Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 28.11.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

  • Conditions in their Spanish prison are not to the liking of the Catalan 'political' prisoners. Says the BBC here.
  • It's no great surprise that President Rajoy might be resiling on his undertaking to consider wider constitutional reform. After all, polls suggest he and his party have come well out of the confrontation with Sr P et al. But the leader of the opposition PSOE party is trying to get him to honour his 'personal promise'. Probably vaingloriously.
  • You can't live long in Spain without tripping over evidence of Man's credulity. This morning I read of a church on an island in the Bay of Biscay where, it's said, John the Baptist might have set foot. Rather more credible are the reports that the church was sacked by el pirata Francis Drake (El Draque) and the hapless prior chucked into the sea. Drake did much the same to a church on an island not far from my home. Is it any wonder he's not popular in these parts?
  • News of a controversial Xmas poster. Hilarious to an atheist like me.
  • HT to reader Perry for a report that Spain is backsliding on its Paris commitments. Following in the wake of Poland and - would you believe - Germany.
  • This is an audiobook which will interest some readers. 
The UK
  • Good to know that the UK banks have all passed the annual stability tests, even if (because?) they remain rapacious and quite possibly criminal.
  • A nice video about Liverpool, created in 2008, when it was the European City of Culture.
  • Below is an article on how dreadful the country's centres of learning have become around free speech.
  • Per our local media, the switching on of Xmas lights gets earlier every year. Vigo is said to have been the first Galician city to do this this year but the town of Pontecaldelas, inland from Pontevedra, is reported to have got there even before them. Doubtless the expense is increasing every year too. Financed in part by motoring fines. Especially mine.
  • More interesting is the news that December 1 will see an exhibition of Da Vinci inventions in the Tinglado del Puerto in Vigo.
  • Definitely more depressing is the confirmation - from reader Jan - that we do have very expensive petrol/gas stations here in Galicia.
  • I wrote yesterday of my irritation with booking.com. Well, they managed to annoy me even more later in the day. Firstly, by 'explaining' - speciously - why they hadn't given us the discount on the booking made by my companion. And, then, by starting to bombard her with the same irrelevant emails I'd been getting about hotels in places we'd already left. And, finally, by responding in Spanish to a complaint I'd sent them in English, even though the writer had clearly understood my message. Good customer service – for a client who's made dozens of (camino) bookings through them – it certainly ain't. But a good example of how stupid and insensitive computers can be. And maybe a good example of what passes for servicio al cliente in Spain.
Today's Cartoon

You want to report allegations of sexual harassment? This isn't the place for that, madam . . .  shouldn't you be on Facebool or Twitter?


Universities are reviving the notion of heresy: Roger Scruton

'Non-discrimination’ has become the new orthodoxy at centres of learning that should be promoting diversity of opinion
Religions offer membership. They fill the void in the heart with the mystical presence of the group, and if they do not provide this benefit they will wither and die, like the religions of the ancient world during the Hellenistic period. It is therefore in the nature of a religion to protect itself from rival groups and the heresies that promote them.

Today’s university students have little time for religion and no time at all for exclusive groups. They are particularly insistent that distinctions associated with their inherited culture — between sexes, classes and races, between genders and orientations, between religions and lifestyles — should be rejected, in the interests of an all-comprehending equality that leaves each person to be who she or he really is. “Non-discrimination” is the orthodoxy of our day. Yet this seeming open-mindedness is just as determined to silence the heretic as any established religion. There may be no knowing in advance how the new heresies could be committed, or what exactly they are, since the ethic of non-discrimination is constantly evolving to undo distinctions that were only yesterday part of the fabric of reality. After Germaine Greer made clear her opinion that men who regarded themselves as women were not, through the surgical removal of their penis, actually members of the female sex, this was judged to be so offensive that a campaign was mounted to prevent her speaking at Cardiff University. The campaign was not successful, partly because Greer is the person she is. But the fact that she had committed a heresy was unknown to her at the time, and probably only dawned on her accusers in the course of practising that morning’s Two Minutes Hate.

More successful was the campaign to punish Sir Tim Hunt, the Nobel prize-winning biologist, for making a tactless remark about the difference between men and women in the laboratory. A media witch-hunt led Sir Tim to resign from his honorary professorship at University College London; the Royal Society (of which he is a fellow) went public with a denunciation, and he was pushed aside by a large section of the scientific community. A lifetime of distinguished creative work was marred.

The ethic of non-discrimination tells us that women are as adapted to a scientific career as men are. I don’t know whether that is true. How would I find out who is right? Surely, by weighing the competing opinions in the balance of reasoned discussion. Truth arises by an invisible hand from our many errors, and both error and truth must be permitted if the process is to work. Heresy arises, however, when someone questions a belief that must not be questioned from within a group’s favoured territory. The favoured territory of radical feminism is the academic world, the place where careers can be made and alliances formed through the attack on male privilege. A dissident within the academic community must therefore be exposed, like Sir Tim, to public intimidation and abuse, and in the age of the internet this punishment can be amplified without cost to those who inflict it.

This process of intimidation ought to cast doubt, in the minds of reasonable people, on the doctrine that inspires it. Why protect a belief that stands on its own? The intellectual frailty of the feminist orthodoxy is there for all to see, in the fate of Sir Tim. Indeed, UCL and the Royal Society displayed, in their failure to protect him from the cloud of twittering morons, the sad state of the academic world today, which is losing all sense of its role as guardian of the intellectual life. As the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has argued, at the very moment when universities are advocating diversity as an academic value — meaning by “diversity” all that I have included under the term “non-discrimination” — the true diversity for which a university should make a stand, namely diversity of opinion, has been steadily eroded and in many places destroyed entirely.

Traditional education had much to say about the art of not giving offence. Modern education has a lot more to say about the art of taking offence. This, in my experience, has been one of the achievements of gender studies, which has shown students how to take offence at behaviour, at words, at pronouns, at institutions, customs and even at facts, whenever “gender identity” is in question. It did not take much education to make old-fashioned women take offence at the presence of a man in the women’s bathroom. But it takes a lot of education to teach a woman to take offence at a women’s bathroom from which males who “self-identify” as women are excluded. Students today are being encouraged to demand “safe spaces”, where carefully nurtured vulnerabilities will not be “triggered” into crisis. The correct response, which is to invite students to look for a safe space elsewhere, is not one that universities seem to consider, since each student is an addition to income but censorship costs nothing.

It is my belief that an institution in which the truth can be impartially sought, without censorship, and without penalties imposed on those who disagree with the prevailing orthodoxy, is a social benefit beyond anything that can now be achieved by controlling permitted opinion. If the university renounces its calling in the matter of truth-directed argument then it becomes a centre of indoctrination without a doctrine, a way of closing the mind without the great benefit that is conferred by religion, which also closes the mind, but closes it around a real moral community. 

1 comment:

Alfred B. Mittington said...

What is the world is 'Facebool'?