topic: colonialism

a new covenant with nature

God gives the spark of life to Adam

It is no surprise that human rights as a formal system, as legislation, should have arisen from the two cataclysms of ‘civil war’ that the Europeans brought upon themselves, and into which they drew so much of the rest of the world. As a way of trying to avoid descent into the horrors of the Rape of Nanking, of the Eastern Front, and of the Holocaust, it is essential, that at the heart of our […]

competition versus brotherhood

A mania for competition so possesses our societies that it is hard to imagine any other way of being, and yet I think it is critical that we free ourselves from its grip. In the West, the Christian churches, from long habit, had an explanation for everything. Alas, with the rise of science, these churches chose to cling to Old Testament ‘certainties’, with the result that, when the cosmology of ‘Creation’ was overturned, the New […]

a bite of the cherry

policeman in front of a picture of Mao...

It seems that those of us who live in the West may need to get used to the fact that our economies are not going to return to constant growth. The belief that things are going to always continue to get better – at least in the sense of a constantly growing GDP – has always been a fantasy: constant growth of the kind we’ve experienced, that consists of consuming the Earth’s resources, presupposes that […]

9/11 in a Mexican jungle…

On the 11th of September 2001, we returned from a miraculous day wandering, eventually barefoot, through a jungle in the Mexican Yucatan, led by a Mayan girl to waterfalls that tumbled down steps gouged into smooth bowls in the soft limestone. Between the trees enormous blue crabs scuttled. At last, exhilarated, we found ourselves in the girl’s hut, a circular house with a palm frond roof and an earth floor and, bizarrely, satellite TV. As […]

Ming vases…

Wen Zhengming painting

Even in childhood I was baffled as to why oil paintings sold in auction houses for countless millions, while equally exquisite works of art from other cultures seemed lucky if they fetched thousands. One exception is the ubiquitous ‘Ming vase’… examples of which appear in everything from Tin Tin to baroque palaces across Europe. Another are ancient artefacts, though these again seem to be valued less for their aesthetic qualities than for how close they […]

the vultures had forgotten how to fly

I was drawn to this piece by the welcome news that the terrible disease rinderpest has been eradicated. However, as I read it I became irritated when I came to this innocuous enough paragraph: As the virus spread, it left vast numbers of dead livestock in its wake, and communities without meat and milk. The loss of the animals, which were used to plough the land, crippled farming and led to widepsread starvation. My irritation […]

shadow of the Opium Wars…

Britain is expressing outrage at the execution today of Akmal Shaikh, one of its citizens. Notwithstanding the human tragedy that this represents, this reaction seems to me to reflect a failure of historical memory. We none of us easily forget humiliations that we have suffered, and the Chinese have not forgotten the Opium Wars. In that shameful episode, Britain, shelled Chinese cities (the origin of the term ‘gunboat diplomacy’, I think – and, if not, […]