Friday, October 31, 2008

A small reflection about the relationship between England and Australia

Most Americans feel proud, pleased and blessed to be born in America. And rightly so. Australians and the English feel similarly and for similar reasons. But from the large and constant stream of English immigrants arriving in Australia, one gathers that a lot of the English like some sunshine with their English heritage. And there is more than sunshine to it. I remember a recent arrival in Australia who hailed from Yorkshire saying to me that Australia is "Yorkshire with brass", where "brass" is Northern slang for money. He was oversimplifying but there was a lot of truth in what he said nonetheless. The ties between England and Australia are a lot closer than either side will normally admit. Australians speak derisively of the English (calling them "Poms") and the English speak derisively of Australians (calling them "colonials").

But it remains true that both nationalities feel very much at home in the others' country. And I am probably a rather extreme example of that. When I was growing up in Australia in the 1950s, I grew up into a society that was very Anglophilic. Many Australian-born people still copied their parents' usage and referred to England as "home". And we had a Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) who described himself as "British to his bootstraps". And I remember crying -- aged about 9 -- when it was announced that the King had died. An even stronger influence than all that, however, stemmed from the fact that I was a great book reader from an early age. And most if not all boys' books available were written and published in England for the English. So I grew up in a mental world that was half-English: Which was a very good start on understanding English thinking.

So when I first arrived in England in 1977 I found a few peculiarities but in general had no social difficulties -- which is saying something if you know the intricacies of English social rules. I imagine that I did transgress in various ways from time to time -- but never enough to be a bother. In fact my high level of social acceptance would have been the envy of many Englishmen. I was materially assisted in that by the fact that an educated Australian accent is quite close to RP ("Oxford" English) and accent is enormously important in England. Any Australian accent is in fact closer to RP than are many regional English accents. So I was often told in England that I had a "soft" accent -- meaning that although detectably Australian it was not beyond the pale in in the Home Counties. My conservative politics tend to go down well in the Home Counties too.

An amusing effect of this close but usually denied affinity is the way that some Australian women have constructed for themselves a version of English "society". In England there really is such a thing as "society" -- basically the English aristocracy. The Australian version is of course self-selected rather than genetically selected but they do a moderately good job of imitating the English original. And part of that is that they do a rather good job of imitating the speech of the English original. I remember one example vividly. When I was talking on the phone to Laurie, she sounded to me just like Margaret, who is an English lady I know who really is a born member of the English aristocracy.

So who was Laurie? She was the daughter of my father's accountant. In other words we both grew up in a small Australian country town -- going to school in bare feet in a tropical environment -- an environment beset by such perils as taipan snakes, funnelweb spiders, box jellyfish, finger cherries and crocodiles, rather than the more pleasant English phenomena of crocuses, daffodils, cuckoos and skylarks. From that humble beginning, however, Laurie had acquired all the language, mannerisms and values of the English aristocracy. And I imagine that she did so without ever visiting England.

It reminds me of something that someone wrote (probably Andrew Ian Dodge -- an Anglophilic American) when I first started putting up my "Eye on Britain" blog. He said that this is a blog about England from an outsider's point of view -- but the author really isn't an outsider because he is an Australian. Very insightful.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Group Pride, insecurity and the Left

Strictly speaking, the generalizability of the research below is limited by the sample they used but the conclusions are very ancient and almost certainly true. In ancient Athens, hubris (arrogant pride) was actually considered a crime while megalopsuchia (proper pride; big spiritedness) was a virtue. I follow the report below with a few notes about the wider implications of the research
From screaming baseball fans to political rally-goers, groups that engage in boastful self-aggrandizing may be trying to mask insecurity and low social status. "Our results suggest that hubristic, pompous displays of group pride might actually be a sign of group insecurity as opposed to a sign of strength," said researcher Cynthia Pickett, associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.

The new study reveals how two types of pride are related to a person's good feelings about one social group or another to which they belong. These good feelings could come from being a Los Angeles Lakers fan (when they win), a war veteran, a member of a particular ethnic group or a sorority gal or fraternity brother. But while authentic pride is linked with real confidence in your group, hubristic pride is a false arrogance that belies insecurities about one's group. These results build on past research showing similar pride characteristics in individuals.

"It turns out, people who have the hubristic collective pride in their group, underlying it all is an insecurity about whether the group is good enough, really," said researcher Jessica Tracy, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia. The research was presented last week at a meeting of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology in Sacramento.

In three studies, Pickett, Tracy and their colleagues surveyed more than 300 undergraduate students, first asking each participant to write about an experience when they felt proud of their group. In one of these studies, students had to recall the UC Davis football win over Stanford. In another, Asian American students were asked to write about a proud experience tied with their ethnic background. Other experiences ranged from sports team wins to achievements by sororities, say raising a big chunk of money for a charity.

