Brett Lock was born in Port Elizabeth in 1968, and grew up in Cape Town. He was a student at Rhodes University in the late 1980s where he became politically involved, campaigning against the apartheid regime and military conscription. Dodging the draft after graduation, he worked variously as a freelance journalist, graphic designer and musician. He returned to Rhodes in 1996, where he taught in the Journalism and Media Studies Department. Brett moved to the UK at the beginning of 2001 and fell in with the gay rights group OutRage!. Once again he freelances in media and design. He blogs at Harry's Place.
Why do you blog? > I suppose it's wanting to share an opinion or offer a perspective. Sometimes I think to myself, 'Well, that's odd, why has no one thought to say X?' Or: 'Can everyone really be too afraid to say Y?' Often it's just the thrill of joining up information where I see a common thread. But we shouldn't discount simply being able to be the opinionated loudmouth I am not in real life.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Blogging is very transitory. I like it when Harry's Place breaks an issue – I say 'issue' because we don't really break stories in the way hard-news journalists do – and that issue is picked up on by the mainstream press and people talk about it beyond our blog.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > I don't like it when disagreements get highly personalized. I'd like to think that people can disagree in a competitive-but-good-natured way. But of course they can't. There have been a few occasions where I've thought about giving up blogging altogether because it can be so depressing.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > Write with conviction. Say what you mean.
What are you reading at the moment? > I usually have several books on the go at once: Terrorism and Counter-terrorism: Ethics and Liberal Democracy by Seumas Miller, an exceptionally sharp thinker who was one of my philosophy lecturers in the late 1980s, is fighting for attention with Songs that Saved Your Life (which is about The Smiths) and Cliff Richard: The Complete Recording Sessions. Iain M. Banks's The Player Of Games, I've just realized, is still on the go. I haven't finished it and I'm not sure I will. I've lost interest in fiction for some reason.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > A Prayer for Owen Meany.
What is your favourite poem? > 'Stop all the clocks' by W.H. Auden made me cry, which is rare. A poem called 'Here' by Paul Monette is also profoundly moving and has influenced me the most in my own approach to writing.
What is your favourite movie? > Jeffrey, starring Steven Weber and Patrick Stewart.
What is your favourite song? > This is an almost impossible question. 'Sometimes (Lester Piggott)' by James moves me enormously.
Who is your favourite composer? > It's hard to go wrong with the Russians. Rimsky-Korsakov, I suppose, though I didn't like what he did with Boris Godunov. The original 'less-refined' orchestration by Mussorgsky was better – or so I argued for years with my friend Carl who had a different edition of the opera to my own. But Scheherazade clinches the deal for Mr R-K. Who could not be stirred by the 2nd movement?
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Ha ha ha. Marxism. Also, I change my mind on 'the death penalty' weekly.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Freedom. It sounds trite, but without it, what's the point of life? Almost everything else is incidental to the basic right of a newborn human being to grow up to enjoy life on this planet limited only by the moderation required to mutually accommodate others.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Any system which seeks to micro-manage every aspect of a person's life. Nazism was one. As was Communism. Apartheid was another. Political Islam is the current threat, just as Political Catholicism was in a previous era.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > An essay by Steven Lukes called Power. I read it in my first or second year at university and I think it was then that a switch was flicked in my brain that things aren't always straightforward, and that 'narratives' are dangerous. This, of course, wasn't a central theme of the essay (which was about different forms of power relationship), but for some reason, in my head, politics switched from black and white to colour. I credit that slim volume by Dr Lukes.
Who are your political heroes? > More than anyone, Nelson Mandela exemplifies what it is to be a statesman. The most honest and earnest person I can think of is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This is admittedly a strange thing for a hardline atheist like myself to say.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > One of the protest marches I went on as a student ended in chaos (as they invariably did). On this occasion, the university administration had locked the main admin building to stop the anticipated rampage. Some students began charging the large oak doors to break them down. A politics lecturer by the name of Doreen Atkinson (who a quick Google reveals is now a professor) shouted, 'Stop it! Stop it! Politics isn't about doors, it's about people!' I was 18 at the time. I have never forgotten that moment, and the idea that 'politics is about people' has been a constant touchstone in my own work as an activist and commentator.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > I'd introduce a single, generic equality act that did not reference people by class or category and introduced the gold standard of 'a British citizen', putting an end to communalist and class-based political discourse. A person's class, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, religion or other status would be rendered irrelevant. The same law would apply to all and there would be neither special considerations nor exemptions. There would be an emphasis on celebrating and emphasizing commonality and shared values, not difference or 'diversity'.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister, who would you choose? > I would choose David T were it not for my fear that he'd make Morrissey the Archbishop of Canterbury. Discounting a come-back for Tony Blair, the only people I can think of who seem 'prime-ministerial' to me at the moment are Trevor Phillips and Michael Cashman. That is to say, they speak well, are well groomed and look good in an expensive suit. Given what we've got, that's a good start, frankly.
What would you do with the UN? > Scrap it. It's an obscenity. Saudi Arabia on the Human Rights Committee? I ask you! It once served a purpose, I suppose, but the majority of UN representatives do not even speak for the people of their own countries, let alone articulate their interests.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Islamism and that super-Jonestown cult called North Korea.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > It is a question of harmony, I think. Human knowledge and ability are still expanding, but so is the legion of whiners and whingers, from 'Green' luddites to religious nuts, both 'new age' and old. If we can re-establish a consensus that to be human is an exciting adventure, then we will be, as a species, rocking!
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > The ability to listen and assimilate.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Unthinking and aggressive jobs-worthism.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > People who use terms like 'stakeholder' and 'civil society' make my eyes glaze over, and I assume they don't have anything useful to contribute. I hate corporate jargon and NGO-speak, and consequently I assume the speaker is a cretin and a poltroon.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Watching sport.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > Disappointing people who rely on me. Time slipping through my fingers.
If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently? > Yes, I would live with less fear of not doing the right thing or worrying what people thought.
What would you call your autobiography? > Oh, What's The Use!
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Shopping for records or spending time getting to know one of my guitars.
What is your most treasured possession? > My 1964 Hagstrom Coronado IV bass. Or my wedding ring. I'd be inconsolable if I lost either.
What talent would you most like to have? > That's easy. One of my biggest frustrations in life is that I'm not a very good singer. I would like to have sung my own songs.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Renaissance man.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > I have a great affection for Tony Hancock.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd buy a large house with lots of space, in the middle of nowhere, and pay my friends to come and help me create stuff.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Hank Marvin, Neil Young and Lou Reed.
[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.]