O Miserable man!

An apology coming so soon after the previous one? One would have thought that cartoonists might have learned a thing or two by now. It is fitting however when two interesting articles are placed side by side they provoke an interesting thought, but given that this morning’s sermon was on Romans 12: Be subject to the authorities, I wondered whether political satire may sometimes be haram rather than kosher. But we do have Rutherford’s teaching also on the matter who promoted Lex rex rather than Rex lex, aptly illustrated by when on the appointment of one of his governors, Trajan handed to him a dagger with the words: ‘to be used for me (As Paul said: they hold the power of the sword) and [if I do wrong] in me’. How different from the lèse-majesté of another nation. On the basis of this, the interesting (or not so interesting depending upon your point of view) thought becomes public at the risk of offending those who by their nature are afflicted with the plague of sensitivity to that which is ill aligned with the contemporary notion of politica rectitude, and given with apologies to those who will recognise that I, being ignorant of such matters, have used the incorrect case.

Now the cartoon which has been hidden from view by the author, but not by many others who are not, is clearly an abomination in the good tradition of political satire from at least the end of the 18th century exemplified by Gillray. To show a former prime minister sitting on a throne hidden behind a pile of whatever you may wish to describe it but would be quite at home in a farmyard, with such a grotesque visage is at the best described as insulting, but perhaps a gentler form of treatment of the gentleman, if a gentleman, could have been found. The other gentleman has a face which AI may easily have produced if it had been asked to cartoonise a photograph of the gentleman whom the cartoon portrays but has actually been produced by the real intelligence of a real man. What a jolly description it is indeed of at least one of the ills of our times.

In the other article we are presented with a protest against laws and regulations by a government by which under the cloak of a ban on fake news, as the nation’s own judges recognise by the way they have been written, it would be possible to silence fair criticism including satire and parody. Now I suggest that that other nation perhaps needs to look at the Western approach (except of course it cannot because that would be to allow itself to be subject to the colonialists) to the banning of satirical literature, ideographs and cartoons. The Western approach is simply to get the PC brigade on your side and never again a word shall be spoken against you ever – even if it would have been spoken in jest – for those very comedians and comediennes will regulate themselves and keep silent being more afraid of the wrath of the liberal elite than that of the government. So, it would seem that as well as exposing as intended one of the ills of our time, it also unintentionally exposed another of the ills. I suspect the putative claim of the ‘offended’ is a cover for the real reason which is closer to that from which the lèse-majesté are designed to protect those who would wish to sit upon a throne but have proven to be unsuitable candidates for it.

As for caricatures, they are necessary and are necessarily built upon actual characteristics of real people. ‘Paint me, warts and all!’ the man said for it was well known that if the warts were painted out it would be said that it was not a true likeness. If we are offended by a caricature of our culture, race, tribe or even locality then remember it is a caricature because it is like that in some way, and we then should ask why? What is it that makes that particular caricature? What is it in the caricature that is offensive? What is it of which we, as members of that class, are ashamed? If it is something bad, we then need to further ask ourselves: is it found in me? If it is then I must expunge it from myself.

So when I hear words spoken about or see a cartoon of a particular class or group of people to whom I may, or may not, have a relationship or a belonging: ‘Though their pockets are deep their arms are short’ remember that this is a caricature. And then ask does it apply to me as much as it does to the miser. O miserable man that I am!

The use of alien languages

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau*

If Coco had written:
Gan nad yw rhywun yn disgwyl gweld Firenze mewn erthygl am Fflorens neu 臺北市 mewn erthygl am brifddinas y weriniaeth Tsieineaidd, pam mae disgwyl i un ddarllen Snowdon mewn erthygl Gymraeg am yr Wyddfa?

Coco is quite sure there would be much support for the view expressed, which is why Snowdon in Wales is known as, and probably ‘always’ has been known as yr Wyddfa.  I quite understand this, for if Coco were to speak in Italian, which Coco cannot, it would be intolerable to refer to Florence and not Firenze, and in French, which the French do not permit, to refer to Paris as Paris (euphonically speaking of course). 

But if Coco asks:
As one does not expect to see Firenze in an English article about Florence or 臺北市 in an English article about the capital city of the Chinese republic, why is one expected to read yr Wyddfa in an English article about Snowdon?
will Coco receive a similar response?

