Shift to the Right

All around the world, it seems, in the so-called democratic Western societies there is an ongoing shift to the right. What does “a shift to the right” mean? What does “the right” mean in the context of modern politics?

In the past the right stood for monarchy, the status quo and conservatism, while the left stood for republicanism, revolution and change, and socialism. The right is seen forward-looking and the left is seen as backwards looking.

The robes of HRH The Duke of Clarence, a Royal...
The robes of HRH The Duke of Clarence, a Royal Duke (later William IV), included a train borne by a page. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The right has come to espouse the capitalist view of economic matters, and the concept of free markets where there is no regulation of the market and the left has come to mean stiff market controls and social ownership of some of the more important resources, such as the roads and other infrastructure, the police, and bounds on firms and corporations.

While the right tends to individualism and capitalism, the left tends to collectivism and the rights of individuals as part of a group. In the public mind the businessman is the epitome of the right while the worker represents the left.

But why are right-wing parties gaining control everywhere? The answer is of course in the rise of Islam and of ISIS and the militant Islamic movements in many countries, coupled with the floods of refugees from countries where Islamic activists are waging war against the authorities.

The refugees came not only from states where the Islam factions were looking to take over, but also from other countries, such as Ukraine, where Russia is looking to extend its interests into the country, which it lost when the old Soviet Union was dissolved. There are also trouble spots such as Israel where minorities feel threatened and are abandoning homes and heading to other countries.

Islam in Europe 1%-2% (Belarus, Croatia, Italy...
Islam in Europe 1%-2% (Belarus, Croatia, Italy, Monaco, Ukraine) 2%-4% (Andorra, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain) 4%-5% (Germany, Greece, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, United Kingdom) 5%-10% (Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden) 10%-20% (Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Montenegro, Russia) 20%-50% (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia) 50%-90% (Albania) >90% (Kosovo, Turkey) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People in Western bloc countries have seen on television news and elsewhere how these floods of refugees are causing problems because of the inabilities of countries in the path of the refugee flood to cope. At the same time they have seen on the news of the atrocities caused by radical Islamists close to home, in London, Paris, and in the USA.

This has naturally led to a rise in xenophobic distrust of those people who might be Islamic extremists and to the influx of refugees in general irrespective of their religion or beliefs. The feeling is that Islamic extremists could enter a country in guise of refugees, with intent of setting up branches of terrorist organisations.

An 1863 meeting between Māori and settlers in ...
An 1863 meeting between Māori and settlers in a pā whakairo (carved pā) in Hawke’s Bay Province. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That may be true in a very few cases but many cases the terrorist incidents have been perpetrated by people from the country that the incident occurs in, who have been “radicalised” via the Internet. While it is or may be true that the incidents are orchestrated by those outside of the country, few seem to be perpetrated by actual refugees.

Generally refugees are glad to be taken in by other countries and are also glad to fit into those countries and be accepted by the people who live in those countries. Most are appalled by the violence done in the name of their religion and don’t believe that their religion actually requires believers to do these things.

Old woman wearing hijab
Old woman wearing hijab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Refugees are usually happy to fit into a country which allows them to practise their religion quietly and privately. Most Christians would say the same, regardless of which denomination they belong to. If you espouse a religion aggressively, then this would cause issue with your neighbours and merely repeats the problems of your original country.

Since I do not believe in religion, but do not object to people who practise one, I see no problem, provided the believer doesn’t try to force his/her religion on me. I will happily take part in a marriage or naming ceremony in any religion, and not just in the Christianity which I was nominally raised in.

English: An Igbuzo child naming ceremony in Wa...
English: An Igbuzo child naming ceremony in Washington DC, USA. Parents of the child confer with the Diokpa (Head of he family) on the names of the child (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The seeming daily “terrorist” acts have scared people. They now look askance at anyone who worships differently from them, and who dresses differently. This has led to many refugees who do not espouse the local religion or customs, adapting, so that they don’t stand out from the locals.

There is a constant dialectic between the religion and customs of their homelands and the new country to which they have moved. The refugees do not want to lose their culture, which they see as a rich heritage, which it is, yet they want to conform and fit in to their new country.

English: South Croydon bus garage on 1 April 1...
English: South Croydon bus garage on 1 April 1985. A newly-delivered ‘M’ class bus stands outside, awaiting the fitting of its destination blinds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people in countries to which refugees move see refugees as different. They don’t understand the customs, they don’t understand the religion and they don’t understand why the refugees are not exactly like them. They are worried that the refugees may be terrorists in disguise, but rationally, a terrorist is more likely to adopt local customs and dress, so that he/she doesn’t stand out as different.

This difference engenders fear, and I’ve seen this before. In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s many West Indians came to Britain, changing the face of the country. Many British people had not seen anyone with a dark skin before, and this shocked and in some cases horrified people. Uneasy jokes were made as how the West Indians were taking over the busses, as drivers and conductors. The tension led inevitably to the rise of the National Front party.

Thankfully the British people eventually accepted the West Indians into the country, and while there were a few incidents over the years, the British people have tolerated incomers pretty well overall.

Nevertheless, in many countries, especially those on the route of the fleeing refugees, there has been a resurgence in the nationalist movements, which laughably indirectly led to the right wing United Kingdom Independence Party congratulating itself for being annihilated by the Tories in the UK local elections. It also led to a right wing candidate reaching the run-off election for the post of the French president.

It also almost certainly led to Trump’s election as president of the United State. His promise to make America great again resonated with those who saw their jobs sliding into an abyss as a seeming flood of strangers entered the country. In the US case of course the unwanted immigrants came mostly from Mexico.

