Dragons on the road map

Guy Herbert:

It’s the sort of #roadmap that has “Here be dragons” written all over it, isn’t it?

Yes. My part of Twitter is all: The politicians are tyrannising over us. I wonder. What if they are just scared? Of course, the second does not rule out the first.

Patrick and I finally did our Industrial Revolution podcast

In this posting here just over a week ago, I showed you all a pile of books, and said that if all went well I’d be recording a conversation with Patrick Crozier in which I’d speak about these books (plus the writings of Anton Howes). I had in mind how each writer provided a piece in the puzzle of how the Industrial Revolution came about, and that I was going to fit all these pieces together. Mass literacy, ideology, revolution, both political and industrial.

Well, last week, Patrick and I finally did manage to record this discussion, which was mostly a monologue by me with occasional queries from Patrick, and now you can listen to it, and read Patrick’s commentary and notes with more links, by going here.

The recording was a definite success in one way, which is that my voice functioned really well, better than I thought, about one month ago, that it ever would again.

The heart of my claim is that the Industrial Revolution had a lot more in common with the “other” revolutions, in places like France, Russia and China than is now usually supposed, in the following sense: The Industrial Revolution was also an ideological event. It happened because starry-eyed ideologists had a glorious plan for the betterment of mankind. Very long story very short: The plan worked, magnificently. But this is not a story which intelligent and educated people nowadays can compute. Revolution equals blood, chaos and a world that is the opposite of what the starry-eyed ideologists said it would be. What most educated people now seem to believe is that the Industrial Revolution happened by mistake, when selfish go-getters pursuing only the narrowest idea of their own selfish interests happened to have a huge but unintended collective consequence. I say that industrial improvement, even if not exactly the “revolution” that happened, was deliberate.

Between them, the writers I assembled and talked about explained all this, although it takes me to fit the various pieces of the story together, to tell it in full. Said he modestly.

And so on and forth, for over an hour. When this unbalanced “conversation” ended, I was disappointed, because of what I hadn’t managed to say. Basically I outlined a theory, but the way I told it, it was severely lacking in illustrative detail, as Patrick’s questions forced me to acknowledge. But listening again this afternoon, I was comforted by the fact that although that criticism stands, I did at least say some interesting things. I didn’t illustrate them, still less go any way towards proving them. But at least I said them, as best I could. Which is to say, I tried to.

LATER: I can’t make the comments system at Croziervision work, so I will have to put my embarrassing apology for saying that John Lilburne was executed here instead. I’m embarrassed. Sorry.

My problem was that I read all the books in the pile quite a while ago, remembered the broad outlines that I concluded from them and forgot most of the illustrative details and backup evidence. In this respect the delay doing this was unhelpful. I hope to be writing out, for Samizdata, the thesis I merely presented in this podcast and will then at least try to allude to rather more evidence than I did in this. But I promise nothing.

A House of Lords speech defending women and defending the English language

This bit of video, lasting just under ten minutes, which I recently came upon here, is surely likely to get a lot more attention than it’s got so far:

I like it because it is suffused with the very courtesy (a House of Lords feature) that he is asking for in the debate about trans rights. I am of the opinion that upholding trans rights should not be done by undermining the rights of women, as is the Noble Lord, Lord Hunt, or Philip Hunt as was. I am also of the opinion that Twitter mob bullying of anyone by anyone is to be deplored.

Will this speech prove to be a game-changer? I fear that this is a game that it will take more than one speech to change. But this speech is certainly, to use another common phrase of praise, a step in the right direction.

I’ve not looked at my Twitter feed since I watched this speech a few minutes ago, but I expect this to get many mentions there. If not, I just might break my Twitter silence. But like I say, I would be amazed if that were to be necessary.

LATER: Claire Fox, also in the House of Lords. says similar things, and tweets the videos.

Writing about morality and consequences in a way that hasn’t dated

The latest addition to the Brian Micklethwait Archive is a piece by me called The Morality of Consequentialism and the Consequences of Morality, which was first published over two decades ago. I had completely forgotten ever writing this, and today read it again with much interest.

