If the past is another country, some history books revisit periods so harrowing they should carry a health warning: ‘Not for the faint-hearted; ‘To be opened only at the reader’s peril’, they should declare on their dust-jackets. If any book merits bearing such a warning, Keith Lowe’s epic survey of Europe during the years following the Second World War does. So gruesome are the multifarious horrors it relates that its readers cannot help wondering at times for what purpose Lowe decided to substitute them for the rosier image that most Americans and Britons still harbor of them. Indeed, some might wonder whether…
Does the free society depend upon certain institutions and persons that it cannot create?
‘He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land,
Making all his nowhere plans for nobodies.’
These misquoted lyrics from a famous Beatles’ song aptly characterize the 33 year-old Norwegian Anders Breivik who, after being found sane by his trial judges, last Friday received a 21 year prison sentence, the maximum, yet still ludicrously slight, term his country allows given how heinous were his crimes.
After receiving his sentence, Breivik was given the opportunity to comment upon it, but was abruptly cut short and the trial terminated after he began to declare his only regret was that he had not been able to kill more people.
Despite having admitted from the very start to all the killings, Breivik had pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder, not, paradoxically, as the prosecution had unsuccessfully tried to persuade the trial judges, on the grounds that he was insane at the time the killings took place. Rather, he had pled not guilty on the grounds of having been forced by necessity so to act in self-defense, a war against natives of his country like he and their culture having been for years waged by its governing elite through their complicity in its steady Islamization through mass immigration of Muslims, plus the policy of deferential multiculturalism that enabled the immigrants to resist integration.
Tony Nicklinson, the 58 year old Englishman who has been trapped in his body for the past seven years by locked-in syndrome following a stroke, has finally died.
He did so just one week after his unsuccessful bid in the High Court, along with another, slightly younger sufferer with the syndrome known only to it as ‘Martin’, to effect a change to the law in England that would enable doctors to kill people like themselves at their behest, without risk of being prosecuted for murder or assisting another to die.
Nicklinson had unsuccessfully sought to persuade judges to acknowledge ‘necessity’ as a legitimate defence of a doctor against murder charges should one face prosecution for it for helping a patient to die at the patient’s request.
In the air on September 11th 2001, along with the four aircraft 19 Al Qaeda operatives hijacked to carry out their audacious attack on America, was another airplane on which was another Islamist, intent on another equally nefarious a mission. That other Islamist was Maajid Nawaz, author of this engrossing account of what led him to take that flight on that fateful day and what befell him upon arriving at his destination.
Unlike the 19 Al Qaeda operatives, who were all on board US domestic flights, the flight on which Nawaz was a passenger was an international flight from the UK to Alexandria in Egypt. Similarly, unlike the 19 Al Qaeda hijackers, Nawaz had no intention or wish to prevent his aircraft from arriving at its destination.
The ostensible purpose with which the 24-year-old British-born and bred Muslim of Pakistani extraction had taken that flight that day, along with his wife and small son, was to spend a year at the university there to improve his Arabic, as part of his degree in Law and Arabic at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. His real purpose was to assist in the revival in Egypt of the Islamist party to which for the previous decade he had belonged and which, despite being legal in the UK and USA, had long been proscribed in Egypt.
In this brief, brave, but ultimately unsuccessfully argued book, the political philosopher, and former president of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera offers westerners reasons why they should consider themselves Christians even when, like he, they do not subscribe to the lordship and divinity of Jesus. His reasons are essentially two, three if they are European rather than American or from elsewhere in the Anglo-sphere. The introduction offers the following useful summary of them, augmented by a couple of further, unitalicised elucidatory statements taken from later in the text: ‘In brief: we should call ourselves Christians if we want to maintain our liberties…
Seven years ago almost to the day, the then still Prime Minister Tony Blair stood up in Parliament to announce with jubilation that London had won its bid to host the 2012 Olympics. That evening, in Trafalgar Square in the heart of the nation’s capital, a huge celebration was held to mark the occasion.
The very next morning, 52 Londoners innocently commuting to work lost their lives, and a further 800 sustained injuries, in an Al Qaeda attack on the capital’s transportation system.
Drugs are a menace of that there can be little doubt. With considerable personal experience of their downside, Neil Young made it the subject of many of his songs. One of these songs was ‘Keep Rockin’ in the Free World’ from his 1989 album Freedom.
Sadly, its deep and bitter irony was lost at the time of glasnost upon the Soviet youth who at rallies used enthusiastically to chant its chorus as a paean to freedom.
Recently, I came across by chance a book first published in Philadelphia in 1853 which contains an account of what liberty consists in within a free society that I have found more lucid, elegant and illuminating than practically any other I have previously come across in what is now getting on for thirty years of serious thought and reading devoted to the subject.
Curiously, whenever I have mentioned the title of this book and the name of its author to others who I know to be similarly interested in such freedom and the character of societies that accord it to their members, none have been ever indicated their familiarity with either.
Russia has a terrible drugs problem. So too does America, Britain and the rest of Europe, plus practically every other inhabited part of the planet including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and even Timbucktu in far off northern Mali. But who is ultimately to blame for the current world-wide drugs epidemic that has left so much misery and destruction in its wake?
According to Yevgeny Bryun, chief specialist on drugs abuse at the Russian Ministry of Heath, ultimate responsibility for the current scale of drug abuse in his country and elsewhere lies with the Beatles. At a press conference last week in Moscow, he said:
If a person is told by another, who stands in some kind of authority over them, that they ‘needn’t be doing’ something they are doing, is the person who receives this information to interpret it as an instruction to cease what they are being informed they needn’t be doing?
On the American side of the Pond, it would seem, the statement is to be interpreted so; on the British side, apparently not.