On Extinction Rebellion and other doomsday cults

With the news this week of a family of cloggy Kaas Kops living in the basement of a farm for nine years waiting for the end of the world, perhaps we can poke some fun at the various Bedlamites living amongst us.

There’s plenty of examples to point at, they’ve been around for as long as humans have been around.

Millenarianism and apocalypticism are versions of this and students of history will pluck examples from thousands of years ago in all corners of the globe through to the present day.

Let’s start with the infamous Manson “family”.

Their beliefs were that Charles Manson was the reincarnation of Jesus and there was a forthcoming race war. The cult ended with the Waverley Drive murders, internecine murders and the trial and conviction of Manson.

Except it didn’t; murders were still committed by the “family” until the mid-70s. The cult members really had drunk deep from the well of Manson’s Kool-Aid.

Speaking of Kool-Aid, next we have the Reverend Jim Jones. For his first couple of decades of adult life, he led various churches which had increasingly cult-like qualities. The beliefs he promulgated were a mixture of socialism, nuclear apocalyptic prophesies and, eventually “transition” to another planet after suicide.

As investigations began to close in on his activities, he took nearly a thousand followers to “Jonestown” in Guyana and eventually persuaded many to commit suicide by ingesting cyanide mixed in the aforementioned Kool-Aid (where the expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” originates) or murder each other, including the children. Jones shot himself.

Over in Japan, Aum Shinryko was established by Shoko Ashara. The YouTuber Count Dankula has an amusing video on this group here, which is well worth a viewing.

Their beliefs were a hotchpotch of Buddhism, Hinduism and Shintoism with a spicy nuclear apocalyptic theme.

After a long history of extortion, violence and murders, they released the nerve gas, sarin, on the Tokyo underground with devastating effects.

Shoko was eventually hanged in 2018.

An interesting fact about the death penalty in Japan is that, once convicted, you aren’t given a date of when the execution will occur. You go to bed every night unsure if this is your last. If you’re still in your cell about an hour after breakfast, chances are you’ve got another day on the planet.

I can’t work out whether I think that’s “cruel and unusual punishment” or fitting for the crime.

Our next cult is the comet-hopping Heaven’s Gate. According to Wikipedia, they were/are (there’s still a couple of them around, apparently) a “UFO religious, New religious movement”, which as classifications go, surely can’t be a particularly large club.

Their belief system was based on the premise that the planet would be wiped clean and they had to leave to avoid being caught up in this global spring clean.

Have a read of their Wiki page and chuckle at how the beliefs had to be modified based on the inconvenient evidence of one of their key members dying rather than hitching a ride on a spaceship.

This change of belief resulted in a mass suicide to coincide with the arrival of the Hale-Bopp comet. The mass suicide was preceded by 8 of them voluntarily castrating themselves in 1997.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s probably fine if your religious belief involves an unprovable premise. After all, a synonym of that might be “hypothesis”.

However, if your religious belief requires you to murder others, mutilate the genitals of children or commit suicide, consider the possibility you’ve drunk the modern equivalent of Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid.

There seems to have been a bit of a theme running through all these cults where they are reacting to a catastrophic threat, be it religious, nuclear or alien, resulting in escalating extreme actions by the adherents.

So, all that said, what might history make of those crazy kids at Extinction Rebellion and the Swedish Cabbage Patch Doll, Greta Thunberg?

And whose fault do we think it might be that they have managed to wind themselves up into such a frenzy of fear?

History suggests one possible destination for some of the more gullible members.

Give me that old time religion

There’s a brutal civil war being waged within veganism, apparently.

Stop laughing at the back.

The battle is one between the highly-committed vegans and those who take a more casual attitude to it.

Of course, it’s all relative (as they say in East Anglia); to describe a lifestyle decision to cut meat and all animal products out of your life as “casual” is to minimise the contortions they must endure.

Nonetheless, the vegans are eating their own.

As an advert for the lifestyle, vegans are rarely attractive poster material, both visually but also psychologically. The “Vegan Comedy” Netflix category is not trending high in the charts for good reason.