And with some satisfaction. It’s good stuff, though I say it myself. I say it myself because if I don’t, who will?

What I find so gratifying about how I mostly wrote about libertarianism back then is that because we didn’t need to be obsessed with current events and grabbing media attention (basically because we didn’t care if only a few people read our stuff (photocopier rather than printing blah blah)), I was able to concentrate on underlying principles, keeping mere current events at arms length. Which means that these pieces of mine mostly don’t date that much. If you thought they made sense when I wrote them, you’d still think that now.

Much the same also applies to a lot of the stuff I published by others, which you can find your way to here. (Apart from the Political Notes link, which for some reason seems not to work.)

Dan Hannan in Australia

Two years ago, which explains the non-up-to-date political references to such things as Brexit, Dan Hannan did a talk in Australia. I found my way to this talk via the Hannan website, and watching this short interview of Hannan by Marc Sidwell (Sidwell is a friend of mine but I’d not clocked this interview until now), and then at the end of that being recommended to attend to this CIS hosted talk in Australia, done, as I say, a couple of years ago, which goes on for a lot longer:

Hannan didn’t talk about the then President Trump in his main speech (which lasts a bit under 40 minutes), but he did during the Q&A. And on the Trump matter, Hannan sat resolutely on the fence. He regarded Trump as “unfit for office”, because a liar about his fornication, his taxes, and just generally, and he welcomed the good liberalising things that Trump has done, but he denounced the public spending spree that Trump presided over and encouraged. He regards the kind of tribalism that is totally pro- or totally anti-Trump as the problem. Transcending tribalism being the whole secret of “western civilisation”.

I take the point about tribalism, but I wonder if Trump could have done his good stuff, both domestically and abroad, without all those character flaws of his. His boorish manner is all mixed up with the fact that he didn’t waste any time trying to suck up to his opponents, the way rival Republicans always tend to do in the vain search for their admiration. Trump was effective because “uncivilised”.

On the broader subject of “western civilisation”, Hannan can’t help attributing the success of what PJ O’Rourke called “that fine trend in human affairs” to his own Anglosphere tribe. The Anglosphere tribe is, he seems to be saying, the anti-tribal tribe.

And I think I agree.

BMNB SQotD: Bricks through the Overton Window

The best bit of the day before yesterday’s somewhat longer Samizdata quote of the day:

Hoi Poloi keep throwing bricks through the Overton window …

Sweet. My congratulations to Perry de Havilland. Wish I’d thought of that.

Hitchens talks to Paxman

I fear that I may now be an I-may-be-about-to-die bore. In the sense that I can think of nothing which I am now doing or saying or even thinking which is not happening under the shadow of my recent lung cancer diagnosis. And given the subject matter of this particular posting, any pretence along such lines would be absurd. Which is why I start with that now. Which could get very boring.

Anyway, what I want to link to is this video, lasting about half an hour, in which Jeremy Paxman talks with the late and then staring his about-to-be-lateness in the face Christopher Hitchens.

Here’s a still from this video, which I think I am presenting because one of the many things I like about this conversation is how Hitchens looks. His head entirely shaven, his face serious, the very picture of a ancient stoic, looking both at death and at the kind of life he might have to suffer before death with an unflinching gaze:

Hitchens’s appearance reminds me of that of my friend and fellow Samizdatista, Paul Marks. “The Sage of Kettering”, as the Samizdata commentariat refers to Paul, looks a lot like this already, despite the fact that to the best of my knowledge Paul is only going to die in the same medically relaxed sense that we all are.

The link to this video was, of course, sent to me, by a friend who had learned of my current medical predicament and thought that I might appreciate learning about it and watching it. Which I very much did, having missed it the first time around.

The friend picked out a bit right at the end, where Hitchens says that he especially appreciated communications from strangers who had in one way or another appreciated something that he, Hitchens, had said or written or done. “If in doubt about whether to send me such a message, do not hesitate. Send it.” Or words to that effect.

He added that he regretted having failed to do this for others in similar circumstances.

