Rebels Without A Pause

(Image-A young David Bowie, ne Jones taken from the 2022 documentary film Moonage Daydream).

Modern Rock and Pop music was once considered to be solely a young person’s game. It initially emerged in the sixties as a uniquely youthful phenomenon. It was designed to be a counterpoint to the staid culture of the forties and fifties. It was deliberately distinct from the stifling conformity that characterised an earlier era. It was epitomised by its rebellion.

It is astonishing to reflect upon the numbers of Rock and Pop veterans still working and creating in 2023. Morrissey celebrated his 64th birthday yesterday and it is amusing that such a milestone isn’t remarkable by today’s standards. However in 1967 the wry tones of The Beatles suggested otherwise. “When I’m 64” is a lament from a younger man fearing loss, with a plaintive plea to his lover to need and feed him, presumably when he reaches an age of decrepitude.

It must be emphasised that this is an art form that requires immense demands from its performers. A certain amount of resilience is vital, but it is an uneasy balance to regulate this with the sensitivity that is necessary to create songs. This is why so many have succumbed to addictions and have died tragically young. It can be a very lonely existence, it isn’t easy to set yourself apart from convention and also to expect to be loved and respected in return. It was a dilemma that was particularly acute in the heyday of the Rock and Roll era, as so many misunderstandings surrounded the bands of that time.

The Rolling Stones were viewed by mainstream society as corrupters of youth. I was struck by the narrow minded and philistine attitudes of that time when I watched the Nick Broomfield documentary about Brian Jones. Broomfield exposed the myth that the band were deliberate mischief makers with a deeply empathetic portrait of Jones.

The Stones would not exist without the singular input of Jones, a bright but troubled young man from a solidly middle class background. He was inspired by the blues music from America and sought to replicate it in his own band. The music he created was stunning, raucous and vivid. However it baffled his parents, who could not understand why he would sabotage his grammar school education to play a style of music that sounded so terrible to them.

Jones had rebelled against them, but was disturbed that he had caused such a degree of alienation. He was haunted by their estrangement, and felt guilty that he had chosen an unconventional living. Ultimately he could not bridge the divide and he died in his swimming pool after a drug and alcohol binge. He was just 27. It was poignant that the documentary concluded with the words of Jones’ father. The note was written as an attempt for reconciliation, and it read,

“My dear Brian, we have had unhappy times and I have been a very poor and intolerant father in so many ways. You grew up in such a different way than I expected you to. I was quite out of my depth…I don’t suppose you will ever forgive me, but all I ask is for just a little of that affection you once had for me.”

It is a Faustian deal, to prevail in the murky world of the music industry and to retain your own sense of dignity.

The Ghost of John Galt

(Photograph- the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Paradise, Nevada USA, in the aftermath of the mass shooting that occurred on October 1, 2017-taken from the Paul Auster Essay- Bloodbath Nation. Photographic credit to Spencer Ostrander).

The United States of America was built and moulded by a powerful myth, that wealth and success could be acquired through individual determination alone. Its entire establishment was made in a deliberate departure from European civilisation. This older, more traditional civilisation was created through a combination of heredity and religious benevolence. In contrast, the USA distanced itself from these rigid traditions and attempted to forge a modern and forward thinking nation freed from the shackles of monarchical and theocratic power.

However a myth isn’t the same as a lie, and all nations have foundation myths. These myths have positive as well as negative consequences, especially when it relates to the future health and wellbeing of a people. There is one element of truth attached to the legendary history of the USA. It is undeniable that this land of liberty allowed the poor and oppressed people of every nation a chance to succeed. Some people were lucky and made their fortune, but many others struggled and continue to struggle.

There is a darker truth to the history and it is beyond doubt. The Native Americans suffered during the first wave of European colonisation. It was hard to tolerate an alien culture and a people who differed so much in terms of moral and societal values. The most noticeable difference was the notion that men could “own” land and exploit it for their personal gains. This is an entirely European concept as Native culture perpetuates the notion that the land exists entirely separately from men, and it is impossible to “own” Mother Earth.

However this almost insatiable desire to succeed and progress was the reason that the USA became the pinnacle of scientific, technological and cultural achievement. Now in the twenty-first century there are questions about whether this postcolonial nation built upon a semblance of artifice can continue to survive. It is no coincidence that the culture war started in America because the dreams of the frontiers men are beginning to founder, and questions surrounding the acquisition and inheritance of this precious land are being asked again.

