Liz Truss: A Cynic’s View

I tried. I really did try to listen Liz Truss’s leadership acceptance speech, But I couldn’t do it. In some pain, I listened to her (she has the charisma of a hand-puppet) right up to the point where she described the Tory Party as ‘the greatest party on Earth’, having only just heard her also say that ‘Boris’, having amongst other things ‘crushed Jeremy Corbyn’ (something he was not the slightest bit responsible for), and was ‘admired from Kyiv to Carlisle’; at which point I had no choice but to switch over to the joyful pointlessness of Bargain Hunt.
I don’t like being rude about people, and work very hard not to be, and most of the time I succeed. Even whatever I have said about ‘Boris’ in the past has been but a pale reflection of what I’ve really wanted to say.
But first I have to say that the degree of Liz Truss’s vacuous stupidity is exceptional, even compared to the all the other dullards who fill the Tory benches; and second I have to say that her election is very clear evidence that the Tory Party itself has descended to new depths of amorality and opportunism such as has not been since the eighteen-forties.
As much as I mistrust Sir Keir Starmer, and am seriously worried about what he will bring to the Prime Ministership when he wins it, I cannot help but feel that any government he runs, whatever its failings may be, will be infinitely preferable to the morass of silliness which will be Truss’s version of government. I might actually find myself supporting him, if only because he is hugely unlikely to do the kind of extreme damage Truss is threatening to do to the UK.
And yes, I did say ‘when’. I would be amazed if the Labour Party did not win the next election should Liz Truss be allowed to do whatever she thinks is a good thing to do. The fact that she was chosen to be the Tory leader must in itself make it very clear to a lot of people what a catastrophic mess the Tories are now in. If ‘Boris’ came to be hated, I predict Truss will come to be both hated and despised.
Even as I write this, that part of her speech has been broadcast in the news in which she says, to mildly rapturous applause, ‘ we will deliver, we will deliver, we will deliver.’ What he hell does that actually mean??


(my apologies for the inconsistent line-spacing: this is a problem with WordPress for which I, like many others, do not have the solution.)

Introduction: In this piece I question the logic of Zionism as it relates to the depiction of anti-Semitism as it presented by the many Zionist supporters of Israel who have made their opinions known to me.
Anti-Semitism is the name attached to the pathological hatred of all things Jewish, with no exception.
However, according to one specific definition, anti-Semitism also and additionally equates with criticism of the state of Israel and its adherence to the political philosophy known as Zionism.
If this particular definition is accurate, then two propositions must be simultaneously true: a) that all supporters of Israel and Zionism must be Jews, and b) none of those who oppose Israel and Zionism can be Jews.
If these propositions are indeed true, it cannot then follow that c) those who support Israel are not all Jewish, and d) those who oppose Israel are not all non-Jewish.
However, all the empirical evidence demonstrates that statements a) and b) are false.
Therefore, this same evidence supports the idea of statements c) and d) being correct.
This being so, anti-Semitism cannot be equated with the anti-Zionist political philosophy which relates only to the state of Israel and Zionism, a philosophy associated with Jews who share their anti-Zionist views with non-Jews.
However, to believe that it is so equated requires the acceptance of two conjoined assumptions: e) Israeli Zionism as a political philosophy is accepted by every Jew, and therefore f) every Jew supports Israeli policy as it relates to Palestine.
As a matter of common observation, these assumptions are invalidated by the existence of so many Jews who, either as anti-Zionists advocate an anti-Zionist political philosophy, or as Zionists, for reasons of humanitarianism, express concerns about the rightness of Israel’s actions in Palestine.
The only way to make assumptions e) and f) acceptable is to make two further assumptions, that those Jews who reject Zionism g) have morally sacrificed the right to be called Jews, h) due to some spiritual failing or psychological illness, have chosen to reject their Jewish identity and deny their Jewish ancestry; or i) they may be anti-Semitic non-Jews posing as Jews.

In which case, those who make these assumptions must answer these questions:

If it is the case that anti-Zionist Jews oppose Zionism because they cannot accept their own Jewishness, j) why do so many of them make it known that they are Jewish, openly stating that it is because of their understanding of what this means, philosophically, historically, and scripturally, that they deny the validity of Zionism as representing truly Jewish ideals? and k) if there are anti-Zionist Jews who do not wish to be identified as Jews, why do so many of these these not simply deny that they are Jewish – why even mention the fact?

