The New Putin Worship Is Idiotic and Morally Bankrupt

Every now and then, social media conspires to produce a perfect storm of idiocy and moral bankruptcy so backward as to make one speculate about the possibility of living in some kind of surreal simulation populated by half-wits. Of course, I should know by now not to be surprised by the depths to which political discourse has sunk on social media. For the politically-minded, Facebook and Twitter can become an addictive form of torture, a sort of digital self-harming ritual. Last week, however, I saw something that makes a pretty conclusive case for the corrosive effect of social media echo chambers on both intelligence and decency. 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…

Koyaanisqatsi: Is Technology Really So Separate From Nature?

My first exposure to Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 time-lapse masterpiece was at an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum on the ‘Post Moderns’. It featured the now universally recognisable accelerated footage of taillights pumping through the city to the rhythm of alternating traffic flows, creating an eerily arterial display. What was interesting about the use of this footage in this particular exhibition was that it was shown under the pretext of the death of futurism and the birth of dystopia, sandwiched as it was between clips of the bleak futuristic skyline of Blade Runner (which I must admit has a beguiling beauty all of its own) and chaotic images of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. While footage from Koyaanisqatsi, complete with the stark minimalist composition of Phillip Glass, did not feel out of place in this exhibition, I couldn’t shake the notion that there was more to it than merely a bleak vision of man’s conquest over the Earth. This became more apparent when I watched the film in its entirety. Read More…

We Need A Cultural Shift If We Are To Prevail In The War Against Terror

Like so many of us I have been trying for the past few days to gather my thoughts and reflections about the events in Manchester. As a political writer, the Jihadist onslaught against Western civil society over the past few years, drains the creative energy from me, replaced by anger and sorrow. I run out of new things to say about a phenomenon which is now increasingly commonplace, normalised even by some estimations. I run out of adjectives to describe the attacks and the terrorists responsible: horrifying, brutal, sadistic, evil. The English language has its limits.

That being said, something does seem to have shifted in this case. I feel a little queasy even suggesting that, as if our society didn’t get the memo a decade ago, or after one of the numerous attacks since. In just over a month, it will be twelve years to the day since the 7/7 attacks in London. Since then, the only respites we have enjoyed from the cancer of Jihadism have been granted by our security services, whose work in general has been highly praiseworthy, stopping attacks before they happen.

But still we fail. Our leaders fail us in their empty platitudes. We fail to assert the virtue of our civilisation and our corollary duty to prevail. We fail to have honest conversations about the root of the problem. We fail in our creeping normalisation of terror. Read More…

Only White People Can Be Racist? Don’t Be Absurd

As the culture war rages unabated, a war of attrition draining the mental and emotional energy of all decent sensible people with internet connections and social media accounts, we are seeing a doubling down of the most vicious and socially destructive forms of identity politics. Race, gender, sexual orientation; valid topics of discussion, to be sure, but the positions of identitarians on all sides of the political spectrum make reasonable conversation impossible by making every form of identity a zero-sum game: intersectionality on one side, bigotry on the other, no matter what the complexities of one’s views. Read More…

The Social Currency of Victimhood

 

Much has been made in recent months of the so-called “generation snowflake”. This is hardly surprising given the disproportionate role of millennials in re-shaping social and political norms in frankly sinister ways; the destruction of free expression and open conversation on university campuses; the championing of censorship, the anti-science impulses that run through gender-identity movements; and the segregationist attitude to identity in general. To be clear from the outset, I am always against the demonization of people just for the membership of a generation or age-group – I always found the stereotyping of Generation X as feckless and nihilistic or Generation X’s own loathing of baby-boomers distasteful. I was disgusted by the hatred directed at the elderly following the Brexit vote and I recognise that there are many millennials who are extremely frustrated by the attitudes of their peers. Be that as it may, generation snowflake, as a description of an attitudinal subset of millennials, is somewhat apt and warrants further analysis. Read More…

The Islamic State and the Fragility of Culture

Amid the hysteria and tumult of the Trump inauguration, some of you may have missed the latest event in the Islamic State’s far too enduring campaign of wanton destruction against everything that makes human culture a worthwhile project (author’s note: I will henceforth refer to them by their appropriate name of Islamic State rather than pervert the name of a beautiful ancient Egyptian goddess). Having retaken the territory after an earlier desecration in 2015, IS destroyed the Tetrapylon structure at the site of the Roman theatre of Palmyra in Syria, one of the most beautiful structures of classical antiquity. It seems they were intent on finishing what they started in 2015 when they tore through Palmyra in a frenzy of destruction, levelling the 2000-year-old Temple of Bel and many other historical artefacts. A spray-painted scrawl of Jihadist graffiti can be seen peppering the rubble, laying desecration on demolition. Read More…

The Strange, Calming Beauty Of Wrack And Ruin

While browsing the newspaper’s photography section yesterday, I found myself drawn to a series of images of a recently discovered and almost perfectly preserved Second World War Kittyhawk fighter plane that had crashed in the Sahara desert. It invoked a feeling in me I often get when looking at derelict or abandoned places and objects, and that I have often found difficult to explain. It reminded me of the feeling I had when reading Alain de Botton’s description of his exploration of an aeroplane graveyard in the Californian desert (something that has earned a place on my ‘to do’ list); there is a unique stillness to such places that is hard to replicate. The meeting point of the eerie and soothing has a very special quality and I am not the only person to notice this.

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