Complete lack of humour aside, a simple skip through the article indicates underlying psychological issues with each of the adherents to this lifestyle;

Around his late 30s, however, Faulkner’s health began declining. He developed severe back pain and crippling haemorrhoids. He had so little energy that he was struggling to do his job as a primary school teacher. Worse still, he had erectile dysfunction, and was “even looking at using Viagra”. One day he was searching the internet for answers when he came across an Australian vegan YouTuber called Freelee The Banana Girl. Freelee, whose real name is Leanne Ratcliffe, is a former cocaine- and speed-using bulimic from Queensland who found fame in 2014 by spruiking a raw vegan diet that consisted of up to 51 bananas a day.

There’s quite a lot to unpack there…

Firstly, if Faulkner didn’t have back pain, haemorrhoids, and erectile dysfunction for the first 40 years of his (carnivorous) life, it seems less than logical to seek banana remedies from bulimic ex-junkies on YouTube rather than, say, medical professionals.

There’s more;

Freelee’s then boyfriend, Durian Rider (real name: Harley Johnstone), is also an avid vegan whose “fruitarian” diet allowed him to become an endurance cyclist.

Perhaps the least controversial thing one can say about endurance athletes is that they are an “outlier”. It takes a certain kind of mind to be motivated to train for events that require hours (or even days) of constant intense exercise.

There then follows a description of Faulkner’s Damascene conversion and transformation into a vegan activist. Once you’ve accepted as true one or two assertions, the logic takes you to several subsequent actions;

Call yourself an animal lover? If you’re not a vegan, you can’t be an animal lover. Call yourself an environmentalist? Animal agriculture causes up to 18 per cent of global greenhouse emissions – so unless you’re a vegan, you can’t be an environmentalist.

Here’s an interesting revelation though;

After leaving teaching, Faulkner started a business holding discos for primary school kids, but has now reduced his school visits from four a week to one per week. “I don’t have any children, so it’s enough for me to survive on.”

Hmm. More on that later.

Once you’re in the activist trench, you’re in deep;

Right now, his preferred form of activism is the Cube of Truth.

Originally developed in Melbourne, a Cube of Truth involves activists standing in a square, facing outward, holding signs or, in tonight’s case, TV monitors. The monitors, which are powered by a portable generator, play a constant loop of what is possibly the most confronting footage I have ever seen, including piglets in holding pens drowning in their own excrement, cows having their necks sliced open, and live baby male chicks being fed into a macerator, where they are ground up into pet food. ”

Here’s Andy Faulkner on a Cube of Truth event;

Strictly speaking, it’s a square not a cube, unless people are standing on people’s shoulders.

Bill’s Opinion

Muslims who murder non-believers in order to enter paradise are acting in a manner that is entirely consistent with their religion. It’s all there in their sacred texts, there’s no point criticising them for misinterpreting “kill the infidels“.

An argument with a jihadi on the basis of interpretation is a strategy bound to fail. The problem is far earlier in the logical sequence; the basis of the revelation is not sound. Mohammed didn’t have a direct line to Allah and therefore anything he wrote is false.

You know where I’m going with this….

Jihadis, in the West especially, are almost exclusively socially-awkward males who have been unsuccessful in many areas of their lives, be it career, romance, social, etc. By accepting one false premise, they then trace a subsequently highly consistent path resulting in their tragic actions.

Let’s return to the radical vegan, Andy Faulkner. It would seem from the article, the pinnacle of his career was being a Primary School teacher, yet he has no children of his own (is he single? We aren’t told). He seeks health advice from ex-junkies with eating disorders and endurance athletes on YouTube. He requires the rest of society to make a radical change to his chosen lifestyle….so we can all be as happy and joyous as him.

I have a question for Andy Faulkner; how tidy is your room?

Tastes like chicken

The scolds amongst us claim you can’t laugh at some subjects, and that comedy about certain topics is beyond the pale.

Perhaps, though, they mean one shouldn’t laugh….

Oh, hello;

This is a tragedy for humanity; unfortunately, David had already contributed to the gene pool, so does not qualify for a Darwin Award.

More than six months on, his family are still searching for answers after hearing conflicting accounts from those who were at the party and going without details from the coroner.

“Searching for answers”.

It’s a harsh message to hear that your loved one got drunk, ate a gecko, contracted “food” poisoning and died but it’s hardly the fucking Da Vinci Code, is it?

Beside the Logan River where he liked to go fishing, they placed paper boats in the water with messages they never got to tell him.

