Thanks to everyone who has enquired. Yes, we are all fine. We're just busy for a while with other interests. We shall be returning as soon as possible.
On the occasion of the outcry over the iPhone's $200 price cut, a critic of Daring Fireball claimed
No, there’s more to this issue than people not understanding capitalism.
Indeed. It wasn't just ‘not understanding capitalism’, it was not having even the remotest clue what the proponents of capitalism consider to be their core position and their core arguments. This is not unusual. Many people in our society lack any such clue.
[T]his price drop shows that Apple was making more of a killing than anyone could have possibly imagined, more than anyone could have possibly thought was fair.
I mean, you could probably figure out the raw cost of a pork belly, but an iPhone is a little harder to pin down.
In a sense, this sweeping ignorance is a terrifying state of affairs. In another, a very hopeful one.
Can Google really save the world by changing the background colour of their home page?
Nick at CharcoalDesign peers through the screen of environmentalist silliness.
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel wanted to scrap nuclear power, but has decided not to for environmental reasons.
Why is it that the environmental movement is not being blamed for global warming? They must be the largest single cause, due to their decades-long campaign against nuclear power. (Though perhaps they will soon be the second largest cause, after the desire of Indian and Chinese people not to remain destitute for ever.)
Perhaps it is because the sacred task of blaming people for global warming has been entrusted to the high priests of the environmental movement itself. So who will blame the blamers?
In the Sunday Telegraph, James LeFanu writes that we should be nicer to homeopathy. Specifically he takes issue with Michael Baum, Professor Emeritus of Surgery of surgery at University College London, who has pointed out that homeopathy has no more merit than astrology. LeFanu writes:
The claim that homeopathy is "unsupported" by evidence would be contradicted by the many tens of thousands of people worldwide who say that it has cured their asthma or eczema or markedly reduced their reliance on conventional medicines. Are they all, as he would suppose, foolish and self-deluded?
Of course they are; either that or for some reason the news has not reached them (as it clearly has not reached LeFanu) that science is, in the words of Richard Feynman, "what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves". So if you don't use it when reasoning about what does or doesn't work, what will reliably happen is that you will continue to fool yourself.
Millions of people believe in witches and would swear that killing old women can and does alleviate a wide range of misfortunes including diseases. So, finding a group of people who claim that something cures them has no bearing at all on whether it does. LeFanu, unfortunately, continues:
It is true that homeopathy's supposed mechanism - treating like with like, where "the lower the dilution the more potent the remedy" - seems "barmy" to Western science. But so does acupuncture.
No demonstrable channels of communication cross the six feet that separate the toes from the skull, so how, as is undoubtedly the case, does twiddling a needle in the former cure a crashing migraine in the latter?
What? First of all, there is in fact no good evidence for acupuncture as a treatment of anything. But never mind that: pain and touch nerves do carry information from the foot to the brain. LeFanu is a physician and cannot possibly be that ignorant of basic anatomy. So it is, again, his standards of argument that are at fault. The Telegraph's editors ought to require a higher standard of reasoning in their newspaper than this watered down nonsense.
The affair of the 15 British sailors and Marines illegally captured and mistreated by Iran and then released has been a humiliation for Britain and the West, and a triumph for the Iranian regime and every other enemy of the West.
Clearly the British government is not claiming the moral high ground to which it is entitled. It is not demanding the trial and punishment of the perpetrators of the blatant war crime, nor reparations for the victims and for Britain itself. It is not behaving in any way like the wronged party. This stance implicitly, but unmistakably, legitimises Iran's actions and creates a new, more dangerous status quo.
We don't know what additional price was secretly paid, if any. But it seems plausible that, in some way or other, Britain conveyed to the Iranian regime that it will never use force against Iran under any circumstances. If so, this reverses Prime Minister Blair's official policy of not ruling out force. It is rumoured that only last year this policy was important enough to Mr Blair to cause him to sack the then Foreign Minister, Jack Straw.
What does all this have to do with the Holocaust? Only this: A reversal of that policy would translate into a British endorsement of the Iranian nuclear weapons programme. Hence it would be tantamount to condoning, and enabling, the Iranian regime's planned destruction of Israel and Second Holocaust.