Each participant then rated to what extent they would use certain words to describe themselves at the time of the event or achievement. Some of the descriptors indicated hubristic pride, such as "snobbish," "pompous" and "smug," while others were linked with authentic pride, such as "accomplished," "successful" and "confident." Students also answered questions about the status of the group, including whether the group was valued by non-members, whether they themselves thought highly of the group, whether the group was under threat or in competition with another group, and other group-related questions.

The results showed that groups in which individuals boasted and gloated - a sign of hubristic pride - tended to have low social status or they were vulnerable to threats from other groups. So the worse the person felt about their group's status as well as how badly they thought the public viewed the group, the more likely that member would experience that empty, boastful pride. In contrast, those groups that expressed pride by humbly focusing on members' efforts and hard work tended to have high social standing in both the public and personal eyes.

Hubristic pride can rear its ugly head in both small groups like sports teams and larger groups like citizens of a country. "A lot of this has real-world implications," Tracy told LiveScience. "There are some kinds of collective pride where people get really angry and hostile and feel like 'it's not just that my group is great but my group is better.'" She added, "You can think of it as the distinction between nationalism and patriotism, with nationalism being the sense of it's not just that I love my country, it's that my country is best."

When group members show signs of hubristic pride, such as making grandiose statements about their country, that could be a sign of underlying insecurity, the researchers said. "When you hear groups starting to get into that type of rhetoric it may be because they're starting to realize they're in a losing position and that they need to do something to try to drum up respect, to drum up the kind of status that they feel they're lacking," Pickett said.


The first thing that needs to be stressed about the above findings -- something the authors themselves imply -- is that not all group loyalty is dysfunctional. Tribalism or group action is very common in the animal world -- from ants to apes -- and it is part of humanity too. Leftists tend to deny that, however. They see any kind of group loyalty -- such as patriotism -- as primitive. And tribalism certainly is a prominent feature of primitive societies. That something is primitive does not mean that it is weak, however. And in fact tribal loyalties of one sort or another still to this day dominate most human societies. In Muslim lands, for instance, there is virtually no loyalty to the nation. All loyalty is to your tribe, to your clan, to your kinship group or to your religion.

As Emmanuel Todd, a French Leftist historian, correctly pointed out, it is the Anglo-Saxons who are deviant. To Southern Europeans, the English family is incomprehensible. It appears pathologically fractionated. Instead of strong family loyalties, the English simply go their own way once they leave home and have almost no further contact with one-another by normal human standards. I saw this in the late '60s when I was doorknocking with a social survey in an ethnically mixed area of Sydney. One of the questions I asked was: "How often do you see relatives?" The Greeks and Italians would usually say: "Every weekend". By contrast, about half the Anglo-Australians said: "Never!".

So if even family ties are so weak among Anglo-Saxons, one can understand that tribal loyalties are very limited -- usually seen only in attachment to particular sporting teams. Sport is a re-enactment of real combat so it is a very primitive thing and draws out primitive reflexes.

But tribalism DOES have some life among Anglo-Saxons outside sport. In particular, Anglo-Saxons do have some attachment to their own nation and ethnic group. They put up surprisingly well with having other ethnic groups living among them but their preference nonetheless is generally for their own ethnic group. See here, for instance. And this tattered remnant of group loyalty is what Leftist routinely stigmatize as "racism".

Ironically, however, it is Leftists themselves who seem to have the strongest group orientation. Contrast the lukewarm support of conservatives for McCain with the hysterical adulation for Obama on the Left. And, from Hegel through Hitler ("Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer") to Obama, it is Leftists who glorify unity and seem to regard as ideal an anthill type of existence where everybody obeys implicitly direction from the top. So Leftists are clearly the political fanatics. And the research above does therefore identify them as the most insecure.

And there is reason for that insecurity and its compensatory fanaticism. They know that what they really want is the utter destruction of the "system" in which they live and there is always a great risk that the mask will come off that and expose them for the haters and destroyers that they are.

And that Islamic hypersensitivity about "insults" reflects insecurity is a common observation. They certainly have little to be proud of by way of real recent achievements and their sensitivity to slights shows that they know that a low opinion of them and their hamstrung lifestyle has some justification. By contrast, cartoons ridiculing Christians are routine (usually from the Left) but I have yet to hear of any Christian demands to behead cartoon publishers.

