Literary map of London

With London having been on our minds lately, I thought I would share this.

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This map is both a snapshot of London’s literary history and beautiful in its own right.

More than 250 novels were mined in order to make the Literary London Map, taken from the Literary London Art Collection.

It was created by graphic artist Dex in collaboration with interior designer Anna Burles.

See also This literature map of the world is simply brilliant.

London

Cannot be avoided this morning: London terrorist attack turned tourist landmark into scene of horror and from a fellow-blogger, Stephen Liddell in London.

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Happening to the day on the first anniversary of Brussels. Terrible, but London has survived much worse, and I think it is fair to say the authorities there have been very capable and measured in their response thus far.

Attacks like this are highly unpredictable but also highly likely. While the imminent elimination of ISIS also seems likely, the ideology it represents continues and will continue. And here we must be very specific and take the trouble to transcend blanket judgments about an entire religion and a quarter of the world’s population.

My reading lately has assisted me in getting better at that. First came Gabriele Marranci’s cool anthropological take in Wars of Terror (2016). Marranci is Australian — Macquarie University in fact. You can get a feel for his work in posts like Indefinite detention for advocating jihadi violence (2015).

Next is my current Wollongong Library borrowing, Graeme Wood, The Way of Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State (2017). It is a good read too, which helps, and I am finding it rings true with my own past encounters with the theology of advocates of what some would label extremism, in my case posted in 2004-2006 for example: Wolves in sheep’s clothing on an extremist Islamic mission.

See this Council on Foreign Relations launch of ‘The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State’.

ROSE: Explain for a second what a caliphate is.

WOOD: And a caliphate—a caliphate is a—it is a resurrection of an institution that most people think was—has been extinct since 1924 when the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished by the republican Turks. But it is a Muslim state that is led by one person, who is a caliph, which—a word which literally means a successor, successor usually considered to the prophet Muhammad as the political leader of Muslims all coming together.

So what ISIS—what they did by declaring a caliphate, for many of the people I spoke to, was—it’s as if they switched a light on. There was suddenly an entity that required the allegiance of all Muslims, caused them to be required, obliged individually to come to fight under the direction of the caliph.

ROSE: So, like, they send out a big bat signal, and now everybody has to come?

WOOD: It’s the ultimate jihadist bat sign, that’s right. And sure enough, you know, that’s what we observed from 2013 and then really in force once the declaration happened in 2014 up until the point where the bat sign turned out to be too dangerous to heed. Like, the Islamic State actually said, if you follow the bat sign, apparently you’re going to get killed, stopped, arrested; we’d rather you ignore it and then just attack where you are.

ROSE: You said that this is Islamic, but it’s a kind of oddball or extreme or not universally accepted operationalization of some strands of Islam. Is that basically correct?

WOOD: Yeah, it—

ROSE: And how would you gloss that?

WOOD: It’s not just that I say it. That’s what ISIS itself says, that they recognize that their interpretation is an extreme minority among Muslims. And they say that that interpretation, that means that most Muslims who have actively rejected them—which is most Muslims—are no longer Muslims. So they—

ROSE: So by definition, if you’re a Muslim but don’t agree that this is the new caliphate, you are an apostate?

WOOD: They’ve got a long list of things that they say would nullify your Islam. And these include voting in an election, any kind of worship of a grave or a saint. These—it—the list just goes on and on and on. But yeah, being persnickety about these questions is really their favorite sport, and they practice it pretty avidly.

See also the NPR interview In ‘Way Of The Strangers,’ Wood Explores Why Young People Embrace ISIS.

WOOD: Yeah. John Georgelas came from a military family. And I think there was still a sense that the way to succeed was by succeeding in a kind of American military sort of way. And so when the parents saw their kid go off in a jihadist direction, they thought of him as a follower. And yet all the Islamic State supporters I had been in touch with thought of him as their leader. So to have this impressionable kid really find his footing and become the leader of a sect within a terrorist group I think is truly inconceivable for the parents to see.