While the United States has its problems, I doubt that Trump can solve them by banning and deporting all the illegal immigrants in the country, which would remove many hard working and useful people, and declaring that the mining industry would be revived and that people would get their jobs back.

Graffiti-art in Venice, Italy. I think (basing...
Graffiti-art in Venice, Italy. I think (basing myself on the inscription “Stop deportation” and the rainbow chador) belongs to the wordlwide protests against the United Kingdom deporting an Iranian lesbian to her country, which punishes homosexuality by law. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, 16 August 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This goes against all economic common sense as the solid fuel mining industry is in decline in most parts of the world, and any gains will be short term and will rapidly fade away, leaving the miners in a worse position than before. It’s hard to see how any of Trump’s actions and reforms will turn the country around.

Miners work in a mine with a low roof
Miners work in a mine with a low roof (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trumpery

Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fash...
Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fashion Show, New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, as politics goes that was great theatre. Trump won when no one thought that he had a chance of even getting the nomination for the Republican Party. Trump as president is highly scary, not only for the US, but for the whole world.

Given that Trump is the man that he is, why on earth did anyone vote for him, let alone around half the people who voted? People have been puzzling the answer to this one ever since the election, and while it is clear from the statistics that there was a big swing to Trump by white non-college male voters – blue collar America.

Blue Collar Radio
Blue Collar Radio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It would easy to attribute this swing to gullibility and malleability of the non-college voters male voters. It would be easy to suggest that Trump’s evident charisma appealed to this sector of the electorate, but there must be more to it than that. Much more.

Notably the statistics seem to show that no other group of people fell for the Trump’s braggadocio like the white male non-college voters. Of course he turned off female voters to some extent by his behaviour and attitude towards women, but really, there was no huge backlash in that respect.


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It seems that Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” (trademarked by him in 2012) resonated with many Americans in this election, but it is not the first time it has been used. Several previous presidential candidates have used it. It implies that things were better in the past, but in general, that view is illusory, and one sees the past through rose-tinted spectacles.

“How many people long for that “past, simpler, and better world,” I wonder, without ever recognizing the truth that perhaps it was they who were simpler and better, and not the world about them?”
R.A. Salvatore, Streams of Silver

Another button that Trump pressed for many people, not the white, male, non-college voters alone was the race button. Technically one should not be called racist if what one says is the truth. Trump in many peoples’ opinions went a long way past that point.

English: A racist drawing of blacks in the 189...
English: A racist drawing of blacks in the 1890s, made by whites. The caption says “Last one in’s a nigger.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While labelling Mexicans as all being drug dealers and rapist, he definitely went well past the point of propriety, but it appears that many people believe that there is a grain of truth there. In an American post-911 many people are wary of all immigrants, especially those from the Middle East. Again many people resonate with this.

Trump’s stated policies are ridiculous. Building a wall between Mexico and the US and making the Mexicans pay for it is silly, though I note that there are fences along much of the border already. A wall can be climbed over, tunnelled under, flown over or merely circumvented. All known walls of this type, Hadrian’s Wall, the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, have all failed.

English: Hadrian's wall just east of Greenhead...
English: Hadrian’s wall just east of Greenhead Lough, Northumberland in October 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trump threatens to catch and extradite all illegal immigrants in the US. Not only would this be fabulously expensive, it would cause immense upheavals and distress to many in the US, especially those families are mixed with legal and illegal immigrants. Apart from that the economy of California would collapse as many of the lower paid workers are illegal immigrants.

The threat to extradite all Muslims is not only silly, it is probably not legally possible. Many Muslims have been in the country legally for generations. A Muslim grandfather who came to America to escape conflict and even religious persecution in his homeland may face extradition merely because his sons or grandsons may at some time in the future become radicalised.

English: Turkmen Moslem Mullah, Nohur village,...
English: Turkmen Moslem Mullah, Nohur village, Turkmenistan, 21 April 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trump’s policies may be ridiculous, they may be very expensive, but above all they may be impossible to carry out. Trump cannot write the laws himself, and there are some things that it may be legally impossible to do, and there may arguably be things that are constitutionally impossible to carry out. Trump’s policies may fail when confronted with political reality.

Trump appears to be passing off at least some of his powers to his Vice-President Michael Pence. This makes sense because Trump is a political novice and Pence has years of experience. At best this could make Trump look weak, and at worst, it could turn him into a puppet. As it is it seems that Trump is softening his stance on the issues that have assisted him to the Presidency.

Official portrait of Congressman (R-IN)
Official portrait of Congressman (R-IN) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This raises the question of what happens at the next election in 2020? If the Republicans don’t make any progress in addressing the issues that the white male non college voters have, if they don’t produce jobs, if people don’t see any progress in handling the illegal immigrant issue or the issues around Muslims in the US, it is hard to see him or the Republicans retaining the presidency and their ascendancy in the Senate and the House.

Trump could be a great president or middling president or useless president. While it is hard to read the future, going by his character, his lack of political abilities, the possibility that he will have roadblock after roadblock placed in front of him, and the almost impossible task of “Making America Great Again”, and the need to retain the loyalty of white, male, non college voters, I’m going to predict that he will most likely achieve very little, and will not get a second term.

US Navy 040611-N-9319H-054 USS Ronald Reagan (...
US Navy 040611-N-9319H-054 USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Sailors salute the American flag during the memorial service for President Ronald Reagan on the flight deck aboard his namesake aircraft carrier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the mean time, while he is trying to actually achieve some of his goals, the Democratic Party has time to reflect, make changes especially to the party hierarchy and structure, and to win the loyalty of the voters. In particular they can reflect on what went wrong.

