OPEN DISCUSSION APRIL 2019

Apr 1, 2019

This thread has been created for discussion on themes relevant to Reason and Science for which there are not currently any dedicated threads.

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Open Discussion – January 2019

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86 comments on “OPEN DISCUSSION APRIL 2019

  • The April open discussion thread is now open.

    If you wish to continue any of the discussions from earlier Open Discussion threads, please do so here rather than there.

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  • Those Polish Catholic priests have decided to “fight the evil of magical claims” – by burning Harry Potter books!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-47771706

    Catholic priests in northern Poland have burned books they consider to be sacrilegious, including ones from the Harry Potter boy wizard series.
    An evangelical group, the SMS from Heaven Foundation, published pictures of the burning – which took place in the city of Gdansk – on Facebook.

     

    They also show an elephant figurine and a tribal mask burning on the book pile.

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  • Would I be right in assuming you’re referring to the ongoing Brexit fiasco, Paul?

    I have been very struck on both the Indicative Votes days so far that the debates themselves have been, for the most part, grown-up and pragmatic and conciliatory to a degree we haven’t seen from the UK political class since the EU referendum. But, of course – on both occasions the Conservative benches were mostly empty, which probably explains a lot. Not only not interested in participating in constructive discussion and debate on the most important issue facing the UK themselves, not interested in what others have to say either. And then they all pour back in for the vote and, almost to a man (or a woman), refuse to vote for any of the compromise options. I don’t think any of the 4 options put forward last night got more than about 30-35 Tory supporters.

    Personally, I don’t yet wholly despair, however: there will be another go on Wednesday, and this time MPs won’t have the luxury of a future opportunity to unbend a little more. I still don’t expect many Tories to do anything remotely constructive or responsible, but I do sincerely hope that enough opposition MPs will be more realistic in their voting options. It was ludicrous to see pro-Confirmatory Vote MPs (most of whom are hoping a new vote would produce a Remain result this time) voting against the Common Market 2.0 option, which would at least keep us in the Single Market and Customs Union and is therefore by a country mile the least worst of the Brexit options on the table. And vice versa. These have to be compromise options that are mutually acceptable to those two camps, if push comes to shove. And push WILL come to shove tomorrow.

    It has also been striking how the government has tried at every turn to stymie Parliament’s attempts to get us out of this mess of the government’s own creation. And given that there is apparently a mega-long Cabinet session going on as I write, god knows what new twists and turns they’ll come up with now.

    The whole thing has been an absolute masterclass in how NOT to govern, how NOT to do politics, how NOT to negotiate. And then – irony of ironies – some Remainers say we should “lead the EU, not leave the EU”. As if the UK were currently showing the slightest ability to lead itself, let alone anyone else.
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  • More seriously, it now looks as if Thursday, not Wednesday, will be push-comes-to-shove day. But time is really, really short now. If we don’t get a breakthrough on Thursday, it increasingly looks as if it’s going to be No Deal a week on Friday. The worst possible outcome for everything and everyone (except the offshore tax avoiders with their Tea Party-style vision for the UK).

    There are some really good, informed commentators to follow on Twitter, if you’re wanting to follow it all without having to spend hours and hours immersed in it:

    @IanDunt    (good for the latests twists and turns in Parliament)
    @JolyonMaugham    (good for the Brexit-related legalities)
    @StevePeers      (Professor of EU Law: really knows his stuff)

    But I wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling they’ve just had enough at this stage. We all need some time away from it occasionally: there’s just too much at stake and too much idiocy among those who are supposed to be *protecting* the country, not *destroying* it, for god’s sake.

     
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  • It looks like the RCC god-deluded are up to their old tricks again, regardless of civil laws!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-47785097

    A Roman Catholic diocese near Madrid is being investigated after a newspaper reported that it was running courses to “cure” gay men of homosexuality.

    The bishopric of Alcalá de Henares, north-east of Spain’s capital, denied offering such “cures”, in a statement.

    El Diario’s undercover reporter described (in Spanish) how he had attended a session where an untrained counsellor told him that she risked going to prison for giving him advice on how to stop being homosexual.

    Under the region’s anti-homophobia laws, such pseudo-therapies can be punished with fines of up to €45,000 (£39,000; $50,000).

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  • Arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has this morning tweeted:

    If a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU we should be as difficult as possible. We could veto any increase in the budget, obstruct the putative EU army and block Mr Macron’s integrationist schemes

    … thus destroying in a single tweet his own side’s claim that, as EU members, we are little more than helpless flotsam on an EU ocean, forced to submit to whatever schemes the EU come up with, no matter how much we might hate them.

    Honestly: it’s almost as if the Brexiteers simply didn’t give a damn about the truth and just said whatever they thought it would take to get their own way at any given time. I know: whoda thunk?
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  • Marco,

    Living in Scotland, you are in a much better position than I to assess the likelihood of Scotland going for independence in the event of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. From what Scottish politicians are saying in public, it seems that Scotland is very likely to leave the United Kingdom and rejoin the European Union. In that case, Great Britain will be no more. By that time, the Northern Irish may well see it to be in their best interests to reunite with their fellow Irish in the south, in order also to return to the European Union. Do the leavers really want their nation to be pared down to England and Wales, to fend for itself in a world that is very different from the world of four hundred years ago or even one hundred years ago? But, to get back to my first thought, will Scotland really make that break from the United Kingdom, rejoin the European Union and possibly end up with a controlled border with England?
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  • Good question, Cairsley.
    The honest answer is that I don’t know. Personally, I voted No in the last indyref but am now passionately Yes. Brexit has changed everything for me: not JUST the shock of the result and being forced to acknowledge for the first time just how differently Scotland and England see themselves and their respective places in the world, though that was what first made me change my mind about independence. But everything that has happened since – the horrific lurch to the right; the way Scotland’s vote, even Scotland’s elected Parliament and Scotland’s First Minister, have been sidelined and ignored or dismissed out of hand; the way SNP MPs are routinely jeered and sneered at in the House of Commons (I know the HoC isn’t known for its commitment to restraint and civility, but if you watch you’ll see that it reserves a special level of contempt for the SNP); the way Brexit will undo much of Scotland’s devolution settlement and leave us with considerably less control over what happens here – all that has meant that I, personally, will continue to support Scottish independence now, even if Brexit did not happen. The mask has slipped: Westminster’s sense of entitlement to Scotland has been well and truly exposed, and given its complete disregard for Scotland’s wellbeing, wishes and priorities, that’s simply no longer acceptable. To me, at least.

    But Scotland is as divided as England: it’s just that the focus of the division is different. In England it’s all about the EU. In Scotland it’s about the UK. I think the trend is towards greater support for independence – partly because of Brexit, and partly just changing demographics; but Unionists still feel just as passionately about it and will resist very hard. Immediately after the EU referendum, polls suggested support for indy had surged to 59%, though that figure has settled down to roughly 50:50 since. My fellow independence supporters point to the huge growth in support for independence during the last indyref campaign (from about 28% at the start of the campaign to 45% in the referendum itself) and hope for similar growth next time around. Personally, I think there would of course be SOME growth during another campaign, but I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be on the same scale. And I would be worried about just scraping independence on, say, a 52:48 result. Starting a new country will be a huge project, and for all sorts of reasons it would be good to have clear support for it. Ideally I’d like to get at least 60%, but we’re certainly not there yet.

