Sunday, August 30, 2009


Noel Browne was a landmark on the politics of Modern Ireland , leaving a legacy which holds greats valuable lessons for minor party members wishing to achieve grand schemes in Scotland especially and Europe in general.

He served as Cabinet Minister for only 3 years from 1948-51 , in that short period of time he initiated and proposed many initiatives that catapulted Ireland into Modern Europe.Kind historians could even say that he was a prime motivating force which helped get a balance between the ancient domination of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the needs of the citizens in the form of social welfare without the catastrophic experience of the other Great Catholic Nations of Spain and Italy.What did not happen in the tense conflict between secular and Church in the terms of bleeding festering wounds in one of Irelands , and to an extent Brownes success stories.

Browne was trying to introduce an Ireland Health Service roughly tracking the developments of the UK establishment of the National Health Service.But the field for Ireland was not that simple , and certainly not level in any way.The reason , according to Brownes observations the UK Health Service worked was the general level of cooperation and bureaucratic backup supplied the the medical as well as civil service " the UK NHS worked because it involved the Doctors in the Committees that managed it".

In Ireland , at the time , the dynamic was very different , the Catholic Church controlled many of the medical institutions and facilities , so much so many operations could only be done with clergy clerical administration and approval.The Doctors themselves were technically tied to Catholic Church institutions and therefore were not an independent impartial body able to participate like their colleagues in the UK NHS unless given consent by the Church.The Church , meanwhile had concerns , rooted in the experiences of Spain and Italy in the 30s and 40s , that the Irish state , if allowed to secularise in a general policy of state nationalisation may , and to Church Hierarchical eyes the jury was still out as to the eventual outcome , enable and ultimately yield to Ireland becoming a part of the Communist block.For these reason there was a tension and quite intense political battle between the Cardinals and Browne , with the general health of the population being at stake over political wrangling.

The other major piece of advice he can give parties today from his experiences in the parliamentary chamber is " any minority party should get out ( of a coalition) when the job ( its core issues had been done".A party should never pass up an opportunity to have a place in cabinet , nor yet be tempted to participate in the cabinet for a full parliamentary term , therefore exposing the party credibility to the electorate at the next election time.

On page 139 Noel observes " Compromises are generally negotiable in politics or anywhere else , providing the wounds are not too deep".In political bodies "Anger....enlivens if it has Room to move , and kills if it hasnt."

The advise Noel has for small parties whose major influence is to aspire to be cabinet participants within a broader coalition is the get the credibility capital right in the minds of the electorate , mainly " consistency and accountability...two key forms of Political Currency within large organisations.".

The Socialist and Left in Italy , as well as those in Scotland and the UK , will do well to take on board the experiences and partial successes in which Noel participated in Ireland as a guide to future conduct as far as the striving of full input in Cabinet circles is concerned.

Friday, August 28, 2009


On page 120 of this biography of the philosophical chronological dictation ( progression would be the wrong word in this case as Nietzsches thinking , by his own self-description flowed , with all the ebb and flow that entails on the psyche , in the form of emotions and passions.Sometimes rising , sometimes cooling , at other times being obscured and latently hidden under other levels of constructive or destructive thoughts.)gets to a very important essential to the attitudes and vast academic archival libraries of critiques that are battlegrounds for well over two centuries.The crux of the matter is this according to Safranski, " opposing sides were able to cite Nietzsche in equal measure.".

Take , for example , the field of Music.Lovers of Music claiming , as did E.M.Forster when he gave up writing Novels to concentrate on Music ( and a lucrative career on radio), that it is "not of this Kingdom" , namely that is it the most transcendent sublime King of arts can quote , verbatim , reams and reams of early Nietzsche to support the supposition.On the other Hand , Nietzsche loyalists who do not hold to the view Music is the supreme of Arts can quote , yes youve guessed it , verbatim , reams and reams of quotes expressing limits and disaffection of Music as a true and honest representation of the Human experience." The Birth of tragedy" claims Safranski can be summed up in one sentence," it is better to approach the enormity of life with art , and best of all with music.".

And amongst lover and haters of Wagner , the Wagnerians can quote Nietzsche unequivocal homage to the master-composer to elevate the Music Dramatist to genius and beyond , whilst Nietzsche is an authoritative and one shop stop to those anti-Wagnerians who wish to condemn him as a charlatan and deceiver in more ways than one.