Would Bernie Saunders have done any better than Hillary Clinton? It is unlikely. The fact that Trump got selected for the race shows that voters wanted change and Saunders would most likely have provided a softer target for Trump.

Should the Democrats select Saunders for President next time? Well, he is 75 now and will be 79 by the time of the next election, and that is ten years older than Ronald Reagan was when he became President. Incidentally Trump will become the oldest President to be elected when he is inaugurated.

I see some people are calling for Michelle Obama to stand in 2020. This doesn’t address any of the issues that this election has raised, so she would probably fail. In any case, she wisely says that she would not stand.

First Lady Michelle Obama visits with Former F...
First Lady Michelle Obama visits with Former First Lady Nancy Reagan at the White House on June 3, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Politicians


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(Photographs of politicians below are not intended to imply that the pictured politician is any way corrupt or discredited. Even Trump.)

Donald Trump appears to be on the verge of being named the Republican candidate for President of the United States. While it is unlikely that he will become president, his rise has been amazing, and his appeal surprises many, in the USA and elsewhere.

He has made some astounding promises but it is unlikely that people really believe that he is going to be able to achieve them. However, as a many shared post on Facebook has it, people are really looking more at the direction he is promising to move the country.

English: Donald Trump's signature hairstyle
English: Donald Trump’s signature hairstyle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trump is not a politician in the usual way. A politician would normally take great care not to upset people, not to rock the boat as it were. Politicians almost always try not to promise anything, as they might not be able to deliver what they promise and that will harm their re-election chances.

All human interactions involve politics to some extent. When a group of people forms, be it a family or a tribe or a nation and selects one of their number to represent them in an interaction with another group of people, that’s politics.


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Human nature being what it is, the representative feels empowered by this responsibility, and often becomes arrogant and domineering. This may or may not result in the representative being replaced by someone else.

However there are advantages in having someone as figurehead in interaction with other groups. The elevation of someone to be the group’s representative can become permanent, with the representative becoming the chief, the king, the emperor. Or even the President of the United States.

The figurehead and prow of the SS Great Britain.
The figurehead and prow of the SS Great Britain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Politicians in general do not have a high reputation. Mark Twain once said “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason”. The implication is that while politicians may start off idealistic, they may often come to become arrogant and believe that they are better in some way than the people who gave them the power.

Lord Acton’s dictum often appears to be true of politicians. The more power that they have, the more they consider themselves to be more important than the average man in the street. They may come to believe that they are above the law, and eventually fall foul of it. While power does not directly corrupt, the feeling of importance and the ability to wield power sometimes does.


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Politicians do recognise this fact and, if they are sensible, try to  avoid this trap. They try to remain “grounded”. They talk about getting back to the roots, keeping in touch and other such phrases, but it is very hard to do this as when they try to interact with those who put them in power, those people treat them as special, and tend to address the role and not the person.

Politicians are overthrown all the time. It may be that they no longer serve the people who selected them, or it may be that they have become arrogant and have been caught doing something illegal or dubious.


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Often these peccadilloes are things that would not get a normal person into too much trouble. An insulting email, maybe, or perhaps an affair with a person that the politician works with. Or getting someone to paint the roof, when the politician is in a position to help the painter.

Sometimes, though, the politician takes advantage of their position in ways which are very wrong. Sometimes they accept money to advance someone’s business, or they may divert money to their own bank accounts, when it should be spent to further the aims for which they were selected. They might take holidays overseas or travel to conferences for which their seems little justification.


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It’s no wonder then, that people look on politicians with distrust. They are aware of all the temptations that beset politicians and they are aware that such temptations are hard to resist and that some politicians may be corruptible.

That’s why we surround our politicians with laws and rules above and beyond those that apply to the man in the street. We want our politicians to be above reproach, but we know that they are fallible.


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But we do not hold them to their promises, which is why Trump can get away with promising that he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico, if he gets elected, when everyone knows that such a wall is very unlikely to be built. Even if it is, illegal immigrants from Mexico to the United States will find ways around it. Or under it. There are already tunnels under the border between the two countries.

The electors in the United States know that Trump’s promises are hogwash, but they like the way that he promises something towards dealing with the problem of illegal immigration. It shows that he is thinking about it, and may well do something.

English: American politician Hubert Work.
English: American politician Hubert Work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The same goes for Trump’s promise to prevent Muslims entering the United States for a period. It will never happen, and if it did, it would not be effective, as many potential IS terrorists are already in the country, and such a move would likely persuade them to actively attack the United States from within.

But Trump promises something to deal with the entry of terrorists into the country. Once again, while he probably will not do anything like this, people hope that he will do something.


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However, the big thing that Trump has going for him is that he is not a politician, in the sense that he has not had a career in politics, he has not worked his way up in politics. No, Trump has started at the top. Trump is a businessman. If he does get elected he will probably find that his business skills don’t really equip him for a life in politics, and persuading people to go along with his schemes will make herding cats look easy.

After all, in the business world Trump may be able to hire and fire as he wishes, but in government, the other elected representatives cannot be fired and he will need their cooperation. Trump’s (apparent) bullying tactics will not work in government. In some ways it would be interesting to see if he could achieve anything if he were the POTUS.

Plaque of the Seal of the President of the Uni...
Plaque of the Seal of the President of the United States on the southeast side of Hoover Tower on the campus in Stanford, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holidays

English: Holiday in village
English: Holiday in village (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I should imagine that going on holiday, for many people would be a relatively new thing. While those with money might decide to shift operations from home to another location, which might or might not be near a beach, those who work from them would mostly have no respite from day to day toil, since their employers would still require looking after as usual.

