep within arm's reach on my desk while I am blogging:
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible; The Penguin Australian encyclopaedia; The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge; The Macquarie [Australian] Dictionary; Brewer's Politics; The King James Bible; an Italian/English dictionary; a French/English dictionary; a Spanish/English dictionary; a German/English dictionary; The Koran; The American State papers including the Federalist; an American desk encyclopedia; Pears Cyclopaedia; a dictionary of American slang; the poems and songs of Robert Burns; Mein Kampf; a Greek New Testament and the Anglican Book of Common Prayer with Hymns Ancient and Modern.
So now you know what I think I often need to know more about!
For the most recent posts on this blog, see here
What would I like to be remembered about me long after I am dead and gone?
I would like it to be remembered that I too often experienced one of life's greatest pleasures: The first mouthful of cold beer on a warm day.
That pleasure will last as long as human beings are human beings, I believe
I am less certain about Bach. The last thing that people will remember about me long after I have gone will probably be: "He liked Bach". Will J.S. Bach continue to inspire people for a thousand years more? I think so. But beyond that I am not sure.
As Oscar Wilde might have said: Life is too important to be taken seriously
My full name is Dr. John Joseph RAY. I am a former university teacher aged 68 at the time of writing in late 2011. I was born of Australian pioneer stock in 1943 at Innisfail in the State of Queensland in Australia. After an early education at Innisfail State Rural School and Cairns State High School, I taught myself for matriculation. I took my B.A. in Psychology from the University of Queensland in Brisbane. I then moved to Sydney (in New South Wales, Australia) and took my M.A. in psychology from the University of Sydney in 1969 and my Ph.D. from the School of Behavioural Sciences at Macquarie University in 1974. I first tutored in psychology at Macquarie University and then taught sociology at the University of NSW. I am Australian born of working class origins and British ancestry. My doctorate is in psychology but I taught mainly sociology in my 14 years as a university teacher. In High Schools I taught economics. I have taught in both traditional and "progressive" (low discipline) High Schools.
Jenny is the first wife of Ken and the third wife of John
Maureen is the second wife of Ken
Paul and the twins (Vonnie and Suzy) are the children of Jenny and Ken
Joe is the child of Jenny and John
Timmy and Davey are the children of Ken and Maureen
Paul is married to Susan
Matthew is the son of Paul and Susan
Twinny Suzy is married to Russell
Von is married to Simon
Tracy is Ken's sister
Tracy is married to Simon (another Simon)
Hannah is the daughter of Von and Simon
Sahara and Dusty are the children of Twinny Suzy and Russell
George came out on the boat to Australia with Ken
George has a son named Simon (The 3rd. Simon)
Jill and Lewis are old friends of John
Anne is the lady in John's life these days
Anne has sisters named Merle and June. Merle is married to Ralph
Anne's sons are Byron, Nigel and Warren
Byron has two sons named Koen and Ethan and a wife named Bonnie
My brother is Christopher (married to Kim) and my surviving sister is Roxanne (married to Stefan)
Quite simple really!