Tag Archives: Theresa May

Waiting On The Word

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Waiting On The Word
By Lorraine Cavanagh
Foreword by Martyn Percy
Darton, Longman & Todd – £12.99

[…] for many people, to fall is to fail. Cities fall; so do people. It is to be reduced: to come to nothing. And yet, we also fall in love. To fall is also to let go. It is also to go with the flow; to cascade, like a river or waterfall.

          Martyn Percy

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

          Rainer Maria Rilke (Foreword)

Both of the above quotes might be construed as an insinuation as to where we, as a society, have gone horribly wrong in so many (avoidable) ways. As mere words written on a page, there’s no denying that they need to be read and embraced for all their worth.

BUT, all too often, those doing the reading will undoubtedly already be well aware of the culpability of entangling ”ourselves in knots of our own making.” It is the vast array of brain-dead sycophants (such as most of those in Theresa May’s Cabinet or those who ever so transiently kneel at the alter of Donald Trump) who really/undoubtedly need to read and be made aware of the above.

Even if just for a smidgen of a fleeting moment.

Alas, it really is the powers that be, whom truly need to embrace an assortment of (the most prophetic and clear-sighted) writings throughout Waiting On The Word.

Indeed those who can afford, as well as both make and allow for change to happen – as Lorraine Cavanagh makes fundamentally clear in chapter five’s ‘Becoming an effective communicator:The preacher as Connector,’ wherein she writes: ”They represent the chronic loneliness which is a direct result of our indifference to the circumstances of other people, the protective self-interest so characteristic of our times, and of our busy and affluent western society. If we read […] of the refugee crisis which is being played out on the beaches of northern France and on the barbed borders of an increasing number of other European countries, it becomes a grim prophetic warning about the future of Europe itself. Turning a blind eye to suffering, by refusing to work together as nations, will ultimately cause our own fragmentation. Without compassion, and a shared duty of care ‘the centre cannot hold’ (the centre cannot hold: Y.B. Yeats, The Second Coming).”

The 143 pages of Waiting On The Word are a more than telling indictment of our most terrible of times.

Aligned with a calling to be open and sincere and to avoid the fickleness of fame, fortune and the most inane of popularity (or should that read celebrity?), it is a book that really does need to be read by anyone and everyone currently in or considering a career in politics (let alone the pulpit).

After all: ”Knowing we are loved is not a matter of knowing that we are popular. Popularity is fickle. It can vanish overnight. But healthy self-confidence is a gift […].

David Marx

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A Different Kind Of Animal

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A Different Kind Of Animal –
How Culture Transformed Our Species
By Robert Boyd
Princeton University Press – £22. 95

”Robert Boyd marshals an astonishing range of scholarship, colourful vignettes, and anecdotes to argue that humans make use of insights and adaptations that we do not understand. We learn very often not by figuring out how things work but imitating others who have locally useful ”know-how.” Boyd describes the conditions under which selection favours ”a psychology that causes most people to adopt beliefs just because others hold those beliefs” (Introduction).

How exceedingly, woefully true.

”People do indeed adopt beliefs just because others hold those beliefs.”
There are countless examples scattered throughout the history of unfortunate folly; surely the most volatile of late being the fact that so much of (ignorant and myopic) North America has opted to have a cold, callous, cowardly, businessman as its leader – just because others were somehow indoctrinated to believe his vile, yet overtly simplistic, gung-ho rhetoric.

Talking of which, this book’s Introduction further goes on to clarify: ”Not all of the consequences are positive: maladaptive ideas and false beliefs can also spread via blind imitation.” To be sure, hasn’t ”blind imitation” nigh always been at the helm of the western world’s (cultural) downfall?

A Different Kind Of Animal – How Culture Transformed Our Species does much to explain why this is unsurprisingly so.

If nothing else, it’s seven chapters are more than demonstrative in deciphering that while society – to varying degrees – can be smart, ”we are not nearly smart enough to have solved the vast array of problems that confronted our species as it spread across the globe.”

All the more reason that we as a society, ought to tread a whole lot more carefully when it comes to choosing those we feel have our best interests at heart. Two very current, prime reasons being: America’s Donald Trump (for whatever reason), doesn’t believe in climate change, while the UK’s Theresa May (for whatever reason) doesn’t believe in a fair society.

And more than anything else, said two examples go a long, long way, in substantiating that we are indeed: ”not nearly smart enough.”