The editors of the BBC seem to take a different view and give more regard to those who would detract them for reasons of being PC, which you will understand is nothing to do with pure chocolate, than to their intended audience. For, when they write for an English speaking audience, then they do not write in English but introduce other tongues. If there is a need to write in another tongue, and from time to time there must be such a need, as Coco has demonstrated in the foregoing, then a translation should be provided for those who do not understand what is written. In the slightly better article from this perspective, to which we thought we had already referred, but have not so the link must be edited later, though the explanation was rather lacking in due care, at least an attempt had been made to provide an explanation. In this one* (Snowdon: Yr Wyddfa could be the first plastic-free mountain) however, whilst Yr Wyddfa is the proper name for Snowdon in the Welsh language, it is not the name for the mountain in the English language.

As a great man once said: If I come to you speaking in tongues [you do not understand] how will I benefit you? So with you, if you utter speech that is unintelligible how will anyone know what is said? You will be speaking to the air. If I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker a foreigner to me. … I would rather speak five words and be understood than ten thousand words in a language that is not, but if I must speak in another tongue, please let there be an interpreter.

With apologies for not providing a translation of the Welsh and to those who know for Google’s bad Welsh.

* Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau – The land of my fathers

* There is an appearance that since Coco first saw the article, a change has been made to make it clear that yr Wyddfa is Snowdon, but still we have Eryri National Park. Is this a location in Transylvania or near the great lake of a slightly similar English name?


An abuse of a great need for a political point

When editors see an opportunity…

Whilst I do not wish to down-play the agony of those who wait for an organ transplant and the grief of those whose loved ones do not receive one in time, it is a little ingenious to use organ transplant resources in the anti-cognitive-racism game that is presently being played out in the UK and probably elsewhere with perhaps more ferocity. I also understand that headlines must be catchy if they are to draw the attention of the prospective reader, so when I saw the headline ‘Black patients wait up to six months longer for organs’ (BBC News) (or more fully on the article itself ‘Organ transplants: Black people wait up to six months longer, NHS figures show’ my interest was aroused.

I hope those who saw the headline read it, as though the headline hints at racism thereby suggesting endemic racism is present, the facts mentioned in the article belie that accusation. White skinned people wait on average 488 days, whilst black skinned people wait 735 days. That does suggest an imbalance of some kind, but the cause of that imbalance is not the colour of the skin but the relative sizes of the pools of organs available. If we ignore any overlap in the pools of organs from black skinned and white-skinned people, the pool for black skinned is proportionately half the size of that available for white skinned people (the article is however slightly thin on the ground for this assertion, but let it be for now), therefore, on the basis of a non-rigorous calculation I would expect to see waiting days for white-skinned people to be only 50% that of black (mathematicians, please correct me), but the actual waiting time is around 66% suggesting that proportionately speaking black-skinned people have shorter waiting times taking into account the pool of resources available.

Curiously, which is why I suggest that there is covert racism behind the article, there is also a reference in the article to the waiting times of Asian people being 650 days, but no further information is given. Given that Asian people wait up to three months longer (longer than what we might ask) why do they not come up for greater attention in the article?

The article does go on to speak of better things, the benefits of transplants, some of the results, and the schemes available and is to be commended for that, but we do not need to use a race card to advertise such things.

Do we?

When darkness falls upon the mind

Judgements (ASA)

If you apply racial stereotyping to this post then as Coco is not a chocolate bean but if this article has been written by a stereotypically white middle class male who wears a tweed jacket you must presume that it is racist and anything that Coco says will be understood to have racist implications, Coco has therefore on the basis of stereotyping Coco’s readers, no expectations that when Coco speaks against these matters anyone shall listen or rather Coco has every expectation that no-one shall listen. If it has not, then on the basis (provided or otherwise) of Critical Race Theory then you must believe every word.

In the youth of the writer the expression it takes one to know one was often used to rebuff those who promoted negative ideas about or images of another person, but there is a certain element of truth in the saying, just as there is an element of truth in all stereotypes, such as references to the similarities between the Thai, Shona and Irish temperaments, or the short arms of deep pocketed men from the West Riding or Scotland. So, when an accusation of racism is heard it is as well first to analyse the accusation itself for any racism which may be inherently in it before considering whether the actions, words or individuals so accused merit the accusation. If the accusation itself is racist, then those who made it must necessarily reconsider their own position for as we well know those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

What then do we think when we read a judgement like this:

The ad(sic.) [a video advertisement promoted by The Ministry of Justice in support of a prison officer recruitment campaign] formed part of an overall campaign advertising job roles in prisons that had used images of prison officers and other prison staff from a number of different ethnic backgrounds. However, the ASA assessed the post as it would have appeared to consumers in-feed on Facebook and not in the context of the overall campaign. We understood that there was a negative stereotype based on the association between black men and criminal activity; we therefore assessed whether the ad reinforced a negative ethnic stereotype.