Presumably “don’t eat a gecko” was a common theme.

Dr Turner said a wide range of warm- and cold-blooded animals carried salmonella, including turtles, snakes, frogs and geckos, which have the bacteria in their gut.

….“It just goes to show that things as innocent as geckos can carry disease bacteria.”

Won’t someone think about the innocent geckos? Well, one innocent gecko in particular…

Bill’s Opinion

Take it away Gordon;

UK judge performs a miracle

….by making us almost feel sympathy for a cyclist, even one who has recently moved to the south of France.

A yoga teacher who stepped into the road while looking at her mobile phone has won damages from the cyclist who struck her

A yoga teacher AND a cyclist collided?

Wasn’t there an option where they both could have lost? Perhaps taking out three vegans as collateral damage?

The cyclist does seem to have acted reasonably and taken steps to avoid hitting her over and above the usual ding-a-ling and “Hey! Watch out!”:

She “panicked” and tried to dodge back to a traffic island, but the cyclist, who had been travelling at between 10-15mph, swerved in the same direction and hit her.

Mr Hazeldean had come through a green traffic light, and had sounded a loud airhorn attached to his Specialized roadbike, as well as shouting, swerving and braking in a bid to avoid the pedestrian.

Seems entirely her fault.

However….

Judge Shanti Mauger, sitting at Central London County Court, said the cyclist was “a calm and reasonable road user” who was “courteous and mild-mannered”.

But she went on to find that Ms Brushett deserved a payout, saying Mr Hazeldean “owed a duty to other road users to drive with reasonable care and skill.” 

Which presumably means riding at a snail’s pace in case something interesting is trending on a pedestrian’s Facebook feed that morning?

It all seems a bit silly really. Roads are for vehicles, pavements are for pedestrians, and the rules when those two worlds need to meet are fairly well-established. If road users now need to assume every pedestrian is going to randomly leap out in front of them, we may have just found the secret of full employment as everyone with a vehicle hires a person to walk in front waving a red warning flag.

What about this judge, Shanti Mauger, what other cases has she ruled on recently?

How about a cleaner who received ten gees’ compensation for slipping whilst cleaning a kitchen that was dirty. No, seriously.

Can we find anything else in the public domain about this judge?

Oh, her actual name is Claire, her middle name is Shanti, and her recently-deceased Dad was a not so happy clappy yoga devotee.

Wait, what? Yoga???

Bill’s Opinion

I’m going out on a limb here but do you think that maybe Claire Shanti let her own personal feelings toward the stupid yoga teacher interfere with the requirement to provide unbiased judgement based on the facts presented and the legal precedent?

I’m no legal expert but I’d strongly suggest the cyclist might want to consider appealing the ruling.

Ommmmm. And breathe.

From clogs to clogs is three generations

The title is a saying common in the north of England.

It refers to the phenomenon of generationally-wasted family wealth, i.e. the grandparent builds a successful business, their children manage it reasonably well, the grandchildren blow the fortune.

Consider this, then:

Tesco are launching a “no touch” packaging product range of ready-diced meat to tip into a saucepan because….

…..shoppers, particularly younger ones, were “quite scared of touching raw meat

What does this have to do with clogs and apocryphal stories of indolence and profligacy in the third generation?

Well, perhaps wealth can be considered as not merely financial. A tradition where self-sufficiency, fortitude and stoicism are seen as virtues might be viewed as inherited wealth.

The current crop of squeamish and picky eaters are deserving of extreme and frequent ridicule. It would be almost admirable if they actually had the stubborn discipline and bloody-mindedness to maintain a vegan diet and lifestyle but to resort to “no touch” pre-diced meat is the epitome of pathetic.

At a similar age, their grandparents and great-grandparents were taking the beaches of Normandy, suffering the privations of Ypres, sweeping up the post-Blitz rubble in London and making armaments in factories in the Midlands.

Bill’s Opinion

The title The Greatest Generation has already been taken, unfortunately.

Perhaps this lot will settle for The Coddled Generation?

Better suggestions in the comments, please.

Eat the rich

The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health brings together more than 30 world-leading scientists from across the globe to reach a scientific consensus that defines a healthy and sustainable diet.

The Commission is delivering the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system, and which actions can support and speed up food system transformation.

