Too Many White Men

Apparently, some shitheads are getting upset because the new WWII movie Dunkirk features too many White men. I don’t know the exact racial composition of the actual event, of course, but I’m pretty sure that 99.99% of the participants (on both sides) were White.

Here’s another example of White Male Privilege, taken from an earlier conflict:

And yes, I know that there were hundreds of thousands of non-White combatants in WWI: Indians, Senegalese and various other colonial soldiers. But that doesn’t matter, in the grand scheme of things, because the overwhelming amount of suffering fell on the shoulders of White men, and indeed on the society which produced them.

Western European society was forever changed by those wars. The same cannot be said of the societies which participated, but were not.

The Old School Tie

This phenomenon doesn’t really occur in the United States because schoolboys don’t wear ties. Okay, I joke: it’s because school affiliation in the U.S. happens at university rather than in high school (but they still don’t wear ties).

Here’s how the thing works among the private school set, and it’s true in Britain and all its former colonies (in Britain, they’re called “public” schools, which is massively confusing to non-Britons so I’ll just use “private”, to be consistent). To be sent to an exclusive private school was a sign of both wealth and breeding (the latter more so in Britain than in the colonies, of course). The bonds one formed at school, in an age when a university degree was not a prerequisite for employment, would help one through life in no uncertain terms, because one always tried to help a fellow private schoolboy (called an “Old Boy”) where one could.

The reason for this was quite simple, and understandable. If a manager, an Old Boy from St. John’s, say, discovered that a prospective employee had been to Michaelhouse or Bishop’s, the applicant would automatically get a more favorable review than someone not wearing the old school tie: Old Boys were essentially a known quantity, having been through pretty much the same grinder that all the others had. As any employer will tell you, a known quantity is almost always better than an unknown one — a former U.S. Marine will favor another Marine for precisely the same reason, and it has to do with character rather than anything else. One of my former classmates owns a highly-successful tech company, for example. and it came as no surprise to me when I learned that his CFO was yet another of our classmates. No chance of financial skulduggery there, I bet. Unthinkable.

I once got a job because the H.R. manager saw my Old Boy’s tie and after chatting about the school for a while, she sent me off for a final interview with my future manager with barely a question. (She gave me a sealed envelope for him, and he showed it to me much later. It read simply, “Hire this man — he’s exactly what we’re looking for.”) It turned out that the H.R. manager’s young son was at St. John’s Preparatory, so she knew exactly what kind of man I was, because she wanted her son to become the same kind of man. My First from St. John’s College. along with a couple of other notable schoolboy achievements, were all she needed.

This causes all sorts of problems in today’s oh-so egalitarian society, but if we’ve learned nothing else over the years, it’s that when it comes to leadership, character matters. By the middle of the First World War, St. John’s had graduated just over one hundred and twenty boys in its history; twenty-two ended up killed on the Western Front, and one (Oswald Reid) won the Victoria Cross (posthumously). The death toll among Old Etonians, Old Harrovians and their like was equally appalling, because it was from the private schools that most of the officers were drawn. Yes, it was part of the class system; but it was also true that leadership was one of the virtues taught and encouraged — and it had been duly noted by the Duke of Wellington in a much earlier war, who said that “the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.”

And he was right. Character matters, and it seems to be that because of the harsh regimen of private school education in the past, it was inculcated as much as Latin, Greek or the Classics — and possibly even more so, because up to my time, one of the worst insults you could bestow in someone was that they were a “swot”, someone who worked hard at their studies. A “gentleman’s C” was highly regarded because it meant that one had achieved a passing grade without working too hard at it. (I should also point out that academic standards were far higher then than they are today, and a “C” back then would today equate to a B+ or even A-, depending on the subject.) I remember winning some award in a magazine for an essay I’d written, and there was considerable amusement when it was discovered that my English teacher had given me a grade of 68% (27/40) for that same essay. When he was asked about it, he shrugged and said, “His conclusion wasn’t that good.” Nobody got an A in his class, ever, so strict were his standards. What that meant was that we were forced to sweat blood to get a decent overall grade; but when we wrote our finals (graded by other teachers), most of us in his English class got distinctions for our essays.

