Diving for pearls
Of all the important things taught at seats of learning both great and small, how to be a parent stands little chance of being included on the curriculum. Like parachuting, deep sea diving and mating, all the manuals, theory and research in the world cannot replace the hands-on experience of on-the-job training. Failure seems inevitable as attempting to channel positivity, hope, compassion and basic human decency without imposing anxiety, fear and an all consuming ambition is a balancing act that is almost impossible to carry off. Thus, misplaced and erroneous reflected parental glory came a knocking on the door on AS-Level results day.
We have tried our very best not to impose pressure in the pursuit of top examination grades preferring to allow young minds to chart their own course. We failed on occasions and with hindsight comments such as “what do you mean you can`t grasp the concept of filial piety in King Lear” and “for heaven`s sake, child, it`s only a quadratic equation” barked across the dinner table did not exactly help. After a while, the stock question “have you done your homework” was always replied with “yes” even though we knew the answer was always “no”. As one wag many years ago wrote on the wall of the gents at my student union; “knowledge wilts in the greenhouse of academia”. (more…)
Enjoying yet another holiday in Portugal pointing at fish, David Cameron will be delighted that Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has picked her moment to jump overboard just as the nets of moral outrage snag the truly awful coalition government. In the strange world inhabited by Cameron, every silver lining frames a huge, black cloud and Warsi`s resignation might give him short-term relief but the storm is about to break.
In 2007, Cameron appointed an unelected, failed parliamentary candidate hastily elevated to the House of Lords to his shadow cabinet. Promoted not due to any actual ability but because she ticked various electoral boxes, Baroness Warsi became a rare thing in British politics and something of a paradox worthy of Nietzsche. In short, she quickly became unsackable. As a token woman suitably northern and, more importantly, as a token Muslim, her seat at the cabinet table was assured as long as her electoral value remained viable. (more…)
Today, the beginning of the First World War will be marked with solemn remembrance of the soldiers who fell and the civilians who perished; there is little point in commemorating the 1918 Armistice.
On 3 August 1914, the then Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey delivered a rousing speech intended to prepare the nation for war. Filled with tub-thumping patriotism extolling honour and courage and sacrifice, the Viscount Grey of Fallodon`s call to arms displayed the time-honoured and continuing skill of a politician to say one thing and know the exact opposite. On the evening before war was declared, safely in the privacy of the Foreign Office, Sir Edward Grey is reported to have looked out of the window at the gathering dusk and said; “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time.”
Now that his time has long gone, the lamps are still going out and not just all over Europe but all over the planet. The only light in this terrible history are candles lit to the memories of lives lost in Guernica, Coventry, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hanoi, Halabja, Basra, Vukovar, Kosovo and so many other attacks on civilian populations. (more…)
Shave and a haircut
It was no less a visionary than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who allegedly said that an eye for an eye leaves the world blind. It is not certain when the Mahatma offered this rather sensible advice or in what context he intended it to be used but it is tempting to imagine that this call for sanity was made during the partition of India in 1947. If it was true then, then it is true now and was equally true in 1948 with the creation of the State of Israel.
The mindless horror once again unfolding in Gaza does not have its root cause in the end of the British mandate in Palestine or even in the British Balfour Declaration of 1917. Although those events have unquestionably contributed to the current madness, we need to consider a more ancient time when Jerusalem was the centre of a much smaller universe, London was a swamp and the followers of Abraham decided to go their separate ways. When Abraham laid the foundations for three of the great world religions; Christianity, Islam and Judaism, even his great wisdom could not have imagined that God`s vengeance would promote the schism and be delivered by suicide vest or laser guided from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. (more…)
Diplomacy, according to Winston Churchill, is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions. Theodore Roosevelt was more pragmatic and suggested that “if you`ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow”. Tony Blair, however, suggests that we should carry a great big stick and shout very, very loudly.
Former Prime Ministers usually do the decent thing by disappearing off into their dotage leaving memories of bygone days and are only occasionally wheeled out in public like some creepy uncle at a family funeral or wedding to make everybody else feel uncomfortable. Not so with former Prime Minister Tony Blair. (more…)