David Halpin

“Marx was totally wrong”
“Socialism is dystopian nonsense”
“Because it will be disastrous, Brexit must be stopped”
“Some people read too much ”
“Religious belief is at best meaningless, at worst dangerous”
“Classical music is elitist and highbrow”
“Cyclists should be licensed and made to wear helmets”
“Ireland is a country that has ideas above its station”
“Chess is a breathtakingly boring game”

If you agree with one or more of these statements, then this website probably isn’t for you, because its designer, David Halpin, thinks they are all wrong-headed.  

So, unless perversely you want to be infuriated by the musings of a chess-appreciating, religiously interested, Marxist Eurosceptic Irishman, who loves riding his bike and listening to classical music and collecting and reading good books, now is the moment to stop exploring it, or to get ready for the experience by clicking a selection of the following chapters which explain why I hold the views I do:

                                                                          LABOURISM

                                                                            MARXISM

                                                                      CLASSICAL MUSIC

                                                                             RELIGION 

                                                                               BOOKS

                                                                              CYCLING

                                                                              IRELAND

11ac2dab-a7e2-45f5-9129-962389693f1a

About David Halpin

The blurb on the back cover of my self-published memoir, Keep on the Move, says I am “a father of two grown-up children, a member of the British and Irish Labour Parties, a Friend of the Wigmore Hall and an Emeritus Professor of Education”.

This indicative statement condenses into under thirty words much of what is worth knowing about me: that I am a proud and loving parent, committed Left-winger, involved with Ireland, of which I am a knowledgeable citizen, passionate appreciator of classical, especially piano, music, and a one-time university academic, specialising in the philosophy of teaching and learning.

What it misses out are two hobbies to which I devote lots of time – playing chess and riding a bike – and the persistent effort I exert better to comprehend the meaning of things through religious, specifically Christian, belief. 

The photographs positioned above illustrate several key aspects of my biography – as a churchman, a teacher and a biker.

One portrays me with the Bishop of Wakefield, The Rt Rev’d Anthony Robinson, shortly after my Confirmation Service in September 2020; another shows me with a group of school children in China in November 2011; and a third depicts me riding up the road to Alpe d’Huez in July 2006.

Most of these aspects of my life feature in the writings that make up the different pages of this website, which also include information on and abstracts of some of the better items I have published over the years – mostly as books and articles in journals. 

By its nature, much of this material is dated, which is why I have supplemented it with examples of unpublished essays – work in progress about a variety of topics.

There is also a weblog – First Thoughts – where I offer up-to-the-minute comment on events in the news and other things that interest me, including what I have recently been up to and thinking about.

Purpose

My chief aim in pulling together this material, following Michel de Montaigne’s sentiment expressed at the start of his famous (1580) Essays, is to commend “some features of my habits and temperament which I consider worth knowing about”, clarifying how I want to be recognised, particularly by my son and daughter and other individuals with whom I have close personal relationships, each of whom has inevitably a very incomplete, coloured even, comprehension of what I amount to.

To that extent, I want in this website to make myself unmistakably present to those who access it, to be picked out by them as definitively ‘me’ and no one else.

This process involves sharing opinions apropos of matters that mean a lot to me  – political, social, religious, musical and literary.

This website is thus a personal thought experiment, with prose at its heart.

As the American novelist and essayist Toni Morrison once said, “writing is really a way of thinking . . . about things that are disparate, unresolved, mysterious and problematic – telling a literary truth about reality, making a series of good wholes in human life”.

And the critic, Joan Didion, her contemporary: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” And Gustave Flaubert: “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”

Reading serious literature helps too, of course.

Indeed, reading and writing, combined with listening to classical music and reflecting on the idea of God, are the ways in which, throughout my life, I have sought to make sense of my experience.

Indeed, reading, writing and listening to music, conjoined with having a religious vocation, are how I experience my experience, each differently enabling me to get myself into some kind of personal order, helping to foster in my imagination a clearer sense of who I am, where I presently stand, and the place I want to journey to.

By setting down much of this order on this website the hope is that there should be little ambiguity about what lies at the core of my identity.

So, while many personal details and occurrences are left undisclosed, a lot aren’t, which means those I report provide more than a very partial portrayal of who I am. 

Left-leaning

I believe strongly that government should always push the limits of what can be achieved.

I don’t therefore subscribe to the idea that politics is the art of the possible.

This conception of the political process is far too unambitious for my liking, given the huge problems we face, both in society and globally.

On occasions, I suspect such pragmatism, leavened with incrementalism, is really a way to justify the promotion of policies that leave things much as they are, despite the fact that it’s obvious certain of them should be challenged head-on and radically and speedily altered. Child poverty, for example, can’t be negotiated with. Nor can the ecological and life-threatening impacts of climate change.

Politics then should be about seeking instead the impossible; or what I have described elsewhere as a socialist utopia, which I regard as a much-needed alternative to the regularly dysfunctional political orthodoxies which the institutions of liberal democracy too easily take for granted, even thinking they should be universalised.

Like my literary hero, William Hazlitt, the 19th Century English essayist and journalist, I am then a Left-wing dissenter, which means, after him, I am prone “to speak my mind, bluntly and honestly”, making me “a secret disturber of the peace”.

And, similar to Hazlitt, I never follow the herd or jump on bandwagons; rarely accept official versions; and instinctively side with underdogs.

I also don’t have much time for those who theorize about politics as an end in itself. I therefore avoid the company of armchair analysts.  

I prefer instead being with divisive individuals – people that eschew self-restraint in favour of earnestly advocating alternative Leftist standpoints that take on and seek to expel the influence of the reactionary, conventional and hidebound. 

Towards utopia

Accordingly, unlike sensible centrists, mixed-economy liberals and one-nation conservatives, I consider compromise, balance and moderation to be overrated political stratagems, adopted usually as a means to frustrate or embarrass calls to effect radical change.

Insofar as I am a utopian socialist, I thus regard as Rightist folly efforts to reach a sympathetic understanding with neoliberal financial capitalism, entirely because its inexorable logic, entailing the pursuit of private profit over collective well-being, occasions resource wars, global warming, gross inequalities of income and wealth and periodic economic crises. 

So, rather than accommodate and sustain the ideal of society as a kind of universal market, which is the way of many social democrats I know, I hold to the contrary view that it must be replaced by something altogether different, specifically a mode of social life that is characterised by fairness, equality, cooperation and the promotion of the common good.

I’m also in favour of a ‘degrowth’ form of political economy that promotes less GDP in favour of societal well-being. 

Route map

Navigating around this website should present few problems. Although the titles of its different pages are self-explanatory, each includes a short introductory scene-setting note.