Instant Opinion

‘In the modern world, the workaholic chino-wearers march ahead’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

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James Marriott in The Times

If you want to get ahead, ditch your creativity

on conformity 

“According to the most recent edition of the Financial Times’s How to Spend It supplement, £127,000 will buy you the ‘ultimate’ Steinway self-playing grand piano,” writes James Marriott in The Times. “Isn’t this weird?” he says, in buying the piano it “draws attention to a hobby you don’t have”. It says “my owner is slightly more boring than you might have supposed. My theory is that this is partly the point,” he continues. In the modern world “the ability to sublimate your personality, your eccentricities, your creative fantasies to your work is rewarded. The boring succeed and so being boring has become a kind of status symbol.” Unfortunately, “the cost of not conforming is higher than ever, financially and personally”, writes Marriott, so “the hobbyless, the dull, the impeccably CV-ed, the workaholic chino-wearers march ahead.”


Ben Lawrence in The Telegraph

The Turner Prize has become an anti-artistic, politicised basket-case

on individual merit

“Is the Turner Prize the biggest basket case in British culture?” asks Ben Lawrence in The Telegraph. The prize has announced its “lastest wheeze”, to make every nominee on the 2021 shortlist an artist collective. “Artistic individualism, be damned! What did Steve McQueen or Damien Hirst bring to our artistic landscape, anyway?” It’s clear, that the prize judges, “who no doubt feel they are being terribly democratic and cutting-edge, have apparently shot themselves in the foot”, writes Lawrence. “A problem with getting involved with collectives is that you’re dealing with multiple voices – even if they’re ostensibly united – and they’re always going to find something to complain about.” Anyway, the best artists have always “alas, been selfish individuals who wouldn’t be deterred from their chosen path. Would Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) have been so dazzling had Picasso formed a collective with sex workers from turn-of-the-century Barcelona?”


Joe Guinan and Martin O'Neill in The Guardian

The ‘third way’ may have worked for New Labour, but it is impossible now

on Blairism

“For Labour, the future simply isn’t what it used to be,” write Joe Guinan and Martin O’Neill in The Guardian. The party is now even further from power than it was before the 2019 election. “In moments of defeat, there is a tendency to look back at what has worked in the past and assume it could be repeated again in the future.” The “third-way” approach of New Labour under Tony Blair brought remarkable electoral success 20 years ago, but it is now “economically unsuited to the present moment” and “unrepeatable in political terms”. Across the Atlantic, another veteran of third-way politics, Joe Biden, has “shifted his economic position in response to the demands of the moment, working constructively with the left of his party rather than marginalising it”, they continue. “If the Democrats are showing that they are not stuck in the past, there is no reason why the Labour party should be either.”


John Thornhill in the Financial Times

Only scientists and voters can change the politics of catastrophe

on failures of governance 

“A Covid-19-style pandemic was both predictable and preventable,” say experts. That it has now unfolded as a global disaster is “due to a failure of governance and the lack of a co-ordinated international response”, writes John Thornhill in the Financial Times. “What is most unnerving about this failure is that humanity will soon face even bigger threats. The risks of environmental destruction, nuclear annihilation, cyberwarfare, bioterrorism and rogue artificial intelligence are easy to foresee and horrifying to contemplate,” he continues. But, “at least some smart researchers are on humanity’s case”, adding that “we should invest little hope in political leaders tackling these risks on their own initiative”. This is because “distracted politicians are always likely to delay and defer to ‘realist’ arguments unless ‘idealist’ scientific experts empowered by civil society can convince them otherwise”.


Andrew Tettenborn in The Spectator

Boris’s animal rights laws could come back to bite him

on a racing certainty

One of the most “bizarre” laws included in a raft of new measures announced in the Queen’s Speech this week is one “requiring government to accept that animals are sentient and feel pain and angst like the rest of us”. “To most of us (and probably to Boris) this initially looks innocent enough,” says Andrew Tettenborn in The Spectator. “True, it is ultimately quixotic: animals either feel distress or they don’t, and what the law says about it makes no difference whatever.” However, “such a law would not be nearly as innocuous as it looks.” Animal rights groups “are well-funded, argumentative, and litigious,” says Tettenborn. “Whatever form any legislation took – and the details are still unclear – it is a racing certainty that they would take full advantage of it to exert maximum pressure on the government to conform to their demands.”


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