Some animal rights activists are getting hot and bothered because some people sell coats made partly of dog fur – which is illegal in the United States.
Now, measures to prevent fraud (like selling fake fake fur under the guise of real fake fur) are one thing. But we think that people should be allowed to sell real dog and cat fur if they want to. Dogs were created by nature and human civilisation through natural and artificial selection. Dogs themselves can't generate new ideas, although people can train them to do stereotypical things like fetching sticks. So everything that might make a dog unique can be easily recreated by getting another dog of the same breed and treating it in a similar way.
If someone acquires a psychological attachment to a dog that they own – or for that matter to a picture that they own of a dog that never existed – then of course it should be a crime for someone else to destroy the dog or the picture. But for the same reason, if somebody chooses to kill their dog, that is an innocuous act. They can, for example, easily replace the dog with another that is just like it. If they also sell the dog's fur, everyone concerned is better off.
By contrast, human beings are capable of generating new ideas. So if somebody kills a human being they may have destroyed unique ideas that could make the world better. They cannot be replaced by simply treating another human in a similar way – even if that were a moral thing to do. Even if a person appears to have no good ideas, we may simply misunderstand the merits of his ideas. That is why we set up institutions, such as law and moral traditions, to ensure that choices between rival ideas can be made on the basis of reason, not violence. That is why killing a human being is wrong, except as a necessary consequence of defending another human being.
And that is why human beings have rights, while dogs and other animals do not.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said that by invading Iraq the British and American governments have made life more difficult for Christians in the Middle East. In particular, large numbers of Christian refugees are leaving Iraq in fear for their lives. But it's not the Coalition forces whom they fear. The alleged responsibility of the British and Americans is indirect. What is it?
Islamists say that Christians are crusaders trying to dominate the Middle East along with the American and British governments. Hence the Islamists' campaign of terrorism against them is not unprovoked religious persecution and mass murder but simple self-defence. That the Islamists made that argument is not news. But why has Rowan Williams accepted it?
On the purely factual level he is simply wrong. For example, in Sudan, Islamists have been trying to exterminate Sudanese Christians on and off since 1955. The American government can't have prompted this campaign of genocide by invading Iraq. And, as Daniel Pipes points out, Christians have been disappearing from Iraq and most other countries in the region for several decades.Williams blames the American and British governments because he has a cartoonish view of the world in which foreign people are only ever poor or violent because the rich Western countries have persecuted them. He doesn't treat Islamists in the Middle East as human beings, responsible for their actions, but only as ciphers, their deeply held convictions mere reflexes, determined by the decisions of Westerners. That's why he doesn't say that the Islamists are to blame for murdering and persecuting people, and instead blames the American and British governments who are trying to prevent the Islamists from doing that.
In doing so, he isn't just slandering the West, he is also doing a disservice to the Islamists by not expecting them to act as civilised human beings. And by publicly transferring responsibility for their crimes specifically to those who are trying to stop them, he is collaborating with them against their victims, including many Christians. Williams may be well-intentioned, but his moral relativism can only make the terrible situation in the Middle East worse.
It is reported that the Iraq Study Group led by the highly Realistic James Baker
has unanimously agreed to a report that will call for a gradual pullback of American combat troops in Iraq but stops short of setting a firm timetable for withdrawal, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
And this differs from the present policy how? Like this:
the Times said the Iraq Study Group will recommend that Bush make it clear that he will start the troop withdrawal "relatively soon," indicating sometime next year.
That's very clear and Realistic. No firm timetable, but a firm timetable of withdrawal by December 31st 2007. Independently of what may, realistically speaking, happen as a result.
That recommendation would be a compromise between calls from some Democrats for a timetable to withdraw U.S. forces and Bush's insistence that forces should remain until the mission to stabilize Iraq was completed.
Recommendations of the panel, which is co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker -- a close Bush family friend --and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton, will be much harder for Bush to resist than if the group were divided, experts and study group advisers say.
