Modernity is an anonymous blogger and a rather private individual. However, after a short stay by him at the Cheney-Rumsfeld Acupuncture Center in Wyoming, answers to the difficult questions below were forthcoming. Modernity takes an interest in political debate and often wonders why, in spite of the advent of the web, political discourse on the British left (and elsewhere) has so declined. He was an active trade unionist and anti-fascist in the 1970s and 1980s. He's known for his flippant and belligerent manner, and does cheat in answering questionnaires. He blogs at Modernity Blog.
Why do you blog? > To keep my sanity.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Rattling off some of my best writing in 5-10 minutes.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > Having reams of part-finished posts staring back at me when I am composing a new one.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Avoid petty disputes, concentrate on what you know and like, admit when you're wrong.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > I am rather averse to heroes and worship, but when I read Howard Jacobson's articles I am filled with admiration for his lucidity and precision with words. Professor Richard Evans is an inspiration.
What are you reading at the moment? > Old and new copies of The Economist, but if and when my concentration returns I shall resume a biography of Nikita Khrushchev and a bit of 17th century French history - fascinating stuff.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Brendan Behan, Hieronymus Bosch and Homer.
What is your favourite poem? > 'The Cremation of Sam McGee'.
What is your favourite song? > The Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute.
Who is your favourite composer? > Mozart.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > The death penalty. I used to be against it in all circumstances, but when pondering the Hitler paradox (had he been found alive by Allied forces in 1945 and put on trial, what should happen to him?) I came to the view that the death penalty for the perpetrators of mass genocide and war crimes is probably not such a bad idea. As there is no question about their guilt nor any chance of rehabilitation, they should be dispatched after a suitable trial.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > A counter to crude western Third Worldism, which more often than not infantilizes millions of people in the developing world, justifies supporting right-wing theocratic militias on spurious grounds and considers women and gay rights to be dispensable when it suits political expediency.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Whilst I hate telling others what to do, I think we underestimate the evolving nature of anti-Jewish racism and how in the 21st century it is no longer the vulgar thugism of yesteryear. It seems to seep into everyday lives, morphing into different forms and shapes.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Spare Rib. I read it avidly in the 1970s, unsuccessfully trying to understand the many issues surrounding gender, sexism, forms of oppression, etc. Much harder than Marx or Homer. Well, to me it was. It helped explain how power relationships and dynamics are often at the heart of things.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > It is a hard choice between Swift's 'You cannot reason a person out of a position he did not reason himself into in the first place' and Eleanor Roosevelt's 'Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people'.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Universal tertiary education, meaning a widespread culture of education and learning in society from 16-80.
What would you do with the UN? > Rename it as the Nearly League of Nations.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Xenophobia and reactionary attitudes towards women.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Read, think, and read some more.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > Yes, life is not all politics.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Good reasoning skills.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Irrationality.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Cyclists on the pavement really, really piss me off.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Procrastination is the thief of time'.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Golf and mountaineering.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > I would start my education at 5, not 25.
What would you call your autobiography? > Belligerent Bastard.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Latin America.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Traipsing around old libraries and book shops.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Listening to Classic FM and watching international rugby.
What is your most treasured possession? > Photos of beloved ones.
What talent would you most like to have? > Better short-term memory, good hand to eye coordination and brevity.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Ada Lovelace, Jim Larkin, Robert Service (the poet).
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]