Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Window in Iran

After spending a few months in the 1960s I rented out H.G. Wells’ Time Machine and popped back to the present, to have a look around.  How old fashioned it all seemed!   I had left the space age and returned to the kitchen sink dramas of the previous decade – had I set the controls right…  No, no, the dates are correct; and the costumes look contemporary; and the mobile phones are a new idea; are the humans themselves wired to the ground... 

So I sit and watch as the camera follows the characters around, like dog on its lead, her owner walking down the High Street on a Saturday afternoon; everywhere so crowded, so busy, there is scarcely time to stop; so much to look at.  Shop! Shop! Shop!  Hardly a moment to see what you are buying…

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Looking in the Mirror (Part Two)

My intention is not to condemn an individual when it is the institutional culture that is the problem.  Would we expect BP not work in Libya, because of its human rights record?[i]   Why expect the LSE to behave differently…[ii]   To dissect David Held’s apologia is not put him in the stocks but to better understand our liberal establishment; their ideas and motivations; their blind spots and their naiveties.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Looking in the Mirror (Part One)

Two weeks after the LSE received Lord Woolf’s report it was announced that David Held is to leave for Durham University.  It appears to confirm the original story of an institution and a few of its employees gone astray.  But is this a true picture?  A wider investigation, going far beyond Lord’s Woolf’s terms of reference, could well draw a different conclusion: the LSE is the rule and not the exception, and in Britain today the source of a university’s funding is less important than its amount; and this is normal business practice, supported by the government. 

So let us go back and do our own inquiry.[i]  Its starting point is professor Held’s apologia, published shortly after the spring uprising, and before the NATO intervention in Libya.  On their own terms it is hard to disagree with these justifications. They are all so reasonable!  For wherever there is a real possibility of softening the cruelty of a regime, of weakening it from within, a serious person will try to do so; although it may lead to difficult moral choices.  However, we must be careful; for self-interest and political myopia can blind us to the real consequences of our actions; and it is easy to hide the truth from ourselves.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Dusty Answer

We live surrounded by walls.  Occasionally we try to break through them; their immaculately sealed bricks and cement.  Strange aren’t they?  These walls that we do not see, although they are high and impenetrable.  Indeed, most of our lives we’re unaware that they even exist; some may never see them.  How odd and unsettling…  Everywhere there are walls and everywhere we avoid them, so easily; we live as if in the open air, walk as if through wild meadows, run across the wide sands of an endless beach as if the high waves were our only companion…  Many believe that this is so: there are no walls here, you silly man.  What nonsense are you talking now!

One day the path we know so well is blocked by obstacles.  How odd.  How disconcerting…