This is also posted at Harry's Place.
Tom Holland's documentary, Islam: the Untold Story caused controversy and Channel 4 cancelled a repeat screening because of "threats".
As the Council for Ex-Muslims said:-
The threats and concerted attempt to stigmatise the documentary and its producers by attacking its credibility and even legitimacy as a field of inquiry is nothing less than an attempt to impose a blasphemy taboo by stealth and coercion against programming that scrutinises Islam.
John Crace in the Guardian, the last publication to speak evil of Islam, commented on Tom Holland's deference to the religion:-
"Can a non-Muslim hope to understand the origins of the Muslim world?" asked historian Tom Holland. "No," was the emphatic one-word response of Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University. .
For decades – centuries even – scholars have felt free to contest the accuracy of other religious texts. Not least the Bible; what's true, what's parable and what's just wishful thinking has all been up for grabs without any serious damage being done to Christian beliefs. Not so with Islam, around which non-Islamic scholars tread with extreme caution. I'm all for cultural and religious sensitivity, but the degree to which Holland tiptoed around the subject and apologised for his findings went way beyond what was required. Or would have been on offer for any other religion. It was almost as if he was looking over his shoulder, half expecting a fatwa at any minute.
None should be forthcoming, as towards the end of the programme Holland returned to Dr Nasr for reassurance that he hadn't caused any lasting offence. Which he more or less got, as Nasr told him that what he had discovered was "quite interesting, so long as you don't try to impose your view on the Muslim world", as that would be tantamount to "western imperialism". Holland crept out of Nasr's office more or less insisting that the last thing he wanted was for any Muslim to take him seriously, so no harm was done. The gap between western liberalism and Islamic liberalism suddenly looked frighteningly large.
I don't know if a fatwa has been delivered on Tom Holland, but he has now evidently been stamped "Handle with Care. Contents controversial". Not controversial in an edgy, "may up the click bait/ratings" way of Russell Brand, but "may cause offence somewhere or other and we'd better be careful".
According to the excellent site Heresy Corner, Tom Holland was to appear on TalkSPORT and speak about cricket, one of his passions. That sounds as harmless as you can get. But no, at the last minute he was cancelled. without being told why. (Read the whole piece.)
"I think they Googled me and got into a state, worrying I might be a security risk," he speculates. "It's utterly weird. Beyond weird. Comic. I think they think they're being PC, when actually they're being the precise opposite."So there we are. My indifference to cricket overwhelms me and I wouldn't even be able to find the frequency for TalkSPORT but now I've heard of this incident and I'm furious. It's evidently some knucklehead in the station making a kind of ridiculous Health and Safety decision, of the sort which bans using cheese wheels at the Double Gloucester cheese rolling festival - only with more serious consequences for community relations. Tom Holland's book The Shadow of the Sword is a vivid read, which peoples a tract of history which was bare to me. It seems he's an accomplished cricketer and Heresy Corner says he's one of the nicest blokes on Twitter. This kind of misplaced sensitivity just pisses everyone off, including Muslims who don't want to constantly appear like grenades minus pins. The only people who will be happy are the EDL, who can roll their eyes, with "see what we mean?" expressions and jihadists, who will no doubt regarde this as another tiny victory in their war for undiluted "respect".
Quite. If the station was acting pre-emptively to head off presumed Muslim anger, they must have a very low opinion of Muslims. Nor does this kind of hypersensitivity do anything to further social harmony or good community relations. It is in fact a form of Islamophobia: irrational fear of Islam in its most basic and literal sense.
As far as I can tell, there were no threats, or even complaints, in the run-up to Tom Holland's planned cricket-themed appearance on TalkSPORT. But perhaps they feared a boycott, or imagined that Anjem Choudhary and his mates would picket their studios. ("Behead Infidels who talk about Cricket!") Or was the threat something more oblique -- maybe they envisaged EDL supporters phoning in to congratulate Holland, not on his celebrated Six, but on his "brave" stand against Islam."
I haven't watched Press TV myself except for the odd clip but what I hear about it is that it is a propaganda channel run from Tehran, and that to appear on it you have to be highly uncritical of the Iranian government. According to the journalist Dave Osler (comment 12):-
I am generally of the ‘bus company’ theory when it comes to media outlets. Who cares who runs the bus, so long as the route takes you where you want to go?
