Monthly Archives: October 2010

Toplis – myth and reality.

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I was in the village of Tomintoul in 1989. With my school group was an assistant named Jeremy Ramsbottom. He was on a year off from the Royal New Zealand Air Force. He read us aloud a sign about the well known mutineer Toplis who was there after the Great War. Until this year that was the only time I heard of him.

I just saw the Monocled Mutineer. It excited lots of controversy when it came out in 1986. It led to accusations of left wing bias at the time. These accusations are very well grounded in fact.

The war is presented as pointless. The officers and right wingers are presented without exception as snobbish, inhumane and bigotted.

The accusations that the film makes have some merit but they are much exaggerated.

Officers are said to hate Australians. I have no reason to believe there was an anti-Australian bias. There was much less of a distinctive Australian identity at the time. Australians were of British stock in 9 cases out of 10 at the time. The others were all whites at the time apart from the Aboriginals who had no rights and did not serve in the military. Australians called the UK the Mother Country at the time and it often was literally their mother’s country. Part of the reason that a separate Australian identity emerged is the Great War. Australians went to war singing, ”if England wants a hand well here it is.”

The only decent men are working class private soldiers. I say men because Lady Angela Forbes is shown to be compassionate and self-sacrificing. She uses her connections with the elite to help the ordinary soldiers. She serves them personally. The only reason that she gets access to the general is her social rank.

NCOs are shown as sadists and bullies.

Few dispute that conditions in the Great War in general were hard. Further, most acknowledge that the treatment of soldiers in Etaples training camp were harsher than the situation warranted. The government acknowledged this by removing some unsuitable staff who were deeply unpopular. Notably, the records of the Board of Inquiry into the mutiny were burnt. The files relating to it were closed until 1917.

Percy Toplis was not in Etaples at the time. This is not something that is a triviality. He is shown as the ringleader of the mutiny. Moreover, his previous crimes are said to be theft. One can have a thief as a hero, to brush theft aside and say it was only money, it never really hurt anyone. He was poor and only took from the wealthy. It is not a piece of pedantry to point out that he was gaoled for attempted rape at the age of 15. No one has a rapist as their hero.

Socialists are the only honourable people.

The policeman tracking Strange and Toplis is shown to be an agent of the Tory Party and not someone working to uphold the law and justice.

The film contains some glaring falsehoods at they all point the same way.

I am very glad that I was never a soldier. I am pleased that I have never experienced war and never wish to. An army has to be tough especially in wartime and above all in a war of that magnitude. I think that the British Army was unnecessarily harsh.

About 600 British military were executed in the Great War. Executed that is by their own side. One must never do justice by statistics but this number did not need to be anything like this high. The Germans had tremendous discipline right until the end and they only executed 28 men in a larger army.

Australians often brag that the Australian Imperial Force did not put a single one of its men to death. However, Australian military discipline was appalling. Their tendency to mutiny and desert was huge. I praise those Aussie soldiers who were loyal of course. The desertion rate was 7 times that of the British. Remember that getting home to Oz was virtually impossible while getting back to Blighty by desertion was very possible.

I do have great sympathy with the shot at dawn in most cases. The officer cries when he is being executed. I would probably do the very same.

The film does show that he committed a double murder at the end. He probably was the man who murdered the taxi driver that he was selling stolen petrol to.

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Psychological manipulation.

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We are so easy to scare –  present company included. I was watching a Freddy Kruger film today in the daytime. I know he is a fictional character. I know it is imaginary, it is not meant to describe something real. I am in a room with several other people. Yet people get very frightened. Going up behind people and saying boo the females were shrieking.

The music is what builds the atmosphere.

We feed off other people’s’ emotions  – feeling multiplies. Witness crowd behaviour. Why not watch the football match from the comfort of your armchair, it is free? Oh but the atmosphere is better in the stadium they say.

Think back to benighted eras. People were mostly illiterate. We had made few scientific discoveries. Superstition and not reason reigned. There was no electric light. We lived close to nature and were dependent on its seeming whims. If someone one totally trusted said that she or he saw a witch flying on a broomstick one might well believe it.

How does one have a religious experience? An all night vigil  – praying on the knees, no food or drink. When one stays awake for over 24 hours one may hallucinate –  dream while awake. The lack of food and water contributes to this inability to tell reality from imagination.

How often have you misremembered something or misread a word? imagination fills in the blanks. We are eminently suggestible.

