Quotulatiousness

March 28, 2015

George Orwell gets a letter from his former teacher

Filed under: Britain,History,Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

I didn’t know that Orwell was a former pupil of Aldous Huxley:

Wrightwood. Cal.

21 October, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

It was very kind of you to tell your publishers to send me a copy of your book. It arrived as I was in the midst of a piece of work that required much reading and consulting of references; and since poor sight makes it necessary for me to ration my reading, I had to wait a long time before being able to embark on Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Agreeing with all that the critics have written of it, I need not tell you, yet once more, how fine and how profoundly important the book is. May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual’s psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.

Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government. Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations. Another lucky accident was Freud’s inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism. This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years. But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.

Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.

Thank you once again for the book.

Yours sincerely,

Aldous Huxley

March 25, 2015

Millennials, philosophical malaise, and the moving target of “adulthood”

Filed under: Britain,Economics,Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In Spiked, Tom Slater reviews a recent book by Susan Neiman, calling it “the philosophical kick up the arse my generation so desperately needs”:

Why Grow Up?, the latest book by American philosopher and essayist Susan Neiman, begins with a slyly subversive statement: ‘Being grown up is itself an ideal.’ In Britain today, this couldn’t seem further from the truth. Today, we’re told, is the worst time to be reaching adulthood. With economic strife, rising house prices, tuition fees and widespread youth unemployment weighing on Generation Y’s pasty back, coming of age merely means coming to the realisation that debt, destitution and living with mum and dad into your thirties is your inevitable inheritance. And that’s hardly an adulthood worth having.

The question this book seeks to answer is why growing up seems such a grim prospect today. From the off, Neiman dispenses with the sort of neuroscientific apologism that we’ve become accustomed to in recent years. Within the current, fatalistic climate, adulthood has been defined down. The Science now says that adolescence stretches into your mid-twenties. But, as Neiman observes in her introduction, there’s nothing scientific about growing up. The lines between childhood, adolescence and adulthood are mutable, and have changed over time. Less than a century ago, childhood, as a time of pampered play and dependence, lasted barely a few years for the vast majority of the population. And when most young people were out of school and married by the end of their teens, adolescence – the rebellious grace period between Tonka trucks and 2.4 children – didn’t even exist.

Instead, Neiman presents adulthood as a process of coming to terms with the circumstances you find yourself in and then committing to changing them – reconciling the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’. She situates this in the history of Enlightenment thought, in which the doomy realism of Hume clashed with the rugged idealism of Rousseau. ‘It would take Kant’, Neiman writes, ‘to appreciate the fact that we must take both seriously – if we are ever to arrive at an adulthood we need not merely acquiesce in but actively claim as [our] own’.

March 23, 2015

What’s in a name?

Filed under: Britain,History,Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Mark Steyn linked to this rather amusing communication from the British embassy in Moscow, back in 1943:

Embassy letter from Moscow

If it’s not quite legible, he also provided a text version:

H.M. EMBASSY
MOSCOW

Lord Pembroke
The Foreign Office
London

6th April 1943

My Dear Reggie,

In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from Heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean and selfish about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time. So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life and tell you that God has given me a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me that he is called Mustapha Kunt.

We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when Spring is upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that.

Archie

Sir Archibald Clark Kerr
H.M. Ambassador

Changing Times – Railroads & Canals I IT’S HISTORY

Filed under: Britain,Economics,Railways,Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 10 Mar 2015

It certainly is no big deal to have a small cruise along the canals or ride a train. But what is essential infrastructure today had to be invented out of necessity in the late 18th and early 19th century. In our new episode Brett tells you everything about canals and railways and how they changed the way we transport things.