That is why I have in the past written for the Daily Express, and happily appear on rightwing TV and radio shows (Richard Littlejohn, Nick Ferrari etc) if they want a leftie on to spark debate.
If the media offers you a platform, take it, on the sole condition that you get your message across.
But the point is that Press TV doesn’t offer that kind of platform, It carefully selects Brit lefties that will say the sort of thing that complies with its editorial line. That sort of exposure isn’t worth having.
So it's no surprise that Press TV employs islamist and theocracy pimps like the well-known hijabbed sister-in-law Lauren Booth, Yvonne Ridley and, of course, George Galloway.
Radio 4 ran a programme about Press TV on Thursday evening, which is well worth listening to.
I would have liked to have heard more about Press TV's audience. I would guess that it would mostly be islamist sympathisers, and the kind of member of the far left who a few decades ago would have listened to Radio Moscow as their in-depth unbiassed news source. For example, here's a thicko who comments at Shiraz Socialist (comment 5):-
Many Marxists with decades long experience in the movement have contributed to press tv, which in content and form, beats the superficial news churned out by media that Hitchens whored himself to.
George Galloway was invited to appear on the programme but did not take this chance to defend his employer. He's not usually shy about appearing on the BBC. However he might have been asked impertinent questions which is not the kind of thing his heroes eg Stalin, Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad, would have put up with for a minute.
Did we need all that 10th anniversary coverage of 9/11? Every time the radio interviewed yet another fireman or American Muslim, I switched it off. So my radio has been ultra-switched off in the last few days. It was of course reasonable for the bereaved to have some sort of ceremony but the rest of us were forced to take part, willing or not.
I don't want to take this particular tone:-
Neglected here is that it was a stroke of evil genius for Channel 5 to run Celebrity Big Brother against assorted 9/11 tenth anniversary tellyfilla. Crap celebrity event telly wins against pseudo-concerned wanky-woo.
No, I can't be as cynically callous as that. But still. . .
I can get tearful on Remembrance Sunday when I listen to the ceremony at the Cenotaph, and Neville Chamberlain's constipated tones repeating that "I hev to tell you now that no such undertaking hez been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany" always make me solemn. But 9/11? Serious of course, an outrage for New York, a dreadful blow for those who lost family members. But why should I mourn this more than any other large death count from an attack on a country that isn't mine?
I found however that there are Americans who did not want to join in an enforced collective grief.
Here's Slate's Agony Aunt Dear Prudence:-
Q. Husband Doesn't Feel Sad About 9/11: I have been married for 2-plus years to a man who is wonderful in many ways. However, with all the 9/11 hoopla lately, it's been on my mind a lot and I asked him yesterday if he was thinking about it. He told me that he doesn't allow himself to feel bad about what happened because that doesn't help anything and it would be disrespectful to those who lost their lives that day and in the war since. I don't get his logic and am left wondering if this is normal, or should I be concerned? It bothers me that he doesn't feel what most everyone else feels when they think/talk about 9/11.
A: It sounds as if your husband does feel profound sadness about all the lives lost. But his decision to push the thoughts out of his mind—a luxury that family members don't have, of course—is a perfectly normal one that I'm sure many people made. You asked your husband a question about his emotional life, and he answered you honestly and openly. His answer is reasonable and he's entitled to his own reaction and is not required to feel what you think "everyone else" does.
The assumed feelings of "everyone else" enables the media to fill up their spaces with reminiscences and repeat broadcasts. Dissenters are regarded as hard-hearted or unpatriotic.
Q. Overkill: I was a member of the military who lost colleagues and friends on Sept. 11. This anniversary seemed to me like media hype, picking a scab rather than allowing it to heal. Did I mourn? Yes. But can we put this in context, finally, and move ahead? Surely there is more to our nation than the events of this one day.
A: Thanks for this perspective. To the letter writer worried about her husband, I'm hearing from many people who had reactions just like his.
I'm glad that Americans - sane, nice ones - feel like this as well.
According to this smarty-pants I haven't missed much by my minimal involvement with the 9/11 commemorations.
I tried insofar as possible to avoid all the 9/11 X ballyhoo, for a couple of reasons. First of all, with due respect to the very good writers who have tackled the subject, I have not read a blessed thing this month that has illuminated 9/11 -- as history, as event, as a social or political phenomenon or anything else that would make such an account worth reading.
