The dangers of being a good Samaritan when society is dysfunctional

Back when I was a kid at intermediate school (‘junior high’ in US parlance) there was an incident involving a trestle table at the back of the class, on which had been placed a lot of craft works. Adjacent to the trestle was a large cupboard in which all the coats and bags were stored, … More The dangers of being a good Samaritan when society is dysfunctional

Social panics – when the stupid becomes the normal

I am always intrigued by the way that, every so often, western society is seized with a ‘social panic’ in which some recent and usually small-scale event becomes evidence of a supposedly deep-seated problem that is going to bring society crashing down in ruin. The archetype, for me, is New Zealand’s Elbe Milk Bar scandal … More Social panics – when the stupid becomes the normal

Hard lessons in the unprovoked malice of strangers

As a rule these days, I don’t engage with local enthusiasts who style themselves ‘historians’. It sounds harsh, but my experience of being attacked – out of the blue – by strangers with an interest in the field has been so consistent I’m reluctant to respond. Let me reveal a few experiences of my work, … More Hard lessons in the unprovoked malice of strangers

Echoes of the guns of August – why we remember the First World War so poignantly

It is 104 years since the First War began, this month – and a century, this year, since it ended. The nations involved in it had all variously been involved in longer wars before. And the main combatants fought a longer war later: the Second World War, which pitted the same major nations against each … More Echoes of the guns of August – why we remember the First World War so poignantly

Perhaps the pen is mightier than the voice

I was intrigued by some research I spotted recently which seems to prove that the pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword. Well, it’s mightier than the spoken word, anyway. The research suggested that there’s a specific reason why arguments on Facebook so often degenerate to slagging matches. It’s the same issue lawyers run into … More Perhaps the pen is mightier than the voice