The ad showed a real white prison officer and black male inmate in a prison setting. The inmate wore an afro pick comb in his hair – a tool we understood was uniquely associated with black culture. The ad made reference to prison officers being “problem solvers” and “life changers”, and we considered it drew a link between the officer depicted and those attributes. On the other hand, the black prisoner was depicted as a criminal, without those positive attributes. We considered the ad did not suggest that all black men were criminals, or were more likely to be so than any other ethnic group. However, it showed an imbalanced power dynamic, with a smiling white prison officer, described as a “life changer”, and a black, institutionalised prisoner. We considered the ad’s focus on the positive qualities of the white prison officer and negative casting of the black prisoner was likely to be seen as perpetuating a negative racial stereotype.

We concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence on the grounds of race, by reinforcing negative stereotypes about black men.

Is there any element of racism within this analysis? Of course I would not be writing this if I did not think that there were, so the answer is yes. You, dear reader, may disagree with me, but first consider the reasons:

The first thing we note is that the thing in the forefront of the mind of the judge is colour. The words used are: The ad showed a real white prison officer and black male inmate in a prison setting. Colour is the most significant thing in this advertisement to him. The purpose of the advertisement has faded into view. The people depicted in the advertisement have vanished. All that the viewer sees is the colour of their skin.

If the first thing that you see in another person, who is just like you, a living human being made in the image of the God who also made you, is the colour of his skin have you not already uncovered racism in your own heart? Does the colour of the skin matter to you more than anything else? That is racism.

We have found racism at the first hurdle. I do not need to go, for it is enough to find one element of racism in the argument that racism exists to know that the argument fails. But let me go on briefly.

In the same sentence the word male is only used once. It is used to describe the prisoner, here called an inmate. Ask your self why would the prisoner be described as male, but no such attribute be given to the prison guard? If the word male is important for one it, or female, is important for the other also. It is there, I submit, to emphasise the racial difference. Here we have a black man confronted by a white man, without saying as much, is what is being said. So in one sentence we have two evidence of a racial bias, which is racism.

Thirdly, we have a reference to a comb.  It is a type of comb which they associate uniquely with African culture. It is an incorrect association. I have seen many such a comb in exclusively white European households, and not merely seen but seen in use. Once again picking up on this element in the advertisement demonstrates a prejudgement of racism and racism hidden within their own thoughts.

Fourthly they contrast the difference between the guard and the prisoner. There is a difference. One is said to be a problem solver and life changer, both of which descriptions may be true of both, but we are not here to discuss that aspect of the advertisement, so we shall leave it that the description was intended to throw light on aspects of the guard’s duties other than the locking and unlocking of doors. The other was depicted as a criminal. Those two things would be true whatever the colour of the skin of the two individuals being described. The judge however again focused not upon the characteristics of the two individuals but the colour of the skin. As I have intimated already, to see the colour of the skin as being the prime characteristic is racist. What we should see first are the rôles of the two individuals in society.

Fifthly, the prison officer is described as a smiling white. Just as the use of the word male is used earlier to describe the prisoner, here we have an emotive word, smiling, used to describe the guard. Why did they choose to describe the guard as a smiling white? Was it to give reinforce their own prejudice that the white man was smug in his position of authority over the black man? Both smiling and white were unnecessary adjectives unless racism was already in the heart of the person saying it.

Finally, that there was an imbalance of power is irrelevant to the matter. In the prisoner-guard situation there is necessarily an imbalance of power, but the imbalance does not arise out of the two individuals concerned but the authority of the law under to which both of them are subject. The imbalance does not arise by reason of the colour of the skin.

The ASA has been misdirected by its agents who have applied their own racist analysis to the advertisement. They have missed the point of the advertisement completely and have allowed their own prejudices to colour their assessment of its aim, which was to encourage people, of all colour, to join the prison service.

