When I was a child, my mother took me every Wednesday evening to Benediction where, we believed, the body of Christ was revealed. On Saturdays, my family went to confession and every Sunday morning, without fail, we attended Mass. If you asked my mother who and what she was, she would say “a Catholic” before she said “Scottish” or, even less likely, “British”. She believed that the Church of Rome was God’s own glory on Earth.
When I was 11, my parents sent me to a Christian Brothers boarding school. The Brothers were not priests but, even without the significant compensations of priestly rites and privileges, they had dedicated themselves to a life of celibacy, 30 or 40 years without the comfort of touch.… Seguir leyendo »
It seems we are having a national debate about torture. Apparently not all Britons agree that the deliberate application of violence to confined and helpless prisoners is unacceptable. This is a shame, not only because the spectacle itself would be hideous, but also because it’s reasonable to suspect that our very British grandfathers would have taken a strikingly different view.
In their troubled and violent generation, they saw things differently for the very hardest of reasons. As a simple illustration, the first volume of Richard J. Evans’s masterly account of the Third Reich contains a photograph of Social Democrat politicians in crumpled, respectable suits trussed up in a Brownshirt torture chamber.… Seguir leyendo »
Exercising power is tricky. Before you have it, you may entertain shockingly naive notions about how easy it will be, the way it will feel and what you’re going to do with it.
Naturally, you have fantasies of perfection. Choices, you think, will be simple. Right is obviously right, after all, and wrong is very definitely wrong. Unsurprisingly, this imagined world collapses very quickly: it can’t survive what comes with control.
One point about power is that it can stop you doing what you really want to do. Does anyone believe, for example, that most government ministers truly thought we should lock people up for 42 days without charge?… Seguir leyendo »
In the shadow of the Congo conflict, next month sees the 60th anniversary of the United Nations genocide convention. Humanity spoke with one voice in December 1948. The Nazi extermination camps had been uncovered and nations came together to say «never again». Since then, «never again» has happened repeatedly. One plain lesson of history is that great unmarked crimes have a habit of returning to haunt us. Addressing a group of Nazi leaders and Wehrmacht generals on the brink of the second world war, Hitler inquired: «Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?» We may safely assume that the question was entirely rhetorical.… Seguir leyendo »