March 22, 2015

A different interpretation of the Battle of Bosworth

Filed under: Britain,History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Telegraph, Chris Skidmore looks at the end of the Battle of Bosworth in the light of the injuries suffered by King Richard:

Richard III’s body was discovered among the dead strewn across the battlefield, “despoiled to the skin” and “all besprung with mire and filth”. It was hard to believe that this naked and bloodied corpse had once belonged to a king. Still Richard III’s body had one final journey to make. After “many other insults were heaped upon it”, one chronicler reported how “not very humanely, a halter was thrown round the neck, and it was carried to Leicester”. With “nought being left about him, so much as would cover his privy member”, the last Plantagenet king was trussed up on the back of a horse, “as a hog or another vile beast” to be brought into the town “for all men to wonder upon, and there lastly irreverently buried”.

The new king — Henry Tudor, now crowned Henry VII — had good reason to put Richard’s body on display. Few could believe that Richard was dead, much less that a Welsh rebel who had landed on the tip of Wales two weeks earlier, leading an army of a few thousand men, mostly French mercenaries, had defeated a reigning king. Only hours earlier, Richard had led his army of 15,000 men, the largest army ever assembled “on one side” that England had ever witnessed, into battle against a rebel army barely one third its size. Bosworth, quite simply, was a battle that Richard should never have lost. Why did it go so badly wrong?

Treason, without a doubt:

With the collapse of his vanguard, Richard would have expected that his rear-guard, led by Henry Percy, the earl of Northumberland, to provide re-inforcements. Instead the earl did nothing. One chronicler was insistent that ‘in the place where the earl of Northumberland was posted, with a large company of reasonably good men, no engagement could be discerned, and no battle blows given or received”. Northumberland, Jean Molinet observed, should have “charged the French” but instead “did nothing except to flee, both he and his company, and to abandon his King Richard” since he had already agreed a secret pact with Henry Tudor.

Northumberland was a northern lord whose own power had diminished over the past decade as a result of Richard’s rise to power. He had nothing to lose and everything to gain from abandoning his king. Other reports from the battlefield suggest that Northumberland may have not only left Richard to his fate, but actively turned against him and “left his position and passed in front of the king’s vanguard”, at which point, “turning his back on Earl Henry, he began to fight fiercely against the king’s van, and so did all the others who had plighted their faith to Earl Henry”. If this were the case, it would explain why Richard had been heard “shouting again and again that he was betrayed, and crying ‘Treason! Treason! Treason!’”

Not just treason, but double treason:

The “first onslaught” of Richard’s attack saw some men surrounding Tudor been killed instantly, including Henry’s standard bearer, William Brandon, standing just feet away. It seemed that victory was now in Richard’s grasp. Not only had some of Henry’s men chose to flee, his standard had been ‘thrown to the ground’. Henry’s own men were ‘now wholly distrustful of victory’. Richard’s frenzied energy seemed to be turning the tables, as the king “began to fight with much vigour, putting heart into those that remained loyal, so that by his sole effort he upheld the battle for a long time”. It was at this point that Sir William Stanley, having sat out the battle on its fringes, sent orders for his forces, numbering perhaps 3,000 men, to crash into the side of Richard’s detachment, taking Tudor’s side. Richard stood no chance. He was swept off his horse and into a marsh, where he was killed, “pierced with numerous deadly wounds” one chronicler wrote, “while fighting, and not in the act of flight”.

Update: Maclean’s has a long article up on the Canadian connections to Richard III.

QotD: Conveying useful information

Filed under: Britain,Humour,Media,Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I wish to be equally frank with the reader of this book. I wish here conscientiously to let forth its shortcomings. I wish no one to read this book under a misapprehension.

There will be no useful information in this book.

Anyone who should think that with the aid of this book he would be able to make a tour through Germany and the Black Forest would probably lose himself before he got to the Nore. That, at all events, would be the best thing that could happen to him. The farther away from home he got, the greater only would be his difficulties.

I do not regard the conveyance of useful information as my forte. This belief was not inborn with me; it has been driven home upon me by experience.

