Playing the Dead

Back in 2004, I was playing in a band I was with for many years, called BAiT. At the time, we were writing material for a new album under a new line-up. Our keyboard player, Nick, shared a love of Prog rock, and we were making efforts to write generally concise and melodic songs using a pallette of Prog instrumentation, with Andy using a Rickenbacker 4001 bass and Moog Taurus bass pedal sounds, and Nick making extensive use of his genuine vintage 1973 ARP Pro Soloist keyboard, virtual analogue synths, and, perhaps notably for the guts of the underlying keyboard texture, Mellotron samples.

For those unaware, the Mellotron was a kind of proto-sampler, developed by Streetly Electronics in Birmingham, England, comprising a keyboard which played individual tape recordings of recorded instruments (or voices, or musical segments) for up to eight seconds. They were the mainstay of Prog and are easily recognisable for their distinct sound.

During the couse of writing one track for the album, at the time untitled, which we were working on as a group, Nick said something quite profound.

“Of course, you do realise that the people who played the actual instruments sampled on these tapes are probably dead now.”

His comment was latched on to and we instantly titled the song Playing The Dead, which gave us a concept around which to hang the song, and the lyrics for Andy, to whom the task of writing lyrics in group compositions generally fell.

The latest Star Wars film has seen a bit of a reaction in certain media about the use of the likeness of Peter Cushing, who played in the original Star Wars (A New Hope), but died in 1994. The assertion in the Guardian and Huffington Post is that the use of a CGI manipulation of Cushing is disrespectful. How exactly is this disrespectful, if Cushing’s family gave its blessing? And why do such objections not apply to listening to the vocal performances of now deceased singers?

Should we stop listening to dead singers out of respect? I imagine there were similar thoughts about capturing recorded human voices in the first place. Indeed, hearing Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinvil’s sound recordings from 1860 is a little eerie.

I’ve had a conversation a couple of times with people along the lines of how in the not-too-distant future, deceased artists will be able to be “resurrected”, thanks to technological developments.

In my head, I can conceive that we will be able to extract individual phonemes from an existing, isolated vocal performance of a now deceased singer and use these as part of a wholly original vocal performance in a new song. As technology improves, we will be able to refine this technique, synthesising missing phonemes and accurately altering pitch with ever-improving technology until the end result sounds authentic. Artists like Mike Oldfield have already made use of full voice synthesis, such as Vocaloid, but this still suffers from the “robotic” effect and remains unconvincing to the human ear, but this technology will inevitably improve dramatically.

Some may see this as weird, others will see it as disrespectful, but others still will see it as a yardstick against which we can see how these technologies are progressing.

And as uncomfortable as it may be to some, perhaps the idea of being able to interact with a level of AI in the guise of a deceased love one may actually provide a great deal of comfort for a lonely, old person in future.

Perhaps today’s great singers could oblige by providing recordings of themselves singing a range of words in different pitches to lay the groundwork for such a legacy. And if that seems odd, consider that as Freddie Mercury faced his own mortality, he was selflessly, and despite great suffering, busily recording vocal parts for his Queen bandmates, for songs he knew he would not hear completed.

For my part, I kind of look forward to a development which allows for a natural sounding synthesis of classic voices from the past and to hear these resurrected in new contexts. I see the recreation of a vocal part of a deceased person no more or less disrespectful than using a sound sample of them passing a bow across a string or blowing into a flute and I’m quite looking forward to future releases of long-deceased artists.

What finer tribute to their voices than making them alive and relevant again to future generations?

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Defending Ignorance

The news is awash with examples of reporters trying to undertake school tests intended for 10/11 year olds, and Caroline Lucas hit David Cameron with some grammar questions during PMQs today.

Comparing the grammar skills of generations who were not taught English grammar with those of youngsters who have been taught grammar rules tells us what exactly?

I’m not commenting on the matter of testing of young kids, to which I’m generally opposed, nor whether the methods by which children are taught grammar are good or bad, but based on the generally poor standards of written English widely on display by people who were schooled from the 1960s onwards, often put to shame by people who learn English as a foreign language, and widely complained about by higher education establishments and employers, something has had to be done.

As much as it may seem important that little Beyoncé can write creatively and rap about her interests, out in the real world it will be more important and will do her far more favours if she knows the difference between there, they’re, and their; two, to, and too; and that she never follows a modal verb with ‘of’, because she thinks that would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve are actually would of, could of, and should of when she writes in a professional capacity.

