Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Here be no Unitarians?

It's always a pleasure to think that my jottings are not going entirely unnoticed, albeit by only a handful of curious souls every week. Over time these accumulate, leaving their mark on the world map at the foot of the site. But if you scroll down and take a look, you can see a broad swathe of emptyness, which must be Middle America - the Flyover States - I guess. Maybe its almost as lonely being Unitarian there as in Italy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why it's not about Silvio (and what this could mean for Ed)

The only bum note of our recent Jordan trip was at a bar one evening when our (Italian) tour group predictably got on to the subject of Silvio Berlusconi and his not inconsiderable sins. Everyone agreed he was the shame of Italy in much the same way I imagine a group of liberal UUs would have wrung their hands over Dubya.

All that is except a woman from Rome who, her cheeks flaring (although maybe it was the beer, maybe the sun) said: Well who else is there? Tell me - who else is there to vote for?

Cue embarrassed silence then everyone talking at once (ie, no change there). But I was left thinking (and I had plenty of opportunity to think, unable as I was to keep up with much of the discussion) she had a point. Not by voting for Silvio, I hasten to add, but that the existence of Silvio was not the fault of the right, it was because of the failings of the left.

Silvio is successful not because Italians are intrinsically right-wing (if anything they err to the left) but because the left has consistently failed to reflect the concerns, or speak in the language, of ordinary people. Silvio does.

I was reminded of this following yesterday's election of Ed Milliband as the new leader of the British Labour Party. Although the majority of party members and its MPs voted for his brother David, the endorsement of the unions swung it for Ed. Needless to say Ed was the more "left-wing" candidate, while David was much more popular in the country as a whole.

Although I have nothing against Ed's politics, this does seem reminiscent of the Italian left, which, with the exception of Nichi Vendola - the Obama of the South - seems determined to ignore the voices of ordinary folk while it converses with itself, at the end of which it fails to understand why no one votes for it.

Labour's (well, the unions) choice of Ed seems a bit of a missed opportunity, particularly when the Tory administration is about to embark on a highly unpopular - and ideologically-driven - series of cuts. Every time Ed opens his mouth, they will simply label him the voice of vested interest. What am I saying? They've done so already.

Or maybe I'm just sore cos I voted for David. And Oona. And John.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Deepak Chopra's new book on Mohammed

I love this quote from his interview:

If someone asks what religion you are, what do you say?

I say God gave humans the truth, and the Devil came and said, “Let’s organize it, we’ll call it religion.”

I'm sure he didn't mean us, though... ;-)

Via Pickled Politics.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Robert Kennedy 3 around the corner

The wrong David Mitchell

"I didn't know that man from Peep Show wrote experimental novels and had been shortlisted for the Booker Prize twice", said my girlfriend, leant over her copy of Repubblica. "Really?" "Yes, apparently he's got a new novel coming out about cultural dissonance, set in Japan in 1799." All that, I thought, and Have I Got News For You.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The intellectual grotesquery of Benedict XVI

It is easy to be outraged when the Pope blames Nazism on atheists but I think it's important to also understand the basis for his wrong-headedness.

I do not believe the author of a series of encyclicals that is essentially a Catholic/ Existentialist death-match (next, Pope Benedict and Jean Paul Sartre!) has not thought this through.

Benedict's experience of growing up in Nazi Germany may mean he associates God-lessness specifically with a world in which Man's power was unleashed in a perversion of Nietzsche's conception of the "Superman". So, perhaps also projecting a certain amount of guilt for not having done more to resist, he may possess a particular dread of the God-less state, and associate it automatically with Nazism.

But he is wrong to conclude atheists "created" the Nazis - atheism may have been a characteristic (and not much of one at that - witness Himmler's attempts to re-imagine Nazism as a Pagan cult) but Christianity was arguably its genesis.

In Straw Dogs John Gray demonstrates how despite having "murdered" God, the post-Enlightenment West and its ideological off-spring remain culturally Christian, particularly in a tendency to promise Heaven here upon the Earth - Utopianism.

It's a destructive fallacy we cannot shake off - from the Jacobite Terror, through Stalin and Hitler, to Neo-Conservatism. Unlike the Greeks and Romans Nietzsche admired (and whose age he wished to recreate, free from the shackles of "slave" religion), all have peddled the idea of a "promised land" - and led their followers to destruction.

For a man so supposedly endowed with intellect to ignore this is a considerable flaw. To enlist the Jews, for whom 2000 years of Christian persecution culminated in genocide, to make his point, is simply grotesque.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Since records began...

It's not often my eye is drawn to a story in the Daily Express...

POLICE have been sent on a training course to prepare for a massive earthquake, it emerged last night...

Yet over the past 1,036 years since records began in 974 only 11 people are known to have been killed by earthquakes in Britain. And the last one of any size was nearly 80 years ago.

I love that over the past 1,036 years.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Blood-sucking capitalism exposed by... the Twilight series

The Marxist sub-text of Twilight in A Very Pubic Sociologist...

One effect of this is to obscure the exploitation inherent to capitalism, by negating the traditional imagery of factories and mines for the soft, flexible labour relations of the 21st century. While theorists such as Virno and Negri have documented this transition within the narrow confines of academia, it was left to the genius of Stephenie Meyer to demonstrate this transformation in simple imagery.