March 31, 2006
(The most meaningless concept of our time)
I have made it my business of late always to use this term in actual or metaphorical inverted commas, and point out to anyone who’s prepared to listen that there is in fact no such thing as ‘political correctness’. It is a bogus concept that has somehow established a hold over the minds of many of those these days, and is causing enormous damage to our system of values – not to mention to our common sense. I noticed the other day a review by Richard Dawkins (of a very interesting book called The Red Queen, on sex and human nature) in which he referred amusingly to ‘the yawn-inducing canons of political correctness’. To my mind they are not only ’yawn-inducing’, but an affront to our intelligence, and worst of all, the most insidious form of political censorship so far devised. ‘Political correctness’ is insidious because it manages to induce people to censor themselves; even the worst excesses of Soviet, Nazi and other police states never managed that.
March 31, 2006
I'm pleased to see that BBC Radio 3 is currently celebrating Sir Richard Rodney Bennett's 70th birthday in quite a big way. He's Composer of the Week this week. It makes such a nice change for them to be celebrating a decent contemporary composer for once, instead of the usual purveyors of dreary and long-winded cacophonies who are held up as models most of the time. Bennett is an infinitely more musical and genuinely worthwhile creative artist than the Maxwell Davies's and Birtwistles of this word, let alone all the other minor figures who constitute the sadly threadbare world of British classical composing today. I often reflect on how different things are now from when I was a kid, when people of the stature of Britten, Tippett, Walton, Bliss, et al. were alive and producing, and new works by them were coming out all the time and were genuine major events. There are simply no modern British composers of that calibre alive today, however much the 'new music' hacks and propagandists try to say otherwise. The only notable figures are distinctly second-rank. In fact I am hard put to think of more than 3 or 4 composers of any real, lasting worth in this country today, and R.R. Bennett is certainly one of them. It's a puzzling state of affairs
March 31, 2006
I was reading an article the other day about the sterling work Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have been doing in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In one short visit they have done far more than all the woffling of all the politicians to improve relations with the Muslim world -merely by being dignified, good-humoured and showing respect for other cultures while being prepared to appeal to their better traditions against current extremism. Once again we see the advantages of having a constitutional monarchy that can stand apart from party politics and short-term thinking.
March 31, 2006
Also on Tuesday I went for walk up to Binsey and back along the river. As usual I was depressed by the appalling noise pollution, but Binsey Chapel and St. Margaret's Well are rather a remarkable survival. I always try to remind myself that as they have been there about 1200 years or more, they are lilkely still to be there when the horrid motorway and its noise are gone for ever. Unfortunately I shan't live to see it. Someone had left bunches of daffodils down inside the coping of the holy well, plus some other strange objects which I think were crystals or something. Like an idiot I left my camera behind again, which is a pity as there were some very nice goats just next to the churchyard, and I noticed for the first time the gravestone of one of Laurens van der Post's sons, Jan, which was curious. I am a complete sucker for the joys of spring, and though today it was extemely wild and windy, there was quite a lot of sun and it wasn't really cold at all. With the sudden change in the weather all the flowers that have been held back by the freezing temperatures have suddenly burst out – crocuses, daffodils and even some primroses, all together. One way back down the lane from Binsy I came across a field full of sheep with very young lambs – they were ridiculously woolly and appealing, like soft toys; there were two coal-black ones. 'For all this, nature is never spent'.
March 31, 2006
On Tuesday while going upriver to Osney I noticed on my left, in an odd little bit of land just before the industrial estate, and encampment of tents, which appeared to be inhabited by Africans. I can only presume they were illegal immigrants camping rough. The conditions must be absolutely horrendous – even though it's warmed up, of course it's now raining a lot. This sort of scene is going to occur more and more often in future in this country, as the endless hordes of unfortunate deluded persons continue to flood in, expecting heaven knows what and ending up in squalor and misery. There was a depressing programme last night on TV about just this sort of thing – so many Africans and other third world migrants are being smuggled into the country and ending up on the streets or working in slave conditions for ruthless 'ethnic minority' bosses. I didn't watch that much of it, as its message was the usual 'lefty-liberal' media one that 'perhaps we should relax our tough border controls' etc, etc. Well – no – actually, that's not what we should do. Our border controls are virtually non-existent as it is. What we need is to introduce real border controls and apply them, like the Australians have – it's only when the message gets out to the third word that Britain is no longer a soft touch that the tide of humanity will abate. By all means let's do everything we can to assist developing countries to help themselves, but the last thing we need is to import huge numbers of desperate people to create third world conditions here, too. Unfortunately, though, that is exactly what is happening, and common sense arguments will get nowhere with the people currently running the country – they don't know what common sense is!
March 27, 2006
To go off at a bit of a tangent, this evening I was watching a DVD of The Doors which Mr. Wicker had kindly lent me and I’ve been meaning to have a look at for months. (On the rare occasions I listen to pop or rock music it’s nearly always classic stuff from the 60’s.) I was struck by the unmistakable death-wish theme that runs through so many of their songs; it makes it seem almost inevitable that Jim Morrison died young. But then, I couldn’t help reflecting, surely this adolescent romantic death obsession (like Keats’ ‘half in love with easeful death) is instinctively correct. How much more inspiring to go down in flames like a comet while you’re still young, avoiding all the disillusionment, tiredness, disappointments and indignities of growing old. Maybe suicidal youth have it right after all? Though I can’t think of many, of any, ways of dying that are entirely attractive or without their degrading qualities. Perhaps the way Sir George Solti went -peacefully, in his sleep? But then he was about 80.
March 27, 2006
This evening for some reason I decided to listen to The Dream of Gerontius – the recording I have with Britten conducting. An amazingly dynamic and vivid performance – I remember years ago seeing him conduct it on TV, with the same performers, I think – Pears, Yvonne Minton and John Shirley-Quirk. Sitting on the boat alone on the dark river in the middle of nowhere, listening just by firelight, the effect has been very intense and moving; it’s one of those works that can keep coming alive again and again, however many times one may have heard or even sung it. The vision is acutely moving – so much so it almost makes you wish it was all true; even though if it was it would actually be quite terrifying – but the terror, and the joy, would give such meaning to things. I think this is the sort of thing C.S. Lewis meant by calling his autobiography Surprised by Joy – for him it was a sort of surprise, to suddenly re-discover this great meaning in existence, after he had given up hope in it. I still don’t understand how it happened, though. I can believe – sort of – while the music lasts – but then….