People judge a person with poor spelling and grammar, whether we like it or not. So, by all means dismiss the small matter of learning your own language properly for yourself, but can we please stop the knee-jerk anti-grammar crap, for the sake of our kids? Just because we don’t understand, because we weren’t taught it, doesn’t mean that they don’t.

Hiroshima – 70 Years On

  • Up to ten million civilian deaths in mainland Japan.
  • U.S. military casualties of up to one million (the U.S. still issues Purple Hearts from its stock of 500,000 made in anticipation of a mainland invasion of Japan).
  • 400,000 civilian deaths in Hokaido under Soviet invasion, following Soviet Union’s entry into war against Japan on 8th August 1945.
  • Execution of all Allied POWs in event of mainland invasion, following Japanese orders on 1st August, 1945.
  • Death of 250,000 civilians in China, Vietnam, and wider Asia for each month that the war continued.

These were some of the considerations in continuing with a mainland invasion of Japan and the issues which must have framed Truman’s decision to use the atom bomb.

Due to Tokyo’s largely wooden composition, 100,000 people died in there in a single conventional incendiary raid in scenes reminiscent of the attacks on Dresden and Hamburg. Conventional blanket bombing was hardly a sanitised procedure in comparison to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and death in a conventional firestorm no more humane.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not bombed without warning. In both cases, Japan was informed in advance that the Allies were in possession of a new weapon of unprecedented destruction which would be used if Japan failed to surrender. 

We are talking of a time of total war and unspeakable atrocities. Japanese atrocities in Manchuria are well documented, including bayonet practice on live civilians, burying alive, cannibalism and medical experiments on live prisoners, and worse. We should also consider that Japan is responsible for launching hostilities against the U.S.A. and was not shy in planning to visit death on its enemy. Japan was planning to unleash plague attacks on America shortly before war’s end in Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night.

Japanese bushido code had already been strongly in evidence in the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinowa. In Iwo Jima alone, only 216 out of over 26,000 Japanese soldiers were taken alive. The remainder died fighting or in ritual suicide. And then there were the mass civilian suicides, based on Japanese civilian fear of Allied reprisals for starting the war… fears which were unfounded when these civilians came into American hands.

Don’t misunderstand me, the use of the atom bomb in Hiroshima and then Nagasaki three days later, following Japan’s refusal to surrender, were awesome, in the true sense of the word, but the alternative scenario is easily overlooked and that scenario would have seen millions of more civilian deaths and untold destruction.

So, let us indeed commemorate those poor innocents of a country which is now a firm friend, who lost their lives and suffered from the long-term effects of the events which finally ended the Second World War, but let us do so in the knowledge that countless millions survived as a result of that awful decision taken by Truman in Potsdam.

We’ll never know the alternative scenario for sure, but it’s fairly clear that Truman’s decison was not one taken with sadistic relish, but after quiet reflection of the alternative scenario. It would be better if media considered this a little more in their reporting.

Blaming the Banks

Last night’s Question Time election special, which saw the leaders of the three main parliamentary parties face an extraordinarily intelligent audience (by Question Time standards) in Leeds gave Cameron the chance to pull out his prop, the note left in the Treasury by the outgoing Chief Secretary of the last Labour government, Liam Byrn.

This appeared to hit home with people again, especially based on the obvious anger directed at Miliband when his turn to talk came. Catherine Shuttleworth, who employs 76 people in a marketing company in Leeds, said that such an issue was no ‘joke’ – as Ed Balls has described it.

Miliband in turn used the defence that the poor economic situation was down to the financial crash.

Well, that’s not quite the full story. Labour had been ramping up the deficit prior to the crash, and Andrew Neil took Hilary Benn to task on this on today’s Daily Politics.

The key points:

  • In 1997, Labour inherited a national debt of £300 billion.
  • AFTER 14 years of economic growth and BEFORE the economic crash, in 2007, the structural deficit was 3% of GDP – the 2nd highest in the G7 and among highest in the 26 countries of the OECD.
  • The national debt had risen 43% to 500 billion in 2008 on the eve of the crash.
  • As the country lurched into recession in 2008, the IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies) said “We are entering the current recession with one of the largest structural deficits in the industrial world and debt levels larger than most industrial countries.”
  • The 2008 crash saw the onset of the deepest recession in British history. More was lost from GDP in the final two years of Labour government than during the Great Depression.

