This year’s Last Word Festival at The Roundhouse has been a mixture of online and in-person events. Although I had hoped to be able to attend more events, and accessing the festival hasn’t been easy, it was a pleasure to listen to poets Cecilia Knapp and Alexandra Huỳnh in conversation as I tucked into my dinner at home.
by Sam Naylor
From the 8 – 24th of August I attended a Generation UK – India programme. The fortnight programme was organised between the British Council and the University of Kerala, which was founded in 1937, to engage 46 British students and graduates with a taste of Contemporary India: Culture and Society. The study placement covered a lot of ground, ranging from a lecture on Indian foreign policy to visiting their ancient manuscript library, to learning the state language of Malayalam and gendering Indian popular cinema. The course’s content was as diverse as the state we were studying in and the people who attended the study trip.
In the years following the Second World War, Britain had shifted in ways many thought impossible. In the 1950s, amidst the fading colonial legacy of a crumbling empire, with increasing levels of immigration and the decreased faith in the power of the free market led, the country’s middle class felt stranded. These revolutionary changes in the country’s fabric radically challenged the ideas they had been raised to adhere to in the name of success. Middle England was holding out for a hero – and boy did Ian Fleming’s gin-swilling womaniser give them one.
James Bond is a cultural artefact – an ideological snap-shot, emerging initially as the embodiment of the established order, in order to defend it. Such was the archetypal appeal of the character, and so in tune was he to the fears of the middle class, that he soon moved seamlessly between mediums. In a world where Britain’s influence seemed to be waning, and where marginalised races and genders were pushing for equality, Bond showed Middle England could still have it all – no wonder he’s cited as being David Cameron’s inspiration for foreign policy, 007 is a conservative’s wet-dream.
So the identity of Jihadi John has been revealed and the local press are now going to town on who Muhammad Emwazi was and what his past life in England was like, presumably to put together the pieces behind his state of mind and what drove him to commit such atrocities. Of course, this writer has been keeping tabs on such developments over the past week or so and, without wanting to sound like an amateur psychologist here, has done so in order to gain an idea of what the mind set of the average ISIS recruit is like.
And, truth be told, there seems very little that differentiates Emwazi’s frame of mind from that of any other garden-variety sociopath, such as Ted Bundy or the infamous Columbine high school shooters. If you’re still under the impression that he believes in a deeply-rooted cause, it’s very likely you’re sadly mistaken.