I have mentioned that sports was a compulsory activity in all private boys’ schools of the time, and we produced our share of decent sportsmen. But when we were up against the local state (“government”) schools, we would usually get thrashed — much as, say, Harvard’s football team would fare against Michigan or Alabama — because our two senior classes of about a hundred boys stood no chance against the same pool of a thousand boys from the much-larger King Edward’s School down the road. It didn’t matter, though; as a cheer from St. Stithian’s College went, whenever they were beaten by a government school: “Your dads work for our dads!”

We at St. John’s would never have been so crass, but then St. Stithian’s was a Methodist school, after all.

But even being crap at sports against other schools was instructive: learning how to lose with grace meant that we won with equal grace; and in its turn, sportsmanship was not only welcomed, but treasured. Good sportsmanship, by the way, means following not just the letter but the spirit of the rules — which is why I’m always hammering on that something may be legal, but that doesn’t make it right. (A no-class boor like Bill Clinton would never understand that, which is why he and his equally-classless wife are such terrible people. Former BritPM and Old Etonian David Cameron, while an appalling politician, is actually quite a decent man, especially when compared to the horrible Gordon Brown. The same is true of the equally-inept but privately-schooled and very likeable George W. Bush when compared to the awful Bernie Sanders.)

The Old School Tie goes deeper than that. As a rule, our dating pool was the local girls’ private schools: Roedean, St. Andrew’s, Kingsmead and St. Mary’s Schools for Girls. (I think I first seriously dated a government-school girl when I was twenty-four, and my experience was not uncommon.) Once again, it was because the girls were a known quantity: of good / wealthy families, well brought up, with ladylike and genteel manners. (Yeah, they were bitchy and obnoxious because teenagers, but it was a very ladylike obnoxiousness.) It also worked for the good. One of the Old Boys date-raped one of the Old Girls one night; word got out, and he never dated in our circle again — he ended up marrying some tart from Cape Town who didn’t know his story. The last I heard, he was miserably unhappy because he was savagely cut from the group and lost all his friends. To be called “a nasty piece of work” was pretty much a death sentence, socially speaking, and he was. The very tightness of the circle thus gave security against nonsense like that, just as it would almost guarantee that my tech-company owner friend would be inured against financial impropriety by his CFO.

So there it is: the Old School Tie, the Old Boys’ Club; call it what you may, sneer at it all you like, but the fact of the matter is that without the efforts of this tiny group of men and women over the past few centuries, society and civilization would be much the poorer.

Your opinion may vary, of course, but we don’t really care.

Guilty As Charged

From Longtime Reader SKB comes this point:

“Usually, your social commentary is just a bit too aristocratic, or ‘posh’, for my taste.”

SKB, round about now my old housemaster and various teachers who were entrusted with turning this young hooligan into a gentleman are beaming with pride. Mostly, I suspect, they would be relieved because let’s face it, this must have seemed at times to be a daunting, if not insuperable task.

Here’s the thing. For the last five years of my school life I had the great good fortune to attend a seriously “posh” (and spendy) boys-only private school in Johannesburg called St. John’s College. It was founded in the late 1890s and when I was there it was one of the the top five private boy’s schools in South Africa (the others being St. Andrew’s, Bishop’s, Michaelhouse and Hilton Colleges), and at the time all five were rated in the top 100 high schools in the world. Our “brother” school was Eton College in the U.K., and we had a continuous exchange program with both teachers and students. Here’s a sample pic of the school, taken from the “A” rugby field:

The large building on the left of the pic is the chapel — and actually, there are three chapels: the Crypt (semi-underground, and the oldest part of the school), the Main Chapel above it, and to the side the tiny All Souls Chapel which commemorates those past students and teachers killed in the various world wars. Here’s the Delville Wood Cross in the All Souls, made from one of the trees chopped down by shellfire in the 1916 battle and one of only five in existence:

And if you’ve been paying attention to my writings, Delville Wood was where my grandfather Charles Loxton fought and was wounded.

