The Roman Britain diversity debacle.

Roman Britain

Holding up Roman Britain as a time when the country was supposedly ethnically diverse and welcoming to foreigners is a way of rebuking those who want stricter controls on immigration as being both historically and morally wrong.

Read on at The Fortnightly Review.

Any Romans in my book?

No conceptual penis, no global warming.

IT IS NOW more than twenty years since Sokal and Bricmont hoaxed the leftwing academic world with their fake paper, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Theory” (“transformative” is a touch of brilliance there). As scientists, both had grown sick of scientific concepts being misused by postmodernist academics to discredit the very basis of objectivity. They knew that the authors of these papers had no knowledge of understanding or the sciences but would nevertheless be accepted as creditable as long as they showed themselves to be bona fide leftists. This included references to the gods of the postwar pantheon of “fools, frauds and firebrands”, as Roger Scruton so aptly called them — Foucault, Derrida, etc.

Sokal and Bricmont thus concocted a paper out of the meaningless verbiage that typified such research at the time and submitted it to a journal called Social Text, who had it peer-reviewed and published as authentic. A furore followed the revelation that the academic world had fallen for such obvious fakery. Despite the laughter and scorn of many, there were still plenty of defenders of nonsense within academia willing to claim the hoax meant nothing at all. Eventually the waters of discord settled, the academic idiocy continued and the Sokal hoax was gratefully forgotten by its critics and left unmentioned to a new generation of left wing scribblers.

 

Read on at The Fortnightly Review.

Freedom Week 2017: a free week of tutorials at Cambridge.

freedomweek

Freedom Week is an annual, one-week seminar which teaches students about classical liberal, free market, neoliberal and liberal perspectives on economics, politics, history and society. It is open to over-18s who are currently attending or about to start university. The week is entirely free to attend: there is no charge whatsoever for accommodation, food, tuition or materials. Freedom Week 2017 will be held from Monday the 3rd to Friday the 8th July.

More details here.

Freedom Week is organised by The Adam Smith Institute.

Dowson’s Cynara poem – a microlecture.

Another microlecture, this time on Ernest Dowson’s “Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae”.

A three minute lecture – Absent Mothers and Bad Fathers: Silas Marner.

Text:

Bad Fathers and Absent Mothers

Silas Marner is a fairy tale, one in which Silas, the wounded, childless patriarch with no family, is restored to psychological and social health through the intervention of the matriarch-in-waiting, Eppie. Through Eppie Silas regains his lost kingdom, that is, both a place in society, and his faith in humankind. With the marriage of Eppie to Aaron and thus the expectation of children Silas acquires a family and a stake in the future.

A major theme of the novel is that of flawed patriarchs. The book is notable for its bad or useless fathers and fallible men. William Dane betrays Silas in Lantern Yard; Squire Cass is a careless and brutal father, Dunstan is a thief and a liar, while Godfrey is weak-willed, self-centred and a feckless father.

But if the tale is notable for its bad fathers and men then it is equally notable for its absent mothers or matriarchs. Silas at the beginning is without both father and mother, though it is only the latter he recalls (and his dead sister). The Cass boys are also motherless, and Eppie becomes motherless as a child.

It is the women, however, who facilitate the process of reintegrating Silas the outsider into village life and human community. Dolly Winthrop, having taken pity on Silas, visits him, bringing him cakes. The offering and sharing of food is a primal activity that establishes and strengthens the bonds between people.

Dolly also brings along her little son, Aaron, thereby signalling the importance of family within the community. And Aaron of course will eventually marry Eppie, thus sealing Silas’s integration into village life.

The female, matriarchal principle is the civilising, humanising force at work here, healing the rifts between people and helping to re-establish a benevolent patriarchy as a necessary part of a stable society. As in a fairy tale, Eppie is the pauper girl who starts out with nothing and ends up as a kind of princess with family, husband, and a stake in the community; while Silas, the disenfranchised exile, not only establishes a new home for himself but also finds a role as a patriarch in his own household and village.

© Michael Blackburn, 2017

Where do you think you are? Kindergarten?

…in the autobiography of Cyrus Gordon, the great Hittitolgist. He tells on his first day, aged eighteen, at the great Hebrew Center at the University of Pennsylvania. It ends with the Chairman giving out tasks. Gordon is told to report on the Syriac version of the text in question. He says he doesn’t know Syriac. “Where do you think you are? At kindergarten?” roars his teacher and tells him to go home and learn Syriac.

From The Dragons of Expectation by Robert Conquest.