This is an astonishingly amoral position for something called a ‘study group’ to adopt. It is almost as if they would rather have an effect – any effect, even one that none of them agree with – than be ignored. They would rather subscribe collectively to a report that every one of them considers mistaken, than state individually what they believe to be the truth.
If the result is just a vague anti-Bush editorial that could have been written without study, at the outset, we wonder what the Iraq Study Group has been studying, and why. We hope that they have at least studied the following vital issues, and will include careful guidance on them in their final report:
- Will the report be cleared with Allies, such as Iraq, Australia and Israel, before any action is taken to implement it?
- Is there a Plan for the Aftermath of the report? In particular, have enough troops been allocated to ensure that the report's Aftermath in Iraq is completely non-violent?
- If not, will all use of force resulting from this report, by all parties in Iraq, have full UN Security Council approval?
- Will the arrangements properly safeguard Iraqi antiquities?
- And Iraqi oil installations?
- Will there be adequate arrangements for the refugees?
- Has sufficient attention been given to the effect of a US retreat on the Arab Street?
- What does the group recommend as the exit strategy from their report?
The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has devised a measure of the impact that a given country has on the planet's environment. They call this the country's ‘ecological footprint’ and they report it in units of area. It is the area of the Earth that could notionally produce the resources in question (for example, forests could convert atmospheric carbon dioxide back into trees at a certain rate per unit area). The metaphor there is that the planet has only a fixed area. So if we use it up, some of us are going to have to be ejected through Spaceship Earth's metaphorical airlock. At present,
each person needs 2.2 global hectares to support the demands they place on the environment, but the planet is only able to meet consumption levels of 1.8 global hectares per person
So we are overdrawing our ecological account. Soon we shall need two planets, they say.
Using the WWF's annual report on these issues, the BBC report cited above includes a chart showing the ecological footprint per capita of a few selected countries, essentially as follows:
As you can see, the huge boots of Americans, Australians and Britons are trampling over the world's bio-space, while poor but virtuous Sierra Leoneans and Afghanis are treading lightly on the Earth's sacred resources. It seems obvious who most deserves to be kicked off the planet.
But does this measure make sense?
First off, we're not at all sure that the measures of ‘footprint’ themselves are accurate. The data are hard to collect and harder to interpret, and many assumptions had to be made. For example, 48% of the footprint is currently due to carbon dioxide emissions. So if you think that the global warming problem might be solved, you will have to reduce most of the footprint estimates. And so on. But never mind all that. Even on the assumption that their footprint measure is accurate, dividing it by a country's population is of doubtful value. For example, if a country doubles its population without doubling its productivity, its real impact on the environment will increase, but its impact per capita will go down. The country will count as more environmentally virtuous – smaller ecological footprint per capita – by virtue of its runaway overpopulation! Conversely, a country that uses resources very efficiently may still count as becoming more environmentally unfriendly (larger footprint per capita) solely because it has also achieved low population growth.
This is the wrong way round. A better measure of environmental virtue would be the ecological footprint per unit GDP. This does not allow countries to ‘cheat’ by merely increasing their population without changing their physical effect on the environment, but it does take account of whether a country is wasting resources or using them efficiently. Out of curiosity, we used the WWF's numbers and the BBC's countries to construct the appropriate chart:
The countries are now in approximately the opposite order. Notice that the United States goes from worst on the chart, to using less than capacity, even though the worldwide average is 125% of capacity. This isn't a coincidence. Western countries create their ‘footprint’ as part of their productive process – creating the very things that let us lower the footprint while also increasing human welfare.
Footprint-per-GDP is, in our opinion, a better measure of countries' environmental virtue. And it does not even take account of the other huge factor that is missing from the WWF's analysis: the ‘area’ (real or metaphorical) needed to sustain one person is not a constant of nature but depends on the available technology. For instance, how well the Earth can recover depends in part on how many carbon-dioxide-fixing machines we can build, and how efficiently, which in turn depends on how much wealth we can create and how fast. And hence the developed countries, the villains of the piece according to the environmentalists' narrative, are in reality even more environmentally virtuous even by the WWF's standards of ‘impact’ than our chart makes them seem.
(Data collected by Elliot Temple.)