The buildings were designed by architect Sir Herbert Baker, who went on to design the South African Parliament buildings, in much the same style. This is the David Quad:

…and another view, taken from the other side:

The Darragh (dining) Hall:

Yeah, I know: Hogwarts. Except that all our teachers were like Snape. And finally, this is the “A” cricket field, which is on the other side of the school, on top of the ridge (the school is to the right):

In the traditional sense, a “college” is not a university; a university is a university. A college is a preparatory school for university. And so it was. Our academic life was rigorous to a degree which would nowadays be called “brutal”: bi-weekly (called “fortnightly” in the British fashion) examinations and report cards which went home to be signed and commented on by parents, and yes, we were “streamed” in A through D classes. So demanding was the work that a first-class pass (a “First”) in the final examination meant that one did not have to sit the entrance examinations for universities like Oxford or Cambridge; indeed, for a couple of subjects (e.g. Latin, which I took for all seven years), one could skip the first term at either of those universities. There was a post-grad year (called “The Sixth”) which offered U.K. A-levels, which I never took (and have regretted ever since).

Schoolwork wasn’t all. Sports, of course, were compulsory: cricket, swimming and athletics, along with electives of tennis and squash in the summer; and either rugby or field hockey in the winter. (Basketball was added much later — we called it “netball”, and it was only played in girls’ schools.) To say we were fit would be an understatement: pre-breakfast runs, calisthenics (“P.T.”) during school hours, and at least three afternoons a week devoted to sports (more if you played for a school team against other schools on Wednesdays and Saturdays). It wasn’t so much fitness as torture, but we were almost as fit as Olympic athletes as a result.

Discipline was likewise brutal (caning, detention, “hard labor” and suchlike exotica were routine), and it should come as no surprise for anyone to learn that I have the all-time record for the number of caning strokes — one hundred and twenty-eight — administered to my mischievous and it must be said deserving backside over the five years spent in College. (I only had a few, maybe a half-dozen or so, given to me in my two years in the Prep.) Caning was later abolished, which is why my total is the all-time record.

Above all, however, it should be said that St. John’s stressed two things: severely-circumscribed behavior (appearance, manners, discipline and religious discipline) and absolute freedom of thought. My last public speech at College, delivered without pre-censorship to the school, parents and staff, argued that prostitution should be legalized on health grounds. (Yes, I’ve changed the 16-year-old Kim’s opinion, although I still support the “health” rationale.) The next speaker’s topic was “Is religion still necessary in the modern world?” Neither speech drew anything but a dry “Interesting” from the Headmaster in his concluding comments, and all three speakers went on to get Firsts in the finals.

In short, St. John’s made absolutely no bones about the fact that we boys were going on to become productive citizens as part of the elite stratum of society. What we got out of our schooling was an absolute belief in ourselves and our worth to society, provided we didn’t take the wrong road (and lamentably, some did; but most didn’t). To be an Old Johannian means being a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, and we can hold our head up in any company. As one of my school friends once put it: “There may be other places called ‘St. John’s College’ in the world; but ours is the only one that counts.”

So yes, SKB, my commentary is occasionally aristocratic and posh, not to mention elitist. You can blame St. John’s College for my upbringing, indoctrination and education, but I am unashamedly proud to be that way. Later this week, I’ll talk about The Club — otherwise known as “The Old School Tie Set”.

And for those who care, the School Prayer (from memory):

Lord God our Father, who art Light, Life and Love,
Look down with love upon our College of St. John.
Make it to be a home of religious discipline, sound learning and goodwill,
Which may send forth many, rightly-trained in body, mind and character,
To serve Thee well in church and state.
Supply our wants, and give us increase as shall seem Thee good;
And let Thine angels drive away all evil from us,
Through Thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

The Great Skin Debate

Aaah, tattoos… or as I prefer to call them, body graffiti.