The question whether a price should be paid for the vanity of the European settlers was initially evoked by the American author Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut acknowledged that American culture could be vulgar and boastful and hubris could ultimately be its downfall. In 1952 he published “Player Piano” a dystopian, satirical novel replete with black humour.

It is a savage illustration of the gloating nature of American businessmen, and almost a warning to readers of the future that a country that is solely focused upon capital can become a soulless and dispiriting place. The novel is indeed prophetic as it depicts America as a giant factory where automation has replaced human labour, and the only work left to human beings is the development and repair of the machines.

Some of the characters grow disillusioned by their lives and drop out of society. Vonnegut deliberately subverts the legend of American civilization in a narrative twist; these characters appropriate Native American culture and revert to a simpler, poorer but more spiritually rewarding existence.

Five years after the publication of “Player Piano”, another subversive writer created her own interpretation of America’s foundation myth. The Russian born author Ayn Rand published “Atlas Shrugged”. This is a masterful novel and a robust defence of America’s capitalist system.

Rand created the legendary character of John Galt, the personification of American ambition and zeal. Rand directs her opprobrium to the enemies of capital, the bureaucrats and the politicians. These characters hinder progress with punitive regulations and taxes. Instead she reserves her admiration for the courageous individuals who seek to change society through imagination and innovation. This also includes engineers and musicians. Ultimately Galt is the hero in the book because he fights and wins to succeed.

In Rand’s view the ego is not a negative nor a destructive force, it is a noble indication of our uniqueness. Reading the novel it is obvious that every human being has an ego because every one of us has a view of our own self worth and value. Rand helped to put a human face on the capitalist system and this in itself was ingenious and poetic.

Her narrative belies the notion that capitalism is dehumanising because this is the only system that liberates individuals from state power. Vonnegut distrusted the engineers and the businessmen and looked towards the state as a benevolent power, in the same way his German ancestors would have trusted the Church pastors. Rand saw an all encompassing state as a stifling force that inhibited the intellect, as she endured Soviet oppression before seeking asylum in the free world.

Both perspectives have their validity and it is worth remembering that we are neither irrational animals driven by herd instinct, nor are we machines programmed by big corporate interests. It is impossible to find a balance in a politically polarised world, this is lamentable. However we should still pay our respects to the brave people who sought the dream for life, liberty and happiness because the USA, and even the world would not be the same without their legacy.

Heavy is the Head

This Saturday King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey. The coronation is rooted not just within our national culture but within our Christian heritage. Monarchs have not always been Christian, but they were appointed as figureheads of a nation’s cultural values. Since its political inception England experienced a succession of invasions and internecine wars. Many were religious or cultural conflicts.

King Alfred was one of the first English Kings to promote cultural and religious cohesion. He believed that a King,

“…must have praying men, fighting men and working men…without these tools no King may make his ability known..nor can he accomplish any of the things he was commanded to do”

King Alfred’s great grandson, King Edgar received the holy rites at his coronation at Bath Abbey in 973 AD. Edgar combined the legacy of Alfred with a sacred ceremony of investiture. He promised to keep the Church and its people in peace, to maintain justice and to forbid iniquity in all forms. He was anointed and then regaled with a rendition of Zadok the Priest. Finally he was presented with the ring, the sword, the crown, the sceptre and the rod. These were the insignia that were awarded in honour of his kingship.

The Scottish monarchs, however, followed a separate rite. The coronations were at Scone Abbey where the monarch would sit on the fabled Stone of Destiny. This Stone has portentous origins. According to legend the prophet Jeremiah brought the Stone of Jacob to Ireland to crown the early Irish Kings, and then transported to Scotland during the fifth century by Fergus, the first King of the Scots.

Aidan received the rites in 574 from St. Columba, the Irish missionary accredited with re-evangelising the Scots. All English Monarchs respected the sovereignty of Scotland until Edward I ascended the English throne.

In 1296 Edward invaded Scotland. The Stone was seized by his henchmen and taken to Westminster Abbey to be integrated into the English coronation chair. Edward looked upon Scotland with disdain. His ransacking of the sacred investitures of the Scottish crown revealed his arrogance and imperial ambition. This soured Scottish and English relations for successive generations.