Benn initially disputed the figures, then tried to change the subject when Neil informed him that the figures were from the official Red Book figures of Gordon Brown’s treasury.

So, Labour and its apologists can stop blaming the banks. No doubt, the crash made things much worse, but the figures pre-crash speak for themselves.

Benn’s only defence (and it’s arguably a reasonable defence) was that the Labour government at the time was spending to invest in schools, hospitals, and public works. He couldn’t deny over-spending, but in essence was stating that the money had been well spent. It’s a legitimate point of view.

However, I got the feeling last night that Cameron’s message to stay the course to recovery resonated more with the audience and the post-Question Time polls seemed to confirm that. There was a sense that a Labour government would once again embark on a spending spree to buy their way to broad sunlit, economic uplands.

Labour may have been spending money well, but they were over-spending rather than building up a surplus during the years of growth and they were doing so on borrowed money.

A more cynical person might say “It’s easy to be popular when you’re buying drinks for everyone.”, but to continue this analogy, it’s not really fair to leave it to your guests, or worse still, your guests’ children, to pick up the tab.

Cultural Exchanges

Eureka! Here’s an idea that could keep everyone happy.

During the Cold War, NATO countries and the Warsaw Pact countries swapped spies over the Glienicker Bridge between Potsdam and West Berlin.

I suggest we come to a similar arrangement whereby those who are clearly unhappy living in the West are allowed to safely emigrate to a country which matches their world view. There are plenty to choose from.

Clearly, the likes of Anjem Choudhary and his henchmen are effectively ‘transculturalists’ trapped in a western bodies. I mean, come on… The funny clothes alone are a giveaway! We need to offer them the chance to liberate themselves from this bondage and to fulfil their destiny.

So, it strikes me that the solution is quite simple…

We allow these Islamists to take up citizenship of an Islamic country – Sunni or Shia, according to their choice – and, in turn, we offer a citizen of their chosen destination country the chance to move here in exchange. There are plenty of people who would jump at the chance.

This has several positives:

  1. Nobody can be accused of racism. In fact, since many Islamists are home-grown and we would be letting a foreigner of different race into our country, quite the opposite. Even better, let white converts to Islam be first in line, since converts are often the most pious and we don’t want to discriminate along racial lines.
  2. The Islamist gets to finally feel happy in their skin, like a transsexual who has undergone gender-reassignment surgery and feels at peace. It must be tough for them, after all, having to live a lie in the hell of a western liberal democracy.
  3. Those who are oppressed in Islamic countries (apostates, women, atheists, homosexuals, or other religious groups) get to move to a liberal democratic country more in line with their values and aspirations.
  4. Since the evidence suggests that many of these Islamists are low academic achievers and stuck in poverty and on benefits, which is often the justification for their ostracism advanced by their apologists, they would still start off relatively wealthy in many of their destination countries and would cease to be a drain on our country, freeing up space for their productive ‘exchange partner’.
  5. We offer an ambitious person stuck in an Islamic backwater the opportunity to start a new life as a positive contributor to a society in a liberal democracy… and there are millions who would jump at the opportunity.
  6. Our Islamist ‘exports’ would no longer have to put up with the hell of living in a haram society and could fulfil their destiny in any one of the many Islamic Utopias around the planet.
  7. We, who value secular values, would no longer have to put up with the endless whining of Islamists and concessions made to their faith, which nobody other than the more extreme factions of their communities and indigenous, multi-culti, useful idiots are demanding.
  8. The destination country could welcome a citizen more in tune with its values. For instance, Saudi Arabia could rid itself of persona non grata, Raif Badawi: a blogger recently sentenced to 1,000 lashes (to be administered in weekly bouts of 50 lashes), a ten year prison sentence, and a fine of one million riyals, for insulting Islam. This would save them the cost of imprisoning him and all that hard, physical labour involved in having to lash him every week over 20 weeks: assuming he survives that long, of course.
  9. Cartoonists would be free to draw what they like, and, since our Islamist buddies would have no knowledge of this, having forgone all western, haram technology – notably the microchips in most devices which originate in Israel – they would be blissfully unaware of any offence to their god or prophet. They could leave vengeance for such offences to their omnipotent and omniscient god and save themselves the bother of having to avenge on his/her behalf, which in itself is quite insulting to their deity.

