breaking news from the world of ideas

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 16
April 2021
Reaction
11:42

Withdrawal from Afghanistan is the wake up call Britain needs

With one excellent speech this week, Joe Biden fulfilled what Donald Trump began, and confirmed America’s withdrawal from its failing war in Afghanistan, to be completed just weeks short of its twentieth anniversary. The war was never intended to be a “multi-generational undertaking,” he emphasised. To the liberal hawks demanding America stay a little longer, as if victory was somehow just around the corner, he asked “when will it be the right moment to leave? One more year, two more years, ten more years? Ten, twenty, thirty billion dollars more above the trillion we’ve already spent?”  ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 26
March 2021
Idea
18:34

What Greeks can teach Liberals about flags

Yesterday, Greece celebrated its 200th birthday, commemorating the anniversary of the country’s revolt against Ottoman rule which, after a long and bloody decade of war, saw the establishment of the first Greek nation state. On normal independence days, in every town and village in Greece, the blue and white Greek flag flutters from houses, shops, schools and churches.

This special anniversary year, huge Greek flags were raised, with great ceremony, from the Acropolis and across the country, with the island of Santorini raising a gigantic flag by crane as an expression of national pride. Such is Greece, a fiercely patriotic country because of its troubled and divided history, and not despite it. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 19
March 2021
Event
10:30

Libya’s broken dream

It’s a strange feeling to measure the passage of your life in other people’s wars. A decade ago, I travelled to Libya as a rookie freelance reporter to cover the progress of the revolution against Gaddafi, an uprising whose success was entirely dependent on the NATO-led intervention initiated exactly 10 years ago. The sense of optimism was infectious, as young Libyans demonstrated in the streets, bedecked the revolutionary capital of Benghazi with their artwork, and dreamed of a brighter future.

In the besieged Western Libyan city of Misrata, I lived with rebels in their command centre as they took their city, street by street, from Gaddafi’s government forces. I followed Misrata’s fighters as they fought their way towards Tripoli through the vast olive groves of Dafniya, taking heavy casualties in bitter trench warfare. In Tripoli, after the dictator’s fall, I covered the breakout of fighting between the victorious militias as they battled to divide the spoils. That was the first warning sign that the fruits of victory would not be a political renaissance, but chaos and misery. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Thursday, 11
March 2021
Response
07:15

Paul Kingsnorth: an English visionary’s quiet rebellion

The novelist Paul Kingsnorth is more than a writer: he is a visionary of a uniquely English type. A long-time environmental activist, Kingsnorth now rejects the modern Green movement as a commodified, technology-fixated expression of the same impulses it was intended to heal. Living with his young family on a smallholding in the West of Ireland, Kingsnorth has emerged as Britain’s foremost critic of industrial modernity, literary heir to a strain of thought that has survived in the English imagination, on both Left and Right, since the very beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

In his essay-writing, Kingsnorth explores the limitations of our fixation with progress in a world hurtling towards environmental and social collapse. In his novels — particularly the groundbreaking and hallucinatory Buckmaster trilogy — Kingsnorth assumes the voices of three different English men, husbands and fathers, fighting to preserve their world against unwanted change across a timespan stretching from the Norman Conquest to a post-apocalyptic future. (You can read my review of his final Buckmaster novel, Alexandriahere.) ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 5
March 2021
Explainer
16:18

The world’s dangerous dependency on Taiwan

A year ago, warning about the fragility of globalised supply chains was seen as a fringe concern of cranks unwilling to embrace the inevitable future. To fringe cranks like myself, it’s moderately satisfying to see such concerns suddenly become the main preoccupation of governments across the world. In the process of deglobalising the world economy, they are now rapidly onshoring the production of strategic necessities.

The global shortage of semiconductors — the humble electronic chips that provide the processing power for everything from smartphones to cars — has emerged as one of the biggest headaches for governments worldwide. Like a gambler playing roulette, the free market’s much-vaunted invisible hand stacked up the global production of semiconductors in Taiwan, which in normal times would not be a problem. But what was normal a year ago is now a vanished world. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 19
February 2021
Reaction
07:00

The Borgesian brilliance of Adam Curtis

There are few better arguments for the licence fee than a new Adam Curtis documentary, and his latest offering, the six-part Can’t Get You Out of My Head, available now on the iPlayer, exemplifies why. It is impossible to imagine such a strange and discursive project, so intentionally tangled and impenetrable, on commercial television. For all the corporation’s flaws, only the BBC would broadcast such a work, in its own way a quiet form of British soft power.

Yet as with any Curtis documentary, there are dissenting voices. His films, so immediately recognisable as the auteur’s work, are easy to spoof. Instead of changing his style with each film, he has heightened it to the point of absurdity. His arguments are so circuitous, the links he draws so implausible, that his work is easy to dismiss as nonsense. It is tempting to say of his films of ideas, like Dr Johnson said of a dog walking upon his hind legs, that “it is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.” ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 12
February 2021
Reaction
16:00

China didn’t Westernise; the West became more Chinese

Like a pistol shot in 1914 Sarajevo, Covid can be seen as a chance event ushering in the end of a tottering old world and the beginning of a new one. A historical accelerant speeding along changes that were, perhaps, always inevitable. The West’s lacklustre handling of Covid compared to China’s top-down authoritarian statism has been a wake-up call to the American establishment; a sobering dry run for the period of “extreme competition” we have now entered. Joe Biden’s note of alarm yesterday, after his two-hour phone call with Xi Jinping, that “if we don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch,” marks a shift of historic proportions. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Friday, 5
February 2021
Idea
16:14

Ladybird Books offer a blueprint for post-Covid Britain

In the 2003 German comedy film Goodbye Lenin!, a son engineers an elaborate scheme to conceal from his committed Communist mother the fact that the Soviet Bloc had collapsed while she was in a coma. As a parent, the same temptation has often occurred to me with Ladybird Books. Reading them now, the world they portrayed — as highlighted by Ladybird collector Helen Day’s excellent Twitter account — seems both familiar and unattainable. In both time and aesthetic, the quietly homely drabness of my 1980s childhood memories is closer to Ladybird’s idealised postwar townscapes than to the scruffy, blighted high streets of today. ...  Continue reading

1 2 3 5