George Walford: Editorial Notes (46)

OVERHEARD on the jogging track: “Any day now the doctors will be deciding that exercise is bad for you – AND I WISH THEY’D HURRY UP!”

MARSHALL Sahlins on interdisciplinary study “an enterprise which often seems to merit definition as the process by which the unknowns of one’s own subject matter are multiplied by the uncertainties of some other science.” (Sahlins M. 1988 Stone Age Economics, London & NY: Routledge 51)

BOMBAY has half its ten million people sleeping in the streets under such pieces of tin, cloth or cardboard as they can scavenge. In a euphemism even our own government might be proud of, they are said to be “living in informal housing.” (Fourth World Review No. 39)

AFTER a golden spring the last few days have been rather wet and cool. Will the media and their tame scientists switch over from THREAT OF GLOBAL WARMING to DANGER OF NEW ICE AGE? Probably not for a week or two yet.

TRISTAN Jones claims the world’s high-altitude sailing record, having taken a sea-going yacht to Lake Titicaca, some 12,000 feet up in the Andes. In recounting his adventures he mentions, incidentally, that every year the Amazon carries out to sea enough mud to create a square island 480 miles on a side and five thousand feet high off the seabed. Jones does not make the point – he inclines towards orthodox greenism – but such figures help to bring man-created – whoops, sorry! man-and-woman-created – erosion into perspective. (Jones T. 1980. The Incredible Voyage, a personal Odyssey. London: Futura Publications).

TLS (1-7 June) heads a page on gender studies: Source for the Gender.

SOME things must not be allowed to drop out of memory, among them Lord Denning’s remarks in 1980, on the application of the six men jailed (as it now seems, wrongly) for the Birmingham pub bombing to be allowed to institute civil proceedings for assault against West Midlands Police:

If the six men win, it will mean that the police were guilty of perjury, that they were guilty of violence and threats, that the confessions were involuntary and improperly admitted in evidence and that the convictions were erroneous. This would mean that the Home Secretary would either have to recommend that they be pardoned or he would have to remit the case to the Court of Appeal. This is such an appalling vista that every sensible person in the land would say: it cannot be right that these actions should go any further. (Quoted in A Pinch of Salt, Jan 1990).

In plainer English, the Birmingham six must not be allowed to bring their case for fear they should be proven right.

REMEMBER when sex was dirty and the air clean?

TONY Benn on the new Labour Party policy document: “It is the most ideological document I have ever read, because it sets out a philosophically anti-socialist, anti-labour position.” (Quoted in the Observer 20 May)

IC42 drew attention to the limited effect of the American Freedom of Information Act; responses are governed less by the availability of information than by the (ideologically-determined) attitude towards it. Reporting on a forthcoming EC regulation that medicines must be accompanied by a statement of their effects and side-effects, Dr. John Collee mentions an American study which found that while the majority wanted to be given this information, most threw it away unread. (Observer Colour Supplement 20 May)

ACCELERATION: Building on the first two million acres of Britain took from the beginnings of time until 1900. Building on the second two million, from 1900 to 1950. (Brian Redhead, in Country Living, June).

VALENTIHN Yumashev, on Yeltsin’s team, says he represents the radical wing of the Communist Party, “which wants faster economic and political reform” (Sunday Times 13 May) When radical communists demand reform, what can the others be wanting?

“PUBLIC relations” has at last had its day, but not to be replaced by any blunter phrase. To speak about the Lockerbie disaster Pan Am put up a “director of corporate communications”. (Sunday Times 13 May 90)

from Ideological Commentary 46, July 1990.