Also, following from the above, it is known that here are many anti-Semites and racist extremists who admire Israel, and have two reasons for doing so: l) they believe Israel with its ‘Right of Return’ policy is sympathetic to their own ideal of ensuring that all Jews depart from whichever other countries they currently reside in; and m) they admire the way Israel treats the Palestinians, accepting those behaviours as a model of how all racial ‘inferiors’ should be treated.

This begs two questions: n) what purpose does it serve anti-Semites, i.e. visceral haters of all things Jewish, to pretend to be anti-Zionist Jews, just to demean Israel, a state they respect precisely for its Zionism? and o) why have so many Jews, including Zionist Jews, elected not to live in Israel but to maintain Jewish communities in countries which according to the Israel government are so dangerous for Jews?

Conclusion: I end here, because I can go no further in my exploration of the logic of Zionism as it relates to anti-Semitism. While the questions I ask above are as logical and rational as far as I am able to make them so, I cannot answer them in any way which is either logical, rational or reasonable: and in my experience, neither can the Zionist zealots who will seek for any reason to justify what the government of Israel has been causing to happen in Palestine for over seventy years.

And since it is not my aim to deal in fantasy, I will end here.

PMQs 08.06.22

Just listening to PMQs.

Oh my saints, what a ridiculous figure Johnson is now cutting!

Bombastic, blustering, self-justifying: still pretending to himself as well as to us that his failures are successes, and still telling blatant lies! Over and over, the same bloody lies!

Nothing seems to get through to him: he’s like a charging bull who can’t be stopped however many tranquiliser darts are fired at him!

And yet – there is something about his tone which tells me he is very nervous now.

He is thrashing around to say something which will change people’s minds about him, but he can’t stop himself saying what he’s said a million tedious times before.

He has got so used to repeating his well-practised speeches so many times on so many occasions that it has become a habit with him, an addiction, like smoking.

Even so, he has found enough of his MPs to back him and so keep him in power. What exactly are they thinking?

Have they been bribed? Are they scared of the alternatives? Or do they really believe that Johnson is the Tory Party’s winning hand in a general election?

Or maybe a combination of all three?

Whatever the case, Johnson has done more to foul the atmosphere in Parliament than any-one or anything since The Great Stink of 1858. It’s tragic that this man is being kept in place by people who can’t smell the sewage.

A Lesson In Criticism….

‘You do not like this poem of mine,
And you say so, loud and clear;
You want to prove your brilliance
With a harsh, dismissive sneer.
But all your knocking tells me is
That you have nothing to say
Which I could usefully listen to:
So please, just go away.’

No artist expects their work to be liked by every-one. But they do hope that there will be those who do appreciate them. They create their work because they want to say something about themselves which can’t be said in any other way.
For some, that is enough. They’ve said what they want to say and have no desire to take matters further. What the audience for that work makes of that is simple: either they like it or they don’t. However, they have to respect that the artist has not asked for anything other than to be understood. The audience can say what it is they understand from the work, or they can keep their thoughts to themselves, which really shouldn’t be that hard. These artists do not create their work just so that they can be targets for the self-righteous, self-important, and pompous who think they know better than the artists what the artists should have done. These artists are trying to share something of themselves with the world, no more, no less.
For others, they are very conscious of their craft, and want to work on it so that they can develop their techniques to the point where they feel they can do what they do not feel they are yet doing, which is to say exactly what they want to say in the way they want to say it. These artists invite comment and criticism.
Again, how potential critics react to them is simple: they can respect the artist’s request and tell them what they think there is in the work which is is worth preserving and what is worth changing; they might even make suggestions in a spirit of helpfulness. However, if they cannot like the work and have nothing positive to say about it, that really does not mean they should say as much. These artists who seek the kind of guidance which will give them the confidence to continue their efforts are looking for and deserve some degree of positivity in the responses their work elicits. They should not be made into a target by the self-righteous, self-important, and all too often malicious people who think that every-one who fails to meet their personal criteria for what is go must be failures who deserve to be treated with a scolding.
The lesson is, if you disrespect the art, you are disrespecting the artist. And by ‘disrespect’ I don’t mean ‘dislike’. There are many works of art I dislike intensely, but I can respect them as works of art, because I can at least appreciate some quality they have, and I can certainly respect the artist’s intentions. I can learn from them just as much, if not sometimes more, than all those works that please me.
People who attack any given work of art just because they’ve taken against it do not realise they are attacking the human being who created it; because that art represents that human being to the world. The two can’t be seperated.
The problem here is, I know that there are some who will read this who, knowing I am talking about them, will come back it me with a very simple-minded answer. They will say in their righteous fashion that I am attacking them because they are simply exercising their freedom to have an opinion and to express it, and those who can’t accept what they are saying should simply put up with it.
This misses the point. First, having a freedom does not mean that there is any duty to exercise it, especially if its use causes unnecessary hurt. And secondly, we all have those freedoms, which many millions of people round the world use to create art. Accusing them of creating work that should not have been created because it doesn’t suit a particular taste is itself an attack, and a supremely hypocritical one, on their freedom to have an opinion and to express it.
And as you surely now realise, I have used my own freedom to have an opinion and express it to make the little verse with which I started this piece, which I hope makes my point more simply than I have made it in what has come after it.
But then again, I have said what I want to say in the way I wanted to say it. Nobody has to read it if they don’t want to.

