Changing the rules

It’s becoming increasingly clear that our existing economic order is no longer working. It promotes the needs of capital above those of people. It relies on an outdated notion of unlimited and unfettered growth. And it fails singularly to address the deep-seated social and environmental challenges that we face as a society. Thankfully, there are creative and enthusiastic people working tirelessly to create a more democratic and sustainable economy. And a new project from the New Economics Foundation helps us to find them. Continue reading

Why it’s good to be mortal

Whenever Natalie reads something in a magazine that she thinks I’ll find interesting, she leaves it out somewhere obvious for me to find. And so I stumbled this morning upon a review in the Guardian of Swedish philosopher Martin Hagglund’s book ‘Why mortality makes us free‘. It’s “a sweepingly ambitious synthesis of philosophy, spirituality and politics”, apparently (the book, not the review), which argues that it is not believing in the glorious afterlife promised by many religions that makes our lives on Earth so full of meaning. To be honest, though, this benefit of what Hagglund calls “secular faith” is far from news to me. Or to my fellow humanists around the world. Continue reading

An unexpected day of rest

Having been away for a couple of days during the week, I started the day today with a long list of things I wanted to get done. A bit of work, some projects in the garden, a good long walk or two with the dogs, perhaps lunch out somewhere, catching up with some reading, and a training session or two with Ozzy*. But I think we all know, of course, that was never really going to happen. Continue reading

I want my country back

It’s just over six weeks until the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union. Whether our Government will manage to agree a deal on our departure, though, or whether we’ll just ‘crash out’ without a deal (or, indeed, whether we’ll decide to not leave at all, or to not leave quite yet, or to have a second referendum, or perhaps to have another general election) remains to be seen. It’s all a bit of a mess. And it’s making me quite cross. But what angers me most is not the act of leaving, but rather the mess that this whole sorry affair has made of our country. Continue reading

In Newman’s footsteps

One of the many inevitabilities of higher education policy discussion is that, sooner or later, someone will raise the question of what universities are actually for. So inevitable is this phenomenon, in fact, that I’ve seen it mooted that it be named Newman’s Law, after John Henry Newman, who famously asked this question back in 1852. But in trying to give a definitive answer, I think we’re missing a trick. Because there is no single answer. Rather, there are many. And they are all equally valid. Continue reading

A more radical National Trust? Let’s do it.

The new Director General of the National Trust, Hilary McGrady, has told the BBC that the charity needs to be more radical, taking a different approach to conserving the buildings and land that it owns. So here’s an idea. Let’s turn the National Trust into one of the country’s largest providers of affordable housing for hard-working families. Continue reading

Our greater challenge… and why I’m not entirely optimistic about our chances

A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I were out campaigning for the country to be given a say on whatever Brexit deal our Government manages to negotiate with the European Union. As I was blowing up some balloons (never let it be said that I do things half-heartedly), a chap in his early sixties marched past, newspaper in hand.

“Less than a year to go until we get our country back,” he grinned.

“Er, yes. Good luck with that,” I replied.

Needless to say, I didn’t offer him a balloon. Continue reading

It’s the little things

My new favourite author, Michael Perry*, has a theory about making it as a writer. It is, he says, like shovelling horse manure. If you keep at it long enough, sooner or later you’ll have a pile so big that people can’t ignore it any more.
Pencil

In my writing, as in life more generally, I have a tendency to forget this. I seem always to be aiming for the one big idea. The thing that will bring everything together. A towering monument to my own accomplishment.

This is, sadly, just as unlikely as it is pompous. Continue reading

What we think we think

With the general election coming up, I’ve been spending quite a lot of time talking to people about politics. Not just about the various candidates and their parties, but about what these parties stand for and the vision of the future that they are painting for our country. Yet the more people I talk to, the more I become convinced of one simple fact. None of us really know what we think about anything. We just think we do. Continue reading

Just asking

The Prime Minister explained yesterday that she will not allow the Scottish people to hold a legally-binding referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. At least, not in the near future. Her rationale was that, until the UK has agreed a Brexit deal with the European Union, the Scottish people would not know what they were voting for or against. Continue reading