However arrogant and pious Kings were a familiar part of our history, even to the extent that they believed that their moral authority superseded the Church. King James became the ruler of both Scotland and England in 1603 when the Union of Crowns was enacted.

James` successor, King Charles I held separate coronations in England and Scotland. The Scottish ceremony took place at Holyrood Abbey and it was observed to be reverential and authentic, reflecting Charles’ Anglo-Catholic faith. Many Scottish Presbytarians were affronted by the service. Charles’ belief that he was ordained by God was perceived by his subjects as arrogant and tyrannous.

However the historian David Starkey reminds us that

“King Charles I redeemed a disastrous reign with a noble, sacrificial death as he humbled himself, Christ-like and self-consciously so, to the executioner’s axe”.

The English Civil War led to a radical reassessment of Monarchy. The Monarch had an obligation to the people rather than himself.

These solemn obligations have been interpreted selectively by various Monarchs. The status of Monarch has been subject to reinterpretation over the centuries. Other European nations divested themselves of Monarchs owing to fears of absolutism, but British Monarchs have adapted to ally themselves with their subjects.

Monarchs are appointed by God to do His work but they are not Gods, after the “Glorious Revolution” Protestantism became an unambiguous component in the coronation ceremony. Since then, every Monarch has pledged to be solely spiritual and detached from secular affairs. The mystical and invisible bond that exists between the Monarch and the people is something that is felt by the majority of the nation, it was reanimated after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

It was remarkable to witness the events that unfolded after her death. A nation which often seems so unsentimental and cynical was overpowered by the significance of such monumental news. Now her son has had to take the burden of representing and leading the nation, just as his forebears promised to do with varying degrees of success. His pledge is now going to be shared by the entire nation, it is a refreshing and uncynical attempt to cohere the nation once more, in the spirit and humility of Alfred The Great.

This Other Eden

(Photograph of the New Forest)

This Sunday is St. George’s Day, an annual celebration of English culture. St George was adopted as the patron saint of the English people as he was the embodiment of traditional English qualities revered throughout history. His great courage and fortitude in the face of a seemingly insurmountable foe captured the English imagination.

In King Alfred the Great’s last testament he paid tribute to the inspiring spirit of St George and his example. Alfred was a formidable Anglo-Saxon King who helped to vanquish Viking insurgency and unite a fractious, tribal nation. This, in turn also created a unique English culture and identity by blending the King’s image of stability with the nascent sensibilities of his subjects.

However Alfred’s Kingdom was in a state of truce, it was built on compromise and only a semblance of understanding between the rival tribes. This temporary cohesion was uneasy, there were always divisions and power struggles and England as a political entity seemed doomed. This early promise of harmony could potentially founder.

England has only survived for a thousand years due to this unique balancing act, where the rulers exercise authority but within important limitations. The rulers know that they cannot overrule and curb the personal freedom of the citizens. In Shakespeare’s “Richard I” John of Gaunt wistfully opines for the innocence to be returned to a long suffering people.

His vision of “this other Eden” is an iteration of a deep seated and profound sentiment of an England unadulterated by evil and tyranny. However Shakespeare’s unsparing account of Plantagenet rule was not the first nor the last time that Alfred’s humility was betrayed. The Norman Conquest was notorious in English history, for riding roughshod over the sensitivities of the indigenous people. The affronts were numerous, they imposed their language and customs and turned ancient villages into hunting grounds.

Successive kingdoms were deposed in battles and for a brief period divested altogether during the reign of Cromwell. However modern English democracy is something we now take for granted but was hard won. The problem we now face is that our Parliament has increasingly behaved like the Norman barons by imposing laws that no-one has voted for or even advocated in any popular campaign.

The horrors of the Second World War changed the English people irrevocably. It hastened the modern world in all kinds of myriad ways. It is a tragedy that most English people preferred the older, more traditional England but they did not have the power nor the means to argue for its return.

(Photograph is of Salford, Manchester)

The Governments that emerged after the War were purely utilitarian and rebuilt infrastructure and housing in the most crude and brutal methods imaginable. There were no aesthetic considerations, only practical ones and the results were hideous. Motorways were the worst blight on the landscape.

