Summaries of Events
The following are brief summaries of some of the events run by Macclesfield Lit & Phil during the 2018 to 2019 season.
Jon Herbert: The Elephant in the Room: Donald Trump, Republicans and Conservatives
The Elephant in the room is that Trump was not a Republican. And that he has in fact followed a strong Republican agenda. He's busy on his phone. He is doing dramatic executive orders (but these mostly don't work). So he lets Congress get on with what the Republicans want to do - Healthcare, Reduction of Taxes, etc. And so the Establishment he is so much against in his speeches, "Drain The Swamp", is free to do their thing.
His staff are largely unfamiliar with the laws they are working under. His executive orders are badly drafted.
Politics in USA is so partisan now (going this way over decades) that the separation of powers is failing. Republican Congress doesn't want to control the President. This undermines the system of checks and balances.
Someone pointed out that we could have six more years of this presidency.
What is Trump doing? He is on his phone playing mind games, serving the media bubble (who he claims to despise). He looks at responses, reacts by muddying the waters, putting up distracting material. Simple messages, attacks opponents, mimicry, satire. Any publicity is good publicity.
He wants to do deals, as in his book, he likes to create leverage and then make a good deal. JH says that the results are poor.
If he had more time, what would he do in the world? JH: he's not actually that interested. He might just walk away if he thinks the polls not promising. "I've made America great again!"
A comment on voters. The Trump vote was not that surprising. We forget how hated Hilary Clinton was. His core base was the Republican base. There is a steady increase in working class votes.
Currently he is the leader. Even if Republicans don't agree with the politics.
Fiona Sampson: Mary Shelley and the Romantic Self
Professor Fiona Sampson's talk to the Lit and Phil on 17 Jan. 2019 began by placing Mary Shelley in the context of the Romantic period, when its leading intellectuals placed human beings at the centre of the universe and were politically radical. They were interested in the question of what makes a human being, and Mary Shelley's work includes not only Frankenstein, but several essays in biography.
The talk continued with an account of her early life, up to the writing of Frankenstein. She was a radical of radical parentage. Her parents were William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, who died shortly after giving birth to her on 30 Aug. 1797. Her father remarried in 1801. Mary's relationships with her stepmother were not easy, and this may be why she spent three years away from the family first in Ramsgate and then in Dundee. She was only 16 when she met Percy Shelley, but was already used to intellectual company—Coleridge and Sir Humphrey Davy were visitors—and considered herself an intellectual. She eloped to the Continent with Shelley, accompanied unfortunately by her step-sister. Shelley was not the most suitable partner: he had no integrity and no money. His early death may have been a good thing for her, yet she always revered his memory.
The genesis of Frankenstein (described in her preface to the 1831 edition) lay in their stay in the Villa d'Arcy near Geneva in the company of Byron and Polidori in the dismal summer of 1816. Byron challenged the company each to write a ghost story. Mary's was the only one that was successful as literature, and of course it was far more than a ghost story. Taking up the fashionable cult of galvanism, it explored the limits of what it means to call a being human.
Sarah Clarke: Aka-Doctor from Ba-Light Visits Remote Nepal Village
Speaking to a series of vividly evocative slides, Sarah Clarke, a Macclesfield optometrist, assisted by her daughter Ella Wood, told the story of her visit to the village of Rukumkot in the foothills of the Himalayas, arranged partly to visit Ella, who was spending her gap year there teaching English in the local school, and then to make her own contribution to the welfare of the locality, bringing a load of donated spectacles and running an optometry clinic for a few weeks. The village is exceedingly remote. Sarah travelled first by a small plane westwards from Kathmandu to the town of Musikot, where she spent time at the eye clinic and met colleagues, and then by bus by perilous mountain roads to Rukumkot, where a population of 4000 occupies a narrow valley. Ella showed us her house and the school, a basic building with 10 classes. Local advertising brought in 193 people for an eye test. As many people were illiterate, the test used a card with the same E-shaped figure in different orientations. Seventy were supplied with spectacles. Sarah discovered that half of her stock was not needed: there is very little myopia in Rukumkot, as the people spend no time reading or watching screens. But there is a great deal of cataract, and at relatively young ages, as the high altitude and a mostly outdoor life expose them to high levels of UV light. She helped to arrange for a Nepalese ophthalmological team to run a cataract surgery clinic in the village for two days, using a method developed by a Nepali ophthalmologist that has been successful all over the world in enabling operations to go ahead in camps with the simplest equipment. Seventy operations were carried out in two days. Funding came from a Norwegian church mission, along with some government money. A final quick series of photos showed us something of the life of the village.