Fighting on

February 24, 2017


Just finished watching Avengers: Age of Ultron (again). Caring for my sick daughter does have its compensations (though I shudder at the backlog piling up at work!) 

The powerful image in the end credits, of the main characters portrayed as classical heroes, in marble, made me reflect on Joss Whedon’s take on heroism. I think it is best captured in the closing words of Angel – with which the 12 seasons of the Buffy/Angel television saga came to an end:

SPIKE: In terms of a plan?

ANGEL: We fight.

SPIKE: Bit more specific.

ANGEL:

(steps forward)

Well, personally, I kind of want to slay the dragon. 

(the demon horde attacks)

Let’s go to work.

(swings his sword)

(Fade to black.)

Or beloved heroes do not die on screen, but we are left in doubt as to what will happen next. 

In the Whedon universe, heroes are not the guys who always win, but the ones who are always ready to put up a fight. This idea is not a Whedon invention, of course, but Whedon does come up with powerful ways to put it forward in the realm of pop culture.

As our world is increasingly crunched between the souless wills of haters and philistines it is good to remind ourselves that heroism is about fighting on, even when it feels like we’ll be crushed. 

Ultimately, heroism (or whatever lesser version of it we, mere mortals, may manage to muster) is not about winning, but just a better way of life. As in the opening lines of that other great piece of pop culture, the feature film Lorenzo’s Oil:

“Life has meaning only in the struggle. Triumph or defeat is in the hands of the Gods. So let us celebrate the struggle.” 


How we feel

February 2, 2017

A lot has happened in UK politics and society since my post on the eve of the Brexit referendum result. I suppose many Britons may be wondering how millions of EU citizens who made the UK their home are feeling right now (a subject the media have barely grazed). This is my small attempt at conveying it in a way that, I hope, most Britons will be able to understand.

​Imagine being an Englishman who has lived in Edinburgh for the past 20 years. Your kids grew up there so they feel Scottish and speak with Scottish accents. You are a fully-integrated member of your community, though of course you still feel English. But that’s all right because you also feel British and Scotland is part of Great Britain – so you have every right to be where you are and lead the life that you do.  

Now imagine that the the Scottish government decide to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. So far, so plausible. But let me ask you to imagine one more thing – perhaps not so plausible. Imagine the Scottish government decide that, this time round, the English men and women who, like you, live in Scotland, will not be allowed to vote. Moreover, to your shock and horror, the UK government accept that. 

Now suppose that the whole referendum campaign revolves around whether Scotland should allow so many English people to settle there. There are two sides of the debate: some who say that the influx of English people into Scotland is intolerable (completely ignoring the scots who go the other way); the others, far from defending your positive contributions, grant that having too many English people around is a bad thing, but argue that it is a price worth paying in exchange for free trade with the rest of the UK and other benefits of being in a Union with England.

Pretty bad, eh? But that’s nothing. Suppose now that the pro-independence camp win. Moreover, when asked whether English people like you, who are long-term members of Scottish society and have Scottish children, will be allowed to remain they answer that they cannot rule one way or the other, because they intend to use you as “bargaining chips”. 

Have you managed to imagine such implausible sequence of events? Then you now know exactly how millions of citizens of other European countries who chose to make the UK our home feel.

I still do not regret the choices I made. But the fear that I will is there, breathing over my shoulder, every day.