Even in the field of Atheism or Deism there are many religious philosophers who are as Neitzschian as any fanatic can get when quoting him for his deliberations on the nature of the relationship between good and evil , rather put away from a simple Manichean concept to a versatile and vital conflict between better and best.Hence making the daily battle of the conscious a dynamic winnable struggle as opposed to a grinding outsourcing to dogmatic institutions.

Below is a 6 part documentary , in a highly euro-centric zeal , including a cringeworthy epaulet calling him "a punk rock philosopher with a safety pin in his nose."

Whilst still , disconcertingly , Nietzsche can be called a Nazi or liberator with equal conviction by camps quoting him extensively for prove the former point or the latter.It is no unusual event to see Nietzsche authorities arguing exact opposite points , quoting only Nietzsche , to run themselves into the ground , a standstill verging to intellectual trench warfare.

All in All , Nietzsche can be all things to all thinkers , a superman for all seasons.

So why should this be the case , in the main , says Safranski , making himself clear was not the strongpoint in Nietzsche's way of operating.He was on a journey himself , constantly changing his views and changing whims , sometimes on a month to month basis.Take , for example , his view , expressed on page 220 "" Daybreak , which he was so recently calling an " immortal" work , was no a " poor piecemeal philosophy?" , these two diametrically opposed views were defined in a very umimmortal period of only two months.One other very important consideration , just like the problems Dostoyevsky had when he was trying to tie plot ends up in "The Idiot" without being able to refer to earlier drafts , whose sole copies had been sent to the publishing typesetter, Nietzsche , we are told on page 299 " sometimes forgot what he had written and did not have his previous Books on hand.".This would no doubt apply to his notes as well as he travelled between various centres of his academic workspots.

Another source of much contention is the availability of his unpublished works , in the unpublished 1871 "The Greek State" we have Nietzsche giving forthright views , one must remember this was at the time of the Paris Commune and other struggles across mainland Europe " Every advanced culture needs an exploitable class , a "slave class" , Nietzsche declared without mincing his words.He went on to write: " There is nothing more dreadful than a barbaric slave class that has learned to regard its existence as an injustice and sets about taking revenge not only for itself but for all generations". This extract appears on page 71.

In his work "Ecce Homo" , written in Turin , Nietzsche ask the question "How did i come to be privileged enough to think the way i do , and what kind of person does that make me?", in answering this question he investigated many and diverse topics from Realism to the imagination.To journey to the ultimate renaissance thinker was cut short by fatigue and ultimately madness.

His strengths was not the resolution , but rather the posing of questions in such a manner that engender a wide and vigorous debate before you can even define the question , yet alone attempt to answer them.

On page 108 we have some insight on Realism " The realism in the second half of the century (19th) was to accomplish the trick of thinking little of People while undertaking great things with them , if we should call modern scientific civilisation that has benefited all of us "great"".And on the topic of Modernism " everything extravagant and fantastic was repugnant".This shows on these matters Nietzsche was certainly well ahead of his time in identifying , if not choosing to challenge , the commodification of Humans in the Industrial age in the field of both work and , rather sadly ,art.

As far as History goes we have a circular argument that "History must solve the problem of History" also supported by his theory of recurring eternity " it is something we want to be doing countless times" , and in the forerunner to the advent of Gogh;Pessoa;Picasso and Joyce we have the observation " it is not " delight in themselves" but " disgust in themselves" that draws People to art."

According to Safranski one major hurdle that proved too much for Nietzsche was to resolve satisfactorily Christianity's link to self-enhancement and solidarity , though he clearly spotted the dogma of the Church Hierarchy , the impressive ability of the religions capability to retain the masses was something to behold.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


According to his biographer Ian Thompson , Primo committed suicide after a sustained period of depression by jumping from an upper balcony of his Turin flat , almost 100 years after a forebear done almost the exact thing.

Like his Turin contemporary Carlo Levi , Primo developed a highly sparse , concise , precise economy of style.This made his books about experiences of the Holocaust have a greater impact on the readers mind , as the narrative is related in a non-emotional rationalist style , hence making the irrationality of the grotesque outrages he relates seem to be monstrous.

