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Just, worth putting out here

Since I’ve already tweeted that it annoys me, as a left-wing kind of person, that some people in the 1980s hated Mrs Thatcher so much that they opposed the most reasonable and fair war that the UK has ever fought, I thought I’d make clear on my blog that anyone who opposes it is pretty much evil.

I mean, seriously.

I hate Mrs Thatcher’s domestic policies. And she frequently gets slated for the Falklands War. But the former involved a concerted attempt to destroy the working class – which is a bad thing, and which is the thing we should hate her for. The latter is not – it’s one of the most reasonable wars the UK has ever fought.

The Falklands War involved defending a strange, odd outpost of people who spoke English, had red telephone boxes, and did A-Levels (obviously, they didn’t do university, because an island featuring fewer than 10m people isn’t going to have a good university….), and who’d been there for 150 years, and were unanimously convinced that they were all British and not Argentinean, from a dictator who was based in a country 100km away who thought that the island in question ought to be part of his country because, erm, it was nearby. Even though the Falklands had had British settlers on them for longer than his country had even existed.

If there’s a clearer-cut definition of “self-determination” than that one, I’d like to hear it. If there’s a clearer-cut definition of “we should allow the people under our defence to live the lives they want to life”, I’d like to hear it. And if there’s a clearer-cut definition of “you are pathetic, and anyone who backs your claim is a pathetic little wanker who just wanted to play ‘epater le bourgeouisie’ at Student Union politics, and you can all go and fuck yourselves”, then it’s anyone who opposes the Falkland Islanders’ claim that they’re, erm, British.

And if you even *think about* calling them the Malvinas when talking in English, then you’re a massive, stupid, bigoted eejit. Obviously, in Spanish you can call them what you like, in the same way that the French are welcome to call London ‘Londres’.

  1. Matthew
    October 11, 2010 at 5:33 am | #1

    Surely you can only mean opposing the war 'in hindsight'? I mean I can see many reasont to have opposed it on practical grounds – e.g off the top of my head it might mean a large chunk of the Royal Navy sunk at a tricky time during the Cold War?

    On Thatcher I think a lot of the annoyance was her government's policies left the island a bit vulnerable to begin with.

  2. SimonF
    October 11, 2010 at 7:50 am | #2

    Good call, except to say that Thatcher's "crime" wasn't fighting the Falkland's war, it was winning and as a consequence won the next election.

    BTW, my Falkland medal is inscribed with the words "Deserve The Right" which doesn't wean I have a right to wear it, but they have the right to self determination.

  3. October 11, 2010 at 9:11 am | #3

    obviously, they didn't do university, because an island featuring fewer than 10m people isn't going to have a good university…

    Ahem. I'd suggest both Trinity and UCD pass any "good university" test you care to throw at them. And you could probably even make a half-decent case for Galway, Cork and Queen's.

  4. dsquared
    October 11, 2010 at 8:12 pm | #4

    I think the reference here is that John is making such an attempt to go native that he's having random digs at New Zealand. Iceland and Singapore also have decent universities.

  5. ajay
    October 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm | #5

    Not to mention NYU, which is fairly well regarded, and located on Manhattan (pop. 1.4 million). But I think Jim has hit the mark, and this is an anti-Trinity jibe…

  6. ajay
    October 11, 2010 at 10:01 pm | #6

    a dictator who was based in a country 100km away

    Minor nitpick – Argentina is a lot further away than that. We'd have lost if it had been only 100km away. It's more like 4-500 km.

  7. ajay
    October 11, 2010 at 10:03 pm | #7

    nm, not km, sorry.

  8. Richard J
    October 11, 2010 at 10:47 pm | #8

    and this is an anti-Trinity jibe…

    Presumably not in the 'Gordouli/ he's got a face like a ham' sense of Trinity?

  9. chris y
    October 12, 2010 at 12:22 am | #9

    Just to stir it up a bit, the best argument against using the full might of Her Majesty's forces to defend the right of the Falkland Islanders to self determination is that they're benefits scroungers.