As ordinary people became wealthy, and the old social structures faded away for the most part, it would have become more usual for ordinary people to go away, just as their employers used to.

Rangiputa, Karikari Peninsula, Northland, New ...
Rangiputa, Karikari Peninsula, Northland, New Zealand. Rangiputa is a beach and bach (holiday home) community on the west side of the peninsula (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The word “holiday” itself is a  contraction of “holy day”, and on holy days there were celebrations and less formal work. The word has come to mean a day on which one does not have to work. Most countries these days would have statutory holidays on which which people would not have to work. There may be other restrictions, such as legislation that shops should remain closed.

It’s understandable that some countries require shop closures, as this means that shop staff get the holiday too, but many countries these days allow shops to stay open if they wish and some of the best retail days are on statutory holidays. Usually shops that stay open are required to compensate staff who are required to work.

English: Brixham - Harbourside Shops These sho...
English: Brixham – Harbourside Shops These shops mainly cater to the holiday trade who visit the harbour. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holidays are disruptions to normal schedules. When one goes away, one is in a different environment and one has to make do. Even something as simple as making a cup of tea may be complicated by the need to find a spoon, a cup, and a teabag, not to mention the need to figure out the operation of a different jug!

These things are not an enormous issue, and in fact draw attention to the fact that one is on holiday. All schedules are voided and one can do whatever one wants. Often this may amount to doing nothing.


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A “holiday industry” has evolved, which provides accommodation, and resources for those temporarily away from home. It also provides entertainments or “attractions” if the holiday maker doesn’t just want to lay on the beach. The holiday maker may do all sorts of things that he or she doesn’t usually do, from the exciting (bungy jumping or similar) to the restful (a gentle walk around gardens or maybe a castle visit or may a zoo).

These facilities are all staffed by helpful people who arrange things so that the holiday maker can enjoy his or her self without worries. These people are of course employed by the facilities, but many of them enjoy their work very much anyway. It’s a sort of bonus for helping people.

English: Ultra Dynamics Dowty Turbocraft water...
English: Ultra Dynamics Dowty Turbocraft waterjet boat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holiday makers must also be fed, and this has become a huge industry too. In any seaside towns so-called fast food outlets can be found in abundance, along with more up market restaurants and cafés, for more leisurely eating. For many people one of the advantages of being on holiday is that one doesn’t have to cook, and one can choose to eat things that one doesn’t normally eat.

Holidays can be expensive. Since we are close to the Pacific Islands, like Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, many people fly out to the islands on their summer holidays. This means flight and accommodation has to be booked and paid for.

English: Great Frigate Birds (Fregata minor) o...
English: Great Frigate Birds (Fregata minor) on Johnston Atoll, Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the holiday makers arrive at their destinations, they have to pay for food and entertainment. Other expenses may be for sun screen cream, snacks, tours, tips, and the odd item of clothing which may have been accidentally left at home.

Holiday entertainment may comprise guided tours, or visiting monuments or zoos. Amusement parks are often an attraction as are aquariums. All this can cost a lot, but unless you are content to veg out on the beach, you’ll have to pay for it. Even vegging out on the beach comes at a cost, from sun protection through to drink to offset the dehydration caused by the sun.

English: Roller coaster, M&Ds Theme Park, Stra...
English: Roller coaster, M&Ds Theme Park, Strathclyde Country Park The larger and older of the two roller coasters, at the very southern end of the park. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, why do we throw over the usual daily regime, and drag our family on an often uncomfortable road, sea, or plane trip, to a location where we know little of the environment, which will cost us money, to spend the days traipsing from “attraction” to “attraction” spending more money and feeding on often costly food of unknown quality or provenance?

Part of the answer is that the daily regime becomes boring and descends into drudgery. Removing ourselves from the daily regime allows us to escape that drudgery for a while. As far as the cost goes, well, one is prepared to spend a certain amount of money to escape the drudgery for a while.

Money for All
Money for All (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Removing ourselves from the usual means that we can try the unusual. We may try Mexican food, or Vietnamese food. Or even Scottish cuisine if we choose. The world is our oyster.

We can try sports and pastimes that we have never tried before. Bungee jumping. Skiing, water or snow. We can visit a “Theme Park”, ride a roller coaster, or other ride. We can scare ourselves and excite ourselves.

Skiing
Skiing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We can experience different cultures, different scenery, but at the end of the day we know that we will be returning to our mundane lives. We have at the back of our minds the cosy ordinariness of our usual lives, as a sort of safety harness.

We know our comfortable house will be there for us to return to, and while we may enjoy the beds in our hotel, motel, holiday home or tent, we look forward to the return to our own beds. We look forward to drinking the brands of coffee and tea that we prefer and fill the fridge with the foods that we prefer to cook.

English: Hotel room in the Waldorf Hilton, Ald...
English: Hotel room in the Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych, London. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Few people would want to live in hotels and sleep in strange beds as a way of life, but there are some people who do so. While we enjoy being on holiday, as a break from our usual lives, we would probably not want to live that way for an extended period. Those who do are unusual people.


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Success

Winner
Winner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone likes to succeed at their endeavours, but not everyone is able to succeed for a number of reasons. People have varying drives to succeed, with some having little drive and others have a high level of the drive to succeed.

Maybe “succeed” is not the right word here as what I am referring to is the drive to create a company, or an artwork, or some other goal. Some people seem to have this urge almost from birth, such as top sports people, and some have some sort of “Damascene Moment“, where some event gives them reason to achieve some goal.

the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus...
the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus as painted by Michelangelo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actually St Paul is probably not a good example of what I am talking about as he already had a goal (persecution of the Christians) and his goal was changed dramatically. Many others, however, have experienced conversion events to many different religions. Some however have experienced more gradual conversions.

