Friday, 10 July 2015

Happy Holidays - from Portsmouth Point

photograph by Kirsty Hodgkins

Winner of the 2015 Year 8 Leonardo Poetry Prize

The winner of the 2015 Year 8 Leonardo Poetry Prize is Alice Marchant.

The Green-Eyed Monster

She walked past me
Money in her bag
Food in her stomach
I wished I was her

And she kept walking
In her designer shoes
Until she reached her warm house
I wished I was her

I sat by the road
Catching coins in my hat
Rummaging for food scraps
I wished I was her

A monster grew on my back
Green eyes
Bright as emeralds
I wished I was her

It weighed me down
Wherever I went
Wherever I saw her
I wished I was her

And I wished
And I wished
And I wished

I wished I was her.

Visit to Hardy Country

by Alice Priory and Isabelle Welch

Fifteen year twelve students boarded the minibus and ventured down to sunny Dorset as the finale of Enrichment week. The trip was fantastic as it enhanced both our cultural awareness and knowledge of Hardy as a novelist and poet. This will put us all in good stead for our A2 course as we will go on to study Tess of the D’urbervilles, which shocked the Victorian public in 1891.

We began the day- post bus journey- by following the ‘Thomas Hardy trail’ through the woods, to his place of birth. The secluded cottage just outside Higher Bockhampton was built by Hardy's great-grandfather in 1800 and little has been altered externally since, serving as a reminder of Hardy’s humble beginnings. Although not “on the breadline”, he was born into a working class family which is apparent throughout his writing, his first novel failing to be published as it was thought to be too searing of the upper class.

After a delicious and much deserved panini lunch in Dorchester, we visited Max Gate- the house Hardy designed and had built at the height of his success and where he eventually died aged 88. It was here that Hardy returned to solely writing poetry, after the negative reception of his two controversial novels, 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles' and Jude the Obscure'. The beautiful gardens (where we played a competitive game of croquet) and isolated house were a clear inspiration for his work, with the study's latticed window framing the scenery. The positioning of Hardy's house reflects his hostile relationship with Dorchester, with his birthplace always in view. 

We concluded the day by visiting Stinsford Parish Church, where his heart (which due to rumour is actually a pig's heart) is buried. Hardy's connections with the Church undoubtedly influenced 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles', with it featuring in the novel under the name 'Kingsbere'.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

PGS in Bloom 2015

by Miranda Worley

The winner of the 2015 'PGS In Bloom: Senior School': Administration department

The winner of the 2015 'PGS In Bloom: Junior School': Nursery

The second place in the 2015 'PGS in Bloom: Senior School': Design and Technology department:

Budget 2015: The Illuminati Is Dead, Long Live The Illuminati!

by Caleb Barron

So after well and truly putting down any claims that the Illuminati may exist I have reached one possible conclusion: the Illuminati exists.

In a world of pure chaos, torn apart by war, crime, hate and greed one force brings stability. That force is the Bilderberg Group. Formed under the shadow of the Cold War and now working as a 21st Century Illuminati, the Bilderberg Group are a large group of very important individuals who meet every year to discuss the world (and how to control it). Containing 150(ish) political leaders and experts from industry, finance, academia and the media Bilderberg strives to solve the world’s issues but more importantly create a world where they call the shots.

In 2001, Denis Healey, a Bilderberg group founder and, a steering committee member for 30 years, said: "To say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair. Those of us in Bilderberg felt we couldn't go on forever fighting one another for nothing and killing people and rendering millions homeless. So we felt that a single community throughout the world would be a good thing." He was Secretary of State for Defence for 6 years during the height of the cold war… and we have no idea where his orders came from.

The most worrying thing about this group, they tell us on their own official website ( for those intrigued):

Thanks to the private nature of the conference, the participants are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions. As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights. There is no desired outcome, no minutes are taken and no report is written. Furthermore, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.

NO MINUTES ARE TAKEN! So basically a group of the most influential people in the world meet every year and there is NO RECORD of what they have agreed. Hypothetically, therefore, they could choose a specific date for a fluctuation in a market or the release of a certain story or the changing of a certain policy and make it change the whole world in their favour. How do we know that whole elections aren’t manufactured around us and there is no way of proving its roots because NO REPORT IS WRITTEN?
Just to prove how ridiculously important all the people at this annual summit are I will pick at random from the list of names for the Steering Committee a person and give you a brief summary of their power. I urge you to try this yourself:

Johnson, James A.
Chairman, Johnson Capital Partners

(Straight from Wikipedia):
James A. Johnson (born December 24, 1943) is a United States Democratic Party political figure, and the former CEO of Fannie Mae. He was the campaign manager for Walter Mondale's failed 1984 presidential bid and chaired the vice presidential selection committee for the presidential campaign of John Kerry.

