Category: Insipirations

Better Worlds: On Human Potentials, Capabilities and Rights

On Human Potentials, Capabilities and Rights   “What is each person able to do and to be?” (Nussbaum, 2011: p18). A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be.  Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970)…

What I Have Lived For

Bertrand Russell; from the opening of his Autobiography

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

 I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what–at last–I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

 Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

 This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

 Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) won the Nobel prize for literature for his History of Western Philosophy and was the co-author of Principia Mathematic. When  I was young he was the most talked about and read philosopher. Now nobody ever seems to speak of him. That is the way of ideas and life!  But I still keep his highly readable History of Western Philosophy by me ( even though he was not keen on pragmatism!).

Bertrand Russell as a young man

No One is Alone

I saw Side by Side with Sondheim in 1976 at the Wyndham’s Theatre in London in 1976, and became a Sondheim fan. Oddly I had already seen Company (at Her Majesty’s) and A Little Night Music (at the Adelphi), but this compilation revue finally hit me. Sondheim was a complex tunesmith and  a marvellous lyricist. Hot on the heels of this came Sweeney Todd and Merrily We Roll Along (which is coming back to London this Christmas).  Here is one of my all time favourite songs –  and one that has shaped my oddball sociology. It is from Into the  Woods.

You move just a finger,
Say the slightest word,
Something’s bound to linger,
Be heard.
No one acts alone.
Careful, no one is alone.

See Bernadette Peters sing it: You Tube

Sondheim: One of my musical heroes

Sondheim: One of my musical heroes

Inspirational: Stan Cohen

Stan Cohen as Key Inspiration Stan Cohen was my first teacher and inspiration in sociology. He taught me social psychology and the sociology of deviance as a student at Enfield College in 1965 and 1966 – and he showed me what a non pompous intellectual life could look like. His ideas inspired me as I…

Changing Homosexualities

Way , way back in the early 1960’s I was a little gay boy coming out in a world where homosexuality in the UK was crime, disease and sadness. I did not stand a chance!

But slowly over the past fifty years the world – in the U.K. at least-  has indeed changed out of recognition in this area. I have lived as a happy out homosexual more or less since 1966.  Several people helped me in my coming out- and Anthony Grey is one of them.

In Memoriam: Anthony Grey  (1922-2004)

Antony Grey was the pseudonym of Anthony Edgar Gartside Wright. In 1958, Grey starting voluntary work for the Homosexual Law Reform Society (HLRS). He became the Society’s Honorary Treasurer in 1960 and its Secretary by the end of 1962. I first met him in 1966 as I was coming out and visited the Albany Trust and the HLRS in Shaftesbury Avenue. I was nervous; everybody was nervous. A wonderful woman called Doreen Cordell gave support.

I met Anthony Grey – a nervous and shy man; and for several years he was a major infulence of my life. He showed me the world could be changed. We did not have to accept the law or the negative repsonses to homosexuality. I did my PhD on this.

Anthony Grey was one of Britain’s first gay rights activists. He was instrumental in forcing the government to push through the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which paved the way for modern law reform. He began campaigning for gay equality in 1958 and later became secretary of the Albany Trust, a charity set up to help gay men who had developed psychological problems after being persecuted. Later in life, he was involved in counselling and training work and joined the executive committee of the British Association for Counselling.

Fore 3 or 4 years I worked with the HLRS – but then along GLF and I found its more radical approach more persuasive. Sadly, I lost contact with him. And only recently have I learned of his death. Fellow gay rights campaigner Andrew Lumsden, who had known Anthony Grey since the age of nine, commented at his death: “I was one of his oldest friends and he was an extraordinarily brave man. His work paved the way for the Gay Liberation Front, OutRage!, Stonewall and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality.”

Anthony Grey lived with his partner Eric Thompson for over 50 years, even at a time when it was considered dangerous for gay couples to share a house. He died after several years of being ill with leukaemia at King Edward VII Hospital in London on Friday April 30th 2004.

Selected Writings

Quest for Justice: Towards Homosexual Emancipation
Speaking of Sex
Speaking Out: Sex, Law, Politics and Society.

Selected Links

http://www2.lse.ac.uk/library/archive/projects/1967_and_all_that/grey.aspx

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/05/04/first-gay-rights-activist-antony-grey-dies-aged-82/

Cosmopolitan Symbolic Interactionism

  On Symbolic Interactionism I have since the late 1960’s been interested in the theory of symbolic interactionism. It is a very partial and limited theory but for many purposes it is actually one of the best we have. The Poetic for Paul   a few posts back has already introduced some key ideas.  …

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