Philosophy, Politics

A few brief thoughts on the recent terrorist atrocities

It’s been an awful few months for our country. Men, women and children have lost their lives. The number of victims might be counted, but the pain of the families who lost someone will never be quantifiable.

I was in two minds whether to write anything on this at all – in the face of such tragedy, words can seem so glib and, really, what is there left to say? What can be said at all? But I’ve decided, for my own catharsis and for the very few readers who find their way to this tiny pocket of the internet, I’m going to share some brief thoughts.

We hear a lot that ‘the terrorists won’t win’. And, if you believe that these terrorists have any sort of long-term political goals, that’s probably right. Western Democracy is never going to curtail to the whims of an oppressive death cult.

Some may say, however, that the terrorists’ goals aren’t even that sophisticated – their intentions are merely to cause harm, destroy lives and stir up fear. And in that way, I guess, they kind of can win…but only because their goals are so pathetic.

The truth is, if you are determined to go through with it, devastating lives is easy. Most of us have access to a car or a kitchen knife. If we so choose, any one of us could go out there and cause unthinkable pain. Such a cowardly act only works, however, by exploiting the trust of our civilisation. We are a free country, we have entered into a social contract to trust each other – our streets aren’t designed to stop us causing harm because basic human respect for life is assumed. That’s how a free society works. Only a coward would abuse that trust and take innocent lives. Destruction is easy, pathetic and weak.

What is difficult, and what these terrorists have absolutely no capacity to do, is to build…and just look at what we’ve built. We have a welfare state to protect the poor and vulnerable in our society. We have a National Health Service to look after the sick, regardless of wealth. We are a country made up of different ethnicities, cultures, and religions. What’s more, we don’t merely tolerate these differences, we celebrate them as one of the things that make us great. And it’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s hard to show love. Sometimes we disagree about how best to do it.

But, as a country, we have public servants who go beyond the call of duty to protect and heal us. We’ve produced policeman, paramedics and civilians who, in the face of unspeakable danger, risk (and, in some cases, lose) their own lives trying to save others. Not, it must be said, for any gain or reward, but simply because they couldn’t bear to stand by and watch another human suffer. It is through the actions of these people that we catch a glimpse of the divine.

On Sunday night, Manchester held a concert to celebrate unity and love, in memory of those who had lost their lives. This concert was set-up by a 23 year old pop star, herself deeply affected by these events, who did what little she could to help a city and a nation heal. This concert raised over two million pounds, as ordinary people volunteered their money to help others in need. And what was so cathartic about the concert, beyond just the outpouring of love, was to see people having fun, caught up in the music. There’s a reason these terrorists have no regard for art and music – it’s because they’re acts of creation, and all a terrorist can do is destroy. Creativity itself becomes glorious defiance. Whereas terrorism is an act of deep jealously and emptiness, and in that small way I almost pity them.

It’s important to be critical of ourselves. To create a just society is so much harder than causing destruction. It’s vital to recognise our flaws, our hypocrisies and our deep, dark moral failings. But it’s equally important to, once in a while, take a look at just how far we’ve come. Just look at what we’ve built. We’re protectors of each other. We are creators. We are artists. We are free. That’s how we win.


Dirty Dancing West End Review

So just a heads up, as I’m working on my NCTJ course some of the material I’ve written for my portfolio isn’t going to be published so it just made sense to put some of my work on here. First up here’s a particularly camp review of a musical I shouldn’t have enjoyed anywhere near as much as I did…

Dirty Dancing

A night of cheese, romance and watermelons awaits anyone going to see Dirty Dancing at the West End.

Over 26 years since the movie, fans are still being reminded that nobody puts ‘Baby’ in a corner at the Piccadilly Theatre for a limited run.

Whether or not they are the target audience of middle aged women having a night on the town, anyone will have a good time if they are willing to let go and buy into this gushing romance.

The show, penned by Eleanor Bergstein, follows the plot of the film. It is 1969 at Catskill Mountain’s Kellerman’s resort, where ‘Baby’ falls for sexy dancer Johnny Castle as she takes on the challenge of becoming his leading lady.

Jill Winternitz is wonderful as the watermelon carrying Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, making believable the transformation from dancing novice to confident pro and convincing the audience she really is having the time of her life.

Equally, whilst Patrick Swayze left big dancing shoes to fill, Paul-Michael Jones does a good job as Johnny Castle. The swooning of half the audience can be felt during his topless sequences.

But every cast member really brings something to their performance and makes the characters their own, a particular highlight being Emilia Williams’ endearingly quirky and naive turn as Baby’s sister.

The production itself is incredibly polished, with the staging presenting beautifully the settings of the film without ever feeling too gimmicky.

The show, unsurprisingly, consists of a large number of dance routines which are all performed to perfection by a group of incredibly talented, and incredibly beautiful, cast members.

As the show comes to a close and the singers belt out Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ classic tune for the final dance the atmosphere becomes electric and it is near impossible not to be caught up in the joy of the mushy love story.

So anyone looking for a good night out in London should grab a family member, a friend or a ‘loverboy’ and head to the Piccadilly Theatre…they, too, may just have the time of their life.