COMRADES! REVOLUTIONARIES! Let us celebrate! It is 50 years since the évènements of ’68 in Paris. Long live the spirit of the barricades! Remember what bliss it was to be alive then, what heaven it was to be young?
No, me neither. There was little bliss available in the rather dour, parochial environs of the ancient country town in North Yorkshire as I entered my fourteenth year. The political pronouncements of boss-eyed philosophe Sartre, the cobble-throwing students, the smart-arsed conundrums of the Situationists, these meant nothing to me or my contemporaries and barely even seemed to impinge on the consciousness of our parents who were more concerned by the fact that we had grown our hair long, dressed like scarecrows and listened to terribly loud music. To give them their due, though, they didn’t complain about us trying pass ourselves off as 18 in the local pubs (and sometimes succeeding) so we could get our hands on pints of cold, fizzy beer.
SO, THE MOUNTAINS of the Resolution Foundation groaned for two years and gave birth to…well, the usual farrago of nonsense and madcap propositions that think tanks are prone to. In this case it’s all about the “intergenerational contract” between the Boomers and the Millennials, how it’s being broken and what “we” should do to put it right.
This low-level conflict has been rumbling on for a few years now and really kicked off with a book by David Willetts, The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future – And Why They Should Give It Back (2010). Willetts is a former Tory minister and now runs the Resolution Foundation. “Former Tory” is what I nearly left it at, since his pronouncements these days have been most definitely un-Tory-like, favouring the kind of statist interference beloved of the left.
WATCHING OR LISTENING to the media these days is like being repeatedly subjected to one of those implicit bias tests HR departments force on employees to root out their supposedly unconscious prejudice. While the media frequently admonish us to “celebrate” our multicultural diversity whether we care about it or not, HR pretend they’re looking after the welfare of their company’s employees.
This is an excerpt from an exam I took in my first year at Leeds University in 1974. I have to say that I think most of my own students (and probably those at other institutions) would have great difficulty coping with these questions.
FIRST YEAR ENGLISH LITERATURE, Paper II: Renaissance Drama, Leeds University 1974.
Time allowed: 3 hours. (Three questions, one hour per question).
3. Either:(a) The idea of time seems to be very important in Shakespeare’s last plays. Describe the presentation of this idea, and indicate the nature and effect of its operation. You may, if you wish, restrict your answer to any one play. Or:(b) ‘Her [Nature’s] World is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden.’ (SIR PHILIP SIDNEY). In what ways might this comment be applied to the works of the English Renaissance dramatists? Discuss at least two dramatists. Or:(c) Outline the features which, in your view, are characteristic of Shakespeare’s ‘Romances’.
4. Either:(a) ‘The progress of the minds of the central figures towards deeper and deeper self-knowledge, the approach to the impenetrable mystery of fate perceived in the moments of intensest suffering and action, which are also the moments of clearest insight.’ (ELLIS-FERMOR). Illustrate and discuss this aspect of The Duchess of Malfi. Or:(b) Examine, with reference to Hamlet or to The Revenger’s Tragedy, the ways in which imagery and symbolism are used to create, and sustain, a particular tragic mood. Or:(c) What are the features which commonly distinguish the Tragedy from the Revenge Play?
“SERIOUSNESS,” SAID LEONARD COHEN in a TV interview, “is profoundly satisfying to the human soul.” The truth of that statement is borne out by the popularity of Dr Jordan Peterson, who has emerged as the most unlikely intellectual celebrity of our day. Just watch a couple of his videos – either his university lectures or his talks and interviews, it doesn’t matter – and you’ll see what I mean. This man is serious. He talks about serious things: life is painful and tragic; the monsters of malevolence and totalitarianism are not only found outside of ourselves but inside our own psyches; happiness is a worthless goal whereas meaning is supremely important; people should stop whingeing they’re victims and take responsibility for their own lives before trying to change the world.