Charcoal Design has an article arguing that the metaphor of ‘theft’ or ‘piracy’ for unauthorised use of information (such as software) can be highly inappropriate, immoral and damaging.
Yes, software creators need to have an incentive to produce their products, and they also have a moral right to receive the fruits of their labour. But they have no moral right to harm someone who has done them no harm. And it will be disastrous if a law based on a silly metaphor continues to shield this vital industry from the need to create innovative ways of marketing, and new types of relationships with their customers, appropriate for the still more knowledge-dominated economy of the future.
This, too, is a problem that has to be solved if we are to set the world to rights.
Update: See also their article on the future of Apple Computer.
A free society is not just a place that lacks oppressive laws. It is a place that is made free by people taking freedom seriously. They not only value freedom, they want to live in a free society, and they want to do, and to speak up for, what is necessary to keep their society free. Such as defending freedom for others, not only themselves.
In regard to the events we reported here, where someone was harassed and threatened for wearing an Israeli-flag cape in Oxford (see also here), some have said that being threatened by one individual is not a failure of the town square test: one person is not representative. But the town square test is not about whether a society has any criminals. It is about whether citizens take steps to create a free atmosphere. It is true that the police can't be everywhere, so if you aren't necessarily safe to express your political opinion in dark alleys, at night, that is no failure of the town square test. However, the point of the test is that you are in the town square. It's daylight, people are there. Are you now afraid to state your political opinions? If you are, the people around you are not reliable in their commitment to freedom. They can't be counted on to help you be free, should you need that help. In a country that properly passes the test, you will feel safe despite the existence of some criminals, because the other people in the square will stand up for you even if they disagree with your view.
In the 1980s the World Health Organization joined other NGOs and government organisations in ceasing to promote ‘indoor residual spraying’ with the insecticide DDT as a method of combating the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, especially malaria. This decision was bad for people living in regions where malaria was endemic, and a triumph for environmental campaigners who had raised fears about DDT's health and environmental effects.
There was a vitriolic controversy about whether this policy was justified. There never was any good evidence that DDT was harmful to the health of humans, and the environmental damage centred on the threat to certain species that were of sentimental and scientific interest. This limited level of potential harm had to be weighed against the fact that malaria was one of the world's leading causes of death and disability of human beings.
And it has remained so. The good news is that the World Health Organization has now reversed its policy on DDT, giving it a clean bill of health and denying that it does any ‘environmental’ damage when used for indoor residual spraying. Most other relevant agencies concur. This is a great victory for those who have been arguing all along that the anti-DDT policy was harmful and had been adopted for essentially frivolous (or as we would put it, religious) reasons. It is a defeat for environmentalist pressure groups which fought bitterly for an almost total ban on DDT. But most of them finally conceded that this was wrong.
SInce the new consensus is that DDT, used carefully, is not environmentally dangerous after all, the issue of how much environmental damage is worth how much human suffering and death is now mercifully relegated to theoretical status as far as DDT policy is concerned. But it does, in general, remain an urgent moral issue, and one that is hardly addressed in the political arena. As part of the critical debate about the current environmentalist consensus, should we not also be debating past policy? How much unnecessary suffering was caused by the policy that the WHO and environmental pressure groups have now reversed?
Please vote in our new poll (in the sidebar on the right). It is just a yes/no question about the cause of the attack on the US on September 11, 2001.
Update on 2006-9-20: So far the poll is overwhelmingly exonerating President Bush's invasion of Iraq.
A Parliamentary Inquiry is about to report a large increase in the number of antisemitic attacks in Britain in recent years, which has accelerated further since the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah.
More shameful than the numbers is the fact that the character of the attacks has changed. While in the past most antisemitic attacks came from tiny fringe groups, Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust reports that nowadays the attackers
are from across society [...]. “When it's verbal abuse, it's just ordinary people in the street, from middle-class women to working-class men. All colours and backgrounds. We hardly ever see incidents involving the classic neo-Nazi skinhead. Muslims are over-represented.”
