The recent announcement that a Government minister in Dublin has “refuted” allegations of misuse of travelling expenses when, in fact, he merely denied them, has led me to ask myself who are the greatest refuters in the land. A brief internet search has persuaded me overwhelmingly that the word “refute” is something of a brand-mark verb for Republican politicians in Ireland and – in the majority of cases – a virtual prerogative of the Sinn Fein Party. Continue reading
I saw Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” last night – already biggest grossing film since God knows when. It’s certainly a good film in the cinematic sense but it’s also about more sensitive cowboys in battle, hurt lockers and ‘evil savages’ on the ‘insurgents’ side. Yes, they’re still calling them insurgents. Insurging against what? The new world order? And what will be call the troublesome little men who rose up in the 1916 Rising when those commemorations come around? My point, in case I have lost the thread, is that Irish people generally think insurgency against empires is a good thing. Not this time, apparently. Continue reading
The other day I followed a link supplied by a friend on Facebook leading to an article by Mehdi Hasan who writes under the title, “As a Muslim, I’m Fed Up With the Hypocrisy of the Free Speech Fundamentalists” in The Blog – a signature line-up of contributors to the Huffington Post.
I admire the article for its clarity and force in dealing with a turbulent question. There is no doubt that Mehdi abhors the killings as much as anyone. He also demonstrates the danger today for democratic people – us, that is – arising from an uncritical identification with the content and policy of Charlie Hebdo and using it as a mascot for our idea of freedom. It cannot serve in this role because of its flagrantly offensive contents. We may be free, but we are not all hell-bent on devising the most insulting messages for our other-culture co-nationals. Continue reading
There has been a lot of talk recently – and quite rightly so – about toleration for Islam, almost as if it were a defective form of religion that needed indulgence or correction as distinct from a world religion with approximately two thirds of the population on the planet who are know to believe in a Divine Creator. (That Europeans generally do not can be taken for granted at this stage.) I am not qualified to defend Islam nor condemn it, but I am sure that the patterns of behaviour which are causing so much alarm – whether the imposition of the Sharia in more extreme Islamic countries or jihad-style attacks in others – are essentially uncharacteristic of the religion which has sustained the spiritual hopes of millions for half of modern history, and only 400 years shorter than Christianity, on which it is partly based.
I have lived in Arab countries and have found the people kindly and open-hearted with obvious and understandable limitations. By way of anecdote, I want to recall the occasion in Tripoli when a student who had promised to meet me at the airport fulfilled his undertaking without initially telling me that a young child in his family had died in the interim. His mother and other women in the family dutifully passed food through a veil from the kitchen and briefly his sister appeared as an ambassador. Only when I asked how many children there were was their recent loss made known. Continue reading
I have been mulling over a wry reaction to some of more excitable reactions met with on Facebook when I posted my demur about the wisdom of Charlie Hebdo‘s graphic satire on Islamic fundamentalism – no bad thing in itself, at least as regard fundamentalism anywhere, i.e., the intransigent insistence on literal and joyless truth of so-called Revelation. “Nothing is sacred”, says from my friend Bernard Griffin, a factual observation with to which I entirely assent.
Indeed, nothing is sacred – since sacredness is a redundant category from the modern standpoint, and any other standpoint insofar as materialism and inductive science has shattered the pretensions of every former metaphysical system of belief or method of inquiry. (The two are, of course, synonymous in a modern world outlook.) For clarity’s sake, I want to say that when I referred to the opproprium which the Bible lavishes on “mockers” – read ‘satirists’ in this instance – I was in no vindicating the attack on the cartoonists. Continue reading
The most frequently recurrent name in Brazilian architecture of the eighteenth century is that of Aleijadinho, a mixed-race (“mulatto”) sculptor who defined High Baroque in that country both as a designer and sculptor – and also as the builder of military fortresses. While talking with my Brazilian friends my enthusiasm for his work and his career rose to such a pitch that I was invited to lecture on the subject in the future – a challenge I had better turn down.
My idea went on two legs, first that the Baroque with its famous “superfoetation”, is largely due to the encounter with South American nature and its corresponding efflorescence of forms and colours. I think I recently read the case made that the exploration of Brazil was indeed a seminal influence but I have not been able to retrace the source. It is known in any case that ‘barroca” is a Portuguese word, though its application to the art-style of that name is a little more oblique than the etymology suggests of its own accord.
Baroque is usually defined in terms of the reduplication of forms which seems to be a central trope to the architectural style. (The idea of motion connected with the Laocoon of classical times is another element in the mix.) At the same time, the style evinces a tendency towards pure form and, in the case of Aleijadinho (fl.1790) it approximates in certain passages to Cubism – to my eye, at least. I am thinking here of the folds in the garments worn by his 12 prophets in Congonhas. This is the second leg of my conjecture – and I wonder if there is anyone out there who can quickly tell me to desist, shut up and give over before I make an utter fool of myself. Continue reading