Agreed? Great! Let’s make a start… the Bosphorous Bridge next Friday?

Dishonest Debate

I seem to spend a lot of time defending Ukip nowadays. I’m not a Kipper, nor will I ever be, as I disagree fundamentally with party politics, and, as with all parties, while I agree with some of their policies, I disagree profoundly with others – notably their attitude to Green issues. I do, however, share a broad outlook with them over two key policies: one is a desire to empower people through direct democracy, and, since it is anathema to any sound principle of democratic process, to withdraw from the EU.

Nevertheless, I do believe strongly in honest debate and oppose strongly those who misrepresent others, be it from genuine ignorance, more cynical reasons, or their own bigotry. Since Ukip are coming in for a great deal of flak, much of which seems based on prejudice rather than facts, I often feel compelled to defend them. If people are criticising them based on falsehoods rather than their actual policies, that suggests that they are unable to win the argument on policy.

A classic example of this came to my attention recently when a friend shared a post featuring this image:

IMG_0734

It attracted quite a bit of attention seemingly, but I found it both ignorant and bigoted. I’ve decided to take its authors to task over their key points. Their comments are in italics, followed by my responses.

“Telling people the problems we face are caused by others, be they immigrants or Europeans is not very nice.”

Your starter for 10: falsely equating a desire to control national borders (as we traditionally have done in modern history and as the vast majority of countries still do) with ‘blaming immigrants’ and then equating a desire to leave an undemocratic supranational organisation with ‘blaming Europeans’. Are you really so incapable of making a distinction between the EU (a political organisation) and European people? Really? By your own logic, since you clearly aren’t keen on Ukip, you must hate British people too.

“Locking down Britain’s borders will damage trade and make everyone poorer. We are a trading nation.”

This standard portrayal of Ukip as autarkist is simply bizarre! Exactly which part of leaving a protectionist club (the EU) which discriminates against non-members and precludes us from making bilateral trade agreements with non-EU members in order to open up trade to the WHOLE WORLD is ‘locking down borders’? Show me any Ukip document which talks of ‘locking down’ rather than ‘controlling’ borders. The difference may be difficult for some minds to grasp, but it is, well, ever so slightly important. Ukip constantly talks about opening trade to the wider, non-EU world. How can you turn that on its head logically and claim it means ‘locking down borders’?

Indeed, we are a trading nation, so we should be able to trade freely with the world, shouldn’t we? Or should we confine our trade to the conditions set out by a predominantly white club (the EU)? Frankly, your support for an organisation which specifically discriminates against non-EUers and puts up trade barriers with poorer countries sounds a bit racist to me. No, let’s ramp up the faux outrage rhetoric in kind… It disgusts me!

We absolutely do indeed require immigrants to support our economy, with a third of NHS staff comprising immigrant workers. This is a sad indictment of how bad we are at recruiting indigenous people into the health professions and does of course deprive poorer countries of their own medical expertise, but these are separate, albeit important issues. Ukip have no objection to such immigration, where it benefits our nation and Farage himself has said “[a] points based system will fill jobs needed.” In other words, where you have a situation where jobs can not be filled by British workers, you fill them with immigrant workers. This is precisely how many nations around the world operate.

“No political force in Britain has traded in this kind of politics since the 1920s.”

The fact that you can’t distinguish between free marketeers and fascists speaks only of your political ignorance. Which 1920s political movement was this? Assuming you’re equating UKIP with Moseley’s BUF (the 1930s is the decade you’re looking for by the way – Moseley was a Labour MP for most of the 1920s; but don’t let facts get in the way of your prejudices), you’re simply embarrassing yourself.

Try looking at a political compass and also grasping the difference between those who favour small government versus large government. I think you’ll find that fascism involved just a ‘tad’ of a role for government. The fascist movements of the early 20th century dogmatically rejected free market capitalism for a start and put the state at the heart of the economy. In the case of the Nazis (to give them their full original title, the NSdAP, or National Socialist German Workers’ Party), you may find a clue in that second word. National SOCIALIST. Socialism is not known for its love of free-market capitalism and neither was Hitler.

If we turn to the Left, your assertion that Ukip is trading on fascist ideologies is as ridiculous as someone claiming that Ed Miliband has Stalinist tendencies, or, given that the SNP waves its socialist credentials proudly and is nominally nationalist, that makes the SNP Nazis too! Well, I guess we should be on our guard for those upcoming ‘purges’ in Edinburgh then – The Night of the Long Cabers, perhaps.