In Ireland statues of the Virgin move. Why does this only occur in places of fervent Mariolatry? Crowds of hundreds chant for hours and then someone screams that she (as it normally is) saw the madonna twitch. It is wish fulfilment, everyone else cries in concurrence. One is under enormous pressure to say that you too also saw it move. People maybe do not lie, they subconsciously trick themselves. STaring at something for hours makes on have the impression that something is moving. WHY DOes it just move a millimetre and not wave the arm clearly?

It is like psychics. They can only tell the past. Why not useful things like the winning lottery numbers or even rationally determinable things like the stock market forecast? They are always vague –  the messages are unclear they say. I am getting a sense, I think, it seems like, maybe, probably – these are the words they use to hedge their bets.

I disbelieve in the supernatural and yet all this stuff gives me the creeps –  that is how impressionable we are.

The famine in India 1942-43

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Millions died in the Bengal Famine. One must not gloss over this. Statistics do not do justice to the suffering. Picture the gaunt, pitiable face of a child dying of hunger. Imagine the myriad tear-jerking scenes –  the anguish, the pain, the fear, the horror. These lamentable happenings were played out countless times in those years. I want this to be a full acknowledgement of the dreadful tragedy of that time – not a mere throat clearing.

Perhaps 3,000,000 died of hunger in that era in Bengal. The rice yield was slightly up then. Food was exported from India to feed other areas. Many says that the British Raj is culpable.

The three million deaths may not all be attributable to the famine. Some people would die in a population over a couple of years anyway. Some of them would have been terminally ill or die in accidents. One must work out what the excess mortality was over and above normal mortality.

Famines had occurred many times before in India. The British Raj organised resources for famine relief and saved countless lives.

What are the causes of the famine?

The lack of importation of foodstuffs from areas under Japanese control.

The destruction of boats and bridges in anticipation of Japanese advance. Japan did indeed seize the Andaman and Nicobar islands and some of mainland India for a time. The demolition of transport networks is only partly convincing. Howrah Bridge was built in Calcutta at this time.

The hoarding of food and subsequent huge prices rises.

The wilful disruption of the train system and all government activities by the Quit India campaign.

I do not believe that Congress, the Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha, the Liberal Party, the Communists or anybody else made much of a stink about the famine at the time.

Certainly these parties could make their opinion felt very strongly when they felt like it over issues they considered important –  like getting political power. Saving poor Bengalis from famine seemed trivial it seems.

The response of the British Raj was inadequate and must shoulder some of the blame. So must the Congress Party.

It is not some big British conspiracy. Why? What possible motive would there be for that?

In any crime one asks ”cui bono” – who benefits? What was the aim of the British Raj? To defeat the Japanese – then to hang on to India in the meantime. The famine only made this harder. It has been exploited by Congress and Commies ever since. They benefitted from it. They could say this was a shocking example of how callous the British Raj was. It was in their interests to cause this suffering. It is the old Bolshevik slogan – the worse, the better. The more people suffer the more they hate the government, the more likely a revolution is.

Indians could have done a lot more to donate money and food.

People say that famines never occur in democracies and there have been no famines in India since the British Raj came to an end. There is wretched poverty in India today besides great wealth. None I think die of starvation now. State governments and Sikh gurdwaras distribute food for free now.

Yes, one must sympathise with the ghastly fate of those poor people. They should not be exploited for partisan gain now. They cannot be posthumously conscripted into any cause.

The worst affected areas were now in Bangladesh. I do not think that Bangladesh nurses a grudge against the United Kingdom over this enormous tragedy. These were mostly jute producing areas with little rice culture –  they were dependent on buying food from the rest of India. Further, these zones were nearest the Japanese lines and therefore the need to destroy transport lest it fall into enemy hands was even more urgent.

Churchill declined to send more food to India. This seems harsh and probably was. What was his reasoning? The famine stricken areas were likely to fall to the Japanese very soon and they would have kept the food for themselves anyway. Probably the wrong decision. As we know Japanese attempts on India were repulsed. I do not believe that Churchill was anti-Indian. He was fond of his Indian servant and sent him money for the rest of his life. He believed democracy was wrong for India as its masses were illiterate and inter-communal violence was rife. He said Brahmin rule would come to an independent India. yes, there is a lot of caste violence in Bihar. There is caste discrimination by law but it is against the upper castes. Netaji agreed that democracy was wrong for India. I do not know of any racist remark that Churchill made against Indians. Gandhi said Western civilisation would be a good idea. Could this not be taken as racialistic?

Long live the friendship between Indian and Briton.

Derek Acorah – bullshit manifestation

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I watched a DVD last night about the Gunpowder Plot. It starred Derek Acorah  –  he is a medium. they went to historical sites associated with the Plot. He was meant to psychically tell us secret info too unveil the mysteries about the Plot.

