... that communist tyrants and their philosophers get such seemingly uncritical adulation?
BBC Radio4 is running a poll at present to decide whom amongst the 20 remaining in the final short-list listeners will vote for as the 'greatest philosopher'. In the short-list are:
St. Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Epicurus, Martin Heidegger, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato, Karl Popper, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre, Arthur Schopenhauer, Socrates, Baruch Spinoza and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
According to this Economist article (subscription required), the front-runner for votes at this stage is Karl Marx. Call me a simple fellow, and some (inexplicably) do, but this sad progenitor of a dismally failed philosophy of how best to organise society seems, to put it no stronger, a curious choice. Now of course I am a commiited Radio4 listener, warts and all, but I haven't yet voted. Whether you follow the Madsen Pirie reasoning that "The BBC audience is increrasingly isolated from reality", or the Economist's own suggestion that some degree of meddling may have gone on in the voting so far to achieve this result, is a subject for lively debate. However, I tend to go with their suggestion that the best way to achieve a better result is to cast a vote for someone who has a decent chance of displacing Marx and who at the same time espouses much more reasonable ideas - they suggest David Hume, currently third-placed by voters. I have yet to decide, but am certainly going to give him my serious consideration.
Now the spur to write this little article, as my first after a few days away, was a very pithy article in today's Telegraph, by none other than Boris Johnson (and I link to this as well, because the article is reproduced in his blog today). He points out, in the trademark Johnson fashion, how curious it is that it is somehow considered cool to sport t-shirts bearing images of gentle tyrants such as Lenin or Castro (still in power and continuing to run Cuba into the ground, for heaven's sake, so there can be no excuse for him!), whereas anyone sporting a t-shirt bearing the image of Hitler or Pinochet would rightly be considered, to put it no more strongly, extremely insensitive and possibly completely crazy. Just what is going on in the collective psyches of rather too many of my fellow British citizens that none of this seems to appal them?
Just why was it considered appropriate for the traitor Melita Norwood to remain unprosecuted and permitted to live out the remainder of her sorry existence, by then Home Secretary Jack Straw (who denies being a Trotskyist, but is quite happy to accept that his beliefs can be traced back to Stalinism!), when she was unmasked as a spy in 1999 on admitting being "Hola", a KGB agent exposed by Vasili Mitrokhin after his defection in 1992? Contrast this with the very justified prosecutions of some (relatively) minor Nazi apparatchiks in recent years, all of course equally or more aged and infirm than the late Norwood. It is, truly, very curious.
Most curious of all, though, is just how far too many people in the UK seem supinely to be allowing this current New Labour government to walk us down the path into a modern and highly-sophisticated Police State. The ID Card Bill scraped through the Commons just a day or so ago, because too few of the party-hacks who populate Labour's benches had the gumption to vote against their Party's line and there are continuing efforts by the Government to dilute the right to trial by jury, to dilute the ancient rights that come with habeas corpus, not to mention their efforts to restrict our rights to free speech.
Unfortunately, and I have news for Boris Johnson, there is nothing at all inexplicable about any of this. It's what socialists do, even if they try to hoodwink us by using such euphemisms as New Labour to try and mask who and what they are - authoritarian, almost to a man (or a woman).