Fabulous Fascism – Comments

A comment on yesterday’s piece by Quentin Cockburn on Fascism from our Musical Dispatchee.  He writes

Quentin, Very interesting that bit about fascism.  (I think I used fascism in one of the earlier dispatches.)
When you research fascism you find all sorts of clear as mud explanations and contradictory definitions.
I myself have no problem with using the word as an emotive word.
When I say Tony Abbott is a Fascist I know exactly what I mean and I reckon a whole lot of people agree with me.

Apart from the Title alliteration, my favourite line is:

…..a sort of folk dancing version of Pol Pot……

Incidentally the “Fabulous Fascism” reminds me of John Lennon ….. “Great Britain, Great Britain what sort of name is that for a country? Why not Amazing America or Fabulous France”

Not sure but he may have had a few more such as ‘Beautiful Belgium” etc.

By the way…. Couldn’t agree more with your observations about the DLP having at last had an electoral victory.

Am old enough to clearly remember Mannix, Santamaria and their cohorts. They were carrying on with their sneaky campaign when we (the Baarda’s) arrived in Australia. It didn’t take us long to tweak to what was happening.  Southern Dutch families with large numbers of children (yeah I know you come from a large family, so did my mother. These families were large for a completely different reason) had preference over small northern Dutch families, and not just because of the numbers (Populate or Perish). Well earned was Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell’s anointment as a Knight of Columbus.

Nazi rally(From my father) Dr. Goebbels was to make a speech at the 46,000 capacity Rheinland Stadium in Oberhausen.[1] Fifteen-year-old dad went along with a group of youths from his neighbourhood.

All took whistles that they intended to use to disrupt the speech. Joseph Goebbels started: “Deutsche Männer und Frauen…”German men and women…” …absolute silence, no one dared to pull out their whistle…Goebbels then launched into his usual propaganda rave.

On the way home the reaction from dad’s mates was “Der hat recht!”…He’s right you know!

The Nazis had set up soup kitchens (‘Brown Houses’) where you could get a feed and a brown uniform. According to dad, the hungry, unemployed and poor population was “heel makkelijk overtuigd” Very easily won over by Nazi propaganda.

Dad’s attendance at the rally reinforced his belief that ‘the game was up’.

[1] Oct’08- In reply to an email: Frank Dittmeyer, MA Geschichtswerkstatt Oberhausen has sent me the following information: “In 1933 a mass meeting took place in the stadium…the principal speaker, Goebbels…Es gibt sogar ein Foto von diesem Tag, das ich beifüge” (there is a photo from that day, which I attach).

So again, minor details confused in time: the rally took place in the summer of 1933 (not 1932) and the stadium was the Niederrheinstadion (lower-Rhine stadium) the Rhine Stadium per sé is in Dusseldorf.  Unless it happens there were more than one rally.


Fabulous Fascism

by Quentin Cockburn

Hanging Rock and Fashionable Fascism – a postscript.

There is a fundamental difference between German fascism as practised in the 1930’s and the current platform of economic rationalist Thatcherite fascism touted in Australia today.  And that difference is about landscape and nature.

Hanging Rock, if it were in Germany, and had a longstanding tradition of deep spiritual significance, (other than the 40,000+ years of indigenous reverence) would be out of bounds to any developer.  The Nazis were nuanced in their hatred of culture.  They deplored the degenerate trends of modernism yet yearned to be at one with ancient traditions and landscape, a sort of folk dancing version of Pol Pot.

The Germans as a nation revered their landscape.  In Germany, then as now, there are places along the roadside set aside for quiet contemplation, no interpretive centres, no public safety warnings.  The German love for their landscape is a sacred tradition bound up in teutonic legend and genuine engagement with natural history and traditions of deep seated health and wellbeing.  Wellness for Germans is not to attend a seminar or be pummeled under the para protestant pullulations of Pilates, but to take off their clothes and go for a walk in the forest.  It’s a deep inner pagan tradition, of nudity and self absorption in nature that christianity could not bludgeon.  Though kitsch, the Nazis through such organisations as ‘Strength through Joy’, and the youth hostels movement, the Hitler youth and the BDM, (a sort of psycho fascist girl guides) were intent upon personal experience and bonding through an association with their landscape.  Trekking, singing songs and rejoicing in nakedness, the exhilaration of swimming in sub alpine lakes, more walking, the transcendent mystery of the forests and the adoration of the clouds adorning the peaks.  Wagner used this common affinity to superheat his vision of the Germanic hero.  Hitler utilised the landscape as the wild, tamed, and sensuous source of human dignity, and for the oppressed urbanites the concept of Wildgarten, gave them a taste of the paradise, eternal, that nurtured and sustained that forest derived eternality, of goth, and knight and king.  Their buildings were oppressive, overblown and ugly, yet their landscape derived works, still stand, (bridges, walking paths, and hostels) to enrich and endure.  The Germans prior to World War 1 were considered to be the great romantics of Europe.  From then on a new stereotype emerged, but even in the darkest days of nazism the idea of clear felling an ancient forest, of cutting a road through wilderness, mining in a park, or demolishing an ancient village for a subdivision would be anathema.  Like Ed Maggs description of the London Masterplan of 1944, the Germans ,(like the English) had such a profound love of landscape they ensured that the best bits, (not the really poor areas, as part of it was to quarantine ‘nice’ country from poor bits) of it would be protected, (and we’re talking about a whole range of landscape types here) into perpetuity.

