A good rant
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Meic Pearse book
Date: 19 April, 2004
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summons up observations from
history and an understanding of modern society. Here we have
a lively history, in which John Stuart Mill and Tom Paine rub
shoulders with McDonalds and Bill Clinton.'
Huw Thomas reads Meic Pearse's book Why
the Rest hates the West
What do you make of bar room ranters in your
They tend to fall into two categories. In one there are the ranters
that build a virtual perimeter around themselves, and are to be
avoided. Meic Pearse is in the other camp. A ranter who can keep
In Why the Rest Hates the West he has a rant. The focus is
on western culture and Pearse is looking at its peculiarities from
an opening stance of asking why post-modern Western culture can
prompt such hatred. Why 'they' hate us becomes a study of what's
wrong with us.
Pearse summons up observations from history and an understanding
of modern society. Here we have a lively history, in which John
Stuart Mill and Tom Paine rub shoulders with McDonalds and Bill
Nothing is wasted as all sources and quotes are from the pen of
a writer quite obviously at ease with this material, drawing out
the useful insights with a gift for explaining them.
From this background Pearse is able to offer perceptive comments
on a range of facets of modern society, bringing them home to bear
on everyday reality. He offers an explanation of how the decline
of traditional authoritative structures has put immense pressure
of the intermediate institutions in our society, insights that will
ring true with those who work in the public sector in education
or social services.
He is able to present the way in which lifestyle trends and changes
in mobility have impacted on the family unit in ways that help me
appreciate why, living 300 miles from my grandparents, I struggle
to get baby-sitting support.
Where this book works, it works well. It does what it claims it
will do and doesn't widen its scope. If you don't already share
many of its stances, however, it doesn't do much to persuade you.
Another example of the limited scope is the book's focus on the
West. There is a clear refusal to engage in much talk about the
rest. This is a rant about our society its people.
Like any ranting polemicist, Pearse makes up a few straw men.
His caricature of 'multiculturalism' presents the reader with an
unthinking political correctness - light years away from the thoughtful
debate found in a writer like Yasmin Alibi-Brown or even the genuine
negotiation of day to day realities found in an average inner city,
diverse primary school.
Another quality shared with ranters is Pearse's tendency to sometimes
tell us what we think. It is assumed that utopian ideals have been
abandoned. It's taken as obvious and therefore something with which
the reader is bound to agree.
However, given these limitations, where it works it works well.
The book presents an engaging point of view. With Pearse we step
outside the West for a moment and look at it from a range of angles.
This will include things you hadn't noticed, such as his striking
discourse on how the use of passive verbs in common parlance (as
in "things should be sorted") tells us about a change
in social responsibility.
By taking some steps back, Pearse is able to look at a wider picture.
When he discusses abortion he takes us on a step back to see the
dilemma of right versus responsibility and how you can reach different
conclusions depending on which you emphasise.
It did leave me asking where there was scope for redemption. There
are some fantastic rants that are beautifully written, but Pearse
was a little too unbending for my liking.
When I read some of his writing on personal morality I ask: "What
of those of us who have made mistakes?" On a societal level
I'm asking: "What if we're making one bigger mistake?"
Maybe Pearse has these sorts of thoughts lined up for another book.
If so, I'd very much like to read it.
Why the Rest Hates the West
by Meic Pearse, SPCK, pp192.
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