I wonder what they would have said had the prisoner been a Geordie or an Irishman and the guard a Cockney, or perhaps worse if the guard had been a Greek and the prisoner a Cretan, all of whom we know on good authority are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.

The BBC article appearing to be unbiased perhaps also indicates a bias. It is good to see that the MoJ shall appeal. We await the outcome of that, but wonder whether we shall see it.

Xenophobia of the worst kind

What we learn from xenophobia

You probably all have some idea of the story of Jonah who was swallowed by a great fish. One of the problems with the popular story is that it leaves out Jonah’s xenophobia. Though xenophobia was unlikely to be a word that he knew, the idea of it was thoroughly encapsulated in phrases such as the Greeks and the Barbarians.

I listened to a discussion recently between JD(elingpole} and Maajid Nawaz. It appeared to be in a quiet library or reading room setting at first, but very quickly it became obvious that the setting was a set (a fake) and this was not so much a discussion but a playing to the audience. The audience’s responses were important cues to the two actors who were engaged in the play. An interesting point was made toward the end of the discussion by MW to the effect that all of the Bible stories are to be found in the Koran. That was a little ingenuous of the man, as it would be difficult to fit all of the stories of a book with c.750k words into a book with c100k without some considerable concision or redaction. I do not recall any reference to the Levite’s concubine but I may be wrong about that. Perhaps the author was right to suggest that the scriptures had been corrupted, though not perhaps in the way that he meant at that time, but rather like Caiaphas who prophesied the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ for sinners by words that he intended for another purpose.

So, when we look at the redacted version of Jonah, like the popular version, the xenophobia is omitted. Why is this so? Well, it does not appear to be in an effort to photoshop Jonah. Perhaps it is more to do with the contrast that Jonah’s story provides between Jonah’s xenophobia and the Lord’s benevolence. Jehovah, the Lord, is the God of Israel and he pronounces a judgement against Nineveh, who are the enemies of Israel, that they will be destroyed unless they repent. Why would a xenophobic Jonah not want to deliver such a message that the enemies of Israel will be destroyed?

If you know anything about Nineveh of Jonah’s day then you might say it was fear that kept him away. The Ninevites were a violent people. We talk of war crimes today; but they are nothing but littles scratches compared with the behaviour of these men. Boy racers beware; the boy racers of Nineveh had scythes attached to their wheels.

But it was not that kind of fear that kept Jonah away. It was a much greater fear than that. He feared the Lord. You say then, if he feared the Lord why did he not obey him. That is to misunderstand Jonah’s fear. Jonah knew that the promises to Israel through Abraham which were derived from the first promise to Adam, said that through Israel all the nations of the world would be blessed. Jonah also knew that the Lord was slow to anger, and did not want any to perish but rather to repent of their wicked ways. It was this he feared, that in preaching judgement and repentance the Ninevites would indeed be granted repentance by the Lord and would be saved. The judgement would not, at that time, fall. Jonah’s xenophobia did not want the Ninevites to be saved.

Jonah learned a lesson when he finally did as he had been told to do as the Ninevites did indeed repent. The Lord spared them. Jonah, having complained about the death of the vine that protected him from the heat of the sun, began to understand that the goodness of God is for all men. The covenants and the promises belong to Israel, but the benefit of them to the whole world. As a later prophet with a similar name would say: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

There is a sequel to the story of Nineveh, which is to be found in the prophecy of Micah who lived about 120 years later than Jonah. We shall speak of that another day.

Part II

Now none of this is to say that the redacted version is not of use. But we must be careful. Redaction may be used in a variety of ways; at the extremes we may use it to obscure the truth by removing relevant details or to reveal the truth by removing irrelevant material, or for some other purpose. So which redacted version do we mean? Well, there is only one, which is probably the part that most of us remember, that Jonah was in the belly of a great fish, sometimes called a whale (be careful here too as our scientific categories for sea creatures may not neatly fit into the categories of another age), for three days. The importance of this version is that it is a sign, or picture. The Lord Jesus Christ gave it to us: ‘No sign will be given to this generation except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.’ Jesus spoke here about his death and three days in the grave followed by his resurrection.