I would argue that makes him quite an influential person…

For those worried about our own political figures both George Osborne and Ed Balls have been seen at the Bilderberg summits in recent years. The release of the budget announcement yesterday comes less than a month after this year Bilderberg conference in the Austrian alps and it begs the question of how much of it was decided at the conference.

The BBC has seen some turbulence recently too, with a massive fine given to them in the recent budget, cuts made to children’s television and BBC News and of course the announcement of the move of BBC Three online. The whole of the BBC’s funding for the next five years actually rests on a back room deal announced just days ago. Well with Rona Fairhead, Chairman of the BBC Trust on the guest list for Bilderberg who’s to say things weren’t thrashed out off the record over the course of the conference.

Winner of the 2015 Year 9 Leonardo Poetry Prize

The winner of the 2015 Year 9 Leonardo Poetry Prize is Sam Harris.

The Seven Deadly Sins


I must have you

As the sea needs its blue

And as the Earth needs its sky

Or the thief needs his lie

I must have you.


I shall consume you

As the fox eats the shrew

And as the cave eats the light

Or the Sun the night

I shall consume you.


I will take you

As the drunkard a brew

And as the miser his money

Or the beekeeper the honey

I will take you.


I shall stop you

As the choke the chew

And as the sap the beetle

Or the metal the needle

I shall stop you.


I will fight you

As the dog the shoe

And as the warrior the snake

Or the building the quake

I will fight you.


I shall be you

As the water is dew

And as the lizard is the tree

Or the mirror is thee

I shall be you.


They all want you

As I do too

For you are nothing

And I have your everything

And now we own you.


Why is the Battle of Agincourt Important?

by Jamie Bradshaw


The motives

A contemporary portrayal of the battle
Henry V invaded France following the failure of negotiations with the French. He claimed the title of King of France through his great-grandfather Edward III, although in practice the English kings were generally prepared to renounce this claim if the French would acknowledge the English claim on Aquitaine and other French lands (the terms of the Treaty of Bretigny). He initially called a Great Council in the spring of 1414 to discuss going to war with France, but the lords insisted that he should negotiate further and moderate his claims. In the following negotiations Henry said that he would give up his claim to the French throne if the French would pay the 1.6 million crowns outstanding from the ransom of John II (who had been captured at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356), and concede English ownership of the lands of Normandy, Touraine, Anjou, Brittany and Flanders, as well as Aquitaine.. The French responded with what they considered the generous terms of marriage with Princess Catherine, a dowry of 600,000 crowns, and an enlarged Aquitaine. By 1415, negotiations had ground to a halt, with the English claiming that the French had mocked their claims and ridiculed Henry himself. In December 1414, the English parliament was persuaded to grant Henry a "double subsidy", a tax at twice the traditional rate, to recover his inheritance from the French. On 19 April 1415, Henry again asked the Great Council to sanction war with France, and this time they agreed.

The campaign
Henry V
Henry’s army of 12,000 landed northern France on 13 August 1415. They immediately laid siege to the port of Harfleur. The siege took much longer than expected. The town surrendered on 22 September, and the English army did not leave until 8 October. The siege season was coming to a close, and the English had lost a lot of men to disease.  Rather than retire directly to England for the winter, with his costly expedition resulting in the capture of only one town, Henry decided to march most of his army (roughly 9,000) through Normandy to the port of Calais, the English stronghold in northern France, to demonstrate by his presence in the territory at the head of an army that his right to rule in the duchy was more than a mere abstract legal and historical claim.

During this time, the French had raised an army, which assembled around Rouen.  The French hoped to raise 9,000 troops, but the army was not ready in time to relieve Harfleur. After Henry V marched to the north the French moved to blockade them along the River Somme. They were successful for a time, forcing Henry to move south, away from Calais, to find a ford. The English finally crossed the Somme south of Péronne, at Béthencourt and Voyennes and resumed marching north. By 24 October both armies faced each other for battle, but the French declined, hoping for the arrival of more troops. The two armies spent the night of 24 October on open ground. The next day the French initiated negotiations as a delaying tactic, but Henry ordered his army to advance and to start a battle that, given the state of his army, he would have preferred to avoid, or to fight defensively. His troops were tired, hungry and suffering from dysentery, but he knew that if he waited any longer the French would gain more troops.