I have two major points to make about this topic.

The first is that I think that the acceptance of tattoos is yet another sign of the coarsening of our society and its growing decadence. If we look at who’s sported tattoos on their bodies in the distant past, it’s been primitive tribes attempting to make their warriors look more fearsome (e.g. Maoris, Amazon tribes), or else the womenfolk of the tribes trying to make themselves look unappealing to men once they were married / paired off permanently, or else all members of a tribe wearing the same markings as a symbol of identity, to distance them from members of other tribes. Regardless of why, however, the common aspect of all was that these were the actions of primitive peoples. So now it appears that because tattoos have become somehow “cool” or tokens of individuality, we as a society have to accept them. After all, nobody gets hurt, right? (I’m leaving out the tragedy of infection and so on, because that’s relatively rare nowadays.)

My other point is personal, so buckle yourself in, because this is going to be a bumpy ride. To start with a humorous take, here’s a little guide to tattoo placement:

I’ve never really understood tattoos as decoration. Maybe it’s because I was brought up to believe that only low-class types got tattoos: they, sailors and strange Asian people. However, it seems that nowadays just about everyone has them, except for every woman I’ve ever dated — it’s an immediate disqualifier for me: no matter how small, how discreet or how “tasteful”, ink on a woman’s skin = Kim moving in the general direction of away. I can understand why men get tattoos, because we’re idiots and do stupid shit all the time — not excusing, just understanding — but I see no reason why a woman should ever deface her body, for any reason whatsoever. (Yeah, I’m pedestalizing, to use that horrible modern term. Sue me.) Even stuff like this, while undoubtedly artistic and aesthetically pleasant to look at, occasions from me at best a disgusted curl of the lip when I see it in (or on) the flesh. On silk, it’s beautiful; on a woman’s skin, repulsive.

Then, of course, you get outcomes such as this one, which turns an already-trashy-looking girl into a vision of pure horror:

You just know she’s got a “tramp stamp” at the base of her spine. (My take on tramp stamps: regardless of the design or verbiage, what they’re all saying is: Insert Here.) Don’t even get me started on tattoos around the vulva… ugh.

I’ve also never understood why a beautiful woman would get a tattoo. (Ugly ones, sure: why not? You’re already ugly.) A good example would be Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden. Unquestionably, a lovely woman:

Inexplicably, she has two (!) tattoos. “Yeah, but they’re not visible, Kim!” Well, except (and one hopes, only) to her husband. Seems kinda pointless to me, especially for a woman who seems to have everything in her life under control. (But I’ll get to that later.) Then you get this neurotic bint, who says that older women getting a tattoo means that “they still have something to say”. Yes, and that something is: “Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean getting wiser.”

Of course, my ire is not just aimed at women. David Beckham, supremely-talented footballer and canny businessman, has turned his once-handsome body into some kind of freak show:

Jesus wept. (Literally: see bottom-left corner.) I know: footballers are generally low-class scum (also musicians, another massively-tattooed segment of the population), but even for scum, Beckham’s taken it A Picture Too Far (or several pictures too far). (For my Lady Readers, here’s Beckham, pre-body-decorations:)

Note, by the way, that he’s wearing a shirt to cover up some of his arm tattoos. That was the manufacturer’s marketing department, not wanting to alienate the average consumer.

When it comes to men, I sort of get the “bonding” rationale — “Semper Fi”, “U.S.S. Arizona”, “Rangers Lead The Way”, and even “Harley-Davidson” and so on. I also get the “commemorative” ones: “Bagram AFB 2015”, “Bastogne 1944” etc. I don’t agree with the rationale, but I get it. But as for examples like Beckham’s? Sorry, I got nothing. I just ascribe it to “Men Do Stupid Shit” and move along. (And please spare me the “bad boy” bullshit. Real bad boys don’t advertise; and women who get taken in by that deserve everything they get, e.g. hepatitis C.)

Here’s how I approach the whole issue. If I were going to get a tattoo, I say to myself, what would it be? What would I want to immortalize on my skin?

