1 Jun

Commemoration against remembering

War has particularly strange psychological effects on those who commemorate it. For most of my life, it was axiomatic that the First World War represented a shameful squandering of human life; not in a theoretical way, but in the deaths, maimed bodies and mental scars of family members. Many women, too, amputated of husbands and fiancés, spent diminished lives in the shadow of the conflict that had robbed them of everything. Our next-door neighbour (in Palmerston Road, an aptly-named imperial thoroughfare) kept for a lifetime the wasting trousseau which had been prepared for the day which was annulled when her future husband was killed in the last days of the war. In her seventies, she gave

24 May

Song of the Shirt

It is almost a year since the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka killed more than 1,300 garment workers, many of whom worked for sub-contractors to British companies; but it is more than three hundred years since the fate of the weavers of Bengal first became tangled with that of the people of Britain. When the East India Company discovered the exquisite fabrics of Bengal, made originally for the Mughal court, so great was the demand for them that protectionist laws were passed in Britain, prohibiting the use of such materials. An Act of 1720 forbade the use of ‘any garment or apparel whatsoever, of any painted, printed or dyed calicoes, in or about any bed, chair, cushion, window

9 May

UKIP and the power of the media

The intrusive power of the media, their capacity to lay waste the lives of ordinary people and celebrities alike, have been much aired, before and after Levinson. But there is another form of power, exercised with far greater discretion. This is the ability of the media to shape – and to limit – discussion; a capacity which has in recent weeks become conspicuously transparent, thanks to their efforts to discredit UKIP in general, and Nigel Farage in particular. The dominant political parties and the mainstream media collusively concerted the attack on Ukip. Never has the management of what is somewhat hyperbolically called ‘the clash of ideas’, conducted by the opinion-formers and

1 Apr

The vacancy has been filled

When belief in the myth of the redemptive destiny of the workers of the world crumbled, it was only a question of time before a new one would arise. And what could that be, in an age when wealth is paramount, if not a fable about the rich? And these have indeed plundered the trampled shrines of socialism and seized for themselves the role of saviours of humanity. Of course, the blending of social and spiritual redemption is not new. In some versions of scripture, the meek were to have inherited the earth. The association of Christ with the poor continued to make wealth more dangerous than poverty well into the Middle Ages, for love of riches imperilled the immortal soul. This did not inhibit

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