George Walford: Editorial Notes (28)

IC25 included a brief note correcting certain ideas put forward in Ideologies and their Functions. On page seven of this present issue these corrections are set out more fully.

In Mozambique they starve while Europe wonders what to do with mountains of “surplus” food. But disgust is a gut-reaction that helps nobody; before turning against the civilization that produces these results we should remember that without it there would not be three million alive in Mozambique to be starving. The size of our failures is a measure of our success, and those food-mountains do not harm the starving, they offer the means of helping them.

Humanity has never been good at self-restraint, and the demand that production of atomic power should be halted has never looked like getting off the ground. On the other hand, the idea that the dangers from nuclear energy would simply go on increasing has an improbable simplicity; social affairs move in more complex ways. It has long been apparent that one way out would be forward, advancing from fission to fusion; safer, cleaner, not requiring destructive mining, and producing more energy. The technical problem has been to contain the reaction, and recent developments in superconductors suggest that a solution may be coming into view. If it succeeds we shall then begin to discover the disadvantages of fusion.

“an enormous teenage market chronically deprived of three essential elements: excitement, rebellion and chaos” (Sunday Times 17 May 87). That view of teenage rebellion is less likely to lead to surprises than the belief that they are becoming socialists.

This is the centenary year of the Michelson-Morley experiment, which showed the speed of light to be a physical absolute, the same whether you were moving towards or away from its source. It opened the way to relativity and to e=mc2, linkingĀ matter to energy, leading on to atomic power and the. bomb. We usually forget that the experiment was a failure. They were looking for proof of the presence of the ether, and their results disproved this. The most successful failure in history?

An article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggests that AIDS has been around for thousands of years, its recent explosive spread being due to the popularity of multi-use hypodermics in Africa, where they are used by “innoculators” who peddle injected aphrodisiacs in bars. Three other viruses – Lassa, Ebola and Marburg – have all been transmitted in this way but they not being highly infectious died out (Observer 17 May 87). Advanced medical technology can produce massive harm as well as good; are we therefore to abolish it?

W. H. AUDEN points out that we cannot separate facts of experience from our interpretation of them. (A Certain World London, Faber & Faber, 1970, p.34)

THE BRIEFING session preliminary to the bombing of Nagasaki ended with the chaplain blessing the flyers and asking God to give them courage and strength for the hours ahead (A Certain World p.308). Presumably he did not know the purpose of their mission, but even so one can imagine God feeling his ministers might be a bit more careful with their blessings.

Isaac Bashevis Singer was asked, at a literary gathering, for his views on freedom and predestination. He replied: “We must believe in free will. We have no choice.”(The Times, 5 June 87, sent in by Ike Benjamin. Emphasis added.)

Archie Brown notes that current reforms in the USSR come “from an understanding of politics as the art of the possible by individuals and informal groups attempting
to widen the boundaries of the system rather than destroy them.” (TLS 27 Mar 87)

ARMY FOOD, we are told, has one redeeming feature: the shepherds pie is made with real shepherds.

from Ideological Commentary 28, July 1987.