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This week for our weekly cultural article we will be examining the David Lean’s (1908 – 1991) 1946 film Great Expectations, considered to be one of the greatest British films ever made. When it was released in 1946, it was met with glowing reviews. Today, seventy years later, it has been described by Criterion as “one of the greatest translations of literature into film.”
David Lean’s Great Expectations captures the essence of Charles Dicken’s (1812 – 1870) literary genius by juxtaposing his memorable characters with the artful film direction of David Lean. Leans use of black and white to add to the foreboding and melancholy atmosphere of the film. Then there are the numerous dark, creepy, rundown, and ultimately human locations that burn themselves into the memory: the creepy graveyard where a young Pip first meets escaped convict Abel Magwitch, the Kentish marshes, Miss Havisham’s dilapidated and macabre home whose clocks are stopped at the exact time Miss Havisham learnt of her fiance’s betrayal, 19th century London, Mr. Jagger’s offices whose walls are decorated with the death masks of defendants lost to the gallows, the prison where Magwitch dies, and so forth.
Then there are the wealth of memorable characters the film presents to us. The most notable of these is Pip through whom we see all of the tragedy and injustice of early 19th century England. Pip acts as more of an observer to the world around him than an actual protagonist. We first meet Pip (Anthony Wager, 1932 – 1990) as a young orphan being raised by his overbearing older sister (Freda Jackson, 1907 – 1990) and her kindly blacksmith husband (Bernard Miles, 1907 – 1991). It is during this time that Pip first encounters Abel Magwitch (Finlay Currie, 1878 – 1960), a kind yet ultimately decent escaped convict, in the cemetery, and when his heart is broken by the coquettish Estella (Jean Simmons, 1929 – 2010) and the dishevelled and deranged Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt, 1900 – 1969).
As the film progresses, we see Pip grow into a young man, played by John Mills (1908 – 2005), who, it could be argued, was perhaps a little too old to play Pip in his early twenties. This Pip has been bequeathed a large allowance by an unknown benefactor and travels to London with the view of becoming a gentleman. There he forms a friendship with the Herbert Pocket (Alec Guinness, 1914 – 2000) who helps him refine his manners. The adult Pip finds himself corrupted by the ponce and ceremony of the English upper-class and is ashamed to admit that he would have paid money to keep Joe Gargery, dressed in his cheap suit and awkward manner, away. Pip is forced to reexamine his views after discovering that his benefactor is none other than the escaped convict Magwitch, who was so struck by Pip’s childhood compassion that he was inspired to make something of himself and become his benefactor. Magwitch’s kindness and gratitude cause Pip to regain his lost humanity.
Great expectations represents a type of film that no longer exists: one that deals entirely with the human condition. These films are no longer made because they often do not involve exciting elements, but rather present characters that are flawed and suffering and places these characters in stories that are essentially tragic in nature. These films are no longer made because they do not fit into the blockbuster formula. Rather than the larger-than-life heroes of the blockbuster, films on the human condition feature characters that are ultimately flawed and suffering. These characters are placed in stories that are ultimately tragic in their nature. A far cry from the often over-the-top plots of the modern blockbuster. There is something deeply satisfying about films like Great Expectations which shows normal people to be capable of leading a dignified existence regardless of the tragedy and suffering they are forced to face.
This is our weekly theological article.
It is a common complaint of the media that criminals are not given an appropriately severe punishment. An article in The Express, SNP Plot to Scrap Short Jail Sentences Could See Thousands of Criminals Avoid Prison, argues that plans to introduce a “presumption against” sending people to prison will mean that thousands of people convicted of serious crimes will avoid prison. In another article, this time from the Herald Sun, prosecutors in Australia complained that the sentences criminals received were not in line with community standards.
Of course, this represents the common misconception, perpetuated by the media, that the judiciary exists to serve the standards of the community. It does not. Rather, the Justice System exists independently of both public opinion and politics. It bases its decisions on equality before the law and justice for all.