(Photograph of Jayne Mansfield in September 1959 opening the Chiswick flyover in West London).

However it wasn’t just motorways that ruined the English landscape. The architects tasked with rebuilding the towns and cities devastated by bombs created functional but soulless housing estates, where beautiful and historical landmarks once stood.

(Photograph of the Whittington Estate, Camden, London).

(Photograph of the Southgate Estate, Runcorn, Cheshire).

The feeling that our elected representatives continue to curb our ability to enjoy life in this country is not misplaced. It is something that has always happened, the dream of an English Eden is just that, a fantasy that we will never achieve.

Glorious John

(Scene from the 1970 film “Cromwell”).

On the 13th April, 1668 the newly restored Monarch King Charles II appointed John Dryden as the first official Poet Laureate. His appointment heralded a glorious age of art and culture after the barren years of the Interregnum. The new King reconciled the nation with a proclamation entitled “The Declaration of Breda” which was an official pardon for the crimes enacted against the Crown during the Civil War.

This was a sign that he was willing to forgive his subjects and this was reflected in his choice of Laureate. Dryden was just one of Cromwell’s official court poets and he was commissioned to compose the eulogy for his funeral. Dryden’s “Heroic Stanzas” was an effusive tribute to Cromwell’s “Commonwealth”.

The reality was stark, the Commonwealth was an idealistic fantasy that had simply foundered. Cromwell and his acolytes shared a bombastic vision of an English Utopia. They believed that the Crown had no right to land or property as that belonged to the people. They even made the bold claim that the soil was sacred and the Crown had appropriated the land that was promised to them by God.

It is no coincidence that this clear allusion to Zionism was imagined by Cromwell and his supporters, as religious piety was integral to their purpose. The most fervent allies to the Commonwealth cause were the “Diggers”. The Diggers had an impressive and extraordinary zeal.

(Commemorative stone created in 1999 to mark the 350th anniversary of the Diggers campaign).

The Diggers appropriated Crown land through physical force. They arrived with spades to plant the crops that they believed would sustain them. The ringleader Gerrard Winstanley famously declared,

“For in this work of restoration, there will be no beggar in Israel”.

However their ideals fell on stony ground. Cromwell merely became another despot who continued to tyrannise the common people. It is a curse inherent to all political systems that was even prophesied in ancient times. Israel was a theocracy where the power was invested in prophets who claimed to speak for God. The Jews grew restless with this arrangement and pleaded with the prophet Samuel to allow them to appoint their own King.

God granted their wish, but with a timely caveat,

“Your King will take your sons, daughters, a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and a tenth of your flocks..and you will become his slaves”.

This warning is familiar. It is something that is patently true in history, as we observe that it is a pattern of behaviour for all mighty and puritanical figures of authority.

However it is also part of human nature to coalesce into an identifiable tribe and to seek a strong moral leader. The Stuart reign came to an end after the striking Protestant ascendancy termed the “Glorious Revolution”. Dryden, a quietly observant Roman Catholic was summarily sacked from his post by KIng William III.

Dryden’s successor, Thomas Shadwell, reflected the new sensibilities expertly. Our Poet Laureates should be admired for their valuable expertise.

Dream of Life

Today marks the beginning of Holy Week, a week imbued with immense solemnity and significance. However modern Western society has neglected the significance of Christianity, despite the fact that it owes its entire identity to religious foundations. In recent times though, history has been warped by progressivists, it has turned into a vehicle of ideology.

The real history of Christianity is astonishing and remarkable; it is almost unbelievable that a carpenter’s son from ancient Israel could have ascended to divine status. He was a man who embodied magnanimity, courage and meekness, an almost unearthly and impossible combination.

Jesus Christ was all of these things because He was the Son of God, a messenger from Heaven who sought to save all of mankind. He was willing to endure a humiliating death to fulfil His purpose. It is a misfortune that this simple but spare story fails to resonate in a society which has become irrevocably altered by secularism. The complacency of the secularists derives from ignorance.

Europe in the years before Christianity was violent and tribal, the universalist message that all modern Europeans take for granted was a uniquely Christian doctrine. The first missionaries to the continent also impressed other strange creeds, namely to love neighbours, enemies and to always turn the other cheek whenever insulted or mocked.