Name A Great Poet…

(‘Reading By The Brook’ Winslow Homer 1879)

Name a great poet.
You have a very wide choice,
But one name will do.

Was there a time when
That poet couldn’t walk or talk,
But then, wow! he could?

And was there a time
When that poet couldn’t write?
But then, yes! he could?

He learnt how to make
Words appear in front of him
Which others could read!

But was he a great
Poet yet? No, of course not.
No-one is born great.

He had to learn, and
There were only three ways that
He could do that, yes?

He had to look at
The world around him, work out
What he thought of it;

Read other poets,
Enjoy their work, let them share
Their visions with him;

Then he had to try
And write what he thought, find the
Words that worked the best.

That is when he learnt
That he would be a poet:
His writing mattered.

He loved to watch the
Words appear, to see his thoughts
Shine out of the page.

And so he kept on
Writing, not caring what the
Rest of the world thought.

Until one day, he
Knew he had something which he
Knew was worth sharing.

It might be his mother
Or his brother, or some-one else
Who first read his work,

And they saw in it
Something that they could value,
Told him to keep on.

And so he kept on
Until his words sang out his
Life throughout the world.

But he always knew,
However the world judged him,
He would never stop.

That is how poets
Discover their own voices,
Create their own lives.

So, name such a poet.
You have an infinite choice,
But one name will do.

The Fighting Temeraire

Living in North London, raised by parents who gave me a great deal of liberty, I discovered the Tate and the National Galleries when I was very young, and in my early teens they became among my favourite places to visit. I could not have wished for a better grounding in the subject of art, especially as I could form my own tastes and opinions without some adult telling me what I should or shouldn’t like.
During the school holidays I used to visit these galleries early in the week when there would be few people there. I developed an especially great love for certain of the pictures on display, and by going early in the week I got to stand in front of these pictures, quite alone, and look at them, think about them, enjoy them, to my heart’s content. Just for those few minutes, I was the only person in the world who was looking at the real paintings and not one of the millions of reproductions scattered around the world; just for those few minutes, I owned them. Constable, Van Gogh, Monet, Turner, DaVinci, they had painted these works for me.
I remember the picture where I first recall having this particular thought, at about the age ten. It’s ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ by JMW Turner, and it’s to be found in the Tate Gallery: there is no picture I have ever found quite as fascinating as this one, for the skill of the brushwork, the nigh-perfect combination of colour and composition, and for the story it tells.


This is one of the many versions of ‘Sunflowers’ that Vincent Van Gogh painted. It’s the one found in London’s National Gallery which I visited frequently from my childhood on. It was one of those pictures I used to gravitate towards every time I visited; it was magnetic, irresistible.
I loved it partly because I had feelings about it connected with my own state of mind which I did not and still do not fully understand, but which feel important somehow: though what meaning Van Gogh intended it to convey I have no real idea. But that’s the thing about so much great art: it makes you tell your own stories, use your own imagination, beyond what the artist has imagined for you.
I also love it for its craftsmanship. The problem with reproductions in the case of artists like Van Gogh and the Impressionists of the same era is that you do not see what the original picture shows you of the way the artists’ work. With this picture, you can see every brush-stroke stand out from the canvas, giving the flowers themselves and the vase they stand in a sense of solidity, almost three-dimensional. You can imagine standing by Van Gogh as he painted and watching his brush action as he laid the paint down.
And the colours of the original are so fresh and bright, you can almost feel the warmth rising from them. It’s not a particulary realistic representation of sunflowers in a vase, but it has a reality that seems to me to be undeniable. One day I might work out exactly what that reality is.

The Cornfield

‘The Cornfield’, John Constable, 1826: another of the pictures from the National Gallery that have come to mean so much to me.
It’s an odd thing about Constable, that while we think of him as a painter of decorative English landscapes, a little old-fashioned and traditional maybe, many of his contemporaries criticised him for his modernity, his choice of subject matter and his (to them) overloose technique.
In fact, he, along with JMW Turner, were the two English artists who provided the inspiration for the French Impressionist movement, which began by outraging the French art establishment but then went on to revolutionise the whole western world’s perception of what art could do.
How could he or Turner ever know exactly what their impact on the history of art would be?
Not that I knew any of that when I stood before this painting all those years ago: I just thought it depicted a world I might like to live in. I quite envied the boy drinking out of the stream.



A Gooner Speaks….

(Written 12.05.2022. Final result: Spurs 3 Arsenal 0)

When I last dared to look, I saw that the Arsenal were being hammered by Spurs at White Hart Lane tonight. Really annoying, and always a bit saddening when that happens.
Now I know it shouldn’t matter, but it does.
I appreciate that there are many for whom football holds no interest. But then again, they should appreciate that football is central to our popular culture and has been for well over a hundred years.
The upper-classes have their ballet, their theatre, their huntin’ and fishin’ : the working-class has football. It is a sport that people grow up with. It is part of their identity.
This is partly because of their local teams that they grow to support through watching them every other week at their home ground, the biggest theatres in town with the most dramatic shows, shows they can participate in with their noise, shows where they can shout out exactly what they think and how they feel in ways which are forbidden to them everywhere else (something they would have learned from the grown-up who took them to their first games).
It is also partly due to the ease with which it can be played, needing just a ball (or something which can be kicked around if no ball is available), and any spare patch of ground where coats can be laid down as goalposts or a goal can be chalked on a wall. Money, unlike most other areas of life, is not a defining factor, which is another reason for its attraction.
And there is also the ambition football can breed, as street kickarounds are chronically the stage for spectacular fantasy as the younger players imagine themselves in the role of their footballing heroes doing great deeds in front of cheering crowds (while the mid-day factory-yard kickarounds of workers once allowed them an expressive physical freedom their work didn’t give them).
My association with Arsenal didn’t go back so early in my life, since I was in my twenties when I went to my first game at Highbury in 1972 (Arsenal 3 Nottingham Forest 0); but I was hooked from the start, and didn’t miss a game there for the next ten years.
For various reasons, I stopped attending; but I have followed the Arsenal’s fortunes ever since, and my life would be the lesser without all the excitement, all the joys and the disappointments that go with that. Anybody who supports a team,especially their home team, will know what I mean.
So, even though tonight is turning out to be a very bad night for all us Gooners, I will still follow my team in the same spirit as all those kids do who adopt the names of their favourite players while they strive to do something worthy before their parents called them in for tea (back in the day I wanted to be Stanley Matthews: everybody did). Again, any-one who has a team they love will feel the same.

The Hill

These handsome. many-windowed houses
and their pampered tree-sheltered gardens
were built to partner this steeply-rising road;

for looking down on cool nights such as this
those who live in them can observe at their leisure
a sparkling city, a glittering mosaic of brilliant jewels.

But do they ever look the other way, to where the road
reaches up towards a vast and distant sky,
far above the highest of these towering rooves;

and do they know what is beyond the clouded ridge:
spacious moorlands perhaps,close-patterned fields,
echoing forests, maybe even another shimmering city?

I do not know; I am new to this place,
and all I see when I look to where the road seems to end
is a fading into insignificant darkness.

I have had much cause lately to think about my final end. I am reminded of this poem that I had written some years ago, which described a real place I visited in Surrey, but which also described in metaphorical form my feelings as they concern religious faith. For better or worse, I do not have one. I have a spiritual life,and a highly philosophical view of human existence, but I do not see the world and its place in the universe as the religionists see it. There are mysteries that cannot be explained, not by religion, not by science, not by conspiratorial guess-work. One of those mysteries is the experience of death. This poem is an allegorical expression of that sense of mystery as might be experienced by a non-religionist. It is not as despairing as it might first seem. I value life for what it is. As painful as it has been I have fought to use it, to achieve something with it. But I also value the thought that one day, one way or the other, I will be done at last with all the pain that my life has thrust upon me.