    But yes, we would rejoin the EU – or EFTA/EEA at the very least – if independent. And yes, if rUK is out of the EEA, then that would mean a border with England, and yes again, that will put a lot of people off (though of course, the issue is nowhere near the flashpoint in the Scottish context that it is in the Irish one). But historically (I’m going right back to before 1707 and the Act of Union here!) Scotland’s closest trading ties were with the ports on the Baltic coastline, not with the English ones. And today, too, Scotland has many good, strong ties, and in much in common, with those same countries – we share a similar geographic space, after all. There would need to be a shift in our trading patterns, of course, but much of the groundwork has already been laid, and the Scottish government is already investing in restoring direct ferry links between Scotland and the mainland EU and is working very hard to build and maintain strong contacts there. 

    There’s still a long way to go and I would never pretend that independence was going to be a walk in the park – but I see no reason why it shouldn’t be perfectly achievable. Our population and our GDP put us towards the top of the lower tertial of current EU members. We have an advanced economy, a well-educated population, and we’re strong in a number of industries that are going to be key for the future: renewable energy, of course, but also life sciences, digital technologies, etc. And, of course, although it’s not something to rely on long-term, there is also oil. I just don’t see any reason why, uniquely among all the countries of the world, Scotland should be incapable of governing itself.

    Conversely, as part of an immigration-hostile UK, we are doomed. I really mean that. Scotland’s greatest and most serious challenge is a top-heavy population, with too few people of working age to be able to support a fast-growing retired population. It’s a problem almost everywhere, but particularly acute in Scotland. We categorically NEED immigration. Freedom of Movement has been fantastic for Scotland, and will continue to be absolutely essential in future. We simply cannot afford the rUK’s hostile environment. 
    So anyway: I just don’t know. I am very clear about what I want to happen and what I think NEEDS to happen, but there’s a lot of work to be done to persuade enough people, I think. Independence is a real possibility (and for many of us, a real light at the end of what is currently a very dark tunnel), but it’s far from in the bag.

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  • Many thanks, Marco, for your helpful response at #12. Of course we do not know how this will all pan out, but the last two paragraphs of your response indicate why Scotland would be able to flourish as an independent nation, despite the initial difficulties, and also why it would be very much in Scotland’s interests to press for independence, even if the UK ends up remaining in the EU. Westminster’s disregard for Scotland’s rights and interests can only move Scots to regard Westminster more and more as something to get out of. A successful, independent Scotland may be just the corrective that Westminster needs for restoring some of its long-lost integrity.
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  • Continuing the theme, there’s an excellent article in today’s Irish Independent.

    I think that, back in 2014 when we last had an independence referendum in Scotland, people outside Scotland (and 55% of people inside Scotland, to be fair)  didn’t really get why independence was even on the agenda: they simply didn’t see Scotland as particularly distinct, with a character and values and needs and priorities that differed significantly from those of rUK. Indyref1 was widely seen as both unnecessary and undesirable.

    But I think Brexit is changing that. Now, thanks to the way leading Scottish politicians have responded to the Brexit fiasco these last few years, I get the impression there is a much deeper realisation in other countries that Scotland really IS a distinctive, mature, internationalist, progressive, sensible, responsible country in its own right – far more so than the UK in its current incarnation. And this article in the Irish Independent reinforces that.

    https://www.independent.ie/regionals/enniscorthyguardian/news/opinion-amid-the-chaos-of-brexit-scotland-is-a-beacon-of-sense-in-a-sea-of-madness-37973117.html
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  • Unlike the UK, where sovereignty rests with Parliament and not the people, Switzerland has a deeply enshrined commitment to direct democracy and therefore holds a LOT of referendums, on all sorts of issues.

    Now, though, a Swiss court has ordered that one of their referendums, on whether taxation arrangements should apply to married and cohabiting couples equally, should be re-run.

    But the supreme court has now voided the result on the grounds that voters were not given full information, and the vote must be re-run.
    The information provided to the electorate was “incomplete” and therefore “violated the freedom of the vote”, the court ruled.

    I merely mention it, dear Leave voters, though you might want to interrupt your cries of ‘Traitors’ at us Remainers long enough to reflect on the fact that the Brexit referendum was, after all, won on the basis of lies, corruption, cheating, a total lack of detail and unicorn-level delusion.
     

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-47879777

  • Be my guest, Olgun!

    Also: Sky News have just reported that the civil service has been instructed to stand down No Deal Brexit operational planning. I haven’t been this smiley for nearly three years.
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  • Michael 100 says:

    For more on the confluence of religion and rightwing politics, see:

    Hitler turned on the churches which would no longer support him, after they and the sheeple-vote had served their purpose of helping him into power.

  • I just saw a CNN story in which it’s reported that a new survey shows that 23.1% of U.S. Americans claim to practice no religion, within the margin of error we outnumber both Catholics (23.0%)  and “evangelicals” (22.5%).  The article reports that “nones” will be the largest group within four to six years.  Nevertheless, we are underrepresented in the political arena— “There is not a single open atheist amid the most diverse Congress in history, according to a Pew study.”  I doubt that we’ll see a candidate openly proclaiming atheism soon, but it would be nice to see an absence, or at least a minimum, of religious symbolism—e.g. why do we need invocations & benedictions. I suppose part of the explanation for politicans’ reluctance to eschew religion is that successful politicians know the value of organization, and churches are still represent highly organized people, most of whom vote.  In the absence of organized atheist clubs which can deliver significant numbers of votes on Election Day, we’ll remain disadvantaged. I’m remembering the old CIO slogan:  “Get wise, organize!”  

     
    The story, which has a nice photo of Professor Dawkins, can be found at:  https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2019/04/13/us/no-religion-largest-group-first-time-usa-trnd/index.html
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  • I could not have been any more grief-stricken at the sight of Notre Dame in flames last night if I had been the devoutest of Christians rather than openly atheist.

    The fact that it is a site of religious worship obviously didn’t increase that grief one jot, but nor did it diminish it. Religious people often talk about a sense of the transcendent that they get from their beliefs, but that sense is accessible to me too, without the slightest religious belief underpinning it: to me, great art, great architecture, inspires all the awe, all the transcendence I need. And a building like Notre Dame – probably the best known Gothic building in the world – has an enormous significance, regardless of the use that it’s put to, a significance that comes not only from its exquisite beauty and artistry, but also from the thousands of lives spent creating it and the millions of lives it has touched since. It is a monument to what humans can achieve when they work together to a common goal. And it has meant so much to millions of people through the ages – people from all over the world, religious and non-religious alike. And that gives it a significance that transcends its purely physical presence as well, connecting us to people we’ll never know, both now and in the deep past, and feeling to give us all an emotional stake in it. It felt last night as if not just the whole of Paris, or the whole of France, but the whole world was in deep shock. Some inanimate objects feel to be so much more than the sum of their parts.

    So anyway, I’m torn between grief at the destruction and relief that it wasn’t even worse. It feels like something of a miracle (in the purely secular sense, obviously) that there weren’t more injuries or even deaths; I haven’t heard any more today about the fire fighter who was apparently badly injured yesterday, but I hope so much that he’ll be able to make a good recovery.
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  • Marco # 24.  As you say, the building means so much more than simply being a church — its the symbol of France.  Someone, in a radio interview this morning, said that all roads in France lead to Notre Dame.   I’m hoping that because of the reconstruction that was underway that a lot of the art work had been removed before the fire began.  In any event, to borrow a phrase from another French tragedy — Je suis Français! Nous sommes tous français! Forgive me if my grammar is not correct.
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  • Well said, Marco and Michael 100.

