The Military: Muscle or Mindfulness?

Our first Battle of Ideas Satellite of 2018 will be a panel discussion. Speakers include journalist Charlie Peters and former soldier and now a post-graduate student, Beveley Henshaw (more details to follow). Chair: Dr Ruth Mieschbuehler (East Midlands Salon)

“Be a tinker or a tailor, but not a soldier or a sailor. The British armed forces are experiencing a debilitating recruitment problem. It seems that no one wants to ‘be the best’ anymore. The British Army values selfless commitment, courage, discipline and level-headedness in the face of adversity, yet these are values that no longer appeal to millennials. This leaves the forces with a dilemma: do they adapt to a more politically correct culture to fill the ranks with sensitive, emotional individuals and compromise on these traditional values or try to emphasise the ‘masculine’ ideals essential for soldiering?

Market research in May 2017 found that millennials viewed the Army as an elitist and non-inclusive organisation that privileged white males. As a result, earlier this year the Army launched a new recruitment campaign, answering questions like ‘Can I be gay in the Army?’ and ‘What if I get emotional in the army?’. Many civilians have welcomed the new campaign for its positivity in appealing to all walks of society. Some feel this campaign moves some way towards building social cohesion, at a time of increasing discussion about misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia and hate crimes. Calls have been made to change the Army’s logo and the motto of ‘Be the Best’ in order to move away from this elitist and non-inclusive image.

 However, many serving and past soldiers are outraged and remain staunch supporters of the army culture, arguing that removing the ‘be the best’ ethos would undermine the military. Political correctness has seeped into the Army with rules such as banning shouting at recruits. While some would argue that shouting at recruits is cruel, many soldiers would argue that potential soldiers could not cope on a battlefield with screaming casualties and prolonged gunfire without this conditioning and desensitisation. The very function of the armed forces is, after all, to fight.

What does this debate about the military say about Britain today? The military was once a great institution, but the values it represents are in decline in wider society. Is it time for this institution, or at least its traditional values, to fall? What would that mean for the United Kingdom socially, economically and politically?”

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 4 October 2018 at 7 PM in the Hallmark Hotel Derby Midland, Derby. Tickets (£5) available on Eventbrite.

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That Existential Leap: a crime story

At the nest East Midlands Salon, Dolan Cummings will be ‘in conversation’ with Dennis Hayes about his new crime novel That Existential Leap. Purchase a copy from Amazon UK.

“Part bildungsroman and part psychological thriller, That Existential Leap is a novel of ideas about the struggle for self-realisation and belonging in the postmodern West. Claudette Dasgupta is a thoughtful but unremarkable American teenager unenthusiastic about the prospect of college and a conventional life. When she meets the heroically mysterious Siegfried at the New York Public Library, she barely hesitates to throw in her lot with him, but soon finds an unscripted life is scarier, and harder, than she could have imagined. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in Siegfried’s home town Glasgow, unconventional police detective Alexander investigates his disappearance. Alexander is soon caught up in still more unworldly affairs as his work spirals out of control and his personal life unravels. As the two stories wrap around one another, encompassing the worlds of crime and gangsterism, the law and police work, music and the supernatural, Dolan Cummings’ novel explores the terrifying uncertainty at the core of all human relationships.”

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 21 June at & PM in The Brunswick Inn, Derby. Tickets are available on Eventbrite.

About Dolan

Dolan Cummings works as a freelance copywriter and speechwriter. He is originally from Glasgow and now lives in London. He is an Associate Fellow of the Academy of Ideas and one of the organisers of its annual Battle of Ideas festival in London. He has edited two collections of essays: The Changing Role of the Public Intellectual (Routledge 2005) and Debating Humanism (Imprint Academic 2006). That Existential Leap: a crime story (Zero Books 2017) is his first novel. His personal website can be found at dolancummings.com.

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The Moral Case For Abortion

At our next Salon, Ann Furedi, the CEO of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), will discuss her  book The Moral Case for Abortion which is about to appear in a second edition.

“This thought-provoking book sets out the ethical arguments for a woman’s right to choose. Drawing on the traditions of sociological thinking and moral philosophy, it maintains that there is a strong moral case for recognizing autonomy in personal decision-making about reproductive intentions. More than this, it argues that to prevent a woman from making her own choice to continue or end her pregnancy is to undermine the essence of her humanity. The author, a provider of abortion services in the UK, asserts that true respect for human life and true regard for individual conscience demand that we respect a woman’s right to decide, and that support for a woman’s right to a termination has moral foundations and ethical integrity. This fresh perspective on abortion will interest both pro- and anti-choice individuals and organizations, along with academics in the fields of gender studies, philosophy, ethics and religion”.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 31 May at 7 PM in the Brunswick Inn Derby. Tickets £3.50 on Eventbrite.

 

 

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The Equal Opportunities Revolution

James Heartfield is a public intellectual. He is the author of many important books including The ‘Death of the Subject’ ExplainedThe British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society: A History and Who’s Afraid of the Easter Rising? At the next East Midlands Salon he will introduce his latest book, The Equal Opportunities Revolution, which explains why bosses took equal opportunities on board just as they were tearing up union rights at work. In the book he asks why greater rights led to greater inequality, and why advances in race and sex equality ran alongside social inequality. He then shows how the equal opportunities revolution became the general model for workplace relations in the decades that followed, and how it did not challenge, but rather perfected the liberalisation of labour law. The right won the economic war, the left won the culture war – and his book explains how.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 22 March 2018 at 7 PM in The Brunswick Inn, Derby. Tickets (£3.50) Available on Eventbrite. Continue reading

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China’s Urban Revolution: understanding Chinese eco-cities

If you are interested in global developments our February Salon, introduced by author Austin Williams, is not to be missed. His new book has been described as “terrific” (Spiked) while Asian Affairs said that “Among the myriad of books on a rising China, China’s Urban Revolution sits among the most valuable”. Here is a brief overview:

“By 2025, China will have built fifteen new ‘supercities’ each with 25 million inhabitants. It will have created 250 ‘Eco-cities’ as well: clean, green, car-free, people-friendly, high-tech urban centres. From the edge of an impending eco-catastrophe, we are arguably witnessing history’s greatest environmental turnaround – an urban experiment that may provide valuable lessons for cities worldwide.

