On this week's episode of The Spectator Podcast we look at the issue of 'safe spaces' on campuses and beyond. We also discuss Donald Trump's military strategy, and look at Indian independence, 70 years on.
First up: In this week's Spectator cover piece, Brendan O'Neill slams British universities for what he sees as a burgeoning liberal conformism within their walls. Is he right to despair? Or is this just a grumpy older generation railing against change? He joins the podcast along with Justine Canady, Women's Officer for UCLSU, and Madeleine Kearns, who writes about her experiences at NYU in the magazine. As Brendan says:
"In the three years since The Spectator named these Stepford Students, the situation has become far worse. Campus craziness has intensified. Worse, it has Americanised. Not content with subjecting our dreaming spires to No Platforming and middle-class prejudices about tabloid newspapers and lad culture, these young clones are gaily importing the worst excesses of America’s hysterical campus culture. This is very bad news, because if you look at what is happening on America’s campuses, you get a terrifying insight into the baleful influence that identity politics can have on everyday life and liberty."
Whilst Madeleine writes that:
"When two classmates pointed in horror to the (admittedly large) crucifix on my wall — my own identity signifier — I climbed out of the window and on to the fire escape. The game was up. An image of the dying Jesus had scuppered my intellectual, perhaps even moral, credibility. I would be returning to NYU in the autumn, the flag of ‘cultural fascism’ forever nailed to my mast. A highly intoxicated friend, who had been enthralled by the whole experience, soon joined me. Handing me a cigarette, he congratulated me on ‘bringing people together’."
Next, with President Trump this week extending the war in Afghanistan, there has been some consternation amongst his base that the isolationist ideas that saw him swept to office have been abandoned. In her column this week, Mary Kissel writes that Trump is simply addressing political realities. She joins the podcast along with two people with more sceptical takes: Andrew J. Bacevich and the Spectator's deputy editor Freddy Gray. As Mary writes:
"Perhaps the key to understanding Trump’s foreign policy, as with so much else about the man, is its inherently transactional nature. He is comfortable ordering more US troops into Iraq and Syria to rout Isis, but hasn’t seemed to think much about the longer-term costs of ceding Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to Iran. He’s itching to rip up the Iran nuclear deal, but without a broader strategy to contain the mullahs’s regional ambitions and terrorist activities. He’s pressuring China to act against North Korea, but what will he do if Beijing doesn’t follow through? Does he know?"
And finally, 70 years on from India gaining its independence, Brigid Keenan looks back on a childhood spent in Asia, where her father was stationed with the Indian army. How should the last generation of Empire babies look back on those twilight days of the British Raj? And can we ever call a place home without truly sharing its culture? Brigid joins the podcast along with Shrabani Basu, the author of Victoria and Abdul. As Brigid writes:
"It is not fashionable to feel sympathy for the men and women who lived and served in the British colonies and who had to leave when independence came, whether it was from Kenya, Ghana — or from India, which celebrated the 70th anniversary of its freedom earlier this month. But I do, because I remember the pain and the loss and the homesickness of leaving India — a feeling which has niggled away somewhere deep down all my life. The Indian writer Shrabani Basu (the film based on her book Victoria & Abdul comes out next month) is no friend of the Raj, but she read my recent memoir and said: ‘It must have been particularly painful for the children, as India was the only home they knew.’ Exactly."