I agree on both counts. I am being very cheered up right now by all the kind things that I have persuaded various people, not a few of them pseudonymous Samizdata people whose identities are otherwise unknown to me, to say to me about my own various sayings and doings over the years. And I too regret having failed to do as much of this as I could and should have, when I saw valued friends and intellectual comrades nearing their ends.

New category in the category list below: Death. Here’s hoping that at least some of the remaining postings I manage here are not thus tagged.

By the way, that could be quite a few more. Hitchens was facing the certainty of death, pretty soon, when he did this interview, and he duly died soon after it, I believe. Not long, anyway. All I can really say about my lung cancer is that it sounds pretty bad. But that might merely mean it being pretty bad for quite a while longer.

I have lung cancer

This afternoon I sent out an email message to about fifty or more of my nearest and dearest, saying that I now have lung cancer. Since among my nearest and dearest are those who read this little blog of mine with any regularity, here is the full text of what that said, for all you good people also:

A message from Brian Micklethwait to as many of his friends, relatives and loved ones whom he can now think of to include in this email list.

Please pass this on to anyone else who you think would appreciate hearing about it, with whatever added apologies make sense for me having neglected to include them on the list to start with.

*****************

Dear friends, relatives, loved ones and well-liked ones:

About a week before Christmas, I learned that I am suffering from lung cancer. I had known for a while that something bad was happening. Apparently I have had it for some time, and it has been spreading. From what doctors are now telling me it seems that I may die quite soon. They don’t put it quite like that, but that is how it now sounds.

But, it may not be quite that bad. Being doctors, they are also giving me reasons for optimism, in among the gloom.

First, I do not have the usual sort of lung cancer, the sort brought on by prolonged and heavy smoking, having never been a smoker of any kind. I am told that this sort of “anomalous” lung cancer tends to respond better to cancer treatment than regular smoker-cancer usually does. I suspect that my very dusty home may be part of what set my cancer off, but the doctors prefer to doubt that, at any rather when they speak to me. Genetics? Other unknown environmental triggers? They prefer not to speculate and just to get on with treating me.

Second, cancer treatment has come a long way in recent years. A doctor recently told me that, had I been in my current condition a decade ago, his advice would have been: “Call your lawyer, your priest, and your undertaker, in whichever order you prefer.” Now, my chances are much better.

Third, because I decided to throw the kind of money I can spare at the private medical sector for the diagnosis part of my problem, my condition is now well understood, and I am now, already, getting cancer treatment, from London’s Royal Marsden Hospital in the Fulham Road, which is about as good as cancer treatment can be nowadays.

And, I’m getting this treatment on the NHS. The NHS is overwhelmed by people who have or say that they have medical problems of all kinds and degrees of severity. Had I relied on the NHS to learn the bad news I needed to know, I would probably still not know it. But, once the NHS knows that you have a serious and potentially fatal condition, it then moves fast, and not just technically well but with great human sympathy, if my early experience of treatment is anything to go by, and if what my doctors and my medically expert friends and relatives (such as my sister who was an NHS GP until she retired) are telling me is so. Especially if you are lucky enough, as I am, to live a mere walk away from the Marsden.

So, wish me luck. I may yet live for quite a while. My condition may stabilise. I may even recover. I now doubt that, but you never know.

Some of you will be content to tell me you are very sorry about all this, and that is fine. Such messages mean a lot, and if that is all you want to say to me that’s still a great deal. Just knowing that there are people out there who sympathise means a lot more than you might suppose. (A word of warning. Those who phone me may be subjected to some coughing at my end, a continuous cough having been one of the early signs of trouble.)

If, however, you would like to know more about how to help me in my weeks or months of misfortune, then keep reading, and I’ll tell you. (I have already embarked upon the years version of this scenario, being already over seventy years old.)

The problem is that, especially in these very socially separated times, physical help can be rather hard to contrive. Besides which, very close friends and relatives are already supplying crucial support in ways that are already helping me and cheering me up enormously. Thanks to them, and to the treatment I’ve already been getting, I have had a surprisingly cheerful Christmas.