    That fire broke my heart. I’ve attended masses at that place for years from time to time. The soaring ceiling, massive pillars, the buttresses and that organ booming out from the back had the combined effect of making me shaky and eyes welled up. What a place. Terrible loss.
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  • Marco, you express very well my own sentiments at the news of the fire that has seriously damaged the cathedral of Our Lady of Paris. You are also right to be concerned about the injured fireman. My less kind mind is also wondering who was responsible for this accident, but no doubt the authorities are looking into that. If it was an accident, it was a case of egregiously unprofessional carelessness!

    Michael,

    Je suis Français! Nous sommes tous français! Forgive me if my grammar is not correct.

    Rien à pardonner.

    Laurie, take heart! The cathedral has not been lost, and President Macron himself has already undertaken to have it rebuilt.
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  • Yes, the fire is inherently tragic, but it turns out that things could have been quite a lot worse.

    I understand that the French fire service has a protocol for fires in buildings of enormous cultural significance such as Notre Dame: first they rescue any people, then as many artworks/relics etc as possible, then any historic furnishings, and only then does the main focus turn to the structure. The thinking being that the structure itself will be significantly more resilient to the flames than its priceless contents will be; and if the contents are destroyed, they can never be replaced, whereas parts of the structure can be rebuilt if necessary.

    And so I gather that most of the contents were saved; and also that several other objects had already been removed for safe-keeping due to the restoration work going on in any case.

    I’m also hugely relieved that the police and fire service have so far ruled out either arson or terrorism as the cause. It really does seem to have been the result of an accident/carelessness during restoration work and you’re absolutely right, Cairsley, that that should never be allowed to happen – it’s actually mind-boggling that it (probably) was. But if there is some worker out there somewhere who knows or suspects that they were responsible for all this, I actually feel desperately sorry for them: what an enormous burden to have to bear. And given that, by definition, anyone working on this kind of restoration must have a really close emotional connection to it, I’m not even sure it would be possible to bear. I don’t think I’d be able to, myself.
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  • Marco and all

     

    Although I understand what you are all saying, I really can’t feel the pain you are all feeling because I can’t help but see also the thousands of bombed out homes and cities in the rest of the world. From all the angles you describe I find it pails into insignificance and doesn’t warrant the publicity it is getting  when so much more is not being reported or if reported, has become the humdrum of reporting. I feel loss but can’t bring myself to add it to my already overburdened sense of loss elsewhere. I really don’t believe you intended it any other way but Je suis French for a building is over the top for me. I have visited it and it was amazing but………Sorry, no accusations, just the way I feel.

     
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  • @#29

    I should have added, it should not have taken up ten minutes of tv news last night and, more graphic for me, it should not have been on the front page of every newspaper on every table of the cafe my wife and I went to this morning.
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  • Olgun,

    I’m not at all surprised to read that that’s how you feel – I’m quite sure there will be many, many people who agree with you. And I can absolutely see where you’re coming from: it’s a perfectly valid stance to take.

    It doesn’t have to be an either/or, though.  To pick just one example, I’m not sure whether it was here or not, but I certainly howled out my grief and rage both online and off after the Grenfell Tower disaster, for instance (and that was entirely about the people – and the callous indifference of government – not remotely about the building itself, of course).

    But I can’t compare my reactions to the two events. For me, they’re in different categories. Different, hugely important categories. Grenfell Tower activated a different part of my brain: my empathy and my politics. It was a hideous tragedy for those directly involved; AND it also pointed to something beyond itself: it flagged up in the most appalling way imaginable something very, very dark at the heart of the British state: the way it views people who are poor, people who are foreign. And of course, we’ve seen that over and over again since then too, in the constant stream of news about elderly people who have lived here almost all their lives, have no recollections and no family and no friends in the country of their birth, and yet are now being deported by our increasingly foul, xenophobic government.

    In all those cases, large numbers of specific human lives have been destroyed. And it is awful. Shameful. Unforgivable. And I do truly feel anger about it, and I do truly feel grief.

    My grief for Notre Dame isn’t on the same level (it’s not on a higher level either: just a different one). It’s based on my own perception of it as a monument, not just to the individual humans who laboured so hard and so long to create it, but to humankind itself: it was/is such a pinnacle of human creativity, human collaboration, human determination. And although of course I am not suggesting that every single person would or should feel like this, for millions of people throughout the ages and from around the world it has been a sight that has moved, awed, humbled and inspired them. It has been part of a shared human experience that has crossed borders and centuries and politics, and therefore its destruction doesn’t feel to be a tragedy only for the humans directly involved, but for humanity itself. There are some things that, broadly speaking, we are all (though of course I don’t mean “all” literally) somehow emotionally, culturally, invested in.

    It is perfectly reasonable for you not to feel that yourself; but I don’t think I’ll be able to explain my own response any better than this if you can’t relate to what I’m saying at all. I’ll freely admit that my own response to art and architecture has something about it that can be compared to aspects of religion: the sense of transcendence, the sense of something symbolically standing for more than the specific. For me, seeing Notre Dame go up in flames carried a symbolic weight, not just a specific one. It had been a pinnacle of human achievement – and now it was being destroyed before my eyes. It felt far bleaker and more tragic than merely the destruction of stone and timber.
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  • Marco #31

     

    I don’t think it’s because I don’t understand where you are coming from, and for all the reasons you have said. Going back to my newspapers on tables depiction, the front page could have been polar ice melting or extinction rates or plastic pollution etc…. This fire? Page three half page. Excluding any deaths or injuries of course. I don’t want to drink from my grandfathers wooden leg on his birthday any more. Bring me a clean glass.

     

    (Ps. Buzzing from watching too much Pete Buttigieg I think. Bring on the future 😁)
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  • Olgun #32:  (Ps. Buzzing from watching too much Pete Buttigieg I think. Bring on the future )

    I’m really excited too.  Buttigieg may be the one to take on Trumpian bigotry, and put it where it belongs, in the trash bin of history.

    Here’s a link to a speech Pete gave in Des Moines yesterday – April 16. — more than 1100 people came to hear him.

    https://www.desmoinesregister.com/videos/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2019/04/17/full-speech-pete-buttigieg-speaks-crowd-more-than-1-000-people-des-moines-iowa-caucus-2020-election/3499396002/

    Iowa was the launching pad for President Obama, maybe for President Buttigieg too!! When asked about what to tell people who say America is not ready for a gay president, his first response was: “first of all, tell them I said ‘hi’.” Of course he had more to say, but I thought that was a great response.

  • Just heard that the cathedrals rebuild fund has raised a billion euros so far. A billion! What are our priorities in spending that much money? Can we live with the memory and leave it as a ruined relic? Will just as many, if not more, tourists come to see the result of the fire? The church should, if anything, pay for it all by selling off property and making land available for low rent homes?? My list is endless, if not always practical!?
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  • Goodness, Olgun, you are grouchy.

    I’ve just checked, and the Notre Dame fire even made it to the front page of the Singapore-based Straits Times. Actually – *checks again* – it even got an editorial in the China Daily:

    Grief over Notre Dame shows cultural heritage global treasures: China Daily editorial

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201904/16/WS5cb5d44ea3104842260b68b7.html

    This isn’t just a little local difficulty for Paris. This is world heritage we’re talking about. Human heritage. It’s part of who we are as a species. It touches us.
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  • Olgun:  I have to admit that my previous expressions of sadness were somewhat tempered this morning when I read that the cathedral was the home of the crown of thorns said to have been worn by JC at the crucifixion.  Give me a break!!

