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Turning towards enlightenment
Written by Andrew Wilson, founding partner
26 September 2020
On Tuesday, at 8.20pm, my part of the world turned its face towards winter, but for a moment basked with the rest of the planet. The equinox occurs twice a year when the earth’s tilt is such that the sun illuminates the northern and southern hemispheres equally, this week and again with the vernal equinox of spring.
The universe offers us moments of such enlightenment even if humankind sometimes fails to notice. As the equinox passes, the northern half turns towards winter and all that this means. I adore this time of year. The air changes perceptively and almost immediately. The school run started with temperatures approaching zero already. Somehow, I always feel at my most optimistic. The geese have started coming back too as they fly south over my house to the ‘high ponds’ above my village of Balerno at the foot of Edinburgh’s Pentland Hills. Geese cheer me. They light up the sky, blazing a trail for their species and each other, marking the grand migration of birds who seek light. Shooting stars offer similar wonder in the night sky and blaze their own trail. This week’s digest of what we read at Charlotte Street is full of people who did likewise.
Have a restful weekend.
In her own words
“Women will have achieved true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.”
In her 87 and a half years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has left behind one of the most influential legacies in law and in equality. In this interview, Justice Ginsburg reveals her losses, her struggles, and her hope for the future. As a single parent of three I hope she will approve of my own modest contribution to the cause.
Read in The Atlantic.
2. The fight against colourism in India
This piece is a timely reminder that culture wars are by no means confined to the west. In India, the upcoming Bollywood rom-com, Khaali Peeli, has faced a backlash over a lyric that underscores rumbling discontent over colourism – prejudice or discrimination against people with darker skin tones – in the country.
The line itself translates to “by merely looking at you, oh fair lady, Beyoncé will feel shy.” Fairness has long been associated with beauty in south Asian culture, many of the leading actors and models today are very light-skinned, and so a dangerous discourse builds: fairness is an indicator of class and upward mobility, hierarchies of skin colour are entrenched. But now, spurred on by the Black Lives Matter movement, activists are demanding change.
Read in Time.
3. The 80/20 principle
Richard Koch is an unreasonably successful investor by anyone’s standards and in this extremely long interview he openly shares his methodology for investing as well as a fascinating look back on his career as a management consultant with Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company. His new book Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It, is out now.
I find the minds of such genius success stories a privileged place in which to look. Our chairman at Charlotte Street Partners, Sir Angus Grossart, is another such brain. Unlike Koch he hasn’t yet written the book. I do wish he would.
Listen on The Tim Ferriss Show and buy the book here.
4. Brexit and the City
As the clock ticks down to the UK’s departure from the single market, the pull exerted by the sheer scale and complexity of London’s financial sector remains undeniable.
However, given that the European Commission is in the midst of launching a new effort to nurture its own capital markets, perhaps things are about to change. Any firm or policymaker found resting on their laurels will pay a price.
Read in the Financial Times.
5. Exchanging winter for summer
Devi Sridhar argues that we will pay for our summer holidays with winter lockdowns. The rise of infections in Europe seems particularly linked with tourism, bar-hopping and clubbing, and now governments face a precarious game of whack-a-mole to suppress the virus. The only solution, Sridhar argues, is to eliminate community transmission and to use robust test, trace and isolate policies. Fail to do this now, and we risk second lockdowns, with cases surging as temperatures drop. She is thoughtful, brave and influential, especially here in Scotland. Even when I don’t quite buy the perspective, it is always worthwhile to understand it.
Read in The New York Times.
6. A season of plot twists
Globally, more than 170 teams of researchers are racing to develop a Covid vaccine. Interestingly, however, a team from Bristol University has found possible basis for a drug that could prevent the SARS-Cov-2 virus from entering the human body. Is it possible that we will see the invention of Covid anti-virals before a vaccine? Science is a source of unending light in a world that needs illumination.
Read in The Spectator.
7. The trailblazer
The death this week of Harold Evans reminded us of one of the best lived 20thcentury lives and of a man who personified British journalism at its meritocratic and courageous best. Starting at the Darlington Echo and ending up a US citizen and editor-at-large of Reuters via The Times in London, the story is eye wateringly impressive. Another trailblazer gone – rest in peace.
Read in The Guardian
And finally: university has abased itself for the woke brigade
The decision of the University of Edinburgh to remove the name of trailblazing enlightenment philosopher David Hume from one of its main buildings has bemused almost everyone. In this week’s Times Scotland, the sage of the Grange and former MP Jim Sillars made his formidable mind clear on the matter. He was one of the most inspiring political figures of my youth and has always known his own mind and had the bravery to follow it, even when it has meant changing a public position.
The crassness of this decision must indeed be reviewed by the university in the interest of its own reputation and the damage it has also caused to the standing of the Scottish enlightenment. For my part I don’t regard the criticism that forced this decision as ‘woke’. Many of those labelled as ‘woke’ are pushing for the enlightenment of a society today that needs to catch up with the civilisation process in many ways, especially on racism and sexism.
But the degradation of historical geniuses completely out of context from the society they lived in or any understanding of how their legacy was one of greater enlightenment for society than any bad quote, is not woke. It is intellectually comatose.
The one upside is that David Hume would not have cared. As he put it himself: “I have written on all sorts of subjects… yet I have no enemies; except indeed all the Whigs, all the Tories, and all the Christians.”
Read in The Times