These enlightened ideas were taken to the darker edges of the continent. The further corners of Northern Europe were inhabited by a bewildered populace struggling to comprehend the true meaning of their existence. These inhabitants soon found parallels with their ancient ideas and this new belief from the Middle East. The pagan goddess of spring, Eostre was transformed into a celebration of the resurrection, and the promise of new life.

It is important to point out that the change in belief wasn’t revolutionary, it was organic. When the missionary Boniface arrived in Germany, he cut down a tree dedicated to the pagan god Thunor and used the wood to build his first church. The social and cultural impact of Christianity was a defining factor in shaping European civilisation. It helped to unify and stabilise a once fractious continent.

However the misguided motives of mortal men who only sought rewards upon earth threatened to destroy the stability of this early civilization. The self-righteous hypocrites that Jesus once warned about, the pious and duplicitous fakes in the temple that enraged Him so much that He brought a whip to turf them out were alive and well in the churches and monasteries.

These shady characters were especially prevalent in the mediaeval period, an era of deprivation and inequality. In England, it was observed that monks and priests lived in comparative luxury while the peasants who toiled the land lived in austerity. The mediaeval poet William Langland opined this dire situation in his alliterative poem “The Vision of Piers the Plowman”.

Alliterative verse had a purely didactic function, it was written to convey moral truths. Langland’s poem is narrated by a peasant from Worcestershire. This peasant “Piers” recounts a dream he experienced while resting beside a lake in the Malverns. The dream is figurative, the characters are representations of virtue and vice, the setting is eternal along with the truth that gradually unfolds. It is a revelation that gives meaning to the confusion and chaos that would dominate everyday existence. Consequently this paean to goodness and truth triumphing over evil and mendacity continues to speak to us and remind us that we once lived in terrible circumstances but moral fortitude ultimately helped us to transcend the most dire of situations.

Langland would have been acutely aware of the corruption endemic in the religious and political institutions during his lifetime. At the time of the poem’s composition the country experienced the Black Death, then the Hundred Years War with France. The elites emerged unscathed but the lowest orders of society were plunged into further poverty.

He knew that a society built on inequality could not function, and the church that pretended to maintain that all men were equal could not command any more respect. This led to the Peasants Revolt. This was the clearest indication to the rulers who were invested with moral leadership that Christ’s compassion and humility were of the utmost importance beyond any material glory.

However just as the mission to evangelise the barbarians was brought by men of peace who sought conciliation rather than carnage, the King and his barons acceded to the peasants’ demands. In this country, the Church and its figurehead, the Monarch has ensured cohesion by acknowledging a shared moral value. This moral value is cultural Christianity which unites all of us in spite of our differences in society. This is a lesson that we must never forget, that we are all equal brethren in the sight of Christ.

Cold, Dogmatic Rage

On the 29th March, 1951 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of espionage. Their conviction was the culmination of a concerted campaign in the United States to root out communist subversives. The paranoia and rage at that time was unrelenting and unforgiving, and the Rosenbergs were given the death penalty for divulging official secrets to the Soviets. It is difficult for us now to imagine the atmosphere of paranoia and fear and anger at that time in history.

However in 1971 the American novelist E.L Doctorow expertly captured these harrowing events and their repercussions in his ambitious historical/allegorical novel “The Book of Daniel”. The main protagonist is Daniel Issacson, the son of Paul and Rochelle Issacson. These fictional characters are loosely based on the Rosenbergs.

The narrative switches between Daniel’s memories of his parents’ political activism and the political fervour of the late sixties and early seventies. Feelings of persecution threaten to overwhelm him and he feels as though he is heading towards martyrdom.

He finds a clear affinity with the Biblical Daniel, cornered into the den of lions. It is patently clear that his parents’ fanaticism has damaged him psychologically. All of his childhood memories were marked by the invidious nature of their influence.

He concludes that his father’s politics were the product of his bitter envy and the sense of his own failure to thrive in a purely capitalist society, as he states that,

“Social justice was a way of living without envy…It was a way of transforming envy into constructive outgoing hate”.

Daniel and his sister Susan live in parallel worlds. The moral order of school contrasts violently with the amoral disorder of their parents’ milieu. Daniel manages to suppress his anxieties but Susan experiences an unsettling instability that is irrevocable.