    On the one hand, I respect the historical significance of the building, but I agree with you that we have to remember that it’s also a symbol of medieval superstition.  And I agree that there are much better places to spend a billion euros — perhaps to pay reparations to the victims sexual abuse by male and female clergy.

  • Marco #35

    More grouchy-ness coming I am afraid 😁

    Even countries are ‘sharing’ (FB regererence) false sympathy, or at least feeling compelled to react with greater force of empathy than they really felt initially. The same as putting flowers at the roadside where the fatal accident took place. Too much forced culture and not enough reason. Just didn’t like my news telling me how I should feel and that’s how it seems that me. Reporters telling eye witnesses how terrible they must have felt’ “ you must have been devastated”, was one ‘question” (?) from a reporter this evening.

     

    Michael #36

    Thank you for adding to the list. I cannot think of myself ever having to say to a child in Syria or the Gaza Strip, ‘I was in favour of the billion Euros spent on the cathedral’. Of course it can be said it is my problem alone if I think that way but I don’t really see it as a problem

     
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  • Olgun

    The cultural value of Notre Dame is not determined either by how TV journalists cover the story or, Michael, by what is kept inside it or even what it is used for.

    And Olgun, I would suggest you are just as guilty of making assumptions about people’s true reactions to the story as the TV journalists you complain about are: how on earth can you possibly know people are not feeling the emotion they report feeling? If you tell me you didn’t feel that kind of emotion, I will accept the truth of that without a quibble. But I doubt you’re really in any position to speak for others, especially when they are speaking for themselves and saying something very different.

    Even countries in the Soviet bloc after the war – countries that had huge amounts of rebuilding to do, urgently, countries with struggling economies, countries making a genuine (if flawed) attempt to create more equal societies with jobs and homes for all – even they placed huge value on culture and funded it, generously, as soon after the war as they were able, and continued to fund it, generously, as their economies fell further and further into decline in later years. Because they recognised that it matters, that it enhances human existence, and that, at some level or other, society would be poorer without it.

    I’m disappointed with the way this discussion has developed – I sometimes feel alienated by some of the attitudes I encounter among my fellow atheists: they sometimes seem to me to be unnecessarily cold and clinical. But hey, c’est la vie.
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  • Marco #38

     

    I truly am sorry if I have offended. It was not my intention but my clumsy way. Especially you as you have always shown balance and fairness.

    I have tried to say that I believe most to have the feeling they say they have but also tried to show how this has eaten into our culture in such a way as to lesson the real impact it has on us. It seems I have failed miserably and should have not tried to inject a little humour into my writing as I have come to realise I am rubbish at it. I understand the hurt, the importance and everything else you have said. It is not an either or but a scale of responsibility. I am not immune from hypocracy or can escape some of its inevibility. Sounding very corny, I find myself hurting too much and have learned to manage, where I can, where to feel bad and what to care less about. It is not a limitless resource in me and my clinical approach, in this case, is cold because of that I think. My whole thinking is what temples to human achievement can we build in the future not what we can restore to show the past. It is not just because it’s a religious building. It’s just that it’s a building full stop. When all else is well in the world, maybe my conscience will spare me a little of its energy to worry about things like this but for now, I can only think mad a system that risks the lives of human beings to save some relics. Sorry, it just doesn’t seem right to me. I don’t see that as being cold do you? Clumsy in my language and communication abilities but never cold I hope.
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  • No, Olgun, of course you’re not cold, and I want to apologise to you too, because, ironically, I realise my last comment was too heated.

    I am simply frustrated by comments, not just here, that seem to suggest the money being spent on Notre Dame should be spent on X social project instead.

    This is to profoundly fail to understand how our societies and economies work, and that very misunderstanding makes it possible for the iniquities in our societies and economies to continue unchallenged.

    This notion that we have to choose between essentials because there isn’t enough money to pay for them all is deeply flawed. The fat cats know it perfectly well, but my god, it’s a convenient myth. That simply isn’t how modern economies work. If we find ourselves – as we frequently do – having to choose between funding a nurse or funding a police officer, it is not because there is not the money to do both, but because the vast majority of the world’s wealth – of which there is eye-watering abundance – is being kept in the pockets of the mega-rich, and because it is the unspoken policy of too many national governments that it should be so.

    At no point was a decision taken to spend the equivalent of 1.13 billion US dollars on the rebuilding of Notre Dame instead of on feeding the hungry, homing the homeless, restoring electricity to Puerto Rico, or any of the other causes that people have been saying the money would have been better spent on. No way would that money ever have reached the needy. The hungry will remain hungry, the homeless will remain homeless, Puerto Rico will remain without electricity – but not because of Notre Dame. Because those wealthy donors were not deciding whether to donate the money to Notre Dame or use it to end homelessness. They were deciding whether to donate it to Notre Dame or leave it in their offshore bank accounts where it would have continued to enrich themselves still further. (At least this way, that money actually will get pumped into the wider economy at long last, in the form of materials bought and salaries paid – salaries that will be spent in local communities and on which tax and National Insurance etc will also find their way back to the state).
    Yes, absolutely, the overnight ability to fund the rebuilding of Notre Dame shows that we could have solved many of the world’s ills by now had the people with the real money had the will to do so. But the simple fact is that they don’t. I am not defending this situation for one moment, but the rebuilding of Notre Dame does not exacerbate the issue one jot.
    The US military budget for 2019 alone could pay for 1003 new Notre Dames.

    Economist Gabriel Zucman has estimated that “an astonishing $8.7 trillion, or 11.5 percent, of global household financial wealth resides in tax havens”.
    (https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2018/01/20/trillions-dollars-have-sloshed-into-offshore-tax-havens-here-how-get-back/2wQAzH5DGRw0mFH0YPqKZJ/story.html)
    That’s 8700 new Notre Dames.  
    That money is kept for the fat cats and not spent on making life more bearable for the poor, because the fat cats couldn’t give a damn about the poor.

    This is a disgusting state of affairs, but on a scale in which Notre Dame is a mere drop in the ocean. Raging about the billion euros suddenly found for the rebuilding of Notre Dame on the basis that there is poverty in the world is like any of us kidding ourselves we are saving the planet by flicking off a light switch or stopping buying cotton wool buds with plastic stems. It’s just tinkering around the edges. The real problem, and therefore the real solution, lies buried deep within our entire, rotten, corrupt system, a system that allows the richest 1% to own HALF the world’s wealth (https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/nov/14/worlds-richest-wealth-credit-suisse) and that is actively designed to allow them to go on making themselves richer at the expense of both people and the planet.

    Yes, a 1000 times yes, the world has its priorities wrong. But not because it funds Notre Dame, but because over and over and over again the poor fund the rich.

    This is, absolutely, an argument for a huge revolution in our societies and politics and economics. Count me in for that. Definitely. But is is categorically NOT an argument for not rebuilding Notre Dame or investing in other forms of artistic and/or built culture. Human flourishing takes many forms, and yes, of course ending poverty would be a huge step forward on that front, but art and architecture are part of it too. They just are. Same as music. Same as sport. Of course they don’t matter to all of us equally, but I am not aware of a single human society ever discovered that has not put real value on them. Even Neanderthals created art (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-02357-8)!

    The fuss about the cost of rebuilding Notre Dame, however sincerely argued by everyone but the fat cats laughing all the way to the bank, is a deflection from the real causes of social injustice and simply reinforces the convenient but wicked myth that we are so poor we have to choose between necessities.
     

