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Index: Politics & Culture

Social Sickness.

E.F. Benson: ‘For the base and foundation of national life is soundness in the home, and if the home be built of rotten and corrupt structure the time will not be long before, with a crash, the whole fabric totters and falls.’

We need to talk about Vladimir.

Jonathan Gorvett: The current conflict is also even sometimes described as a ‘proxy war’ between Russia and the US — even though the former country is directly involved and indeed, is actually the invading, war-starting party.’


Michael Blackburn: ‘The liberal society pictured here is in truth a fractured society, and we know that homogeneity is more desirable because more stable. The relationship between the sovereign individual and society is one of constant tension and conflict. Unfortunately the ochlocracy tends to prevail.’

On Women.

Natalia Ginzburg: ‘I have met so many women, and now I always find something worthy of commiseration in every single one of them, some kind of trouble, kept more or less secret, and more or less big: the tendency to fall down the well and find there a chance for suffering, which men do not know about — maybe because they have a much stronger health or they are smarter in forgetting about themselves and fully identifying with their jobs, they are more assertive and actual owners of their own body, and of their life, and are freer in general.’ (Nicoletta Asciuto, trans.)

A Diatribe.

Anthony Howell: ‘Aren’t you as dismayed about the growth of our arms trade
and how it’s all been done before
or has already been made?’


Martin Thom: ‘The Arms Fair prospers yet, and Rudd
Has curtained off a mire of blood
Which the Few, the Good, the Great
In ermine gowns may contemplate.’

Making Mugabe: the Gukurahundi massacres.

Lance Guma: ‘Wearing red berets to distinguish from the regular army the [North Korean-trained] brigade drawn from 3500 ex-ZANLA troops butchered over 20 000 people living in the southern parts of Zimbabwe believed to be opposition supporters. Mugabe christened the new brigade, ‘Gukurahundi’ which, loosely translated, means ‘the rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains’. ‘ Among his closest aides: Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The Utopian Animal.

David Eisenberg: ‘Owing to the failures of the Enlightenment, which were evinced by the barbarities that persistently accompanied reason’s advance, the rational animal was forced to exit the stage. In his place stands the inhabitant of the present age: the utopian animal.’

Duties of care in the study of literature.

Alex Wong: ‘To be able to enter into an emotional and ideological world not one’s own, and then to be moved by it, to come to respect it, to empathize with that mode of thought and feeling—whether aesthetic, sentimental or moral—must be, I take it, one of the most important processes involved in the study of old books. It is especially important when the book in question at first seems particularly alien. What I am talking about (knowing that I am saying nothing new) might be described as an engaged, humane, historical awareness, the goal being an expansion of sensibility in which process those foreign things (the works of art) are assimilated.’

My part in the downfall of everything.

Anthony Howell: ‘Since its heyday in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, satire as a poetic form has fallen out of fashion. Of course, in other fields, there are still plenty of satirists. Private Eye continues to mock the establishment and spill the beans on cheats. Stand-up comics ridicule our politicians and media stars. There are plenty of films, plays and musicals that deal in derision and the criticism of human pretensions, foibles and iniquity. The satirical vein is still very much in circulation. But poetry itself, the principle organ of mockery in Roman times, appears to have lost sight of this cutting tool with the advent of the romantics. Sincerity replaced wit as the yard stick in the nineteenth century, and resonance achieved through depth of feeling became a more urgent concern.’

Popping the larger question.

Anthony O’Hear: ‘In Britain at least revisionism is currently going through on the nod, with barely any of the sort of discussion which has been happening in the USA, and I’m not clear how long resistance can be effective there either in the current political climate. In Britain anyway the homosexual lobby is so powerful in the worlds of politics and entertainment that the campaign is won almost without any effort on the part of that lobby, and they know it. Woe betide anyone who works in the media or local government and dares to appear as ‘homophobic’ (i.e. supporting a privileged position for conjugal marriage). ‘

A pataphysical education.

Paul Cohen: ”Pataphysics presents a challenge to reality, most characteristically, though not always, carried out through humor. Unfortunately, as Andrew Hugill notes in his new book on the subject, “the word is often used quite loosely to invoke anything that seems wacky, weird, or bizarrely incomprehensible,” much as the word “surreal” is often used to refer to anything strange.’

Republicans mount ‘a rearguard action against the party base’.

‘Amash said he voted against the 2013 Ryan budget—after “voting with our team 95 percent of the time”—because “we did not take a strong enough stance in dealing with our debt.” That was exactly the argument made by Heritage Action, the campaign branch of the conservative think tank, which had launched in the Tea Party year of 2010. Republican leaders can’t punish Heritage, but it can punish back-benchers.’

Nicolas Sarkozy as George H.W. Bush in translation.

Sarkozy seemed to represent a refreshing future for French politics after years dominated by cynical men like Mitterand and Chirac. And he seemed like a man of the moment: Throughout the world there is a growing disgust with the political class — the same gallery of men and women with the same trite ideas and sentimental platitudes, all propped up by media companies that have lost their ability to inform, let alone influence.

Race, writing, and skipping through minefields.

Harry Stein: All thoughtful people want to resolve America’s great historical ailment, racism. But one of the things we’ll have to do if that monumental
 enterprise is to have any chance of success is to address honestly the 
desperate condition of the urban underclass – not only because it is 
the right and moral thing to do, but because as Daniel Patrick
 Moynihan so presciently observed, the pathologies that emerge there
 eventually take root throughout the rest of society.