In Australia we inherited perhaps the deepest cultural association with the land on earth We dismissed it as rubbish.  We actively eradicated the original inhabitants claim to dignity, humanity, land and displaced it with a worldview of assimilation and acclimatisation.  We still think that way.  As a nation our association with the landscape has devolved.  Between One hundred and fifty years ago (this is arguable) substantial tracts were set aside as national parks, to be preserved as national capital.  Since then those wise heads have been replaced by those who seek only monetary capital.  They regard the land as worthless and dangerous.  How can you expect them to understand an eco system as complex and tiered as Australia’s?  It requires active engagement and a willingness to look, listen, touch, feel, and study.  Instead, they destroy what they do not know.  Australia has ignored the great tradition of landscape appreciation we acquired, and has not been able to replace it with another.  Our view of land is defensive and exploitative.  We are the real nazis as we have shown an ideological incapacity to accept anything beyond a very narrow determinist viewpoint.  This tendency is increasing.  And the paradox is that the more we abuse it, the more it will bite back, the more we will burn and crush and destroy in our fury, because rather than listen we dictate!  And expect the land to do as ordered.  Ultimately our insecurity increases, and the drift moves further to the right.  Eventually eco systems that supports us will cease to function.

It’s ironic. We only have ourselves to blame.  But the blame will likely fall on the original custodians instead.

Indigenous Space part 3 “Educational Implications”

Christine Nichols concludes her discussion of Indigenous spatial concepts and its educational implications.

In February 2011 the Australian Institute for Teaching and Learning (AITSL), a contributor to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), released a document titled National Professional Standards for Teachers. One of AITSL’s key categories was titled “Professional Knowledge”. Its Standard 2, which reads:
Know the content and how to teach it
has several subsections, of which Focus Areas 2.4 and 2.5 are relevant in this context.

Focus Area 2.4 reads as follows:

Understand and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

while AITSL’s Focus Area 2.5 has as its major thrust Literacy and Numeracy strategies. The idea of an integrated curriculum is thus intrinsic to the conceptual approach mandated by those charged with overseeing the writing of the as-yet not-fully-rolled-out (or even completed) Australian National Curriculum.

Nonetheless, educators contributing to, writing and implementing these national curricula will be expected to “embed” literacy and numeracy strategies as well as Indigenous knowledge/s into diverse subject areas, including English and the arts.

Such a cross-curricula approach means that into the foreseeable future Australian maths and science education will need to be conceptualised outside of what are often perceived as those disciplines’ own self-referential silos.

There is an opportunity here to include such Indigenous knowledge in the new mathematics and science curricula, especially. There are many potential applications for spatial analysis in fields beyond the playing field: in computer science, mining, astronomy and many fields of research. It will enrich all Australian children to learn a little about Indigenous mathematics in the new curriculum, and will provide Aboriginal kids living in “outback” Australia and others too, a real chance to shine.

We have a clear choice here. The easiest, most likely option is for teachers implementing the new national curriculum to pay mere lip service to such integrated curriculum approaches.

The more difficult pathway will involve taking these ideas and shaping them into a curriculum that goes beyond inclusion of “Indigenous perspectives” but foregrounds “Indigenous knowledge” at the level of the episteme.

This is from an article first published in The Conversation

Indigenous Space Part 2 “A different spatial outlook”

Christine Nicholls continues her discussion of Indigenous spatial understanding.

Australia’s Indigenous languages are rich in spatial terminology. As linguist Mary Laughren once noted:

Desert children’s ability to handle directional and spatial terminology in particular is taken as a sort of intelligence test similar to the counting prowess test among Europeans.