  • Marco says:

    I am simply frustrated by comments, not just here, that seem to suggest the money being spent on Notre Dame should be spent on X social project instead.

    It looks like the interactions between media sensationalism, and the mentally unstable, have given rise to copycat moves which could cause more expensive damage elsewhere!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-47973354

    A man has been arrested after walking into New York’s St Patrick’s Cathedral carrying two full petrol cans, lighter fluid and lighters, police say.
    They say guards confronted the 37-year-old as he entered the Manhattan church on Wednesday evening.

    He spilt gasoline on the ground and officers took him into custody.

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  • Marco #40

    Wont have time to answer, or attempt to answer, your post. Getting ready to go on holiday.

     

    My basc priciple is, if we don’t not moan then nothing changes. Slow change is better than none at all. Switching the light off keeps the planet on your mind and that of your children. Collective action however small.

     

    I love the arts but hate that it disappears up its own bottom in vast majority of cases. It even encourages historians to create rather than report. I would have enjoyed the honesty of a Neanderthal carving a shape out of something much more than the value it is given a little while later in showing how rich you are.

     

    I suppose what what I am saying is I am not happy taking the bad because it want the good. Not without a fight that is. Through my own experience whilst working in Hackney in council flats, I have seen many a funded artist wasting time and money on little talent living the bohemian life stoned out of their minds. Best art comes from struggle. These guys had it too good. A million pounds a week for a footballer means I don’t go football, as a protest, and add to their ocean drop by drop but, my hypocracy is that I like watching F1 racing. Only actually went to one race and saw the ripoff. Now confined to watching highlights on a free channel. I am not convinced the arts should be funded by public money. Let it stand on its own feet and it ntegrity if it can.

    I think my main driver is my dad, again, telling me to keep my head down and not worry about other people. Been doing the opposite all my life.
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  • Forgive me, Olgun, but that sounds like nothing more than your personal prejudice talking. It is like someone who has never taken the trouble to learn the basics of science dismissing it out of hand as “boring and pointless”.

    Your reply really saddens me. Not because you disagree, but because you seem so determined to close off an aspect of life that, for many people, is a hugely important part of being human.

    I am not naturally inclined to science. I’ve always leaned naturally and far more successfully to the humanities. My mother projected her own fear and dislike of the subject onto me as a child, and school just managed to confirm her/my prejudices. But as an adult I recognised that I was missing out on something important and went to quite a lot of trouble and some expense to learn at least the basics. And even though science will never be something I take to either naturally or easily, I was greatly enriched by that experience and acquired a whole new dimension of looking at life.

    I would merely point out that that can be a worthwhile two-way street.

    Enjoy your holiday, Olgun – you’ve been sounding in need of a good break for some time now.
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  • On the subject or Notre Dame, I see America still has its problem with what appear to be race-related non-accidental fires!

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-47938276

    Prosecutors have filed new hate crime charges against a white man accused of burning down three African-American churches in the US state of Louisiana.
    Holden Matthews, 21, the son of a local sheriff deputy, learned of the new charges during a court appearance on Monday when he pleaded not guilty.

    During the hearing, the judge denied his bond request due to a “substantial amount of evidence” against him.

    Although the Paris fire seems to have encouraged some action in the USA.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-47973354

    Investigators in Paris say renovation works at Notre-Dame could have accidentally sparked Monday’s fire.

    The disaster has led to a surge in fundraising for black churches destroyed by an arsonist in the US earlier this year.

     

  • Marco #43

    My mixing up of experience and predudices confusing what I want to say again sorry.

    I consider myself quite arty in some ways Marco. I am not closing myself up to it at all. I enjoy photography and look for the abstract but, like you on science, I don’t know much about it. I don’t have problems with the artists. It’s the ones talking about art that get me down. Not all. I very much enjoyed Julian Barnes writing on the painting “The Raft of the Medusa” in his book “The History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters”.  My experience in Hackney, and I was very young at the time, has left me some pregudices I admit but what else could I think given the situation. Music moves me to tears. Not a big fan of dance though I appreciate the effort and so on with the other arts. Still think it should finance itself. I have not had the privilege of a home life filled with it or an education that helped me appreciate it as much as the educated seem to. I know about compositions and understand when David Bowie said he heard a peace of classical music when he was young and the discord’s fascinated him and influenced his music like no other. Still don’t think it should be subsidised. Don’t think I will change my mind after a holiday either. I even understand your disappointement but can’t see why art has to hold such a special place and deserve such special treatment. Releasing parts of Dawkins “Selfish Gene” on the plane just now I can only quote him in saying “no one gene is responsible for making your leg. It is the combination of many genes to create each part” or words to that effect. I know you don’t mean it any other way. Just saying.

    I do feel that I might be insulting you as I now think that is the talent you were talking about a few posts back? My feelings for art runs hot and cold in all the wrong places probably but still think there is nothing wrong in wanting to feed the world first.

     

    Probably another mixed up post that will annoy you. I am truly sorry about that but I am not advocating murder. I feel we should be roaring at each other by now but am glad we are not
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  • Olgun #46. I hope none of us are, with out a doubt, right or wrong. There are places we can visit to get ex cathedra opinions, but thankfully not here. I think most matters under discussion have lots of facets all of which should be considered with good fun. I’m reminded of a poem by Robert Frost called the quandary:

     

    Never have I been glad or sad That there was such a thing as bad. There had to be, I understood, For there to have been any good. It was by having been contrasted That good and bad so long had lasted. That’s why discrimination reigns. That’s why we need a lot of brains If only to discriminate ‘Twixt what to love and what to hate. To quote the oracle at Delphi, Love thy neighbor as thyself, aye, And hate him as thyself thou hatest. There quandary is at its greatest. We learned from the forbidden fruit For brains there is no substitute. ‘Unless it’s sweetbreads, ‘ you suggest With innuendo I detest. You drive me to confess in ink: Once I was fool enough to think That brains and sweetbreads were the same, Till I was caught and put to shame, First by a butcher, then a cook, Then by a scientific book. But ‘ twas by making sweetbreads do I passed with such a high IQ.
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  • Olgun, just so you know I’m not ignoring you, I won’t get chance to reply properly today, but will try to do so tomorrow or Sunday. (But to reassure you in the meantime: no, I’m not an artist myself! Just a very great lover of art and other forms of cultural expression.)

    One thing though: if we ‘wait to feed to the world first’, nothing will ever happen. Not even feeding the world. This was the entire point of my long comment at 40. But the 1% who are, by design, the real beneficiaries of our current system would cheerfully raise a glass in your honour if they were following this thread, because the idea that the available pot of funds is mightily limited and cannot cover everything we’d like it to plays ENTIRELY into their hands (and their bank accounts).

    And with that I’m off out for the day. Actually, it’s possible that I’ve run out of steam on this topic for now. If I do post about it again over the weekend it will probably be to move it onto a more general but related matter that’s been occupying my thoughts for some time now, but I suspect that would go down about as well as this one has 🙂
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  • Marco #49

    Thank you for persisting. Really. I like discussion. Especially here but think you are laying it s but thick on me. 😃

    My feedback ng the world involves big change and not just depriving the arts. Hope I am not that two dimensional. I have had an image in my head since we started this conversation and that is the fat gout ridden governors of an orphanage feasting while children sing ‘food glorious food’ with their noses presssed up against the window. The fat cats and their bank accounts need sorting too. Don’t ask me exactly how. There are better people here that can answer that but I know the change is needed. The BBC needs changing and stop its funding too. Things like that! But, I will reread your post later

     

    I hope you do feel you can move the conversation on and shake things up a bit. I do think you are being a little, just a little, unfair to say you thought you might be comfortable here but….

