Hello - I live in the UK and am fairly boring. I do a lot of travelling - to Dhaka via Singapore - and this blog functions to keep me connected with friends, family and colleagues and also records my somewhat boring existence. My friends are not boring and hence none of them write a blog. I however am on my third blog.
Now more about me (if you don’t have anything else to do):
Our paths could have crossed in any number of seminars/conferences and even perhaps North Korea. But they didn’t cross. Nevertheless AF-C has recently helped me define it finally. So here it is, dear reader, copied, edited, re-edited and pasted on paper tonight (well…the web)in black and white. And if I should fall under a bus tomorrow, I would like this to be my final….yes I thank AF-C again….statement of beliefs.
It’s tempting, and would in some ways be accurate, to leave this whole thing blank. Maybe in the modern world all our beliefs are permanently “under construction”, or ought to be. But mine seem more in flux than most, nowadays. It’s not a comfortable feeling. In a way I envy those who still cling to the old creeds or credos; yet follow them I cannot.
I used to be fairly certain what I believed. Spiritually, I was brought up as a muslim. Ever doubtful of doctrine, in my early teens I read the beatitudes and was gobsmacked. I continue to admire strands of christianity, and read them; yet they too no longer “speak to my condition”. Nothing much does; but then that is my fault. If I’ve become spiritually dead, it is because of my stint in science, my three weeks or so in Morocco and my devotion to the modern and secular. But I don’t think its all nonsense and a wild goose chase. Those of you who do are, with respect, missing something very fundamental indeed.
Politically, I became a socialist at 22 one night in a Knightsbridge hall of residence at Imperial College, and a Marxist at 25 when my first love left me..(and a full fledged card carrying member two years later). Now I am neither, though it is hard to say precisely when I fell off either bandwagon. But I seem for a long time now to have been in political retreat: on the losing side. Marxism? Nonsense in theory and crime in practice. All of us who fellow-travelled are in my view no less morally culpable than anyone who was pro-Nazi. That we Leninists had higher ideals merely adds one more crime to the list: betrayal.
Democratic socialism was nobler, yet a lost cause also. Much as I hated Mrs Thatcher, in retrospect something like her had to happen. A liberal now, I broadly accept both the sociology and politics of Adam Smith and J S Mill: not rampant free-marketry in either case. Similarly, having once embraced dependency theory, I now find myself in the globalization camp. Not that it works well, nor is innocent of imperialism; but like democracy, it seems the least worst way - and anyhow, inexorable. No more utopias! Karl Popper’s piecemeal social engineering is quite enough to be getting on with.
My country? New Labour threw out the baby with the bathwater; means replace ends, spin subverts substance. I don’t like Britain now; though I’m fond of Scotland. I’ve always felt more Scottish than English, but my country - if I must have one - is Europe. I don’t care for identity politics: my race is human; must I be gendered? But I grow old.
Socially, I’m a raging liberal: pro tolerance, inclusion, welfare - but also enterprise and individual responsibility. I hate fundamentalisms, yet feel as powerless as all of us libs to stem the growing tides of separatism and rank mutual intolerance. This is so painfully far from the brave new world flower children thought they were creating. God only knows what our planet will look like in 10, 50, 100, 1000 years from now.
Culturally, I look on aghast as we wilfully drown what remains of our civilization in a slurry of dumbing down: sleaze, sex, violence, trivia. I rarely watch TV or Hollywood films now (even though I bought a 43 inch plasma); and I am all too aware I’m raising a child amidst so much crap. Yet this is not the plaint of a conservative. Daring, experimental and new are good, nay essential; only let them be real, deep, and true. Must the market mean lowest common denominator?
Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will (Gramsci; maybe I was a bit hard on Marxists). So what’s left? what’s right? To stand up for values: honesty, decency, beauty, truth, e/quality, compassion, liberty, peace. Perhaps we can’t have them all; some days I worry we may lose the lot. Yet still I keep a sense of humour. One has to.