This ability, to handle sophisticated terminology about space and directionality with confidence and accuracy, and the concomitant skill in land navigation even when one is completely surrounded by desert, is inculcated into children from the earliest infancy, even today. My own observations based on more than a decade of living at Lajamanu confirm this, and the former principal of Yuendumu School, Pam Harris, has written about it extensively.

Preschoolers, only two or three years of age, could confidently name all the cardinal directions by the time they entered school and instantly apply them with almost 100% accuracy no matter what environment they found themselves in – a learned skill essentially deictic in nature, that most children in our dominant culture Australia are still struggling with at 15 or 16 years of age.

Wendy Baarda, a teacher and linguist who has been living for many years at the Warlpiri settlement of Yuendumu (where little Liam Jurrah, and many others like him, first kicked a footy) drew attention to this commonplace linguistic and deictic ability in the following anecdote:

One of the school’s Warlpiri Literacy workers was walking along carrying her baby who was about 18 months old. A bystander (another Warlpiri adult) called out to the child to get its attention. The child heard the voice but could not locate the person, so the speaker called out again, this time supplying the direction in which the child should look: ‘Kakarrarni’ – towards the east. Immediately the baby turned its head and looked in the right direction, towards the speaker.

One important difference, in relation to the dominant culture of this country, is that a person’s limbs (“left” or “right”) are not to be regarded as fixed entities in relation to self, as is implicit in the formulations “left” and “right”. Rather, they are conceived within a much broader context of spatial relationships with respect to the exterior world. So, in accordance with the specific spatial circumstance, a person might talk about one’s north, south, east or west hand (or leg).


When one is continually on the move (or run) within 360° of open space, albeit with the intention of reaching specific goalposts within that space, the formulations of “left” and “right” in relation to one’s own body have little or no meaning. This form of spatial apprehension is not restricted to people in the Central or Western Deserts of Australia, but ubiquitous throughout Aboriginal Australia, and as a method of orienteering one’s way through space, survives even where the local languages are faltering.

The American linguistic anthropologist John Haviland has written about the importance of cardinal directions for the Guugu Yimithirr (alt. Guugu Yimiddhir) people of Northern Queensland, in terms of position finding while in motion:

… Speakers of the Australian language Guugu Yimithirr (hereafter GY) at the Hopevale community near Cooktown, in far North Queensland, make heavy use in discourse about position and motion of inflected forms of four cardinal direction roots – similar in meaning to north, south, east, and west. The system of cardinal directions appears to involve principles for calculating horizontal position and motion strikingly different from familiar systems based on the anatomies of reference objects, including speakers and hearers themselves.

Rather than calculating location relative to inherent asymmetries in local reference objects, or from the viewpoint of observers themselves characterised by such asymmetries, the GY system apparently takes as its primitives global geocentric coordinates, seemingly independent of specific local terrain and based instead on horizontal angles which are fixed, as it were, by the earth (and perhaps the sun) and not subject to the rotation of observers or reference objects.

While I have barely touched upon the complexity of these systems here, they have largely survived, not always in intact form, the vagaries of colonisation. Their survival is most evident in rural, tradition-oriented Aboriginal communities, but it persists across generations, following Indigenous diasporic movement into Australian country towns and big cities.

This culturally specific form of mathematical knowledge, intergenerationally transmitted, imparted in its most intact form via Aboriginal languages, plays itself out not only on the AFL field but in tradition-oriented Aboriginal art, and has an important role in other Indigenous knowledge.

The ability to apply such knowledge is a product of nurture, not nature – it cannot be genetically transmitted any more than it is possible to transmit concepts about number and computation to other little Australians, except via processes of acculturation.

This is from an article first published in The Conversation

Poetry Sunday 23 February 2014

Publishers of Passive Complicity invited themselves to our Poetry Editor, Ira Maine’s Country Seat for a serious business meeting.    Ira was concerned, however, that  Quentin Cockburn would deliberately shorten his (Ira’s) life by infecting him with the rampant dose of flu that he is carrying.  (Cecil Poole, robust as ever, has no such fears, deluded man that he is.)