     

     
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  • The art/science discussion puzzles me. I could not live without either. After my science degree I immediately became an art lecturer and it seemed no real discontinuity to me.

    I’ve always claimed that art is a psychology experiment we perform on our selves. Only we see the results and sometimes it lights up places inside nameless strange.

    The great novelists are journalists equipped with the tools of neuro-psychology.

    Recently I suggested that if we could see our subconscious selves, we would be amazed at its extent and busy-ness, but also its uncanny similarity to the condition of poetry in how it makes its inferences.

    Storytelling is rooted in how the hippocampus works, how we even have memories at all. Metaphor rooted in the wild early growth of our pre-mature brains, conferring abstact thoughts of the loftiest sort.

    We are nurtured far more than natured in how all this gets to work for us. And it is culture, high and low (horrid distinctions) that breeds us like thus and so. It is culture that transfers that poetry of thought into each subconscious, that we may later use and rationalise with culture’s other gifts of thinking tools.

    Art like all evolutionary processes is wildly more failure than success. Further, our very disparateness of cognitions narrows the scope of possible utility for each offering. But that is no reason for us not increasingly promoting its virtues.

    I am a huge fan of public art. Some of the finest examples were created thanks to the New Deal in the USA. Art showing the country to itself for the first time. Theatre revealing the reality of Native American lives and history, shamefully buried. Some of the greatest photography of… well, ever. Music that reinvented and broadened what could possibly be American. All sponsored and taken out of the cities and into the smallest towns.

    I have to put up my hand and say I have taken money from your taxes, and used it with friends to make movies and make theatre possible, some via the Arts Council and some via the dole. As an enthusiastic tax payer I begrudge my earlier self none of the opportunity I and my friends were afforded. My art? Well even I am underwhelmed. But my friends became actors and directors, musicians and artists, variously. For myself, the experience as “artist” became essential to the broadening of my life. It turned an aspie into a house-trained aspie at least, gob smacked at the shear variety of humans, the varieties of their rewarding lives.
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  • I hoped this subject would make you want to join in.

    I will reiterate that I believe all that about art you and Marco have said but, a quick question, should Metin’e after your escapades in art, the apprenticeships were abolished and I had to do it the hard expensive way, any guilt on that? Not that I want you to feel guilty, I am just trying to find some sort of balance.
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  • Ollie.

     

    I don’t understand how I am to feel guilty. In my illustration of Public Art, I evoked the single best example in the West of Keynesian fiscal policy at work. Massive public investment in the entire workforce netting never seen again national thriving, the kleptocrats subsequently panicking that they will lose their blood sucking control.

    Why ask me rather than them? Arts Council funding was slashed later (just like apprenticeships) bringing to an end a brilliant period of cultural re-invention.

    It is the distasteful posturing of the kleptocrats, indifferent to the folks whose money they have unreasonably gained, unable to buy Indulgences from the Pope any longer, buying public “virtue” as the next best thing in the most flagrant way.

     

    Pay your taxes to the government rather than massively avoid them and let the democratically elected government wisely balance the allocation of resources, and get a bit more Keynesian.
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  • Thank you to all for your input. More thinking needed from me. My need is more immediate but not suppose I will have to live with my guilty feeling. Didn’t mean to accuse anyone, as I said before, and sorry if it seemed I did. Whatever happens, greater care needs to be taken in wasting money and issuing blank cheques. Until such a time, I will carry on saying sorry to those suffering around the world but make it clear I speak only for myself. Thanks again to all.
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  • The one thing I try to rely on, as corny as it sounds, is my feelings and trying to stay honest. That does not mean I claim my feelings have truth on their side. This may all sound as if it’s all about me but it’s not  my concerns are about the world and it’s inhabitants!

    With that in mind, feeling battered and bruised after a restless night with a question on my mind. The question being; is art like a religion to some people?

    This discussion on Notre Dame has me feeling like I visited a religious site and got torn to shreds. I went from being a “kind person” to someone who “needs a holiday”. I keep coming back to the video of the discussion with Steven Fry and Hitchens where they ask “is religion a force for good”  where Ann Widdecombe defends the charitable side of religion and the millions of people that subscribe to the faith. Has art got any bad in it? Can we say an artist, or architect, who has been commissioned,by religious constitutions, to distort reality in favour of said religion be said to be a ‘force for good’? Does pleasure override need? A little bit of what you like does you good?

     

    I’ve posted a link to Comic relief/Red nose day to show what a billion pounds can in terms of good  money where some of it comes out of the country of origin and changes the lives of others in others. What is wrong with that even if it threatens conventional art. Isn’t that art itself being made?

     

    I will also also seriously put forward the idea that a burned down cathedral will create more art. A new perspective. A new photographing/painting opportunity  a new pilgrimage on par with Stone Henge. It means I am not dismissing or disrespecting the art or what it means to people  it just means we move on, in the right direction. Other than a pilgrimage for the religious and a tick on a bucket list for the rest, I see no positive function for this building. None of that need be threatened by leaving it as it is or maybe just making it safe for visitors. I have wished that Stone Henge was rebuilt so we could see what it looked like in its prime (not that we know exactly how that was) but that would reduce it to a theme park look so better left alone and we can use our imaginations.

     

    As for fat fat cats well the game is up now they have shown such great ‘generousity’. They have nowhere to hide and will be called to task in the future. I even see it as part of the nationalistic views running rife in France at the moment. It’s hands are not clean.

    I feel I have much more ‘moaning’ to do but see that it will become repetitive so will leave it there  Thanks for listening

     
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  • @Olgun #46

    Love to hear from others. Don’t mind being proved wrong, honestly.

    I hardly think wanting financial resources directed where they could do the most good is a ‘wrong’ idea. Who would want to try and prove something like that?

    Personally, I am gladdened at the massive amounts of money rallying to Notre Dame. It is a rare example of genuine altruism from that demographic. I don’t think any of us can know if their donations are because of religion or because of historical/artistic concern (or maybe both). That is between them and their checkbooks.

    I do not begrudge the judgement of billionaires on how they spend their money. I am more interested in how they got their money, as I believe that is the area that concerns all of us.
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  • The history of human experience is to be treasured.

    Warwick Castle despite its creation through, and celebration of, Feudalism, should be rebuilt in the event of substantial damage.

    The experience of  St Peters-on-the-wall at Bradwell-on-sea, imagining you are a peasant in 654 is an important experience. A stout stone shelter in a flat landscape reaching forever. The shock experience of inside and outside so close together so stunningly different.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapel_of_St_Peter-on-the-Wall#/media/File:Dengie_SPA,_panorama_to_south_near_St_Peter_chapel.jpg

    Chartres (my favourite) and Notre Dame Cathedrals deliver a shock of experience utterly new to the peasant mind. Suddenly through our metaphorical brains we have space created for lofty thoughts that are yet ordered. It helps explain how and why religion could become so transcendent, hijacking all such lofty thoughts for so long. You need to feel it to understand it.

    The experience of architecture reflects the growing sophistications and manipulations of Christianity. For me they explain much of our history.

    Like feudalism, religion will mostly pass into history, but exploitation and manipulation will remain an ever present threat.

    Lest we forget.
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  • @Phil

    As usual, your eloquence moves me.

