Wonder and gratitude
Sir: Roger Scruton, in a very personal and moving portrait of his year (‘My Strange Year’, 21 December), reminds us that crisis is opportunity; and concludes that the meaning of life is gratitude — something we may only realise when, as Virgil put it, ‘mentem mortalia tangunt’.
I think that language may betray us a bit on this great question and that there is no meaning of life. Rather, the meaning is life. Our response to this is-ness — this amazing, often painful gift — may be to turn aside into the ressentiment which Nietzsche warns against; or — as Roger Scruton does — to feel wonder and sheer gratitude at what is, might never have been, and one day will not be.
How to empower workers
Sir: Corbyn may be on his way out of frontline politics but Corbynism is still live and kicking and it would be fatal for the Conservatives to ignore the damage it could still do (Rod Liddle, 21 December). One of its more insidious objectives was ‘democratic control of workplaces’, a cause now taken up by Corbyn protegée Rebecca Long Bailey in her leadership pitch to ‘democratise society’. Of course, this is hollow propaganda. A ‘democratic’ workplace does not empower workers, but abdicates their responsibility to a trade union apparatchik.
We already have a mechanism for democracy in the corporate world — anyone can buy shares in a traded company and vote on their directors and policy. This is proactive, genuine democracy. Share-owning used to be widespread. In the 1960s, half of UK shares were held by individuals. Today the figure is just 12 per cent. The Conservatives have a chance to change public culture and encourage people to buy shares again. As well as promoting the nation’s wealth, this would stop Labour’s ‘community activists’ in their tracks.
Let them plant trees
Sir: Paul Wood’s letter (21 December) made me think how marvellous it would be to create a hands-on street tree-planting movement. It could offer the younger generation who are so fired up about climate change a longed-for sense of purpose. For example, there are many barren streets in less privileged parts of London that might be turned into leafy avenues by school-age supporters of Greta Thunberg planting young trees, perhaps with the assistance of council workers. Through this they would create results that they could see daily as well as over time, which might give them a sense of having contributed to their future.
Sir: In his Broadcaster’s Notebook (21 December), Andrew Marr bemoans ‘asking a long, meticulously worded question’ only to get a yes or no answer. Asking open questions (beginning with who, what, why, how, when, where) so as to avoid such a response is a basic interviewing skill. So perhaps not so ‘meticulously worded’?
Barton under Needwood, Staffs
The name of the Muse
Sir: I refer to Charles Moore’s interpretation of the pronunciation of Calliope (The Spectator’s Notes, 21 December). As well as being the name of a horse in the 2.30 at Newcastle, it’s also the name of an Australian mining exploration outfit, whose punters pronounce it Cal-eye-oh-pee rather than Mr Moore’s Cal-eye-ope. In defence of my down-under version and with respect, may I draw his attention to the pronunciation of Antipodes? That is, Antipodees, not Antipoads.
South Perth, Western Australia
Not a war leader
Sir: Andrew Roberts (‘The leadership industry’, 21 December) commits an uncharacteristic inaccuracy in referring to the Falklands conflict as a ‘war’. War was never declared by either party and the episode has always been known in diplomatic and military circles as a ‘conflict’. For this reason it is difficult for me to regard Margaret Thatcher as a war leader. She sits uncomfortably in the company of Napoleon and Hitler, whose war aims were territorial expansion, while Churchill and Stalin were forced into wars to defend their native lands.
Jeremy M.J. Havard
Chichester, West Sussex
Sir: We recently cooked Bip Ling’s delicious curry recipe (21 December). It was like alchemy to cook, with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and delicious to eat. A super way to see out the old year and usher in the new. Thank you, Bip Ling.
Heeding the horse
Sir: The late Sir Clement Freud would have been delighted by the plans to search for the remains of St Edmund in Bury (Notes On…, 14 December). Freud was MP for the Isle of Ely constituency between 1973 and 1987, and took a keen interest in East Anglian topics. He was also a racehorse owner, and at the end of the 1990s applied to register a horse with the name of Digup St Edmunds. This was treated warily by the racing authorities, who were terrified of giving offence, but Freud persisted, and the horse raced in his colours for five seasons. Digup St Edmunds only ran nine times, but won a couple of minor races over hurdles. Its last appearance was in 2002. At last it seems its call to action has been answered.