Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Blueprint for a Safer Planet: How We Can Save the World and Create Prosperity, by Nicholas Stern

Lord Stern doesn’t want us to despair in the face of climate change, but reading A Blueprint for a Safer Planet after the debacle of the Copenhagen summit is nothing short of terrifying. We have been “gambling the planet” for decades and as a consequence have but “a short window of opportunity” to avert disaster, argues the author, who prepared The Stern Review for the Government in 2006. His mantra in this immensely informative book is that everything will be all right provided there is effective global action to avert disaster. Gulp. This unprecedented “cooperation across nations” will herald “a new era of internationalism”, he confidently predicts; and because the US and China are the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, he is heartened by the strong commitment of President Obama and the Chinese leadership to reaching a constructive deal in Copenhagen in December 2009. Oh dear. Never has a paperback been so in need of a new foreword, the first sentence of which might go something along the lines of “We’re all doomed!”

From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy, by Kenan Malik

Is it morally unacceptable to give offence? asks Kenan Malik in this important book. The British Muslims who burned Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1989 couldn’t prevent its publication, says Malik, but they did succeed in “pounding into the liberal consciousness the belief that to give offence was a morally despicable act”. The proclamation of a fatwa on Rushdie was largely a “political tactic”, Malik argues, but today “the fatwa has become internalised”, creating a culture of self-censorship that has profoundly affected British life. As Hanif Kureishi is quoted as saying: “Nobody would have the balls today to write The Satanic Verses, let alone publish it. Writing now is timid because writers are terrified.” Malik also argues that the policies of multiculturalism created for militant Islam “a space within British Muslim communities that had not existed before”. In his view, Margaret Thatcher and the Foreign Office mishandled the Rushdie affair, trying to placate radical Muslims while expressing irritation with Rushdie, and failing to defend the Enlightenment values of liberty, freedom and democracy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Gilles Deleuze (1925–95)

'The destiny and achievement of the embryo is to live the unlivable.’
Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Happy New Year

Atelier Pindar is under snow . . . but work continues . . .

‘. . . when you take a walk with your children
They trot along in front of you like little puppies. They run ahead, they lag behind. They come and they go. They play around. They jump.
They make the trip twenty times.
It’s because as a matter of fact they’re not going somewhere.
They’re not interested in going somewhere.
They’re not going anywhere at all.
The grown-ups are the ones who are going somewhere [. . .]
But the children are only interested in making the trip.
To come and to go and to jump.’

– Charles Péguy, The Portal of the Mystery of Hope (1911)

Over Christmas I read a long Catholic poem in free verse, The Portal of the Mystery of Hope by the French poet Charles Péguy (1873–1914). It is very much a poem by a father, written for fathers – especially fathers of little girls (in the poem, Hope is a little girl – the poet had two boys and a girl, who make a coded appearance in the poem).

Péguy values Hope above Faith and Charity precisely because it is so difficult to maintain in the modern world. If you have never given much thought to Hope before, Péguy’s extended meditations on work, the night, and how his children will outlive him are uplifting, even for an atheist like myself.

There is added poignancy in the fact that Péguy was killed at the head of his section on the first day of the Battle of la Marne.