As a minister, I have been deeply troubled by the failure of the UK to acknowledge and mourn the losses we have experienced in the COVID-19 pandemic. Every time someone is exposed for having breached lockdown rules, there is an outpouring of pain and grief at the suffering people lived through, that is all the more remarkable for our failure to talk about it any of the rest of the time.

When I made this observation on Facebook, a number of people suggested to me that the reason for this is because people don’t want to remember. Grief does not work that way. We have an entire political and religious caste whose function is to create structured forms and formal tributes to the significant moments of life. It is our role to ensure that we do not forget.

I ended up going down a rabbit hole surveying the efforts of civic groups and individuals to create memorials to the victims of COVID-19. It seems that most of the work at the moment is being conducted by the bereaved and people involved in end of life services – the campaign to mark March 23rd as a national day of commemoration is being led by Marie Curie. There are 34 memorials built in crematoria by a private owner. The COVID-19 National Memorial Wall in Lambeth was a guerrilla collaboration between COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice and Led by Donkeys.
By a massive coincidence, the Mayor of Waltham Forest Council, where I live, planted a tree in March 2021 to mark Marie Curie’s National Day of Reflection in memory of those who lost their lives. which appears to be one of the only public memorials in London. We resolved to visit the tree – but couldn’t find it. We rang the council: the switchboard didn’t know, and had never been asked. We rang the company that provided the plaque, and they didn’t know – but told us that they had made it in memory of their colleague Geoff, who had died of COVID-19.
I eventually got the details from the local neighbourhood Facebook group and was able to visit it with friends. We had a moment of reflection and laid stones. I later received a map from the Mayor’s Office and instructions for the location, which I enclose below. They have said they will put details on the council website for others.

We have an entire political and religious caste whose function is to create structured forms and formal tributes to the significant moments of life. It’s a very human impulse to try to turn away from trauma – the role of our society to acknowledge and remember it collectively for the sake of everyone. That process can’t wait until COVID-19 is fading from the rearview mirror.

 

 

To the memory of Geoff.

 

Location details:

Leyton Jubilee Park: If you enter the park via Marsh Lane, go past the café and then walk left through the car park. There are steps up to a raised area of the park known as the plateau. The tree is close to the path a few yards on to the plateau (the red mark on the attached).

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts

{ 0 comments }

Frederick II, King of Prussia

Frederick II, King of Prussia

Frederick the Great, King of Prussia (1712-1786), was a notable practitioner of what was known as “enlightened despotism” – a philosophy that espoused absolute monarchy combined with a social contract that the ruler was obliged solely to rule in the interests of his people.

I studied this philosophy briefly at university and recall a particular text that I would like to read again, that I have now been fruitlessly seeking for some years. I had thought for a long time that the author was Frederick himself, and that an essay that he had written on the nature of monarchy was the source of the text I had read. It took some time to find the actual name of that essay – An Essay on Form of Government, and on the Duties of Sovereigns –   and then even longer to find the full text, as most references to it contained only short extracts.

Given the difficulty of sourcing this text, which I eventually found in a scan of a 1789 translation of Frederick’s unpublished works uploaded to Google Books, I am rather suspicious of its widespread citation in various student essays!

Sadly for myself, the full 33 page essay does not contain the text that I am looking for, and it seems now likely that it was excerpted from a letter by Voltaire. Before I embark on reading all of Voltaire’s selected letters, however, I have typed up and made An Essay on Forms of Government available to the public in an accessible form.

APA citation: Holcroft, T. (1789). Posthumous Works of Frederic II, King of Prussia. Vol. V. Ireland: G.G.J. and J. Robinson. Pp. 5-33.

The scanned book itself:

Download (PDF, 12.02MB)

 

An Essay on Form of Government, and on the Duties of Sovereigns

 

If we look back into the most remote antiquity, we shall find that the people whose history has descended to us led pastoral lives, and did not form social bodies. What the book of Genesis related of the history of the Patriarchs is sufficient proof. Previous to this small Jewish nations, the Egyptians must in like manner have been dispersed over those countries which the Nile did not submerge; and many ages no doubt paffed away before the vanquished river would permit the people to assemble in small towns. From the Grecian history we learn the names of founder of states, and of those legislators who first assembled the Greeks in bodies. This nation was long in a savage state, as well as all the nations of the globe. Had the annals of the Etruscans and those of the Samnite, Sabine and other tribes, come down to us, we should assuredly have learnt that they lived in distinct families, before they were assembled and united.