These 196 pages (excluding Acknowledgements, Notes, References and Index) are a fine reflection of human adaptation as seen through some sort of prism of acute vulnerability. As the author of The Secret of Our Success: How Culture is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter, Joseph Henrich, has since both asked and stated: ”What makes us unique? Are we really just smart chimpanzees? Why is our species both so cooperative and yet so violent? Addressing these questions, Robert Boyd adroitly combines detailed analysis of diverse societies, crystal-clear experimental studies, and rich descriptions of hunter-gatherer life with the precision that only mathematics can provide […]. Boyd boldly leads us on a scientific journey to discover who we are and where we came from.”

In and of itself, we would be more than wise to take supreme note of the latter – before it’s too late.

David Marx

Ethics for a Full World

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Ethics for a Full World
Or, Can Animal-Lovers Change the World?
By Tormod V. Burkey
Clairview Books – £12.99

The ”control of nature” is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man.

                                                                                        (Rachel Carson) 1962

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

                                                                                        St Augustine

As with the above quotes, this most thought provoking of publications is liberally peppered throughout with enough ”stop you in your tracks” type quotes, to hopefully hush even the the most buffoon induced likes of Boris ‘I Really Do Need To Start All Over Again’ Johnson (‘Especially In The Ethics Department’).

But hey, long-lost principals aside, Ethics for a Full World – Or, Can Animal-Lovers Change the World?, really is the sort of book that is not only paved with tumultuous good intentions, but needs to be read (and then re-read) by everyone in Texas and the deplorable likes of perhaps Theresa May’s entire government – over and over and over again.

Sadly though, Tormod V. Burkey has herein written the sort of book that will no doubt be wholly embraced by the likes of Brighton’s Caroline Lucas and perhaps Jeremy Corbyn, yet probably – or should I say absolutely – no-one within the Conservative Party (not to mention Texas).

The mere fact that the word ‘Ethics” appears on the cover, will undoubtedly substantiate as much.

Indeed, these 150 pages (excluding Notes) are, as the author of Environmental Politics for the 21st Century, Lloyd Timberlake has said: ”one of the shortest, sharpest, clearest and most compelling descriptions of the causes and cures of our environmental bankruptcy that I have ever read.” To which one can only comply and wholeheartedly agree, for if, as Thomas Pynchon is quoted as saying (in chapter three’s ‘Why Are We Not Acting To Save The World?’) ”they can get you asking the wrong question, they don’t have worry about the answers.”

Brexit?

One of the most vital, vivid and translucent of books in a very long time.

David Marx

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice –
An Anthology of Magical Tales
Edited by Jack Zipes
Illustrated by Natalie Frank
Princeton University Press – £27.95

Prejudice in general is a belief system, not a knowledge system about a particular group, and as a belief system, stereotypes of the targeted groups are based on some obvious distinguishing appearances, but more on activities and functions attributed to the group by way of fantasies.

                                                          (‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Harry
                                                          Potter, and Why Magic Matters’).

Well, who’d have ever thought one would read such profundity in a book entitled The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – An Anthology of Magical Tales?

Not I, that’s for sure.
Especially the very opening line: ”Prejudice in general is a belief system.”

Prejudice is indeed a belief system; which can, more often than not, purport to an abundance of seething, opposing disqualification. The terrible manifestation of which can further evolve unto distinct negativity. A most distinct issue upon which editor, Jack Zipes, further continues when he writes: ”Young Bruehl maintains that there are three elementary forms of fantasy, related to sexism, racism, and anti-Semitism, and childism can involve all three forms of fantasy, belief, and action: ”1) fantasies about being able to self-reproduce and to own the self-reproduced offspring; 2) fantasies about being able to have slaves – usually sex slaves – who are not incest objects; and 3) fantasies about being able to eliminate something felt to be invidiously or secretly depleting one from within.”

The latter is something Theresa May ought to be alerted to in the run up to the pending British Election (on June 8th). Let’s face it, May’s all-round embrace of ”fantasies about being able to eliminate something felt to be invidiously or secretly depleting one from within,” is a thought process she has readily subscribed to – ever since she embarked on becoming Home Secretary in 2010.

That said, An Anthology of Magical Tales really ought not become steeped nor embroiled in political tosh.

Indeed, its 348 pages (excluding Preface, Notes and Acknowledgements, Biographies of Authors, Editors, Collectors and Translators, Filmography, Bibliography, Selected and Chronological List of Sorcerer’s Apprentice Tales and Index) is a socially induced, and perhaps visionary book that presents something of a compelling look at ye traditional tale.