I doubt if the USA will go on much longer commemorating this terrorist attack. To be commemorated an event in history must be a turning point in the nation's ultimate fate eg a great defeat like the Battle of Kosovo for the Serbians or Culloden for the Highlanders or a step on the road to victory like D Day of Bannockburn. World War II, the American civil war - and revolutions that really did change the society go on receiving some kind of public acknowledgement. They have a beginning (war declared, independence declared) and an ending (war won, independence won).
A terrorist attack is a side-show in the overall history of a nation. Even if it is a step, as in the case of Northern Ireland, towards a power shift it's not something the perpetrators are proud of, and the victims can't keep on proclaiming their victimhood. Of course the bereaved will commemorate the event that changed their lives but the nation should leave it alone. As the man above said, it's picking a scab instead of letting it heal.
He [Eagelton] sets off on one of those complexifying journeys, like the route of a pinball bouncing backwards and forwards among a thicket of pingers, from William Golding to St Augustine, Macbeth to Pseudo-Dionysus, original sin to the Holocaust, Shakespeare to Freud, Satan to Thomas Mann, Arendt to Aristotle, and so copiously on – a verbal pinball ride among the entries in the telephone book of Western culture, to tell us what evil is. But do not expect, by the end, a conclusion, still less a definition, nor even a summary. Eagleton has been too long among the theorists to risk a straightforward statement. You have to grasp at fragments as you bounce among the pingers, not always quite sure whether he is agreeing or disagreeing with this or that author, even whether he is still paraphrasing an author or speaking with his own voice. That’s a technique, of course.
As we are dealing with Eagleton here, note that this is of course not a mish-mash of inconsistencies, as it appears to be; this is subtlety and nuance. It is, you might say, nuance-sense.
The notion that evil is non-rational is a more significant claim for Eagleton than at first appears, because he is (in this book as in others of his recent "late period" prolific burst) anxious to rewrite theology: God (whom he elsewhere tells us is nonexistent, but this is no barrier to his being lots of other things for Eagleton too, among them Important) is not to be regarded as rational: with reference to the Book of Job Eagleton says, "To ask after God’s reasons for allowing evil, so [some theologians] claim, is to imagine him as some kind of rational or moral being, which is the last thing he is." This is priceless: with one bound God is free of responsibility for "natural evil" – childhood cancers, tsunamis that kill tens of thousands – and for moral evil also even though "he" is CEO of the company that purposely manufactured its perpetrators; and "he" is incidentally exculpated from blame for the hideous treatment meted out to Job.
You can see where this leads: with other ways of defining deity conveniently beyond any possible meaning that can be attached to the notion, the religionists and their fellow-travellers are forever protected from challenge to and criticism and refutation of religious ideas and beliefs.
When Shakespeare was writing about witches he was living at a time when people believed they did have actual powers that could hurt and harm. Eagleton’s statements on God are an incantation that summon what he no doubt thinks is a Cloud of Unknowing but are in fact a medium’s vapour of ectoplasm, a magician‘s puff of smoke.
The Saturday afternoon play on Radio 4 was Othello with Lenny Henry in the title role. I’ve got a big crush on Lenny Henry, and I did think he was excellent, bringing a sweeping delivery to the lines. Lenny Henry isn’t a trained Shakespearean actor but evidently being a good mimic, learning timing as a comedian and also being a respectable soul singer – I saw him once fronting a band doing Ride Sally Ride – along with his big African voice and control of a range of emotion can substitute for years at RADA and the RSC. He got Othello’s charm, so we can see why Desdemona would love him, and his bewildered passion.
The plot of Othello is a total clunker, with Agatha Christie-style set ups of misinterpreted conversations and misplaced handkerchiefs. But the poetry is great, and the main characters besides Othello – Iago, Cassio and Desdemona – are towering. Cassio the smooth, educated man with his romantic admiration for Desdesmona, his contempt for his devoted tart of a girlfriend, Bianca, and his loyalty to Othello is a picture of the averagely decent officer, the kind you get in Tolstoy. He also has one of the finest drunk scenes ever. Iago’s shrugging cynicism, his hatred of his superiors, both social and moral, and the desire to bring them down in the dirt, along with his malicious awareness of how he is regarded carelessly as the honest fellow is one of the best pieces of malevolence in drama. Those two were both played well by the actors, but Desdemona was dreadful. She had this shrill nagging voice which made you wonder why Othello hadn’t strangled her before the play begun. Desdemona is of course the most tactless woman who ever lived and died, since she always chooses when her husband is in a filthy mood to ask him a favour, and asks him in the worst possible way. However, she is asking out of a sense of justice rather than whim and it is part of her attraction and worth that she doesn’t calculate. But she is meant to be highly refined and this Desdemona only appeared naïve in contrast to her bawdy maid Emilia rather than fastidious and innocent.
