As another year draws to a close, here are some of the highlights of a year of Pandaemonium in 2018.
British politics was, of course, dominated by Brexit. I wrote little directly on the issue (though my original pieces still, I think, hold up well), but much around the issue of populism, including analyses of the Lega/M5S victory in Italy and of the standoff between Italy and the EU over the new government’s budget, and an article on the gilets jaunes protests in France.
I looked at attitudes of millennials to communism and capitalism, asked what it means to be ‘moderate’ , explored the meaning of patriotism and of citizenship.
I asked ‘What is education for?’, unravelled the muddle over the ‘gay cake’ court case in Northern Ireland and looked at the role of the Supreme Court in US politics.
I pointed out that there is nothing new in panics about ‘fake news’ – and that the solutions proposed are often worse than the problem.
I wrote of the dying of trade unions and the scandal of the working poor.
In the wake of the Windrush scandal, I argued that the working class ‘continues to provide an alibi behind which the elite can hide its own prejudices and failures’ .
I analysed the relationship between race and class in educational attainment and dissected a report on the rise of the global middle class.
On BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed, I took part in a discussion on the white working class.
I gave a talk at the CEU in Budapest on the immorality of EU immigration policy and asked where the responsibility for that immorality lies. I wrote of immigration and cultural loss and of the relationship between the working class, immigration and the left.
In the wake of an attack on a refugee schoolboy, I argued that what is surprising ’is not that such attacks take place but that, given the political rhetoric about migration and the character of government policy, they are relatively infrequent’.
I analysed Sajid Javid’s new White Paper on immigration and why it embodies the ‘worst of all worlds’.
Race & identity
I asked what we don’t talk of when we talk of diversity and insisted that ‘challenging racism requires us to confront, not embrace, claims about racial categories that are the province of racists’. I looked at the fruitful tensions between the ideas of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and why their legacies have been lost.
I questioned the data about Asian grooming gangs and the response to Black Panther.
I recalled the deaths of Altab Ali in 1978 and of Joy Gardner in 1993.
I reviewed Eric Kauffman’s book Whiteshift on white identity and demographic change and gave a talk on ‘The meaning of heritage in an age of identity’.
I wrote a long essay for the New York Review of Books about the debate over whether the British Empire was a force for good.
I argued that foreign aid is a fraud and exposed Western cynicism about ‘liberalising’ Saudi Arabia. I also published an article by Mark Curtis on Britain’s role in a covert war in Yemen in the 1960s.
I paid tribute to Osman Kavala and condemned the imprisonment of hope in Turkey.
I critiqued the banning of offensive language, deplored the confusion of disagreement and hatred in the transgender debate, and questioned the refusal to debate Steve Bannon.
I argued that ‘We should no more support secular versions of blasphemy laws than the old religious variety’ and that ‘employers should not have the right to dictate what views are acceptable outside the workplace’.
I looked back at the controversy over The Satanic Verses, 30 years after the novel was published and the contemporary debate about Katie Hopkins.
Morality & faith
I wrote about the distinction between justice and vengeance.
In the wake of the Thai cave rescue I wrote on hope and fear in an age of uncertainty. I looked at the role of law and morality in death and explored issues of treason, obligation and trust.
‘Disbelief in God’, I suggested, ‘carries little weight without also a faith in ourselves as human beings’.
Science & technology
On Artificial Intelligence I wrote about the need for an intelligent debate and on the difference between clever machines and intelligent humans.
I counselled against falling for either the utopian hype or the dystopian fears about designer babies and argues that ‘there is nothing ethically superior in condemning future generations to terrible medical conditions if it were possible safely to eliminate them’.
Art, culture & sport
I reviewed the BBC’s Civilizations series, paid tribute to Philip Roth and to Cecil Taylor and celebrated Test cricket.
Photographic posts included walks on the Tyne, along canals from Limehouse to Stratford and London’s Southbank at night.
There was a danse macabre in a church in Kermaria, modernist stained glass in a church in Varngeville and the windows and pillars of churches in Koszeg.
I also paid tribute to South African photographer David Goldblatt, who died this year.
These were the most-read posts in 2018:
1 The great British Empire debate
2 Why hate speech should not be banned
4 Why both sides are wrong in the race debate
5 On the Enlightenment’s ‘race problem’
6 The need for an intelligent debate about Artificial Intelligence
7 Immigration and cultural loss
8 Painting by pigment and light
9 Not all politics is identity politics
10 The art and politics of cultural appropriation
Since six of these posts were published prior to 2018 (two – Why hate speech should not be banned and Why both sides are wrong in the race debate – were in fact first published back in 2012), here are the top ten posts actually from 2018
1 The great British Empire debate
3 The need for an intelligent debate about Artificial Intelligence
4 Immigration and cultural loss
5 What don’t we talk of in talking of diversity?
6 The working class, immigration and the left
7 Fake news and the gatekeepers of truth
8 Elite racism and the working class as alibi
9 The meaning of heritage in an age of identity
10 Back to school on race and class
Finally, my thanks to all readers of, and contributors to, Pandaemonium. And most especially to all the Patrons. And best wishes to all for 2019.
The image at the top is Space-Force Construction by Liubov Popova (1921)
Have a great new year .
With it being the year of the pig I wonder if Animal Farm will be banned in China as the rice bunny has been banned !!!
Thank you so much for your insight in to matters that mean so much to me and the future of our society.