Please don’t encourage the young to “change the world”.

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AROUND THE INSTITUTION posters have gone up exhorting the young folk to become global activists. “Change Your World,” says one of them. “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” says another (good old Gandhi). “Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons,” comes the voice of Malala Yousafzi. In the communal dining area the words of Saint Mandela are printed on the wall up high: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

As a now aged man who has seen and endured the results of people wanting to change the damn world — purportedly for the better and with our interests at heart, of course — I wholeheartedly disagree with this advice.

 

At The Fortnightly review.

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Brian Higgins and the iniquity of his oblivion.

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“THE INIQUITY OF OBLIVION blindly scattereth her poppy, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity.” So wrote Sir Thomas Browne, a writer who has not had the full weight of said iniquity fall upon him and managed to remain partly in the light of literary remembrance. Those of us stricken with the vanity that we may be remembered after our death for our poems, novels, plays, paintings, songs or whatever, never find out, of course, though we know the odds are in favour of the poppy.

Such was the case with Brian Higgins (1930 – 1965), poet, mathematician, teacher, rugby player, freelance journalist and dole wallah. Higgins published three (hardback) collections, two of them during his very short life (The Only Need and Notes While Travelling), and one posthumously (The Northern Fiddler). His poems had appeared in reputable magazines and anthologies, including The Faber Book of Twentieth Century Verse, so he was not exactly an obscure scribbler while alive. His portrait was painted by Patrick Swift, one of the leading Irish artists of the day, and he knew many of the more successful writers of the period. This included George Barker, himself a permanently half-remembered poet, who wrote a foreword to The Northern Fiddler.

Read on at The Fortnightly Review.

Towards the new gulag one vote at a time.

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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzheitsyn.
Solzhenitsyn’s short masterpiece should be essential reading for all young people. It’s a reminder (or perhaps the first encounter for some) of the horrors of communism in the Soviet Union. Socialism, communism, Marxism, whatever you want to call it, ends inevitably in labour and death camps or in complete social collapse, as is happening now in Venezuela.

Here’s the blurb from Penguin Books about One Day…

Bringing into harsh focus the daily struggle for existence in a Soviet gulag, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is translated by Ralph Parker in Penguin Modern Classics.

This brutal, shattering glimpse of the fate of millions of Russians under Stalin shook Russia and shocked the world when it first appeared. Discover the importance of a piece of bread or an extra bowl of soup, the incredible luxury of a book, the ingenious possibilities of a nail, a piece of string or a single match in a world where survival is all. Here safety, warmth and food are the first objectives. Reading it, you enter a world of incarceration, brutality, hard manual labour and freezing cold – and participate in the struggle of men to survive both the terrible rigours of nature and the inhumanity of the system that defines their conditions of life.

Though twice-decorated for his service at the front during the Second World War, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) was arrested in 1945 for making derogatory remarks about Stalin, and sent to a series of brutal Soviet labour camps in the Arctic Circle, where he remained for eight years. Released after Stalin’s death, he worked as a teacher, publishing his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich with the approval of Nikita Khrushchev in 1962, to huge success. His 1967 novel Cancer Ward, as well as his magnum opus The Gulag Archipelago, were not as well-received by Soviet authorities, and not long after being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970, Solzhenitsyn was deported from the USSR. In 1994, after twenty years in exile, Solzhenitsyn made his long-awaited return to Russia.

If you enjoyed One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, you might also like Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, available in Penguin Classics.

‘It is a blow struck for human freedom all over the world … and it is gloriously readable’
Sunday Times

For a more detailed and more gruelling read, there’s The Gulag Archipelago, also by Solzhenitsyn.

Are the snowflakes melting into Gen-Zed?

FOR THOSE PEOPLE despairing of the millennial generation and their demands for safe spaces and trigger warnings, and their blue-haired, social justice snowflakery there are glimmers of hope that things are changing for the better. Behold Generation Z (zed to us in Blighty, zee to our friends across the Atlantic).

Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2010 (roughly), are, according to various sources, including Jeff Brauer of Keystone College, socially liberal but more conservative in terms of security and economics than their predecessors. They are also the first generation who are true digital natives, in that they have no experience of a time when there was no internet. The upshot of this is that they are wired (as us oldies still say) and used to getting their information from the net rather than from the mainstream media.

 

Read on at The Fortnightly Review.

No conceptual penis, no global warming.

IT IS NOW more than twenty years since Sokal and Bricmont hoaxed the leftwing academic world with their fake paper, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Theory” (“transformative” is a touch of brilliance there). As scientists, both had grown sick of scientific concepts being misused by postmodernist academics to discredit the very basis of objectivity. They knew that the authors of these papers had no knowledge of understanding or the sciences but would nevertheless be accepted as creditable as long as they showed themselves to be bona fide leftists. This included references to the gods of the postwar pantheon of “fools, frauds and firebrands”, as Roger Scruton so aptly called them — Foucault, Derrida, etc.

Sokal and Bricmont thus concocted a paper out of the meaningless verbiage that typified such research at the time and submitted it to a journal called Social Text, who had it peer-reviewed and published as authentic. A furore followed the revelation that the academic world had fallen for such obvious fakery. Despite the laughter and scorn of many, there were still plenty of defenders of nonsense within academia willing to claim the hoax meant nothing at all. Eventually the waters of discord settled, the academic idiocy continued and the Sokal hoax was gratefully forgotten by its critics and left unmentioned to a new generation of left wing scribblers.

 

Read on at The Fortnightly Review.

Freedom Week 2017: a free week of tutorials at Cambridge.

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Freedom Week is an annual, one-week seminar which teaches students about classical liberal, free market, neoliberal and liberal perspectives on economics, politics, history and society. It is open to over-18s who are currently attending or about to start university. The week is entirely free to attend: there is no charge whatsoever for accommodation, food, tuition or materials. Freedom Week 2017 will be held from Monday the 3rd to Friday the 8th July.

More details here.

Freedom Week is organised by The Adam Smith Institute.

The American sensitivity lobby gets trigger happy.

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The Sensitivity Lobby in some American universities have been twisting their collectivist knickers recently over something they call “triggers”. These are nasty things that crop up in literature, such as descriptions or discussions of violence, sexual assault, racism, sexism, any ism or phobia you can come up with, that could trigger an adverse reaction in students who may have suffered any of these isms…

The Fortnightly Review.

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