Erik RingmarThis just came to my attention by way of Facebook.
Worth looking at. It would appear that the LSE are trying to censor Erik Ringmar, a professor of mine, for his speech to prospective students, in part by demanding he take down his blog.
Will post more when I know what's going on...
The BNPMatt Sinclair echoes Norman Tebbit in saying that the BNP don't fit on the right and by extension must be of the left.
Giving definitions such as 'left-wing' and 'right-wing' are not in and of themselves good, but only by the extent of the usefullness.
Is it useful to describe the BNP as right-wing?
I would say that people of the right are generally more attached to nationalist ideas. The left would emphasise class distinctions in its place. The main right-wing party in the UK is officially the Conservative and Unionist Party. While that is entirely probably a historical nomenclature, it is not unreasonable to say that the Conservatives are the more patriotic and more nationalist party. From Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' to Smethwick, the Conservatives have had the problem of nationalism extending to racism. If that is too far back in time, it might be worth pointing out that Lord Taylor suffered from racist campaigning against him when seeking a parliamentary nomination. One one issue-axis that is the most important to the BNP, it is fair to say that the right, as it manifests itself today, is closer to the BNP than the left. That doesn't mean they are close to them; it means they are less far away than others. I think that's why people say that the BNP are far-right.
That having been said, the right is generally in favour of lower taxes, less state intervention and so on. That can certainly not be said of the BNP. In short, describing them as right-wing isn't useful; extending the positions that the right take to an extreme doesn't effectively describe the BNP.
Is it useful to describe the BNP as left-wing?
They are more statist than the espoused ideals of the right. I do, however, question that anti-statism of the right. Certainly, there is an ideology (which I am not immune to), but the tendency to want to grow the armed forces and the police - the most coercive elements of the state - suggests that there are statist tendencies, at least among certain parts of the right. Equally, there are traditionalist points of view on the right (and I would add that the BNP are very keen on certain traditions).
Economically, they do have more in common with the left; a greater role for the state and so on. I think the question is why they favour it. I would venture that the BNP are in favour of nationalisation as a secondary means because they see potential support amongst former Labour supporters who want nationalisation. For instance, the BNP favour abolishing all taxes for farmers - a right wing position? - but I would suggest that this is either because they see farmers, in a Francoist manner, as essential to the nation, both economically and because they prefer the rural life or because they see support starting to grow in rural areas and are playing a populist card.
I'm in favour of nationalisation of certain industries because I believe that they are necessary to provide a certain minimum standard of living so that people can exercise their liberty as they see fit. I would venture that the BNP aim to create (what they consider) a perfect society and see nationalisation as a means of doing that. The Soviets sought to eliminate the private sphere; I think this is more manipulating the private sphere so people agree with you anyway. That having been said, the BNP are more in favour of people having more, smaller (farming) properties and explicitly say they are against expropriation. Taking left-wing policies to extremes does not effectively describe the BNP.
Extreme left wing and extreme right wing are, I think, terms that are more useful because of the word 'extreme' rather than the words 'left' and 'right'. To say they are extreme-right brings allegations that all right-wingers are racists and that they are extreme-left that all left-wingers want to control society.
In Denmark, there is a party simply called Venstre, meaning Left. They would be called rightwingers, espousing free market liberalism. They are known as the left because the Danish parliament was originally split between small landowners and large landownders; the former sat on the left, and Venstre are their successors. So far as I know, the issues of small- versus large- landowners are not currently major ones in Denmark. The point is that labels often grow from history, and are not invented to suit the needs of the day. Indeed, the modern terms of left and right come from where people sat in a chamber at the time of the French Revolution. Even if we decide that we must (perhaps for reasons of simplicity) use a single axis, Left-Right as it exists at the moment is not a useful one. Two axes would be more useful (see www.politicalcompass.org) and there's a case for using more than two.
Usefullness here is in terms of describing them in political science terms and for the use of practical politics.
'Violent, racist, homophobic, populist Holocaust-deniers' seems to work.
Question is: what are we doing about it?
Anthems, being National in CharacterI don't like the national anthem. The British one, that is. God Save the Queen.
Without wanting to nick Billy Connolly's material about replacing it with the theme tune to the Archers, there are some random things I want to say.
Firstly, the tune is crap. It's slow, boring and har to sing.
Secondly, the words. Their repetitive nature doesn't make for a good anthem and there's the anti-Scottishness: Lord grant that Marshal Wade/May by thy mighty aid/Victory bring/May he sedition hush/and like a torrent rush/Rebellious Scots to crush/God save the Queen.
Thirdly, the religion. I'm a Christian, but it seems unfair to impose a religion on any country, but particularly one that has many religious and is principally agnostic.
Fourthly, the monarchy. Which I don't like.
The replacement (if we have to have one at all) should not be written, because it will end up being some vapid thing about 'O Britain' or 'Advance Britain Fair' or something.
