Battles in Print
The virtues the Rocky films portray have a long moral history in Western culture and yet for most of us the narrative which portrays them is one we struggle to take seriously. But contemporary cynicism helps, in a sense, bring about the reality it purports to reflect.
Boris Johnson has used his powers to galvanise the anti-high-rise sentiment into an object of policy. So far, he has gotten away with this unchallenged. But it is incumbent on us, those who welcome the prospect of transforming London’s skyline into an exciting scene that represents the city’s dynamism, to publicly challenge this short-sighted and un-ambitious policy.
If the public is treated as if mere information is required before the correct view of its significance can be arrived at, then attempts to engage the public with big ideas or really change their attitudes will fail
Franklin employs a commercial metaphor: liberty as something to be traded for safety, or, by implication, any other desirable abstract noun. It captures well the naivety with which liberty is often discussed, the failure to understand what freedom really means.
At the time of independence, the idea of diversity was about the right to free and open political, linguistic, cultural and religious expression. What stands in its place today is a politics of representation that has made diversity itself a political right rather than a cultural fact.
When the abandoned placards have been swept up and the first cars and pedestrians are released from the bottleneck to take back the formerly ‘liberated’ streets and town squares, the city seems to breathe a collective sigh of relief as the normal routine resumes unscathed. Serious change cannot be effected without action, but ‘aimless hyper-activism’—doing because ‘something must be done’—can actually channel energies away from any seriously progressive project aimed at large-scale social change.
At one point during the traditional Festival of Remembrance, thousands of poppies flutter down from the roof of the Albert Hall. It is a moment of riveting theatricality as young men and women in their spick and span uniforms stand to attention and let the silent flowers settle on their shoulders and on their heads. Yet, we need to be reminded how the poppy came to be adopted as such a powerful symbol.
Like every art form, music should continue to provoke and explore different ways of getting under our skin, but though I would hate to have a world without dissonance, I believe that rock music stole classical music’s thunder when it took over the role of providing society’s songs and dances, not least by absorbing the power of electricity to provide the level of energy that an increasingly sex and technology obsessed society needed.
At present America is fighting various battles – some on the outside, some inside the country. For one, American militaries are operating in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Somalia, Georgia and Lebanon; further troops are stationed in Turkey, Kenya and South Korea. For the other, the United States quarrel with a presidential election, the credit crunch, gas prices, and decisions on abortion, gun laws and same-sex marriages.
Both the fetishisation of strong leadership and the reaction against it stem from a one-sided focus on leaders as personalities, and neglect of the other side of the relationship.
When it comes to thinking about culture and artworks, torn between a multiculturalist melange and celebration of cynicism, the problem seems not to be we don’t know who artworks or culture belong to, more that we want nothing to do with the whole lot of them.
This essay defends the material basis of progress and the right of developing countries to undergo development, and finally argues that material development offers the only way to avoid the environmental disasters that we are constantly warned are just around the corner.
In order to develop a more incisive critique of contemporary society, it is necessary to consider not only the particular nuances of the financial economy, but also the broader historical context, and the relationship between capitalism and wider social and political forces.
Today, politics has lost its meaning, and all that’s left for so-called radicals is to call for a more extreme version of what ‘politics’ is about. The form is still there, but the content has changed.