It was a pleasure hearing this and I wish I had been able to see the lovely Lenny giving it all on stage dressed in a military uniform.
There was more about the Bad Sex in Fiction Award on this morning’s Today programme at 8:55am. The two novelists interviewed, Howard Jacobson and Lionel Shriver, agreed that if you want to write sex scenes, you don’t write them graphically.
Howard Jacobson:- I do desire, I don’t do the what goes where kind of sex. [You can’t put it more succinctly than that.]
Lionel Shriver:- I think they make the mistake of being geographical about it. After all, if you were going to describe what’s going on between two people when they had dinner you wouldn’t want to write “he picked up his fork, he had a piece of salmon, he dabbed his mouth with a piece of napkin.”
Geographical is spot on (so to speak – when writing on this subject everything turns into a double entendre). Lionel Shriver then went on to say:-
“I’ve had readers indicate that they thought a given book of mine was full of sex. Actually there is no literal sex acted out in the book but it is sexy. The intercourse happens in the reader’s mind.”
I’ve only read Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, an intelligent page-turner of a novel, and she did convey the kind of sexual relationship the parents of the murderous Kevin enjoy. In fact, a theme of the novel is to show, to the most extreme degree, how having kids screws up your sex life. Satisfied lovers turn into frazzled parents of difficult, demanding creatures who have invaded your love nest.
Howard Jacobson thought the mistake that the writers on the Bad Sex short list made was “not of being gross, not of being ribald or coarse but actually trying to write too beautifully about it. The person who is going to win Monday night because he’s been too literary, too elegant and too well mannered about it.”
Howard Jacobson writes beautifully himself but doesn’t do graphic passages of sex between characters you are supposed to take seriously and sympathise with. His sex passages in Kalooki Nights, are oblique and perverse (the scenes are in Buchenwald, between Ilse Koch and her Jewish victim and I found them disturbing to the point of not wanting to read them at all). In Act of Love he described an orgy that was so miserable you wondered why anyone had shown up for it.
So writers can do successful comic sex, e.g Kingsley Amis in One Fat Englishman .
At the end of Chapter 10 the anti-hero, Roger, has got his love object to dispose of her child for an hour or two.
“Conticuere omnes,” Roger was saying urgently to himself half an hour later, “intentique ora tonebant. Inde toro pater Aeneas sic fatus ab alto: “Infandum, regina, iubes renovare dolorem; sed. . .” No, it’s. . .Hell: colle sub aprico celeberrimus illic lucus. . . Trouble with the damned stuff it’s all chopped up into lengths so you have to know the beginning of each line and never get a clue out of what’s gone before. Oh God – hic haec hoc hic-haec-hoc yes yes yes now hunc hanc hoc three huises hoc hac hoc right his hae ha…. Ha? Ha ha ha horum his his? That can’t be right, can it? No, of course, it’s huic, you idiot. Get on with it - hi hae haec then straight on to the Greek irregulars esthio and good old blosk-moloumai yes now back to hic hoc haec hos has hos three horums. . .’
What Roger was saying to himself might have struck a casual observer, if one could have been contrived, as greatly at variance with what he was doing. In fact, however, the two were intimately linked. If he wanted to go on doing what he was doing for more than another ten seconds at the outside it was essential that he should go on saying things to himself - any old things as long as the supply of them could be kept up.
There’s good comic sex and plenty of bawdy in English writing, where it’s plain exactly what’s happening. There’s also eroticism eg the King James translation of the Song of Songs and John Donne's poetry. That again deals with desire rather than the what goes where, and that's what seems to work when writing of sex between lovers who the reader is supposed to respect.