    Like feudalism, religion will mostly pass into history…

    Well, we can hope. But aren’t we naturally hardwired for that type of nonsense? Even if religion passed into history, wouldn’t we just create something similar to replace it?
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  • Vicki

    But aren’t we naturally hardwired for that type of nonsense?

    We are culturally wired for it. There is no innate principle of religiosity in our heads. There are a number of very sensible genetically wired detectors like Hyper-active Agency Detection that are hijacked by manipulative others.

    wouldn’t we just create something similar to replace it?

    “We” wouldn’t necessarily, but low empathy exploitative others try it on all the time. Religion is notably robust where it serves an exploitative few at the cost to many. Libertarianism is a faith based politico-economic idea that minimises societal effects to favour personal gain with not the least interest in the actualities of human psychology, anthropology etc. It is religion for slightly clever aspies (privilege checked) exasperated by human and social complexity.

     
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  • @Phil

    It is religion for slightly clever aspies (privilege checked) exasperated by human and social complexity.

    Again, your ability with words is always a treat! I never would have likened libertarianism to religion, but dang! it works!
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  • V. kind,V.

    The essential ingredients for a religion are immutable dogma and a simplifying heuristic that is always available. Monotheism is the finest, brain-dead-est, with Goddidit.

    Libertarianism is a trinity of dogmas. Trust no one. Charge for everything. Keep it all.
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  • I get it, I get it, I get it!

    My wife can draw and paint. Give her a photo and she can copy it almost to perfection. Give her real life and she can’t see the shapes and falls apart. I can’t draw or paint like her so took to photography because I wanted to capture what I saw and share it with others. When we visited Notre Dame she whizzed  through it like  whirlwind. I spent time sitting, standing, looking up, down and sideways. I checked the dark corners. I felt how small it made me feel but I felt like a giant at the achievement at the same time. I knew what I was supposed to feel. What the architect wanted me to feel but in a clinical knowing way. I know I missed a lot but trusted my feelings and what I already knew to be enough. If I wanted to become an architect I would have studied it more.

     

    I watched another program on Stone Henge the other night  more discoveries showing a thriving community and a large settlement. They discovered large areas of fencing post holes. They described them as being for herding people to prayer and worship. I saw a fairly large farming community and the fences for herding animals and keeping wolves at bay or grazing animals away from their crops. The remains of a man said to be sacrificed to the gods. Why not the execution of a thief or murderer? The stones said to be a calendar would be much more useful to farmers of crops and livestock than as a temple  huge stones better protection for archers against attack than all that work for prayer. Am I being too practical. Should I evoke magic just to tell a story? The findings of Julian Barnes about The Raft of the Medusa was that the church that commissioned the painting had trimmed its wings from blood and gore and the cannibalism that went on to one of hope of rescue. Garibaldi could only then compose and paint, his creativity gone. Few artists talk about their work in detail. Is this why? If so, it’s all a lie.

    My muslim family lived in poverty and ignorance. It does not take much of my imagination to understand what it must have been like in whatever B.C. I’m probably wrong but who is to tell me how wrong I might be?

     

    I just know where my charity money will go for me to die a happy dumb man.

     

     
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  • Olgun

    I just know where my charity money will go for me to die a happy dumb man.

    Ok, so first of all, you’re hardly dumb. Not dumb at all. Stop it!

    Also, I don’t blame you for sticking up your nose at most religious art or any other art that doesn’t speak to you personally. There’s plenty left to choose from.  Thing is, the Popes have always had deep pockets. Follow the money. Whoever is writing the check gets to dictate the subject matter.  Poor artists had to keep a roof over their heads too. I’m always interested to see what they worked on in their own private time. Much more interesting.

    I may have mentioned that I made some serious mommy money with my decorative painting business for some years. If some bored wealthy woman wanted to pay me three hundred bucks to paint a ribbon, some pearls and a few roses then I was happy to take her money in exchange for an hours work. But the art I really do love is art that has something to say to me and our society. Something that makes me choke up. A statement that is conveyed by masterful command of the chosen medium that results in a masterpiece work that stops me in my tracks.

    What elements come together in a masterpiece? The same as we find in our greatest science theories. Mastery of knowledge/skills, elegance and parsimony. The feeling of transcendence is our reaction to these elements. Art and science can and does live in the same brain.

    As I said above, I did love visiting Notre Dame Paris. I wasn’t sure whether reconstruction would be possible or worth it since it could never really be the same after this. Marco has made me lean more toward reconstruction from her good argument for it. But even Notre Dame couldn’t eclipse my love of political pop art with its witty commentary and naughty demeanor.

    I send you this as the only hope I have left for the Palestinians in their despair. I do think this art can zap across the Atlantic and create a shared meaning as only our great art pieces can do.

     

    https://www.google.com/search?q=banksy+palestine&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjr8-WJ5t_hAhVnm-AKHS2RCpQQ_AUIDigB&biw=1280&bih=666#imgrc=cT4ghe8GrCwTkM:

     

    https://www.google.com/search?q=banksy+palestinian+women&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=bXC4qpJjQnwExM%253A%252CStylU4MPqQLEgM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kSSlAiJKZLc61hLSHaSruHTIp5gBA&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjy2v655t_hAhUrSN8KHUPLBogQ9QEwAnoECAkQCA#imgrc=bXC4qpJjQnwExM:

    And many more where those came from.

     

  • Ollie,

     

    I just don’t get this either or thing. For me it is both and.

    Art, as I was suggesting, is modest in its reach. We are so differently made I would be shocked to find any piece of art that would be liked by more than a small fraction of the population in truth.

    I don’t ever expect agreement on this experience or that. But I do expect folk to understand that a claimed peak experience might well have been just that.

    Equally how we acquit ourselves as moral agents will be different and cannot be directly compared one with another. Its true I don’t give to Save the Children. Nor to a great many charities. But I do give to a little cluster all specifically directed at enabling the education of girls and women (Indian sub-continent and Africa).

    When I first came to London and was particularly poor, teaching behind me and still funding theatre from my Nat West Access Card I used to occasionally work (for free) for a small Intermediate Technology Charity somewhere near the Elephant and Castle.  There I perfected a water pump with no moving parts apart from a bellows, and using half an oil drum, exploiting fluid dynamics to achieve the effect of a valve, always the first part to fail. It all worked rather well.

    In the years since then I have offered my services to numerous charities (and written about them here), often not with such success. Steadily I have moved my job away from the frivolous (and the more profitable) toward the eco and the sustainable because its the only way to get me out of bed in the morning. Of nine current projects fully three are of particular pertinence to the developing world.

    As you know, I bang the drum first and foremost for lifting people out of poverty. This fixes most things. But avoiding starvation is the lowest of bars set. Everyone should be able to thrive, to have bigger lives and richer experiences. I can’t not work for that also.

     

    Lets resolve rather to fight the kleptocrats and not allow them to dictate (so much) what we can afford or not afford to do to make this a better world.
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  • I love Banksy. Not the greatest artist, nor the most original in borrowing (cleverly!) from everywhere. But the sheer energy and output of the guy, the originality of his synthesis. The humour. The fact that he encapsulates a progressive moral stance so pungently, in a way that disarms and brings folk (the masses?) closer.

    I and the kids greatly enjoyed the big Bristol exhibition a number of years back, the work subversively spilling into the neighbouring exhibits. I think it was a turning point for them in understanding the power of agitprop art and its potential for galvanising folk and fomenting change.
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  • Yes, Phil,

    Banksy is a great favorite of mine and my kids too. So thrilling when one of us reveals the latest Banksy creation and we participate in group astonishment together!