The battle

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Surprising Mathematical Facts by Jack Dry

PGS Pride on TV!

by Jo Morgan

Winner of the PGS Leonardo Poetry Competition 2015

Abid Ali, Year 7, is the winner of the 2015 Leonardo Poetry Competition.

Greed is the main priority in life
And it would be completely foolish to say:
“We should help bring peace to the world”
“We should help one another”
“We should give to charity”.
In order to better ourselves,
Greed should continue in all of us.
An unwise person would only say
There is humanity in all of us.
For everyone, however,
Selfishness is
What we are full of,
Hope is
Not an option,
Giving up is
What we do,
Helping one another is
None of us are
To tell the truth,
And this will be our future unless we turn it around.

And this will be our future unless we turn it around.
To tell the truth,
None of us are
Helping one another is
What we do,
Giving up is
Not an option,
Hope is
What we are full of,
Selfishness is
For everyone, however,
There is humanity in all of us.
An unwise person would only say
Greed should continue in all of us.
In order to better ourselves
We should give to charity
We should help one another
We should help bring peace to the world.
And it would be completely foolish to say:

Greed is the main priority in life

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

From the War Rooms to Westminster

by Eloise Peabody-Rolf

29th June to the 3rd July was ‘Enrichment Week’ at PGS.  For Year 12, the week included Sports Day, and UCAS Day focusing our minds on our university applications and particularly our personal statements. Then on Thursday we had Social Apprentice Day which enabled us to perform voluntary work and give back to the community. The final day of the week, we had a trip carousel, I went on the Politics trip to London.

After travelling up on the coach to London we first visited the Churchill War Rooms in the Imperial War Museum.  We were given time to explore the area, which was an excellent opportunity to find out more about Churchill himself, and also the situation in which Britain was placed in during the Second World war, and the reasons for Churchill’s decisions. He was certainly a determined man, and it surprised me the hours he was prepared to work - 18 hours some days, and his expectation of his co-workers to do similar.

On leaving the War Rooms, we had a short walk to the Supreme Court.  This is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases, and for criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  It hears cases of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population. It was interesting to visit the court rooms, and learn more about their processes.

A short lunch break, and then the final stop of the day was to Parliament.  Politics students were lucky enough to be able to visit and have a tour around Parliament, for me, it was amazing to see first-hand all we had been learning about in our lessons for the past year, and it was inspiring to know that we have stood where decisions which change our lives have been made.

For me the visit to Westminster was particularly pertinent as, following the election, I had invited the newly elected MP for Fareham, Suella Fernandes , to meet the volunteers at the Hampshire Community Court which is operating in her constituency.  As a barrister herself Suella was keen to observe the youth justice initiative in action, and visited the team on 19th June.  I’m pleased to say she was impressed with what she saw and is keen to return to observe further cases.

As her host, I took the opportunity to ask Suella a few questions about how, six weeks in, she is finding life as an MP.  She kindly gave me her permission to share her first impressions.

Suella Fernanded, MP for Fareham
What is it like in the House?
When you arrive it is amazing, I’m not a historical person but when you’re in there the architecture is overwhelming. When you are there you can understand why it has been called the ‘Mother of Parliaments’.

What was it like making your maiden speech?
From about 15 or 16, I dreamed of making a maiden speech, so when it finally happened it was a dream come true and, although I was nervous because of the other MPs in the House, I was very excited and received a lot of warm support from across all the parties.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Review: 'The Importance of Being Earnest'

by Nina Luckmann, with photographs by Jason Baker

This year’s sixth form play -The Importance of Being Ernest - perpetuated the claimed reputation that has developed over the years. The piece pivots around two friends - Jack and Algernon - desperate to escape their real life responsibilities and nagging relatives. The two gentlemen thus adopt a mutual pseudonym (‘Ernest’) as a means to travelling back and forth between countryside manors and the luxury city life. Yet after both becoming engaged under their aliases, they are caught in an awkward spiral of deception as the aunt Augusta’s overbearing authority complicates an already knotted issue.

 The sixth form directors, as ever, took a well known play and made it their own. And not without success; both Harry and Emily’s distinct personality was reflected in the script and tone of the piece. The changeovers were fluid and quick, the play beautifully cast (with house drama high-fliers Rory Bishop, Bex Emerton, Harry Neame, and others not failing to deliver) with funny, witty interjections contributing to it’s comical nature (some of which was intentional, and some less so…). In the words of Alice: ‘despite having seen the play hundreds of times, they managed to make it funny again’. Indeed, for someone who had not seen the play before, it was delivered with coherence and clarity that made it easy to understand. And the underlying message was clear: it is important to be e(a)rnest.