As Pauline Greenhill, Co-Editor of Fairy-Tale Films Beyond Disney has since written in relation to ‘The Magician and His Pupil’: ”readers will find trenchant insights and may be surprised to learn that a tale they thought they knew has much greater complexity than they imagined.”

As touched on at the outset, there is a variable complexity entwined within this book’s three parts (‘The Humiliated Apprentice Tales, ‘The Rebellious Apprentice Tales’ and the ‘Krabat Tales’), the sort of which is not only enlightening and entertaining, but also exploratory.

Littered with an array of black and white, full-page figures, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice could even be considered rather subversive – especially when placed alongside so much of what is going on in the world today.

David Marx

Out of Ashes

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Out Of Ashes –
A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century
By Konrad H. Jarausch
Princeton University Press – £32.95

     Hitler’s dictatorship rested not only on repression but also on popular gratitude for the economic recovery, for which he claimed credit. Economists still dispute which of the policies actually worked, but it is undeniable that full employment returned fairly rapidly. In grapeshot fashion, the Nazis launched numerous measures, ranging from the public works such as building the high-speed Autobahnen to subsidies for regular construction and reviving industrial investment. Wages initially remained frozen, but the return to work raised the living standards of households that had barely survived the depression and made the Fuhrer popular.

                                                                                   (‘Hitler’s Volksgemeinschaft’)

The above quote from chapter ten of this all persuasive and penetrating book, renders any uninitiated reader of twentieth century German history at something of a surprising loss; especially with regards Adolf Hitler’s euphoric rise to penultimate power.

For it would seem in order to gain a country’s trust (and vote), one need only put food on the table and be seen to openly rebuild a country’s infrastructure. But were one to fast forward to 2017, it would seem such essentially simplistic thinking has been seductively replaced by rampant ambivalence, nationalism, xenophobia, greed and political swashbuckling. The sort of which hasn’t been seen since, well; Hitler’s actual rise to power itself.

What with Donald Trump in the US, Theresa May in the UK and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela – not to mention the many serried ranks of delusional crack-pots that perhaps not so patiently wait amid the wings of seething world domination and destruction – Out Of Ashes – A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century, ought to be made compulsive reading throughout many of the world’s prime corridors of intrinsic power.

That it won’t, is further testament to how utterly insane the world in the early part of the twenty-first century appears to have unfortunately (d)evolved.

Indeed, rather than coming together and building bridges, Trump, May, and the rise of the Far-Right throughout many parts of Europe, appear utterly determined in the full-on promotion of division and the building of walls. An unquestionable folly, upon which Konrad H. Jarausch shines a more than humanistic light – throughout many parts of this most readable and excellent of books.

In relation to the immediate above for instance, one need only traverse the second paragraph of chapter nineteen’s ‘Economic Integration,’ to ascertain where common sense has gone so horribly wrong. Quite possibly, politically diluted beyond the point of all and any reason – let alone return: ”The founding of the Common Market was a concerted attempt to prevent a repetition of the disasters of the first half of the twentieth century. Its central purpose of laying ”the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe” intended to achieve multiple aims: By linking the economies of France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, the treaty sought to to make future war impossible by eliminating ”the barriers which divide Europe.” At the same time the agreement tried to ban the spectre of another depression by striving for ”the constant improvement of the living and working conditions” of European citizens.”

These 788 pages (excluding Preface, Acknowledgements, Notes and Index) are literally littered with such grounded commons sense as that exemplified above.

As the author Peter Fritzsche (whose Life and Death in the Third Reich I also reviewed upon publication) has since said: Out of Ashes is an extremely well-conceived and highly ambitious book. What Jarausch has pulled off is a fully balanced, elegantly integrated history of a long twentieth century in which the pre-1914 era and post-1989 years are vital parts of the interpretation.”

To be sure, Out of Ashes penetrates all the wayward and distorted untruths of current day, blame-game-ideology; by simply laying bare what needs to be told. And perhaps re-told.

David Marx

A World Gone Mad

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A World Gone Mad –
The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939/45
Pushkin Press – £18.99

     God help our poor planet in the grip of this madness.

Amid so many of my reviews, I’ve so often felt both the need and the inclination to write that history continues to unfortunately repeat itself. The above opening quote, along with the title of this book, do absolutely nothing whatsoever to make me feel anything otherwise.