I was off sick for three days this week, and so lay around listening to Radio 4. On every news item the BNP’s appearance on Question Time was the lead item or one or two down. It's been driving me barmy. How X at the BBC responded to Y criticising the decision to put them on. Y would then be interviewed. On the next news broadcast the news item would sound, “Speaking on the Today programme, Y said that the decision to” . . . and so on. The news became one of those closed cycle systems where shit - compost - food - shit. Also, to add to the surreality, people get the two acronyms BBC and BNP mixed up, so you’d hear some BBC spokesman saying, "It's not remiss of the BBC to have the BBC on Question Time. The BBC won a certain amount of the vote at the European elections.". The Beeb and my part of blogosphere have gone on about nothing else.
It's like a royal wedding. Speculations about The Other People on the Panel. Groans at the make up of the Panel. Interview with Griffin's make up girl (her retching). Comments from Gok Wan about the cut of Griffin's suit. Body language experts saying that Griffin is relaxed/uneasy/lying (‘cos you saw his lips moving). Columnists murmuring, It was a grey day at the end of an Indian summer and the protesters were falling like leaves. I was back at work today. We get the latest feeds from the BBC news and every third item has been about the BNP, Nick Griffin and the BBC
Manipulated by the media? I can feel its oil covered hands massaging every bloody muscle in my brain and a puppet master jerking at my eyes so I end up focussing all three on Question Time, which is something I have never watched for more than 10 minutes in my life before. It pisses me off like mad that I’ve got sucked into it as well.
I've also been listening to Clive James's latest instalment of his autobiography, The Blaze of Obscurity, which tells of his time as an interviewer. He said, "Television gives a general impression. Nobody ever remembers what you said, but everybody remembers how you came over." So only the anoraks will be listening for inconsistencies and impossible policies in Griffin's answers. The rest will have their minds made up or else may just notice that as well as being a fascist he is also a horrible guy.
The English Defence League tried to push an “anti-Islamic extremist” schtick which soon enough revealed itself to be old-fashioned xenophobia. Salma Yaqoob was interviewed and said that she would rather Muslims did not rise to the provocation, since street punch ups are, in fact, what the EDL are looking for. This debate on confrontation v ignore it and hope it will go away will no doubt continue.
What I found interesting was the role of the internet in right wing fringe, and by extension, any fringe politics.
For the authorities it means flash demonstrations, which are difficult to police:-
“The whole new dynamic here is the internet. All the communication and discussion goes on across the internet. At the last minute people can come together and form up and do whatever they choose really anywhere.”
That from the West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe who argued that the laws on public order need updating. She’s looking for more powers of course, to ban the EDL from protesting and also to ban the counter protesters.
(According to today’s Sunday Herald the Strathclyde Police are going to ban the newly formed Scottish Defence League from demonstrating in Glasgow.)
For the far right the internet brings together and politicises the disaffected who would once have moaned quietly in twos or threes in pubs.
Allan Urry (the presenter):- “The web is a big factor in how those on the right organise and speak with each other, validating their viewpoint. And it’s not just the EDL.”
Edmund Standing, the author of The BNP and the Online Fascist Network, was interviewed:-
“The internet has opened this stuff up to a wider audience. Anyone can get hold of this stuff and you don’t even have to join a wider group. You don’t have to know a single person. All you have to do is go on there and the ideological and intellectual justification for carrying out attacks, terrorist attacks, racist violence. . We don’t live in a society where people would tolerate people openly walking round the streets and tolerating Nazi ideas, race war and that kind of thing, so the Internet is re-invigorating it cos it’s easier getting it out to a wider audience, making it easier to connect to each other in a way that you couldn’t do in the past. . . ”
Edmund Standing went on to talk about how websites with recommendations for violence create an atmosphere encouraging the lone wolf would-be terrorist, which he thinks more dangerous than organised groups as they are harder to trace. Neil Lewington (possession of explosives) and Martin Gilleard (four home-made nail bombs) were both caught by chance.
The beauty of the internet is that it puts the like-minded in touch with each other, even though they may live in different cities or different countries. But the like-minded includes racist nutters, and racist nutters united are stronger than racist nutters alone. Racist nutter speaks unto racist nutter in cyberspace, then meet in the real world for a little aggro, or a solitary racist nutter has fantasies of himself as a hero cheered by websiters if he leaves a home-made explosive by a mosque.
