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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Bruce Parry, modern shaman?

What happens when you send a Royal Marine to the Amazon and give him large quantities of hallucinogenic plants? He becomes a meditating hippy!

That, at least, seems to be what’s happened to Bruce Parry, the TV presenter and former Marine, who went and lived with various indigenous tribes for the BBC series, ‘Tribe’, and also took part in their shamanic rituals, including taking plants like ayahuasca. I read an interesting interview with Parry in the Sunday Times – sadly it’s now behind a firewall – which suggested the man has been very altered by his experiences. When he came back from the Amazon, he went off and meditated in a cave for several weeks with a religious group, who insisted he give up alcohol and sex, which he says he did. He says in the interview ‘I figured if there was one group of people who could bend spoons with their minds, it was these guys’. Then he carried on meditating and experimenting with hallucinogenics in Ibiza.
He’s now just finished another BBC series in which he explores the Arctic. He is wondering whether to stay in the mainstream TV entertainment business, or to go off and make humanitarian / New Age films for a smaller audience. I personally hope he stays in mass broadcasting. He’s such a great, unique presence on TV – we need him to carry on expanding our minds.
**Update: since I wrote the above, a friend from the expeditioning community has painted a rather different picture of Parry, suggesting I do him too much credit, and that he is more a showman than a shaman. Apparently the likes of Ray Mears and Benedict Allen are held in greater respect among expeditioners. Still, Parry does make for a good TV presenter. **
***Update 2: someone else who knows him says he’s a nice guy. Maybe I should stop commenting on things about which I know nothing. But then…what would I write about??***

The End of History and the Invention of Happiness

Here’s something juicy to get your teeth stuck into over the New Year. It’s a long essay, which I plan to put in the appendix of my book, that looks at the rise of the politics of wellbeing, and governments’ growing confidence that they can stimulate the happiness of their citizens. Then it looks at the role played by ancient Greek philosophy in this new politics of wellbeing. The third part looks at the backlash to the politics of wellbeing, from philosophers (of all people). Finally, the essay asks if governments should teach the Good Life to children in schools, and answers with a qualified yes. It’s an expanded version of my essay ‘Beyond Liberalism’, which some of you might have read earlier in the year. Here’s the essay.