On slogans

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four The word slogan comes to us from Scottish Gaelic, and its original meaning was battle-cry. As such, its basic function is a declaration of group identity. The meaning of what is being yelled is less important than the fact that all ofContinue reading “On slogans”

On festivity

“If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Ode to the West Wind” The day before this post was published, up here in the northern hemisphere we had the 2020 Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. At these latitudes, the day doesn’t get noticeably longer until December 25th, which notContinue reading “On festivity”

On putting people into boxes

Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. President George W. Bush There is much talk nowadays about polarisation, in politics and in society more generally. This is often blamed on social media, and the algorithms that tend to show you more of the same rather than anything likely to challenge yourContinue reading “On putting people into boxes”

On being overwhelmed

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. Wilkins Micawber in Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist This is where we are: we have a wide range of urgent problems which all need to be solved, and the resources toContinue reading “On being overwhelmed”

On death

Tʜᴇʀᴇ’ꜱ ɴᴏ ᴊᴜꜱᴛɪᴄᴇ, ᴛʜᴇʀᴇ’ꜱ ᴊᴜꜱᴛ ᴍᴇ. – Death, in Terry Pratchett, Mort Death has become rather topical these days, what with the pandemic. At the time of writing, it’s difficult to assess the actual level of excess mortality globally, given the paucity of data and the variability from country to country in such data asContinue reading “On death”

On the collapse of civilisation

We’re doomed! – Private Frazer There is much talk on the interwebs about the imminent fall of civilisation. There’s an entire subreddit devoted to it, whose membership has increased dramatically over the last twelve months, not that I would necessarily recommend it. I’d like to spend this week’s post unpacking this idea of civilisational collapseContinue reading “On the collapse of civilisation”

On the Covid-19 pandemic

As I write this, England – which is the bit of the UK I happen to inhabit – is about to enter a second lockdown, prompted by the spread of the Covid-19 virus. It’s been an interesting experience, this pandemic. Of course we’ve had plenty of them before – many originating as this one didContinue reading “On the Covid-19 pandemic”