In my early journalistic days, I served upon a paper, the forerunner of many very popular periodicals of the present day. Our boast was that we combined instruction with amusement; as to what should be regarded as affording amusement and what instruction, the reader judged for himself. We gave advice to people about to marry — long, earnest advice that would, had they followed it, have made our circle of readers the envy of the whole married world. We told our subscribers how to make fortunes by keeping rabbits, giving facts and figures. The thing that must have surprised them was that we ourselves did not give up journalism and start rabbit-farming. Often and often have I proved conclusively from authoritative sources how a man starting a rabbit farm with twelve selected rabbits and a little judgment must, at the end of three years, be in receipt of an income of two thousand a year, rising rapidly; he simply could not help himself. He might not want the money. He might not know what to do with it when he had it. But there it was for him. I have never met a rabbit farmer myself worth two thousand a year, though I have known many start with the twelve necessary, assorted rabbits. Something has always gone wrong somewhere; maybe the continued atmosphere of a rabbit farm saps the judgment.

We told our readers how many bald-headed men there were in Iceland, and for all we knew our figures may have been correct; how many red herrings placed tail to mouth it would take to reach from London to Rome, which must have been useful to anyone desirous of laying down a line of red herrings from London to Rome, enabling him to order in the right quantity at the beginning; how many words the average woman spoke in a day; and other such like items of information calculated to make them wise and great beyond the readers of other journals.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel, 1914.

March 21, 2015

British journalist mourns the loss of innocence in model railway layouts

Filed under: Britain,Railways — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

From the tone of Mr. Simkins’ “shocked-and-horrified” tone, I can only assume he’s been in a coma since roughly 1967:

HO scale nude figures

I’d always considered the world of model railways to be the last surviving example of a rose-tinted Britain that no longer exists. Enthusiasts of this quaint and captivating hobby invariably seem to use 1950 as their cultural template when designing their layouts.

In the real world it may all be Pendolino trains, gleaming concourses in steel and glass, and rail replacement bus services; but in model railwayland you’d always find puffing steam trains barrelling along in front of an idealised balsawood countryside that was never far from Adlestrop.

And therein, of course, lay their charm. Whenever I visited an exhibition I always revelled in the tiny trackside details as much as the engines themselves: the miniature sheep, the artificial grass, the miniature coal lorries waiting at the level crossing, and the old-fashioned station platforms.

Best of all, I loved the human figurines awaiting the arrival of the train they’re destined never to board. In the world of model railwayland, fashion as well as technology seemed to have stopped around the end of rationing, with each tiny passenger clad in pleated skirts or duffel coats.

But now an enterprising model railway emporium in Devon is set to shatter this cosy fictional world. Buffers of Axminster is selling a new range of steamy miniature figurines to reflect the laid-back (literally in some cases) attitudes and cultural mores of modern Britain.

They may be new to Mr. Simkins, but scale figures of nudes have been available as long as I can remember (although North American ads for them had to be careful not to expose too much scale detail, for fear of offending the postal authorities…)

H/T to Elizabeth for the link.

March 20, 2015

A Slice of The Pie – Splitting Up The Middle East I THE GREAT WAR Week 34

Filed under: Britain,Europe,History,Middle East,Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 19 Mar 2015

Even though the Entente offensive near Constantinople didn’t really take off yet, the allied powers were already dreaming about splitting up the Ottoman Empire between themselves – and even promised territory to other nations. In the meantime, Austria-Hungary started its third offensive in the Carpathians to free the besieged army in Galicia.

March 19, 2015

Thirty years on, what was the impact of the Miners’ strike in Britain?

Filed under: Britain,Economics,Government,History,Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Frank Furedi points out six ways that Britain’s political scene has changed as a result of the year-long miners’ strike:

To defeat the National Union of Miners, UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government had to use almost every available resource, including the mass mobilisation of the police. The Miners’ Strike became the defining event of British politics in the 1980s. And in retrospect, it’s clear that it was the last class-focused dispute of its kind.

Over the past three decades, the political climate, culture and institutions that served as the background for the Miners’ Strike have fundamentally altered. Here are six things that changed enormously in the wake of that industrial conflict.