Our gallant and ever modest Poetry Editor took to verse to alert us to his concerns, proclaiming: “Another priceless jewelled treasure, entitled;”

One Flu’ Over
There was a guy I lately knew,
Fella by the name of Drew
Who  thought it quite the thing to do,
To invite his mate around (with ‘flu)
And offer us, by free dispenser,
Ten days of awful influenza.
Nor cared a fig by day or night
That he’d confer on us a blight?
The blokes so nice, so full of charm,
He’d hardly do us any harm?
You’d ne’er suspect he was desirous
Of stuffing up our lungs with virus!
I told him stop! you cannot come!
Reversed my fist; bent down the thumb
And said ‘Fridaze a really dumb day!’
“OK’ he cried,’We’ll come on Monday!’
And, as if to nearly make us cry,
He said, ‘Look here, I’ll bring a pie,
And pots of things for the occasion.
Would you like some Yuletide decoration?’
‘As for your boots- I’ll bring some Dubbin!
Fresh butterflies and Dave McCubbin!’
He’s the one, twixt me and you
Who says he’s now not got the ‘flu,
If this be lies, tell all and sundry,
I’ll box his fucking ears on Monday!
Having no idea when to stop he added this a day or two later
Now you’re up here, away from home,
(Not too insulted by the poem)
Not answering in sentence terse
Insinuations from my verse.
Not going home, your plans reversin’,
Not bidding ‘cheerio’ to Merton,
Or pleading with your mate, Jeremy,
To take me out the back and bury me.
I feel it safe now to emerge,
Now that I’ve come back from the verge.
By Monday lunch, if you’re not calmer,
I’ll probably wear a suit of armour!
(Can Poetry Sunday get any better than this?)

MDFF 22 February 2014 Indigenous Space part 1 “AFL and Education”

It’s time we draft Aussie Rules to tackle Indigenous mathematics

This is the first of a three part series addressing the educational implications of Indigenous concepts of space, written by Christine Nicholls and first published in The Conversation.

When discussing how to embed Indigenous Australian knowledge and practices into the Australian national curriculum effectively – particularly the maths curriculum – there’s no better place to start than analysing our own distinctively Australian national sport: AFL, the winter game.

Why, you might ask. Well, have you ever wondered why Indigenous players frequently excel at Aussie Rules, where they are vastly over-represented in the national AFL competition?

In populist discourse, the exceptional ability of some Indigenous players is frequently ascribed to “natural talent”. This is actually a soft racism, uncomfortably akin to the Social Darwinism expressed via the now-infamous “ape” comment directed at a gifted Indigenous player during a recent AFL match.

The interrelated concepts of “natural ability” and “genetic endowment” are ultimately furphies, because they fail to take into account learned cognitive factors routinely brought into play by some Indigenous AFL players – and the hard work that goes into their success.

Elite footballers aside …

This apparently remarkable aptitude on the AFL field is readily observable in matches between groups of young Aboriginal men who live in Australia’s remote rural communities.

Throughout most of the 1980s and into the early 1990s I lived and worked, mostly as school principal, in such a desert community, the Warlpiri settlement of Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert about half way between Alice Springs and Darwin. Along with other community members, I revelled in watching the home games, in which young Warlpiri men played dashing, thrilling football.

The seemingly superhuman exploits of the youthful, although mighty – according to local graffiti – Lajamanu Swans, who played electrifying footy in their bare feet on a dusty and grassless “oval”, a circular tract of rock hard red earth, is something I’ll never forget.

Even smaller kids frequently showed outstanding skill in their capacity to grab hold of an airborne Sherrin flying from any direction whatsoever, while running at full pelt, and in their ability to find a passage through a narrow corridor, and in the finely tuned accuracy of their near-vertical jumps.

In what ways might Indigenous youths’ early childhood learning experiences and socialisation patterns lead to greater-than-average success in the game of AFL? Before attempting to answer this question, it is necessary to identify what makes the Australian game unique as a game of football.

How AFL stands apart

Unlike other football codes AFL does not have an offside rule, making it a multi-directional sport.

Moreover, it takes place on a very large oval-shaped field, requiring of players 360° of spatial consciousness, with the need to update and re-align oneself in space continuously, with split-second judgement and timing. The requirement of 360° spatial cognisance and responsiveness, a byproduct of the no-offside rule, is arguably AFL’s most salient feature, differentiating it from other football codes.

Indeed, one of AFL’s two major antecedents is an Indigenous Australian game with demonstrable kinship connections to today’s AFL (the other one is Irish Gaelic football). As the late Paddy Patrick Jangala, the first professional Warlpiri linguist, attested in the Warlpiri Dictionary Project in 1987:

Purlja, ngulaji yangka kalalu ngurrju-manu nyurruwiyi wita japujapupiya wampanajangka, wirrijijangka, manu janganpajangka wirrijijangka yumurrujangka. Ngulaji kalalu panturnu kankarlarrakari ngulakalalu puuly-mardarnu manu kalalunyanu warru kujurnu yapangku. Yarlpurrukurlangumiparlu. Yangka purljangkaji manyungka.

