Friday, 29 March 2013

Who will lead?

Where are the great religious leaders? We have the absurd spectacle of Christians fighting each other over all things sexual, Muslims killing each other over a quarrel that should never have arisen 13 and 1/2 centuries ago, rabbis for Zionism and rabbis against Zionism, Hindutva leaders preaching Hindu 'fundamentalism', Buddhist monks fighting over which lama is the right one... Well, I suppose the Buddhists come out best with their Dalai Lama, and perhaps the new Pope will untie some sexual knots (but I doubt it). Is it because all the brightest people have been repelled by these petty conflicts and devoted themselves to the sciences? I see no necessary contradiction between the scientific approach and the true foundations of religion; science is about what you can observe from outside and religion should be about what you see from within. Perhaps the problem is with the business of leadership; people expect a leader to tell them what to think or do, when what is needed is leaders who will ask people to see for themselves. I am reading How to Live: a Life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell - a wonderful book - and it has made me want to read 'On Voluntary Servitude' by his friend La Bo├ętie, which is about people's insane readiness to be led by fools.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Apartheid in Israel-Palestine

It would have been better for me if I had never studied Arabic and Hebrew. What a miserable part of the world! I stupidly hoped Obama would try to do something, but he just made empty speeches - all he's good at. He still imagines a viable 2-state solution is possible with half a million extremist Zionist settlers on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. He seems no more concerned with international law than his predecessors. And the Arabic-speaking states are not helping themselves by resurrecting the millennial quarrel between Sunni and Shia. Don't watch this space; nothing good is coming. What a contrast with Harold Macmillan! As British Prime Minister he went to South Africa and told its Parliament on 3rd February 1960:'The wind of change is blowing through this continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.' It was the beginning of the end for Apartheid there, though Maggie Thatcher did her best to protect the old regime, calling Mandela a terrorist. Now we have apartheid in Israel and its occupied territories, and no leader dares says a word.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Israel and David Attenborough

Nothing to do with Israel, but again I need it in the title to get readers. I suppose the only connection is that, like backers of Israel, I write lots of letters to newspapers. Most of them get published, as I have learnt the knack: make one good point and keep it short. Sometimes I regret that I toss them off so lightly. For example I was incensed by talk about "the next David Attenborough" so I wrote to the Radio Times. What I should have said was simply that there cannot ever be a next Sir David. He is unique: a highly knowledgeable biologist who has spent fifty years pioneering what was a novel genre, the wildlife film, and doing it at a time when much of what he recorded is likely to disappear in the near future. Instead, after briefly making that point, I let myself get diverted into a complaint about Brian Cox being billed as the new Attenborough, before I had even seen his series (actually it bored me to sleep, but that's not the point). That was a bit mean to Cox, whose astronomy programmes were wonderful. I suppose I was partly put out because the BBC is not making fuller use of the excellent wild-life experts it has, such as Saba Douglas-Hamilton and Charlotte Uhlenbroek. Anyway, they published it as 'letter of the week' and I won a Chinese portable radio, but I did miss the point.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Israel and the Pope

Oh dear! A fortnight since I blogged! Difficult to keep it up if so few people read it. I have to put Israel in the title in order to get more readers - probably not the ones I want. I have an idea for the new Pope, the most exciting thing he could do is move the Papacy back to Jerusalem, where it started (if we are to believe that Simon Peter was the first Pope). That would be a glorious re-affirmation of the international status of the once-Holy City, which was part of the partition resolution of the United Nations in 1947. Israel would be forced to acknowledge the illegitimacy of the attempt to make it a wholly Jewish city. Incidentally, the name Peter is a translation of an Aramaic joke; Jesus gave Simon the nickname of Kefah ('Cephas'), meaning Rock, which is Petros in Greek and Petrus in Latin. Perhaps the new Pope could take the name Kefah the Second, to recall the Semitic roots of Christianity. And by overlooking a few obscure points of doctrine, perhaps he could reunite the Catholics with the Oriental Orthodox churches, which broke away in the fifth century. Dream on!