“In fact WW2 was all about defeating a country whose people had been told they were being thwarted by outsiders.”

Brilliant over-simplification and revisionism over the causes of WW2! No role for long-standing anti-semitism, anti-Bolshevism, German imperialism, the Dolchstosslegende, anger at the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and a financial market crash resulting in a recall of US loans to Germany then?

Again, comparing Ukip to Nazism is causing me to react with ill-concealed laughter. It merely goes to show how ill-educated many people are about modern European history and politics. Whenever I hear someone equate Ukip with Nazis, to me they are proudly declaring “I know absolutely feck all about politics and history.” – all with a stupid, self-satisfied grin on their face.

“Blaming others is a route to power that leads to disaster because it has no positive aim.”

I’m glad that you don’t ever blame others for anything, but just to get this clear in my mind… You really believe, despite all that Ukip state, that they ‘blame’ foreigners rather than the EU as an organisation and our membership of said organisation?

From what I can see, the fundamental aim Ukip has is a desire to get to a situation where politicians are accountable to people. If you bothered to get past your prejudices and read up on the likes of Douglas Carswell and some of his work, for instance, you’d discover a group which fundamentally looks to empower the public. Direct democracy is a key tenet of this movement – a particular admiration for the Swiss system (a country outside the EU with over 25% immigrant population, by the way) of politicians being accountable to people through initiatives, referendums, and recall.

The great irony here is that Ukip is campaigning for precisely the politics the like of which many people call for – i.e. people power. If we had such systems in place and the assertion of the anti-war crowd – that most people opposed military intervention in Iraq – is correct, that war would never have happened. In any case, Ukip has explicitly called for non-intervention in foreign conflicts which don’t directly concern the UK.

“You ridicule politicians in all parties who are attempting to negotiate the future and label their fractious democratic discussion as weak.”

I think you’ll find that a great deal of modern comedy ridicules politicians, and Ukip is on the receiving end of much of this satire. Your simplistic narrative is easily understood and peddled by politically ignorant people and serves the established parties well too. The political establishment hates and fears populism. From what I’ve seen, Ukip have offered and continue to offer to debate seriously the pro-EU parties over these issues. To date, and to his credit, only Nick Clegg has taken up the challenge and the result of that was, based on the polls, a sound thrashing for Clegg. But at least Clegg had the courage of his convictions, which is more than can be said for Ed Miliband, who has also challenged Farage to a debate, but, having had his bluff called, turned tail and fled.

Giving people real power and making politicans accountable through mechanisms such as recall is the last thing the Westminster establishment wants, which is why, despite the best efforts of Ukip’s two MPs and honourable MPs such as Green MP Caroline Lucas, real recall was recently quietly snuffed out (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29784466).

“You are promoting apathy in the political process while energizing (sic) your own supporters.”

Russell Brand is promoting apathy. Ukip is promoting withdrawal from the EU and political empowerment of the public – views which used to be shared by honourable members of the Left and are far from apathetic.

“I am unclear what your vision is? (sic)”

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=ukip+policies

“What unites human beings is huge and wonderful. What divides human beings is small and weak”

How very dangerously naive! Your view is based entirely on a comfortable, decadent, modern, western, largely secular, and Euro-centric view of the world – the view of the historic appeaser which history tells us is ultimately defeated; the rather bizarre notion that everyone shares your compassionate, post-Enlightenment, liberal views. For elimination of doubt, and to quote Orwell, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

There are people in the world right now who would gladly sever your and my heads, just because we don’t share their religious beliefs. No amount of appeasement or pacifism on our part would save us. This is all happening a mere 2000 or so miles away. As I write these words, I have just read of a judicial execution of a man in another culture. His crime? He loved another man. Another news item on the BBC asserts that there have been 5000 killings by Jihadists in November alone – many of the victims were children (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-30426468). Your energies might be better spent opposing clear and present dangers in the world, even if they don’t directly affect you at this time, rather than the dangers of an imagined manifesto you somehow simultaneously appear to have made up/claim be ignorant of! Please read some more history and current affairs with a more open mind, I implore you!

