I'm reading A C Grayling 's The Meaning of Things (Weidenfeld, 2001). I was attracted by the title, and I knew his name from Radio 4's discouragingly titled weekly think-in The Moral Maze. I must have been more than usually somnolent during his contributions, because I had no clear picture of his attitudes. I got the book and found that it's a collection of articles based on contributions to The Guardian. But it was too late then.
The cover photo shows Grayling with flowing hair, cravat, tweedy jacket – every inch a Fifties Fabian intellectual. His feet are not visible, so we have to guess at the sandals.
They're very short pieces. I've just read the one on fear.
Talk about prissy! Of horror films, roller-coaster rides, drug trips and so on: "These internal and external stimuli are rather like the salt and pepper that some folk sprinkle on food; ... " Some folk, indeed! I read this while feasting on salt-sprinkled chips in a Woolworth cafeteria.
"In addition to paralysing effective action, fear is the source of many social ills. It gives rise to superstitions and religions, to feelings of racial and tribal antipathies [sic], to hostility to the new or different, to rigidity and conservatism, to adherence to outworn practices and beliefs whose only recommendation is their familiarity. ..."
A Guardianesque recitation of pet evils.
Now, Grayling does not actually say that nothing other than fear can give rise to superstitions (for example, humanity's excessive talent for pattern-making); or to religions (for example, a sense of awe or humility); or racial and tribal antipathies (such as a well-founded sense of differences in sentiments and interests); or to hostility to the new or different, etc (such as an accurate perception of the virtues of the old and the harmfulness of the new). He does not say this, and he would claim not to believe it. But his words show what he thinks about those who do not love the Guardian view of the world. They must be scared. There can't be any other explanation.
I think Grayling could provide me with a fair few texts for sermons in the days to come.