Why We Should Use Fairtrade

by David Danso-Amoako

Fairtrade is a foundation that helps farmers get a fair deal on their crops so they can improve their quality of life. The foundation provides help with health, education and financial wellbeing for the community in which they operate.  Below are some examples of the work they do with farmers all over the world to encourage you to support the wonderful work done by the Fairtrade Foundation. Founded in 2004 in Germany, Fairtrade’s main aim is to enable sustainable development and empowerment of disadvantaged producers by ensuring a fair price for their products.

Fairtrade benefits people in all sorts of ways. Programs not only benefit a farmer but his or her community as well. Without the work of Fairtrade, farmers in developing countries who are struggling with low prices for their products would lose their livelihood and sink deeper into poverty. In order for Fairtrade to work, the foundation partners itself with co-operatives made up of local farmers. 

After doing this, Fairtrade sets a minimum price at which the products of the co-operative must be sold. In addition, Fairtrade helps the community by setting up key facilities which the community require. These include building hospitals, schools and teaching farmers better technique to help them increase their yield, sustain economic development and improve the quality of life in their communities.

In Ghana, West Africa Kuapi Kokoo (English: good cocoa farmer) is a co-operative which aims to help cocoa farmers sell their cocoa beans at a fair price. With the help of Fairtrade, all of their cocoa beans are sold at the Fairtrade set minimum price or at the auction price if this is higher than the Fairtrade minimum price. This helps the cocoa farmers get the best price for all their hard work. The additional money farmers get helps them to pay the bills, afford better healthcare and to improve the education of their children. In addition, the additional income farmers will be able to increase their cocoa production and also afford farming equipment and technique. Fairtrade has also built pumps in Ghana so clean water is available for the community. Fairtrade is also building schools and employing teachers to work in Ghana.

In Colombia, Foncho is a Colombian farmer who is a member of the Coobafriao co-operative, which helps ensure a fairer price for its crop, the banana. This co-operative helps Foncho look after his family and send his 19 year-old daughter to university. Fairtrade certified Coobafriao in 2011 and has since raised the income of the farmers by 35%. This helps farmers like Foncho lead a good life in Colombia and avoids the chance of his family sinking into poverty. This means that instead of worrying about not having adequate finances, Foncho can focus on his family and farming bananas.

But these examples of good work and many others cannot go on unless we all pitch in.
In order to help Fairtrade, we must buy products with the Fairtrade label. By doing this we can ensure that the money goes towards some of the great causes Fairtrade supports. Based on sales in 2012-2013(see graph above), one of their most sold products was the banana. Sometimes, Fairtrade products may be more expensive, but the extra money spent on that product will be worth it.

A Complete Guide to the ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’: Phase Three

by Tim Bustin

Unlike Phase one and two, all phase three films are yet unreleased – in most cases there are only hints of what to expect (and besides, knowing too much would spoil the fun). Here’s a look at the new cast of characters we can expect to meet, and the backstories of the potential new Avengers, as we build up to the final Avengers films

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Characters first introduced:
·         Peter Parker/Spider Man
·         T'Challa / Black Panther
·         Baron Helmut Zemo
·         Unspecified role (to be played by Martin Freeman)

This film should really be called Avengers 3. Every Avenger from Age of Ultron (who isn’t dead, or Thor) appears in this film – which is cool and scary at the same time. After the Avengers cause more public damage and disruption through their activities, a governing body is set up to say when the Avengers should be called in. The Avengers disagree over this, and it is expected that Captain America and Iron Man will be the leaders of the two differing sides.

Being introduced are Black Panther, leader of the African nation of Wakanda (where we get the vibranium for Cap’s shield), and Spiderman, finally being returned properly to Marvel, and a version much truer to the comics (i.e. actually a teenager). Baron Helmut Zemo, in the comics, is a genius Nazi scientist who starts wearing a hood over his head to protect his identity (after his fellow German’s turn against him), and after an accident with Adhesive X (a special chemical he creates that can’t be broken down) this becomes permanently stuck to his body. General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (introduced in the Hulk film) will be appearing, and although played by the same actor (William Hurt) the role is meant to be a reimagining rather than a reprisal of the character. Brock Rumlo (a.k.a. the villain ‘Crossbones’) also returns from Captain America: the Winter soldier (Cap 2).

The Winter Soldier is likely to play a large role (carrying on from Cap 2), and it will be interesting to see how this plays out, as if he is simultaneously the world’s most mysterious assassin and the longest P.O.W. in history.

Doctor Strange (2016)

Characters first introduced:
·         Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange (as played by Benedict Cumberbatch – yay!)