[Purlja is a small ball, which they used to make in the old days from string spun from wallaby fur and from possum fur. They used to kick it up in the air and then grab hold of it and throw it around to each other. Only age-mates (yarlpurrukurlangu) played on the same team. That is when they played with the “purlja”.]

So, for what precise reasons do so many Indigenous players find the 360° attribute of the game to be such a good fit, in cognitive terms? Traditional Aboriginal mathematical systems are largely founded upon spatial relationships rather than on numbers, which is the case in Australia’s dominant culture.

Parts 2 and 3 will be published in Passive Complicity on Monday and Tuesday 

O’Flaherty backs Cobbett up against David

I take your point absolutely about the middle class telling the lower orders how to live their lives. (See David on Cobbett).   Except of course, Cobbett wasn’t middle class at all. Cobbett was from a working class family and was known as ‘the ploughboy’.  (Not withstanding he was taught to read and write by his Farmer/Publican father).

For me to take sides in the business of bread making would be silly and would only add to the confusion,

On the surface, Cobbett’s objection to the spud seems odd but when I get a minute I’ll browse through ‘Cottage Economy’ and perhaps clear things up a bit.(or not…)

I’m beginning to have the feeling that Cobbett could see the way the wind was blowing and was railing against the erosion of the cottager’s independence. The consumer society was in its infancy at the end of the eighteenth century. Essential commodities, like food and clothing were being taken out of the independent manufacturing hands of the cottager(which had provided income) and instead being produced in huge factories. This meant that access to wool, cloth, thread etc were only available if you had the money to pay for them.

An interesting point here is that people were required to work such long hours (up to 16 hours per day) that they had neither time nor energy to do anything other than work at the factory and sleep. Cobbett could see how this was contributing directly to the growth of the consumer society. People, more and more, had no access to land. People, more and more, became absolutely dependent on wages to exist. To get their wages required endless toil.As a result of this, they required others to supply goods they had previously supplied, or bartered for, or grown, for themselves. Clothing, wool, boots and shoes, fruit and vegetables, etc. were now commodities which must be bought with wages, with money. This amounts to slavery.

This surely is why Cobbett objects to bought bread, to anything bought that insidiously erodes the cottager’s independence.   With his ‘Cottage Economy’ he is desperately trying to remind people where their real independence lies. He is not ‘talking down’ to people.  (Echoes here of Bageant in Deer hunting with Jesus, this is exactly why the liberal elite in the US today think the poor should spend more time sewing and growing their own food rather than working two or more jobs to put (second rate) food on the table.)

The story of the 19th century is the rise of the consumer society, and the desperately fought battles by employees to establish a living wage. Ludicrously, the moment  a living wage is established, prices of goods increase by just enough to erode the value of that wage.   (Echoes here of the conservative Australian government complaining of ‘high’ wages of fruit processing workers)

In my estimation this wage battle has been, nowadays, well and truly lost and the ‘distribution of wealth’ has ceased altogether.

This ‘system’ has become so unfair, so shamelessly corrupt, that we have arrived today at a point well beyond argument.

As with Castro in Cuba, if anyone remembers, Fidel solved the problem of corruption by taking these parasites outside and shooting them.

I hope it doesn’t get to that extreme, but if people are pushed far enough…


David on Cobbett – Now O’Flaherty

by Tarquin O’Flaherty

Cottage Economy (by William Cobbett 1823) on brewing beer; ‘…Forty years ago [about 1780) there was not a labourer in this parish  (Sussex area) who did not brew his own beer; and that now there is not one who does it….’…’the causes of this change have been the lowering of the wages of labour compared with the price of provisions, by means of the paper money; the enormous tax upon the barley when made into malt: and the increased tax upon hops. These have quite changed the customs of the English people as to their drink…’

Cobbett goes on to say that the ‘owners’ [the brewers] of ‘public houses, have now obtained a monopoly and that their brews are ‘poisonous stuffs…’. and not a patch on home brew.

With a chapter on “Making Bread’ Cobbett berates West Country folk for using spuds as a substitute for bread, the which, he considers, brings’ the English labourers down to the state of the Irish, whose mode of living is little more than one remove from that of the pig, and the ill-fed pig, too…’

The habit of growing spuds, which is spreading across England is frowned upon by  Cobbett.