“The politics of division is unattractive”

On that we can agree. If it were down to me, government would be formed by the whole of parliament working within a semi-direct democracy, where any government policy would be made in the certain knowledge that it would be at the mercy of public initiative or referendum at any point. There would be no systematic, adversarial politics. All parties in parliament would be in power so that the WHOLE public would be represented at all times and not just the alternating interests of small group of political clubs and their adherents. The public and the media would take the role of the ‘opposition’, or scrutiniser of legislation – a role the latter currently fulfils far more efficiently than the official parliamentary opposition does. There would be no more divisive party politics!

“I think elections should be huge celebrations of opinion.”

Only celebrations of opinions of which you approve though, right?

“I don’t think you offer anything positive.”

Given that you freely admit that you are ignorant of their policies, how could you?

If you want to criticise Ukip, do it on the basis of their actual policies and not ones which you project onto them. I very strongly oppose their stance over green issues, for instance, and will happily debate any Kipper on those issues, but I don’t embarrass myself by making out that they’re some re-hashing of an early 20th century fascist party! They’re openly free-market liberals, small government and direct democracy advocates, who propose a meritocratic, points-based system to allow immigrants from any part of the world who can serve the UK economy to enter the country. And they favour trade with the whole world – not just the EU. Criticise those policies, by all means, and there are plenty of people who do.

One more question though… Can you really justify why a white, unskilled Bulgarian should have greater rights to enter the UK than a skilled Indian? It’s irrational and frankly, well… it appears to be a bit racist too. That is today’s situation in reality. It is those who favour today’s status quo and membership of a predominantly white, undemocratic, protectionist supranational organisation who have some questions to answer and positions to defend – not those who advocate open world trade, more open democracy, and accountability of decision-makers to those whom they claim to serve.

So drop the moral outrage and understand that many of us who are seemingly better informed than you (based on your self-declared ignorance) are far more enraged than you about the way party politics works today, and the disenfranchisement of the electorate, and are pretty bloody furious about both it and useful idiots like you, who continue to enable things to carry on as they are by playing the man, not the ball.

Come back and debate real policies when you’ve bothered to read up on them, rather than peddle your own bigotry.

Tyranny of the Majority or just True Democracy?

This blog entry is based on a comment I wrote in response to an article at http://nationalinterest.org/feature/switzerland-the-ultimate-democracy-11219, which, whilst highlighting the pros of Direct Democracy, makes reference to the ‘tyranny of the majority’. This is my response…

This concept of the ‘tyranny of the majority’ always fascinates me, or more accurately annoys the hell out of me. Isn’t that actually true democracy? Exactly how can a small group of people (i.e. politicians) who ride roughshod over the will of the people, promoting their own political agendas, careers, and vested interests over the best interests of the nation as a whole be considered a better alternative? On whose say-so are the laws passed in a representative democracy in any way fair, or, to turn around the accusation, ‘non-tyrannical’ if they go against the will of the majority of the public? It’s a nonsense.

Switzerland’s population comprises 28.9% foreigners – outside micro states and the duchy of Luxembourg, the highest proportion of foreigner inhabitants in Europe. To say that these immigrants are in any way persecuted suggests that they are masochists. They are hardly oppressed enough to vote with their feet, so maybe the the touted ‘oppression’ isn’t quite ‘oppressive’ enough to make them want to leave.

The article raises the issue that there is a vague suspicion that the Swiss may have voted to ban ritual slaughter originally as a means to oppress the Jewish population. Is there any evidence for this outside the vague suspicions of the multiculturalist’s agenda? Perhaps it should be taken at face value that most westerners and animal rights groups find the slaughter practices of certain other cultures against our norms of decency with regard to the humane treatment of animals. In any case, it doesn’t seem to have had Jews fleeing the country in droves, unlike other more ‘culturally enlightened’ countries in recent years, where the active promotion of multiculturalism has led to an emboldening of less enlightened attitudes and practices. Witness the history of honour killings, child rape, veiling, Muslim patrols, and, ironically, the flight of Jews in droves from several European cities where Islam has taken a foothold. Most recently, witness the shocking events in Rotherham.

What’s often overlooked in the dash to promote multiculturalism is that a country’s inhabitants have a right to their own culture and they have a perfectly legitimate right to maintain that culture – part of the very aspect of the nation which attracts visitors and immigrants. Since culture encompasses morals and values, an indigenous population should have every right to seek to protect its own culture and to prevent the promotion of other cultural practices or symbols which conflict with the indigenous culture.

