There should be no snot on the nostrils… A peasant wipes his nose on his cap and coat, a sausage maker on his arm and elbow. It does not show much more propriety to use one’s hand and then wipe it on one’s clothing. It is more decent to take up the snot in a cloth, preferably while turning away. If when blowing the nose with two fingers something falls to the ground, it must be immediately trodden away with the foot. The same applies to spittle.
Thus Norbert Elias’ The Civilizing Process summarises some instructions in Erasmus’ 1530 publication On Civility in Boys. This post compares The Civilizing Process with Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature to ask: are we civilised, and is civilisation what we want?
According to one of the Oxford dictionaries, there is a possible link between madness and creativity, a truth born out by a few great artists but also by the political despots that history throws up from time to time. It seems that in leadership and art, there is a stark choice to be made when it comes to creativity, whatever form it takes.
The creator, like God, can make ‘weal or woe’. (Is.45:7) At the same time, life itself is seldom defined by these extremes. Most of it goes on in the middle ground. So it is the middle ground that we are ultimately returned to when crises subside, and it is in the middle ground that we have to re-shape and make sense of the everyday, having learned what we can from the immediate past.
Somewhere between Nathanial Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne (The Scarlet Letter) and the story of the Prodigal Son we meet Shamima Begum, a nineteen year old mother of three (two of her babies have died) and an ISIS bride, who now wants to come home to the UK.
Two issues seem to dominate the discussion in regard to allowing her to return: The first, does she pose a threat, existential or physical, to the nation? The second, does she feel any regret for what she did when she was fifteen?
It seems that in both cases the answer is no. This is where it also seems that the good people of the UK, or at least the immigration services, the Home Office and the diplomatic service, have a problem. Her situation does not sit tidily within the ethical norms described in the two scenarios I have just mentioned. To many people’s way of thinking, if she is unrepentant she must pose a threat.