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Reaction comes in many forms… February 5, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

… is the thought that strikes reading this recent piece about Danny Dyers recent appearance on Who Do We Think We Are? Apparently Dyer was chuffed to discover that he was distantly related not just to Cromwell (!) but also ‘a couple of kings’. Though as the writer notes:

But there is a problem. In part it’s because this is an industry built on hopes and dreams and shaky data. Another BBC show, Radio 4’s More or Less, did a brutal debunk job on Dyer’s discoveries, exposing the flaws of this sort of pick-and-mix selectivity (bottom line: it’s quite rare to not be related to Edward III). Earlier this week science writer Adam Rutherford told BuzzFeed that the findings of one genetic testing company, BritainsDNA, were “mostly total bollocks”. Such outfits request phlegm and a cheque, and in return post back a gratifyingly exciting ancestry. One client was told their forebears “almost certainly brought to Britain a technology that changed society profoundly”. This technology was porridge.

Is it more or less meaningful to discover we all share common ancestors if one goes far enough back? I’ve an ancestor from the last century who stole a chicken and was transported to Tasmania. I’m suspicious of how much or how little that means. It’s definitely interesting, but I’m not him and he’s not me. I sympathise hugely with his plight, but the distance is such that I only know a handful of facts about him. And the gulf of time – even a hundred year or so – is still a gulf of time.

But the broader point made is that its dubious to place so much weight upon ‘bloodlines’. I like the quote from Wilde in the following:

If you maintain your bloodline has conditioned aspects of your personality and performance, you must also be open to theories about inherited characteristics that are today deemed extremely dubious. Investment in our backstories is bad news for anyone who believes that, say, a lack of social mobility is more attributable to wealth inequality and government policy than the ways in which traits might be passed on through the generations. Murkier waters aren’t far off. Our culture risks steering us in a wholly different direction to that which even the limpest progressives must hope. In A Woman of No Importance, Oscar Wilde called Burke’s Peerage “the best thing in fiction the English have ever done”. We need to heed that description, lest we turn back the clock and make it a set text.

Do bloodlines even do that? Are relatively trivial personality traits distinguishable across extended periods of time? I’m very dubious. A lot, I tend to think, is direct emulation or response or reaction to parents or grandparents. We see ourselves in our kids? Of course we do. We helped form some of the more obvious and overt aspects of their outward personality, but it’s comical to ascribe much more than that to it.


1. John Goodwillie - February 5, 2017

If you can trace some ancestors back 300 years, they’re pretty well bound to be landed and related to royalty. You can’t make television programmes about the ones who can’t be traced. Most of the Who Do We Think We Are series produce more recent ancestors in poor circumstances as well, and remind us that even the well-off are usually mongrels in class terms.

Liked by 1 person

2. GW - February 5, 2017

Someone has leaked he AfD election strategy document for the German federal elections in 2017.. (The usual Scribd nonsense with having to give a makey-uppey email address to be able to download the thing applies.)

They talk about general principles, tactics and who their main rivals are.

Gems include:

– Don’t demand much work of the electorate – never propose complex or thought-through policies – instead conjure up images that will evoke an emotional reaction. This is something the toothbrush-moustached-one realised after the lack of success of the NSDAP in the early 1920s.

– Represent the other parties collectively as ‘oldparties’. The NSDAP equivalent was ‘Systemparty’.

– The usual ‘anchor left, pivot right’ attempt to provoke reactions from the liberal/left ‘good people [Gutmenschen] and get a media amplification bonus thereby.

Amusingly the document regrets that another right-wing party with virtually the same policies (such as they are) is in government in Bavaria. That’s the CSU.

They admit to being vulnerable to being accused of being the new home for various fascist-spectrum and outright neo-Nazi sympathisers. The concern of the document is not to exclude these people, but to counter this picture of them in the media.

They also see themselves as vulnerable when parties like them are in government elsewhere and things go tits-up.