Below is a 3 part Italian documentary with English subtitles about a poignant and harrowing return to Auschwitz by Levi.

( scroll down the "related videos" side-header on the right hand side for parts 2 and 3.)

In this collection of short vignette essays he reflects on why does one write in one of the pieces.

"1) Because one feels the drive and need to do so
2) To entertain others and oneself
3) To teach something to someone
4) To improve the world
5) To make ones ideas known
6) To free oneself from anguish- i ask him, however , to make an effort to filter his anguish , not to fling it as it is , rough and raw, into the face of the reader : otherwise he risks infecting others without getting rid of it himself".
7) To become famous
8) To become Rich
9) Out of habit"

on page 73 he cautions the writer to be "never dogmatic".

In his essay " The Mark of a Chemist" he tells of a vital life lesson about what to do with knowledge as he " learned how to do something , which , life teaches , is different from having "learned something"".

Number 6) would most closely fit the reason why Primo wrote , and the brevity of style that made his work say so much in that what was left unsaid spoke the loudest in the readers mind.

Rather sadly , todays academe has harnessed the universal warning against the excesses of totalitarian doctrines to their partisan political projects , especially some promotors of the Euston Manifesto.
But one reliable understanding of Levis legacy is this lecture from the Feminist Philosopher Judith Butler.Especially looking at the concept of forgiveness , in which i very much side with Bruno Bettleheim.

Primo was sensitive to the massacres of Shabra and Shatilla , such actions caused him "anguished and shamed" by Israels actions.

( scroll down the "related videos" side-header and you should be able to dig out the 10 part lecture).Part 2 , especially look to Primos disquiet about Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the Lebanon war

Judith is a supporter for Justice for the Palestinians and a patron of a Theatre Project in the illegally occupied West Bank.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Frank Pakenham , more commonly known as Lord Longford , passed away remembered as a fuddyduddy seemingly duped and manipulated by the Moors murderers , particularly Myra Hindley.That was the story according to the tabloids anyway.

This biography balances out this image by recording a fascinating life studied with excellence and valuable contributions to institutions we now take for granted that have enormously bettered the value of our life.
He wrote a highly regarded history of modern Irish history taking in the Independence of 1922 , his close friendship with De Valera granted primary source access few Historians could boast.

Frank was also a primary author of the landmark Beveridge Report , so much so many commentators cede calling the document after Pakenham himself would not have been wholly inaccurate, which ushered in the National Health Service.Arguably the Greatest achievement in Britain to date.

Prison reform was also a major contribution by Longford , landmark observations to Penal and institution culture from Punishment to a Curative approach to incarceration.

He was also an extraordinarily gifted Manager of newly nationalised industry , proving a state bureaucrat can run a massive industry with verve and innovation , whilst sparing the public purse from hemorrhaging insufficient resources to fund inefficient state enterprises.

One other vital and telling contribution was his time served as the chief bureaucrat overseeing the affairs of Germany just after the war , his tenacious abilities were at work convincing the the UK Government and public to adopt a less harsh punitive position and also allow the Germans to work their way back to restoration to a working part of modern Europe.

All that and he was also the father of Antonia Fraser , the historian and partner of Harold Pinter.

This Highly readable biography gives a more rounded appreciation of a life overshadowed by one tabloid fixation.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


A major advantage this biography has over others is access to previously unavailable private correspondence between Byron and Murray , the forebear of the publishers of this work.This release of intimate archives matters as it renders previous , albeit meticulously researched , biographies diminished in this vital regard.This is especially so as one of the mysteries of any attempt to capture his real life is the systematic burial of Byrons notes and surviving journals once they were glanced over by his friends.The releasing of this archive is as close one will get to the recovery of these banished documents.

Fiona MacCarthy is well chosen to collate and bring together this material into a compelling , yet distant , retelling of a story where the line between real and legend is ever blurred.

On page 46 is quoted a maxim concerning long lasting relations " i have always laid down as a maxim - and found it justified by experience - that a man and a woman - make for better friendships that can exist between two of the same sex - but then on condition that they never have made - or are to make love with each other." , if you pick nothing up from Byron , then pick this one at least , despite his colourful and rich life , he died an extremely unhappy man because he could not live his on advice.

