Technocratic Theories

As this is but a personal website that is affiliated to no network, this may not be an appropriate place for an advertisement. But I’ll post a link to one anyway.

The Royal Irish Academy has long been a patron of the study of international affairs in Ireland and its latest conference, to be held next week, is on the theme of Multilateralism and Interdependence.

A programme for the event can be downloaded from that link and there are also options for tickets.

To me, the remarkable thing about studies like this is how theoretical their nature is. It is a world away from the historic days I have been researching, but a good illustration of how specialist studies have become since the 1960s and, in an Irish context, since European developments in the 1990s. The academy and society are not always on the same wavelength.

It would be a simplification to say that pre-1950 attitudes towards international affairs in Ireland were usually a matter of two worlds never meeting: Chatham House theorists across the water and public house, or seminarian, philosophers over here. But there is something to that idea all the same.

Are human rights issues since the 1960s more a matter of theory than of practice? And does funding generate the theory rather than the reverse? Hmm…

My idea of creating an old straightforward chronological narrative in describing political history may be an anachronism. But perhaps its naïve simplicity may prove to be not entirely worthless for more than one reader. At the present rate, however, it is likely to prove more than a while before I can mould some kind of narrative, so exposure to as many arguments, or even theories, as possible may be a good idea. There is always room to learn, even if the likes of me will never develop a technocratic brain.

Saturday Night At the Movies

I noticed on the net today a story that the average person checks their smartphones sixty times a day for social media news feeds. I guess that is why I have felt the need to avoid both smart phones and social media. Then again, we all need our distractions. But what are positive and negative distractions? Well, here are three from old movie screens that, I think, work like a combination of both:

Army Of Shadows: I first saw this while researching the IRB, perhaps appropriately. It is a purely human and episodic drama that involves secret political meetings, the assassination of informers, prison escapes, the different “revolutionary” sensibilities of different generations and, in general, a sense of the unavoidability of counter-productive behaviour. Some have reviewed this film as being like a classical Greek drama because its abiding sense is one of fatalism. Although its director had first-hand experience of the subject matter of the film (the French Resistance in World War Two) and was a ‘patriot’, he decided to focus on the failures rather than the successes. A combination of real-time editing and relying on what is not said was the director’s favoured means of persuasion. This was his best film. A bonus feature on many a dvd copy is a thirty-minute documentary, which is actual footage of the liberation of Paris (19-26 August 1944) caught by French amateur filmmakers that was turned into a wartime cinema broadcast by the French liberation committee, albeit (on my dvd) with an English voiceover provided by Noel Coward.

Rome Open City: justifiably the best known World War Two resistance film, shot in Italy while the war was ending. This is a much more conventional drama where the mood is not one of fatalism, even though, once again, all meet a sorry end. If one sees the female characters in its story as pivotal, it can throw an interesting light on just how wartime hatreds can emerge, who are the master manipulators in society and who are the true victims. The world was not born yesterday.

Pi: this one probably looks like a cross between “a digital humanities thesis that went terribly wrong” and “a cyber security nightmare”. Actually, it is more of a Jewish mystical folk tale about the wisdom of not seeking an answer to the unanswerable. Comparable, on that level, to ‘A Serious Man’; the only Coen Brothers film I’ve seen that I think actually “works”. Dark, but with a touch of wisdom in there somewhere…