Free speech for all must mean offence for some.

Image for post
Image for post
Image Source: Charlie Hebdo Sep 2020, https://charliehebdo.fr/

Offence is subjective, and people always are ready to subject others to their own sensibilities. Religion’s representatives have made the greatest show of this, by trying to turn offence from subjective to objective. ‘You aren’t offending me, you are offending God!’, so the religious said for centuries. Now, in a world so devoid of objectivity, subjectivity is divine. Each person a God unto themselves. But with Salman Rushdie and Ayan Hirsi Ali well and truly alive — and Ayatollah Khomeini well and truly dead — we might think matters of offence-taking has been decided. I fear otherwise.

On the 28th of August, riots broke out in Malmö Sweden. A group of malcontents had decided to burn one Qur’an and kick about another in the public square. More than 300 people responded by violently rioting. As has been pointed out by news sources, the local Imam, along with other Muslims of Malmö, denounced this rioting in the name of Islam. One went as far as to…


Image for post
Image for post
Original Images: Clozone, wikimedia.org; Rigobert Bonne, wikimedia.org

It must be admitted from the start that black antisemitism is an unhelpful phrase for many reasons. The first is its gathering of a complex collection of beliefs and cultural intuitions of an identity under what it opposes rather than what it purports. For instance, Black Zionism, Black Hebrewism, and Black Israelism capture important strands of a wider movement, but never the whole. The historian Jacob S. Dorman used the term ‘bricolage’ to describe the Black Israelites, and this may be the best word to capture the overlaying ideas and motifs that create the overarching tendency.

The second reason the term fails is that it pays no attention to what those who it describes are saying. A common defensive trope that reappears is that the black people are the true Semitic people. Manoeuvres like this make it easy for those accused on antisemitism to wave the accusation away with a linguistic pseudo-intellectual trick. ‘How are you calling me antisemitic when I am the true Semite?’ While it is internally incoherent, recognizing that this is done helps better understand the thinking behind it. A definition may not owe anything to those it defines, but it may miss the mark in trying to describe it properly. …


Image for post
Image for post
Original Image Source: Fibonacci Blue, wikimedia.org

When you have mastered numbers, you will in fact no longer be reading numbers, any more than you read words when reading books. You will be reading meanings — W. E. B. Du Bois

It is rare that golden ages exist to look back on with wistfully fond memories or burning envy. Usually, such things are myths, repeated for political ends. But so short and definite was the change in pension plans for private-sector workers in the UK that any halcyon views are not only justified, they are in the living memory of most. …


A review of Trials of the State: Law and the Decline of Politics

Image for post
Image for post
Original Image Source: Diliff, Wikimedia.org

ROPER: Arrest him.
MORE: For what?
MARGARET: Father, that man’s bad.
MORE: There is no law against that.
ROPER: There is! God’s law!
MORE: Then God can arrest him.
ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication!
MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what’s legal not what’s right. And I’ll stick to what’s legal.
ROPER: Then you set man’s law above God’s!
MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact-I’m not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can’t navigate. I’m no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I’m a forester. …


Image for post
Image for post

Why is it illegal to be homeless? I don’t understand. I don’t understand why a policeman must come to shuffle off a quiet man from a street corner or a patch of grass. Like wind catching a styrofoam cup, listlessly pushing it down the street to rest again somewhere else only to be moved again. Are they like the cup? Are they all that's left of a civilized encounter. If we stopped to look at the cup we would see traces of humanity. A lipstick stain, a finger smudge, maybe a name written in promisingly neat handwriting. Something to recognize that the cup existed in some way before it became a piece of the sidewalk. …


Image for post
Image for post
Original Sources: Andy Ngo, wikimedia.org; US House of Representatives, wikimedia.org; Still Roy Hull, Loc.gov

‘If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue’, wrote Kipling. This single line sums up the focus of Douglas Murray in his recent journalism and latest book The Madness of Crowds. Taking a look at the main opinion-makers of modern journalism, there are two fundamental steps they plant their feet on. The first one is identity, — whatever that may be — one must write through and on behalf of an identity. The second is popular opinion as expressed on social media. And with marching precision, any journalist-stroke-writer can ascend the steps to esteemed opinion pages of the New York Times or the Guardian. Few have been as lucid in their critique of this process and the madness that fuels it as Douglas Murray. …


Image for post
Image for post
Original Sources: Accarino, flickr.com

No job today is free from the downward pressure of simplification. Anything involving higher-order cognitive abilities is slowly being broken into constituent tasks that can then fall below the threshold of automation. We are stultifying work so that humans no longer want to do it, and so robots can. In having created the spectre of robotic betters we are quickly undoing anything that may keep us superior or on par with them. But perhaps this is an unerring part of human nature: the desire to create gods to prostrate to.

This process of simplifying was the spirit of the Industrial Revolution, unique from the eras the came before it. Tasks that made up a trade were isolated into specific jobs. The artisan’s skill and pride were abandoned for the series of mundane steps in a manufacturing process. Advancing technology needed human skill and creativity to slow-down enough to catch it. So society was reordered to simplify human activities to the point machinery could usurp them. …


Image for post
Image for post
Original Photo: Alex Sergeev, wikimedia.org

An irony too cruel to consider for long is the treatment of the poorest in the world by the richest in the world. In the Arabian Gulf, some of the worlds per-capita wealthiest states are disposing of the vulnerable and impoverished as the economy struggles. The image is well known: Dubai skyscrapers built by modern slave labour imported from South Asia; luxurious homes kept in check by Filipino housemaids. But whatever old paternalistic pretences that once was offered to justify this exploitation has disappeared. Economic recession is either forcefully throwing workers out of jobs or letting them flounder in their lack of stability. …


Image for post
Image for post
All Rights Reserved © 2020 James Marriott

STOP KNEELING! STAND UP! GET UP! People kept kneeling, and she continued shouting: ITS TIME TO STAND UP, NOT KNEEL! As loud as she was, it didn’t much affect the quiet dignity of the symbolic act that was taking control of everyone around her. She was ignored, not because her sentiment was wrong — equality and political action need agitation — but she underestimated the strength of the symbolic act. Something had taken over the crowd, a knowledge that although not everyone in it would have shared all the same politics and ideologies, they were part of a shared spirit.


Image for post
Image for post
Edited Picture: source used: US Airforce, 1965; wikimedia.org

“It would cause our delegation some embarrassment if it became known that we had supplied napalm weapons to any of the Gulf States. There might well be a case for reconsidering our policy about selling napalm weapons to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia” — Foreign Commonwealth Office Internal Document, 1972

As the UN prepared to discuss napalm in warfare these were the concerned words at the height of Britain’s napalm confusion of the 1970s. Internal documents bounced between the Foreign Office, the Department of Defence, and other government bodies around the issue of napalm and the Arabian Gulf. In the early 1970s the Gulf states had concluded most formal defense and protectorate treaties with Britain and were emerging as independent nation-states. …

About

James Marriott

‘Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes’

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store