    One reason Thatcher (John Nott?) made the ill-conceived decision to downgrade naval security in that part of the world was that it cost an arm and a leg, and the Falklands, for all the "potential resources" in their sea area have yet to contribute a great deal to the Treasury. There were about 90 people on the islands in 1983, and if the goverment had simply told them to move to a comparable wasteland in Scotland which was within hailing distance of some existing infrastructure, and give them a million pounds each for their trouble, we'd have been quids in by the end of the decade.

    I can't get Housing Benefit to live in a listed Georgian manor house, much as I'd like to. Same deal.

    NB. I won't defend this position very hard.

  10. October 12, 2010 at 12:27 am | #10

    John is making such an attempt to go native that he’s having random digs at New Zealand

    Basically, busted.

    There were about 90 people on the islands in 1983

    [citation needed]

  11. chris y
    October 12, 2010 at 12:45 am | #11

    Likewise busted. There were about 1,800 – the number's gone up considerably since the war. The broader point stands.

  12. ajay
    October 12, 2010 at 12:48 am | #12

    chris: more like 1800, according to the census.

    Also, there wasn't a decision to downgrade naval security in that part of the world specifically. There was a decision to get rid of the carriers, the amphibs and Endurance in order to save costs and focus on becoming a North Atlantic anti-submarine force with a few boomers attached. (The fact that, as history demonstrates, carriers are rather useful to hunting subs in the North Atlantic was carefully forgotten.) But I don't think there was ever a decision "we need HMS X, Y and Z only if we want to defend the Falklands; the Falklands are a cost centre not a profit centre; therefore scrap HMS X, Y and Z".
    (Endurance, being unarmed, doesn't count.)

  13. ajay
    October 12, 2010 at 12:50 am | #13

    I can’t get Housing Benefit to live in a listed Georgian manor house, much as I’d like to.

    If you're renting a listed Georgian manor house, and if your income is below a certain level, you will indeed get housing benefit to live there.

  14. October 12, 2010 at 12:57 am | #14

    There's no way Ireland would have been such a centre of academic excellence if the UK wasn't its neighbour: ditto NZ/Aus and Iceland/cheap flights everywhere.

    Singapore is an interesting place: it's basically "Hong Kong if you're scared of the Chinese, and are even fonder of savage punishment than the Chinese are". They probably have a university, but anyone who believes in, erm, philosophy or academia probably shouldn't go there.

  15. chris y
    October 12, 2010 at 1:01 am | #15

    I'll get the benefit appropriate to a house with the number of rooms deemed to be necessary, maybe 5 or 6 if the rent officer is a decent sort. Most Georgian manor houses run to a few more than that. If I can rent Chatsworth for the price of a cheap semi, the, they'll pay it; if I can't, I'll have to find the difference, which can be assumed to be more than I can afford.

  16. chris y
    October 12, 2010 at 1:05 am | #16

    John, there's a philosopher at the University of Singapore on Crooked Timber, FWIW.

  17. October 12, 2010 at 1:13 am | #17

    Which one? Remind me to discount their posts in future.

  18. October 12, 2010 at 1:16 am | #18

    Ajay – pretty convinced it's several million nm away.

    People on this blog – don't use stupid measurements, they're stupid. Metric or deleted or mocked.

  19. Richard J
    October 12, 2010 at 1:24 am | #19

    John Holbo. The scarily bright one. (I've discussed him with several lurkers IRL, BTW. We're all in polite awe at him.)

    A better way to think about Singapore is that it's a large modern corporation masquerading as a state. A lot of its oddities fall into place when you think about how a corporation views, say, HR issues, or returns on investment.

  20. October 12, 2010 at 1:33 am | #20

    <blockquote cite="#commentbody-143987">
    John B :
    There’s no way Ireland would have been such a centre of academic excellence if the UK wasn’t its neighbour: ditto NZ/Aus and Iceland/cheap flights everywhere.
    I can't speak for NZ or Iceland, but I don't think you're right with regards to Ireland. If you look at the history of the Irish Monastery Movement (between the 6th and 10th centuries) it's clear that Ireland not only had an advanced and thriving indigenous academic culture before British colonialism, but was actively exporting it to much of Europe (the monastery movement — which, remember, was as much about education as it was about religion — spread to Britain, France and Italy and arguably played a part in the genesis of the Italian Renaissance).

