Able Archer 83 and the virtue of human decision making

Over the weekend I read Taylor Downing, 1983: the world at the brink. It gave me new perspectives on the dimly sensed fear of apocalypse that I remember from my youth. In the early 1980s the Cold War rose to a late crescendo as Ronald Reagan poked the Russian bear into vengeful fury. It is... Continue Reading →

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Borderlands of madness

Demi-fous. Mazeland. Dazeland. Driftland. Incipient lunatics. Hysterics. Neurotics. Carriers of latent brain disease. Neurasthenia. Sufferers of high prevalence disorders. People with shattered nerves. Stressed out kittens. The traumatised. The burnt ones. Melancholics. The worried well. There are so many names designating those who prowl in the borderlands between madness and reason. Some of these names are... Continue Reading →

On the history and meaning of the eight hour day

The story I told in this article still has resonance for me. It was a story about how, even in the apparently material conditions that defined work and industrial conflict, the meaning of events were inseparable from the striving for recognition and the webs of significance that we, culture-making beings, weave through the time of our lives.

The collapsing new buildings of government

"In truth, the problem of declining trust in political institutions, is better conceived as the collapse of authority of the new nomenklatura in liberal democracies. And that, I hypothesise, has its roots in the disintegration of the civic cultures that these elites attempt to govern." from The Burning Archive (22 April 2018) My apologies for quoting from my own... Continue Reading →

Cultural collapse: Delhi 1857

"This whole city has become a desert." Ghalib 1861 William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal: the Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857 is a great tragedy, and its fallen hero is the culture of the Mughal court. Under Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II (1775-1862), the Mughal court and Delhi society experienced a cultural renaissance of sorts.... Continue Reading →

The reenchantment of the world

This morning I feel stuck for words. A heat wave has exhausted me, and the end of my holidays looms. To regather my strength I have been reading over old posts, old poems, and contemplating what keeps me going on. From the movie The Darkest Hour a quote from Churchill (although its provenance is challenged)... Continue Reading →

Return of a King

Image credit: Elizabeth Butler, Remnants of an Army  (1879) Tate Gallery I have finished reading William Dalrymple's mesmerising and tragical history of the first Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42), Return of a King: the battle for Afghanistan. It tells the story of the British invasion of Afghanistan, or, as it was known by its local rulers then,... Continue Reading →

Sailing to Byzantium

Since I am on holidays from work, and not consumed with duties and obligations, I have returned to an old habit of virtue, and spent time memorising poetry. The poem I am committing to memory today is Yeats' Sailing to Byzantium. The choice of this poem itself was prompted by reading Richard Fidler's Ghost Empire,... Continue Reading →

Reflections on 2017

The year is drawing to a close, and while it is yet weeks from New Year, the office christmas party season is in full swing, and my mind is turning to an upcoming holiday. I am approaching the end of my current assignment and am going into my annual leave without knowing what I will... Continue Reading →

Red Nostalgia

During the week I attended a lecture at my old university on the meaning of the Russian Revolution today, 100 years on from Red October. The lecturer, Mark Edele,  gave an entertaining and insightful talk to perhaps 600 guests, some alumni, some students, some dignitaries associated with the large philanthropic donation that had enabled the... Continue Reading →

Fragile identities, fragile memories

It is justice which extracts from traumatizing remembrances their exemplary value, turns memory into a project, and it is this project of justice that gives the form of the future and of imperativeness to the duty of memory Paul Ricoeur Memory, History, Forgetting  Some years ago I was asked to prepare one of those profiles of myself that... Continue Reading →

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