And yes, this even extends to preventing the building of minarets. In what sense does the desire of a minority to build a minaret trump the majority’s desire not to have a minaret any more than an individual’s request for planning permission to build an eyesore would trump the majority’s desire for the eyesore not to leave the drawing board? Is the minaret required for worship? Even if it were, why should the majority tolerate something they don’t want – even if their desire to not have it were regarded as baseless by others?

The ‘tyranny of the majority’ is not really tyranny, but represents another misuse of language, in the same way that ‘race’ has been misused to encompass religion, or Israel, the only viable liberal democracy in the Middle East, is incorrectly described as ‘apartheid’.

Muslims are still free to worship and even to build mosques in Switzerland. There is no suppression of actual human rights – merely behaviours which don’t fit in with the host culture, and the majority of a host nation has more of a right, as the established population, to a vague dislike of foreign cultural practices than a minority does to promote them.

The Swiss are clearly keen to avoid the ‘tyranny of the minority’ of elsewhere – where cultural vandalism happens on the say-so of minorities, or more often than that, not the minorities themselves, but a minority within the minority, or of cultural Marxists, keen to push their cultural relativist agenda, encouraging multiculturalism, segregation, misunderstanding, and ultimately behaviours which, whilst tolerated or normal in other cultures (child marriage, child abuse, wife-beating, homophobia), are illegal in Switzerland.

Can those who oppose ‘tyranny of the majority’ say in all honesty that they are happy with political decisions made on their behalf? I have yet to meet someone who is. A quick check on social media suggests otherwise. Even if they are happy when they ‘get their way’ and legislation is passed which they support, but the majority oppose, what kind of anti-democratic mind endorses this state of affairs?

True democracy means we occasionally don’t get our own way. A mature democrat will accept the will of the majority, even when it goes against their own views.

Ultimately, the majority doesn’t have to justify its actions to anyone. So long as it doesn’t transgress real human rights (as many of the immigrants’ own cultures do), it has an absolute right to do what it wants. And despite the protestations of some, the number of foreigners living in Switzerland tells us all we need to know about the reality of the situation.

Back to the wider point of Direct Democracy, we, in the representative democracy world, have widespread disillusion with politics, as has been clearly demonstrated by turnout in elections over several years now. The electorate knows that politicians, once elected, can ride roughshod over electoral promises or public opinion. Worse still, they can do that with absolute impunity and without the threat of recall. We have widespread criticism of politicians and the decisions they make across mainstream and social media, and the rise of the anti-politician, such as Russell Brand. This latter development is particularly dangerous. I wonder if we can cite any historic examples of charismatic ‘leaders’ preaching messages against democracy and advocating revolution. Hmm….

We see demonstrations almost every weekend around the country over a wide variety of issues, and yet it doesn’t take much to realise how ineffective these are in comparison to the power of the citizen initiative or referendum. And here’s the odd thing… Most demonstrations I can recall in the UK involve issues which one would normally associate with demands of the political left. The only exceptions which come to mind are the Countryside Alliance’s demonstrations and the marches of the EDL (although these were countered by the AFL, which, oddly enough, seems happy enough to march alongside proponents of conservative values, so long as they aren’t western ones).

Ironically, however, those who demonstrate in the streets to get their way, who complain about any proposed privatisation of the NHS or about UK intervention in foreign wars are not the ones who are advocating the kind of system which could see them win the argument – i.e. Direct Democracy. Rather, it is the younger political wing of the Conservative Party and UKIP (more commonly seen as merely an anti-EU party, or by lazy thinkers as BNP lite) which argues for initiative, referendum, and recall – the core components of Direct Democracy: people like Zac Goldsmith, Daniel Hannan, and Douglas Carswell: the latter having recently defected to UKIP following frustration at the lack of political reform in the Conservative Party.

There is a clear answer to the disenfranchisement of the electorate and that is Direct Democracy. Switzerland shows that, as conservative as it is perceived to be, liberal and progressive measures do make it to a public vote and occasionally become law, whereas such policies don’t usually get anywhere near becoming laws in representative democracies, due to the lobbying power of special interest groups and big business.

Wilful electoral withdrawal by the majority of the electorate and the governance of special interest groups and influence of big business is of far greater concern than any imagined ‘tyranny of the majority’.