Another feature of the internet is that as in places of recreation for wearers of gimp masks with safe words you can disguise your identity and get up to things you would rather other people didn’t know about. There is a fair amount of social stigma for Kevin Smith being seen to leave a Fascist meeting. On the web you can call yourself Akitsaws or Battle88 if you like, and bang slogans and diatribes from your keyboard. You can even get something of the excitement of being in a whipped up crowd as you hammer your keys, as is evident on many blog threads. In the 1930s the far right were famed for their quasi-military style marching and mass meetings where hecklers were chucked out with kickings and beatings. That sort of mass meeting has been replaced by the vituperative comments thread with abuse and counter-abuse, shared bigotry and violent fantasies.
Disseminating propaganda (yours) and information (mine) has become much cheaper. Statements like this one from the introduction of Steve Cohen’s book (1984) That’s Funny You Don’t Look Anti-Semitic will soon sound archaic:-
Even in draft form, the book has been attacked by individuals on the Left and the Right. However, what has made it possible and worthwhile has been the tremendous encouragement from so many different people (many of whom I have never met). Not least are those who have donated the entire cost of the production. . . .
That’s Funny is pamphlet size and prints out comfortably as a PDF. It was as a PDF that I read Edmund Standing’s The BNP and the Online Fascist Network. Costs of production and distribution hardly come into it now every person is their own publisher. (I would recommend Standing’s report if only to read the selected ravings of Lee John Barnes, who is given to obscene violent fantasies, sub-sub-sub Neitzschean abuse of Christianity and soft humankind in general mixed up with an Odin-worshipping paganism. Barnes is also a legal adviser to and occasional spokesman for the BNP. Having such an embarrassing loon in a position of power would be destructive to any mainstream party, but this all seems to be water off a duck’s back as far as the BNP crowd are concerned.)
So the internet has opened up debate to a far-flung audience and made disseminating information easier. But its anonymous nature presents difficulties, eg gauging how much of what is expressed on blogs is fantasy, wind up merchants, mischief makers, trolls, or infiltrators. In Canada the Human Rights Commission used to send out pseudo-Nazi provocateurs to see what they could elicit on Nazi hate sites by being more Nazi in their comments than the Nazis. Counter far right activity could include infiltrating their sites and spreading a few scurrilous rumours around, with some misdirection thrown in. If nothing else, it would piss them off.
Another aspect of anonymity is how to turn diatribes on threads in cyberspace to action in the real world, which includes keeping pressure on backsliders. BootFoot and HeadSkin swear to smite the foreigners then are no shows. An EDLeaguer who was one of the few who turned up to the 11th September Harrow protest complained (comment 155):-
“we had an almost non-existant turn out on sunday from the EDL, many of us were left with our dicks swinging in the breeze. Thanks to everybody who couldn’t be bothered to get out their pits and shout for the cause. i’m begining to think this is just an armchair warrior organisation. If you can’t be bothered to turn out to help us, go and join Granny Murrys kniting forum. With so few of us on sunday it was dangerous. Once again, Thanks.”
How the blog and the password-for-initiants forum will affect politics is still in the early stages, but as a start authoritarian governments try to control the internet and arrest bloggers as they have always seized printing presses and arrested writers. Advances in communications technology affect the dynamics of politics as advances in weapons technology affect the dynamics of war. The invention of printing, the growth in literacy, cheap pamphlets, photographs from the frontline of the American Civil War, the radio, the televised beatings of Civil Rights protesters and the napalm in Vietnam - all of them affected the politics of their times.
Professor Bogdanor said that although the number voting at elections has fallen interest in politics is about the same as it was fifty years ago. The democratic spirit is healthy but the democratic institutions are failing. Levels of volunteering and charity giving are very high. The RSPB and National Trust have a million members each.
“Disenchantment with democracy flows from the conflict between a maturing democracy accustomed to universal suffrage and the rights that go with it and the traditional mass party which increasingly exists not to give effect to popular demands but to frustrate them.”
Fifty years ago one in eleven of the population was a member of a political party, now it is one in eighty-eight. He ascribes this to the marked difference between ideologies in those days, that the parties were more class based and issues were simpler.
One in eleven seems very high to me. People’s social lives must have revolved around Conservative Association dances and Labour fund-raising dos far more than now. I remember hearing David Starkey, the historian, speaking about his childhood in Kendal, and how important trade union outings and choral societies were. The trade union was the focal point of his parents’ community, as the church or mosque or synagogue is in a faith community. Charity plays that role to a degree these days. Three times a week a colleague will ask you to sponsor them cycling or walking in groups for some good cause.
Some song writing, some verse writing and too much blogging about culture, politics, cycling and gardening.