A Way through the Wilderness

Wilderness of the Sinai

Some days ago, I wrote about and hence reminded myself of the Chinese curse ‘may you live in interesting times.’ Since then, a ninety five year old Royal retired (finally), a member of France’s political elite with almost no practical experience overcame the wily old vixen of the Right and has the keys to the Elysée Palace and Theresa May looks like she’s going to trample the far Left under her stilettos in early June. Interesting times indeed. However, the mere fact that musical chairs is the jeu du jour in corridors of power is no guarantee that this will result in seismic societal shifts. We are the same people, waiting in the emergency rooms to see a doctor, scraping by in the British drizzle on not very much and enduring the same train strikes as we did last year. We should have learned by now that despite the optimism of the hustings, the flag-waving and supporters’ cheers – politicians always preach to the choir – political change cannot be brought about by politics alone. In Rabbi Sacks’ new book – a tough read around the book of Numbers – he reminds us that it needs human transformation, brought about by rituals, habits of the heart, and a strenuous process of education. It comes along with knowledge borne out of painful experience, preserved for future generations by acts of remembering. The journey through the wilderness is as relevant as a moral achievement now as it was then. How quickly we are inclined to forget, to dismiss history’s roadmaps as irrelevant. If we are serious about change, it calls not only for high ideals but also a way of life that translates ideals into social interactions. Good intentions alone are not enough. You cannot create a democracy simply by removing a tyrant. As Plato wrote in The Republic, democracy is often no more than the prelude to a new tyranny. You cannot arrive at freedom merely by escaping from slavery. It is won only when a nation takes upon itself the responsibilities of self-restraint, courage, and above all, patience. Without that, a journey of a few hundred miles can take forty years. Even then, it has only just begun.

The British electorate might like to bear it in mind.


Back to the Good Wife

Big respect toScreen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.37.26 AM Michael J Fox. From Marty McFly to Louis Canning,  From Back to the Future to The Good Wife, bingeworthy and almost uncannily predictive. It’s wittily edgy and exploits everybody’s inner advocate; we are flies on the wall in the offices of Lockhart Gardner, or more appropriately, Stalin and Associates. It’s so easy to take sides, booing at the pantomime and siding with the underdogs, so cleverly manipulated by the magisterium of the law. MJF actually manages to make Parkinson’s disease a politically relevant phenomenon and his portrayal of the Machiavellian Canning – even the play on words is quietly satisfying in the way that a rather shamefaced frisson of schadenfreude makes us feel – is both exploitative and a metaphor for political office.

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Art, if such can be described, mirrors life. Alicia Florrick, the not-so-good wife has matured, or rather, aged, less than gracefully, and she now has a brittle edge to her, a willingness to stick it to the bad guys and twist the blade more grittily in season 7 than she did in season 1. Who are you really, Alicia? It’s almost impossible to imagine that CBS scriptwriters didn’t have the Clintons in mind. Husband has slipped and slid downwards then upwards, a new Comeback Kid, against all odds and momentum to become State’s Attorney, then Governor and is making a play for the Big Job, dodging political piranhas at every step. A few little peccadilloes in the bedroom department…oh, Peter. Pretty interns aren’t just there for your personal satisfaction, you know. Yes, we’ve figured out who you are supposed to remind us of. All smiles and mendacity.

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Which brings me to the other elections.

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It’s clear who the main protagonists are. Remember Biff, the bully, from ‘Back to the Future’ who isn’t very bright? People will vote for him because he makes them angry. Angry people make poor decisions, Donald. You might care to remember that when you’re ticking people off in public.

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Then, there’s Doc Brown, an Orwellian throwback from the 1930s with wild hair and a passionate oratorical style. I’m just waiting for Bernie to exclaim ‘Great Scott!’ when crossing swords with his nemesis, a Hillary, even an Alicia honed to wicked sharpness by nastiness and betrayal. I wonder if his pacemaker is powered by a flux capacitor…Oh, what fun it all is. Or, it would be, were it not so frighteningly real.