What is existential freedom?

Earlier this year, historian Mary Beard got involved in a Twitter spat after she suggested that it was not all that shocking that Oxfam workers had used prostitutes, while on a disaster relief mission in Haiti. She noted that people often behave badly in extreme situations and suggested that it might be a mistake to judge them too harshly. There was a predictable outraged backlash. Writing about the controversy afterwards, Beard reflected that people often have unrealistically high moral standards, even of themselves. She gave the example of a discussion she’d had with a group of students, about Nazi-occupied France. She’d asked what they thought they would have done in those circumstances. “They all said they would have joined the Resistance,” she recalled, before noting, “The truth is to judge by any statistics you can get that most of them would have been collaborators or keeping their heads down.”

It’s a salutary point, and I don’t dispute it, but, at the same time, there would have to be something seriously wrong with anyone who answered the question by saying, “Well, statistically speaking, I’d probably have helped the Nazis.” Continue reading “What is existential freedom?”

Talking That Existential Leap with WORLDbytes

At the end of August, I talked to volunteers from the education charity WORLDbytes about That Existential Leap: a crime story. Here is the video.

You can find other WORLDbytes videos on their website. I also recommend their documentary Every Cook Can Govern: The life, impact & works of C.L.R. James and I look forward to 1917: Why The Russian Revolution Matters, which will premiere at the Battle of Ideas in London at the end of October.

Buy That Existential Leap: a crime story.

Brexit – existential leap or crime story?

jhp577e07d4bf0c3On 23 June last year, two significant events took place, for me at least. First, it was the day of Britain’s referendum on whether to remain in the European Union: I was one of the 17.4 million who voted to leave. Second, I was offered and accepted a contract from Zero Books for the publication of my novel, That Existential Leap: a crime story. Continue reading “Brexit – existential leap or crime story?”