I have just read Professor A.C. Grayling's book The Meaning of Things. The book is a collection of his pieces published as "Last Word" columns in The Guardian. If you feel ideologically out of place in modern Britain you should read it. It will not make you feel less alienated, but it will explain a great deal.
You would not know it from reading this book, but those of us who fear for liberty in Britain owe Professor Grayling a debt. In the very heart of our darkness (the Guardian's Comment is Free columns) he has written strong words against New Labour's attacks on civil liberties. He has exposed the Right Honourable Anthony Charles Steven Lynton Blair's twisted thinking on ID cards and the Database State. He has articulated what so many of us in the British political blogosphere feel in our wrenched guts, which is that New Labour is an enemy of individual freedom. Only an academic could be surprised by that. Almost a century of history has taught the rest of us that those who despise carrots inevitably favour sticks. Yet an English academic capable of writing the following is worthy of our respect:
But no amount of giving away hard-won, long-standing civil liberties is
going to defend us against the tiny minority of criminals and lunatics
who can, if determined enough, do us harm. The right response to them
is not to hide away behind generally ineffective laws that restrict our
freedoms but to assert our freedoms boldly and to live them courageously.
He is also sound on the subject of free speech, as this quotation from an online interview at Three Monkeys Online (in which he was asked about the imprisonment of David Irving for holocaust denial) shows:
I have no time for revisionists and Nazi apologists, and in so far as
Irving is such (and is provenly at least the former), I have no time
for him. But it was quite wrong to put him in prison for his unsavoury
views. The freedom of free speech results in our hearing plenty of
things we do not like, but the right way to combat bad free speech is
with more and better free speech, not with the law and certainly not
with imprisonment or censorship.
Professor Grayling took me to task for lack of intellectual rigour when I set out my first impressions of him after hearing him speak at my daughter's school. He commented that:
Evidently you don't read widely enough, listen hard enough, or take enough care over the assumptions you make.
have tried and will continue to try to respond positively to that rebuke. It is
taking a while. I am no aristocrat of academia.
The people pay no tithe so that I may read,
research and think without distraction. I have a business to run, a heavy schedule of travel and a
family with which I like to spend time. I have read more of his writing however and in the light of the articles cited above, I accept that
it was entirely wrong to describe him as;
I did not, indeed, take enough care over the assumptions I made when writing that. I apologise unreservedly.
Professor Grayling balks at the extremes to which the Rt Hon.
Anthony C.S.L. Blair has taken New Labour thinking. Having read The
Meaning of Things, however, I fear he must take his share of the blame.
He has, together with so many fellow-academics with "a permanent list to port', helped fertilise the intellectual soil in which Blair's political
bindweed has flourished.
The prigs at Alcohol Concern believe (like so many other Statist swine) that they know better than us how to bring up our children. Both my daughters were introduced gradually to alcohol from a young age in the French manner, with a view to their learning to appreciate quality wine in joyful moderation. Understandably, Alcohol Concern's demand to criminalise such an approach, has brought Devil's Kitchen into full, fine, fulminating, foul-mouthed form:
Personally, I shall be sending a letter to Alcohol Concern, expressing
my concern at their authoritarian tendencies. Oh, and I'll probably
call them a pack of ***** as well.
By comparison, Raedwald - the most articulate boat on the internet (and normally no slouch at invective) - comes over all lyrical on the subject:
When I think back on all the good things in my life - all those brief little scenarios of joy and pleasure, the warm laughter of friends, the passion of lovers, the sudden stunning realisations that you are gazing at a scene of true beauty, the closeness of companions who have shared past danger - always in the scene somewhere is alcohol. The old French vintner who declared "A day without wine is like a day without Sunshine" had it spot on.
Condoleeza Rice's article is itself of no particular interest. It's addressed more to a certain foreign government than to the readers of the Daily Telegraph. It is no doubt a minor part of a major diplomatic effort.
The comments posted on it are fascinating however.
To judge by them, the UK is populated with semi-literate anti-Zionists. Who are all these people with the leisure during working hours to tell Ms Rice to have children, to call her a c*** and to call the rest of the Bush administration "facists" (sic)?
I have sympathy with those commenters who ask the question (more or less politely) "How can we be sure you are correctly assessing the threat from Iran when you so misjudged that from Iraq?" It's a fair point and one which Ms Rice needs to answer. The Bush and Blair governments have been left (by their dishonesty, their credulity or the failings of their intelligence services) with a credibility problem.
If Iran is the threat she suggests, that credibility problem makes it more difficult to defend our countries. For that, the two governments are to blame and Ms Rice must take her share.
However it's amazing to see, fewer than 20 years after Communist dupes in Britain were suggesting the moral equivalence of the USA and the USSR, new dupes are already doing the same for the USA and an Iran led by an open proponent of genocide.
I don't need to explain why this idea is ridiculous as Deogolwulf has done so, better than I could, here.
Now that George Monbiot's grip on reality has been revealed - even by Grauniad standards - to be tenuous, could someone please set him up with a quiet ward on which to learn macramé?
Perhaps, barring accidents, longevity is a matter of having something to live for? I salute Mr Holden's spirit and his sense of humour and hope he lives long to enjoy his winnings.
If he gives them to his heirs, he may (depending on his other assets) be gambling again on survival - this time until he is 107. If he has his health, may I therefore suggest cigarettes, whisky and the usual accompaniments?
The growing English desire for a Parliament is entirely a reaction to the West Lothian Question. Englishmen have never before shown any desire for more layers of government. Were it not for devolution, we would be quite content to be governed from our historic parliament at Westminster.
Personally I love Scotland. It's a beautiful place and I have friends there. I really wish the Scots could get along with us in the UK, but then I love Ireland too. I see no reason why all of us in these islands can't live together as one nation.
People who share the same language, teach their children the same nursery rhymes, love the same drama, music and literature and cherish common values should be in the same nation. That the tribal hatreds of prehistoric times have outlasted the long-miscegenated tribes is sad. That modern nations should define themselves by long-dead tribes of a lost race is pathetic. Sad, pathetic or not, the right to self-determination is inalienable and it's not for me to question the reasoning behind any given exercise of that right.
The Scots seem cautiously to be gearing up to go the way of the Irish, no doubt encouraged by their recent example. The SNP is cleverly making it "safe" for voters to elect them, by promising a referendum on full independence in 2010. It will have three years, and the resources of the well-funded Scottish government, to make its case. I think it will succeed. The sight of a nationalist government running the country (and under the leadership of the most impressive politician in these islands it can scarcely do less well than the current lot) will stoke the fires lit by Labour with the establishment of what Billy Connolly calls "the wee pretendy Parliament".
Though we will shed a tear, it is not all bad news. They have never, shall we say, fully embraced the United Kingdom. Only 163,000 of them currently make a net contribution to the UK Treasury. Most Scots are unreconstructed Socialists. An election-deciding proportion of them work for (or are kept in idleness by) the State. I do not say they are no loss, but I am a polite Englishman. Economically, it would not be far wrong. Of course, they will take their share of North Sea oil, but it's not as great as the SNP thinks and becomes less important with every day of delay.
We need to get our act together for the negotiations which may begin in 2010. Few people seem to have thought the consequences through - on either side of the border.
Since Scotland will be leaving the UK, which is the Member State of the EU, an independent Scotland will need to apply to join. It would be irrational for a new nation, with no recent track record of
political and economic stability, to walk immediately into membership.
The nations of New Europe, very sensibly, had to prove that they were stable
democracies with viable economies before they could join.
They were made to jump many hoops of the kind now being held
up before Turkey. Scotland should jump them too.