    Twee as it may seem, Ireland wasn't called "the Land of Saints and Scholars" for no reason.

  21. October 12, 2010 at 1:34 am | #21

    "The scarily bright one on CT" = OMFG. Suspect not smarter than JQ, Belle or Dan. Also, I want to ask him how you can live in a friendly version of a fascist state and still claim you're a philosopher. I'm worried the answer will involve trolleys.

  22. October 12, 2010 at 1:41 am | #22

    Jim – I'm thoroughly aware we imported our scholars from over the Irish Sea; Yeats and Wilde are on your side. But if you're trying to suggest that modern Trinity and UCD aren't where they are because London's universities (and yes, nostalgia types, Ox and Cam count as two of London's five universities) are 30 euros and an O'Leary experience away, that's just silly. They are.

  23. October 12, 2010 at 1:43 am | #23

    "and then present the text from whence t'was ripped: some dizzy whore, 1804". Man Met (FAILED). Honorary: everywhere that respects intelligence.

  24. chris y
    October 12, 2010 at 1:44 am | #24

    More likely to involve market forces at a guess.

  25. Richard J
    October 12, 2010 at 1:47 am | #25

    Irish monasticism was important, but its long term effects can be overstated slightly. Many of its missionary efforts failed in the medium term, and permanent conversion to Christianity was generally achieved only once the Roman bit of the Catholic church was in a position to back up the word of God with swords and material benefits to local kings and power structures.

    Definitely a bright light against the darkness (and more personally sympathetic than the harder-nosed form of Christianity that won out in the end), but of suprisingly little long term effect.

  26. October 12, 2010 at 1:48 am | #26

    Not for a philosopher; they're beyond that. The two uni tutors I really respected were my philosophy tutor, who's now an eminent philosopher; and my economics tutor, who's now a rich drunk. This says something, I reckon.

  27. ajay
    October 12, 2010 at 1:58 am | #27

    @John B

    "Ajay – pretty convinced it’s several million nm away.
    People on this blog – don’t use stupid measurements, they’re stupid. Metric or deleted or mocked."

    nm= nautical miles, enirely appropriate in the context of a) the 1982 TEZ and b) combat ranges of fast jet aircraft, both measured in nautical miles.

    And this from someone who got the distance in question wrong by a factor of 10…

  28. October 12, 2010 at 2:03 am | #28

    This isn't America. We use SI. The speeds of things are measured in km/h, unless they're very fast indeed, in which case we tolerate Mach alongside km/h.

  29. ajay
    October 12, 2010 at 3:17 am | #29

    km/h is not actually an SI unit. I think you mean metres per second. :)

  30. dsquared
    October 12, 2010 at 3:28 am | #30

    The University of Crete is also pretty good in a number of areas; particularly, obviously, Minoan archeaology.

  31. Mordaunt
    October 13, 2010 at 11:42 pm | #31

    Also, I want to ask him how you can live in a friendly version of a fascist state and still claim you’re a philosopher.

    Well, let's see now. Plato hung out with the Tyrant of Syracuse and the Republic and the Laws are fairly robust on the subject of political pluralism. Then you have Aristotle who went off to Macedon to tutor Alexander the Great. Seneca was a minister under Nero. Plotinus and Augustine were knocking about during the later Roman Empire. More recently the careers of Hegel and Heidegger indicate that philosophy and enthusiasm for the tenets of liberal democracy are not inevitable bed-fellows.

  32. October 14, 2010 at 12:46 am | #32

    The winner of everything wins awards.

  33. Falco
    October 14, 2010 at 8:00 pm | #33

    "I hate Mrs Thatcher’s domestic policies…..involved a concerted attempt to destroy the working class – which is a bad thing, and which is the thing we should hate her for."

    What if they threw a Class War and nobody came?

