Letters: two philosophers but only one hero

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Letters: two philosophers but only one hero

While Spinoza’s ideology – and name – are to be venerated, Locke was the author of a ‘worthless, racist tract’




A scene from the 2013 film, 12 Years a Slave: John Locke was a shareholder in slaving companies.Photograph: c.FoxSearch/Everett/REX

Last Sunday was my 89th birthday and, on waking, I was greeted by Kenan Malik’s encomium to Baruch (or Benedict) Spinoza (“Why western liberals have long picked the wrong historical hero“, Comment). I could not have had a better birthday present. My mother, who read moral sciences (philosophy) at Cambridge, had one hero – Spinoza – and so named me after him.

I grew up in his image and have tried to live up to his political ideology, which I share. So thank you sincerely.
Benedict Birnberg
London SE3
No one seems to have read John Locke’s utterly worthless, racist “constitutions of Carolina”.

Read this tirade against human rights for black people and all may assure themselves that Locke is entirely unworthy of the respect in which he is so misguidedly held. Locke was a shareholder in slaving companies and quite happy to see slaves branded. Slaves were slaves for ever and so were their children, according to this great English philosopher.

Malik says Locke questioned the rights of Catholics. Not if they were slave owners. Each colonist had “absolute power over his Negro slaves” and this privilege applied to all colonists no matter “of what opinion or religion”.

Malik opines that “Locke is central to modern politics because of his foundational role in liberalism”. That is the surprise and that is the shame. Locke was and is a disgrace.
David Beake
Budock Water, Cornwall

Mugabe ruined Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe was a deadly virus that destroyed productive farms and eroded the economy of Zimbabwe (“Mugabe was once a hero of the left.

What can we learn from his descent into tyranny?“, Comment). He killed innocent citizens, including some white farmers who helped Zimbabwe to become the bread basket of Africa. He was the grandfather of corruption and wanted to elevate his vocal wife to the vice-presidency.

He forced nearly 4 million people to flee Zimbabwe in search of better standards and put huge strain on host countries, particularly South Africa. Pressure should be applied on the current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has failed to revive a country that has abundant resources and failed to attract the millions who are becoming deskilled in the diaspora.
Tapiwa Muskwe
London SW4

Oh for an adventuress

Book clinic (New Review) was asked: where can I find a well-written adventure novel for grown-ups? The ones suggested by Andrew Martin all had male adventurers; it would be good to hear of some female ones.

I remember reading Captain Gentleman by Verne Fletcher (she was a successful pirate, but had to disguise herself as a man; she falls for a male pirate and at the end dwindles into a wife). There must be others. Would Orlando by Virginia Woolf count?
MW Wheeler
London SW1

Vaccinate cattle, not badgers

It is a disgrace that the badger cull continues and a bigger disgrace that it is being expanded (“Thousands more badgers face cull as number of killing zones surges“, News).

The clear evidence that the cull is doing no good is continually ignored and we are spending millions on a cruel and ineffective government policy. The NFU is stated as supporting the cull, while it has never denied that it is actively involved in supplying the reportedly inefficient cull teams. When will Defra, farmers, vets, politicians, numerous “experts” and even author Dominic Dyer, who means well, get it into their heads that the only way to stop bovine TB with immediate effect is to vaccinate cattle?

We have heard excuse after feeble excuse over many years as to why this is “not possible”. With the necessary political will, a vaccine could easily be in place quickly. We have a vaccine for badgers, so why not one for cattle?
Kevin Caveney
Wick, Glastonbury
Somerset

A saint for the sinners

It is quite possible that a fair majority of the Catholic laity in Scotland might join in Kevin McKenna’s lament over the pending visit of US cardinal Ray Burke and fear the resurgence of rightwing blimps seeking to preserve unfettered clerical control over the increasingly disaffected faithful (“If there’s a cardinal sin to be made, count on the Catholic church“, Comment, Scottish edition).

However, with regard to the visit of the remains of Saint Therese of Lisieux to Scotland, he is quite wrong. We visit the graves of loved ones for a variety of reasons, none of which could be described as “devoted titillation”. A few years ago, I attended a service in the chapel of HMP Wormwood Scrubs, packed with prisoners of all denominations, to which Saint Therese’s remains had been brought.

There would have been very few among their number who would have made it to France to visit her grave. I couldn’t doubt the sincerity in the quiet, often tearful, private devotion I witnessed.
Anita Bromley
Prestonpans, East Lothian

Stymied by Stonehenge

I am a truck driver who has regularly had to use the A303 through the Stonehenge bottleneck (“Why ruin Stonehenge to shave a few seconds off a car trip?“, Comment). The delays can be much longer than the “few seconds”; the combination of the stones, which people slow down to look at, a roundabout and a village on a busy main road that is mostly dual carriageway can result in delays of half an hour or more.

This can make the difference between getting home that evening and having to spend the night in the cab, as our driving hours are restricted and we are timed. While a journey from London to Devon can be made via the M4 and M5, the option of that rather circuitous route does not exist for drivers starting their journeys south-west of London. The inflated costs are the result of accommodating the demands of a tiny minority who attribute to it a significance it does not have to most people, particularly around the summer and winter solstices.

With most of the traffic removed underground, others could enjoy the stones in relative peace and quiet, while people who need to get to other places could do so without undue delay.
Matthew J Smith
New Malden, Surrey

Keegan is on the Brexit ball

Once again, William Keegan tells it like it is (“The reality of a no-deal Brexit can no longer be distorted“, Business): the 2016 referendum was “consultative. The UK does not have constitutional provisions which would require the results of a referendum to be implemented.” This should be on a large banner outside parliament.
Steve Gooch
Robertsbridge, East Sussex

Food for the PM’s thought

Rather than Shakespeare’s Macbeth, perhaps the tale of Erysichthon from Greek mythology provides a better parable for our classics-loving prime minister’s current woes (“Like Macbeth, the PM is too stepped in blood to turn back. Where next?“, Comment).

Condemned to an unrelenting hunger (in Johnson’s case for power) Erysichthon tries everything to sate this hunger including selling those close to him.

But to no avail.

In the end, in defeat, he eats himself.
Colin Brady
Darlington, County Durham

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