Definitely one for the Cumberbitches. After brilliant neuroscientist Dr. Strange loses control of his hands in a car accident, he is trained in the art of magic, and eventually becomes one of the most powerful sorcerers ever known. Or so the comics say. Who knows what the plot of this film will be? It’ll be a nice surprise though.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Should again be a lot of fun, and there is talk of potential crossovers with the Avengers. The plot of this film will likely explore Peter Quill’s father (it’s been announced it will not be J'son of Spartax, as in the comics), and will include more of the Guardians that exist in the comics.

Untitled Spider-Man film (2017)

Spider Man, Marvel Spider Man/Does whatever a Marvel Spider Man can/Can he get a film, in the MCU?/Yes finally, he’s getting one too/Look out – here comes the Spider Man/ here comes the Marvel Spider Man!

So 3rd time lucky on the Spider-Man franchise – 19 year old Tom Holland takes the role this time (making him much more like the comic book Spider Man than Toby Maguire or Andrew Garfield). Spider-Man will fit into the Avengers films later on, including beforehand in Captain America: Civil War.

Do Authors Write or Are They Written?

by Lottie Kent

“I’ve never understood why writers who write on writing get charged with creative onanism” remarks David Mitchell, in an article for The Guardian on the work of Italo Calvino (Mitchell, D. Enter the Maze, published in The Guardian May 22nd 2004.  He makes clear both the impact that Calvino has had over him and his own desire to explore aspects of fiction and reality through literature, using devices such as “interrupted narratives”. Certainly, critical comparisons between the two authors are not uncommon, and there are identifiable similarities between the styles, themes and narrative voices they employ. However, Mitchell expresses a keenness to diverge from certain features of Calvino’s work that, for him, “no longer [cut] the metaphysical mustard, somehow.” In fact, though he has been explicit about the impact of If on a winter’s night a traveller over his own Cloud Atlas, it is less easy to label the remainder of his work as bearing this same formative influence. Ghostwritten was Mitchell’s debut novel; it is not inconceivable that he would have sought to avoid particular literary clichés or homages to his forebears, especially those related to his “devout” interest, “The Postmodern Novel”. 

This raises a question on how far we can truly assume Ghostwritten to have been influenced by Invisible Cities, or whether, perhaps, the metafictional devices exhibited in both are merely the result of intertextuality.
Intertextuality has been identified as encompassing “unconscious, socially prompted types of text formation (for example, by archetypes or popular culture),” (Clayton, J. and Rothstein, E. Influence and Intertextuality in Literary History). It seems to suggest that to be influenced by something one must be completely aware of it and, furthermore, readily acknowledge it. Intertextuality, on the other hand, does not require this level of recognition from the subject and, moreover, it seems to be inevitable; Julia Kristeva has declared that “every text is from the outset under the jurisdiction of other discourses which impose a universe on it.” (Cited in Culler, J: The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction, 1981). That is to say, nothing can ever truly be original. Context and language affect subjectivity which, in turn, determines how one approaches other literature and the writing process itself. Mitchell might contest that Calvino has had a marked effect on Ghostwritten, yet his framework of literary experience, particularly that concerning the postmodern, cannot be denied. When authors write they are also written, and, in constructing his debut novel, Mitchell has arguably shown himself to have been ‘written’ by Invisible Cities.

Much of the postmodernism in Mitchell’s Ghostwritten is evident in its careful but ever-uncertain balance between meaning and meaningless, the sense of being poised on the verge of finding significance. The first chapter, ‘Okinawa’, and its narrator, Quasar, are particularly instrumental in establishing this theme. Seeking purpose, Quasar is driven to extremism and terrorism in a postmodern world where consumerism and technology have deconstructed many of the traditional sources of meaning. Religion, nature, relationships with others – notions from which people might once have drawn significance – have all seemingly become void. Commenting on a cityscape, Quasar describes “department stores rising like windowless temples, dazzling the unclean into compliance.” (p.4). The irony of a “windowless” place of worship is clear, substantiated in John 1:5: “God is light and there is no darkness at all.” People are still searching for meaning, but in their individualist greed they have blocked out anything of profound and enduring value for the sake of “dazzling” ephemera. Viewed from the outside, the “temples” represent the superficial attractiveness of the commodities that people are drawn to; those that they desire, buy and discard in a cyclical, soul-searching hedonism. But the lack of any “windows” in these “temples” of consumerism that might let in the pure, natural light (a symbol of true meaning) speaks of the dark hollowness of these purchases. It reveals an insubstantiality that will never allow for genuine spirituality, a world in which “all that is solid melts in the air”. (The Communist Manifesto, Marx, K. and Engels, F.).

