Thursday, 22 December 2016

A seasonal miscellany of links

Here is a set of links - one for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas - some of which I have struggled to fit into seasonal clothing.

1. Is Stay Another Day a Christmas song? (No painful contortions required for that one.)

2. 'Tis the season to be jolly. And what could be jollier than a compilation of newspaper corrections?

3. When will your Christmas 'turkey' become a vegetarian substance? Sooner than you think?

4. Those Wise Men from the East are very good at disappearing.

5. This is a prize-winning Chinese science fiction story. Perfect for whiling away a long winter's evening.

6. Did King Herod violate anyone's safe space?

7. Would Mary have said yes to the Angel Gabriel if Joseph had been in the room at the time? I ask because unmarried women hide their ambition from men, perhaps to appear more attractive. (More interestingly, do married women not bother appearing attractive? or do they realise that men like ambitious women? or are they self-selecting in some way - e.g. do men who like ambitious women get married earlier, leaving other women increasingly presenting themselves as unambitious to attract the remaining men? or are the unmarried women trying to compensate for some other factor? So many questions here.)

8. It's the time for giving, so think about giving to charity shops. And think more.

9. Yule have spotted that a year is a very long time in politics.

10. Hip-hop Nutcracker.

11. Christmas is for everyone: "...I claimed the moniker “atheist” to stand in solidarity with Bangladeshi bloggers at a time when their lives were being threatened (as they still are). It may not have been the most politically savvy thing for a minister in a Christian church to do ...". (That bit tells you all you need to know about that link.)

12. And, finally, Phoebe Waller-Bridge experiences the Twelve Days of Christmas. (Not her finest effort, I'm afraid, but definitely seasonal.)

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Brexit means ...

Have I ever linked to the Huffington Post before? There's a first time for everything and this may be one first time.

It seems that the British Council commissioned survey of 40,000 people in G20 countries. The EU ones see Brexit quite differently from the non-EU ones.

"When questioned on ‘overall attractiveness’, 36 per cent of people in EU countries said Brexit had a negative impact - compared to 17 per cent who said positive.

However, in Commonwealth nations 33 per cent saw Brexit as having a positive impact compared to 20 per cent who had negative.

In the rest of the G20 (Argentina, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey and the USA), 35 per cent had a positive take on Brexit and 17 per cent negative.

Out of the EU - and into the World! 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Charles Moore: in tune with this blog

Here he is, saying a lot of what this blog has been saying, about the decline of the West, about the meaninglessness of the term 'right-wing' nowadays and so on.

It's easy enough to poke holes in Moore's thoughts, especially given that part of what we might call his evidence base is what Andrew Lloyd Webber has to say about London theatres. But just read this:

"It may sound Marxist to say this, but I do think the elites have constructed a world order which serves their interests, not those of their subject populations."

I am not immediately interested in whether that is a true statement about the world. Rather, I wonder what it says about contemporary political culture that a humane, rational, elite, Establishment (Margaret Thatcher's biographer! a former editor of The Telegraph!) figure can come to such a conclusion. Or, being Charles Moore in the Spectator, if not come to a conclusion, then at least say it out loud and try it out for size. (But don't be concerned about the Marxism - thinking conservatives have more time for Marx than you might imagine: Roger Scruton's sympathetic exposition of Marxist concepts such as alienation in The Meaning of Conservatism is a good example.)

Rod Liddle, always more trenchant, says this: "[Liberalism] has not brought happiness, or wealth, or a better society. It has brought instead a certain, easily won liberation for the wealthiest of us, but down below has effected nothing other than social chaos and poverty. And it might just have had its day." And Rowan Williams, very rarely so direct, says this: "beneath all these continuing states of crisis and contradiction is the metacrisis that shapes them all, the crisis of “liberalism” ... What we are now refusing to grasp is that “liberalism” in fact undermines democracy, ethics, human respect, social justice, scientific creativity and pretty well everything else. ... " (He is, I think, explaining the point of view of the authors of the book he is reviewing, but it is a sympathetic review.)

When it comes to politics, ideas can become self-fulfilling: if everyone thinks that liberalism is an elitist con trick that deserves to die, then die it will. It is not yet impossible to save liberalism: it is clearly preferable to any actually existing alternative, from China to Cuba via Russia or Saudi Arabia. But what I am seeing, on both the Left and the Right, is a lack of interest - a lack of will - in keeping it alive, and a curious appetite to see what might come next.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Character building through the noble sport of hooliganism

Sport, as we have all known since Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, is a great builder of character: teamwork, loyalty, persistence in the face of adversity, leadership, strength, endurance - the list of positive character traits it encourages is endless.

By "sport", I don't mean watching sport. I mean participating. Throwing oneself into the action, shoulder to shoulder with one's teammates, winning or losing - taking the knocks - together.

Sports come with a social structure to them too. Not just socialising at the 19th hole or the cricket tea, valuable though these occasions are, but a whole social world. Clubs (is there a more British word than club?), youth programmes, A teams and B teams, managers, coaches, veterans, clubhouses, fixture lists, hon secs and so on. How many people spend valuable hours of their lives not just playing sport, but encouraging the next generation or simply doing the admin? All of that, too, builds character.

And don't forget that all of amateur sport is done because of, for want of a better word, love. When someone turns up on a Saturday morning to teach rugby to children, or spends her evenings arranging next season's match fixtures, or shouts themselves hoarse urging the team to one final effort - what's it all for? Glory, honour, self-respect, self-sacrifice, duty - in a word, love.

You knew all this already. But perhaps you didn't know that football hooliganism is a character building sport in its own right too. "That decade as a hooligan allowed me to grow into somebody that I wouldn't want to change for anything – it made me a better person," someone says here. It's possible, isn't it?

Monday, 5 December 2016

Who said this?

"... the geopolitical stance of the US towards Russia over the past 15 years has been atrocious. The idiocy with which Nato and the US have promised friendly regimes such as Georgia or Ukraine military support, has given Putin an excuse to tear up all agreements with the west. By adopting an aggressive and imperialistic attitude to Russia, Obama and Clinton have allowed Putin to justify his stranglehold over his own people. Whereas Trump, as a businessman, understands the importance of the deal. He has already said that he won't endorse wars that doesn't think he will win. That’s why he opposed the 2003 Iraq War — it wasn’t on humanitarian grounds. He doesn't want to have a constant love affair with Putin, he just wants to cut a deal with him."

Yanis Varoufakis, that's who. 

Putin is probably the biggest winner of recent developments in the world. Trump in charge in the US, Fillon or Le Pen (both amenable to Putin) in France, potential escalation in US-China tensions, Russia increasingly looking like part of the solution rather than part of the problem in the Middle East - all of these are pro-Putin developments. I bet he was shorting Italian bank shares too.