September 1 1939

I read something somewhere recently that, historically, August was the month where things – bad things usually – kicked off.

As a theory, if you only looked at the 20th Century, you’d certainly want to check it out.

I listened to a politics podcast last week – a summer edition, with snappy soundbites from the last tumultuous twelve months – that lent weight to the Dangerous August Theory – by closing with a reading of these verses from the end of Auden’s poem, September 1 1939. It was hard to think it nearly 78 years old, so prescient it seemed. Or is it that all human crises feel the same when they are about to break over you?

This was what was read:

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

This is the whole poem, read by Dylan Thomas:

By the way, the podcast, Talking Politics, really is worth a listen.

Advertisements
September 1 1939

Lemon yellow

I’ve been decorating. Really.

Our little toilet downstairs toilet is now a fabulous lemon yellow. The photograph doesn’t do it justice – hence the colour – much closer to the way the wall really look now.


While grouting and grovelling I had the chance to distract the fidgety parts of my brain with some podcasts.

Reliable old Radio 4 of course but I also came across an absorbing series called Talking Politics.

It’s a discussion and an exploration. David Runciman, Professor of Politics at Cambridge, chairs (loosely) whatever is going on that week. There’s often an expert or an enthusiastic amateur to give a focus and a few colleagues from Cambridge to chip in. Professor Helen Thompson is especially good value for her insights and shrewd questions.

Every episode I’ve listened to has left me feeling intrigued, informed and better able to ask my own questions. There are a few I’ve listened to more than once – to make sure I hadn’t missed anything in the discussion.

It’s wide-ranging too. They’ve talked about Germany, India and Italy, about Power in the Digital Age (the most recent podcast – a doozy – full of thinking about the world of data and automation that is overtaking us), Security as well as the obvious topics of Brexit, trump and the Labour Party.

I was particularly engaged by the episode with the American economist, Dani Rodrick. This is how it is billed:

“Who are the real winners and losers from the integration of the global economy? What chance has Trump got of making good on his economic promises? How much are economists to blame for the mess we’re in? Dani talks with David, Helen Thompson and Finbarr Livesey about the dangers of circling the wagons and the tough choices we all have to face.”

It was an absorbing conversation, chiefly because it introduced me to Rodrik’s ‘Trilemma’

6a00d8341c891753ef01b8d1f6d855970c

Where he argues that:

“we cannot simultaneously pursue democracy, national determination, and economic globalization. If we want to push globalization further, we have to give up the nation-state or democratic politics. If we want to maintain and deepen democracy, we have to choose between the nation-state and international economic integration.”

Fascinating. In the context of populist movements in general and Brexit and America in particular, enlightening.

Lemon yellow