We are in the middle of a profound shift in our attitude towards sex. A sexual counter-revolution, if you will. And whereas the 1960s saw a freeing up of attitudes towards sex, pushing at boundaries, this counter-swing is turning sexual freedom into sexual fear, and nearly all sexual opportunities into a legalistic minefield.
The rules are being redrawn with little idea of where the boundaries of this new sexual utopia will lie and less idea still of whether any sex will be allowed in the end.
Nell Minow, an American film critic, recently described how in 2010 she had interviewed the Friends actor David Schwimmer. When the noise in the restaurant grew too loud, he asked her whether she might like to move to a room upstairs with him, and if so, would she like a chaperone present. She praised him for this behaviour. ‘He understood what it is like to have to be constantly on the alert and he wanted to make sure I understood I was safe.
James Sackie would make a good frontman for a campaign to help ex-child soldiers. At the age of 17, he was press-ganged into one of Charles Taylor’s juvenile militias. Twenty years on, he talks movingly, in his matter-of-fact pidgin English, about the dreadful things he saw, including the day he had to stop his own baby son, JR, being whisked away as lunch for a general called Eat Human Being.
But ask Sackie about Taylor himself and he changes.
Before he was Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort worked for the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych started out as a petty thief in the bleak Soviet city of Donetsk. He stole fur hats from men using its outside toilets. He would reach over the door as they squatted, defenceless, and flee while their trousers were still around their ankles. Even among the criminals of Donetsk, this was thought low behaviour.
Once one of the best in the world, Scotland’s education system has been steadily marching backwards for the past ten years. From the outside, it seems baffling: why, given that Scottish spending per pupil is among the highest in the world, are things going so wrong? From the inside, it’s far easier to understand. You can explain it in three words: Curriculum for Excellence.
I’d heard stories about it before I started training as a teacher.
There are many reasons political journalists get so many things so badly wrong. One is our tendency to overvalue liberal politicians. This explains why we have misunderstood Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, who has flown to London this week to join Theresa May at a dinner to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. Frequently dismissed as a political thug, Mr Netanyahu is arguably the most successful Israeli premier of all time.
When you arrive for dinner and your host is massaging a purple cauliflower, you know you’re in for an interesting evening. I am in a top-floor flat in Paris, which was once the domain of Amedeo Modigliani. The Italian artist was famous for his louche lifestyle — drink, drugs, women — but we know him best for those serene portraits with empty eyes.
He died of tubercular meningitis in this very flat at the age of 35.