MARTIN: Yeah, a horrible kind of position for a parent to be in. You write in the book that part of the West’s misunderstanding of ISIS is a kind of refusal to acknowledge its religious roots, that there is a theology behind all of the violence.

WOOD: Yes. I think that there is a strong urge to say that Islam has nothing to do with religion, that ISIS is a bunch of psychopaths, people with blades cutting off heads wantonly. Unfortunately that’s just not true. ISIS has looked into Islamic history with historical accuracy, with intellectual rigor. And that’s part of what has produced that group as well as its Muslim opponents.

MARTIN: How do they justify the violence?

WOOD: You’ll find some who will say the violence is temporary. We are Muslims who are reviving the faith and we have to do this in a fallen world, so we’ll cut off the hands of thieves right now. But once the Islamic State is stronger and people realize this is the punishment, we won’t have to cut off hands.

MARTIN: The violence is a way to peace?

WOOD: Yes. That’s what you find with the nicer ones. The less nice ones just say this is a wonderful thing. The violence is not something that needs to be explained except to say that our scripture says it must be so. And so when it happens, we should celebrate it.

I think Wood’s book is excellent. A site he commends has connections with scholars from Princeton, among others: it is Jihadica. Well worth a look.

Jihadica is a clearinghouse for materials related to militant, transnational Sunni Islamism, commonly known as Jihadism. At the moment, much of this material is diffuse, known only to a few specialists, and inaccessible to the public and policymakers unless they pay a fee. Jihadica provides this material for free and keeps a daily record of its dissemination that can be easily searched and studied. These records are accompanied by the expert commentary of people who have the requisite language training to understand the primary source material and advanced degrees in relevant fields.

Oh and please ignore groups such as our self-appointed “patriots” and One Nation. I recently unfriended someone on Facebook after he serially commended “patriot” gatherings and the latest anti-Muslim hysteria. I really don’t need to see that stuff when there is so much better out there. Serious knowledge we need, blanket Islamophobia we surely can do without.

Update:

I do not resile from this for one moment and never will, having seen the utterly useless response of the Revenant of Oz. On Facebook I have just posted “Pauline Hanson is a useless, ignorant, egomaniacal and counterproductive heap of shit. To put it mildly!” As I said, ignore One Nation!

Next day:  If anything I was too kind to this malignant carbuncle on the Australian body politic!

Cricket: lighting up our troubled times

I love this photo from Cricket Australia of part of the crowd in Brisbane for the first test between Australia and Pakistan.

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And what a game it turned out to be! Pakistan as near as did the seemingly impossible.

Australia ultimately pocketed their predicted win but it was Pakistan that emerged with a lion’s share of the plaudits after a history-making run chase that ultimately fell bravely short.

The manner in which the first Test ended – tailender Yasir Shah run out by Steve Smith’s laser-like throw from second slip having wandered inattentively out of his crease after staving off a Mitchell Starc yorker – was in keeping with many a previous failure from this most mercurial of Test teams.

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And I really like the day-night pink ball format. It is certainly drawing the crowds, and could be the saviour of REAL cricket – five day tests.

Meanwhile look at India go! Karun Nair triple century against England fuels India to highest ever Test innings.

There’s no doubt cricket is one of old England’s greater legacies! And a bit of sanity in a troubling world.

Very incomplete personal takes on Brexit

“Certainly going to be interesting to see what happens in the UK in this coming week” I wrote here on 21 June. Well, that was a bit understated, eh!

Now I’m wondering if they should be dusting off the Honours of Scotland.

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Perhaps because I am conscious that the greater part of my ancestry derives from Scotland and Ulster (maternal and paternal lines), I still tend to see the UK through that lens.

The Brexit vote showed interesting divisions on those lines.

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See more maps here.

I must admit this aspect rather pleases me: “People gathered in Edinburgh and Glasgow to demonstrate against the result and show support for migrants.” Then there is this:

[Scotland’s First Minister] Ms Sturgeon said: “After a campaign that has been characterised in the rest of the UK by fear and hate, my priority in the days, weeks and months ahead will be to act at all times in the best interests of Scotland and in a way that unites, not divides us.

