receiving an email

I subscribe to the emails Melvyn Bragg (or, Lord Melvyn of Bragg, as he is known in my family) sends out after each week’s In Our Time.* 

Often it’s just a footnote in my Thursdays, an email I skim through and delete, sometimes it makes me smile, sometimes I barely have time enough to care. And sometimes it strikes a little chord.

He often writes about what he does after the show has been recorded, and today he went off to the House of Lords:

So over to the Palace of Westminster where many of the chief bogeymen and boys of Britain now tell us all what to do with - perhaps one may be allowed to say - a passionate intensity which, as you know, W B Yeats referred to in his famous poem in the lines:

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

Is that a cruel thing to say?

I don’t know Yeats very well (beyond that he wrote the Innisfree poem, which I’ve always liked, it soothes - dropping slow, as the line goes), but I like the sentiment.

I find as I get older (I’m 30 now, I’m constitutionally obligated to use that phrase) that I get less and less certain about things. There’s a lot of stuff that other people seem to be very certain about - especially other Christians a lot of the time - and I am just not. I’m pretty certain about my own life and actions some of the time, but not much beyond that. So why get all bullish about what other people should do and how they’re Bad and Wrong if they don’t? That’s not how you have a disagreement that ends anywhere other than in learning to build a drystone wall.

Melvyn ends with a postscript:

"I went into the Chamber where the Lords were debating on the Queen’s Speech. Lord Cameron of Dillington was discussing, in expert detail, the most effective way to help African farming which he saw as the great growth area for Africa. The Bishop of Wakefield followed and talked first of all about his great sorrow for the loss of men from the Yorkshire Regiment recently in Afghanistan, and then discussed the possibilities facing the British forces in that arena of war.

This was far, far away from the ‘passionate intensity’ that I mentioned above. I suppose that mainly refers to my reaction to the Question Time sessions I hear on Radio 4. Am I the only one who finds their affected, fabricated, artificial, play-acting, overloud yelling not only raucous, but sadly and wearisomely tedious and way past its sell-by date? I hope not."

You’re not, Lord Melvyn, you’re really not And you’ve just summed up what I don’t much care for about the House of Commons, what I think makes our politics dysfunctional, and what I’m worried about losing in any House of Lords reform.*


* Sidenote: by the way, if you don’t listen to or podcast that show, you’re missing out
* Sidenote #2: I do want reform, just not a totally elected second chamber. Apart from any other considerations, have you seen the US Senate lately?

Embassytown / on language

"There's a hole in the world. It feels like we ought to have known"