While clearing away some old newspapers I came across an article published in the Observer in January by Tim Adams which explores the anxieties and fears curently engulfing western society in the face of the current financial crisis. One paragraph in particular sticks out: “I was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in September, an awfully long way from where our generally abundant nation was fretting about its mortgage extensions and its job prospects, and I wondered just how the people there – who had lived with war for 15 years – coped psychologically with the constant fears of their lives. Why weren’t they all on the verge of a nervous breakdown? How could they sit and laugh in the sun? The most plausible answer was that they did not have even the luxury of anxiety; their expectation of security had never extended much beyond the next hour or two. Anxiety is a disease of relative plenty; it arises not from fear at what you do not have, but fear of what you might lose.”
Probably of scant consolation to anyone who’s just lost their job, but it does put things into perspective.
The latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine has compiled a list of the top 100 public intellectuals. The criteria are defined simply as influential thinkers who feature prominently in public life beyond the borders of their native countries. Although such lists are generally to be taken with a pinch of salt and usually heavily biased, they do nevertheless make interesting reading. The usual suspects from a wide variety of fields are there – Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, Joe Ratzinger (aka Pope Benny XVI), Umberto Eco, Orhan Pamuk and Steven Pinker among others. I’m not sure if Salman Rushdie deserves a place in the top 100 though. He’s highly overrated as a novelist, let alone a great intellectual.
The compilers have deliberately tried to be as balanced as possible – the list contians both the atheist and the beliver (Dawkins and the Pope), the Israeli and the Palestinian (Amos Oz and Sari Nusseibeh), the neo-con and the leftist (Francis Fukuyama and Chomksy) – and for the sake of political correctness the token black African is Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka. There is of course an emphasis on the word “public” here, suggesting that there is an infinite number of private intellectuals out there who are brilliant thinkers, but choose to stay out of the public eye.Or maybe they just blog.Top 100 private intellectuals anyone? Top 20 intellectuals within the Irish blogosphere? Any suggestions?
One major criticism I have about Foreign Policy’s list is that it leaves some of the world’s finest orators and people of letters –intellectual heavyweights like Wayne Rooney, Katie Price and George W. Bush all fail to make the top 100.Scandalous.
YOU COULDN’T MAKE IT UP
Gerry Moriarty in today’s Irish Times reports on Ian Paisley’s retirement from politics:
“Peter [the Punt/Hands (and feet) across the border] Robinson delivered the introduction, which was followed by a video of the Big Man’s life and time, climaxing with the fanfare of Dr Paisley walking slowly into the hall for a rapturous reception to the tune of the spring section of Four Seasons by Vivaldi (a Catholic priest).”
Sontaran Avram Grant
Is it just me, or does recently deposed former Chelsea boss Avram Grant bear an uncanny resemblance to one of Dr Who’s old adversaries the Sontarans, a cloned warrior caste race from the planet Sontara, perpetually engaged in a millenia-old war of attrition with their sworn enemies the Rutans?
A few days ago on my way back from work, I stopped off at a supermarket to do some light shopping. I won’t say which supermarket it was, but it shares its name with a well-known pint-sized Belfast musician who has a reputation for being grumpy and with the late lead singer of a popular American 1960s rock band with pyromanical tendencies. who popped his clogs while in the bath and is now buried in a famous Parisian cemetery.
Anyway, I only had a few things to buy, namely a four-pack of tomatoes, a three-pack of small tins of tuna, a French loaf and some oranges. The total bill came to £4.11. I had notes in my wallet, but wanted to use up the spare change in my pocket if possible. I fished around in my pocket for the change and found I had exactly £4.11 , not a penny more, not a penny less. An amazing coinicidence – or maybe not depending on your point of view. Probably not a particularly interesting anecdote, and for that matter, probably not even worth blogging about. But there you go.