Right, so you’re going to tell everyone in the world what to eat. Ok. Good luck.

Why is the EAT-Lancet Commission needed?

Erm, I suppose the answer isn’t, “to give 22 full time staff and 30 affiliated scientists salaries and access to more research grants”?

Why is the EAT-Lancet Commission needed?

Food systems are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. They are the main user of fresh water, a leading driver of biodiversity loss, land-use change and cause eutrophication or dead zones in lakes and coastal areas. Simultaneously, unhealthy diets are the leading risk factor for disease worldwide, causing rapidly growing rates of Non-communicable-Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers. Vast global undernutrition is adding mounting pressure to these challenges. In other words, how we grow, process, transport, consume and waste food is hurting both people and planet.

That paragraph started and ended with concern about the planet, with a little sliver of concerns about people as the meat in the sandwich.

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement targets to reduce carbon emissions means urgently and fundamentally changing the way we eat and produce food. But key questions remain unanswered and a lack of scientific consensus is slowing down governments, businesses and civil society actors who want to take action

Right, so it’s less about what the best diet is for me and my family and more about how I can change my diet to achieve the godawful wealth transfer for no tangible outcome that is the Paris Agreement.

• We don’t have a scientific consensus to define what is a healthy diet for all humans.

• We don’t have a comprehensive review of how food production must change to be sustainable.

• We don’t have clear, science-based guidelines telling all actors how we can provide humans with healthy diets from a sustainable food system.

Yes, understood; it’s about the planet more than my health.

In fact, if you really have any interest in reducing malnutrition you’d be spending all your time and effort trying to continue this trend;

Seriously; something has gone very seriously right in the fight against global malnutrition. Work out what it was and do more of it and NOW.

Bill’s Opinion

When I want advice on what changes to my diet I should make, I will ask a medical professional, not a climate scientist, and the opinion I will seek will be specific, not general.

The 22 staff of the Eat Forum team are paid a salary from money donated by The Stordalen Foundation, The Stockholm Resilience Centre, and The Wellcome Trust, the first two of which have “climate” as their prime concerns.

Don’t take dietary advice from people who’s agenda is to save the planet before saving individual humans and who, in fact, view humans populations as an exercise in statistics.

“If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

File under: “to man with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail“.

We can save lives by taxing red meat.

The British taxpayers recently funded a generous research grant resulting in a report that explained to them why they need to pay more money for luxuries such as food because they are too stupid to eat a sensible balanced diet.

Taxing red meat would save many lives and raise billions to pay for healthcare, according to new research. It found the cost of processed meat such as bacon and sausages would double if the harm they cause to people’s health was taken into account.

Well, if you put it like that, who can disagree?

Presumably this research is solid and isn’t predicated on any assumptions that are easily falsifiable?

Oh;

Governments already tax harmful products to reduce their consumption, such as sugar, alcohol and tobacco. With growing evidence of the health and environmental damage resulting from red meat, some experts now believe a “sin tax” on beef, lamb and pork is inevitable in the longer term.

Really? Tobacco is taxed to reduce consumption?

How successful has that strategy been over time do we think, compared to other potential strategies such as an outright ban or simply reducing the locations where smoking is permitted?

And this tax on alcohol to reduce consumption, hows that working out?

Hmm, not the most successful initiative in human history, then.

Bill’s Opinion

As Tim Worstall points out, this study fails to consider one very important fact in its faux economic analysis; if people are dying early due to an unhealthy diet, they aren’t costing the taxpayer-funded health service a single penny the day after they die.

The great thing about the negative health consequences of eating too much red meat is that heart attacks often occur quite suddenly and the victim shuffles off this mortal coil with little warning or chance to incur expensive palliative care.

Prima facie, this is yet another politically-motivated report disguised as academic research. The answer was known before the study commenced.

Interestingly, I discovered this chart whilst researching relative prices for beef around the world.

The Uk is ranked #37 most expensive for a 1kg lump of cow. Counter-intuitively, that’s slightly cheaper than the US and Canada.

Amusingly, India and Venezuela are significantly cheaper. For very different reasons, best of luck finding a steak in either of those locations!

Vegan humour failure

tautology (noun)

1 the saying of the same thing twice over in different words, generally considered to be a fault of style (e.g. they arrived one after the other in succession ).

