29 July 2016

Revolutionaries at the BBC

Bush House in London
Paul Kriwaczek’s book In Search of Zarathustra, about the prophet Zoroaster, refers to the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979 and to the role of the BBC’s World Service in the machinations which led up to it.

This is his description of the goings-on at Bush House, where the World Service was then located.
In the early 1970s, Bush House, the headquarters of the BBC External Services in London’s Strand, was a very unusual place. Developed, designed and decorated by Americans and dedicated to the ‘friendship of the English-speaking peoples’, its imposing pillared portico sheltered dozens of groups of intelligent, articulate, often politically motivated expatriates and refugees from positively non-English-speaking peoples, who sat before the microphones of the BBC, representing to the world in dozens of languages the face of British post-colonial even-handedness and fair play.

At the same time, and in the same serious spirit, many plotted and planned among themselves the confusion, if not the outright overthrow, of their governments. It was said that no other building on earth housed as large a number of would-be — and actual — revolutionaries and insurrectionists at the same time. Meeting in the canteen, and debating and arguing for hour upon hour, day after day, they often seemed to be balanced just on the edge of action. Eventually plucking up the courage to jump after many false starts, they mostly came to a sad end. *
The extract may be taken to illustrate how the BBC (at least parts of it) has for many decades been promoting socialism as the preferred ideology.

* In Search of Zarathustra, Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2002, p.9

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position.
I need people to provide moral support both for fund-raising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

17 July 2016

H.G. Wells, Hayek and the ‘rights of man’

H.G. Wells included a ‘Declaration on the Rights of Man’ in his book The New World Order, published in 1940. This contains, for example, the assertion that every man
shall have the right to buy or sell without any discriminatory restrictions anything which may be lawfully bought or sold, in such quantities and with such reservations as are compatible with the common welfare. *
As Hayek pointed out in The Road to Serfdom, a ‘right’ of this kind, limited to what is lawful and compatible with the ‘common welfare’, does not amount to much.
It is pathetic, but characteristic of the muddle into which many of our intellectuals have been led by the conflicting ideals in which they believe, that a leading advocate of the most comprehensive central planning like Mr. H. G. Wells should at the same time write an ardent defence of the Rights of Man.

The individual rights which Mr. Wells hopes to preserve would inevitably obstruct the planning which he desires. [...] we find therefore the provisions of his proposed ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man’ so hedged about with qualifications that they lose all significance. **

* H.G. Wells, The New World Order, Secker & Warburg 1940, chapter 10.
** F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, Ark Books 1986, p.63.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position.
I need people to provide moral support both for fund-raising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

10 July 2016

Merlin and the servant problem

In C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, the druid Merlin, having been woken from over a thousand years of suspended animation, is talking to the Director of a community of people, and commenting on the hospitality he has received in their house, and on the way the Director lives.
‘Sir’, said Merlin in answer to the question which the Director had just asked him. ‘I give you great thanks. I cannot indeed understand the way you live and your house is strange to me. You give me a bath such as the Emperor himself might envy, but no one attends me to it; a bed softer than sleep itself, but when I rise from it I find I must put on my own clothes with my own hands as if I were a peasant. I lie in a room with windows of pure crystal [...] but I lie in it alone with no more honour than a prisoner in a dungeon. [...]

You seem to live neither like a rich man nor a poor one: neither like a lord nor a hermit.’ *
Merlin’s comments may have been Lewis’s oblique way of referring to the modern intellectual’s difficulty of finding people willing to save him from having to do everything for himself — already a significant issue in 1945 when That Hideous Strength was published.

* C.S. Lewis, The Cosmic Trilogy, Bodley Head 1989, p.649.