Elitism

Standard

We used to own a Mitsubishi Magna Elite. It was a very comfortable car, but from the day we bought it (second-hand) it gave us trouble: too many bells and whistles that could go wrong. But who would label a car ‘Elite’ now? Elite, with or without an acute accent, is a dirty word. Elitism is even worse.

Tory Shepherd, one of my favourite News Corp journalists (pictures below), condemned the condemnation of the elite in a well-written article today. Here’s a brief quote from it:

“… the meaning of “elite” has been expanded by angry populists. It is being commonly used to describe (derogatorily) anyone with any power or influence. Or education, or knowledge, or expertise. Elite is all bad, and the Common People are the new superior beings in this new world.”

toryshepherd nshute

You may wonder why Nevil Shute’s picture is alongside Tory’s. He wrote a book in 1953 – coronation year – called ‘In the Wet’, which was largely a diatribe against socialism. Most of the story was set in a future where Australia would have an electoral system in which the better educated and higher achievers had multiple votes. The maximum number of votes was seven, and the seventh vote could be awarded only by the sovereign. The ultimate formalisation of elitism. Perhaps no more then a recognition that people who are smart and successful always have more influence over decision-making than thick losers.

Or do they?

I look back on my own upbringing and education, which was undeniably elitist. I went to the best public school on Merseyside and then to Cambridge University where I joined the Officers’ Training Corps. And at every step I was made aware that I was privileged, and that with privilege came responsibility. I was being trained to serve society, and to see leadership as a form of service.

My original idea of being Prime Minister didn’t come to much, but I think I can claim to have tried to be of service to mankind, or at least to feel guilty about not trying hard enough.

Anyway, I am now firmly of the view that every society needs an elite, which should be selected early enough to be imbued with the ideal of service. This is exactly what happens to every member of the Royal Family of course. (And don’t say, “Which royal family?”!) I refer you to Plato’s Republic, if you haven’t already read it.

Advertisements

Trump

Standard

I know, I know. It’s high time I made a pronouncement on the US presidential election. On this occasion I defer to another deep thinker, because he expresses my own thoughts more eloquently than I can express them myself.

Philip Welsby, my relation-by-marriage, has drawn my attention to a 10-minute talk by Sir Roger Scruton that was broadcast by the BBC and may still be heard at the BBC website. Sir Roger (pictured below) explains, dispassionately and succinctly, what went wrong for the US political class and why Donald Trump is President Elect. I found myself agreeing with everything in his talk and I recommend it.

rogerscruton

Multiculturalism

Standard

Wherever I am in the world I read the Sydney Morning Herald online. This is one of the newspapers published by the Fairfax Media group with a generally centre-left slant, balancing the definitely right-of-centre slant of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

I don’t pay anything to read this excellent newspaper, so when they asked if I’d take part in an online survey I agreed. The questions were mainly about my opinion on a range of social, moral and political issues and I had only to click one of five boxes on the scale ‘Strongly agree’ to ‘Strongly disagree’.

I was motoring along quite easily until I came to the question about multiculturalism. Has it gone too far in Australia? (I’m paraphrasing.) I hesitated, hand on mouse. I wanted to say, “What do you mean by multiculturalism?” But there was no-one to say it to.

When the term came into usage in Australia in the 1980s it was never, as far as I remember, defined. Some people thought it was just about having people from many diverse cultures living side by side, and having more kinds of restaurant to choose from. But that’s not an ‘ism’. I took it to mean that all cultures represented in the population would have equal status, which sounded OK and consistent with my own internationalist world view.

But at that time cultural diversity did not have the political and ethical connotations that it has today. The cultures we were thinking about were different but not contradictory. Italians were more family-orientated than Anglo-Celts, exemplified by bus-sized extended families that went to the airport to meet or farewell travelling members. Chinese liked gambling and pushing their children to get good grades at school. Indians drove taxis and opened corner shops. Nothing threatening there.

But what about today’s Muslims? And I’m not talking just about a tiny lunatic fringe. What about the 100,000+ demonstrators in Jakarta who called for a Governor to be imprisoned for allegedly ‘insulting the Koran’? What about the 52% of surveyed British Muslims who believe homosexuality should be illegal, and the 8% who sympathise with those who commit acts of terrorism for political ends?*

I will stick my neck out and suggest that in many respects mainstream Islamic culture directly contradicts that of Australia’s dominant population, which I would describe as secular with a strong Judaeo-Christian influence. Sharia Law is not compatible with Australian civil law. Islamic attitudes to women, LGBTI people, atheists and followers of competing faiths are quite out-of-step with prevailing attitudes. Equal cultural status is not possible.

I have on my bookshelf Mahathir Mohamad’s book The Malay Dilemma. I bought it in Singapore because it was banned in Mahathir’s own country of Malaysia. He introduces the concept of ‘definitive people’, meaning the ethnic group which may not have been the earliest to settle on the land, and may not now be in the majority, but whose language, values, customs and laws are generally accepted as those of the country and therefore have to be accepted by all other comers.

mahathir

Now that we have progressed beyond the nation state to the multinational state, it is essential to have a commonly accepted set of rules. Mahathir’s concept is a useful one. As far as Australia is concerned the definitive people are my people, and I’d like to keep it that way.

I have nothing against Muslims, by the way. The great majority were born and brought up in Muslim societies and had no real choice. But I do have quite a lot against religion in general and Islam in particular. You might like to read my earlier post ‘Seeds of Evil’.

* Survey undertaken by ICM on behalf of Channel 4 and reported in the Guardian Weekly.

12pm

Standard

I was recently given a deadline of 12pm, which is meaningless by definition. The abbreviations ‘am’ and ‘pm’ mean ante meridiem and post meridiem – before and after noon. 12 noon cannot be either before or after noon because it is noon. 12 midnight is both before and after noon, and by the same margin.

12pm_2

The culprit had at least three alternative ways to express him/herself:

  • Words: ‘noon’ or ‘midnight’.
  • 24-hour clock: ‘1200’ or ‘2400’.
  • One-minute-off: ’11:59am’ or ’11:59pm’.

Airlines usually combine the last two of these for midnight departures or arrivals, to avoid any confusion about the date.

Don’t mind me: I’m just letting off steam. I’m sure none of my readers would be guilty of such an elementary mistake.