‘…the slovenly and beastly habits engendered amongst the labouring classes by constantly lifting their principal food (spuds) at once out of the earth to their mouths…without the necessity of implements…and dispensing with everything requiring skill in the preparation of the food….’ quite horrifies Cobbett. (and Eliabeth David too it seems!) The skill involved in preparing and baking bread, on the other hand, made this comestible much more acceptable. (and infinitely cleaner!)

Spuds and their regular consumption is associated with pauperism in Cobbett’s early 19th century world.

On the surface, it does seem that Elizabeth David is being just a bit selective with regard to Cobbett’s

the ‘…wasteful…’ and ‘…shameful…’ labourer’s wife who goes   ‘ to the baker’s shop’. In the preceding paragraph, Cobbett points out that that commercial city bakers were notorious for adding ground up spuds to their bread mixes. This means that the wife is paying twice the price for spuds, and the baker is being paid wheat money for spud bread.

As an aside to all this, my mother in the 1950’s baked a round flattish loaf, on a metal plate or more conventionally in a tin. The oven was a venerable Rayburn stove and there was no shortage of homemade breads and cakes for all of us hungry devils. Cobbett says in his section on breadmaking that a brick oven, outside the city, could be heated for virtually no cost because of the easy availability of  low cost offcuts.. he also says that a well practiced woman could, by placing her cheek close to the oven door, easily decide when an oven was ready for the risen dough.

Cobbett talks about both small scale cottage living and bigger holdings. I think Ms David was probably having a bit of fun. After all, what would a man know about baking bread?

And tomorrow we will look further at these competing claims.

Elizabeth David on William Cobbett

Compiled by Cecil Poole
Strange how educated people seem to feel they have the right, nay, the duty in fact, to tell the poorer how to live their life.  Joe Bageant suggests this is why the rural poor deserted the Democrats for the Tea Party and other Republican acolytes in his writing  – ‘Rainbow Pie’, and ‘Deer Hunting with Jesus’.  Colonists, missionaries and economic imperialists have done this for aeons with indigenous populations.  We here in Australia have made an art form of it in our dealings with (or is it ‘dictations to’) our indigenous people.

William Cobbett has been lauded for his progressive views by Tarquin O’Flaherty in his Man as Machine series.  Elizabeth David in her English Bread and Yeast Cookery takes the ‘long handle’ to Cobbett (Cottage Economy 1821 – 23) for what she sees as trite and erroneous observations of the life of the British poor in the early nineteenth century.

This is what Elizabeth David has to say.

So to whom, it has to be asked, was William Cobbett addressing himself when he berated agricultural workers for squandering their wages on bought bread, or, in Cobbett’s view the ultimate sin, for feeding their children on boiled potatoes?  today his theatrical cries of outrage make embarrassing reading: ‘how wasteful, then, indeed how shameful for a labourer’s wife to go to the baker’s shop, and how negligent, how criminally careless of the welfare of his family must the labourer be, who permits so scandalous a use of the proceeds of his labour…. Servant women in abundance appear to think that loaves are made by the baker as knights are made by kings.’  Intoxicated with his own rhetoric, he appears to have lost sight of them altogether.  Disregarding the cramped conditions in which most cottagers lived, ignoring their pitifully limited cooking facilities – not to say their illiteracy, which in any case would have prevented them from appreciating his efforts – he failed to mention that even communal ovens were few and far between, that the inconveniences attached to conveying the dough to the nearest bakery were often so great as to make the proposition quite impracticable and that even to buy their bread meant a weekly trip to the nearest market.  No wonder the hastily boiled potatoes which were such anathema to Cobbett provided the easiest and cheapest means of staving off hunger.  Effectively, the cottage part of Cobbett’s economy was figurative only.  what he had to say only applied to prosperous farmers and smallholders of some substance, whose establishments automatically included a bakehouse and brewhouse.  Even then his instructions as to the mixing of the dough and the firing of the oven, although vivid and often quoted, are far from realistic.  Fifteen to twenty minutes fermentation for 25 kgs of flour mixed to dough …… is a good deal short of adequate.  Equally so is fifteen minutes for the firing of an oven large enough to hold fourteen 2 kg loaves and in which the heat has to be maintained for two hours.

Cobbett seemed to have little idea of the daily living arrangements or cooking facilities of the people he was ‘advising’.

Tomorrow Tarquin O’Flaherty will respond.