This is important. Jonah’s disobedience provided the sign. It was after Jonah had been spewed out by the fish that he went to preach repentance to Nineveh. Ah, the Lord is good. He shows his kindness and willingness to forgive to all men in all ages. It was not until after the death and resurrection and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, after he had come out of the belly of the whale as it were, that repentance and salvation could be properly preached to all men. The sign of Jonah was necessary, because the death and resurrection of Jesus were necessary to procure the salvation of men.

Until Jesus had died, and paid the price of sin, men remained debtors to sin. But Jesus having died and paid the price men are free of debt. Before Jesus died for sin forgiveness was offered in the hope that another would pay the price as had been prophesied. After he had actually died the price had been paid. Justice had been done and God may now actually justify the sinner.

We do well to remember the story of Jonah for it tells us of the great mercy of God towards all nations, but even more the redacted version for it tells us that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God is just to forgive sinners, even those as wicked as you or me, and even those guilty of war crimes such as the Ninevites. If he will forgive the greatest of sinners, will he not forgive me if I come to him in the name of Jesus Christ to ask him?

Part III

The sequel is not easy reading. The grandparents and great-grandparents of the Ninevites of that day had repented at the preaching of Jonah, but when Micah pronounces judgement, they do not listen. Their position is far worse than that of the people of Jonah’s day. Their grandparents had not previously tasted the goodness of God, but this new generation knew of Jonah and of God’s goodness, but refused to listen. Their grandparents had some little excuse before Jonah arrived, but this generation has no excuse. They reject the message that they know is true.

It was the same in Jesus day: ‘No-one has authority to forgive sins but God’, they said, ‘but here is this man, Jesus, pronouncing forgiveness’. Jesus’s response to show that he has authority to forgive sins was to heal the man he forgave. On another occasion a rich young ruler, who should have known better, addresses him as ‘Good Master’. ‘Why do you call me good?’ the Lord asked, ‘No-one is good but God’. They knew. But they conspired to kill him, and in so doing secured the very thing that they sought to avoid. Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will, and paid the price, death, for sin but not his own rather ours, so that he may lawfully and justly pronounce the guilty sinner justified and free.

Is it not the same for us? The good news of forgiveness of sins is preached throughout the world, but many wilfully ignore it. Nineveh did not listen when the second prophet came. Will we listen to the Lord today?


Why look for a scapegoat when the answer is obvious?

Putney High Street
Congested traffic near the Post Office on Putney High Street, London, February 1910. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The BBC reported it, and no doubt others, but why look for a scapegoat when the answer is obvious?

London congestion: Cycle lanes blamed as city named most congested

Coco thinks they are talking about motor vehicular congestion which is surely caused by motor vehicles. If there were not so many of them there would be no congestion.

Sometimes we look for blame where there is no blame.

Another article reported: Racism: Vaughan Gething (a Welsh government minister) talks about everyday prejudice, saying that he was often asked if he is a member of staff at restaurants because of his skin colour. And followed up with an astonishing remark: ‘If I were a white man relatively smartly dressed going to a place like that, that isn’t what people would ask.’

Is it indeed a terrible thing to be approached as if you were a member of staff. It is something which happens to Coco also, often in large, largely empty stores. Coco would apologise that he was not; then learned that sometimes you can just go along with it, after all Coco might know the answer to their questions, and members of staff are like policemen there is never one around when you want one; then finally settled on the reply: I’m not a member of staff, but what is your question? After all customers can help each other.

What was Coco’s ‘crime’? It might have been the colour of Coco’s skin, but no, the most common reason given was the white shirt and tie.

To turn the minister’s words around: [As Coco was] a white man [relatively] smartly dressed going to a place like that, [that is precisely] what people would ask.

There are many reasons why we may be identified as staff members. It is not an insult, neither is it racism. It is a misunderstanding; and when the other person does not know you from Adam, who can blame them?

So when you go to a smart restaurant, please remember it is not the beach, nor is it a sports arena, then we shall all look as tidy as the waiters do.

The Lord said: When the king came to see the guests he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, Friend how did you come in here without a wedding garment? The man was speechless. Then the king said to his servants: Bind him hand and foot, take him away and cast him into the outer darkness where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The king I am sure had made provision for the robing of his guests as he had previously sent his servants out to gather people from all over and bring them straight to the feast. There would be tailors and carpenters, butchers and farmers, merchants and servants, candlestick and carpet makers none of whom were allowed home to dress properly. Our king, Jesus, has made provision for his people to be at his wedding feast. We can never be good enough (clothed in righteousness) to sit at the feast, but in his death on the cross he took our filthy work clothes off us and gave us a robe of righteousness fit for the wedding feast of God. (Matthew 22)

The High Street after road improvements were put in place

African slavers

Slave catchers galore

In Nigeria, I remember my grandmother saying that when she was a little girl her great grandmother always said, ‘be careful how you’re behaving, if you’re naughty I’ll give you two the slave catchers’.