Quasar alludes to this dark human condition as a loss of purity, as a “festering mess” that has sullied the “virginal state” of Japan pre-consumerism and pre-globalization. He refers to those compliant in the present-day capitalist system as “unclean”, believing them to be dirtied by the material possessions they own. Branding it “money-blinded”, he sees the society he moves through as increasingly ignorant, made so by an impetus that compels people to work for and fund the very system that enslaves them. The purest way for these people to be “cleansed” in Quasar’s eyes is to eradicate them, and for this he is prepared to be a martyr. It is through existing at the fringe of political belief that Quasar finds his purpose in life; the irony, thus, is that his suicide (his ceasing to exist) could beget the ultimate meaninglessness. Though he believes his autonomy to be greater than others’, he, too, is driven to find meaning through committing acts that will eventually leave him powerless and obsolete.

In fact, it has been remarked that quasars or “quasi-stellar objects” appear rare because they are “suicidal”. (Loeb). Extremely distant yet luminous objects, they were initially mistaken for stars, given their intense brightness. Actually, they are abrupt emissions of light energy from the starry region surrounding a supermassive black hole. Thus, their position is the border just between significance, as symbolised by stars, and the ultimate void, the hole. Quasar embodies this fine division between meaning and nothingness, and, moreover, he recognises it: he claims his name was “chosen…prophetically” by “His Serendipity” (the cult’s leader) because it characterised his life’s “role”: to “pulse at the edge of the universe of the faithful, alone in the darkness.” Isolated from the rest of society, Quasar is able to view civilisation from a distance, disengaged and thus disillusioned with the shallowness of contemporary culture. For him, the obsession with appearance and consumption has given rise to semiotic ambiguity, wherein it is unclear which is the signifier and which is the signified, and even which of the two is the more important; in other words, people are not concerned with actually owning anything special or original, but simply appearing to do so. It is no longer necessary to realise one’s aspirations of wealth when popular culture’s alphabet of consumerism allows people to do it symbolically. Why bother getting rich if you can look it cheaply? Mitchell demonstrates, through Quasar, how existing at the margins of society might drive the disenchantment[1] of the modern man. It is this idea of liminality, of viewing things from a dissociated, removed perspective so as to see their ‘true’ nature, i.e. the uncanny, that has provided a foundation for much metafictional experimentation and discussion.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Is Capitalism Compatible with Christian Moral Teaching?

by Oliver Brotherton

This essay is an evaluation of the place of Christian moral teaching in a capitalist setting. The research question concerns the message of Christian morality as taught by the Bible, most prominently by Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and its place within capitalist business, capitalist society, methods of capitalist gain and capitalist influences on moral thinking. The essay evaluates the arguments in favour of a potential compatibility between Christianity and capitalism including Biblical quotations and research into the ‘Protestant work ethic’. These arguments, however, are found to be insufficient to allow Christianity and capitalism to be considered compatible as these arguments rely on superficial readings of the Bible and incorrect views of Christian values towards others and society. The essay then covers arguments against compatibility including Liberation Theology, Christian Communism and the immoral nature of capitalist business for example surplus labour. It is shown that these arguments provide a more accurate interpretation of Biblical teaching, as they emphasise social justice and equality over personal gain. The essay will conclude that Christian moral teaching and capitalism are fundamentally opposed and, in fact, mutually degrading. Both concepts, in modern society, focus on completely separate issues. While capitalism aims towards personal gain at the potential loss of others, Christianity emphasises self-sacrifice to help people in need. Moral values such as those expressed in the Bible are vital to becoming an ethically aware society and the influences of capitalism on everyday life are causing ‘western’ society to become morally challenged and ever more amoral both in business and in daily life. Overall, capitalism is found to be too ethically challenged to be revived to the benefit of society. The moral and practical ideals of Christian Communism are found to be beneficial to creating an ethically aware and egalitarian system of governance and belief.

For much of the history of the ‘western’ world capitalism has played a serious role in shaping societies and thought. At the same time, especially in Europe, Christianity has been a dominant force in influencing the development of moral thinking. Although these two factors have shaped and moulded our modern culture and morals, they are fundamentally opposed in their teachings, to the extent that the supremacy of one acts to degrade the other in society. Even from the most basic of Christian morals it is difficult to find any aspect that is reflected in the ideals of modern capitalism. In fact such is the extent of capitalism’s amorality that it is difficult to find any naturalistic moral basis that can be practically applied to it. In order to help revive logical moral ideals in society, we would need to completely discard much of the common teachings of capitalism that have pervaded our everyday thought.