Indeed, a few days ago this violence from ‘across society’ spread to the normally staid House of Lords, when Lord Janner, who is 78 and Jewish, was physically attacked by Lord Brammer who is 82. The attack was caused by their disagreement over Israel's non-existent war crimes in Lebanon, and subsequently legitimised by Janner's colleagues, who apparently persuaded him to make no complaint.
In hate-mail to senior Jewish figures, ordinary Jewish people were being blamed for the deaths of Lebanese civilians. “There are also references to the Holocaust, saying that Hitler should have wiped out the Jews.”
Mr Gardner said that the rise in attacks reflected increased hostility to Israel and Jews in the media and across society: “The number of anti-Semitic attacks reflects the mood music around Jews and Israel.”
Where does this ‘mood music’, to which ordinary British people are responding, come from?
Jon Benjamin, of the Board of Deputies, said: “The problem is the spin that Israel is an irredeemably evil regime, and we are concerned that it may become common currency to connect British Jews with this.”
But this spin that Israel is fundamentally evil cannot be separated from the spin that British Jews are fundamentally evil and therefore legitimate targets for attacks. If Israel really were evil then the two issues could easily be separated, because the Jewish community in Britain would then certainly become active in the campaign to de-legitimise Israel. But that cannot happen because, in reality, Israel is a moral beacon to the world. The spin that it is evil and the spin that Jews are evil are the same out-and-out lie. On the grand stage of world history, this lie is part of the millennia-old and incomparably widespread and persistent evil known as antisemitism. But the proximate cause, today in Britain, is a powerful, self-sustaining irrationality in the subculture known as the media.
In the sidebar of the Times article that reports these dismal devlopments is the very phenomenon that is causing them. Of the six headlines linked there under the heading ‘Related Stories’, at least four carry the spin of Israel's alleged evil, and not one even hints at Israel's case, or even that it has one.
The mildest example is: Annan says Syria to respect Hezbollah arms embargo, (link). This would be much less misleading if it were Syria claims it will respect Hezbollah arms embargo. By reporting Syria's claim through the mouth of the UN Secretary General (who was doing nothing more than report what was said to him) The Times manages to attribute maximal authority to that claim. Only deep in the article, and nowhere in the headline, is there a hint that there exists an opposing point of view, namely that Syria's claim is a ludicrous and cynical lie whose main purpose is to de-legitimise Israel's self-defence.
The worst of this particular batch of headlines is Cluster bombs leave ‘toys’ that kill children (link). The casual reader will receive the impression that Israel has littered Lebanon with toy-shaped booby traps with the satanic intention of maiming and murdering Lebanese children, an impression that is, again, only dispelled deep in the article, and even then not explicitly. The spin here is the ancient antisemitic blood libel that Jews are child murderers. This is expressed, in the context of the Lebanon war, in the lie that Israel has targeted innocent civilians – a lie that is frequently intensified by the explicit or implicit claim that this blood lust is directed especially towards children.
In a culture that excoriates President Bush for once using the term ‘crusade’, even though in English that word has carried no specifically Christian or anti-Muslim connotation for centuries, there can be no excusing these antisemitic spins as accidental. They are part of a systematic phenomenon of entrenched irrationality that is poisoning our society and causing violence. Yet the cause is not (for the most part, anyway) that journalists wake up one morning and realise that it is The Jews who are responsible for all the evils in the world, any more than Lord Brammer woke up one morning thinking that Lord Janner is responsible for all his troubles. Mel Gibson thinks like that, and so do many cultures, even in Europe. But the antisemitic spin that is spreading through mainstream British society is not rooted in racial or religious hatred of Jews, but rather it is the other way round. (Indeed, one of the ways it entrenches itself is that its purveyors can honestly testify, from introspection, that they are motivated by no such hatred. This, in turn, leads them to imagine that they are seeing for themselves proof that those who accuse them of bias are guilty of yet further offences, namely whining and slander.) The pathological spin originates in a pathological world view which, in itself, makes no direct reference to Jews or any other group. Yet by its inner logic it homes in on Jews, and hence on Israel. For some powerful but as yet only dimly understood reason, Jews are, as always, the canaries in the coal mine, the first to suffer the effects of poison.