He tried to locate the long burnt down Duck and Drake pub. He went away from what was seen as the location. The historian there said this could be right. There is no way of knowing.

Acorah then said that he had a sense of powder –  burning, gunpowder. Yes –  fire, blinding. All this could be read from even a child’s history book. ”Was it here, it was here? Was it? No it was not.”  I am paraphrasing what he said. He did that with his eyes closed. A tall, slim North Briton was with him. Acorah was waiting to have this speculation confirmed by the North Briton. When it was not confirmed Acorah said that his initial speculation was wrong and moved on.

It is all so blatantly fake. He reads up easily available info about the historical facts. Then he makes some educated guesses. He uses the mark (i.e. victim he is conning –  in this case the Scotsman) to feed him more info. Is Acorah getting closer or further from the truth? He waits for the Scot too tell him. In fact that North Britisher was quite good at not responding and giving clues.

Some stuff that Acorah said was highly improbable –  so saith the historian. The trouble is that it cannot be disproved entirely.

They ask him how the Plotters were feeling at various times. He says stuff like they were feeling scared  –  well this is a reasonable guess, how else would you feel in a dangerous situation?  They travelled by horseback, probably. It was the 17th century and these were wealthy men. This is just a logical deduction –  nothing miraculous there.

They held a séance in Guy Fawkes’ childhood home. Why the darkness and candles? Part of the psychological preparation. Helping them to will the suspension of disbelief. I am a disbeliever and even I found it scary. Shows how suggestible we are.

He was with the North Brit and a a South Brit. They later said they felt wind and heard sounds –  felt vibrations. Acorah had an assistant in the corner of the room who could have produced all these effects. Moreover, they could be explained by a draft, creaking walls and floorboards in a 16th century house etc… It could also be imagination.

Acorah was supposedly possessed by Edith Fawkes, Edward Fawkes and then Guy Fawkes. Edward and Edith were the parents of Guy. We got 2 bits of misinformation there. The person who revealed the plot was Wintour –  he did not say which one of the Wintour brothers. The other misinformation was that they continued with the Plot after it had been discovered because their faith was so strong. A reasonable guess that. As the game was up they might as well carry on  –  their was a ghost of a chance that it might succeed. The authorities would hunt them anyway even if they gave up the Plot. Ok – if they fled abroad they might make it. They felt God was on their side so they may haVE SAID THIS WOULD Mean the Plot would succeed.

The historian said the bit about Wintour revealing the Plot is very unlikely but 400 years after the even there is no way to be sure. I trust the historian more than this fraudster.

The names of Guy Fawkes’ parents are easily available. Why not ask Edith Fawkes for the names of her parents? I bet Acorah could not answer that. Then he would have just claim to have lost contact with her.

Why not speak in 17th century English or with a Yorkshire accent? It was so blindingly obviously nonsense. Who is fooled by such tomfoolery?

Why not get him to contact Hirohito? If so Acorah would speak Japanese to us?

Acoorah writhed around making weird faces when he was pretending to be possessed. He has been rumbled for pretending to be people who never existed. A con artist! Acorah is not even his real name. Says something about a man if he uses  FAKE NAMe.

He rolled around pulling faces for ages before speaking as Fawkes –  builds suspense, prepares us.

These are all tricks to emphasise mystery and prepare the mind to be tricked  darkness and weird behaviour. It is like being in church. Candles, music, odd clothes, a psychological buildup up and special words –  magic words.

The historian validated muchh of what was said. If he validated nothing that would expose Acorah as a faker even more than ever. If he validated mos of it it would be a clear fraud. By validating most it it makes things plausible. Nothing Acorah saiid can be proved absolutely to be false.

Japanese apology.

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I have read ”The Rivals –  how Japan, China and India will dominate the next decade” lately. It is by Bill Emmott. I went to a talk by him in 1997. He said he was looking drawn as he had been working on the Economist which he edited in the runup to the 1997 election. He said his publication was a journal of opinion and the front cover was ”The Conservatives deserve to lose – Labour don’t deserve to win.” He said that the Conservatives losing was a racing certainty.

He covers the Second World War. From a Eurocentric perspective one might say that that war commenced in 1939. A Chinaman might say 1937 or even 1931. If one were to look at this war as lasting from 1935 one would see that possibly as many Chinese died as Europeans.

The People’s Republic of China calls for apologies and reparations from the Empire of Japan. They have been forthcoming. This fact is not sufficiently understood. Japan paid compensation to British prisoners of war in the 1950s as a deal that normalised relations. Maybe it was insufficient but the British Government accepted it. It would be wrong to unpick that deal.