Much of the media’s rhetoric is designed to feed off of our very human desire for revenge based justice. When we read about a rape or child murder in our daily newspapers, often our first reaction is to wish all kinds of cruel and inhumane punishments to be exacted on the criminal guilty of those crimes. Our indignation turns us into barbarians, not civilised people.
In his encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, Pope John Paul II warns of how justice can quickly devolve into cruelty and hatred when it is not tempered by mercy:
“It would be difficult not to notice that very often programmes which start from the idea of justice and which ought to assist its fulfilment among individuals, groups and human societies, in practice suffer from distortions. Although they continue to appeal to the idea of justice, nevertheless experience shows that other negative forces have gained the upper hand over justice, such as spite, hatred and even cruelty.”
God tempers His divine justice with mercy. If He were to judge us purely on our thoughts and deeds we would surely be condemned to hell. But in his mercy and love for us, He allowed his only Son to suffer and die on the Cross so we may be freed from the shackles of sin and death.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; justice without mercy is cruelty.” It is precisely this idea, that justice ought to be tempered by mercy, that should drive the way we treat those who have harmed us. As Isabella tells Antonio in Measure for Measure: “it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but tyrannous to use the strength of a giant.” We should never forget that the person who has wronged us is a human being who is as loved by God and as deserving of His forgiveness as we are.
Terrorists have detonated a bomb on the eastbound district line train at the Parsons Green Tube in West London.
Eyewitnesses reported hearing loud bangs coming from a bucket, possibly an improvised explosive device, located towards the rear of the train around 8am, British time. One eyewitness told Sky News that they reported seeing a “white builder’s bucket” with a “foiled carrier back” (possibly a Lidl supermarket carrier bag). This bucket has also been described as having “wires hanging from it and a strong smell of chemicals… a chemical smell more than a burning smell.”
One witness told BBC 5:
“I heard a really loud explosion – when I looked back there appeared to be a bag but I don’t know if it’s associated with it. I saw people with minor injuries, burnings to the face, arms, legs, multiple casualties in that way. People were helping each other.”
Another witness said:
“There were a lot of people limping and covered in blood. One guy I saw, his face was covered in blood – I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Police and ambulances were on the scene within minutes of the blast. The explosion and subsequent stampede caused injuries to twenty-two people. Fortunately, no one has been killed and none of the injuries have been described as life-threatening or critical.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through their Amaq News Agency on Friday evening. British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has raised the UK’s terror threat level from severe to critical.
British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has raised the UK’s terror threat level from severe to critical. May offered her thoughts to “those injured Parsons Green emergency services who are responding bravely to this terrorist incident.” Scotland Yard, meanwhile, has confirmed that they are treating the incident as a terrorist attack.
Over in the US, the Trump administration stated that President Trump’s:
“Sympathies and prayers for those injured in the terrorist attack today in London. The president pledged to continue close collaboration with the United Kingdom to stop attacks worldwide targeting innocent civilians and to combat extremism.”
President Trump stated in a speech at Joint Base Andrew that he expressed:
“America’s deepest sympathy as well as our absolute commitment to eradicating the terrorists from our planet.”
Is there any other time in history more malaligned than the Middle Ages? Our modern conception of the so-called “dark ages” is that it was time characterised by superstition, barbarity, oppression, ignorance with a few outbreaks of the plague, just to make things interesting.
This view has been helped by numerous so-called educational resources. BBC’s Bitesize website, for example, takes a leaf from certain 19th-century British historians, the type of who saw Catholics as ignorant and childish, and caricatures Medieval peasants as “extremely superstitious” individuals who were “encouraged to rely on prayers to the saints and superstition” for guidance through life. It even accuses the Catholic Church of stagnating human thought and impeding technological development.
This does not represent the view, however, of many serious historians and academics. As Professor Ronald Numbers of Cambridge University explains:
“Notions such as: ‘the rise of Christianity killed off ancient science’, ‘the medieval Christian Church suppressed the growth of the natural sciences’, ‘the medieval Christians thought that the world was flat’, and ‘the Church prohibited autopsies and dissections during the Middle Ages’ [are] examples of widely popular myths that still pass as historical truth, even though they are not supported by historical research.’