    This sort of thing is incomprehensible to me. Why do so much of the left believe that those "evil right wingers" are out to get them? With the possible exception of a senile old Colonel cursing the working class because his nurse made the ovaltine too tepid there is only one side fighting and its not the rich. To be honest I don't think the "working class" is fighting either, just Grauniad readers and unions that do little but ensure that those working in the union, (rather than those they are supposed to represent), take home a hansome pay packet.

  34. Falco
    October 14, 2010 at 8:05 pm | #34

    Oh and Mordaunt wins muchly. Also on the society / philosopher disconnect remember that Marx wrote Das Capital while living in what was probably the most free tradey type, large society ever seen. He also specifically addressed the point that one cannot live out ones philosophy in a society in which it would be impractical to do so but that that doesn't stop you creating the philosophy for a different system.

  35. ajay
    October 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm | #35

    Well, in Marx's case I don't think there was much of a disconnect – his ideas on the immiserating effect of industrialisation come directly from what he saw around him. You'd have to be pretty daft to see the industrial Midlands or Soho in the 19th century and not think "something seems to be very wrong with the philosophical and economic principles on which this society is organised".

  36. Falco
    October 14, 2010 at 8:38 pm | #36

    "You’d have to be pretty daft to see the industrial Midlands or Soho in the 19th century and not think “something seems to be very wrong with the philosophical and economic principles on which this society is organised”."

    Which only backs up the point that you do not need to live in the type of society that your philosophy describes in order to articulate it.

  37. TomJ
    October 15, 2010 at 12:41 am | #37

    @JohnB
    "This isn’t America. We use SI. The speeds of things are measured in km/h, unless they’re very fast indeed, in which case we tolerate Mach alongside km/h."

    I suspect the Royal Navy disagrees. I know the Royal Air Force does…

  38. October 15, 2010 at 1:05 am | #38

    Fair. I apologise for half of my rant at Ajay. On the other hand:
    1) knots are tolerated within SI;
    2) the correct SI abbreviation is kn;
    3) a nm is still a nanometre, and using it to mean kn is just wrong.

  39. fake
    October 15, 2010 at 2:29 am | #39

    You know as a 29 year old someone will have to explain the thatcher hate.

    I came out of school and things where good, jobs, markets and general society etc. Labour came in and i saw a steady decline around me due to a rise in scroungers and workshitsters, and then the massive brown debt bomb (which was always going to be a massive issue regardless of the recession, it just helped things along).

    the only people of my generation that i know who support labour are all on benifits (and no its cus they are lazy).

    as you where.

  40. Richard J
    October 15, 2010 at 4:09 am | #40

    Well, support for the Tories, depressingly, did go up most in the 25-34 bracket between 2005-2010. However, 30% of that age range still voted Labour. Only 7% of 25-34 year olds are claiming unemployment benefit.

    You must have a rather statistically unlikely group of friends.

  41. hellblazer
    October 15, 2010 at 5:14 am | #41

    @fake
    If you're 29 then being unable to distinguish between "were" and "where", and slipshod capitalization of the 1st person singular pronoun, can't be blamed on a Labour government. And your experience of Labour supporters of your generation all being on benefits is, I'd guess, not typical.

  42. Charlieman
    October 15, 2010 at 8:25 am | #42

    To return to the topic of slagging off Trinity, Dublin. Under ancient UK publishing obligations, publishers had to send a copy of every book across the water, even post partition. Thus, Trinity acquired a free library of 20th century English language works.

    I have heard that when the Irish air/sea rescue service was reorganised in the late 1980s, a bright civil servant observed that that the UK had been manning and funding a couple of lighthouses that were in Irish territorial waters for 60 odd years. No doubt the eastern European countries that divided post Cold War will encounter similar anomalies.

  43. Steve Williams
    October 15, 2010 at 5:53 pm | #43

    "To be honest I don’t think the “working class” is fighting either, just Grauniad readers and unions that do little but ensure that those working in the union, (rather than those they are supposed to represent), take home a hansome pay packet."