In the later narrative, Susan is living in a long term psychiatric institution while Daniel is navigating life as a young husband and father. In these later scenes he ruefully reflects that,

“My father was skinny, nervous, selfish, unreliable, full of hot radical passion, insolent in his faith, loyal to Marxism-Leninism, rude eyed and tendentious. He scared me. (My mother) was as unstable as he was. In her grim expectations. In her refusal to have illusions. In her cold, dogmatic rage”.

The pitiless nature of his parents’ conviction and sentence is laid bare. When the children say their final farewells to them there is a distinct lack of sentimentality, there is instead an overpowering bathos.

The book is a salutary reminder that there is nothing romantic or glamorous about revolutionary politics. At this juncture it is worth reminding ourselves of the wise and prophetic words of the German writer and philosopher Oswald Spengler.

Spengler correctly predicted that the unique moral and spiritual character of Russia would be ruined after the revolution and advised the “West” to resist the allure of this toxic progressivism, claiming that it,

“..has an immense appeal for the fomenting intellectuals of our cities. It has become a hobby for tired and addled brains, a weapon for decaying megalopolitan souls, an expression for rotting blood”.

The only real and true expression of the Russian soul remains in the lustrous fiction of Dostoevsky.

Spengler regarded Dostoevsky as a saint rather than a “romancier”, as this crude appellation is purely ascribed to him by Western commentators who had no insight into the culture of pre-revolutionary Russia. Ironically, the USA is regarded as the apotheosis of Western civilisation but is now on a determined mission to undermine itself and its achievements.

It is a great paradox, to observe that the more a society seeks to modernise itself the further it sinks into primitivism. Progressive activists should be aware of this reality and appreciate the past rather than trying to destroy it.

Saints and Scholars

Tomorrow will be Saint Patrick’s Day, an annual celebration of Irish culture. This is a unique and distinct culture which has had a tremendous impact all over the world, but due to rampant commercialisation the Irish identity is in danger. Even very recently the notion of Irish nationality has disappeared, and the meaning of Saint Patrick’s Day itself has been lost.

Ireland prides itself as the “land of saints and scholars”, as most of Europe descended into the Dark Ages, Irish monks like St Columba pursued in their mission to enlighten and educate. The brothers established monasteries across Ireland which became centres of learning for many generations. This is a piece of history that should be preserved and remembered but rather disappointingly far too much emphasis is placed upon the darker episodes of Ireland’s past.

Ireland’s long struggle to claim independence from the British has overshadowed an occasion which should be a day of joy. The relentless focus on Ireland’s “Troubles” has imbued a misplaced feeling of shame in almost every British person. This is the fault of the propagandists who have presented and disseminated a distorted view of Ireland and Britain respectively.

Crude caricatures of the Irish and the British people are unfortunately present in contemporary films like “Ryan’s Daughter” and “Titanic”. In “Ryan`s Daughter” the Irish peasantry are simple minded fools, almost recreations of Huxley’s trope of the “Noble Savage” living amidst the supposed barbarism of the British. A similar cartoonish situation is presented in “Titanic” with the poor, oppressed Irish toiling below deck while the British nobility play cards on their luxurious upper berths.

It might seem silly and laughable, but the effect of films like the ones I mentioned can be serious. They actually demean and dehumanise real people. The Anglo-Irish author J.G Farrell was acutely aware of this when he wrote his tragi-comic novel “Troubles”, set during the 1919 Irish War of Independence. It is written as a kind of meta novel, the characters are deliberate stereotypes. The narrative takes place in the crumbling Majestic Hotel, a relic of British imperial hegemony.

The imagery is stark, allusions to parasites abound in the opening scenes, with even once harmless plants and vegetation threatening to destroy the building. Yet again the Irish are presented as simple and superstitious people, while the British are cold, humourless and brutal.

It presents common prejudices back to the reader, while the Irish seem hot headed but poetic, the British are emotionless and immune to any romantic sensibility. One British officer’s overtly pragmatic character made me think about Sir Francis Drake coolly finishing a game of Bowls before returning to the fight against the Spanish.

Eventually the Majestic is destroyed in a conflagration and by default the British Empire itself is steadily being dismantled, as devastating news from India is relayed to the British residents. Farrell had a rare insight into both worlds and he succeeded in his ambition to show the terrible effects of enduring historical misunderstandings.

