Probably the greatest moral challenge posed by any of our articles today is that thrown down by Marcus Roberts: Do we all need to become vegan? I must say that it shook me, even at the end of day without meat.
Most of the issues we canvass on our site have to be resolved out there in the public square, or over there in the Middle East, or up there on Mars. But the idea that what we eat is a moral decision with ramifications around the world, brings humanity's problems right to one's door, or rather, to one's dinner table.
I have for some time been aware that the Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit and vegetables and favouring fish and olive oil over meat and dairy products, is considered the healthiest, and have made changes in that direction -- even though it seems slightly unpatriotic in a country whose economy is built on roast lamb and butter. New Zealand without dairy farms and sheep grazing on the slopes would simply be a different country, but perhaps, given our predominantly sedentary lifestyles these days, that is the country we need.
More to the point, it may the country the world needs, to reduce carbon emissions and global warming if nothing else. I can't quite connect the dots between the Kiwi Sunday roast and world hunger, but perhaps I need to read Marcus' post again. In particular, his encouraging last sentence...
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The intention seems perfectly clear: the government should stay away from you and your property unless they have demonstrably good cause to do otherwise.
How did this principle we call the “right to privacy” become transformed over the space of 250 years into an excuse for the government to hover protectively over people’s choices regarding contraception, abortion, homosexual relationships (and probably– according to current claims – the use of female public bathrooms by males who think they are females or vice versa)?
Just for a bit of variety, we have moved into celebrity culture today. Jane Kelly analyses the mourning surrounding the mysterious death of Prince and I have written about Sir Elton John, Britain's most famous musician, and one-half of the world's most famous gay marriage. We'd like to write more extensively on pop culture -- contributions welcome!
I am afraid that we short-changed William Shakespeare on MercatorNet. The 400th anniversary of his birth occurred on Saturday, but I was away over the weekend, far from my Complete Works, and unable to participate in the festivities. Reading his obituaries gave me a rude shock -- by the time he had reached my age, he had already been dead for 10 years or more.
I'd like to add value to your knowledge of the Bard, as you must already be bursting with quotations and trivia about his second-best bed and the epitaph on his tombstone. So here's a fascinating, albeit obscure, tidbit, which is very useful if you play Scrabble: the longest word in the Complete Works (or it would be useful if it fitted on the board). The word is honorificabilitudinitatibus, which means having a potential for achieving honours. If you don't recognise it, you may have stumbled across its more common modern variant, honorificabilitudinity.
The word occurs in Act V, Scene 1 of Love's Labours Lost: "O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words. I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; for thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon." (Flap-dragon was an Elizabethan game which involved eating raisins from a bowl of flaming brandy -- which sounds far more exciting than Scrabble.)
“To understand the Trump phenomenon, to get some objective view of it, one must get out of the bubble. And there is surely no place further outside the bubble than the mind of Aristotle. His thoughts are not provoked by our own political struggles or shaped by the emotions that such struggles necessarily foster. He was just trying to understand the nature of politics for all time. His is a position rare for its detachment, and one from which we should try to understand our own problems.”
The method certainly works, in my opinion, identifying the basic dynamics of The Trump’s Progress with great clarity. See what you think.
The baby boomers leading the presidential nomination race in the US illustrate a point made by population economists quoted in Marcus Roberts’ post in Demography today – namely, that passing the age of 65 does not necessarily make one a burden on the economy and the younger generation, because many older people keep on working. If you are not too keen on those examples, just look at Queen Elizabeth, holding office at 90.
There will be no newsletter on Monday because it is Anzac Day Down Under and we will be taking a holiday for the memorial.
I have long been fascinated by glimpses of the views of American social critic and general contrarian Camille Paglia as I have gone about more mundane business on the internet. This week, however, I came across a video interview with her by Ella Whelan of Spiked, and spent a very statisfying half-hour watching it. Today I have put it up on our site with some bits transcribed. I don't think I would like all of Dr Paglia's views on feminism, sexuality and so on, but she talks a lot more sense than most other feminists who get media attention. I hope you enjoy the video.
Last week we invited readers to nominate their favourite books about heroes and heroines of conscience, using a Google form that makes it simple to do. From the responses we have chosen ten, which we have published today. Thanks to those who contributed. If your choice didn't make the cut it will have given us ideas for future lists. Send us your ideas anyway.
Only two years after celebrating the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare, the celebration of his death is upon us. The precise date of the Bard's demise, like that of his birth, is unknown, but, just as baptismal records attest to one, so the record of his burial on April 25th, 1616, bears witness to the other. On the 26th he would have turned 53.
It is awesome to think of the tally of plays and poetry he had written (with or without collaborators) by then: around 38 plays, 154 sonnets and two long narrative poems.
But even if the unthinkable were somehow to happen and all traces of Shakespeare’s names and works were eradicated from the modern world, his influence would remain around us. He has made, and changed, history.
For instance, we would still have the almost 2,000 new words Shakespeare either coined or imported into the English language – words like “bedroom”, “excite”, “blood-stained” and “zany”.
Today we begin a series of four articles by Denyse O'Leary on an ancient practice which appears to have become in some quarters the mental equivalent of fast-food, hence "McMindfulness". Evidently there is a "market" for meditation, and the appeal of a method to calm and centre the mind is understandable in a distracting and distracted world. But not all methods are equally helpful, and, even if they were, being obliged to practice one of them -- either by the company CEO or the local school authority -- would surely be a dangerous thing. Anyway, that is the issue Denyse puts before us today.
Submissions on books about heroes of conscience have closed and we will present some results in a day or two. Thanks to those who contributed.
You can't plan things like this on MercatorNet: I just realised that nearly all of today's articles centre on the theme of courageous witness to conscience. Mathew Otineo writes about a doomed company of Kenyan soldiers who were overrun by al-Shebaab terrorists and how they remembered their families. Campbell Markham remembers Antigone, the heroine of one of the greatest dramas of Ancient Greece. Walt Heyer speaks up against a movement to ban "reparative therapy". And Jennifer Roback Morse takes a backward look at the sexual revolution. That's for starters...
They mesh nicely with our search for contributions to our list of books about "Heroes and heroines of conscience". Click here to do the survey: http://goo.gl/3um2fe