    Who, exactly, other than their own members, are unions supposed to represent Falco? They are largely funded by members donations, after all. In the extremely rare event of a situation arising when the interests of trade union members and the wider working class are in direct conflict, then it seems entirely reasonable (indeed, the only logical thing to do) for unions to represent their own members.

    What's more, being a member of a Trade Union doesn't oblige one to fund the Labour Party either.

    I honestly can't work out who it is, outside of their members, that "they are supposed to represent". Also, supposed by whom?

  44. ajay
    October 15, 2010 at 8:13 pm | #44

    @Falco
    Oh, agreed, Falco. I was more getting at the point made above about philosophers in tyrannies.

  45. October 16, 2010 at 8:59 am | #45

    Well, if 10m is not enough to support a decent university, proportionately the British shouldn't manage as many as six. Even if 20% of students at the best universities are from overseas (they aren't, fact fans), I still reckon I can name seven…

    I know, I know, letting the facts get in the way of invective is _so_ tedious ;).

  46. October 16, 2010 at 11:23 am | #46

    @Dr Rick network effects FAIL.

  47. October 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm | #47

    @Steve Williams I think Falco means that unions are run for the benefit of salaried union administrators, rather than for the benefit of union members. I'm not sure I agree with him, but it is a coherent point.

  48. Matthew
    October 16, 2010 at 8:10 pm | #48

    "To return to the topic of slagging off Trinity, Dublin. Under ancient UK publishing obligations, publishers had to send a copy of every book across the water, even post partition. Thus, Trinity acquired a free library of 20th century English language works."

    I don't know if this has always been the case, but at present the publisher only has to send a copy if the library (Trinity, Ox, Cam,Wales, Scotland I think) requests it within 12m (the British Library gets them automatically). Also Irish publishers have similar obligations.

  49. October 18, 2010 at 5:03 am | #49

    @John B

    I'm struggling to see how there's any sort of network effect in play here, since I've specifically discounted overseas students. Of course you may be talking about academic hiring issues, in which case I can only respond: interesting theory, but no, really don't think so. The physical position of universities hasn't mattered for a VERY long time in that context: collaborators are worldwide, not countrywide.

  50. hellblazer
    October 18, 2010 at 8:14 am | #50

    @Dr Rick
    I must be misunderstanding something here, because as someone who did his PhD in a high-density European country and is now ploughing a furrow in Canada, and who is trying to set out a budget for costs of collaboration, the physical position of universities makes a *VERY* big difference — to me at least. You can't exactly take a train for 2 hours to go and see a seminar at a bigger institution, here.

  51. ajay
    October 19, 2010 at 3:42 am | #51

    @Charlieman
    "the UK had been manning and funding a couple of lighthouses that were in Irish territorial waters for 60 odd years. No doubt the eastern European countries that divided post Cold War will encounter similar anomalies."

    I can state with a fair degree of confidence that there will be no post-division lighthouse-related disputes between the Czech and Slovak governments.

  52. Richard J
    October 19, 2010 at 8:58 am | #52

    Having just checked the Czech-Slovak border on Google maps (mainly to see what constitutes it), I am delighted to inform the readership that the River Morava (which forms a good chunk of it, and must have disputed buoys in it, surely) has plenty of that staple of GCSE geography lessons, the oxbow lake.

  53. October 21, 2010 at 6:11 am | #53

    @hellblazer
    This may be a subject-to-subject cultural difference, or something – and if my discipline's atypical, that could invalidate my point completely.

    Other than the (since-merged) sister university which was already mostly merged, I never once went to a seminar elsewhere in my 7 years in academia (caveat: may have forgotten one I suppose). Any time I went to another institution was residential and not all that close (though still no doubt close by Canadian standards).

    This may be because much of maths is so balkanised that, even at European university densities, there is unlikely to be anybody near you who works in a close enough field for it to be productive to travel to hear them. Certainly in my case the number of people in the UK who were plausible collaborators on, e.g., the topics in my PhD, was in single figures, and in fact other than my PhD adviser I never collaborated with anybody else based in the same country, and only once on the same continent.

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