Whether or not we choose to believe the hype – there is little doubt that this is an experiment that needs unpicking, understanding, and learning from. Austin Williams, The Architectural Review‘s China correspondent, explores the progress and perils of China’s vast eco-city program, describing the complexities which emerge in the race to balance the environment with industrialisation, quality with quantity, and the liberty of the individual with the authority of the Chinese state. Lifting the lid on the economic and social realities of the Chinese blueprint for eco-modernisation, Williams tells the story of China’s rise, and reveals the pragmatic, political and economic motives that lurk behind the successes and failures of its eco-cities.

Will these new kinds of urban developments be good, humane, healthy places? Can China find a ‘third way’ in which humanity, nature, economic growth and sustainability are reconciled? And what lessons can we learn for our own vision of the urban future?”

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 22 February 2018 at 7 PM in the Brunswick Inn, Derby. Tickets available on Eventbrite  Continue reading

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What Women Want: Fun, Freedom and an End to Feminism

Our first Salon of 2018 will be the East Midlands launch of Ella Whelan’s brilliant new polemic What Women Want: Fun, Freedom and an End to Feminism. Not to be missed! Here are some comments on her book:

“The brave, bold Ella Whelan is a leading voice of a rising generation of young warriors for free speech, which is lamentably threatened from both the left and the right in today’s world”. — Camille Paglia“And now, in this brilliant book, she puts the case for female autonomy against feminist victimhood. Some feminists will no doubt cry ‘anti-feminist!’, but this would be inaccurate; in fact, this book is in the tradition of the Suffragettes, the female explorers, the female workforce and other female pioneers of the 20th and 21st centuries who demanded that society should mine rather than suppress women’s potential. All women and men who value women’s liberation should read this”. — Brendan O’Neill (from the Foreword).Postgraduate student James Keith will chair this discussion.

Date, Time and Venue: Wednesday 24 January at 7 PM in The Brunswick Inn, Derby. Tickets £3.50 on Eventbrite. Book early as we are certain to sell out.

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What is the greatest work of philosophy?

Our East Midlands Salon at 7 PM on Wednesday 6 December in the Brunswick Inn, Derby, will be a festive BALLOON DEBATE at which eight Salon members will defend what they each think is the greatest work of philosophy. They will have just an initial three minutes to make their case before answering questions from the audience in defence of their choice. There will then be a vote and four of the balloonists will be thrown off the metaphorical balloon. The remaining balloonists will then have just one minute to argue for their chosen work. There will then be a vote and three of the balloonists will be thrown overboard. The victor will then be allowed to sail away into the metaphorical sky with a suitable prize! Continue reading

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Groupthink: do East Midlands universities put conforming before criticism?

Speakers from several East Midlands universities will discuss the claim that ‘Groupthink’ is rife in universities at our second Battle of Ideas Satelleite event. Speakers include Dr Vanessa Pupavac (Nottingham); Dr Glynne Williams (Leicester); Dr Ruth Mieschbuehler (Derby) Dr Nikos Sotirakopoulos (Loughborough) and others academics from East Midlands universities. Come along and share your thoughts but places are strictly limited – so book early!

“A recent report by the Adam Smith Institute claims that a ‘groupthink’ mentality is rife within academia. According to the report, 75 per cent of British academics are left-liberals.

There are concerns that excessive ideological homogeneity creates the risk of bias in scholarship, with certain research areas deemed politically unpalatable and consequently ignored or even demonised. Studies from the US reveal that conservative academics are discriminated against in grant reviews and in hiring decisions, and more than 80 per cent of conservative academics feel there is a hostile climate towards their beliefs at work. In many disciplines, certain approaches are informally excluded when it comes to the appointment of staff. For example, anyone committed to knowledge-based education would stand little chance of getting a job in a university teacher-education department. Is this ‘groupthink’ or is it a reasoned rejection of out-dated approaches and the promotion of new and better ones? Continue reading

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Should we study dead white philosophers?

Students at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) are campaigning to ‘decolonise the curriculum’ by including more thinkers of Asian and African origin in place of the current dominance of the ‘dead white males’ of Western philosophy. They complain that the university is a ‘white’ institution promoting the mythical universalism of the European Enlightenment to legitimise continuing racial domination and colonial oppression. Continue reading

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Creative Destruction: How to start an economic renaissance

Or speaker, economist Phil Mullan, argues in his new book, Creative Destruction: How to start an economic renaissance that the only way to ensure a better future is to create one. Mullan believes that what is needed is comprehensive economic restructuring backed by political and cultural change. For too long state intervention has been about ‘stabilising’ the economy: creating a corporate dependency that has entrenched economic stagnation.

This restructuring means embracing the painful disruption involved in letting the low-productivity parts of the economy go, to allow new sources of wealth creation to flourish. Crucially, for Mullan, this means seizing both the economic and democratic opportunities offered by Brexit.

So how do we create an economic renaissance? Do we need a bout of creative destruction, or should caution still reign? And does Brexit offer important opportunities to act decisively to renew British capitalism?

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 22 June at 7 PM in The Parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby (£3 waged/£2 unwaged)

About Phil Mullan Continue reading

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