That must have been a terrible, terrible thing to tell a child…

Coco also remembers being told: ‘Watch out or the bogey man will get you’, though who ever said it I do not now remember. It may even have been on my own lips to one of our many cousins. I suppose such things have often been said to little children to bring them into line.

These words were reported by the BBC being on the lips of professor who by reason of her provenance and vocation really should know better.

You see these words were said in connection with the Atlantic slave trade which was abolished by the United Kingdom over 200 years ago. Now it may have been possible that Coco’s grandmother’s great-grandmother may have been born before the act of abolition, but I think it hardly likely that the speakers’ grandmother would have heard her great grandmother saying these words to her before then. We must understand then that the slave catchers referenced here are not the same category of slave catcher that was involved in the European sponsored slave trade which we had long before then abolished, but perhaps they were; let ius see.

To whom is the reference made? We know that the slave trade continued in Africa long after we had renounced, and repented of our part in, it, for despite [colonial] efforts to do so in Nigeria it continued until the middle of the twentieth century. In effect we had to (perhaps were forced to) live with it. We also know that the slave catchers for the trade in which our ancestors had been involved was fed by the ancestors of those who today live in West Africa, and many Africans also made themselves rich on the proceeds of the trade.

Coco can only suppose then that the slave catchers of which the lady’s grandmother heard were those African slave catchers who refused to give up slavery during the twentieth century. So why bring them up in connection with a discussion about whether to retain statues of and monuments to men who were involved in the Atlantic Trade? We perhaps need to consider that the monuments may not be there because of their involvement but despite their involvement.

At least it is a little bit of an acknowledgement that without the willing co-operation of African slave catchers the Atlantic trade would not have been possible. Perhaps it is also an unwitting acknowledgement that the lady’s own ancestors, and perhaps even some of the close relations of the grandmother’s great-grandmother, were themselves slave catchers. The tip of the iceberg has been revealed, but when will the remainder of the iceberg of African involvement be exposed? I guess it is easier to transport an iceberg intact to Cardiff, Edinburgh and London than it is to Calabar and Bonny; to Birmingham than to Abuja. Coco doubts that reparations shall be required of the descendants of the real slave cacthers.

I love, I love my Master. I will not go out free, for he has paid the price for me. He has set me free (Frances Ridley Havergal alt.). I have referred to this before, but it remains true: ‘God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘ From one blood, or from one man, means we of all nations have one common ancestor. We are all cousins, and it is his intention to gather his people from all of the many nations into one family.

Let us seek the Lord through the Lord Jesus Christ in whom alone we shall find salvation.


Carpenters, Cleese, Cambridge and Christmas

Coco was not sure what was the most astonishing the Carpenters, Cleese or Cambridge and Christmas.

The carpenter stretches out his rule, he marks one out with chalk; he fashions it with a plane, he marks it out with the compass, and makes it like the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house.

He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak; he secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it. Then it shall be for a man to burn, for he will take some of it and warm himself; yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; indeed he makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down to it. He burns half of it in the fire; with this half he eats meat; he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He even warms himself and says, ‘Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire.’ And the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image.

He falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’

They do not know nor understand; for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. And no one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire, yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’ He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside; and he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’

It is good to see that Monty Python is as effective as it ever was in challenging the assumptions of society. I would have liked to see what sort of sketch the team would have made of the words of Isaiah about the carpenter, but I think they did not address that particular topic, though they did tread on many a sensitive toe. It seems that Blacklisting himself was a very effective weapon, subverting all expectations in true Monty Python style ‘Oh no! Please, not the comfy chair!’. It precipitated a very rapid climb down from Cambridge, which perhaps indicates that they too could not see the lie in their right hand. In the face of the loss of an opportunity to meet with the great man, they decided that to play with trifles, to turn Rommel’s words on their head, they would have to over turn their own principles.