In reality, the Middle Ages saw advances in law, politics, the sciences, theology, philosophy, and more. It saw the birth of the chartered town which ushered in the tradition of local self-governance. The existence of a strong papacy laid the foundations of limited political power as it prevented monarchs, who justified their power through their so-called “unique” relationship with God and the Church, from monopolising power. This symbolic limitation on monarchical power was manifested in the Magna Carta (1215) and the birth of the English Parliament.
The people of the Middle Ages produced magnificent Gothic cathedrals and churches. Many medieval monks became patrons of the arts and many were even artists themselves. In literature, the Middle Ages saw Dante’s the Divine Comedy and Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In music, the Middle Ages laid the foundation of Western classical music and saw the development of musical notation, western harmony, and many of the Christmas carols we know and love today.
Likewise, the Carolingian Renaissance of the 8th and 9th centuries saw advancements in the study of literature, architecture, jurisprudence, and theology. Medieval scholars and scientists, many of whom were monks and friars, studied natural philosophy, mathematics, engineering, geography, optics, and medicine.
In the spirit of intellectual and spiritual enlightenment, many universities, including Oxford University, Cambridge University, and the University of Cologne. These universities educated their students on law, medicine, theology, and the arts. In addition, the period also saw the foundation of many schools and many early Christian monasteries were committed to the education of the common people.
The Middle Ages saw advances in science, literature, philosophy, theology, the arts, music, politics, law, and more. Its legacy is all around us: whether it is in the limitations placed on the powers of Governments, the music we listen to, or in the tradition of education many of us have benefited from. In an era of political correctness perhaps we should be wondering whether we’re living in the “dark ages.”
At a security conference in Germany, the former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, condemned multiculturalism as a failure. He stated: “we need less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism.” In a similar statement, the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, also condemned the doctrine of multiculturalism. Sarkozy told the French people: “we have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.” In recent years, the Western nations that have preached multiculturalism and diversity as bastions of peace, tolerance, and diversity – Great Britain, France, Germany, the United States – have been the primary targets of radical Islamic terrorism.
Progressives like to believe multiculturalism and diversity create harmonious and peaceful societies. When, in reality, it creates division. Telling newcomers that they do not have to assimilate into their adopted culture fosters tribalism: Irish form communities with fellow Irish, Muslims form communities with fellow Muslims, Japanese form communities with fellow Japanese, and so forth. As these cultures, especially those lacking the fundamental roots and beliefs of their adopted countries, compete for supremacy, they inevitably conflict with one another. So, whilst Germanic and French cultures may be able to live harmoniously thanks to their shared Christian heritage, the same cultures would not fare as well if they were expected to co-exist with a culture whose central tenants are profoundly different.
Why am I harping on about the inherent faults in multiculturalism and diversity? It is because I believe we have created the greatest culture mankind has ever seen: a culture that has produced Shakespeare, Mozart, Voltaire, Plato, Aristotle, John Locke, freedom and democracy, the television, the I-Phone, the movies, free market capitalism, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Einstein, Newton, Mary Shelley, the Bronte sisters, and more. And I believe it is a culture worth protecting. And how do we protect it? We start by protecting the very things that have made the West so great in the first place: Christianity, an adherence to truth and a deep esteem towards the logos, the supremacy placed on individual rights and liberties, the free-market place of ideas and commerce, Small Governments, and political freedom.
Moral and cultural relativism is being used to tear down and replace the existing social order. When the Mayor of London, Shadiq Khan, is able to state “terror attacks are part and parcel of living in a big city” and young German women are able to hold signs proudly proclaiming “will trade racists for rapists” unopposed, it is clearly time for certain ideas to go away.
The House of Lord’s Select Committee on Communications is conducting an inquiry into how the UK’s advertising industry can maintain its leading position in the world market.
