Islam can’t be made nice

Says Armin Navabi:

The only way to reform Islam is to get rid of Islam.

A short video, lasting just over two minutes. Navabi is right, provided by “reform” we mean “make nice”. That verbal quibble aside, agreed.

There are many nice people who want to remain nice but also to remain Muslim. Can’t be done. Islam demands nastiness from its followers, and there’s no way round that, only out of it.

The current Western governmental view of Islam is: resist the bad stuff, appease the good stuff. But the only good stuff in Islam is good people trying to be good but being told not to be good by Islam. Islam itself is the enemy.

The way to defeat Islam is to persuade a large number of its current adherents to stop being its adherents. That will put Islam on the defensive, both ideologically and physically. Muslims will be put in the position of trying to explain that Islam is nice. They will fail, but will then look weak, because they will have abandoned their strongest weapon, which is the fact that Islam demands nastiness. And the Muslims will thus lose. There will still be many “Muslims”, so-called, in the world, but the ones who really believe in it will become a beleaguered minority, constantly betrayed to their enemies by other “Muslims” who are trying to prove, to the world and to other Muslims who are thinking of leaving Islam, how nice they are, despite going through all the motions of saying that they still believe nasty things.

In other anti-Islamic news, Dawkins notes a stirring of atheism in the Islamic world. I hope, and more and more think, that this is right, and very good news. The more I learn about this man, more I admire him, even though I mostly don’t agree with him on domestic political issues.

If you are now, still, a Muslim, stop it.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Ladies in Quimper Cathedral

Yes, still ill, so still quota-photo-posting:

July 2009.

I like the hands.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

But they didn’t mean this thing to look like a penis

You wait nearly thirteen years at BMdotcom for a giant penis photo, and then, out of the blue, two come along. That one, in the post before last yesterday, and this one:

Crikey, blimey, etc.. Or as we Brits also used to say: Well I’m blowed.

Fox News, so also “other creatures”.

You Had One Job calls this an “unfortunate helicopter shot”. But I bet the photoer could hardly believe his extreme good fortune.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Southwark Cathedral from the train

This evening I had a party at my home. All the people I invite to my Last Friday of the Month meetings were invited, and almost exactly the same number of people showed up as tend to show up for the meetings. How do they do this?

I am now completely knackered, but it wasn’t the party alone that knackered me; it was … alas, I find that I am too knackered to explain. Maybe, although I promise nothing, later.

So instead, a quota photo, of Southwark Cathedral not being dwarfed by modernity:

Taken out of the train window, on my way to Hither Green.

Spot the Gherkin.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

The Gayer-Anderson Cat

Not long ago, Perry de Havilland told me what sounds like an old, old joke, about the difference between dogs and cats.

We feed and pamper and love and look after dogs, and from this, dogs conclude that we are gods. We feed and pamper and love and look after cats, and from this, cats conclude that they are gods.

As I say, it sounded old, but I liked it. And I remembered that joke when, this evening, searching for quota cats or quota other creatures, I encountered these photos, of books, in the British Museum. Including a book about a cat …:

… and of that same cat, celebrated on a clutch of mugs:

I took these Gayer-Anderson Cat photos in Feb 2010, but I doubt it’s moved since then.

Read about the Gayer-Anderson Cat, which actually was a god, here. Gayer-Anderson wasn’t two people. He was just the one, a certain Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson.

Get your own Gayer-Anderson Cat, for £450. (£405 to members.) Or, you could 3D print your Gayer-Anderson Cat.

When I took these photos, I was in point-shoot-forget mode, and have given them no further thought until now.

I love the internet.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Adriana Lukas tells Libertarian Home about the experience of communism

Earlier this evening at the Two Chairmen, Westminster, Adriana Lukas, who grew up in the old Czechoslovakia as was, gave a most eloquent talk about this experience. She didn’t bang on at length about the usual horrors – prison camps, executions, purges, and so on – although of course these were mentioned. Rather did she focus on the minutiae of life for the rather less unlucky victims of communism, the ones who got to stay alive. People adjusted, basically. Or if, like Adriana’s family, they were dissidents, they learned to be extremely distrustful of almost everyone but their closest and most trusted loved ones. Being a dissident wasn’t about overthrowing the regime; it was merely about staying sane.