John Cage's 4'33" - the one with all the silence. Just because I like the idea of football hooligans having to stand silent because it's the national anthem.
Theme from the Archers - Billy Connolly was right...
Seriously: Land of Hope and Glory. It's suitably optimistic, has a fantastic tune, everyone already knows it and with a simple amendment can be suitably areligious. The chorus could be: Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free/How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?/Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set/That which made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.
And before you say that you can't change the words, the version they sing at the Last Night of the Proms goes '..extol thee, those that born of thee'.
Come on, you know how it goes...
DisclaimerRe-reading my blog, it is hugely embarrasing.
I'm re-starting the blog, and I'm leaving the posts up, mostly because I can't be bothered to remove them. I just wanted to say a few things. I know that I frequently contradict myself, I know that I overplay things, I know that I think I can be a writer despite the evidence to the contrary and I don't care.
Not in my nameI have just had the misfortune of watching Labour's Party Election Broadcast for the local elections.
It mentioned not one policy. When I say not one policy, I don't mean that it refrained from mentioning Labour policies and attacked the policies of other parties. It didn't even mention the BNP, which even Margaret Hodge seems to think important. No, it had a cartoon chameleon to illustrate that David Cameron changes policy. It wasn't even funny - it treated watchers as children. I still don't know if it was some attempt at a joke. I have no objection to negative campaigning - attacking opposition positions is necessary - but this is pathetic. Pathetic, as in deserving of pity because someone thought this would be a good idea.
The basic message of the broadcast was that Labour doesn't like David Cameron. Firstly, what a surprise; secondly, attacking policies by attacking the person ends up decreasing turnout. Oh, and he calls himself Dave, and should therefore be shot. It does not surprise me that people don't vote, let alone for Labour, when the best we can do is a cartoon chameleon that doesn't say anything.
There is a website - davethechameleon.com - but it's probably worth noting that visiting this site will add to the hit counter of a bloody awful campaign.
Not in my name.
EasterJust back from a few days' holiday in Madrid. All in all, very pleasant. I saw friends, dined excessively, saw the sights and generally had a good time. I've been to Madrid a few times before, but it's generally been while in transit, so I've only had a couple of days and so have met up with friends and not done the tourist bit. Suffice to say, Madrid - at least what I have seen of it - is a pleasant city. In winter too cold and summer too hot, but now and in the autumn very agreeable. As with all Eurocapitals, it has the obligatory impressive municipal, administrative and governmental buildings. The art galleries, though, are uncommonly good.
The collection at the Prado is good, although there are some relatively poor pieces that are there for the sake of completeness. Apparently, only one tenth of the collection is on display - and that in a very cramped manner - because of a chronic shortage of space. A major building programme is under way; in the meantime, I'd like to have seen some of the more interesting stuff by obscure artists. I do have a few other criticisms; there are some 'major' paintings (by which I mean the ones everyone wants to see) that you can't see. The work of Goya's dark period is hidden in a corner room of an upper floor and requires considerable map-reading skills to locate, although it was worth the navigation: it kept people away. Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, which I had been looking forward to seeing because of supposed commonalities and atecedents to the work of Dali. There was a great press of bodies. Sadly, nothing to do with the picture, but a large group of people blocking out the picture. Similarly with the Bridesmaids; you couldn't see it because of the crowd in front of it. While I appreciate the desire of the Prado to display as many works as possible, they might be better off putting the very popular works in larger rooms (and limiting the approach to, say, three metres) so that people can see them more easily and group around them without limiting the ability of others to browse the collection. The lighting there is also poor, IMHO; aside from conservation implications (which I addmitedly know nothing about), lights falling directly on oils mean you have to move around to avoid flare on the surface of the paintings.
The Reina Sofia was altogether better. It has Guernica/Gernika, for one, and even the untrained eye (mine) can take meaning from it and about the awful events that led to its creation. Guernika, a town in and spiritual capital of the Basque Country, was the first place where Hitler's Luftwaffe, at Franco's invitation, used dive-bombing and strafing techniques that would form a major part of blitzkrieg tactics, leading to horrible loss of life, not to mention what we would now have to call 'shock and awe'. A few years ago, I went to a museum that had a large collection of stuff by Julio Romero de Torres, which I enjoyed greatly. Sadly, there was only one Romero de Torres at the Reina Sofia, but at the other end of the room in which it hung was a piece by one Angalada-Camarsa called Portait of Sonia de Klamery, countess de Pradère. I'll try and find a decent image of it to post, but it is an intriguing portrait. The countess lies across a fallen tree trunk in a forest-like scene (emphatically not woodland). At first impression, she is young, full of vitality and sexuality. A closer inspection reveals through the general features of the body and particularly the face, that she is at least of a certain age. A firebird off to the right, capturing the colours of her dress, seems to be leaving her behind. I shall have to find out more about the artist and the sitter. The more modern works there were also rather good. They avoided the conceptualist bullshit of Young British Artists that seems to revolve around the bloody obvious in crude pictographic form. Given the nature of a lot of the work - far more political than the equivalent in the UK - it would appear that the transition to democracy had not finished, but rather continued, well into the eighties.