“Let me be clear about this. Whatever happens as a result of this outcome, England, Wales and Northern Ireland will always be Scotland’s closest neighbours and our best friends – nothing will change that.

“But I want to leave no-one in any doubt about this. I am proud of Scotland and how we voted yesterday.

“We proved that we are a modern, outward looking and inclusive country and we said clearly that we do not want to leave the European Union.

“I am determine to do what it takes to make sure these aspirations are realised.”

Here is a personal take from Edinburgh.

Amelia Baptie, 36, a mother of twins, said she was “heartbroken and devastated” by the result, as were most of the parents she spoke to in the playground.

She said: “I think if it was about hope on the Leave side then some good could come out of it, but it was about hatred.

“I am upset and worried. I don’t know what has happened to England. They have gone so much to the right and Scotland is being pulled along. My parents live in France and they are very worried now if they can stay, and about their income.”

I worry about some of the types in Europe who have been rejoicing about the UK’s choice – the likes of Le Pen and Wilders.

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See Exploring my inner Scot

I really do think we might see another Scottish Independence referendum not far into the future.

Another element in the UK vote was generational. This 21 June article by Chris Cook on BBC foreshadowed that.

A new piece of evidence on this has been released by Populus, a pollster that is doing a lot of work for the Remain camp. Their data suggests:

  • People aged 65 and over are 23% more likely to vote Leave than the average voter. Voters aged 18-24 are 37% more likely to back Remain. Those aged 25-34 are 19% more likely to back Remain than the average voter, the poll suggests
  • Students are 54% more likely to back Remain than the average person. Graduates are 21% more likely. Meanwhile, people with no formal qualifications are 48% more likely to back Leave…

After the event see  ‘What have we done’ – teenage anger over Brexit vote.

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Finally, a different, wider viewpoint: The Long Road to Brexit.

Markets are stunned. Commenters are shocked. But future historians may view this moment as inevitable…

The debate has cut across the usual divisions of Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat. There are left-wing Brexiteers (who dislike the EU for its lack of democracy and enforced economic austerity) and left-wing Remainers (who like its internationalism); right-wing Remainers (who see the EU as a huge market) and right-wing Brexiteers (who see it as an affront to national sovereignty). There has also been a national dimension: The biggest supporters of Brexit have been the English, and now suddenly the Welsh; the Scots and Irish, for different reasons, have taken the opposite view.

The campaign has highlighted differences too among generations, among regions, and perhaps most importantly among classes and among cultures. Supporters of the “Remain” campaign were disproportionately the young, educated middle classes, who saw the EU as both in their interests and as the political equivalent of motherhood and apple pie. Supporters of Brexit were disproportionately older, less educated, and less wealthy, and think their voices are more likely to be heard in an autonomous national state. Attitudes to immigration from the EU — unrestricted under EU law and running at nearly 200,000 per year — became the shibboleth. Remain saw immigration as a token of enlightenment, economic freedom and cosmopolitanism. The “Leave” campaign saw it as a cause of depressed wages, stressed public services, and long-term danger to national identity. The EU question has become more polarized ideologically in Britain than anywhere else in Europe…

Where indeed will it all end?

Post script

Have been reading heaps of posts. This one stands out: Called back to the present by Scottish physician Bob Leckridge, now living in France.

… and Jim Belshaw:

I watched the UK’s Brexit vote first with interest then with fascination and then with a degree of  horror. I was opposed to the original decision to join the EEC, but after forty years membership unpicking the whole thing becomes difficult. Further, the campaign itself and the consequent vote played to and accentuated divides in the UK….

Alas!

Yes, Jim’s post has disappeared! But now it’s back!

And finally…

Look at Steve Cannane, Brexit: Is Scotland brave enough to defy the UK? and Ian Verrender, Brexit will deliver a few home truths, both on ABC.

Watching the UK’s big decision

Jim Belshaw did a good job on this last Sunday: Brexit Conundrums.

The Brexit campaign has been quite messy. According to the BBC, there is a large pro-Remain majority in the House of Commons, 454 MPs to 147. The vote is being held because of Euro-sceptic views within the governing Conservative Party, views that appear unrepresentative of the Parliament itself.

