Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Conservative Punks F**k Off!!! - Part One

Shibusa, Going postal

There is a certain element to some personalities that sometimes predisposes it to form an outlook that on occasion contravenes the expected. The forms by which these appear are infinitesimal in kind, but the mainstay of the concept could be surmised as ‘rebelling against rebelling’ - a veritable internal double bluff.

In my case this manifested itself by adopting a Conservative mindset at the tender age of 15, acquired simply by thinking through economics from first principles, as opposed to following my peers in groupthink and getting behind whatever sounded good. This lay in being completely honest in one's convictions whilst simultaneously being completely at odds with what a normal, rebellious 15 year old should think, but also overtaking my parents on the right side of the political spectrum. True to form, this mode of analysis was in its death throes - conservative hegemony had all but run out of steam after 15 years, and the country, unbeknownst to itself at the time was only 2 years away from voting Labour into power for a 13 year innings.

The good ship "Fridericus Quartus", Part Two

Joe Slater, Going Postal

The good ship “Fru Alida”

Even less well known than Denmark’s triangular trade is the history of Danes and Norwegians as victims of slavery. North African pirate raids were a problem that affected coastal communities all over Europe, including England. This piece by Cato Guhnfeldt on the Norwegian experience is from the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, published in revised version in 2011. Bear in mind that Norway at this time was coupled with Denmark in a union of crowns, in which Denmark was the dominant partner.

“The veil of a forgotten but dramatic chapter in Norway’s history was drawn aside at the Cultural History Museum in Oslo on 12 May. The exhibition spanned the period 1500s to early 1800s, during which Norwegian-Danish merchant vessels in the Mediterranean were hijacked by (pirates of) the so-called Barbary states: Tripoli (today in Libya), Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. The first three were under the Ottoman Empire. It wasn’t just the Mediterranean. North African pirates ravaged northern Europe too, all the way up to Iceland.

This problem became so severe that the Danish king Frederik IV had to create his own “slavery kitty” (slavekasse) in Copenhagen in 1715 for buying the freedom of Danish-Norwegian sailors in captivity. “It was a humiliation for a Christian king that the nation’s seamen and marines on the king’s warships had to serve as slaves for a Muslim prince,” says Torbjørn Ødegaard, who has researched the subject. Thanks to the slavery kitty, most seafarers in the 1700s were bought free and returned to their home country. Entire ship crews could be trapped for two to three years before returning home. Before the slavery kitty was set up, if you were a captive, it would usually be for 18-20 years or on a lifetime. A few wrote books about their time in “Barbary” after their return. The majority wrote begging the family back home for help. Such letters can be found at the National Archives in Oslo.

Some of the sailors suffered cruel fates, according to Ødegaard. In the 1600s, the robberies mainly used galleys, rowed by thousands of slaves. Many were captured seamen. The galley ships were in practice floating concentration camps, where these slaves had fetters around their feet. They had to row with gloves so that the skin would not slough off. It was forbidden to communicate with other slaves, to prevent rebellion, and they were underfed. If they slacked at the oars, an arm or foot might be cut off pour encourager les autres.

In the 1700s, after the North Africans began to use hijacked merchant ships for piracy, captured seamen were used aboard as sailors, says Ødegaard. Other seamen ended up in hard slave labour building city walls or in agriculture. Young sailor boys in particular ended up as sex objects used by Turkish guards in Tripoli. In one case around in 1800, the European diplomatic corps protested to the Prince, stating that “... such acts are reserved for the female sex.” The guilty guard was arrested and handed over to the diplomats, with the prince’s message that they could do what they wanted with him.

But their fates were varied. While many were tormented from day one, younger, brighter slaves were used in court service. Such was the fate of 19-year-old Hans Jochum Schram from Bergen, who was enslaved in Tunis after the ship “Fru Alida” was captured north of Sardinia in 1747. Schram ended up as a chamber servant of Prince Selemang, the youngest of the country’s princes. He dressed in elegant clothes, lived far more comfortably than a sailor, and had good connections with the prince. In 1750, the freedom of Danish-Norwegian slaves was bought from the “slavery kitty.” Schram cried when he kissed his master’s hand at the farewell. Almost half a year later, he was reunited with his family in Bergen. Later, he wrote a book about his experiences, published in 1791.

The Danish King entered into a peace treaty with the pirate states in 1750, and sent gifts, weapons and annual payments to the North African princes. Nevertheless, outbreaks of violence led to the Danish-Norwegian fleet once bombarding Algiers, and at another time the pirate fleet in Tripoli harbor. Who today would know that Norway was at war with North Africa in the late 1700s?

