On the longest day

If eternity had a season, it would be midsummer. Autumn, winter, spring are all change and passage, but at the height of summer the year stands poised. It’s only a passing moment, but even as it passes the heart knows it cannot change. Ursula K. Le Guin Edward Gibbon begins his epic history of TheContinue reading “On the longest day”

On greatness

Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that generation. Let greatness blossom. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela “I think continually,” the poet Stephen Spender wrote, “of those who were truly great.” Personally I often find myself thinking of something else, but there are certainly people, living and dead, who I would considerContinue reading “On greatness”

Book review: Going to Seed

Going to Seed: A Counterculture Memoir by Simon Fairlie (Chelsea Green, 2022), ISBN: 978-1-64502-061-5 You might know Simon Fairlie’s name from his previous book, Meat: A Benign Extravagance (Permanent Publications, 2010), which rather remarkably caused George Monbiot to change his mind about veganism. Perhaps you’ve come across the magazine he founded, The Land, if youContinue reading “Book review: Going to Seed”

On disagreement

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. S.G. Tallentyre, The Friends of Voltaire Disagreements have been with us for as long as people have had opinions, which is to say for as long as there have been people. What is interesting about this historicalContinue reading “On disagreement”

On rationality

Of all the ways of defining man, the worst is the one which makes him out to be a rational animal. Anatole France As a culture, we are unusually fond of rationality. I blame the ancient Greeks. Economists are very keen to stress how rational everyone is, all of the time, and yet this fliesContinue reading “On rationality”

On denial

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed Everybody knows that the war is over Everybody knows the good guys lost Everybody knows the fight was fixed The poor stay poor, the rich get rich That’s how it goes Everybody knows Leonard Cohen, “Everybody knows” There is rarely much pointContinue reading “On denial”

On the war in Ukraine

War is hell. William Tecumseh Sherman Industrial civilisation treats war the way it treats everything else: as an industrial process, and as a money-making opportunity. War has always been a horrible business, but these days we have the technology to make it more horrible for more people, so of course we do. And of courseContinue reading “On the war in Ukraine”

Book review: Guns, Germs and Steel

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (Vintage, 1998), ISBN: 978-0099302780 I want to approach this book by means of its subtitle. Specifically, I want to contrast its subtitle with that of another classic text. This may seem perverse, but bear with me. The subtitle of this book is –Continue reading “Book review: Guns, Germs and Steel”

On values in the sphere of politics

Liberal democracies must defend their values…. Andrew RawnsleY, The Guardian 27/2/2022 So who are these liberal democracies, and what are their values? It’s easy enough to list the states who routinely self-identify as liberal democracies: the United States of America (which is a republic, not a democracy; the framers of its constitution explicitly wished toContinue reading “On values in the sphere of politics”