With a madman in the White House, France deliberating whether or not to vote for the out-and-out, Nazi-Crazed-Nationalist this coming Sunday, and an overtly spineless, dithering Theresa May in Downing Street, we do indeed live in a world gone mad.

Yes: God help our poor planet in the grip of this madness.

To add further fuel to a fire already out of political control, two of the above are women; which, when placed alongside the authoress of this fine book, Astrid Lindgren, does make one either quake with frustration or wonder what society has come to. There again, so far as Britain is concerned, there really is no such thing as society – an ideology set in inexorable place by another (altogether wretched) woman, Margaret Thatcher. And boy, has her vision come true.

As Britain is falling apart at the seams.

All the more reason that May’s cabinet should readily take heed of A World Gone Mad – The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939-45 most readable, vivid and intensely personal chronicle of a Europe on the precipice of self-annihilation: ”What a world, what an existence! Reading the papers is a depressing pastime. Bombs and machine guns hounding women and children in Finland, the oceans full of mines and submarines, neutral sailors dying, or at best being rescued in the nick of time after days and nights of privation on some wretched raft, the behind-the-scenes tragedy of the Polish population (nobody’s supposed to know what’s happening, but some things get into the papers anyway), special sections on the trams for ‘the German master race,’ the Poles not allowed out after 8 in the evening and so on […]. What hatred it will generate! In the end the world will be so full of hate that it will choke us.”

Sound familiar?

What with Isis, terrorists and the deplorable Nigel Farage spouting forth with more nationalistic bile than ought to be allowed, the world is already on the verge of choking. Choking on it’s nigh unquenchable embrace of ignorance, greed and cowardice. Three areas this brave, and according to Die Welt, ”breathtaking read,” touches on throughout its yearly titled chapters (1939 to 1945).

Implausibly regal and refreshing to read, these 220 pages (excluding Glossary of Names) are a Swedish civilian and mother’s account of a dark and incendiary world – which more than anything else, ought to act as some kind of literary warning.

David Marx

The End Of British Politics

9783319499642

The End Of British Politics
By Michael Moran
Palgrave Macmillan/Pivot – £37.99

The film director Alfred Hitchcock once summarised his aim in film making as ‘to scare the wits out of the audience.’ This is a fine formula for a great film director but not a credible strategy of statecraft.

                                                                                                      (‘The End Of State’)

Can’t argue with that.
Indeed, who would even want to?
Especially given the fact that what’s left of Westminster’s ‘strategy of statecraft,’ is itself, being flushed down the toilet (of all misbegotten hope), faster that a jack-booted-skinhead can decide whether or not to Sieg Heil outside a mosque or a synagogue.

That Britain’s politics are no longer a joke, but rather, an international cataclysm of the most profound disdain, ought come as no surprise.

Doesn’t the mere (succinct) title of this rather tough and gritty book, wholeheartedly illustrate as much?

What accounts for The End Of British Politics being such a resolute and rather spot-on read, is it’s no nonsense account of current day Britain, by way of a vituperative, yet well analysed consideration of condemnation.

Take the military for instance, upon which Michael Moran (who is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of Manchester and Professor of Government in the Alliance Business School, University of Manchester) writes: ”In perhaps no European country bar Russia is militarism so powerfully ingrained as in Britain. Britain is the only member of the European Union which allows the military to enter schools for the purpose of recruiting schoolchildren. Military spending, and the economy’s military production, is uniquely high for a state the size of the United Kingdom […]. There has only been one year (1968) since the Second World War when a British Service person has not been killed on active service. Some of the greatest military engagements, such as the defiance of Hitler in 1940, have fed into the belief in providence: that the British are a chosen people with global military responsibilities.”

That just one recent aspect of said ‘responsibility’ manifested in the terrible Iraq War – upon which Moran also writes: ”In Chilcot we see this pragmatic face of the special relationship: no sooner was the invasion over than the two parties began, like gangsters dividing the loot, to argue over the division of the spoils, notably Iraq oil and the lucrative market in defence services” – is, like Brexit and the ever widening cleavage between the country’s haves and have nots, just one example (of many), of where the country is going so horribly, horribly wrong.

But at the end of the day, who really (really) cares?
The government? Nigel Farage? Theresa May?

This blunt and altogether forthright publication is one book the Prime Minister won’t be wanting to read; which is why everyone else in their right mind at least, absolutely should.

David Marx