Grey Eminence

In France during the first part of the seventeenth century, Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis — better known as Cardinal Richelieu — held enormous power as the king’s ‘Chief Minister’. In addition to his many titles, Richelieu also had the sobriquet ‘Red Eminence’ [Éminence rouge]. Though often regarded as the power behind the throne, behind him stood another. A ‘Grey Eminence’ [Éminence grise]. François Leclerc du Tremblay was the right-hand man of Cardinal Richelieu and gained his own sobriquet for the beige, termed grey in that period, robes he wore....

May 27, 2020 · 2 min read · 358 words

A Marvellous Idea for a Blog

A young poet once said to Mallarmé, “I had the most marvellous idea for a poem this afternoon.” “Oh dear,” said Mallarmé, “what a pity.” “What do you mean?” said the young poet, stung. “Well,” said Mallarmé, “poems aren’t made of ideas, are they? They’re made of words.” — Stephen Fry, The Hippopotamus Though an apocryphal tale, it is nonetheless useful in understanding the challenges of blogging, particularly on as regular a basis as 100daystooffload....

May 21, 2020 · 2 min read · 218 words

Dead Certainties

In a New York Times book review in 2016, Michiko Kakutani delivered an assessment of Volker Ullrich biography of Hitler which was perceived as drawing a comparison between Trump and der Führer. One does not need to know much about the rise of Hitler and the NSDAP to see that even though Kakutani never mentioned Trump by name, the comparison was so thinly veiled as to be positively naked. While the approach is but one of a long line of ‘historical’ comparisons which pervades political discourse, what is of particular interest is that while many historical comparisons are used to normalise a present event or set of choices, comparisons involving Trump leverage history to abnormalise him....

May 20, 2020 · 3 min read · 490 words

Climate Change, Political Stagnation

The satirical ‘Yes Prime Minister’ quipped about international organisations: Hacker: But surely we’re all committed to the European ideal? Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister. Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership? Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It’s just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes....

December 20, 2009 · 5 min read · 900 words