Reference: Todd, E. (1985) The explanation of ideology Oxford: Blackwell

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Naughty Obama Mamma

It's amazing what there is on the internet. A geneological researcher has emailed me with three pictures of Obama's mother in the nude. That would be of trivial interest except for the setting in which the picures were taken. They were clearly taken in a sophisticated mid-century apartment and my correspondent suggests that the apartment details could be used to identify the photographer. He feels that the photographer is the Communist "Frank" whom Obama mentions as his mentor. That Frank was so intimate with Obama's mother would support the contention that Frank was in fact Obama's father. Various bloggers have pointed out how similar Obama looks to "Frank" and the coverup of Obama's birth certificate is certainly very suspicious.

I will not post the pictures here as Google would undoubtedly take down this blog as soon as I did. Instead, I have posted the pictures here and here and here.

I give below part of the email from my correspondent:
By pure serendipity I found a photo of what I believe is Stanley Ann Dunham; two more I found through sheer plod. They are taken before Christmas by the decorations and unopened presents. Also a stereo and records that an expert could confirm as jazz records are in view.There is a distinctive grain to the wood floors. I do research including genealogical and had downloaded everything I could find. Not much. So when I saw the picture, I locked on the the ear lobes, chin, eyebrows. It is she. A nude photo,not distasteful, but posed, I believe, by a mature man who knows what he likes, including jazz and now we know young girls. One could ascertain the location of where the photos were taken.

And the shoes..not indigenous to Hawaii,but maybe not unsual for Helen Canfield Chicago socialite and Marshall's second wife. The photos are important in the sense that they explain the going to Chicago and the immediate acceptance by the hard left, if his father is Frank Marshall Davis, not just his mentor

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A small meditation for the Jewish New Year

Although I am an atheist, I am acutely aware of the vast influence that the New Testament has had on my thinking. And I regret not one jot or tittle of that. Whenever I follow the teachings of Christ (alas far too seldom) I get a blessing -- sometimes very rapidly.

I also however have great respect for the Old Testament and often read it with pleasure. One book however stands out for its difficulty: The book of Job. However you explain it, the fact of the matter is that the God of Israel placed great burdens and afflictions on a good and holy man.

If I were a Rabbi, I would see that as a metaphor for the relationship between the God of Israel and his people as a whole. The God of the Jews has given his chosen people enormous gifts but in his wisdom he has also given them one enormous handicap: political stupidity. Israel and the Jews have only ONE powerful friend in the world: American evangelical Christians. And yet Jews generally despise them. Through the despicable Abraham Foxman, they do all they can to thwart evangelical Christians and they vote in droves for the antisemitic Democratic Party, the party that also despises evangelical Christians.

Now that seems to me to be a curse from on high but I speak from a particular perspective. What Jews do politically is virtually inexplicable from an Anglo-Saxon viewpoint but to the rest of the world it may not be so at all.

This is not the time or place to spell it out in historical detail, but a large element in Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism is the way they value alliances. When Anglo-Saxons go to war they generally do so as "Allies". They in fact refer to their side of a conflict as "the Allies" or "Allied forces". They have an instinctive appreciation of the importance of friends, banal though that may seem. There is much egotism in the world that causes both people and nations to "go it alone" at times but that is something that seems to be missing in Anglo-Saxon thinking.

And that seeking of alliances even overcomes old wounds. There is only one country that has burnt Washington to the ground and that is Britain -- in 1812. But, despite that bad start, the commonality of attitudes and values has prevailed and the USA and Britain have fought alongside one-another repeatedly since then.

Why cannot Jews do the same? Christians were once a plague upon Jewry but they are not so now. Both fundamentalist Christians and Jews want to see Jews in Zion but very few Jews will grasp the hand of friendship that is held out to them by the Christians. That blindspot does seem to me very much like a curse from on high.

There are of course some Jews who fight the good fight: Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, Jeff Jacoby, Dennis Prager etc. But on some accounts 88% of Jews voted for the Islam-loving Democratic party at the 2006 mid-terms -- so the curse is pervasive despite that.

There has always been antisemitism on both sides of politics but at least since Karl Marx it has always had its principal home on the Left. Jews can remember conservative businessmen keeping them out of country clubs but forget that Hitler was a socialist. One should be able to expect better than that from a generally clever people. In the late 19th century, the British Conservative party made a Jew (Disraeli) their Prime Minister. About 50 years later the socialist Hitler incinerated 6 million Jews. Can anybody see a difference there?

In 1939 Germany went to war with a powerful ally on its side: Soviet Russia. The German Panzern that stormed through France were powered by Soviet fuel. Germany later however turned on its ally, with disastrous results for itself. One hopes that Jews will not similarly antagonize THEIR best ally. Abe Foxman, take note.