Here are four photos, that I picked out from the dozen or more that I took, and that I just sent to meetings organiser Simon Gibbs, who is to be seen in the first one, introducing Adriana. The photos I sent to Simon were rectangles, but I actually prefer these square cropped versions.

As you can see, this excellent talk was videoed. Videos are far harder to edit than merely to … video. So you may have to wait a bit before seeing this one. But, for those who did not attend this talk and for many who did, it will be worth the wait.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

How computer dating erodes racism and strengthens marriage (and rearranges tribes)

This article (which is based on and which links to this article) has been an open window on my computer for over a month now, because it struck me as being so very interesting.

These reports concern recent research into the impact upon the world of online dating. Mostly good impacts. Two impacts in particular are pointed to.

First, online dating seems to facilitate more interracial relationships and interracial marriages. There is definitely a correlation between online dating and interracial relationships. This research strongly suggests that the link is causal. Online dating gets people past racial barriers.

Second, the relationships it facilitates tend to last longer and be more solid.

If I believe both of the above effects to be not only very important, but also to be true, this is because both effects make so much sense to me.

The first effect concerns taste in mere appearances. Suppose you inhabit a world where a relationship between you and someone ethnically different is somewhat taboo, the chances are you won’t be sufficiently acquainted with many fanciable people of a different ethnic group to be able to do anything about it. But if a dating app asks, bluntly: Do you like the look of this person, or of this person, or of this person? – then your answers will crash right through such racial boundaries, provided only that you personally would like them to. Relationships across racial boundaries become a simple matter of individual taste. Your “friends” can just stay right out of it.

But then, once strong relationships across racial boundaries stop being the stuff of movies, because they are so rare, and become quite common, all those “friends” are just going to have to live with it, or stop being your friends. Chances are, they’ll be fine with it.

I do not believe it to be coincidence that the one marriage in my circle of friends which I know for certain to have started on the internet is also one that crosses what would, when I was a lot younger, have been a racial barrier.

The second effect bears strongly on the kinds of fundamentals that can ruin a marriage in the longer run, and also get you through a racial barrier in the short run. These fundamentals are, well: fundamentals. Fundamentals like beliefs about what life is about and for, what marriage means and how sex should and should not be done, what is right and wrong politically or ideologically or spiritually, and so on. These are the kinds of things that also, along with superficial racial preferences, get declared that little bit earlier, when you do computer dating, rather than turning around to bite you, two years into that relationship with a more local bod who merely looked great and had a nice sounding voice and wore nice clothes. And you get a bigger choice, which enables you to pick dating partners with more similar beliefs about those fundamentals. Even if such fundamentals aren’t stated in full up front, they are often at least referred to early on, and form the basis of early conversations, rather than just erupting later, in the heat of some perhaps seemingly trivial drama.

That interracial marriage I referred to above also anecdotally confirms everything in the above paragraph, about those fundamentals. How they both looked to each other was a nice bonus, but it was fundamentals that really brought them together for the long run.

The one big negative I can see happening here is that if all of the above is right, then the tendency will be reinforced for society to divide up into groups who all agree with each other about fundamentals. The much discussed “bubble” effect of the internet will be greatly reinforced. Regular touch with people who hold to other beliefs will become rather rarer, because marriages used to be more common across such fundamental belief boundaries but are now becoming less so. And that could be a big negative in a lot of ways.

A way to sum up what is happening here is that society is continuing to be tribal, but that the tribes will now be based more on beliefs and less on biological and genetic similarities and connections.

I should say that I have not myself ever done computer dating. I would welcome comments on the above from people who have.

I note with a small spasm of pleasure that one of the researchers who did the research alluded to, Josue Ortega, is based at Essex University, of which I am a graduate and of which I have fond memories.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Frollicking outside the Abbey (a decade ago)

This blog having been in business for well over a decade, an obvious blog post genre is ten-years-ago-today. This one’s actually more like ten-years-ago-plus-about-a-fortnight, but who, apart from me, is counting?:

What I think this clutch of photos captures rather well is the sheer fun that digital photography unleashed, around that time. I was a photoer-having-fun and so were all the other photoers.