But, there is something else I ask you to do, should you be so inclined. Don’t just email me about what you can do to help, email the person who is acting as my Senior Coordinating Friend, so to speak. This is Elena Procopiu (she at the top of the email list above). She is the elder sister of my beloved Second GodDaughter, and I am very close to her entire family. Email her, as well as me. Communicate with her about what you might be able to offer, should you be inclined.

I’m sure that all kinds of assistance, such as experience of similar circumstances as well as merely physical help, may materialise in this way.

But, let me now tell you what would really boost my morale.

Tell each other which of my writings you have most liked, and do so just as publicly as you feel inclined. Blogs postings, blog comments, social media, the lot. My circumstances are now no secret. If I do die soon, I would greatly prefer to do this in the knowledge that various things that I have said and written over the years have left behind them a trail of enlightenment and entertainment, and might be fondly remembered, for a while at least.

This is quite a lot to ask, because I fear that my more impressive pronouncements are scattered in amongst a vast pile of trivia and obfuscation. But, if you want now to cheer me up, try to dig out some of the more worthwhile things that you think I have said and done – often just sentences or paragraphs rather than longer and rarer stretches of eloquence – and hold them up for a bit of admiration and reflection.

Maybe there are photos I’ve taken over the years that you happened particularly to like. Recycle or link to them too.

Here might be a good place to start.

Or you could try here here.

Or here, which still seems to be working after a fashion.

Or you might care to sample some of these recent efforts, if you have the time.

If you recall having attended one or some of my last-Friday-of-the-month meetings at my home, perhaps because you were kind enough yourself to be the speaker at one or some of them and found that particularly helpful and stimulating, then please take the time to tell any other people who might be interested about that.

This is a lot to ask, but if you don’t ask for what you want in life, or in my case potential death, you are far less likely to get it, and this is what I want. If only a few people feel inclined to say and do things along these lines, it would cheer me up lot as I make my exit, if that is what is about to happen.

A late thought. My deadly sin has always been sloth. Had I merely died, one fine day, just like that with no warning, it is almost certain that I would have died failing to say or do many of the things I would have most wanted to say or do before going. As it is, having now been told about my possibly imminent death before it actually comes may turn into something of a blessing for me. Live every day as if it is your last, we are often told. That is pretty much what I am now doing, as best I can manage in my now weakened state. I still have a few public pronouncements that I’d like to offer to the world before I go, and there is every chance that I may now manage to say at least some of those things, the way I probably would not have done had I just died with no advance warning, and even if I had lived for quite a bit longer.

Which I may yet be lucky enough to do. If so, win-win.

Even if it goes win-lose, I don’t feel that I deserve the sort of send-off I am asking for. All my life, I have been showered with advantages, not least in the form of more unearned wealth than most inhabitants of this planet could ever dream of having bestowed upon them. I have not done nearly well enough as a communicator, given all the chances I have had, for me to be able to expect the sort of send-off that I would like and for it to happen of its own accord.

But, I nevertheless ask for it. This is what I would like.

It is putting it mildly to say that not everyone on this email list shares my political inclinations and attitudes, or for that matter aesthetic tastes and opinions. So if all you really want to say to me is: “Bad luck mate. Nice, on the whole, to have known you”, well, I’ll gladly take that.

I’ve tried quite hard to avoid grammatical errors and mis-spellings in this, but some will inevitably remain. It’s now time to stop this and just send it out. More to come, I hope, maybe from me, maybe from others, with news of medical progress, or perhaps just with news of how it all turns out. But if not, then: not. It was certainly good knowing all of you.

All the very best to you and yours,

Brian Micklethwait

If you are personally known to me and want to get in touch with my very dear friend Elena Procopiu, mentioned in the middle of the above text, I suggest you leave a comment below to that effect, and I’ll be sure that the connection is made.

More sport thoughts

Sport has filled the gap in society left by major wars between great powers. In general, as the world gets more peaceful, so too does it get more sports mad.