So on the basis of this intelligence, how should anti-fascists deal with parties like the AfD during elections?

a) Don’t react to their provocations but instead keep hammering away at their fascist members, allies and techniques.

b) Provide a political programme with concrete measures benefiting both ‘indigenous’ suffering from the injuries of capitalism and those seeking asylum and refuge. Continue to hammer away at the real problems – capitalism and the war & environmental destruction that comes with it.

c) Use Brexit and Trump as concrete examples of what right-wing nationalism means when it gains power.


WorldbyStorm - February 5, 2017

I’ll post that up GW… it’s great.


3. rockroots - February 5, 2017

As someone who’s spent more time and money than is healthy looking into my family history, I’d certainly be disappointed if I was looking for reflected glory from my bigoted and violent ancestors. The writer falls into the mindset she’s criticising in seeing family history only as a means of learning about ourselves, not as an impartial study of local history. The statistic that there’s something like a 6% chance DNA testing will reveal that you’re not descended from who you think you’re descended from also fairly undermines arguments about genetic programming. I really believe it’s personal experience that shapes a person’s personality more than anything else, and often in spite of, rather than because, their family background.

That said – and I have no particular fondness for Danny Dyer – he seems to be the constant butt of smug middle class jibes about his being a thick chavvy oik. In that context it was a little gratifying to see the British class system have a tiny chip knocked off it – something else that seems to have annoyed the writer.

Liked by 1 person

Ed - February 5, 2017

Yeah, even though the whole programme was set up for the big revelation at the end about his ‘royal ancestry’, Dyer himself seemed far more excited at being related to Thomas Cromwell. A Tudor historian told him a bit about Cromwell’s background, a butcher’s son from Putney, etc., and Dyer seemed delighted with the ‘working-class boy made good’ element. That programme struck a chord, I think, because it let a lot of people in on the secret that Dyer is actually quite sharp, funny and self-deprecating in real life, even if his back catalogue includes some of the worst films ever made.

Liked by 2 people

WorldbyStorm - February 5, 2017

It’s funny Dyer isn’t someone I’d any conscious awareness of, I had to go look him up subsequently. I’ve only seen him in Foyles War and The Bill way back when. He was good in the former, can’t remember the latter. So in a way whoever it is as the subject of the piece was/is irrelevant to me. But I’m always glad to see the British class system suffering attrition.


4. Tomboktu - February 5, 2017
5. FergusD - February 5, 2017

I don’t care what WBS says, I am descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages and one day I am going to come back to claim my property! OK, so something like 3 million (how do they know?) worldwide are descended from the same fecund Ulster yob, but I’m THE one! I shall be crowned on Tara’s hill for sure and Kenny and all that mob will bow down before me. I shall then declare the Irish Worker’s Republic!


Tomboktu - February 5, 2017

It may be a rather small share.



6. 6to5against - February 5, 2017

If you take as a starting point that everybody has 2 parents and 4 grandparents and 8 great grandparents and extrapolate that pattern back about 30 generations (in the ballpark of 1000 years) you find that we all should have had over 1 billion ancestors at that stage. Thats not the cumulative total over the intervening years – its the number that would have living, 30 generations back.

And that is surely far greater than the population of the earth at that time. Thats ok, because as we go back a bit we probably find a lot of marriages between 3rd and 4th and 5th cousins etc. – which reduces the number of ancestors.

But it still seems to me plausable, on that basis, that literally everybody alive today is descended from literally everybody that was alive back then. We would all be descended, if this was the case, from Edward the whatever, and from his servants, and from his bodyguards and from his rival kings and queens around Europe.

The fact that that is not the case – and apparently its not – I find more interesting than the whole Danny Dyer thing. There must have been a lot of bloodlines (for want of a better word) that died out over the years. Most of them, in fact. Why would that be?


Tomboktu - February 5, 2017

Well, Not bloodlines (in the sense of descended from a single individual), but much of the population of Europe is believed to be descended from four founding populations.



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