The Thyssen was a somewhat surreal experience. I started in an exhibition on the Russian vanguard of the first two decades of the twentieth century. I know very little about the period, and some of it - particularly Kandinsky, who was one of the few names I recognized - I found unintelligible. The profligate use of red was, however, pleasing. One piece I really liked was Formula of the revolution by Filonov, again for which I will try to find an image. It did effectively convey the positive expectations for a brighter world that the Russian Revolution brought, and the chaos that people saw and the order that the Soviets sought to bring from the milieu. Particularly interesting, though, were the slightly-drawn features focussing on the eyes, lost in the lines of the piece. With the perspective of history, the lines and colours that form the chaos of the revolution - any revolution - become the bars that trapped people in the eventual evolution of the experiment. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, they all thought they were going to heaven, but they were going direct the other way. I also saw an exhibition on the Virgin of the Humilities, centring on a piece of that name by Fra Angelico. More of that later.
On another note, does anyone know what formula means in artistic terms?
I went to one of the famous processions for Holy Week. Quite an experience, and by all accounts not a patch on the big pasos of Andalucia. Nevertheless, it was a strange experience. I've spent a fair bit of time in Spain but I've never been there for Holy Week. I mean to say that I was aware of the concept of the pasos, what goes on and so on. Nevertheless, I was taken aback.
The procession, as I saw it, came from a church. In a very Spanish fashion, my friend and I had been watching the final of the Copa del Rey (the equivalent to the UK's FA Cup) in a bar on the street along which the procession would pass. As my friend said, what could be more Spanish - football and religion. The procession would pass along the street from the church and then on around the area. First came people wearing long white robes with purple headgear, very much in the manner of the Ku Klux Klan. Now, I know on an intellectual level that the KKK took that design from the Catholics in Spain, but the emotional impact is of the KKK and all the attendant pseudo-religiosity. When I was working on the summer camp in Andalucia, some of the other monitors were dressing up as penitents in that manner and I had to point out to them that people would interpret them as dressing up as the Klan; the impact to a Spaniard would not have those particular overtones. This group thus dressed proceeded up the street, some carrying large candles, some large crosses over their shoulders, stopping and starting with the stamping of silver-butted staves that the leaders of the procession, walking between the lines of penitents, carried. Behind them came the municipal police in dress uniform and on horseback and then the figure of Christ carrying on the cross on a large float borne on the backs of people underneath.
I am used to processions carried out by the UK military - indeed, I took part in some when I was in the CCF - and the very ordered manner in which they carried such things out. Not to say that this was disordered; just less so.
The ceremony, with music and burning incense, had an austere quality; indeed, an atavistic quality brought on by the religious fervour of those involved in any way in the act. The use of the term 'Mysteries' becomes more obviously useful in that context. I am told that in some processions people do beat themselves - flagellating and mortifying their flesh - in acts of penitence, and I had already made the link to the depictions of actions of religious fervour in the Muslim world that are shown here with an aghast eye on the television.
I could not help but react by seeing the copious amounts of silver and gold, not to mention the rest of the accoutrements of the procession, in terms of housing, clothing and food. This was a base reaction; the fervour and the continuing association with the Church may be the nearest thing to happiness a lot of people have, and I would not deny them that happiness, but I do wonder if the Church, which I always thought should help people's material as well as spiritual lives, is keeping people close to its breast when it might do better to offer them a different balance. It can be said that the Church offers material help in its charitable works but I wonder now if that is more for the benefit of the giver than the receiver.
This brings me back to the paintings of the Virgin of the Humilities. I am not qualified to comment on its artistic merit, but is considered to be one of the most important works of Fra Angelico and it is unquestionably beautiful. All I know is that no-one who attached to themselves the epithet of humilities would be content to sit covered in blue and gold to be adored by the ill-clad, the ill-fed and the ill-housed. Equally with the Crucifixion; the concept thought for so long to be so horrific that Christians used the symbol of the fish rather than the cross is become a point of adoration and emulation. Christ nailed to the cross died away from God - 'Eloi Eloi lema sabachthani' (Mark 15:34). Encouraging people to carry an image of Christ himself carrying a cross may stoke religious fervour but not Christianity when that fervour is directed to the greater service of the Church.
A few other things. Why did the police need to attend the ceremony other than to control crowds? Why does the military need to muscle in and appear everywhere? Why do we have the word 'civilian' as opposed to 'military' but no antonym for, say, education? Why do we need to dress up in uniforms? That, though, must be a question for another time.
All typed on an expensive phone when I'd been on holiday, been picked up in an expensive car to be taken to my second home to continue my privileged existence.
Return of the NativeI note with amusement that the last post on this blog was announcing my return, since when I have posted, er, nothing. Anyhow: I'm back. New Dave. New Blog. Now with more hats and more moral indignation