Philip Pullman: Institutionalised paranoia is the enemy of a thriving society

Share
Related Topics

I want to say something briefly about how virtue manifests itself in daily life, local life. I saw three things that gave me hope that the spirit of common public civic virtue is still alive. One of the examples I call "folk traffic calming". There were families living in a residential street that had become a rat-run for cars. They held a demonstration to show that the street is for everyone – not just people in large mobile heavy steel objects. They set up a living room in the road with a sofa and a coffee table and held a tea party. They put planters along the road containing bushes and small trees, not blocking it, just calming the traffic. The result was that cars could get through easily but had to slow down. Everyone shared the whole space.

The second thing I saw was a foundry on an industrial estate in Leicestershire. They make castings for sculptures – from the minute to the monumental. The company started 20 years ago from nothing. They now have over 80 craftspeople working flat out. When I visited them a couple of weeks ago, every corner was busy with creative activity. That is an example of what I mean by virtue – the goodness of productive work. The nation is a better place because of it.

The third thing I saw was a television programme. With a poet laureate in this country, we also have a children's laureate – at the moment it is Michael Rosen, a great man I think. The programme was about a project he undertook with a school in South Wales where books had been undervalued for one reason or another. He showed the children and their parents and the teachers the profound value of reading and what it can do to deepen and enrich our life, and not by following guidelines and targets and putting the children to tests, but by the beginning and ending with delight. Enchantment. Joy.

What have these things to do with freedom and threats to freedom? What has the virtue of delight to do with virtue of liberty? Everything. Suspicion cannot sustain delight for very long. Joy does not flourish in the garden of anxiety. The society that these lawmakers seem to want to bring about is one of institutionalised paranoia and low-level panic. We are a better people than our government believes we are. We are a better nation.

Philip Pullman spoke at the Convention on Modern Liberty on Saturday

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Personal Finance Editor: Cutting out the middle man could spell disaster for employees and consumers alike

Simon Read
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch  

Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes tell you what to think. Don't let them

Memphis Barker
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week