Philip Ball sees the shadow of Victorian imperialism in HG Wells’s The War of The Worlds, and a post-apocalyptic imagery of “invasion, conquest and annihilation” (The Critics, 20 July). The narratives that run from Wells to the modern alien invasion movies that Ball describes are fired by the same fear: could it happen now, could it happen to me?
Rereading the Wells recently I was struck by the things that couldn’t imaginably happen now. The Martian spaceships travel to Earth without being tracked in space or picked up in the atmosphere by any nation’s technology. The first anybody knows about it is when they land. And after that, apart from a crowd of gawking locals no one takes it seriously for several days and the London newspapers initially refuse to publish the story (their correspondent not being available for confirmation purposes, having been murdered by the invaders).
By the time the papers catch on, a whole weekend has gone by and local suburbs have already been laid to waste. No Twitter, no Instagram, no one posting selfies next to the smoking landing pit. The stains of empire and the terror of the apocalypse may still be with us, but that slow speed of information transmission – gone forever.
Richmond, North Yorkshire
I’ve been following your debate on England and Englishness, and, exclusive of jingoism and anthem/flag irregularities, there certainly should be an English parliament – if only to allay European perceptions that Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales (not forgetting our tax-shy “offshore” islands) might be seen as little more than English colonial outposts.
How can these supposedly sovereign nations be truly “united” or “independent” unless England becomes an equal UK partner with its own domestic government?
Having lived in various parts of “Great Britain” I do not want even to contemplate the breaking up of the United Kingdom through continuing English nationalism, insularity or complacency. Like the Brexit shambles, it breaks my heart.
Fight the right
John Lloyd’s chillingly comprehensive analysis of the rapid rise to power of Europe’s extreme right failed to offer proposals about how to reverse this trend (“The new Illiberal International”, 20 July). What fuels this rise is the EU establishment’s Thatcherite mantra that there is no alternative to the four freedoms. This passé dogma flies in the face of the need to control immigration that has, is and will for the foreseeable future dominate politics.
Public opposition to the perceived threat of large-scale migration has finally forced the Merkel government to plan the reintroduction of border controls. Imagine if Labour shifted from its duplicitous “jobs-rich” Brexit fantasy to instead committing the UK to remaining in and reforming Europe to control immigration adequately. This could dramatically increase its chances of election and start a realistic discussion among Europe’s left and centre parties about how to reverse the (at present) unstoppable ascent of the extreme right.
Twickenham, Greater London
Justice for some
Mehdi Hasan writes that there will soon be four US Supreme Court justices appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote (Inside America, 13 July). But, the two justices chosen by George W Bush (John Roberts and Samuel Alito) were appointed after Bush won a three-million popular vote majority over John Kerry.
The only time in American history when four sitting justices were appointed by the loser of a popular vote occurred in the 1890s, when Benjamin Harrison appointed four justices during his one-term presidency.
Gaming the future
Two weeks, two hand-wringing responses to Keith Stuart’s article on Fortnite, which amounted to little more than, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” While I think him wrong to airily dismiss the existence of gaming disorder, I agree that understanding and engagement is much more effective than disapproval – and a more likely deterrent. After all, young people abandoned Facebook once their parents joined!
As someone who grew up in the Eighties and Nineties, I can reassure Alexandra Treasure (Correspondence, 13 July) that playing computer games precludes neither physical nor mental development. Did she not grow up watching too much TV, or whatever technology was horrifying parents in her day? My own children are ten and seven, and while we do restrict their access to technology, I also have trouble dragging them away from the play park or the football pitch when they are enjoying themselves.
Young people are marvellously malleable, and also draw inspiration from unexpected sources. Where are the intellectuals, engineers and naturalists of the future? They may be playing Fortnite and watching too much YouTube!
Your report of a discussion on mental health (BACP round table, 20 July) said “schooling stuck out as a sore point”. You bet. The report did not mention the name of one schoolteacher or head in the discussion. Was this an oversight, or patronising? Difficult to tell which is worse.
Anthony Seldon, vice chancellor
University of Buckingham
Off the chart
Re the map in your Scotland supplement (Spotlight, 20 July), what happened to Orkney?
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This article appears in the 22 Jul 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Summer special