Tuesday, 12 July 2016



Arriving at each new city, the traveller finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

During the war of 1914-18 the English working class were in contact with foreigners to an extent that is rarely possible. The sole result was that they brought back a hatred of all Europeans, except the Germans, whose courage they admired. In four years on French soil they did not even acquire a liking for wine. The insularity of the English, their refusal to take foreigners seriously, is a folly that has to be paid for very heavily from time to time. But it plays its part in the English mystique, and the intellectuals who have tried to break it down have generally done more harm than good. At bottom it is the same quality in the English character that repels the tourist and keeps out the invader. 

George Orwell, England Your England

This expert cult is new, and a very bad thing. It's deeply anti-intellectual, seeking to create priesthoods who are custodians of knowledge denied to the rest. It's a shame Gove's anecdote about Einstein required the mention of Nazis because the point was Einstein's remark that if a view is right, it only needs one person to propose it.
Expertism tells people not to try to understand issues, not to look at arguments and data themselves, but rather to take the word of the clergy. It's the first resort of frauds, zealots and obsessives.
Coupled with the emphasis on 'qualitative' research, which has eliminated rigour and significance from a lot of public policy research, expertism is a very effective way of justifying the irrational and the unfounded.
It's a specialised form of the credentialism that insists firemen watch children drown in shallow water if they haven't the requisite Drowning Saving Certification.
It's a bad thing.

Peter Risdon 

We pretend we’re run by people. We’re not run by anybody. The secret of modern Britain is there is no power anywhere.

Tory MP Rory Stewart in an interview in 2014. Harold Macmillan said something similar.

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.

Muhammad Ali, the boxer

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