So Cambridge does not have a black list. Well that is encouraging, but Coco suspects that that is simply another form of whitewashing. To call the list black after all might impugn a certain section of the population who may take [unnecessary] offence just as Cambridge did at a certain art historian, doing what all historians do, quoting the words of the past. So in ungood 1985 style, they do not have a blacklist, nor indeed a list of any sort, it is simply a list. or one might say a Platonian (rather than Platonic, which might incorrectly in these days of gross word abuse suggest harmless) list, but Coco wished to avoid any form of adjectival qualification of the meaning of the word. On the other hand, just as an aside, as a Platonian list is the idea of a list without any qualification as to purpose, style, or any other quality which may be possessed by a list, it is the ideal list, it serves to show that those who indulge in philosophical, semantic or logical discussion to justify themselves will find themselves contradicting the very thing that they sought to prove. Leave such arguments to the mathematicians, who will quickly find that they fall into the trap of infinity or zero if they make such a mistake. We should note however that to say ‘An ideal list is an unqualified list’ is in Plato’s world both true and untrue apparently at the same time. Schrödinger may have been able explain that. For the ideal list is, in modern expression, the null list from which all other lists are constructed, but the ideal list, in original expression, is the idea of a list as it exists in the mind. Now Coco contends that the idea of a list without any content can exist in the mind of an infinite being but in the mind of a finite being a list only exists when it has content, hence when the modern world speaks about the ideal list it means the list drawn up for the Germanic (not Germanian for that would be silly) World Cup squad. Notwithstanding these discussion about the Ideal World then Coco now wishes to return our ideas and thoughts back to Cambridge.

It seems to Coco that for Cambridge to say ‘I misspoke’ is simply a euphemism for ‘I have a lie in my right hand’.

Isaiah is not being negative by the way, he continued:

Remember these, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I have formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me! I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel.

These are the words of the Lord, who has blotted out our transgression. Our lies, our offences have all been covered by the blood of the Lamb of God, whose birth shall be remembered in a mere six weeks.

A happy Christmas to you all


Why academia is offensive – when difficult questions offend

The BBC article here set Coco wondering. First of all why the inhabitants of Britain have never had an apology from the Danes for the way they treated them a mere 1500 years or so ago when they repeatedly invaded those islands and badly treated the natives. Or perhaps it might be better to ask the French, though perhaps they would claim that the invaders were not in fact French, for an apology for the harrying of the North after the Norman conquest, which is very much closer to the present time than the Danish incursions. But an apology cannot expected for both, as it was the united English and Danes who suffered under the Norman [mis]treatment. So, rather than expect an apology Coco turned his head to a question instead, which is intended to provoke an active, careful, critical discussion of both sides of the argument.

Here there is an invading people who wish to inhabit peacefully the land which they have ‘inherited’, though there was some doubt at the time concerning the claim to the inheritance, and the people were unwilling to co-operate in their subjugation. The question is first of all a setting out of facts, presenting some interesting descriptions of the events and some opposing opinions on the matter and asking the student to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments and the opportunities and threats that faced the opposing parties.

To what extent do you believe that the treatment of the native British has been exaggerated?

Now, in the context of the question it may be clear what is meant, but the context is a little lacking here so let Coco state the question again, this time in full:

To what extent do you believe that the treatment of the British people by the Norman French after the invasion of 1066 in particular during the period known as the harrying of the North has been exaggerated?

Are you offended by the question? Does the question trouble you? Coco thinks it is an excellent question, if it were not for some linguistic bungles, to provoke in the student the best use of his critical skills to present the arguments for and against the proposition that there has been exaggeration, to produce an analysis and critique of the arguments from both sides and to hone his skills of debate and argument.

Coco recalls one of his English teachers once explaining to the class how important it was in a debate to understand the other side. He went so far as to say that if you cannot accurately and faithfully represent the position with which you disagree, then you cannot argue against it. He meant of course you cannot successfully argue against it.

Now concerning the linguistic bungles, whilst they may give the less diligent student cause for celebration, it is obvious that they are bungles and the diligent student will not rely upon finding a loophole in the question in order to avoid the trouble of answering it in the proper manner.

So firstly, the question is badly phrased as it is a question that does not beg a reasoned argument but merely an expression of opinion ‘What do you believe?‘, but in the context of the use of the weighing scales it is very evident that the examiner is expecting a presentation of the arguments for and against the proposition that there has been exaggeration and to produce an analysis and critique of the arguments from both sides, but he did not ask for it.

