The World’s Favourite Song

The BBC World Service has announced that the World’s Favourite Song is… “A Nation Once Again” by the Wolfe Tones…

A Nation Once Again

When boyhood’s fire was in my blood,
I read of ancient freemen,
For Greece and Rome who bravely stood,
Three Hundred men and Three men.
And then I prayed I yet might see
Our fetters rent in twain,
And Ireland, long a province, be
A Nation once again.

And, from that time, through wildest woe,
That hope has shone, a far light;
Nor could love’s brightest summer glow
Outshine that solemn starlight:
It seemed to watch above my head
In forum, field and fane;
Its angel voice sang round my bed,
‘A Nation once again.’

It whispered, too, that ‘freedom’s ark
And service high and holy,
Would be profaned by feelings dark,
And passions vain or lowly;
For freedom comes from God’s right hand,
And needs a godly train;
And righteous men must make our land
A Nation once again.’

So, as I grew from boy to man,
I bent me to that bidding–
My spirit of each selfish plan
And cruel passion ridding;
For, thus I hoped some day to aid–
Oh! can such hope be vain?
When my dear country shall be made
A Nation once again.

A splendid choice by the peoples of the world, and a fine, fine song.

Chris adds [23.12.2002]: An Irish friend tells me that it has long been known that the Republicans and the Devil have all the best tunes and that this comes as no surprise to the Unionists, for whom they have long been synonymous…

Class Struggle is the Name of the Game

Junius has a recent post about PC boardgames, which reminds me that I still haven’t ever seen Class Struggle, the boardgame manufactured by Marxist political philosopher Bertell Ollman in the 1970s as a socialist-themed alternative to Monopoly. His memoir of those years, Class Struggle is the Name of the Game, would be a minor classic of its genre, except that it doesn’t really belong to any particular genre.

Junius responds [19.12.2002]: Played it!

News from North Korea

There’s been a small amount of coverage in the US and UK media over the last few days of the press release put out by the North Korean News Agency condemning the new James Bond film (or “burlesque”) for being insufficiently polite about the great achievements of North Korean socialism, or somesuch.

It is a shame, however, that the Western media only pays attention to the official news from North Korea when James Bond films are involved. Already in December there have been any number of good stories which deserved a wider international airing, including Revolutionary sites visited by many people, Pyongyang Catfish farm commissioned, Slogan of Kirgyz party organ changed, or US urged to drop its brigandish logic (a variation on a theme, one suspects).

Most interestingly of all, “Chicken Farms Rebuilt on Modern Basis” was published on both 7 December and 12 December. And then every few days or so there is a story with the same headline, “Anecdote about Kim Jong Il” (try here, here and here).

I’ve always assumed that the reason why the site is hosted in Japan owes to the fact that the internet doesn’t yet reach North Korea – but I’d be happy to be corrected.

Book of the Week #5

Anne Norton, Blood-rites of the Post-Structuralists: Word, Flesh and Revolution, Routledge, 2002. This is almost certainly going to be terrific stuff. From the publisher’s blurb (which is the best I can do for now: the copy I’ve ordered hasn’t yet arrived): “In Bloodrites of the Post-Structuralists …[Norton] starts by reminding us of the real interplay between words (laws, scriptures, myths, and history) and the world of flesh (of bloodties and bloodshed, skin color and sexuality). The seemingly precious and all too literary constructs of the poststructuralists really do act on the body politic. The book is written on three historical sites:the revolutions in England and France, the struggle against colonialism, and the modern liberal order. In this telling, we see liberal constitutions born in Terror and regicide, we see a word, a text, a document, write “slave” on the darkness of the body, we see the guillotine release the power in the blood, and we hear the words that declare a people free. Norton re-reads and re-writes foundational myths from Abraham and Isaac on the mountain top in the Bible to legends of the American Revolution. This lyrical and mesmerizing book serves, in its way, as a catalog of oppressions, and a history of the justifications oppressors have made for injustices…”

Apologies for the relative silence

One of the excellent things about working on seventeenth-century authors, is that they said such excellent things. Here, for example, is Pascal, who knew a thing or two about absolute, terrifying silences:

He alone [ = God] is our true good. From the time we have forsaken him, it is a curious thing that nothing in nature has been capable of taking his place: stars, sky, earth, elements, plants, cabbages, leeks, animals, insects, calves, snakes, fever, plague, war famine, vice, adultery, incest. From the time he lost his true good, man can see it everywhere, even in his own destruction, though it is so contrary to God, reason, and nature, all at once.


Where are they now?

From this week’s New Statesman (but not, sadly, available online to non-subscribers) — and complete with photo! — are two entire pages on a Balliol contemporary, Gerard Russell, “Our man in the land of Zam Zam Cola”, by Christina Lamb:

In a large, high-ceilinged room at the Foreign Office, where the television is tuned to al-Jazeera and three clocks show the time in Washington, London and Abu Dhabi, sits the young (he’s 29) diplomat whose task it is to spread the Blair message in Islamic countries….

Russell may be an anonymous, slightly balding man in a pinstripe suit in London, but in the Middle East he is “Brother Gerard”, recognised everywhere from petrol stations in the Sinai Desert to customs offices at Riyadh airport. When Tony Blair visited the unit, Russell was introduced to the Prime Minister as “the man more famous on al-Jazeera than you are”…

My goodness. Who would have thought it?