Right off, I can eliminate messages, sayings, or any verbiage whatsoever. I can think of no saying or statement that would qualify as worthy of being on my body, forever. “Mother”? Give me a break. If I’d ever got one of those idiotic things, my mom would have killed me. Yeah, you love your mother. Me too. Everybody else too. BFD. And as for those “affirmation” expressions: “Love Is All”, “Strength Through Willpower”, “Keep Believing” (in what? God? yourself? the Chicago Cubs? a Doobie Brothers reunion?”), and my All-Time Bullshit Message: “No Mercy”… really? You’re that much of a bad-ass that you have to advertise it? It’s “message” body art by Hallmark, except Hallmark would never create crap messages such as these. I also love the ones which feature Chinese or Japanese pictograms, and laugh like hell when the hapless recipient discovers that the tattooist has actually written “Idiot Gaijin” or “Won Ton Soup” instead of “Mighty Warrior”, as requested.

And then there’s the stupefying array of crucifixes. Yeah, I bet Jesus is SO proud of you. Why don’t you just wear a simple crucifix on a chain around your neck — it says the same thing, is less painful / expensive, and as a bonus, you don’t look trashy. If it comes to Christians like this, give me an Orthodox Jew any day. (Tattoos are forbidden under Talmudic Law as something like “defiling God’s creation”. No truer words were ever written.)

The problem is, when we think of images to be tattooed onto our skin, we fondly think they’re likely to look beautiful and artistic, like this:

…when the odds are better that they’ll instead come out like this:

You know, that last pic actually makes me feel nauseated. Imagine that woman serving you food at a restaurant… and yes, I have asked to be moved to another table featuring a non-sleeved waitress (Kirby Lane in Austin, TX).

And I note that tattoo reversal is becoming HUGE business in Japan, because companies are finding that employees with unmarked skin tend to be better at their jobs — less absenteeism, better attitude, more reliable — and are therefore refusing to hire people with visible tattoos. Just sayin’.

I remember doing one of those foul “speed-dating” things once, back when I was a single guy. My very first question to a prospective date was: “So… tell me the story behind your tattoos.” (There’s always a story / excuse.) Any response which wasn’t “I don’t have any tattoos!” meant she had no chance with me. More than half the women I spoke to were tattooed, sadly, so I didn’t bother with the speed-dating thing again. And for the record: I have never slept with a woman who has a tattoo. Won’t ever, either.

Here’s my final take. With only a few exceptions, I think decorative tattoos — especially comprehensive ones like full-body or sleeves — are indicative of some mild form of pyschosis. There is a peculiar strain of either narcissism or self-loathing involved, and (paradoxically) maybe both. Whatever it is, I’m not really interested in trying to understand it.

Yup. You call it “clever-ironic-witty”, I call it confirmation.

———————————————————————————

 Afterthought: I’ve probably pissed off a sizeable number of people with this post. I don’t care. If you are thus defaced, know that there’s a considerable proportion of the population who feels exactly the same way as I do — and as I always say, if you’re going to deliberately set yourself apart from polite society, don’t be surprised when you’re treated like a pariah. Or maybe that’s the point: “I’m a rebel!” Yeah, you and all the other people with tattoos. Repeat after me: “We’re all individuals!

Yeesh.

Representing

Whenever some gangster / gangsta tool is confronted by the police, it seems de rigueur for said idiot to “represent” (i.e. show no fear, but indeed the utmost disrespect towards the “po-po”). This usually ends with said idiot getting shot, or at least having a paradiddle drumbeat played on his fool head by a cop’s nightstick. [Pause to let the cheering die down.]

Well, in planning my upcoming invasion of errr sabbatical in Britishland, my several Texas friends have berated me most foully for not representing… Texas. Apparently this means showing up at Heathrow in full Texas regalia (minus the nickel Colt Single Action Army revolver, of course, which is the one thing I would like to take with me, but of course cannot do lest some Brit rozzer ends up playing a paraddiddle with his nightstick on my fool head).

