Friday, May 26, 2006

Chairman Mao Was "The Greatest Drug-Addiction Therapist In History"

Theodore Dalrymple says that a criminal tendency is likelier to lead to drug addiction than drug addiction leads to crime, and that "whatever caused them (drug addicts) to commit crimes in all probability caused them also to take heroin: perhaps an adversarial stance to the world caused by the emotional, spiritual, cultural and intellectual vacuity of their lives."

Dalrymple writes that it is relatively easy to give up heroin, and that Chairman Mao, who threatened to shoot addicts, was "the greatest drug-addiction therapist in history." The romanticising of addicts began with De Quincey's Confessions of an Opium Eater, he continues, and is sustained today by the "compassion industry," which is always on the lookout for victims on whom to lavish high-profile concern.

Article | Poppycock

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Misunderestimating German Humour

Preposterous article by Stewart Lee in today's Guardian asserts that German humour is limited by, amongst other things, the stricter structure of its language. Lee sounds halfway convincing - until he gives an example of a "joke" he believes isn't translatable into German because it relies on an unexpected "pull back and reveal" at the end:

"I was sitting there, minding my own business, naked, smeared with salad dressing and lowing like an ox ... and then I got off the bus."

This is actually quite easily translatable into German, if someone thought it worth their while to do so. But it would no more raise a laugh in Germany than it would in England.

Lee also blames German compound words for being less flexible, and so less potentially funny, than English tacked-together-descriptors: "Thus (Lee writes) a federal constitutional court, which in English exists as three weak fragments, becomes Bundesverfassungsgericht, a vast impregnable structure that is difficult to penetrate linguistically, like that Nazi castle in Where Eagles Dare." Difficult to see what Lee is driving at here, but the gratuitous reference to the difficult-to-penetrate-linguistically Nazi castle suggests desperation rather than insight.

Everyone knows humour is the last thing one gets in learning a new language. Lee's article demonstrates this in spades. He doesn't get German humour, but then he doesn't appear to have grasped the English variety either. Mangelhaft.

Postscript - German joke:
Two men are discussing WWII. They're on the subject of concentration camps.
"My grandfather died in Auschwitz, as it happens."
"So sorry to hear it, how awful!"
"Yeah, he fell out of his watchtower one night, pissed out of his mind."

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Lost in translation

Neo-Nazis and the World Cup

Germany is understandably worried that its neo-Nazis will stage some high-profile outrage during the World Cup.

Over the past year, Nazi and other left-wing extremist violence has been on the increase: in 2005, there were 958 acts of Nazi violence (up from 776 in 2004), whilst leftists committed 896 (up 72% from 2004). In the east, support for the neo-Nazis is about 10% amongst young men. Politicians have been lining up to warn foreigners, especially black ones, to avoid "no-go areas" in Berlin (such as Lichtenberg, Friedrichshain and Marzahn) and the province of Brandenburg which surrounds the capital.

"The slapheads (die Glatzen) mustn't be allowed to spoil our World Cup", said CDU/CSU politician Bosbach, clearly more preoccupied with the PR effects of violence than the violence itself.

In an intriguing but unsurprising development, German Nazis are planning to support Iran's football team during the tournament. This is a "reward" for the Iranian president's call to "wipe Israel from the map." It is unlikely, however, that this new sense of brotherhood will be of much use to Arabic-looking fans who stray into the sights Nazis on the prowl in Lichtenberg. By the same token, the likeliest threat of violence (according to Germany's Home Minister Schäuble), is from Islamist terrorists, whose targetting is notoriously colour-blind, and is as apt to kill Nazis as Muslims.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Scruton on J.S. Mill

Roger Scruton argues that J.S. Mill, the Utilitarian, foreshadowed statist leftism, valuing a collectivist approach to society and happiness above individualism, and that Mill didn't understand that wisdom is rarer than rationality. It was Mill, we read, who first described the Conservative Party as "the stupider party".

Scruton (who has himself metamorphosed into a latter-day country squire) points out that the squires who surrounded Mill in Parliament may well have been intellectually inferior to Mill, but that they "recognised the limits of the human intellect" and were thus wiser than the liberal sage.

Scruton himself, we infer, is an example of that rare species, an intellectual who has kept hold of his common sense.

OpinionJournal - Featured Article

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Stripped Of Dutch Citizenship

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, conservative Dutch MP and champion of Islamic women's rights, is to be stripped of her Dutch citizenship for lying about her name when she first applied for asylum. She has resigned as an MP and says she will be leaving Holland.

In her statement, she says she used an assumed name because she feared her Somalian clan would track her down if her real name was publicised. She sought asylum primarily to escape an arranged marriage with her distant cousin.

The decision to revoke Ali's Dutch nationality was made by the Foreign Affairs minister, Rita Verdonk. It has been greeted by dismay and is now being reviewed. [Update (June 28th 2006): The decision has now been revoked and Ayaan Hirsi Ali will be allowed to retain her Dutch citizenship.]

Since the murder of Theo van Gogh, who filmed her screenplay Submission, Ali has been under constant police protection, as the Islamist Hofstad group has repeatedly plotted to kill her. Her neighbours had successfully petitioned for her to be forced to move house, as they did not feel safe living next door to her.

Ali is consistently controversial and this denouement is entirely in keeping. She claims that she has been considering a move to the USA for some time, so that she can spread her message, that elements within Islam are incompatible with an open Western society. QED.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's statement on the VVD website:

"I regret that I will be leaving the Netherlands, the country which has given me so many opportunities and enriched my life, but I am glad that I will be able to continue my work. I will go on."