According to a preliminary report released by the committee, advertising and marketing services contributed £13.3 billion to the UK economy in 2014, making it second only to the IT industry. Similarly, the Advertising Association has stated that advertising brings in £120 billion in economic activity to the UK.
The inquiry aims to address how the UK’s advertising industry can maintain its access to top level skills and talent. The Chairman of the committee, Lord Henley has stated:
“Advertising in the UK is a major contributor to economic growth and its services are now the UK’s third biggest export. According to one industry body, the industry generates a total of £120 billion in economic activity in the UK and provides 500,000 jobs.”
“However, the industry also faces major changes as advertisers switch from the traditional media of television, radio and print to digital—which now generates more advertising revenue in the UK than all other media.”
“With such a significant contribution to the UK’s economy, the Committee will examine how this industry can evolve and adapt to a changing market, and what role there is, if any, for the Government to help. The Committee will also explore ways the advertising industry can maintain access to a global talent pool and nurture the skills of those already in the UK.”
The committee has given all interested individuals and organisations until October 20th to submit written evidence to the inquiry. It will also hear oral evidence between September and December.
The committee intends to release a publication in early 2018.
South Korean officials have confirmed that a blast at a North Korean nuclear testing site was caused by the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.
According to the South Korean newswire service, Yonhap, officials observed a 5.7 magnitude seismic event near the Punngye-ri nuclear testing site at about 12.30pm, local time. Tremors could even be felt in north east China.
North Korean state television announced the test to be ‘a perfect success’ and even published photographs of Kim Jong Un directing the test. North Korea’s state newspaper, Rodogon Sinmun, reported on Sunday:
“All components of the H-bomb were homemade and all the processes ranging from the production of weapons-grade nuclear materials to precision processing of components and their assembling were put on the Juche basis, thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants.”
The United Nations has issued a statement, passed by all fifteen members, condemned North Korea and has accused them of “deliberately undermining regional peace and stability and [having] caused grave security concerns around the world.”
Donald Turk, President of the European Council, released a statement condemning North Korea:
“The EU stands ready to sharpen its policy of sanctions and invites North Korea to restart dialogue on its programmes without condition. We call on the UN Security Council to adopt further U.N. sanctions and show stronger resolve to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
British Prime Minister, Teresa May, stated:
“The international community has universally condemned this test and must come together to continue to increase the pressure on North Korea’s leaders to stop their destabilizing actions.”
French President, Emmanuel Macron, stated:
“The international community needs to deal with this latest provocation with the greatest firmness, so that North Korea will restart dialogue without conditions and proceed with the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.”
President Donald Trump tweeted:
“North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”
President Trump continued:
“North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”
US Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis, has met with President Trump and Vice President, Mike Pence, to discuss the situation. Outside the White House, Mattis made a brief statement:
“We have many military options, and the President wanted to be briefed on each of them.”
“We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack, and our commitments among our allies are ironclad. Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response – a response both effective and overwhelming.”
“Kim Jong-un should take heed the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice. All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses, and they remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea.”
Republican Senator from Missouri, Roy Blunt, told NBC’s Meet the Press that nearby countries should do everything in their power to force North Korea to ease tensions. According to Blunt, the rogue communist state has been a topic of discussion in Senate Intelligence Committee meetings. Blunt said:
“In the intel committee that I serve on, I think it doesn’t disclose anything to say in that in the last year this has probably been the number one topic month after month – what was happening there, what are we going to do about it – and I hope the neighbourhood understands how critical this is.”
Blunt went on to refer to Kim Jong Un as “spoiled and reckless”:
“You’ve got a leader who is both spoiled and reckless. Spoiled and reckless is not a unique thing to find in the world today, but it is unique with somebody who has control of what may now be hydrogen weapons.”
The US is strongly considering issuing further trade sanctions to cut off North Korea. These sanctions may include Chinese banks and businesses doing trade with North Korea. US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said in an interview on Fox News on Sunday:
“We are going to strongly consider everything at this point and, again, I will draft a package for [President Trump’s’ strong consideration that would go as far as cutting off all trade and other business.”