1) The defeat of the Miners’ Strike signalled the end of the era of militant trade unions

[…]

2) The demise of the British labour movement was paralleled by the decline of the left

The Labour Party has survived the post-1985 tumult, yes, but only by reinventing itself as the party of the middle-class, public-sector professional. Thanks to the vagaries of the electoral system, Labour can still have MPs in many of its traditional working-class seats. The decline of labourism also coincided with the implosion of the Stalinist communist movement and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

[…]

3) Paradoxically, the demise of the left has not benefited the right

Thatcherism, which was very much the dominant force during the Miners’ Strike, has lost its authority. Today’s so-called Conservatives regard Thatcher as an embarrassment and self-consciously distance themselves from her legacy. So defensive is the right today that it continually protests that it is no longer a ‘toxic brand’.

QotD: The Scottish diaspora

Filed under: Britain,Government,History,Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Scots are almost everywhere you go – every corner on the planet — anything that’s worth it, doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about banks in Hong Kong or rubber plantations in Malaya or the Canadian Pacific Railway, everywhere you go on the planet was built by Scots. And you go back to contemporary Scotland now, and they’re these pathetic, feeble, passive economic swamp of dependency – parts of Glasgow, male life expectancy … they all sit around eating fried Mars bars all day, and life expectancy is getting down to West African rates in certain wards of Glasgow. So if you’re someone who knows the Scottish diaspora, all that great stuff they did around the planet, and you go back to Scotland, you think, “What the hell happened?” Well what happened is government. What happened is welfare.

“America’s decline and fall in 13 quotes from our interview with Mark Steyn”, The Blaze, 2014-04-24

March 14, 2015

Charles Stross on Terry Pratchett

Filed under: Britain,Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Charlie doesn’t describe himself as a close friend of Terry’s, but they knew one another in the British SF community:

Friendship is context-sensitive.

I wouldn’t describe Terry as a friend, but as someone I’d been on a first-name acquaintanceship with since the mid-1980s. If you go to SF conventions (or partake of any subculture which has regular gatherings) you’ll know the way it works: there are these people who don’t really see outside of this particular social context, but you’re never surprised to see them in it, and you know each other’s names, and when you meet you chat about stuff and maybe sink a pint together.

I haven’t seen Terry since the Glasgow worldcon in 2005. The diagnosis of his illness came in 2007; I’d been spending a chunk of 05-07 out of the country, and after the bad news hit I didn’t feel like being part of the throng pestering him (for reasons I’ll get to later on in this piece.)

And on how Terry’s fame grew exponentially not long after they’d first met … and how it changed the public Terry (it perhaps didn’t do much to change the real Terry):

Some time between about 1989 and 1992, something strange began to happen. I started seeing his name feature more prominently in bookshops, displays of his books planted face-out. He started turning up as guest of honour at more and more SF conventions. When a convention did a signing with Terry, suddenly there was a long queue. And when he walked into a room, heads turned and people began to close in on him. There’s a curious phenomenon that goes with being famous in a particular subculture: if everybody knows you, you become a target for their projected fantasy of meeting their star. And they all want to shake your hand and say something, anything, that connects with what your work means to them in their own head. (If you want to see this at work today, just go to any function he’s appearing at — other than the Oscars — and watch what happens when Neil Gaiman walks into the room. He is, I swear, the human Katamari.)

Being on the receiving end of this phenomenon is profoundly isolating, especially if you’re one of those introverted author types who can emulate an extrovert for a few days at a time before you have to hide under the bed and gibber for a while: you’re surrounded by strangers who desperately want to connect with you and after a time it becomes really hard to tell them apart, to remember that they’re individuals with their own lives and stories and not just different faces emerging from the surface of a weird shape-shifting fame-tropic amoeboid alien. It’s not just authors who get this: if anything we get off very lightly compared to actors, politicians, or rock stars. (For some insight into it, go listen to the lyrics of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.) I should add, this sort of introversion is really common among writers. It’s an occupation that demands a certain degree of introspective self-absorption, alongside a constant distance from the people you’re observing, who — they mostly don’t know this, of course — may provide the raw fuel for your work. So, if you want to hang on to your sanity, eventually you either go and hide for a bit, or you surround yourself with people who aren’t faintly threatening strangers who want a piece of your soul. Which is to say, you selectively hang out with your peers, or folks you met before you caught the fame virus.

