This Monday is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was a great achievement. Nobody publicly disapproves of human rights. They are too important.
But as soon as we ask what these things are, we get into trouble. Nobody has seen them. Do they really exist? Or are they, as Jeremy Bentham argued, ‘nonsense on stilts’? Positive rights are easily recognised: buy a bus ticket, have a right to ride on the bus. The right is granted by a known authority. Human rights, on the other hand, are a type of natural rights, and appeal beyond all human authorities. To what?
Between September 1665 and November 1666, in the village of Eyam, 260 people died of the plague, including a visitor who had come to sell cloth to the locals, but never left.
The figure comprised about three quarters of the population because the village had gone into voluntary quarantine in order prevent the plague spreading to surrounding communities.
We carry fear around with us. It is something we are born with.
It is said that people engage more readily with social media posts if they come with an image. I am not sure if this is a comment on a collective diminishment of intellect, attention span, or possibly a renewed penchant for the visual - because it is also said that our appreciation of the visual arts is actually waning.
Britain has been the laughing-stock of Europe for a couple of years, but I write this at a time when it seems in complete disarray, with government ministers campaigning like fury against each other.
The presenting issue is Brexit, but Brexit alone cannot explain the depth of hostilities.