It is not my intent to argue that sudden or gradual conversions to any religion or creed are real mystical or religious events. They may give the person a life long belief in the creed or religion, but in many cases such conversion may moderate or fade over time.

English: Parish church of the conversion of Pa...
English: Parish church of the conversion of Paul the Apostle, Vrhnika, Slovenia. Slovenščina: Župnijska cerkev spreobrnitve Sv. Pavla na Vrhniki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the big religious revivals in the US such as those run by Billy Graham people at the rallies were encouraged to make a public declaration of their faith and millions did so. The pressure and excitement engendered by the event most likely resulted in people being swept along and making declarations and later reconsidering.

People who succeed in things are focussed individuals who have a clear goal, and do not see or discount the difficulties in achieving their goals, whatever they might be. Others, who are less driven would more likely see the difficulties, and indeed, such difficulties may be overwhelming.

Depth-of-focus
Depth-of-focus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The media is happy to promote success stories, such as this one, and they are supposed to be inspirational. The person mentioned in the article appears to have been successful, with a high powered job and a similarly high powered lifestyle, only to lose it all. The story ends on an upbeat as the person succeeds in turning her life around.

This little example shows a couple of things. Firstly, although she was successful, her life crashed and burnt, and secondly, she turned her life around but her goals were now set much lower.


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Many people who attempt to become successful crash and burn like she did both before and after becoming successful. Also, she was successful in turning her life around, achieving a different sort of success.

That’s an interesting point – one form of success is to acquire lots of money, property, possessions. Another form of success is to be able to enjoy oneself in a hedonistic way, usually as a result of acquiring money, property, etc.

English: "The" Cranstal Cottage (now...
English: “The” Cranstal Cottage (now vacant and for sale) near Cranstal, Isle of Man My grandfather came from the Isle of Man to Missouri back in 1852 and became a successful farmer. We (my wife and I) have visited the IOM twice and love it! We were looking for property to buy and found Cranstal Cottage, the same one shown in the photo with the palm tree in the front, taken front on back in 2005 [33942] Now it is quite overgrown with no one living there and for sale. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
However, such successes may not provide happiness, and indeed money may not buy happiness for many people. To achieve happiness one may need to give up such worldly wealth and adopt a simpler life. Others may find other ways to achieve happiness, for instance, in a job which they enjoy, and achieving happiness may, in many cases, equate to achieving success in life.

Personal success can come as a result of success in other fields, of course, and worldly success, such as starting and running a successful business, is almost always considered to be any achievement worthy of public approbation.

English: A Chinese man going about his business.
English: A Chinese man going about his business. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However many newly started businesses fail. This does not hurt just the entrepreneur, but also anyone who has come to depend on the new business and those who have invested in the business. Normally a start up gets finance from friends and relatives in the first place and only wins finance from other sources later.

Some entrepreneurs have a history of failure. Some fail multiple times causing severe financial distress to friends and relatives. However, if such start ups were banned, this would severely hamper the evolution and growth of businesses. Such companies as Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Facebook, and Google, not to mention Amazon and similar would perhaps not have come about.


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However, it is worth noting that Richard Branson, whose Virgin companies are well known, and who is now trying to conquer space commercially, came from a fairly well to do family. Mark Zucherberg, also came from a fairly well to do family. Bill Gates of Microsoft had a similar background. It seems that having a well to do family helps one succeed as an entrepreneur.

Of course, that’s a sweeping generalisation and would need a lot more data to justify. It might be that the reason, if there is one, for such a correlation, is genetic, and successful people may often come from families that have an entrepreneurial gene. It may be that the reason if cultural, and that children of successful people learn from their families how to succeed.

English: Renowned speaker, author, entrepreneu...
English: Renowned speaker, author, entrepreneur and artist Jewel Daniels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If there is a correlation, this doesn’t bode well for the children of the less well off. They either don’t have the genes for success, or the don’t have the environment for success. Nevertheless some of them do succeed, against the odds.

A successful businessman or woman is like a successful athlete – an athlete is more likely to be successful if he comes from a successful sporting family. Such a family is more likely to provide the support that any aspiring athlete needs and will have provided a successful gene set to their sporting children.

English: Owen Hamilton represents Jamaica in t...
English: Owen Hamilton represents Jamaica in the 800 meter track and field team event at the 1984 Summer Olympics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A family that knows how to compete will be able to inspire in their children the will to succeed if they follow in the family footsteps. However the child will need to have the intrinsic ability to perform, if he or she is to approach or even exceed parental achievements.

I think of this whenever someone points to someone who has achieved success in business or their life and remarks that this person shows what dedication and hard work can achieve. The implication is that anyone who does not succeed isn’t dedicated enough and is lazy.


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This implication is just not true. No matter how hard I try, if I trained every day, there is no way that I could become a top athlete. Such athletes are anomalous phenomena. They are gifted individuals, and this should be recognised. In business, as in athletics, it takes more, much more, than hard work and dedication to succeed. Thomas Edison‘s adage is true, but without the one per cent inspiration, which comes to few, it is all just sweat.

None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.

It’s History

The Sunken Road at Waterloo, painting by Stanl...
The Sunken Road at Waterloo, painting by Stanley Berkley, from A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year, Edwin Emerson, Jr., 1902. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was never any good at history. That’s probably because I couldn’t get straight in my mind who was battling who and for what reason and for how long and so on. Later I came across the concept that history is written by the victors. This makes sense to me in some ways but the losers will still have their point of view and will likely instruct their children according to that point of view.

