Sunday, September 24, 2006

More diligent research from Nick

What is it with Nick? Even when he's right about some issue, he can't help writing about it in a way that makes him wrong. On a first reading, it looks like the point of Nick's main rant is to express his disgust at the way the super-rich get credit for their charitable giving. But by the time I'd reached the end of that section, it was pretty clear that Nick was only writing in order to have a dig at Muslims (in the shape of Cat Stevens) and to push the Eustonite line that promoting human rights are the best way of reducing global poverty.

On the first, I'd say that there's more joy in heaven over a sinner that repenteth, etc. Perhaps I'm more forgiving than Nick, but I rather think that the fact that Stevens now condemns terrorism and works for peace, love, understanding, and all that kind of stuff is a bit of a plus point, and that we ought to forgive him some of the absurd ranting he engaged in when he was a new convert about twenty years ago.

On the second, Nick writes:

If you go to the website, you will notice that none of the admirable charities it supports is dedicated to fighting poverty by spreading human rights.

Well, as a diligent Aarowatch investigator, I thought it my duty to follow up on Nick's claim and visit that very website. Among the listed charities, I found the British Red Cross, using the search box on their website I used the term "human rights". Guess what? BRC think they're rather important. But maybe I'm not reading Nick carefully enough? Perhaps he intends the emphasis to be on the "by" in "fighting poverty by spreading human rights"? On this reading, people who actually work against poverty and who actually promote human rights can still be the subject of Eustonite anathema even if they do a whole lot more than sit in front of keyboards in Islington or Didsbury.

Evil BB will no doubt comment on the details of the Plymouth Brethren and pensions section of the latest Nick. I'll confine myself to noting that the view that the state only respects its citizens as equals when it mechanically applies the same law to all of them without taking religious and cultural differences into account, is just extraordinarily crude. Should Sikhs get an exemption from motorcycle helmet laws?

Nick writes that the state:

can't be allowed to get away with a law which discriminates by creed. If we are going to cope with the stresses of multiculturalism, the state has to be above sectarian conflict and treat all people as equal citizens.

It is less obvious to me than it is to Nick, that the stresses of multiculturalism would be better coped with by, for example, banning Jewish and Islamic methods of ritual slaughter through a straightforward application of the animal welfare laws.

(Oh, and Nick would like us to know that he's met Jeremy Clarkson and hates Piers Morgan.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a commenter on Nick's piece has already observed, and Tim Worstall, further down, has expanded upon - charitable giving is tax-deductible in the US. Are the US rich not miserly anyway? If the 400 richest Americans are billionaires, then they have a lot of money to potentially give away, which they've clearly kept. Giving to charity may be a good thing - but for you and me, it's largely anonymous. For those who get plaques bearing their names "in museums, churches, hospitals, art galleries and universities" it has to be at least partly monstrous ego. Part of the divide between here and the US is how we react to ego.
We also have the Rowntree Charitable Trust, and I remember Alan Sugar praised Great Ormond Street because it survives solely on donations, partly from backers like himself.
I agree that Nick seemingly "can't help writing about ... in a way that makes him wrong" even when he's right. The rich in the US do not "give their fortunes away". Andrew Carnegie did; Bill Gates will give most of his away ... and that's about it. If the Fortune Forum has any ambitions, it won't really ask the rich to empty their bank accounts. The old mafia way was to keep taking a little at a time, that way there's always more.
What does he mean "ferocious moral earnestness of New England Protestantism"? He's not thinking of the Kennedys is he?

9/24/2006 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

No, the Rockefellers, presumably.

9/24/2006 01:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But maybe I'm not reading Nick carefully enough? Perhaps he intends the emphasis to be on the "by" in "fighting poverty by spreading human rights"?

I think the subtextual emphasis is on "fighting poverty by fighting wars".

9/24/2006 01:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He is indeed wrong on the subject of the Plymouth Brethren (like many other commentators, I think he has taken "Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit" to be an accurate description of the whole Brethren, rather than the rather odd Taylor Exclusive sect that Jeanette Winterson's family belonged to). A brief email to the Observer Readers' Editor has been despatched accordingly.

btw, BD, I am 99% sure that GOSH is an NHS Trust; not to say that Alan Sugar doesn't think this, but he might be wrong.

9/25/2006 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Off topic I'm afraid, but did anybody see Aaro's reply on Five's Don't Get Me Started to last week's Ted Honderich special?

9/25/2006 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger Captain Cabernet said...

No, because it isn't broadcast until tonight (Tuesday).

9/26/2006 07:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen Nick's letter in teh Independent today? Talking about Johann Hari's "hurtful" article"?

9/26/2006 09:37:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home