 

The Gauls were forming into societies at the time they were conquered by Julius Caesar; but it appears Great Britain has not attained this point of affection, when the conqueror first paffed into that island with his Roman legions. In the age of this great man, the Germans could only be compared to what the Iroquois and Algonquins, or some equally savage people, are at present. They existed by hunting and fishing, and on their milk and herds. A German thought himself debased by cultivating he earth; this was a labour performed by the slaves he had taken in war. The Hercynian forest, at that time, was almost wholly covered the vast extent of country which at present composes the German empire. The nation could not be populous, for want of sufficient food; and this no doubt was the true cause of the prodigious emigrations of the northern people, who hastened southward in search of lands ready cleared, under a less rigorous climate.

 

We are astonished at imaging the human race so long existing in a brutal state, and without forming itself into societies. Reasons are accordingly suggested, such as might induce people like these to unite in bodies. It must have been the violence and pillage which existed among neighbouring hordes, that could have first inspired such savage families with the wish of uniting, that they might secure their possessions by mutual defence. Hence laws took birth, which taught those societies to prefer to the general to individual good. From that time, no person durst seize the effects of another, because of the dread of chastisement. The life, the wife, and the wealth of the neighbour were sacred; and if the whole society were attacked, it was the duty of the whole to assemble for its defence. The grand truth, -“That we should do unto others as they should do unto us” – became the principle of laws, and of the social compact. Hence originated the love of our country, which was regarded as the asylum of happiness.

 

But, as these laws could neither be maintained nor executed, unless some one should incessantly watch for their preservation, magistrates arose, out of this necessity, whom the people elected, and to whom they subjected themselves. Let it be carefully remembered that the preservation of the laws was the sole reason which induced men to allow of, and to elect, a superior; because this is the true origin of sovereign power. The magistrate, thus appointed, was the first servant of the state. When rising states had any thing to fear from their neighbours, the magistrate armed the people, and flew to the defence of the citizens. [click to continue…]

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts

{ 0 comments }

Shakespeare Slam: Puppet Richard II

October 6, 2019

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. The guy was playing a three inch stuffed cloth tied around the wooden knob at the top of a chair with all the intensity of an RSC performance, it was riveting.” There is possibly no greater compliment I can pay a performance than to go and see […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Shakespeare Slam: Midsummer Night’s Dream

October 5, 2019

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. We just can’t get this music out of our heads… 🎺Have you seen our ⭐⭐⭐⭐ #GlobeDream? Discover more 👇https://t.co/RIsObrHGl8 pic.twitter.com/551IvLDmae — Shakespeare’s Globe (@The_Globe) July 26, 2019 The main plot however, was quite overshadowed by the mayhem of the “rude mechanicals” trying to rehearse their play. As […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Shakespeare Slam: Henry IV Part 2 – Falstaff

July 21, 2019

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. It’s been said, not unreasonably, that Henry IV Part 2 is something of a filler story between the clash of titans in Henry IV Part 1 and whatever happens in Henry V. Both of the two plotlines of the first part are carried forward – the continued […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Shakespeare Slam: Taming of the Shrew

July 21, 2019

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. The Taming of the Shrew is often rightly criticised as being a rampant pile of misogyny. The central plot, in which the strong-willed and fiercely independent Katherina is married off to the controlling and abusive Petruchio so that her younger sister Bianca may marry her lover Lucentio, […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Shakespeare Slam: Henry IV Part 1 – Hotspur

July 21, 2019

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. Henry IV Part 1, or “Hotspur” as they subtitled it, is one of the most popular plays in Shakespeare’s canon, which was good to see after one of the least popular. The story of a rebellion against King Henry IV by the tempestuous Sir Henry Percy leading […]

1 comment Read the full article →

Shakespeare Slam: Pericles, Prince of Tyre

July 21, 2019

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. Pericles, Prince of Tyre, is another one of the Shakespeare plays where, when I told people I was going to see it, largely responded with, “Shakespeare wrote that? I’ve never heard of it?!” The story of a royal prince who is shipwrecked and is left to believe […]

1 comment Read the full article →

In Excelsis – Lord Alfred Douglas (FULL TEXT)

May 17, 2019

Lord Alfred Douglas (1870-1945), Bosie to all and sundry, is, and will always be, seen as a secondary character in the life of Oscar Wilde, whose rise and fall in Victorian England is inextricably bound up today in the intersection between literary history and queer consciousness. Bosie himself knew that very well and spent much […]

3 comments Read the full article →

Shakespeare Slam: Richard II

April 23, 2019

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. Richard II is one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical plays. Covering the final two years of Richard’s reign and chronicling his fall from power, it is one of only four plays entirely written in verse – there is no prose. Puns, rhyming couplets and soliloquies abound, meaning this […]

1 comment Read the full article →