Terry was not only a very funny man; he was an irrascible (and occasionally bad-tempered) guy who did not suffer fools gladly. However, he was also big-hearted enough to forgive the fools around him if they were willing to go halfway to meeting him by ceasing to be foolish at him. He practiced a gracious professionalism in his handling of the general public that spared them the harsh side of his tongue, and he was, above all, humane. As the fame snowballed, he withdrew a bit: appreciating that there was a difference between a sharp retort from your mate Terry at the bar and a put-down from Terry Pratchett, superstar, he stepped lightly and took pains to avoid anything that might cause distress.

Anyway, this isn’t a biography, it’s just the convoluted lead-in to an anecdote about the last time I saw him (which was a decade ago, so you’d better believe me when I say our relationship was “situational friend” rather than “personal friend”).

March 13, 2015

The Battle of Neuve-Chapelle I THE GREAT WAR Week 33

Filed under: Britain,Europe,History,Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 12 Mar 2015

The British Expeditionary Forces are starting their first major offensive since the beginning of trench warfare. Near Neuve-Chapelle they attack the Germans and try to “bite and hold” their position. This battle will be the blueprints for future British offensives. On the Balkan, Serbia is facing a different enemy: Typhus. The catastrophic sanitary conditions enable the disease to spread across the whole country.

March 12th will be a black day on the calendar from now on

Filed under: Britain,Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It’s the day we bid farewell to Terry Pratchett. While we knew the end was nigh, many of us had hoped it would be postponed for many a year. In the Guardian, Christopher Priest says farewell:

BEING DEAD IS NOT COMPULSORY. NOT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO. These are the words of Death, one of Terry Pratchett’s ingenious comic creations in his Discworld novels. Death has a booming, unamused voice (always in capitals, never in quotation marks), and is the permanent straight man in the comic chaos around him. He goes about his morbid business on a horse called Binky, whose hooves throw up sparks on every street cobble. Death is a skeleton, with eyes like two tiny blue stars set deep within the sockets. He wears a black cloak, carries a scythe and, at the end of a day’s work, loves to murder a curry. At the point of contact with his latest client, he usually spends a few moments having a courteous word or two with the recently deceased, until they fade away.

Now Death has gained a most illustrious client, for Pratchett himself has died, aged 66, after suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The exchange is no doubt unamused but courteous on one side, amusing but rueful on the other, but of fervent interest to both parties. It’s a conversation that millions of Pratchett fans would ache to overhear. Would Death dare to speak in capitals to Sir Terry Pratchett?

Pratchett was, and will remain, one of the most popular British authors of all time. In the modern age, only the career of JK Rowling, creator of Harry Potter, is comparable. The facts of Pratchett’s success are impressive: the sheer number of books he has sold (some 80m copies worldwide), and the number of reprints, translations, dramatisations on television and stage, audio versions and spin-offs, plus awards and honorary doctorates galore. Then there’s an inestimable amount of Discworld spinoffery: chess pieces, wizardly hats, cloaks and T-shirts, leathern bags, pottery figurines, fantastic artwork, magic clobber of every kind including dribbly candles – all made by and sold to fans. His signings at bookshops were legendary: a queue stretching down the street was de rigueur, and although Pratchett worked quickly at the signatures, he was unfailingly friendly to everyone who turned up. He was open to readers: he answered emails (or some of them, because the volume of incoming messages was spectacular) and he went to Discworld conventions (almost all of them). He was a nice man, unpretentious and with a wry manner.

