Namwali Serpell: “In his well-known collection of essays Decolonising the Mind (1986), Ngũgĩ [wa Thiong’o] provides telling anecdotes about his childhood inculcation in linguistic imperialism. Refusal or inability to speak English was punished in both corporal and psychological fashion: strokes of the cane upon the buttocks; metal plates around the neck saying I AM STUPID or I AM A DONKEY. Each time a student spoke in a mother tongue, they would receive a button; they would hand it on when they overheard the next culprit; at the end of the day, the students would sing the names of whoever had passed them the button; all the offenders would then be punished. In this way, cultural shame was both internalized and self-regulating.”

Richard Ford: “I don’t like trusting people, and almost never do it. And I’m uncomfortable when people want to place trust in me, and almost always discourage it. Trust seems an entirely optional and unnecessary article of pseudo faith, one that’s too much about my being predictable (which I’m not); or about my being able to be depended on to act in someone’s best interest, which I always want to do but routinely fail at, particularly when my own interests are involved. Nowadays, the worst people can say about you is that they can’t trust you. To which I say, then don’t.”

As a general election approaches, Henry Jeffreys urges us to renounce the devil and all his works: “Twitter was once like a rowdy pub conversation, but lately the level of bile has made it more of a bar brawl. Jon Ronson’s book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is particularly enlightening on how much of the unpleasantness online comes from those convinced they are doing things for noble reasons. […]  As the novelist Ned Beauman wrote recently: ‘I’m impressed with anyone who can follow all the skirmishing on here and still maintain the same level of creative output and general wellbeing. I prefer not to maintain a state of simmering irritation and disgust throughout every waking hour.’ ”

For some it’s a book title. For others, a code to live by.


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