I am not anti-Japanese. No one should be mistreated due to their nationality. I do not promote prejudice against the Japanese nor do I believe in any prejudices against the people of Nippon.

It is true that some Japanese soldiers committed horrendous atrocities in China on an enormous scale. I do not say ”Japanese soldiers” but ”some Japanese soldiers.” I am careful lest you think that I condemn them all. Individual justice is terribly important.

Japanese apologies are partly undone by Japanese ultra-nationalists denying the monstrous crimes committed by some Japanese servicemen abroad.

The PRC likes to focus on Japanese war crimes. Why? To distract attention from its own oppression of its people.  We cannot prevent past misdeeds. We can stop what is happening right now.

The PRC also likes to discredit Japan in the eyes of other nations. It is a good way to raise anti-Japanese sentiment in lands that are otherwise unsympathetic to the PRC such as Western lands.

I think it is right for the Emperor and Prime Minister to pray at Yasukuni shrine. The memory of millions of Japanese soldiers should be honoured. They were not all bad and their enemies were not all good. They were conscripts. They suffered. They often gave their lives for what the believed to be right. Whatever bad things people said about the Imperial Japanese Army none doubted their valour.

These Japanese soldiers, sailors and airmen were often duped by propaganda. They did not grow up in a free society. Belief in ideals that we may hold to be repugnant is therefore very excusable.

I wish to visit Japan and China.

I certainly think what the Japanese government did in that war was very culpable. Its use of slave labour of civilians and POWs was ghastly. It authorised massacres on a vast scale. It was totally exploitative. Many people who decried Western imperialism saw that it was much more benign than the rule of the Empire of the Sun.

I had a Japanese friend –  let me call him Rotaru. He studied in the UK and seemed an open-minded chap. I gently broached the topic –  not wishing to dishonour his country. He said that the Japanese had been right to liberate the subject peoples of Asia and the other Asians should be thankful for that. Moreover, he said that the Japanese military did not carry out crimes against POWs or Asiatic civilians. Even if they did wrong against Britishers who surrendered it was long over and it was not right to pay compensation. I did not press the issue as I did not wish to offend him. He was not going to change his mind. He was critical of the British Raj in India. He said it was racist of the Allies to nuke Japan. They did not nuke Germany because the Germans are white. I said the nuclear bomb was not ready in May 1945 but he did not believe me.

Back off Brussels.

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The European Union is imposing a new law. Mothers are to get 20 weeks paid maternity leave. I oppose this for several reasons. It encourages a rising birthrate. I know the EU has a falling population but the world as a whole has a rising population putting more pressure on the planet. It is expensive. If people want to have children they must bear the cost. It is interfering with nations and businesses. I would oppose it if my country were to bring this in but I acknowledge that states are entitled to legislate in this manner. I dislike the EU forcing this on everyone. This is not what a free trade organisation should be about. Yet more over-governance and interference, yet more rising social costs. It makes us even less competitive against China and India.

What about compassion? The government is not in the business of that. Charities and individuals are in that. You pay someone else’ maternity leave. If a company wishes to give someone that much paid maternity leave then let them.

American obsession with crime.

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Why is the US so fixated with crime and punishment? I am not talking about Dostoyevsky’s opus. There are so many police shows from the US, th police are presented in such a positive light. OK we need police and they are better than criminals. Occasionally the police will say they need to respect privacy and liberty in the course of their investigations. I like this.

Maybe the American obession with crime is why the US is also thinking about security so much. The crime rate in the US is not high by the standards of rich countries. Gun crime, especially murder, is low there. Crime has been falling for 20 years in the US. It rose for 30 years before that.

I think the US is normally way too punitive.

The US frightens itself a lot. The shows on children being kidnapped by paedos. This adds to paranoia. I know a Slovak business man called Marian Hlinka and he says every time he does to the United Kingdom there is something on the news about an abducted child, leading to more fear there.

In the 1950s American cinema told us how the west was won. Maybe this was Cold War spirit, making people patriotic. Were the ”Injuns” Reds? There were also lots of films about the aliens invading. Maybe this was preparing people for a Third World War. This may have been a conscious or unconscious. People were conditioned to think there was an ”other” – unhuman beings who were disgusting and needed to be destroyed. This was an allegory for the Soviets.

I do not wish to be too harsh. Soviet Communism was absolutely ghastly. Moreover, the USSR really did wish to impose its ways on everyone. American cinema was subtle and fairly free.