Earlier this year, a fascinating sporting experiment was conducted. In order to stop The Plague spreading, they stopped Big Sport dead. And all hell broke loose. Politics and political demonstrating, the nearest thing to actual war when there is no war, went berserk. Remember when some guy in American got killed by the US cops, and there were demos all over the world about it? I was out and about in London a few times during all that, and I bumped into all sorts of weird looking characters who ought to have been screaming dementedly at football matches, not wandering about in London, picking fights with total strangers like me. The world’s governments learned their lesson. Screwing with people’s weddings and funerals and Christmas get-togethers is fine. But Big Sport has been bribed and begged to keep going. And as if by magic, the idiot demos have stopped. Poof! All gone. And because of Sport now being allowed, they’ve stayed gone. A big old dog that was barking like hell is now silent. Only freaks with opinions about such things like me are even noticing all this.

So, sport as a whole, very significant. Significant in the same kinds of ways that the Roman Amphitheatres were an important part of the Rome story. Or in the way that things like tourism, pop music, and now social media, are other big parts of the story of the world now.

But the actual results of particular sporting events don’t really bother me that much. I like it that the team I favour is currently top of the Premier League. But if Spurs were seventh or eleventh or even seventeenth, I could live with that. I’d just pay attention to something else. I am not, in short, a Real Football Fan.

But favourite-blogger-of-mine 6k is a Real Football Fan and I really feel for him when things aren’t going his way. And boy, are they, now, not going his way. This time last year, Spurs and Sheffield United were leapfrogging one another towards the top of the Premier League. Now? Well put it this way, one of the more interesting stats you can seek out at any particular Premier League moment is what and where the biggest gap is. Remember when the gap between Man City and Liverpool at the top, and all the rest, was something like twenty points, the biggest gap by far? I do, although I don’t recall exactly when this was because I’m not a Real Football Fan. So, what and where is the biggest gap in the Premier League now? Answer: 5 points. And: It is between the bottom team and the second to bottom team. And Sheffield United are, that’s right, bottom.

To cheer himself up, 6k is now reduced to saying things like this:

Each defeat now makes up a smaller percentage of the overall misery, and so it doesn’t hurt quite as much as before.

Another stat: Looking at the current Premier League again, there are only two teams which have won even four of their last five games. Man U and, would you believe, West Ham? They are just two of about a dozen teams any one of whom could yet win this thing. Only eight points separates the top thirteen teams. It’s like one of those long distance races, with a big leading bunch. You know who is not going to win, but not who will win from among that front bunch.

But if nobody has five wins from their last five games, does anyone have a complete set of five losses in their last five? Yes, and no prize for saying who. And given that for week after week they’ve had just the one point, it’s been going on for a lot longer than that.

That’s the trouble with arriving in the Premier League after a tough promotion battle and then having a good season and staying up. Your reward is: You have to do it all over again.

I’m now in such a second-hand state about this that I’d now swap a couple of Spurs wins for Sheff U wins, except that there’s no such soccer deity able to arrange this.

What chance does some lowlife American who gets himself killed, in what turned out to be tediously inscrutable and complicated circumstances, have against all that?

Another carnival of the animals posting

Starting with a new recording of Carnival of the Animals. Saint-Saëns at his harmonious and melodious best. It’s the Kanneh-Mason clan, with additions. Sheku, as of now the most celebrated of this much celebrated classical family, has his big cello moment with the Swan.

Relatedly, “i” reports that the way animals communicate is evolving so that it remains audible above the din made by humans.

This Is Why I’m Broke tells of a squirrel proof bird feeder, with explanatory video.

And then there’s this: Canada battles Norway for tallest moose statue.

More seriously, it is being said the Brexit has enabled Boris Johnson to unveil a ban on live animal exports.

Most significantly of all, when it comes to the ever changing relationship between animals and humans, Singapore becomes the first country to approve the sale of lab-grown meat. See also this earlier posting here, about steps in that same direction in Israel.

LATER: No official ephemera this Friday at David Thompsons, but via the a comment on the latest posting there, here’s a competitive canine in action. The enjoyment is palpable. I love how the dogs in the audience join in with their encouraging barks.

OOPS: There are some David Thompson ephemera today, starting with a couple of cats.