Profile: Victor Serge []

Christopher Hitchens profiles Victor Serge [Serge’s homepage]:

After Dostoyevsky and slightly before Arthur Koestler, but contemporary with Orwell and Kafka and somewhat anticipating Solzhenitsyn, there was Victor Serge. His novels and poems and memoirs, most of them directed at the exposure of Stalinism, were mainly composed in jail or on the run. Some of the manuscripts were confiscated or destroyed by the Soviet secret police; in the matter of poetry Serge was able to outwit them by rewriting from memory the verses he had composed in the Orenburg camp, deep in the Ural Mountain section of the Gulag Archipelago.

For many years Serge was almost lost to view. He was one of those intellectual misfits (I intend no disrespect by the term) who were ground to powder between the upper and nether millstones of Stalin and Hitler.


Free speech in the UK? Pah!

“A plumber has denied making an allegedly racist remark from a van going past the memorial to Stephen Lawrence on the 10th anniversary of the murdered black teenager’s death.

Nicholas Atkins, 36, told a court he may have said the words “best thing that could have happened” in a conversation with a colleague but could not remember doing so and would not have meant them as a reference to Stephen Lawrence.

Blackfriars Crown Court in London was told that two women heard the remark “best thing that could have happened” or “best thing that ever happened” said from a van as they placed flowers at the memorial in Well Hall Road, Eltham, south-east London on April 22.” [Evening Standard]

So you can end up in court, presumably charged with thought crimes, crimes against a manufactured martyr’s memory plus emotional AND political incorrectness. These are serious matters in 21st century Britain.

What worried me about this snippet is what it suggests. Two women think they heard a comment. Presumably they wrote down this man’s numbers (probably all over his van), make an accusation and incredibly the police send the file to the CPS who charge him (with what?) .

The case is so tenuous as to be laughable. But what if he had said what he is accused of saying? Can it really be that his alleged opinion – however disgusting and cruel – is illegal?

Fisk loses his mind completely and takes fisking to a new level

In an astonishing article in the Independent, Fisk blames the victims of terror (Turkey, Australian and Italy) for bringing it on themselves by being allies with the USA.

“The Australians paid the price for John Howard’s alliance with Bush in Bali. The Italians paid the price for Silvio Berlusconi’s alliance with Bush in Nasiriyah. Now it is Britain’s turn. “Al-Qaeda” was quite specific. The Saudis would pay. The Australians would pay. The Italians would pay. The British would pay. They all have. Canada remains on the “al-Qaeda” list. Until, I suppose, it is Britain’s turn again.”

He advises us to heed Bin Laden. Seriously, he finishes “…those tiresome speeches by Bin Laden…[The Arabs] know it’s him. And they listen to what he says. So should we.”

There you have it folks. Fisk says that if you help out a country that has been attacked and had over 3000 of its people slaughtered in a single attack, then you too cannot moan if the same people people come after you.

Is he suggesting we surrender to them? Or maybe we ought to side with them against America? I think he seriously thinks that we could appease these people by giving in to their initial demands and refusing to help the victims of their attacks. This is, of course, classic appeasement.

I really ought not to bother with Fisk. He is not worth the aggrvationg to my wrist joints. Instead I commend this utter skewering by David Pryce-Jones in the Spectator.

Finally, I liked this from Andrew Sullivan today: “What people have got to remember is that Sept. 11 happened in 2001 and not in 2003. It was planned under the presidency of Bill Clinton.” – British foreign secretary, Jack Straw. The point, of course, is not to blame Clinton for 9/11, but to show that al Qaeda terrorism is not some kind of response to the Bush administration. It predated it, and will probably outlast it.”

Sociable baboons make better mums [New Scientist]

“Sociable mums make much better mothers than less gregarious ones, suggests a new study of baboons.

Baby baboons born to outgoing mums who enjoy hanging out with other females are considerably more likely to survive their crucial first year than infants born to less friendly mothers…

…Behavioural ecologists have assumed that extrovert behaviour in primates boosts survival by generally making group life easier.

But now US biologists have shown for the first time a direct link between having friends and reproductive survival.”

This reminds me of the fascinating preface of Howard Bloom’s “The Global Brain“:

As long ago as the early 1940s, researchers like Rene Spitz discovered that among humans the genetic survival instinct had a dark twin of an unexpected nature. It was a physiological doppelganger of Freud’s fanciful Thanatos, the death wish.

Spitz and other trackers of hard evidence documented the many ways in which isolation, loss of control, and a downward plunge in status provoke depression, listlessness, ill health, and death, then came up with separate labels (“anaclitic shock,” “learned helplessness”) for each instance they identified.

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How to be happy [Guardian]

“Why do some people enjoy life and others don’t? Psychologists are spending $30m on trying to find out”

…Starting tomorrow, Britain’s most prestigious scientific institution, the Royal Society, will host a meeting for some of the world’s top psychologists who…will discuss “the science of wellbeing”. Their aim is to find out why it is that some people’s lives go so right. What is it that makes them happy and fulfilled, while others seem doomed to founder in misery, dissatisfaction and dejection?

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Hoxton is doomed [Guardian]

Nathan Barley‘s, his ‘hood and the rest of the purple horde hister whores of West Hackney are doomed. No more ironic haircuts (Hoxton fin) and unrepentant fuckwadery. Now even the people of Clapham are wearing “Fuck off back to Hoxton” t-shirts. W11 has a no Hoxtonite rule. Even the filth in Islington deny them thrice.