Hare Crosses the Border

Start the Week  [27Feb2017]  was a discussion linked by the theme of borders. In particular I was drawn to the contribution of  map-maker Garrett Carr who has travelled “Ireland’s border to explore the smugglers, kings, peacemakers and terrorists who’ve criss-crossed this frontier.”   His book,  The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border  will be featured on Radio 4, beginning 13th March 2017.

My attention has also recently  been drawn to this dynamic map  showing the evolution of European borders – [in just 3 minutes and 23 seconds] – over the last 1000 years. [Thanks to Corinne for this.]

The link between ethnicity and territory is central to much of the discussion, dispute, schism and in some cases violence, that defines the politics of our modern World.  This map is a fine reminder of the serendipitous character of borders, and the conflicts which have drawn and redrawn them throughout recent and less recent history.   

I am personally uncomfortable with the idea that there should be a racial, ethnic or religious basis to any state;  so whilst I have sympathy for the Kurds, the Catalans, the Basques, the Palestinians and their desire for self-governance,  ultimately I believe that states built around the claim of a single group to the ownership of territory, should be resisted in favour of the construction of political organisations which are by their nature inclusive and which guarantee the rights of minorities.  Oddly enough, Donald Trump’s slightly bizarre  reference to a Palestinian and Israeli “one state solution” in his recent press conference alongside a slightly bemused Bibi Netanyahu, made me reflect on how hard it is to imagine a two state solution leading to a harmonious and neighbourly future in this particular case.  A one state solution on the other hand, where the rights of all citizens are properly guaranteed by an external authority such as the United Nations, can seem a fanciful idea, and yet;  would it not be a catalyst for more productive  relationships between Palestinians and Israelis, given the necessity of their having to work together within the same institutions?

Hare Crosses the Border

Somewhere south of Slieve Gullion
In a long line of broken curves and fluid turns
Hare crosses the Border.
Perhaps hesitating for a moment,
But not as fox hesitates or badger hesitates,
Hare lopes forward instinctively
Into his inescapable future
All senses scoping the hazards of his universe,
Crossing and crossing again
The imperceptible line that separates human from human.

Entry for Wigtown poetry competition 2012 –  unremarked by Judge, George Szirtes, in his summing up. [Winner:Eel Ghazal, by Jane Aldous]

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Alan Winfield on robot ethics

Alan Winfield, who glories in the title of “Professor of Robot Ethics,” at the University of the West of England was a recent subject of  Jim Al-Khalili’s Radio 4 series  “The Life Scientific.” ,   [21Feb17],     At one point in the interview he expresses concern that the development  of robots will lead  ultimately  to a society unable to provide meaningful work for it’s citizens.  Whilst it is quite clear that he is an advocate of  robots and indeed has interesting things to say about their potential capabilities and limitations, he nevertheless is able to speak sympathetically about those who resisted new technology in a former era: “Luddites were not opposed to technology” he says; “They were opposed to hunger.”

Winfield’s concerns add strength to the arguments of those such as Paul Mason [Post Capitalism: A Guide to our Future]  who see this direction of travel as the challenge to which free market capitalism has no answers.  A central idea in Mason’s post capitalist guide is basic income and this naturally makes experiments in this radical policy of great interest.  For this reason I am thankful to Angus Hardie, Director of the Scottish Community Alliance, for reminding me of the Finish Experiment and drawing my attention to a potential pilot right here in Scotland.

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Yanis Varoufakis comments on Ireland, the UK and Brexit.

Yanis Varoufakis has a knack, rare in economists,  for saying things clearly, simply and persuasively:

Take a look at the map of Ireland. You have a small island that has to develop an economic policy for development that is common in the north and the south. London doesn’t care about Northern Ireland.

I fully appreciate and I respect the Unionist psychological need to be part of Britain. But your economy should be developed in a manner that creates synergies with the south and takes advantage of the opportunities that Ireland has as an island.

For further wisdom, including advice to watch the opening sequence of Life of Brian, for it’s ironic comment on the spliting of hairs, follow this link:


One wonders how aware  Yanis is that the Life of Brian was the cause of some hand wringing in Ireland,  both North and South of the border, when it was first released?

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Play and Creativity…

Listen to this glorious discussion which manages to combine stories about the production techniques of Brian Eno, the importance of play in learning, a goal for Arsenal by Giroud, the importance of untidiness in creativity, the screw up behind one of the great jazz recordings – and don’t miss the story of inspired coaching at the conclusion.

Play and Creativity


On Start the Week, Tom Sutcliffe considers the relationship between play and creativity. Steven Johnson examines how the human appetite for amusement has driven innovation throughout history. Writer and theatre maker Stella Duffy has revived Joan Littlewood’s 1960s concept of The Fun Palace- a ‘laboratory of fun’ for all. The economist Tim Harford advocates embracing disorder in every area of our lives, from messy desks to messy dating. Journalist and former cricketer Ed Smith believes that creativity in sport is a combination of skill and luck.

Producer: Kirsty McQuire.

This content comes from:
Start the Week


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Democracy is coming to the U.S.A…

“It’s coming from the silence /on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered/heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.”

A few lines from Leonard Cohen’s song “Democracy” as a kind of answer to the strand of pessimism which my post of yesterday provoked [on Facebook].  I note also in the respone a plea that Donald Trump’s support [and also those who supported Brexit] should not routinely be disrespected.   I agree with this. And yet I can’t see Trump’s protectionism delivering the change he promises to America’s rust belt.  I think Obama’s effort’s to bring change deserve more credit than they are given but  the banking crisis which he inherited was a huge barrier to rolling out programmes to meet the needs of those who have now turned to Trump. My own view:  ultimately the problems capitalism faces  are systemic and and a genuine solution will require a more radical change than either Trump or Obama have yet begun to contemplate. [See previous post: Post Capitalism: A Guide to the Future.]  But in the meantime why not lift your spirits with a listen to Cohen’s expression of faith in the United States of America.  [Forgive the ad]

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Post Capitalism – A Guide to the Future

I’ve finished a book, a few months ago now,   by the financial journalist Paul Mason, called Post Capitalism: A Guide to Our Future. If this kind of thing interests you I would thoroughly recommend it. As a starter you could read the review/summary I have written and posted on Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/ref=pe_1572281_66412651_cm_rv_em…

There are many reviews probably shorter and more to the point than the one I have posted, but if you are up for my more discursive approach, here is an extract from my concluding paragraph:

Irvine Welsh has said Paul Mason has written: “the most important book about our economy and society to be published in my lifetime.” My literary diet to date has not included a great deal of economics so I am unable to comment with authority on this, but what I can say is that the ideas in Post Capitalism – a Guide to our Future, are more important than Brexit; more important than keeping the Union together or fighting for Independence for your own corner of it; whatever your great political passion may be, the themes of this book are almost certainly more important.

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Thought for the day…. [inauguration day of Donald J Trump]

“Even the president of the United States must sometimes have to stand naked.”

It’s a good day, I think, to remember these words from Mr Dylan. Should you wish to listen to them in the full glory of the original song, then enjoy this beautiful and restrained performance…it’s not a three minute pop song of course and those not already familiar with it should be warned that some commitment may be necessary to extract the full value. I am still working on it…

“Darkness at the break of noon Shadows even the silver spoon The handmade blade, the child’s balloon Eclipses both the sun and moon To understand you know to…
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