Pratchett was born in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, son of David and Eileen. He described himself as an omnivorous reader of books from the local library, making up for his lacklustre years at High Wycombe technical high school. He wrote his first story while still at school: The Hades Business, originally published in the school magazine. It became his first professional sale when it was picked up later by the magazine Science Fantasy. He went into local journalism, working on the Bucks Free Press, and later on the Western Daily Press and Bath Chronicle. While working as a journalist, he wrote innumerable short stories for the newspapers under pen names.

March 12, 2015

Brendan O’Neill talks to UKIP leader Nigel Farage

Filed under: Britain,Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Love him or hate him, it’s difficult to ignore him … especially with a British election heaving into view quite shortly:

“They’re not proper people.”

Pint in one hand, fag in the other, Nigel Farage is passing withering judgement on the political class. “They don’t pass the Farage Test”, he says of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. The Farage Test? Warming to his theme, his voice rising an octave, he explains. “I judge everybody by two simple criteria. Number one: would I employ them? And number two: would I want to have a drink with them? To pass the Farage Test, you only have to pass one of those. There are lots of people I’ve employed over the years who I wouldn’t choose to have a drink with, and there are lots of people who are completely useless but rather nice to have a bit of a jolly with. But this mob don’t pass either.” Then, after eviscerating Them, calling into question their employability and drinkability, wondering out loud if they’re even “proper people”, he lets out what I think we should call the Farage Laugh: a deep and hearty, nicotine-stained guffaw at the world: “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.”

I don’t know if I’d pass the Farage Test, but the UKIP leader has agreed to have a drink with me. We’re at a pub in a small street in central London — outside, natch, for smoking purposes — with a pap lurking behind a parked van, clearly unable to believe his luck that he might get a shot of Farage drinking and smoking and laughing. We’re interrupted every five minutes by passers-by who want to shake Farage’s hand or get a selfie with him. (“Go to UKIP dot org and become a member. Bloody well do it!”, he tells one young fan.) It’s chilly but sunny; Farage is making light work of his pint; he still has a little make-up on from a by-all-accounts barnstorming appearance on ITV’s Loose Women; and he’s ready, he says, to speak his mind. “Interviewing me over a drink — always far better. HA HA HA HA HA HA.”

[…]

He saves his most stinging class-based barbs for the Tories. “The Conservative Party is as upper class today as it has ever been. Over the past hundred years, the upper classes had more connection to their fellow man than they have today. And I’ll tell you why. Firstly, those that were from the landed classes may have been selfish financially, over the corn laws or whatever it was, but they ran their estates themselves. They actually knew the lads that cut the hay and looked after the horses. And then we had two world wars, which brought the whole class system together. Up until the late 1980s you had senior Tory politicians from posh backgrounds who could talk to the lads doing the scaffolding. They can’t do that now.”

It isn’t only the aloof, not-proper-people of the New Conservatives, New Labour and the Lame Lib Dems who fail the Farage Test: his strongest ire is aimed at another group that has of late become a major player in British politics, a key pillar of establishment thinking — the media. He’s cutting. “The media have now become a bigger problem than the politicians. We talk about the Westminster Village in politics, [but] forget it — the media village is even tighter, even narrower, even more inward-looking, and even less in touch with their own potential readership and with the country.”

Stephen Fry’s Key to the City – Exploring the Mysteries of the City of London

Filed under: Britain,History — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 6 Jul 2014

Stephen Fry discovers the hidden mysteries of the City of London, from the huge amount of cash in the Bank of England vaults to the terrors of Dead Man’s Walk at the Old Bailey. The QI host tours the City of London, discovering the hidden mysteries of this rich and powerful square mile. Along the way, he visits the Bank of England’s vaults, witnesses high drama at the London Metal Exchange as dealers buy and sell stocks, and experiences Dead Man’s Walk at the Old Bailey, where many condemned criminals trod their final steps. Plus, as a recipient of the Freedom of the City of London, Stephen finds out just what privileges this gives him.

H/T to Ghost of a Flea for the link.

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