It is important to begin with some of the issues within the question presented. Christian morality is a particularly difficult issue, as Christianity is by no means a unified doctrine due to its often conflicting moral ideals. There are also varying sources of authority that are accepted by different Christian groups. These can include scripture, tradition, magisterium and reason and the use of these authorities can dramatically affect what is seen as moral by a religious group. For example, although polygamy is commonly rejected by the Catholic Church, many of the more orthodox groups of the Latter Day Saints movement still see polygamy as acceptable. In the case of this essay I would like to use the term Christian Morality to refer to morality as taught in the Bible, the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus especially. These provide a more straight forward and relevant depiction of Christian morals, which can easily be analysed and applied to a capitalist society. To help define capitalism in the sense it shall be used, capitalism will be examined not only in the sense of economics, but also in a wider, more social and moral context. The concept of capitalism that shall be used, not only describes, as some Neo-Marxian economists have written, a society in which capitalist methods of wage labour and class structure are dominant, but also refers more widely to the ideology of capital gain and the paradigm of class and personal success that is somewhat predominant in our modern society. It is particularly the implications and outworking of the capitalist paradigm (for example its effect on the way we see ourselves and our duties within society) that I shall explore in relation to Christianity, as I believe these not only have the most impact upon our lives, but are also philosophically relevant to much of today’s moral thought.

First it is important to consider the arguments that can be offered to support capitalism within a Christian context which, although they lack any practical credibility, could show a degree of support for compatibility between the two. It has been argued that passages within the Bible support capitalism. This is perhaps best shown through the Parable of the Talents[1] (sometimes referred to as the Parable of the minas), in which a man who is about to go on a journey entrusts some money to three of his slaves. The Parable is often seen to be in support of capitalism and entrepreneurship as each slave is given a different amount of money based on his respective ability, then when the man returns the two slaves who have made a profit and doubled the money given are congratulated by him, while the third slave who merely buried the money and did nothing with it is scolded for being lazy. Certain readings have taken this to be divine support of business and work for profit, which can be easily seen through the emphasis on monetary gain. This argument, however, was actively rejected by many as it is symbolic. John Cort, a prominent Christian socialist, wrote that the man referenced in the parable represents God and that the money he gives his slaves is the ‘spiritual wealth’ that God gives to us all[2]. From this Cort argued that the parable has no relevance to wealth, but in fact teaches us to allow God’s goodness to grow and multiply within us. I also believe that, although this Parable, along with others involving money in the Bible, may appear to give some credibility to capitalism, this is merely a shallow and incorrect reading of the Bible’s teachings. Naturally we cannot take every Parable in the Bible at face value, otherwise many of the lessons taught by many of the Parables seem irrelevant. For example the Parable of the Mustard Seed[3] , in which Jesus compares the kingdom of Heaven to a mustard plant, cannot be taken at the same level of face value without the entire concept being lost and the Parable itself becoming ridiculous. To take the mere use of money in the Bible to mean a support of capitalism is a blind and incorrect reading of the underlying moral teachings.

The Emptiness at the Heart of the Twentieth Century: "The Great Gatsby" and "The Dead"

by Holly Govey

Baz Luhrman's film adaptation  of The Great Gatsby, 2013
In both F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and James Joyce’s “The Dead”, parties serve a pivotal role in exposing the superficiality of the characters lives’, as well as epitomising the context within which the novels are situated. While, The Great Gatsby (published in 1925) is set in America and exemplifies the moral decline of the roaring twenties, “The Dead”, written in 1907, forms the last short story of Dubliners: a series of stories focused on Dublin, named by Joyce to: “betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city”[1]. Within Gatsby a number of social gatherings take place throughout the novel, from the ostensibly civilised dinner at the Buchanans’ in Chapter One, to the drunken brawl in New York in Chapter Two, and to Gatsby’s renowned and meretricious parties to which guests arrive uninvited, ready to take advantage of Gatsby’s wealth and generous hospitality. Parties, therefore, reveal characteristics of both hosts and guests, as well as the importance of location; as the least civilised party in Gatsby takes place in New York, the centre of corruption, while the annual dinner party in “The Dead” conveys a sense of the restrictive and repetitive society of Dublin, through the recurrence of events in the characters’ lives. While parties in the two texts may be criticized as simply manifestations of their contexts, this essay’s assessment of their role will question: In The Great Gatsby and “The Dead“, to what extent do both Fitzgerald and Joyce use parties as a means to expose the emptiness at the heart of American and Irish life in the early part of the twentieth century?