Update 1: Solomonia makes the same point, but he is able to express it in just three words.
Update 2: The IDF's policy on cluster bombs.
There is some damning criticism of Human Rights Watch in this article by Alan Dershowitz. In regard to Lebanon, it leaves little room to regard HRW as more than a Hezbollah propaganda organ – and a crude one at that. And Amnesty International is even worse, says Kenneth Anderson, who also claims that:
It's not merely an organization or a movement that is at risk - it is the credibility of human rights itself.
If the very concept of protecting human rights is being eroded because its most prominent advocates insist on siding with tyranny, who is to blame? The ‘moonbats’ and ‘idiotarians’ who run those organisations? Well, yes, of course. But also, no. For evil to triumph, it suffices that good people do nothing.
And good people are doing nothing. Where are the impartial human-rights organisations? The ones that conscientiously investigate alleged atrocities and then take a reputable view about what, factually, happened. The ones that support the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan, support the existence and self-defence of Israel, recognise the need to use force to protect lives and liberties, and want it to be used morally. The ones that care both about the humane treatment of terrorists by the armed forces of the US and Israel and others who are trying desperately to save innocent lives and about the appalling violations of human rights perpetrated and planned by those terrorists and the tyrannical governments that support them. And keep those two issues in their morally proper perspective.
They are missing. And that is through no fault of the anti-war movement. It is entirely the fault of our side.
Update: Alan has further comments at Elegance Against Ignorance.
Further update: If you're interested in this issue it is worth reading this article by Dershowitz, mainly about Amnesty International's recent condemnation of Israel, and this uncompromising but remarkably empty defence of both Amnesty and HRW, entitled "Diversionary Strike On a Rights Group".
We said some time ago that the War on Terror would be more accurately called the war against conspiracy theories. And we have occasionally pointed out how conspiracy-theoretic thinking is becoming common in the mainstream of political debate.
Things are still getting worse. According to a recent opinion poll,
More than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East
Note the characteristic conspiracy-theoretic allegation that powerful malevolent people are acting ostensibly with one agenda (protecting Americans from harm) that has popular support, while secretly pursuing a different and incompatible agenda that does not have popular support (because it involves mass-murdering Americans). And hence that the people who support the current policies because of their ostensible purpose (such as ourselves) are dupes.
In a structurally similar conspiracy theory regarding Israel, the Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks – a Pentagon correspondent, no less – has claimed that during the recent fighting in Lebanon, Israel purposely left Hezbollah missile launchers intact, so that they would be used to murder Israelis and hence provide public-relations justification for Israel's incursions into Lebanon, whose ostensible purpose was to prevent precisely such murders.
Those two conspiracy theories share a degree of detachment from reality that is so extreme that if it occured outside the political arena it would uncontroversially count as insanity. And yet they enjoy mainstream acceptance, and respect even from many who do not (yet) share them. But there is worse: these delusions are not random. They are focused – on evil – in a manner, and to a degree, not condoned in the West since the 1930s.
By this measure, the war is being lost. We can only repeat the call we made before: Persuade them. Persuade them because in the long run, if you fail to persuade them, they will kill you.
A young colleague of ours recently went for a walk in central Oxford, England – almost literally in the town square. She was not, initially, intending to apply Sharansky's town square test but that's how it turned out. Whether Britain passed or not is still in doubt. Judge for yourselves. Here is her account, which she has adapted from three posts on her personal blog:
First Post, July 21st:
I was in town today and bought an Israeli flag — about five feet long. While I was walking to the bus, I decided to wear it as a cape (mostly to show my support, partly to see if I'd get any reactions). My head was a good couple of inches higher than usual, and whenever I noticed it in a reflection on a window, I smiled broadly.
There was a shout by someone a while behind me. “Yisrael! Yisrael!” I turned around and saw a woman. She shouted to me — presumably in Hebrew — and stuck her thumb up. I grinned and stuck my thumb up high, before continuing on my way.
A few of my friends said it might be dangerous to wear it in public. So naturally, I decided that I must go back into town some time wearing it. This is England, after all. A free country. Who's going to attack a 17-year-old girl for wearing a flag?
