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THE BACKGROUND TO HISTORY, PART 4

Bit by bit, book by book, we’re coming to understand the British Empire for what it was: decades or centuries of terror and death for so many invaded and occupied peoples. Ferdinand Mount attacks those who still attempt to whitewash the Amritsar Massacre perpetrated by the British in 1919, but insists it was atypical of Britain’s evolving imperial sensibility in India. Empress at 12, teenage ruler of northern Italy, Matilda would have been the best-qualified heir ever to inherit the English throne, but it was not to be.

While we’re on historians, there’s a new book on “isolationist” historian Charles Beard, who rapidly went from prominent US public intellectual to pariah for his claims that FDR lied to Americans over its entry into WW2. A modern defender of Beard takes a look at his 1930s and 1940s arguments and legacy

TALES FROM THE TECH WAR

“Huawei doesn’t need a backdoor. It has a front door.” Huawei’s problem is its code is allegedly rotten. The reality about Google and Facebook’s targeted advertising that advertisers don’t know: it doesn’t actually work, not even as well as untargeted advertising, and personal info they’re stockpiling on us is useless. But why does social media make us feel bad? Because that’s the business model, stupid, and the unhappier we are the more we use social. 

A RISING TIDE DROWNS ALL PROPERTIES

We’re approaching peak fossil fuel: renewables will soon be so cheap we’ll reach a virtuous circle where fossil fuel companies lose value so fast they can no longer bribe politicians to retain the climate policy status quo. The downside… it won’t be enough to halt dangerous climate change.

Meanwhile, “every hour and a half, Louisiana sheds another football field’s worth of land”. And climate change isn’t even the main culprit there. The Saudi regime’s oil giant Aramco is terrified of people wanting to take climate action. And while I dislike the eating of mammals, this article is pure influencerfreude: vegan YouTube celebrities are being outed as consumers of animals and a veritable feeding frenzy (!) has ensued (trigger warning: article contains someone called “Rawvana”).

STAT OF THE WEEK (BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND!)

Quarterly jobs data came out last week and, as always, it’s a wealth of wonky information. In the three months to February, two of Australia’s big employers — construction and manufacturing — went backwards in trend terms. Manufacturing is especially concerning — it fell nearly 5% to 872,000 jobs, the lowest ever in trend terms. The services category, after some weakness in recent years, has resumed its long-term growth and topped 1.1 million jobs for the first time in trend terms.

But health and social care — the jobs monster of the Australian economy that few policymakers or commentators seem to fully grasp — added another 1.1% growth in the quarter in trend terms. That doesn’t sound much, except that 1.1% in health and social care is 18,000 extra jobs in just three months, taking the sector to over 1.7 million jobs for the first time ever. And health and social care is the female profession par excellence: just 22% of workers in health and social care are men, compared to 28% of that other “female” profession, education, which also grew 1.1% in the quarter. Both, over time, have become more female, and while that process has slowed to a halt in recent years in health, it continues apace in education. Our fastest-growing sources of employment are dominated by women.

OTHER PLACES

“A sexual and racial fantasy forged from a position of patriarchal and colonial power”: a fantastic piece from Winnie Siulolovao Dunn discusses the damage white people do when they tell stories about Pacific peoples. The French government-owned firm building Australia’s submarines is propping up the Saudi Navy’s potential war crime blockade of Yemen. Gordon Brown, one of the few recent British leaders who has grown instead of shrinking in stature after his time in office, offers a way forward on Brexit via citizen’s assemblies (in a piece for the Guardian, which was as relentlessly hostile to him as prime minister as the Murdoch press). Just relax about Trump’s trade deficit, already. One death you can’t pin on Putin: 60 years on, the Russians are reopening the investigation into the Dyatlov Pass deaths — get your UFO conspiracy theories ready. 

CORRIDOR OF METAPHYSICAL UNCERTAINTY

And finally, ever been to a baseball game with a philosopher? This prompted me to wonder how many philosophers had examined cricket, an older sport than the American silliness where every delivery is a full toss. There are of course the philosophers* who played cricket or loved it like Wittgenstein; CLR James, who devoted a major work to cricket; Samuel Beckett (the great all-rounder – opening batsman, Nobel Prize-winning dramatist and French Resistance member); Edward Craig; and Harold Pinter (notorious for his pauses between deliveries). But otherwise, the cupboard seems surprisingly bare.

There’s a stab at philosophy via the cricket ball itself and John Nicholson fondly recalls his Yorkshire grandfather who idolised slow batsmen, but otherwise slim pickings beyond a 2006 Radio National report. Over to readers: major works on philosophy and cricket I missed?

*I’ve expanded that to include historians, playwrights etc.

Peter Fray

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