This definition amuses me. Although not a tautology in itself, it is verbose. My preference is, “redundancy of words“.

Anyway, “vegan humour failure” is clearly tautologous.

Witness;

Vegan pitches rubbish idea, is rejected in a mildly funny way, then gets the guy fired.

BuzzFeed reported that Sitwell, the former editor of Waitrose Food magazine, made the statement in an email to freelance writer Selene Nelson, who had pitched a series on plant-based cooking.

In his response, Sitwell reportedly wrote to her, “How about a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat? Make them eat steak and drink red wine?”

Not the funniest rejection letter in history, granted, but it’s not without humour.

Of course, if he’d have realised that it was going to be read by the vicariously offended, rather than just the original recipient, he may have worded it slightly differently. “No thanks, this is not of interest to our readers“, probably would have sufficed.

Here’s an interesting statement;

Following an uproar, Sitwell, who is also a food critic on BBC’s “MasterChef,” apologised and said that he is resigning from his position at the magazine, which states it features “recipes and articles from the world’s best chefs and food writers.”

An “uproar”?

I must have missed the edition of the Oxford English Dictionary where the definition of “uproar” was amended to include “half a dozen Twitter users complaining“.

Bill’s Opinion

The correct response to the criticism should have been, “it was a joke, feel free to laugh or fuck off“.

Instead, William Sitwell made the fatal mistake of apologising. This only encourages the social media mob pile on until their target’s career has been destroyed. Better still, if their life has also been destroyed.

The rule of our age is simple; never apologise, never explain.

There is another axiom we have been reminded of too;

There are three questions one never needs to ask;

1. Are you from Texas/Yorkshire/Queen’sland?

2. Do you do CrossFit/BootCamp?

3. Are you vegan?

For those of you who may have been traumatised by the gratuitous mentions of vegans in today’s post, here’s a soothing picture of a delicious serving of Steak Tartare;

Luxurious lamb

Welsh farmers will need protecting against evil foreign farmer following Brexit.

It’s obvious isn’t it, really?

The poor farmers of Wales will have to contend with the unfair competition from New Zealand farmers once the UK has exited the EU and struck trade deals with its former colonies.

This is indeed an economic tragedy on a scale of which there is no precedent.

Imagine the devastation to the British consumer of cheaper, market-priced food appearing in the supermarkets.

The Welsh Assembly is correct in its assertion that government intervention is required to ensure that no farmer is negatively impacted by this loss of EU subsidies and market protection from superior or cheaper imported products.

Or perhaps we are being sarcastic.

Bill’s Opinion

Why would the Welsh Assembly prioritise a small group of farmers above every carnivorous UK citizen?

The best interests of everyone in the UK who enjoys eating lamb is for them to be able to source a quality product at the best possible price.

Protecting a particular special interest group at the expense of the consumer is a return to mercantilism and the Corn Laws. Of course, this is precisely what the EU has been increasingly implementing over the decades following the UK’s entry into “The Common Market” (that was the name of the entity of which the 1975 referendum confirmed continued membership).

That joke isn’t funny anymore

Think of your favourite jokes, comedy sketches or scenes from a funny film….

What is the one common thread that ties those chuckles together?

May I suggest, “laughing at someone’s expense”?

At the root of every successful form of comedy is some level of poking fun at someone else or oneself.

Comedy needs a victim.

The victim is seen to be deserving for various reasons; hubris, pride, arrogance, stupidity, aggression, etc. but, for whatever the reason they have deserved to be the butt of the joke, we find it amusing.

The acts of smiling, chuckling or laughing at joke, sketches or slapstick are completely involuntary, it’s almost impossible to control in advance what one finds amusing.

Yet, apparently, “Food allergies are not a punchline“.

Bill’s Opinion

Be very, very afraid of the joyless people who require us to not laugh at a joke.

As P.J. O’Rourke explains, they’ve confused the fact that they would prefer it if we didn’t find something funny with the reality that we still do.

He gives the example of Helen Keller falling down the well and breaking 4 fingers shouting for help. We know we shouldn’t laugh at that but we still do.

Q. How do you know if someone is gluten-intolerant?

A. It’s the first thing they’ll tell you.*

* also works for vegans, boot camp participants or people from Yorkshire.