So while one side may say that a battle was a heroic victory over huge odds, the other party may describe the heroic resistance against huge odds. One side might add that an ally came to the rescue at the last minute while the other side might mention a traitorous change of allegiance of a former ally.

English: US and Iraqi Army Soldiers guard bord...
English: US and Iraqi Army Soldiers guard borders in Iraq (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In wars before the twentieth century it might be that the average person would be unlikely to see any military action or even be directly affected by a war or battle. Of course, the authorities might increase taxes and conscript young men, but most people would not have seen any fighting.

Communication about the battles and the progress of the war would have been hit and miss. An injured person on their way home after fighting would no doubt have little idea of what was actually happening either on the small scale of the actual battle or on the wider canvas of the whole campaign.

English: trench listening to a handmade crysta...
English: trench listening to a handmade crystal radio during the First World War 1914-1918 . Français : poste à crystal utilisé durant la première guerre mondiale 1914-1918 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who has taken part in any sort of war games, such as paint-ball or capture the flags type games, will know that an awful lot of running through undergrowth and an awful lot of lying in wait is involved, and an awful lot of not knowing what is happening. In older times, it could be that what is going on 100 metres away would not be known.

A lot of ancient warfare was waged based on intelligence brought in by scouts and observers. That’s why armies always try to take higher ground, as it gives you a better view of the field of battle and it also can be defended by fewer people. The disadvantage of course is that a patch of higher ground can be surrounded and isolated.

English: View across Gordano Valley View acros...
English: View across Gordano Valley View across Gordano Valley from Tickenham near Cadbury Camp. The south Wales coast can be seen on the horizon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scouts and observers can of course be mistaken. That “100 or so” men that were spotted may actually be many more, or it may even be a contingent of one’s own troops or allies which are out of position. A scout also risks his life by approaching as close to the enemy as he can.

Such intelligence as filters back to the commanders is obviously flawed and incomplete. They probably don’t know too much about the country that they are invading, whereas the locals may possibly have a better idea of the lay of the land. Maps may be incomplete or inaccurate, and may even have been built up directly from the intelligence.

The Map Room in the Churchill Museum and Cabin...
The Map Room in the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The commanders then need to deploy their troops according to their best knowledge and the intelligence. As a result they may send off troops to places where they may be easily overwhelmed or may be ineffective.

The commanders will instruct their platoon commanders on the objectives for their troops but once the platoon commanders reach their positions they are pretty much on their own. Chaos inevitably ensues, in spite of any attempts to keep order.


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Signals are used for communication, bugle calls, semaphores, runners and other methods are used to try to give the overall commanders an idea of what is happening at the front lines. Inevitably messages will go astray and orders will be misunderstood and this may well turn the tide of battle.

Perhaps this is why I was no good at history. When one is taught about the battle of Waterloo for example, one learns that Wellington deployed his troops here and here and that Napoleon attacked here and here and the Prussian army attacked here and here. While these statements may cover the actual flow of the battle, much of this will have been rationalised after the event.

Am Morgen nach der Schlacht von Waterloo Detai...
Am Morgen nach der Schlacht von Waterloo Detail John Heaviside Clarke (1771 – 1863) England, um 1816 Öl auf Leinwand aus der ständigen Sammlung des Deutschen Historischen Museum, Berlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a wider scale, take Napoleon for example. He is described in Wikipedia as “one of the most celebrated and controversial political figures in Western history”. From the English point of view he is the villain of the piece but I suspect that to many on his side he was a hero. There is no doubt that he was respected even by his enemies as a brilliant politician and military leader.

On the principal of “history is written by the victors” mentioned above, if Napoleon had won, and should France have held sway over England, then no doubt he would have been painted either as a benevolent leader or as a heavy-handed dictator, depending on his acceptance or rejection by England. By “England” I mean the politicians and powerful in the country. The “man in the field” probably wouldn’t care too much, unless it affected him in some way.

English: One of the signatures of Napoleon Bon...
English: One of the signatures of Napoleon Bonaparte (1804), made with Inkscape by David Torres Costales (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

History, to my mind, attributes intent much more than is justified, which renders it debatable at the least. We read that Country A pushed into a region in order to cut off Country B from some resource or other. More likely Country A had the opportunity and the resources to be able to expand into the region while Country B failed to do so because of lack of foresight, opportunity or resources.

So the expansion of Country A would have more to do with young men seeing the opportunities and travelling to the colonies to make their fortunes than any real plans by the government of Country A.

Canadian CF-18 Hornets participated in combat ...
Canadian CF-18 Hornets participated in combat during the Gulf War. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Baudrillard published some articles on the Gulf War, the last of which is entitled “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place“. He disputed the history of the events in the Gulf as presented.

Firstly he argued that, because of the superior air power of the Americans, they did not actually come into actually engage in conflict with the Iraqi army, and therefore the events could not be really considered to be a war.

Ex-Iraqi BMP-1 IFV captured by the US forces i...
Ex-Iraqi BMP-1 IFV captured by the US forces in Iraq during the First Persian Gulf War. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Secondly he argued that the view of the war as presented by the media which was fed, not from actual events but mainly from the propaganda machine of the American military and as such it presented only one point of view, that of the Americans.

History will present the Gulf War and the American handling of it in overwhelmingly positive light. History has been written by the Americans for better or worse, as the victors in this event. I’m not arguing that history is wrong. Just that it presents a picture and that picture may ignore many important aspects of an event and we should be wary of official histories.