For those not familiar with Texas folkways, allow me to offer a simple explanation. Texas regalia is (at least) a 10-gallon 9x beaver Stetson, a silver belt buckle which could serve alternative duty as a riot shield or serving dish, a tasseled jacket in the manner of John Voight in Midnight Cowboy, a string tie, something called “boot-cut” jeans, and intricately-stitched cowboy boots with leather in at least two (and three is better) different colors, with silver toe guards and fanciful stitching.

I don’t even own a pair of jeans.

So today I went out shopping for what I consider the least visually offensive of the above list of deplorable regalia items. Of course, sending me out to buy this stuff is like sending Lewis Black out to buy an assault rifle, but what the hell: anything to avoid being a bad ambassador for the Great State of Texas, right?  After a full day’s shopping, I came home with a pair of these:

Yes, it’s the [deep breath] “Ariat Western Heritage Round Toe” style, as pictured, in one color (black) and with what is regarded in Texas as “conservative” stitching. I’m pretty sure I’m only going to be wearing them at night, in a place with subdued or no lighting.

This, by the way, is why Sunday’s post is so woefully tardy. Finding a decent pair of cowboy boots in “Stubby Extra Wide” is one hell of a chore, especially when it seems that the only styles available in that rather esoteric size look like the cat puked on them (no offense to cats):

Good grief. All I wanna know is: when did cowboy boots start being designed by Elton John?

I did find a very nice-looking style, but put the sample back on the shelf like it was an angry rattlesnake when I saw the price. Apparently it was made of leftover skin from Joan Rivers’ last facelift.

So I ended up with a pair of the Ariats, which seems to be a decent brand from all accounts. (I really couldn’t afford Justin or Tony Lama, which judging from the prices must be individually hand-made by the gnarled fingers of some old guy who’s worked at Justin since 1879 or something.)

Anyway, as I said earlier, all this is to excuse the extreme tardiness of today’s post.

Tomorrow we’ll be looking at shotguns, something I actually know a little bit about.

 

 

Putting In The Asterisks

Via Sarah at Insty comes this thoughtful piece:

Yes, an intolerant minority can control and destroy democracy. Actually, as we saw, it will eventually destroy our world.
So, we need to be more than intolerant with some intolerant minorities. It is not permissible to use “American values” or “Western principles” in treating intolerant Salafism (which denies other peoples’ right to have their own religion). The West is currently in the process of committing suicide.

I’ve often pondered this issue. If we assume that the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact — by no means a certain assumption, by the way — then yes, of course we can attach asterisks to certain socio-political movements (e.g. Nazism, Communism etc.) which rely on the tolerance of the typical Western-style democracy (and in the case of the U.S., the tolerance entrenched in its Constitution), and use that tolerance to further their own brand of intolerance. As an example, note that a considerable percentage of U.S. Muslims support the idea of Shari’ah law as first an adjunct to, and then a replacement for the existing U.S. legislative system. And in the name of “tolerance”, or “cultural appreciation” (or whatever term liberals use to disguise “eventual submission”), we should allow such ideas to become not only acceptable, but accepted?

No.

Here’s a little thought for the Intolerants to ponder. Even our Constitution is not written in stone; it can be amended — admittedly with considerable difficulty —  but there is nothing to stop a majority of members of Congress, and a majority of states, from creating an amendment to the First Amendment which says, simply, “except for [Islam / Nazism / fill in your brand of intolerance].” Here’s an example of such an action, a funny one but still one that is absolutely possible:

Our “group” here in the United States is one which supports tolerance. But if you think for one moment that we are incapable of expelling an intolerant sub-group, think again.

One of us is going to have to change their outlook and philosophy, and we’ve probably changed ours enough — or too much (which is what I think). Beware of mistaking gentleness for weakness, of tolerance for submission. Start acting like citizens of the United States, accept the principles of our Constitution, or risk losing your place at the barbecue. It can happen. Pray that it doesn’t.