    It IS his moral stance that engages us all. Public display of art forces us to engage whether we like it or not. Yes, I do believe he brings the masses closer. His work is easily accessible and we can all interact with it on whatever level we are capable of. Whether we agree with his message or not, at least he is challenging us to think. This is something I find delightful.

    I also agree that we don’t have to choose between spending on art and other forms of cultural expenditures or spending on raising the standard of living for the disadvantaged among us. I know we can do both.

    The American Kleptocrats have perpetrated a very successful campaign here for many years that has convinced the average American that we just can’t afford universal health care and can barely afford to keep up Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security retirement, and food assistance programs. I don’t believe a word of it. It’s a massive con job. Distract the masses with stories of welfare fraud while fleecing them in plain sight.

    The plight of the Palestinians that Banksy presents to us in his art could’ve been solved neatly by the American government decades ago if it cared to do the right thing. Instead, incalculable suffering continues and the ripple effect has been catastrophic. One more hideous immorality to add to our growing list here.

    Thanks to Banksy and others who have the means and the pure courage to make public statements promoting beneficence, justice and liberty.

     

     
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  • Laurie #67

     

    Perfect!

    Leave the cathedral as it is (for now) and let Banksy loose on it. Perhaps a huge work with a “yellow jacket” on it or a French jet fighter towing a banner saying “visit Syria”? Now that’s art!!

    Vicki #68

    Loving your hugs and kisses  xx

    Phil #

    Either or….

     

    I was working in Chingford when Thatcher was selling off council houses on the cheap. That area of Chingford has many generations of families living there and some managed to buy their own and grandmothers house as well and maybe even aged parents and aunts. They made money for the first time in their lives. Did they move to a better area or buy carpets to cover the floorboards they have been walking on for decades or maybe invested in education for their children? No! Soon the street was full of expensive cars parked outside shitty houses.

    My point? This donation thing is a top down process. Responsibility has to be shown and until the very essentials are done and dusted extravagance should be avoided. Most rich diners give anonymously. Why the sudden rush to show how much you have given from the three biggest? They don’t seem so shy in this instance. Political maybe?

     
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  • Ollie,

    in #55 I wrote

     

    It is the distasteful posturing of the kleptocrats, indifferent to the folks whose money they have unreasonably gained, unable to buy Indulgences from the Pope any longer, buying public “virtue” as the next best thing in the most flagrant way.
    Pay your taxes to the government rather than massively avoid them and let the democratically elected government wisely balance the allocation of resources, and get a bit more Keynesian.

    I perhaps disagree with others about the decency of how any restoration gets paid for. But the shame (for me) is on the fat cats for the ostentation of the gesture and its stark isolation from any other such other helpful gestures to lift the poor out of poverty/build a better world etc.. I will, however, take any money they offer and use it to defray any charge on public funds that would otherwise be needed.

    Paris earns $17bn dollars per annum in tourist spending, third highest after London and New York and for a little city comparatively that makes its  central attractions some of the highest earners anywhere, Would I spend a billion restoring the Eiffel Tower? Most certainly. It, also, is simply the most potent modern gesture of our engineering prowess ever. A galvanising statement of our ability to act.

    All of us could always do more. But we also need to live lives of personal value to get through the slings and arrows of our own misfortunes. In the aeroplane theory of doing good, when the masks drop down we need to put on our own to best help others. We need to know a little of life’s riches to appreciate the poverty of others. Statistics show that the mass famines of old, hunger, malnutrition and stunting in children are steadily declining. Psychology experiments show that people from societies that experience well-being are likely to be more inclined to notice the privations of others. There is a positive feedback effect going on that we need to ride that. We need to take care not to share privation, in solidarity with the deprived.

    The enemy of enemies are the callous rich. The kleptocrats, who though often needed, must now be brought to content themselves with merely being rich rather than dementedly so. The world is already rich enough to feed all generously and confer them a good life. This is what drives me to write most. This is what drives me to particularly invest in the education of the poorest girls and women, because I believe they can most leverage that investment in the name of fairness and against the efforts of greedy men.

     

     
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  • Marco #40 & Phil #75

     

    I concede to your greater knowledge of the economy. In the back of my mind, as I argued my case, was the Muslim way of charity that seemed to hold back the creation of wealth. In Cyprus, the Greek population seemed to do better than the Turkish which proves both your points I suppose.

     

    Can I at least cover myself with a saying in Turkish that might help Marco, in particular, see the merits of making a fuss anyway?

    ”ağlamayan çocuğa süt yok” (more Turkish Cypriot gramma than Turkish)

     

    The gist of; A silent baby doesn’t get fed.

     

     
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  • Ollie,

     

    I think your natural reaction to a Cathedral burned and the huge sums it may take to restore would have been my own for the longest time, the greater part of my life, indeed.

     

    It is only admirable to wish the best for the poorest. It is only “we”, seeming dissenters, who are obliged to make an account of ourselves. Ours was the case for the defense.

     

     
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  • Vicki, absolutely correct, it’s a well reasoned piece. No one was ever better prepared to be president than Mrs Clinton. As she says in her piece, the most disturbing thing is Trump’s disregard of our laws and institutions.
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  • Vicki #80

    At the risk of sticking my neck out again and getting it chopped off;

     

    This just sounds like more of the same from America. Her own admittance of old wounds with the Russians. The rhetoric of a blameless America and bogeymen our to get her. Where is the talk of attempts at peace. Of normalising relations and leaving the rest of the world to get on with their lives knowing that the two biggest nations will lead the way. Show the way. That war is an acception and not the norm. Theresa May gave a similar speech in which the Russians were the bad guys with no expectation of normalising relations. Just saying we need a new world where keeping your eyes open is a good thing but trying to lesson the burden.
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  • @82

    ….lessen the burden” (of course)

     

    Does “protect our security” mean “ protect our wealth”?

     

    Turkey is being threatwned and bullied and has switched to buying Russian missiles which is causing greater tentions in the area. This goes back to gas pipe lines from Israel and Egypt. Turkey invest huge amounts developing the technology, with British companies, to to have the gas go through the Mediterranean on to Cyprus, then Turkey and through to Europe. Relations are so bad now that the plannow is to produce a much more expensive LPG so the pipe doesn’t go through Turkey so they are turning towards Russia. As I said, more of the same!
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  • Hi Olgun!

    Does “protect our security” mean “ protect our wealth”?

    The gist of Clinton’s op-ed was the sitting president’s responsibility to protect the integrity of our election process. It took two years, multiple warnings from our intelligence agencies,  and a special council’s report to even convince this administration that the threat existed, let alone take steps to keep it from happening in the future. That is a clear dereliction of his primary job to protect and uphold the Constitution, most likely because his personal business interests are intertwined.

    The ball is now in the House’s court to untangle the mess and determine if he can be held legally accountable for his dereliction.

    Clinton’s op-ed was about holding Trump accountable for his performance as a sitting president.
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  • Thanks Vicki and on that part I totally agree although it seems like double standards when we see so much meddling in elections from America. That is what is making me jumpy I suppose. I just need to see some rhetoric that says it will tackle/stop this kind of interference from all sides even if no one admits to it. It seems the Cold War never ended. It just spread even further. I don’t have a clue how to stop it though?
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  • Olgun #85

    I don’t have a clue how to stop it though?

    Me neither. We’re just little fish in a big, big pond.

    I would think that the first step, like an intervention, would be acknowledging that we have a problem.

    Expose the hell out of it. Label meme sources. Educate the populace.
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