‘I believe that there has been exaggeration to the extent of deliberate outright lies.’ is as valid an answer as ‘I believe that there has been no exaggeration in any of the reports’, for both are correct. They tell us what the student believes, but neither answer is that for which the examiner is looking.

Secondly, the question asks: Has the treatment of the natives been exaggerated? Surely it should be asking about the reporting of the treatment. The treatment itself does not have a quality which can be qualified by exaggerate, but the reporting of the treatment does. Of course the treatment does have the qualities of goodness and badness, which brings me to the third objection.

Thirdly, the original question is ambiguous. Is the reference to treatment here a reference to the good things that were done for the native Americans (David Brainerd, albeit in a much earlier day than under consideration here, did much good among the natives of New England), or to the bad things? The question does not ask about the mistreatment of the natives.

It seems to me that the ambiguity of the question is deliberate, so that the student is left unsure which side of the arguments may have been exaggerated, if any. In this context although the ambiguity is a weakness in the question, it will make the answers more interesting and provide greater scope and freedom for the student when preparing his answer.

So then to correct his question further Coco needs to ask:

To what extent has the reporting of the treatment of the British people by the Norman French after the invasion of 1066 in particular during the period known as the harrying of the North been exaggerated? In your answer you should provide a critique of the available reports, and a reasoned argument leading to and supporting your conclusions.

The words after the question should strictly be taken as read by our hypothetical student, but they are included here for the avoidance of doubt.

Coco considers this to be a good and valid question, a legitimate question, which should provide significant opportunity for an A-level student to demonstrate his analytical, debating and logical skills to the examiner regardless of whether either the student and the examiner actually agree with the conclusion drawn in the answer.

So then, why is the question, in a given context:

To what extent do you believe that the treatment of the native Americans has been exaggerated?

not an acceptable question to ask?

As Coco has set out above, there are linguistic problems with the question, but these do not detract from the usefulness of the question for the instruction of students, as the meaning of the question and the kind of answer that the student is expected to give can be clearly seen from the context in which the question is asked. Apparently there were some who did find reason to complain. It seems to Coco that the complaint was ill-founded and unnecessary. Whilst the wording of the question may leave a little to be desired, the question itself is quite valid.

Finally, the question will be asked of course, and if it is not answered and debated in a public forum, then it will go underground and be answered without any peer review, and probably be answered badly.

And post-ultimately, Coco mentioned David Brainerd. He worked tirelessly among the native Americans to show them their worth, to show them that they had inestimable worth in the sight of the one true God who gave his Son for them as a propitiation for their sins, and not for theirs only but for the whole world. In his short life he saw many come to faith, abandoning the false gods and idols which had previously enslaved them and finding freedom in Jesus Christ.

With apologies in advance for errors of syntax, orthography and grammar which may be found embedded in this document whether arising from oversight, incorrect application of language packs or generally any other misadventure; and in general for any offence given inadvertently or inappropriately or both taken or not taken by those whose sensibilities, whether grammatical, orthographical, moral or simply personable, have been offended whether, not or if you have not incorrectly misunderstood the content, intent, meaning and purpose of this article, and to those whose copyrights may have been inadvertently or wantonly infringed, but never as to cause damage the copy holder’s rights, and, if you have managed to read this far, for any errors or omissions whether wilful, unintended, innocent or deliberate in the content of this polemic, and with thanks to you who have made it thus far for your patience.

Stereo typing

In the eyes of the ARC and others It is impossible to get it right. If you choose the image of a white man you can be accused of racial bias, if you choose the image of a black man you can be accused of racial bias. If you choose the image of an oriental you can be accused of bias even if the image is of the person you are actually representing. What are we to choose when we want to depict a man doing something? Coco was going to suggest that we use a monkey instead, but then, if the experience of Hartlepool is anything to go by, we shall only end up annoying the French even more than they are already. I suppose someone will consider that to be racist too. Hey-ho, Boney was a warrye, way, aye, yah. A warrye and terrye, John France, wah!

But at the end of the day who got the best job?

With thanks to Wikipedia (and the East India Company 1832).

Was the artist our friend James Gilray – but it lacks colour?

Original article at this cleverly disguised URN [] sorry for black drug dealer image in appeal leaflet: They said it accepted it used a poor choice of image in the leaflet.

One wonders what choice of image would have been acceptable.