Identity and its discontents

I’ve been thinking about what we mean when we talk about identity and ‘identity politics’. It needs thinking about because it’s a muddled conversation: identity has more than one meaning yet the label ‘identity politics’ is treated as if everyone means the same thing by it. I think generally “identity politics” is a name (sometimes […]

Living in an Age of Anger

Let’s talk about anger. We seem to be living in an Age of Anger, so it seems like a good idea to try to understand it better. It’s central to a lot of literature and stories, including movies and television dramas. The Iliad starts with it. Robert Fagles translates the first few lines like so: […]

Don’t get too excited

Big excitement – we’re told that Saudi Arabia has decided to let women drive. Did you ever hear the like? Next we’ll be told they can actually leave the house without a male guardian. Or at least, we’re told that women will be allowed to get driver’s licences, which of course is not quite the […]

A very bad man

We in the US have been feeling a little overwhelmed lately, what with a racist president and racist marches in the streets and a racist president pardoning a racist sheriff who was famous for his sadistic treatment of prisoners. Let’s learn a little about that racist sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who was elected six times to […]

Worshipping an evil god

In Pakistan a village council ordered the rape of a 16-year-old girl because her brother had allegedly raped a 12-year-old girl. “A jirga [village council] had ordered the rape of a 16-year-old girl as punishment, as her brother had raped a 12-year-old,” police official Allah Baksh told AFP. He said the village council was approached […]

Escape the monolith

The day after the terror attack near Finsbury Park Mosque, the BBC interviewed Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the ironically named Islamic Human Rights Commission. The IHRC is in fact not so much a human rights organization as a public relations firm with one client: a reactionary theocratic version of Islam. In 2015 it distinguished itself […]

What does Dr Manners think?

We live in a chronically boorish and uncivil world, and in the spirit of the great Miss Manners, above, I’m going to set up as an advisor on how to be not quite so unpleasant to each other. You can call me Doctor Manners. (Remember: I’m not a real doctor.) I’ve heard from some correspondents […]

Mandatory suggestions

Last Saturday, April 22, people around the world took part in the March for Science to defend the discipline against political interference. From climate change and pollution to medicine, men and women who support science were motivated on Saturday by the coverage of the recent Women’s March and are mobilising to make their concerns heard. You would […]

Not much wisdom

There’s this idea that even if you’re not a believer and you don’t see Holy Books as divinely dictated, still they’re a good source of wisdom. I’m not convinced of that. There’s a lot of gorgeous language in the King James translation of the Bible, to be sure, and some of the remarks attributed to […]

Doors slamming shut in the US

Trump’s war on free everything is raging right along over here. (I apologize for his manners toward Theresa May. He just doesn’t know how to act. That hand-holding thing was gruesome, and we’re all embarrassed about it.) He attacks the free press nearly every day; he attacks freedom to protest, freedom from forced pregnancy, freedom […]