Braine-l'Alleud Belgium, Lions' Hillock. - Com...
Braine-l’Alleud Belgium, Lions’ Hillock. – Commemorative monument of the Battle of Waterloo standing on the spot where the Prince of Orange was wounded during the fight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Fighting Terrorism


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(Second post of Terrorists – this won’t become a theme. At least I will try not to make it a theme).

A terrorist is someone who kills people, often innocent bystanders in an attempt to force his or her views on others. Sometimes the terrorist is part of a persecuted minority, but often he or she is driven by religious fervour. His or her beliefs maybe include the concept of rewards after death and he or she will likely be prepared to lay down his or her life in the furtherance of his or her objectives.

How do you recognise a terrorist? With the current spate of Islamist inspired shootings and bombings many people are looking askance at people with dark skins, beards and who tend to wear a particular style of clothing. To say that this can be misleading is obvious.

Islamic Center of Washington DC
Islamic Center of Washington DC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The case of a Sikh student who was questioned by police when someone suspected that he was a terrorist merely because of his appearance and the wires of his earphones protruding from his bag is a good example. The person who reported him was obviously ignorant of the fact that Sihkism is a religion which is totally different from Islam. This is sad, but not surprising.

So how do you identify a terrorist then? It’s very hard indeed. The young white spotty youth who lives down the road and has taken to calling himself “Jusef” and dressing in Middle Eastern clothing is almost certainly more of a threat than anyone in the area with dark skin and a habit of fasting for a month at certain times of the year.

William Henry Quilliam (April 10, 1856 – 1932)...
William Henry Quilliam (April 10, 1856 – 1932), who changed his name to Abdullah Quilliam, was a 19th century convert from Christianity to Islam, noted for founding England’s first mosque and Islamic centre. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The things that people have done in the name of religion have led to a call for religion to be banned. This obviously won’t work and it would drive religion underground and radicalise it. There are billions of people who do have a religion or belief which they base their life around who would not dream of using violence to further their religion.

Much of the tension between religious groups is the result of ignorance. There are probably as many texts in the Koran which promote peace and harmony as there are in the Christian Bible. There are also likely to be as many violent exhortations as to what to do to non-believers in the Bible as there are in the Koran. After the Bible and the Koran are related documents with the later Koran commenting on the earlier Biblical texts.

English: Handwritten Koran Nederlands: Koran. ...
English: Handwritten Koran Nederlands: Koran. Handgeschreven Koran in donkerbruine lederen band met overslag (afgebroken). Het eerste en laatste dubbele blad zijn versierd, evenals het dubbele blad middenin. . Handgeschreven koran Unknown language: Qoran seunoerat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How can we spot terrorists before they commit their crimes? How do we determine who is a harmless and friendly family man and who is plotting to blow us up? Certainly not be looking at the colour of the skin and the possession of a copy of the Koran. Not by checking if he or she visits the Mosque every week. Even if such a person seems surly and unfriendly, he or she might just be having a bad day. And we cannot decide based on their choice of clothing.

The only real way of detecting a terrorist in our midst is unfortunately by closely watching for them. Of course, we should have our suspicions first, otherwise we would need to track everyone who “looked like a Muslim”. This is unacceptable in a free society.


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We can get better understanding of Muslims and vice versa, by education. One proposal was that religion, all religions, be taught in schools. This is a good idea but will not work unless similar is done in Islamist states and countries, and that will never happen.

One big issue is the case of the alienated white teenager. A certain few will for one reason or another completely flip and commit murder, usually of their contemporaries, and sometimes at random. Any nominal motive would be attributed to anything from white supremacy, to political reason (usually nihilistic), or  to nothing significant.


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It seems that such teenagers are more and more and more being attracted to Islam and the violent side of that religion and we find that atrocities are sometimes being carried out by white boys who have converted to Islam.

I question whether the problem here lies with the religion or in the fact that these kids had easy access to guns and that their alienation was either not recognised or ignored. If they had not had the concept of Islamic jihad to adopt, would they not have found some other cause to espouse?

Arabic script. Eghra, Read. The first Quoranic...
Arabic script. Eghra, Read. The first Quoranic word, in order of arrival. (Letter Qaf eight times, letter ‘Alif sixteen times.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So how do we fight terrorism? Do we suspect our neighbours who have ties to the Middle East, or do we quarantine them, or even deport them? All these solutions are ineffective and some followers of Islam have lived here peacefully for generations. Do we force them to give up their culture and assimilate more closely into the community?

All these options have been tried in the past and historically have shown that these tactics are ineffective, not to mention brutal and demeaning. And that is without considering the case of the alienated white boy.

CCTV cameras
CCTV cameras (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Government would have us believe that the answer is for more surveillance of all citizens. This is certainly effective in some cases, but in the few cases which escape the notice of the authorities, the terrorists can cause untold damage and inflict a large number of deaths on many innocent people. And this still doesn’t really address the issue of the white teenager who typically acts alone and who quite often has no close ties to Islam.

Another option is for retaliatory military raids on the overt face of the organisation that the terrorists are connected with, but this will always happen after an atrocity and merely gives the organisation rhetorical weapons to justify their aims.

English: A payload surveillance camera made by...
English: A payload surveillance camera made by Controp and distributed to the U.S Government by ADI Technologies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is sad but I don’t believe that things will change until Islam changes. I have high hopes that it will as the adherents of Islam move into non-Moslem countries and integrate with the non-Moslem communities there. Then perhaps the more liberal ideas will filter back to the Moslem counties together with increased prosperity.

After all, the Christian religion mounted the largely ineffective Crusades against Moslems in the Middle East, admittedly as a result of an Islamist expansion and that crusading religious fervour eventually died out in Europe.

