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
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
I was absolutely horrified the other week to see a news report from India about a fatal scooter accident. Instead of helping, bystanders took selfies in front of the dying victims. Nobody even assisted them for half an hour. That sort of behaviour is utterly repugnant. In New Zealand, where I am, it is also … More Which moral pit is the world falling into?
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
A story caught my eye a while back about a university student who’d just graduated, despite being written off at school as worthless and ridiculed by university lecturers for misspelling. It turned out the student had dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia, which sounds like a nightmare combination. In fact, all are manifestations of one basic issue: … More Why dyslexics get written off by teachers
I’ve seen suggestions of late that we shouldn’t call today’s intolerant authoritarians ‘Nazis’, because the word is specific to the political party that came to power in Germany in 1933. Actually, I think ‘Nazi’ is great term to describe such behaviour. Why? Because the underlying forces involved are the same. The crimes against humanity perpetrated … More Why we have to call out intolerance and hatred
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