New Internationalist

Curiosities

Issue 260

new internationalist
issue 260 - October 1994

Questions
...that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this,
your section, and be answered by other readers. Please address
your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.

Which country in the world was under colonial rule for the longest time?

Bastion of Colonialism: Harlech Castle.
RONALD THOMPSON / CAMERA PRESS

I don’t know about ‘in the world’ but the country under ‘British’ colonial rule for the longest time is obviously Wales. Since 1278 the English monarch has installed its own ‘Prince of Wales’ and since the 1960s the Government has imposed a ‘Secretary of State for Wales’ – the current one being English.

Anthony Hill
Maesteg, Wales, UK

Is there a symbolic meaning to the old Bee Gees song I started a joke?

As an old Bee Gees fan (I’m 44) I recall that when I started a joke was popular in 1969 the word was it dealt with Jesus Christ. Lines such as ‘then I finally died, which started the whole world living’, suggest the Christian sacrifice to save humankind. But when the lyrics go on to say: ‘if only I had seen that the joke was on me’ I am not sure to what extent the suggestion is that Jesus was being ripped off. Only the songwriter can answer that.

Steve Faraher-Amidon
White Rock, Canada

What did WB Yeats mean by the ‘filthy modern tide’?

I think the answer given by Terry Eccles in NI 257 is somewhat misleading. Although a ‘world class’ poet, Yeats was, like his contemporaries DH Lawrence, Ezra Pound, Roy Fuller and Hugh MacDiarmid, a romantic fascist. ‘The filthy modern tide’ he hated so much was the mass, commercial, pluralist, democratic society which for better or for worse our age has inherited. His response to it was to dream up a never-never Ireland of past and future; a noble society of free aristocrats, pursuing heroic ends (see Irish Airman) and a subservient peasantry of ‘worthies’ and ‘characters’. Comparisons could be drawn indeed between Yeats’ ‘Ireland’ and Hitler and his ‘Germany’ – the poet had ideas of Irish ‘Blue Shirts’. His dreams never got beyond poetry, while Hitler’s unfortunately did. ‘Visceral creative rage’ is not necessarily a good thing. As the poet himself said: ‘The worst are full of passionate intensity’.

GR Stirrart
Armadale, Scotland, UK

Awaiting your answers...

Can anyone tell me if there are any environ-mental organizations which take direct action
of a militant nature against those responsible for destruction of the rainforest in
South and Central America and in South East Asia?

S Davies
London, UK

How, where and when did the tradition of female circumcision (or genital mutilation) originate?

Tariq M M Antar
Khartoum, Sudan

Six million is the figure commonly given for the number of people killed in the Nazi Holocaust.
Has anyone got a more precise figure?

Jamie Janson
Watlington, UK

Which, if any, of the commercial banks has cancelled its Third World debts –
particularly in regard to sub-Saharan Africa?

Liza Sandell
Suva, Fiji

Who actually thought up the term ‘political correctness’?

Tamara Torobin
Gloucester, Canada

If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities,
New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK,
or to your local NI office (click here for addresses).

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Big Bad World [image, unknown] D.I.Y. Development cartoon challenge. [image, unknown]
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Cartoon by P.J.POLYP

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