English: Saladin
English: Saladin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a pity that there is no real solution to the problem of terrorists. One can only hope that ultimately people will evolve to be more understanding of their neighbours and that xenophobia will diminish to almost nothing. Until then we will have to live with the inconveniences at airports and the much more significant internal spying of authorities on citizens.

Unfortunately, we will have to read in the papers of atrocities carried out by one group or other against unarmed people for some time to come. I can see no real effective solution.

Crusades Task Force icon
Crusades Task Force icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(I note that I have conflated “terrorist” with the fanatical Moslem activities that we have seen recently. Terrorists however come in all shapes and sizes, all religions. This was not intentional but shows how easy it is to slip into the habit of equating the one with the other).

Time Travelling


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Time stories have been around for years, and yet we have seen no time travellers. If there are time travellers, then they are hiding from us. That would be pretty hard, since society and language are changing all the time, and they would most likely look out of place.

If they came from the past, their mannerisms, clothing and use of language would likely give them away. Imagine someone from the time of Sir Francis Drake appearing in the current era. He would quickly be spotted.

For someone travelling from the past, the issue is that he or she would not know what to expect as the present is the future of times past, so they would not be able to prepare themselves for the future, as they would consider it.

If a citizen of the future where to travel to the current time, he or she could presumably prepare his/herself for what would be the past to him/her. The time traveller could learn about our era and equip him/herself with clothes, money and other things from our era and would be able to learn the idioms of the language of the current time, as well as the ethics and morals of the era.

Bruntons Traveller
Bruntons Traveller (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are web sites on the Internet which claim to have proof of time travel (I’m not going to link to one – a Google search will bring up many of them). In most cases the evidence is far from compelling, relying on blurry photographs and dubious eye witness accounts.

I’ve recently been scanning my old photographic slides and in one of them, from the early 1980s or late 1970s, the person in the picture appears to be holding an iPad! What in fact she is holding is a place mat, with a cream coloured border and relatively dark picture on it. This demonstrates how easily “evidence” of time travel can be found if you look hard, and if you strongly believe that time travel is possible.

English: Front of black iPad 2.
English: Front of black iPad 2. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every person, every object, even every elementary particle has position which can be measured (leaving aside the issue of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Quantum Physics for now) at any moment in time. The four dimensions, three of space and one of time uniquely identify an event in the life of the person, object or particle.

These four coordinates represent a single point in a four dimensional space. Since we find four dimensions hard to visualise, this space/time is usually represent by a depiction of a three dimensional space of two space and one time coordinate axes. The path of a person, object or particle through life consists of a single unbroken line in the four dimensional space.

Figure showing light crossing the x1 axis and ...
Figure showing light crossing the x1 axis and corresponding representation in optical phase space (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Note that in time dimension, if time travel is not possible, for every value of the time coordinate there will only be one point of the person’s life line. In other words, while the person could visit and revisit the same three dimension spot in space many time, they will only pass through a particular time once and once only. A person’s now is unique.

Time travel means that a person could pass through the same moment in time multiple times, and the possibility arises of loops in time. It seems obvious that the same event could not appear on the time traveller’s life line. In other words the loops in a life line would not cross.

Spiral loop
Spiral loop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To get from one event in space/time to an earlier event in space/time, the person could either travel through the intervening times or just jump from the first event to the second. In other words time travel if it is possible would be represented by a line going backwards in time or it could be discontinuous, with a break the in the person’s time line.

From the point of view of an observer, a discontinuous time line for the time traveller would be seen as a sudden appearances from nowhere and a later sudden disappearance. If the time line is contiguous, the observer would again see a sudden appearance of the time traveller, and then two instances of the time traveller both apparently travelling into the future at one second per second.


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One will be the time traveller doing just that, and the other will be the observer’s view of the time traveller as he travels backwards in time. Eventually the observer will see one of the instances (people!) merge with another instance of the time traveller and disappear. Since we don’t normally observe such sudden appearances and disappearances it’s very tempting to say that time travel does not happen.

To see what I mean, take a piece of paper and draw a line from top to bottom with a look in it. Now horizontal lines across the page represent time as seen by the observer. If you move a ruler down the page, at first there is a single line, the time line of time traveller. But at the point that the time travellers has travelled back to, suddenly there are (apparently) three lines travelling down the page. At the point that the time traveller travels from, two of the lines merge and disappear.

English: Meter stamp catalog image, three stac...
English: Meter stamp catalog image, three stacked horizontal lines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If time travel is discontinuous the observer would first see one instance of the traveller, and then another instance would pop into existence. The two would coexist for a time, and then one instance (the original one) would disappear, with the second continuing to exist.

As I said, it’s tempting to say that this proves that time travel is not possible. Certainly, a macro level we don’t see people appearing and disappearing so it is definitely very unlikely, though reasons for this not to be noticed can be constructed.

Intended for inclusion in Wikisource article f...
Intended for inclusion in Wikisource article for Flatland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At an atomic level though, we do see spontaneous generation of particles, into a particle and its anti-particle. If the anti-particle the meet another particle and they annihilate one another, this could be construed to be a single particle with the anti-particle being the particle travelling back in time.

This is bad news for time travellers. To travel back in time by this method, the time traveller would have to be zapped into a burst of energy and an anti-traveller who would then travel back in time to the earlier time when a burst of anti-energy would be required to zap the anti-traveller into another instance of the time traveller. These occurrences would be likely to destroy the integrity of the time traveller’s body. That is it would destroy it.

Burst Apart
Burst Apart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)