At the beginning of Chapter Four, Nick lists the scores of people who attended Gatsby's lavish parties in the summer of 1922.  The conspicuous names reflect either old or new money - the established social order of East Egg (“the Stonewall Jacksons”[2]) or the nouveau riche of West Egg (“the Poles[3]).  Regardless of social status, it is a catalogue of people who took advantage of Gatsby's hospitality and yet never knew him.  For Fitzgerald, the social gatherings are a site for a damning portrayal of the values of the Roaring Twenties.  We are told that “on Sunday morning while church bells rang in the villages alongshore, the world and its mistress returned to Gatsby’s house and twinkled hilariously on his lawn”[4].  The call to spiritual reflection is ignored in favour of an opportunity to gossip and be seen. Fitzgerald's choice of the word 'twinkled' conveys a bright and superficially striking surface, whilst simultaneously suggesting an insubstantial and fleeting quality.  In this way, the transcendental is replaced with the ephemeral and the only mystical element is the identity of the host, a figure in whom the party-goers have no faith. The scene reveals the emptiness of the culture; on the surface, both the people and the parties are attractive, but underneath, they are hollow and worthless.
Of course, Gatsby does have faith - in Daisy; she is the source of meaning for him, and the parties are designed to bring her to him. Nick is invited to one of these parties in Chapter Three.  Under the influence of champagne, Nick draws the reader in: “The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun”[5], connoting the way that Gatsby’s parties attempt to overcome the limits imposed by nature. The transferred epithet, “lurch”, reveals how Nick's environment shifts as his perception alters, due to the impact of alcohol.  

As readers, we are intoxicated by the lyrical writing and the lavish, sometimes strange descriptions which reflect the glamour, allure and ultimate artificiality of the jazz age. The opulent setting of the party epitomises its seductive quality, while hinting at the extent to which consumption ruled the lives of people at the time. The extravagance creates a carnivalesque atmosphere: “By seven o’clock the orchestra had arrived, no thin piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos and low and high drums.”[6] Similarly, the food takes on magical qualities in its description: “glistening hors d’oeuvre, spiced baked ham crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold”[7], which extends the aura of majesty and mystery which surrounds Gatsby.  The focus of the characters’ lives is shown to be blurred, as the possibilities of life are influenced by and conceived of in material terms. Drink takes on a further importance, as through the cloud of alcohol, an ostensibly insignificant scene increases in meaning, as Nick states: “the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental and profound”[8]. In this way, Fitzgerald offers harsh social criticism through his suggestions of society’s inability to find a sense of meaning without altering their sense of consciousness, which is made more critical by the context of the prohibition in America during the 1920s and the role that alcohol plays as the source of Gatsby’s wealth. Nick’ attraction to the superficial qualities of the party, reveal the emptiness behind it, as everything necessary to the construction of the party is displaced by intangible forces. He comments that: “A tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight”[9], disregarding the servants who are vital to the success of the party. In the same way, he states that discarded fruit peels “left [Gatsby’s] back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves”[10], which serves as a criticism of the consumptive nature of society. Parties, therefore, are revealed to be illusionary, as the pretence of glamour and excitement serve to conceal the destructive nature of corruption and prodigality.

Banquet scene from John Huston's film adaptation of The Dead (1987)

Similarly, the party in “The Dead” provides a site at which to reveal Joyce’s reflections on the “moral paralysis” within Dublin, particularly among the upper-middle class. Contrary to Jay McInerny’s opinion that: “he was more interested in capturing time and freezing it”[11], Joyce implicitly considers wider social issues. He writes of the repetitive cycle of the “annual dinner party” in order to convey his criticisms of Irish nostalgia and society’s inability to escape the claustrophobia of social and cultural poverty, which he associated with various forms of nationalism[12]. Under the pretext of calm, assured stability, lies an undercurrent of unease. Characters converse openly but formally, however, Gabriel is unnerved by the hints of accusation from two encounters with women who challenge his authority. While Lily, a maid, defensively states: “The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you”[13], causing Gabriel to give her a holiday tip; suggesting his inability to relate to lower classes, after speaking to Miss Ivors, Gabriel loses his self-control: “he didn’t know how to meet her charge”[14], causing him to blurt out an unmeasured response. These incidents indicate Gabriel’s agitation, as well as portraying the lack of intimacy between the characters at the party. Furthermore, the progress of events is presented as a struggle, as each scene has to be repeated: “the piano had twice begun the prelude”[15], alluding to the arduous way that the characters attempt to overcome time and move forward in their lives. In this way, Joyce presents parties as an outlet for societal frustration and a means to preoccupy the lives of people who lack purpose or direction.