Daughters of Eve

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th to acknowledge the economic and cultural contribution of women across the world. It has always had an overtly political message as it was initially established in the early twentieth century to advocate for women’s equality. Campaigners argued that women had equal rights and opportunities in terms of education and employment. Since then women, at least in the developed world have achieved full equality with men. Prejudice and discrimination is still perpetuated, but most people understand now that sexism is unacceptable.

However the inherent dignity of women was never considered in ancient cultures. It is often forgotten that pagan societies did not perceive women as equally human and it was in fact Jewish and Christian cultures that raised the status of women. The Biblical story of Adam and Eve has been distorted by secular commentators to imply that women were created to lead men astray. However the story illustrates that Eve was imbued with a distinctly female intelligence and insight. She ensured that Adam felt self-conscious as a man, and not an animal driven by instinct.

The pure animal passions of men have been acknowledged as damaging to women, and it is women themselves who have had to exercise their own rationality to curb them in their most destructive form. One fact is undeniable. Monogamous marriage has had a civilising effect for many centuries, it has led to stable families and homes. Feminine values like kindness are integral to this success.

Modern feminists have distanced themselves from the moral and religious arguments for women’s equality. Since the sixties the new feminist movements have sought to deny the clear biological differences between women and men. Consequently an entire generation has been forced to imbibe toxic messages about sexuality, these messages have infiltrated big corporations and state education and health systems. Young women are being damaged all over again with the falsehood that they are the same as young men, and have the same sexual desires.

The effects of this are stark, there is much more mental illness now. It is a direct result of the modern feminist movement, who advocate increasingly for such horrors as unlimited abortions and transgender surgeries. All of these are crude methods to erode femininity and uniquely feminine roles in society. This women’s day we should celebrate women for being women, and try to suppress malign influences that seek to erase us.

The Rose of Memory

Lent is a season of penitence and prayer, a solemn occasion marked by reflection. It is a time when Christians focus upon their human frailties. Many decide to forgo worldly indulgences. The imposition of ashes is a pertinent reminder that Adam was created from mere dust and thus confirms our own insignificance in this life. Pride and vanity are symptoms of our uniquely human folly and are quickly banished when we are reminded that we were fashioned from something that now seems so ordinary.

T.S Eliot began to write poetry in a quest to find the meaning of things, he was an erudite man with a vast intellect, studied philosophy including Indian philosophy and learned Sanskrit. However he was deeply troubled by a world that he believed had lost its moral purpose. In 1927 he was confirmed into the Church of England, the religion of his ancestors. This helped him find an anchor to a once lost culture and a heritage.

Three years later he composed “Ash Wednesday”, the most moving evocation of his calling to faith. It is a poem filled with stark imagery, and unforgettable symbols. It illustrates how he wrestled with his conscience, and conflicting desires. The agony is plain from the beginning,

“Because I do not hope to turn again

Because I do not hope”

Eliot`s humility becomes much clearer in the second stanza,

“Because I cannot drink

There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is

nothing again”

In the second section of the poem Eliot venerates a “Lady”, which clearly alludes to the Virgin Mary. He pays homage to this holy figure in a profoundly affecting style that is reminiscent of the Rosary prayer,

“Lady of silences

Calm and distressed

Torn and most whole

Rose of memory

Rose of forgetfulness

Exhausted and life-giving

Worried reposeful

The single Rose

Is now the Garden

Where all loves end

Terminate torment

Of love satisfied

End of the endless

Journey to no end

Conclusion of all that

Is inconclusible

Speech without word and

Word of no speech

Grace to the Mother

For the Garden

Where all love ends.”

The notion that silent reflection can hasten a greater understanding of humanity than the loud proclamations of the verbose isn`t recognised by society today. It is unfashionable to be thoughtful and quiet. In Eliot`s time the humble parson was a familiar part of life, but now it seems only shallow characters preach from secular pulpits. They promote ideas that only perpetuate misery. There is only short term satisfaction living purely for wealth, status or influence.

In the final section of the poem Eliot makes a plea to God to,

“Teach us to sit still

Even among these rocks

Our peace in His will

And even among these rocks

Sister, mother

And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,

Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.”

Eliot`s pleas deserve to be heeded in a culture that only reveres the proud egoists.