Second post, July 29th:
I went to town yesterday to pick up a friend from the train station. I wore my Israeli flag as a cape again. At one point, two girls stopped me and asked if I was from Israel. I replied “No, and I'm not Jewish either, but I do support Israel.” They said they were from Israel. I asked them why they were here, and they said because of the war. They seemed to be happy about the flag. I walked away smiling, glad to make them feel welcome in England.
Later on that day, someone I passed called out “Shalom!” I turned around and started talking to this guy. As far as I could gather, he used to be a medic in Israel for the army. He shook my hand, said something in Hebrew, and I think he prayed or something like that. So far I had had only good reactions, which was rather cool.
Today, however, was something different. I was at the train station to pick up another friend, when some guy approached us and asked why I was wearing the flag. I said that I support Israel. He said something to the effect that I had “better take it off”. I shrugged this off and we went on our way.
About five minutes later, he approached us again and said “What did I tell you?” I looked a bit confused. “Take it off,” he demanded. He kept looking at me, so I took it off so he'd stop (he was rather intimidating). When my other friend arrived and we left the station, I put the flag back on and we went back into the centre of town.
After stopping for some food, we went to our bus stop. By this time, it was around 7:10pm, but still broad daylight (being summer). I was alarmed to find the same guy approaching me again. He stopped in front of me and said “What did I tell you? Take it off. If I see you again with it I'll hurt you.”
Now that wasn't pleasant. I wasn't all that scared at the time, though it was annoying that I had to take the cape off. But now I'm a bit scared of going into town while wearing it, in case he might be there.
Third post, August 10th:
I went into town again today with my sister, my friend, and my Israeli flag-cape. We were walking down a busy street when I saw the same guy from before. “Shit,” I thought, and we quickly walked past. He shouted behind us “Take it off! Take it off!” Somewhat worried, I discreetly took off my flag (replacing it by an American flag).
We kept walking and I put the Israeli flag back on. The guy saw me again and shouted “Take it off! I'm coming for you!” Another guy was with him this time. We kept walking, turned a corner and ducked into a cafe, where my friend phoned the police. We kept looking out round the cafe door. Both guys were waiting on the other side of the street, watching for us to come out. At some point while we were talking to the police, they left.
We decided to go home. Shortly afterwards we were phoned by the police. They're coming later today to get a statement.
People have warned me that I shouldn't wear my flag in public. People don't understand why I still wear it, if I've been threatened, and have a fair chance of being threatened in the future.
Natan Sharansky, a Russian Jew, spent 10 years in prison and in labour camps in the Soviet Union for campaigning for human rights. They claimed it was because he was a spy, and they wanted him to ‘confess’ that he and his friends were American spies. If he ‘confessed’, they would let him go. But he didn't. He never did. He spent 10 long years in these hellish conditions for what he believed in.
Sharansky was a scientist, and while he was imprisoned, he thought of Galileo. Galileo was imprisoned and threatened with torture for saying that the earth revolved around the sun. Galileo gave in and finally said that he was wrong and the world was at rest. “If Galileo gave in, why shouldn't I?” Sharansky thought.
No. It was precisely because of Galileo that Sharansky did not give in. Because of Galileo, the world stayed in the state of having bad science for a lot longer than needed. Because of Galileo, people in similar situations ever since have thought “If he gave in, why shouldn't I?” Sharansky did not want people to think the same thing with him. In the end, after his years of imprisonment and mistreatment, Sharansky was freed. He had not once given in.
I don't want to be like Galileo. I want people to think, “If Lulie stood up for what she believes in, so should I!”, just as Sharansky did.
In Natan Sharansky's book, A Case For Democracy, he proposed a test called the Town Square test. He wrote:
”If a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.”
Right now, Britain is failing the Town Square test. I don't want my country to be like this. I don't want to be scared into not showing my support for a cause that I feel strongly about. This is supposed to be a free country, dammit. I refuse to let anyone scare me into submission.
Am Yisrael Chai!----------------------------
Update 1: Berkeley…?.
Update 2: Alan is inspired to do the same.
Update 3: What the police have done so far. Very creditable.