The electorate is polarised, with the majority of the young supporting remain, while leave support climbs with age. UK nationalists support leave, while Scottish nationalists support remain.

Do read the rest of Jim’s post.

My email Foreign Policy Morning Brief today says:

Top news: Sayeeda Warsi, the former chair of Britain’s conservative party, quit the country’s campaign to leave the European Union on Monday, in protest of “hateful, and xenophobic” tactics.

Warsi, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants to Britain, cited a decision by the so-called Brexit campaign to disseminate posters showing migrants queuing at a border crossing, with the caption “Breaking point,” as a reason for leaving.

“This kind of nudge-nudge, wink-wink xenophobic racist campaign may be politically savvy or useful in the short term but it causes long-term damage to communities,” Warsi told the BBC in a radio interview.

The Vote Leave campaign denied that Warsi was ever a member, an accusation she described as “disingenuous.”

Magnate Richard Branson threatened on Monday to further erode support for the Vote Leave campaign by launching his own remain campaign. The billionaire founder of the Virgin Group said leaving the EU would hurt British businesses.

Recent polls have shown the British public evenly divided ahead of the June 23 referendum.

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UK flags flying over EU Commission London Offices

Scotland seems firm against Brexit: New poll gives Brexit campaign a 10-point lead as Scots seem to want to Remain. That story is dated 11 June.

The UK appears to be heading out of the European Union after a poll showed the Leave campaign has opened up a 10 point lead with less than two weeks to go.

The shock result marks the end of a week of furious campaigning by both sides…

Things have tightened since then. The shock of the murder of pro-Remain parliamentarian Jo Cox on 16 June has had an effect. The latest polls show a swing back to “Remain”.

…since then [16 June], three more polls have shown a significant shift in support following a week in which the Brexit camp appeared to be gaining a significant advantage.

Nigel Farage has acknowledged that the drive to win over waverers may have been hit by Mrs Cox’s death.

“We did have momentum until this terrible tragedy,” he told Peston on Sunday. “It has had an impact on the whole campaign for everybody…”

This opinion piece by venerable commentator Neal Ascherson appeared two days ago in Herald Scotland:

FOUR days to go. As in Scotland two years ago, the torrent of public participation in England is running faster than the politicians can keep up with it. And there’s another resemblance. This referendum is supposed to be about membership of the European Union, in or out. But at a deeper, hidden level it’s a debate about English independence – England’s own indyref.

For all who remember Scotland in 2014, that giddy, looking-glass feeling only grows stronger. Giddiness can make you laugh, but it can also make you nauseous. It’s as if a film of 2014 was being played to us inside-out: the same lines, but spoken by lousy actors in strange costumes.

Here comes Project Fear again, with its dust-storm of factoids and fairy statistics. But here, too, come all those figures who brayed at the Scots that their banks would emigrate, their trade would be in deficit and their pensions would shrivel if they left the Union. And today many of these same voices, now in Leave, say that the banks will prosper, the trade balance will boom, the pensions will actually increase if Britain leaves the other Union.

Now it’s English voters who ask: “Why should our laws be dictated to us by distant people we never voted for?” (Aye, right …) On the other flank, those who dismissed the Yes movement as “anti-English racialism” now dismiss English anxiety about immigration as “racialist bigotry”. Which it sometimes is, but more often expresses the ill-informed but genuine worry of decent people…

And Donald Trump has had a bit of a go too:

As he prepares for a quick trip to Scotland this week, Donald Trump is again weighing in on Great Britain’s vote as to whether to leave the European Union.

“I would personally be more inclined to leave, for a lot of reasons like having a lot less bureaucracy,” Trump told the Sunday Times. “But I am not a British citizen. This is just my opinion.”

The “Brexit” vote on the European Union is Thursday, a day before Trump attends the reopening ceremony for one of his golf courses in Turnberry, Scotland…

On Trump’s interest in Scotland see my March 2016 post The Mad World of You Know Who on WIN/9 last night.

Certainly going to be interesting to see what happens in the UK in this coming week.