One of the flaws of twentieth century thinking was that a lot of it was geared towards systematising the human universe around us. Everything had to be reduced to mechanisms, often simplistic, often single-cause. This was certainly true academically, particularly in the humanities which were styling themselves as ‘scientific’ on the basis of that systematisation. … More The flaws of twentieth century thinking
There was, I suppose, a universal sigh of relief when New Year 2017 ticked over and the world left the Year from Hell. We like our arbitrary calendar dates. Reality seldom conforms. After all, Lemmy Kilmister kicked off the big celebrity die-off that marked 2016 on Boxing Day 2015. A friend of mine suggested that … More Why 2016 was a historical trend year – not a one-shot disaster
An elderly woman boarded the train I was riding the other day. The carriage was crowded, but someone immediately gave up his seat for her. Random acts of kindness like this are what should happen in the world. They don’t – not nearly often enough. A lot of the problem, I think, flows from the … More It doesn’t take much to be kind – if we pay attention
The news from Paris has horrified me on so many levels. Part of the horror flows from the way the dark side of human nature has been – once again – starkly revealed by last week’s terror attacks. If we look across the world today – and back through history – that darkness is also evident in many … More Lessons of Paris: how to use kindness to defeat humanity’s dark side
The other day I found a tweet by Stephen Fry linking to a Texan college video in which students working to become lawyers, psychologists, and so on, didn’t know who’d won the US Civil War. Or who their Vice President was. Fry wondered if it was evidence of Spengler’s The Decline and Fall of the West. I’m not … More Heralding the decline and fall of the west, apparently
The other week I argued that Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara was a poorly written Tolkien rip-off that put me off the rest of the novels. Responses fell into two camps – people who agreed and thought the whole Shannara series was dismal; and those who were offended. Fair point. People don’t have to agree … More Should we be dispassionate about writing – like Spock?
The other day a reader commented on a post I’d written about 9/11 as history and pointed out, quite rightly, that it doesn’t take long for events to be ‘packaged’ in ways that stand against the more dispassionate requirement of historians to understand. I agree. There’s no doubt in my mind that dramatic events affecting whole societies are … More Do societies re-package their narratives of recent events? And is that ‘history’?