Digital photography wasn’t completely new at that moment. It had already been around for several years. But what my photo-archives tell me is that this is about when it started getting seriously good. This was when the rubbish-to-okay success rate (simply from the point of view of things like blurriness) of the average mostly-automatic-setting photoer like me, or of the photoer in the above photos, started climbing from something like ten percent to more like fifty percent. We weren’t yet at the fifty percent and still climbing rate. Or, we only were if the light was very strong and there was no moving. (That came around five years later.) But these kids frollicking about outside Westminster Abbey were keeping still for their camera and therefore also for mine, and as you can see, there was plenty of bright sunlight sloshing about that day. So their pictures were probably okay, just as mine of them were.

Also, ten years ago was well before the face recognition problem kicked in. Then, I had no problem about posting recognisable photos of people. I also have no problem with the recognisable faces above, because these kids were making a rather undignified spectacle of themselves outside a major place of worship. Which is fine. God loves fun, or why would He have created so much of it? But: the above recognisable faces, all those years ago, are fair game for my blog, I say.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Our Sea (and the trade we did in it)

Lincoln Paine, The Sea and Civilization (p. 130):

Octavian’s victory in Egypt brought the entire Mediterranean basin under the command of a single imperial rule. To guarantee the safety of the empire and its sea trade, Augustus (as Octavian styled himself) established Rome’s first standing navy, with bases at Misenum just south of Portus ]ulius, and at Ravenna in the northern Adriatic. These fleets comprised a variety of ships from liburnians to triremes, “fours,” and “fives.” As the empire expanded, provincial fleets were established in Egypt, Syria, and North Africa; on the Black Sea; on the Danube and Rhine Rivers, which more or less defined the northern border of the empire; and on the English Channel. Over the next two centuries there was nearly constant fighting on the empire’s northern and eastern borders, but the Mediterranean experienced a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity during which Greco-Roman culture circulated easily around what everyone was entitled to call Mare Nostrum – Our Sea. It was the only time that the Mediterranean has ever been under the aegis of a single power, with profound results for all the cultures that subsequently emerged on its shores.

There follows (p. 132) a description of the sort of commercial culture that resulted. Here is some of what Paine says about Ostia:

The remains of the city, which rival those of Pompeii, reveal a town of ordinary citizens rather than wealthy estate owners and their retinues. The essentially rectilinear streets were lined with three- and four-story apartment houses, many with street-level stores and offices. …

But then, concerning religion in Ostia, Paine addes this:

… In addition to houses, offices, workshops, and laundries, the city boasted an astonishing array of religious buildings that reflect the inhabitants’ strong ties to the Roman east. Side-by-side with temples to the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon and the imperial cults stand Christian baptisteries, a Jewish synagogue, and a host of temples to Near Eastern deities, including a dozen dedicated to the Zoroastrian divinity Mithras, the god of contracts and thus revered by merchants. …

Mithras was the god of contracts? Revered by merchants? I knew about how the Roman Empire took off economically (and degenerated politically) by surrounding the Mediterranean, but I did not know that Mithras was the god of contracts and was revered by merchants. So, it would appear that proto-libertarianism in the ancient world missed a big chance when Christianity conquered the Roman Empire and prevailed over Zoroastrianism. Although, a little preliminary googling tells me that some reckon Christianity to have been “borrowed” from Zoroastrianism. Whatever. I like the sound of it, and will investigate it more. By which I mean I will do some investigating of it, instead of the zero investigating of it that I have done so far in my life.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Craig Willy on Emmanuel Todd

Incoming from Craig Willy, of whom I did not know until now:

Hello Brian,

I see you’ve written a great deal on Emmanuel Todd. I have just written a summary of his big history book, L’invention de l’Europe. I thought you might find it interesting.

I also see you have the impression he mainly criticizes the U.S. for being a “hollowed out,” financialized “fake” economy. In fact he is incredibly critical of the eurozone, for that very reason, which he argues is responsible for the hollowing out, dysfunction and financialism of the French and peripheral European economies.

All the best, and feel free to share if you write anything new on Todd. My Twitter.

Craig

In response to my email thanking him for the above email, and asking if he has written anything else about Todd, Willy writes:

I discuss him a fair bit on my Twitter feed as he offends many with his criticism of Germany and euroskepticism. Otherwise I just wrote this short piece on Todd and the euro from a while back.

This I have now read. Very interesting, and I think very right. Interesting parallel between the Euro and the Algerian War.

Things appear to be really motoring on the Todd-stuff-in-English front. At last.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog