This Chinese curse or Chinese greeting – it’s not clear which - seems to fit the years 2017-2021. We have been through ‘interesting times’ in all the ambiguous meaning of the proverb. Events with profound long-term consequences seem to have been following each other, or overlapping, with unprecedented speed and regularity. During this time I’ve tried to blog on a broad spectrum of themes, from terrorism to hedgehogs, sharing thoughts and ideas, primarily for friends and family.
Blogging is fun but ephemeral. Not like holding a glossy new book you’ve labored over for years. I hope that pulling these blogs on-line together under thematic headings in chronological order will both make them more reader-friendly and increase their life-span. Broaching some of these topics, getting some of the shared frustrations of the day into my website, may even have increased my own life-span. You can find the book by clicking on online books at the top of my website and then on May You Live in Interesting Times. The last piece to make it into the on-line book was on Afghanistan - sadly rather reinforcing the title. Dip in where your interests lie and explore. Meanwhile I will try to keep up the regular flow of the past four years.
Part One focusses on major themes that have characterised the period: Democracy and Politics, Human Rights and Terrorism. I have put Catholicism in this first section because I believe Catholic social thinking has much to contribute to the politics we need in order to overcome our contemporary crisis, especially in a culture dominated by secular assumptions about society, governance and economics.
Part Two moves more into the realm of the big events and actualité: government policy and practice, BREXIT, and changes in the Conservative Party. The disruption and damage created by these three has been prodigious. We have witnessed something unprecedented and potentially dangerous which will have an impact on generations to come as well as hastening the decline of the UK. But, yes, there is very little here on the biggest event, the COVID pandemic. With BBC News on the verge of running out of epidemiologists, virologists and behavioral scientists for comment, who can find much to add?
Part Three might be called international affairs, or at least events in countries of which I have, for one reason or another, some professional experience and, I hope, some insights. The section is led by the USA and Africa where my family has lived, and the Middle East and North Africa whose conflicts, generally made worse by the West, have dominated the period.
Part Four, Observations, contains what doesn’t fit neatly into the preceding sections, and opens up different themes. Some thoughts on COVID are to be found here.
Particularly those who turn to the Africa section may enjoy my other on-line book to be found alongside this one, Emirs, Evangelicals & Empire which came out of research in Northern Nigeria. I wanted it to be available to all Nigerians who might be interested but who would have had little chance of reading a hard-copy.
Finally, after the heavy-lifting editing of Jane Linden my thanks to some fine-tuning editing by Daniel Johnson, editor of TheArticle blogsite where most of these blogs have been published for most of the period covered. Edmund Ross was responsible for sorting this collection into thematic and chronological form and putting it in good shape into my own website.
So back to normal and worrying about what to make the subject of the next blog. We haven’t stopped living in interesting times.