As many as ten percent of the Nordic slaves may have converted to Islam, Ødegaard says. “If you did, you were a free man, but could not go home.” For most, North Africa became a brutal experience. But many of the prisoners were gifted observers who scrutinized the communities they had come into. When they returned to Scandinavia, they brought back much basic information in areas such as social relations, Islam, rituals, fasting, ramadan and prayer times. These sailors were thus our first experts in Islam.”

It gives a whole new meaning to the word Danegeld, doesn’t it?

Quotation from this slightly adapted translation is at user’s own risk. I take no responsibility for errors of translation. https://www.aftenposten.no/norge/i/oW4aR/Nordmenn-var-slaver-i-Afrika

© Joe Slater

For more on Scandinavia, please see my free book, Kebabville, which can be downloaded here.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Imagine Dragons - Thunder

Postcard from Köln

Wooshy, Going Postal

The York Cohort

Blown Periphery, Going Postal

In 1953 Harry Martingale an apprentice plumber was working in the cellar of the Treasurers House in York. The building had been acquired by the National Trust in 1930 and it required extensive restorative work. Harry was working up a ladder, knocking a hole through the ceiling for central heating pipework. He had fixed the ladder in place and was applying a chisel to the ceiling, when he heard a horn sound in the distance.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

We Must Restore Economic Growth

Going Postal, Godfrey Bloom
The UK is agonising over BREXIT, the debate drags on, the negotiations go nowhere, but we are addressing the wrong problem. Look at the numbers, forget the rhetoric. Small & medium size businesses account for 80% of the U.K. Economy, a figure not too far from that of most industrialised economies. We worry about BREXIT but European exports from the UK account for barely 8%. It is a bit like being a year behind with your mortgage payments but fretting over the milk bill.

What is the main bone of contention for small businessmen & women? Regulation! Heaps of it. There is no aspect of commerce which the State feels it is not duty bound to interfere. Paradoxically neither politicians nor bureaucrats have any experience of small business. The most crippling regulation is employment legislation. It is based entirely on the bizarre assumption that all employers are early Victorian mill owners. That without regulation they would starve & beat their employees unmercifully. Had they experienced real life they would know good employees are solid gold. Employers live in fear of losing them or not being able to attract them in the first place. This is reflected in post war employee benefits the envy of many other parts of the world.

I Learned About Flying From That

Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs, Going Postal

When I was a young boy, I hated flying. I mean, really hated it. I think it was due to a traumatic flying experience on a transatlantic flight to Florida in a 747, back in the seventies. We were unable to avoid a huge storm cell over the Atlantic and the entire plane was bucking like a feral cat held in a stranger’s cuddle and I could see the forks of lightning from outside the window. People were screaming and crying, the fuselage was twisting, luggage fell indiscriminately from the overhead lockers and I remember looking at my mother, her normal, calm angelic face now glistening in sweat and fear as she spoke in strained words to me that everything would be OK. I smelt the very essence of rancid anxiety and knew this wasn’t quite true. I was gripping the armrests as though I myself were keeping the plane in the air, hoping it would assuage the violent effects of the roller coaster ride of what professional aircrew understate as “mild turbulence”.

Saving A Civilisation – the Tenth Century Crisis and Some Lessons for Today

1642again, Going Postal

This article was inspired by a fellow commenter becoming despondent and stating that Western civilisation is finished, no longer possessing the mettle to survive. It’s not a view I share because we have been here before and come through, although that is no cause for complacency because to come through the present existential challenges facing us, we need to learn some hard lessons and adapt accordingly.

I have always been interested in inflexion points in history, moments where everything seems to change together so what went before seems wholly different to what follows. I’m not talking just about political change, or economic change, but deeper change, the change of peoples or their fundamental beliefs as well as economic and other changes. An example would be the period from circa 450 to 600 AD in Western Europe when languages, culture, peoples, states, economies, religions were all completely transformed over half a dozen generations. Another would be 1450 to 1600 AD, not quite as dramatic, but encompassing the Renaissance, Reformation, the emergence of the nation state from the ruins of medieval monarchy, the Age of World Exploration and trade, and the beginning of the modern era.

Jeremy and Seumas in 'Communist, Interrupted'

DH, Going Postal
"I can't do it, Seumas," came the jarring, reedy whine that had come to haunt almost every waking hour of the Labour Party's strategy and communications director for two long years. "It's been tampered with by Zionists."

Seumas Milne sighed but did not look up from the mountain of paperwork haphazardly strewn across his desk in the corner of the Leader of the Opposition's sprawling office within the Palace of Westminster.

"Try starting with the corners, like we discussed, Jeremy" he said, dismissively.

A pregnant pause filled the cavernous, wood paneled office. Milne continued to thumb wearily through a thick pile of correspondence and briefing notes, awaiting the inevitable.

The inevitable happened within half a minute.