I have a slightly gloomy but, I think, not unreasonable view of birthdays, which is that they are really all about death. It rests on two simple observations. First, much as they pretend otherwise, people do generally find birthdays to be poignant occasions. And second, a milestone can have no poignancy which does not … Continue reading When did death become so personal?
In 1858, an exclusive Soho dining society known simply as “the Club” – attended by former and future Prime Ministers, prominent clergymen, poets and men of letters – debated the question of “the highest period of civilization” ever reached. It was, they decided, “in London at the present moment.” The following year, several books were … Continue reading The Price of Success: Britain’s Tumultuous 19th Century
In recent years, a great deal has been written on the subject of group identity in politics, much of it aiming to understand how people in Western countries have become more likely to adopt a “tribal” or “us-versus-them” perspective. Naturally, the most scrutiny has fallen on the furthest ends of the spectrum: populist nationalism on … Continue reading How The Past Became A Political Battlefield
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, You cannot say, or guess, for you know only A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, And the dead trees give no shelter, the cricket no relief, And the dry stone no sound of water … Continue reading Eliot’s Waste Land and the crisis of artistic value