From the excellent Financial Times weekend magazine (excellent book reviews – often of books not highlighted elsewhere), a balanced outline of the great project of the redevelopment of Stratford in East London as a whole city within a city – something much bigger than just the Olympics. Can the planners finally get it right?
I know I point to Matthew Parris just about every week, but he so often has worthwhile things to say:
Every age produces its small, sick crop of brutes. Every culture reaps among its harvests the tares of human failure. Every body of human beings has its leg ulcers.
And they need excuses, these pathetic riff-raff. Every blood-lust needs to rationalise. Even the least human among us is human enough to seek reasons for our brutality. There will always be young men whose heads and lives are so comprehensively messed up that they are crazed by the urge to wound, destroy and kill.
He’s referring to the case of the killing of Jody Dobrowski, and homophobia – something being promoted by the Pope. Yet, as he says, the new “religious hatred” law would stop the tackling of the spreading of that very hatred and “justification” for violence.
In today’s Guardian, Mary Beard produces a satisfying review of the new television series about Rome, a subject sure to fill acres of newsprint, but seldom as well as this:
“There is also, I suspect, a particularly 21st-century imperative behind the rash of recent “Romes”, from Gladiator on. In the world of publicly sanctioned multiculturalism (excellent, in many ways, as that is), popular representations of cultural difference have become increasingly dangerous and heavily policed. All the old ways of celebrating “our” identity against the peculiar habits – often the eating ones – of the outside world now seem a bit risky. …
…that past cannot answer back, has no government machinery on its side (or not usually), and you can do what you like with it. If they were portraying a modern religion, the lurid, blood-soaked representations of Roman paganism in the new Rome would probably end with the director up before the beak on a charge of “incitement to religious hatred”. As it is, it’s only Rome, so it doesn’t count.”
And she points out the uncomfortable fact for directors: “The Roman senate banned the eating of dormice in 115 BC.” (Read the whole review to find out why that matters.)