Civilisation Is About The Transformative Power Of Beauty

Next week Monday, the BBC will be airing a remake of the iconic television series Civilisation, which was first broadcast in 1969. Presented by the acclaimed art historian Kenneth Clark, the original programme examined the history of western civilisation through the prism of art, poetry, literature, philosophy music and architecture, in 13 episodes.

It was an incredibly ambitious idea that Clark and the BBC production team pulled off with great aplomb. Nearly half a century later, these visual essays are still magnificent to watch with their depth and range of scope. Read More…

Classics, Poetry And Art Are Not Useless. They Furnish Our Minds With Beauty

I was recently shown a clip from Question Time where the subject of education was being discussed. An audience member, sceptical of the “usefulness” (for want of a less odious term to describe art) of learning poetry in schools, challenged the panel to recite a poem they learned at school. Most, predictably, failed to do so and I suspect if they could remember one, preferred to toe the politically correct line that we should not be subjecting children to such anachronisms. The erstwhile Shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry, spouted vague and contradictory statements about how learning the names of the kings and queens of antiquity is no longer educationally relevant, but all the same it is important for children to understand history. The general mood was one of scornful disdain and transparent bias against classical education, presumably fuelled by the oh-so-well-meaning anti-elitist imperative that so animates modern British liberals. Read More…

The Suffragettes Didn’t Shrink From Dangerous Ideas And We Shouldn’t Either

Today is the centenary of the incredibly brave and successful campaign that the Suffragettes and Suffragists fought to extend the franchise to women. It is a reminder of people who took on real risks and were prepared to incur heavy penalties for something that so many of us simply take for granted in the present day.

It was a bold and progressive move that set the stage for universal voting rights in which all men and women, regardless of class, were able to actively participate in the electoral process.

Right now, however, the campaign for female equality seems to be in a more regressive phase that censors paintings which even mildly eroticise women. Last week, in a complete failure of both imagination and courage, the Manchester Art Gallery removed an artwork by the pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse called Hylas and the Nymphs based on a Greek myth where a young warrior Hylas is tempted away from his lover by a group of naked and alluring water nymphs. Apparently, the gallery wanted to “prompt a conversation” about the “old-fashioned” representation of women in Victorian art. Read More…

Why Is It Easier To Conform Than To Tell The Truth?

In his new book 12 Rules For Life, Jordan Peterson has a whole chapter called “Tell the truth or at least don’t lie.” Peterson often talks of the need for people to be truthful and not to say things that they know to be untrue.

Peterson is hardly saying anything revolutionary. What he is advocating seems completely obvious. Most people know that it is better to be honest than not. Read More…