On page 85 he also reveals a desire " not to prove i can write well , but , if possible, to make others write better."

If one can take these bits of advice on board then you are well on the way to grasping the very best legacy he can leave behind.

Below is a documentary from the History Channel Chronicling some moments from Byrons Life.(This is part 1 of 5).

You can see the other parts by scrolling down the relevant entries in the "Related Videos" segment in the sidebar on the right hand side in the link below:

There is a quite exceptionally powerful rendition by Richard Coyle of a Byron classic in the video below:

It was written about Lady Francis Webster , one of the few Woman who had the temerity to reject Byrons advances , bringing out a very passionate unromantic jealous side out of him.

My particular favourite is She Walks in Beauty , you can get the Poem and a concise discussion on it in this link.

And here a serene rendition:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


In this great Modern Age of ours everything seems to have become disposable and casual.
Is it always a bad sign when relationships and friendships last a lesser time than it takes a packet of Walkers Salt&Vinegar crisps to go out of date on a shelf.

This Book is about a genuine friendship , a higher form of platonic shared soul bonding , not without its tsunamis , but , like the North Star , always there , never wavers.From the off this relationship was never going to get physical , so they had to develop the supreme bonds that last.

Peggy Ramsay was a theatrical agent ,and also responsible for encouraging Jean Rhys to publish Wide Sargasso Sea.

There are also nuggets of wisdom dispensed from the present Callow looking back on the young Man starting out on what turned out to be a highly satisfying career as an Actor and Writer.He released very early the discernment " you can never be better than your play" and gives an insight to the prime motivator of his intense output " a fear of stopping , asking yourself questions".

This Book goes a long way to reclaiming Love from the dirty four letter word we have allowed it to become.

TOM JONES by Henry Fielding

If you have a very modest ambition to get every philosophical thought and cultural current in the 18th century , in a delightful harmonious flowing tale , preperably just the one book , then you have come to the right place.

Tom Jones is quite simply a one stop story of all you need to know about the 18th century , plus many timeless wisdoms to boot.All that and a lot of laughs.
Every paragraph seems to contain a self-enclosed philosophy , replete with pathos and wisdom ,within itself , whilst not interrupting the easy going ebb and cascade of the narrative.This Opus is never ostentatious , though he never misses the chance to pugilist egregious generous helpings of perfidious fastidious critiques to his sparring partner Richardson and various randoms on the age.You can get an inkling of the history behind this in this link

His sparring partners also included a Prime Minister , who subsequently passed an Act banning plays without censorial approval with was only repealed a few decades ago.The upshot of this closing of the stage door was to open the avenue of the novel.

With that in mind you will not find a more clear and concise social history in so few delightfully entertaining pages.

Amongst many many litanies he offers such sagacious advice as this for the Qualities for a Prince ( Leader) in Part 2 page 146....(The prince be) contented with all the power he has, (have) enough wisdom to know his own happiness,(foster) Goodness sufficient to support happiness of others.

He even narrows down to one short sentence the substance of study , " the great use of Philosophy is to learn how to die.".

The values ; lessons and aphorisms come in flurries , so a quick mono-paced reading is not the ideal method to digest the sublime goodness of the worth of the Work.This has to be savoured , chewed over slowly , that way you will get the best out of it , and be nourished for a long time to come.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

THE BOOK OF DISQUIET by Fernando Pessoa

Incidently , if you want to read an experiment of modernism that worked big time , and stood the test of time, get a hold of Fernando Pessoas "Book of Disquiet".

In fact when i read it , it very much reminded me of a word version of Matisse/Picasso work at about the same time (1905-1912ish).

It is as close one will get to post-impressionism painting done by words.A stunning success.Amazingly it was not published until the 1980s , and the English version only came out in the mid-1990s.A definite missing piece in the evolution started by Gogol.

The real relevance of the work is that it was an initial description to the commoditisation of the individual in modern working society , therefore the alienation and misfitness speaks more to the experience of todays reader trying to make his way in the Fake Empire of increasingly empty void of corporate managed freedom.

Though a small book in the form of a dairy , it is so intense , you will feel quite emotionally exhausted ( and exhilarated ) reading it.

It achieves what Joyce almost did.

Talking of Fake Empires here is a Book of Disquiet inspired video: