A Few Words On Norm Geras
NORMAN Geras: 1943-2013
I am very sad to announce that Norm died in Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge in the early hours of this morning. Writing this blog, and communicating with all his readers, has brought him an enormous amount of pleasure in the last ten years. I know that since writing here about his illness earlier in the year he received a lot of support from many of you, and that has meant a great deal to him, and to us, his family. The blog and all its archives will remain online.
Jenny Geras (Norm’s daughter), 18 October 2013
His first post on his blog, on 28 July, 2003, instructed: “In the immortal words of Sam Peckinpah. Let’s go.”
The great service Normblog and its comrades on the Net provided was to break down the gates and allow fresh arguments in new intellectual spaces. New alliances brought contrary opinions and new sources of information to the reader. For someone writing from a similar position at the time Normblog began, I cannot over-emphasise how important it was to realise that I had comrades out there.
Almost certainly without knowing it, Norm helped me to have the courage to speak up for what I believe to be right, even when everyone around me, Guardian-readers all, believed something different, and were incredulous or (often) malevolent if they heard a different view. As examples, the belief that human rights are universal, that differing cultural norms do not excuse, for instance, the mutilating of women and girls, that the deliberate killing of civilians is always a war crime. Most of the people around me for most of my adult life (I worked for the BBC for 13 years, was in Labour politics for 20, and now work for an international institution dedicated to democracy, human rights and the rule of law) consider themselves to be liberal, “good” people. But these same people, and you only have to read the letters and comments in the Guardian to see it, support evil and barbaric regimes and practices around the world that they would never tolerate where they live. Some of them marched in 2003 waving Saddam Hussein’s flag. Some of them spoke up for the Taliban and the killing of Americans – even though they expected their own daughters to go to school. Many of them use Jew-hating language about the state of Israel. I don’t presume to repeat the expression of Norm’s views here – he is gone and we will not hear from him again, but his writing lives on. I can only say that when I knew that there were others out there who believed as I do that some things are just wrong, and who could express those beliefs with intellectual coherence and clarity – well, I managed to be a bit braver.
“[T]he first time I became aware of my mom’s age, she was 32. . . . 32 is an age that became, as it were, parental for me. Now, when I arrived in Manchester, having just ceased to be a student, and took up my job as a junior lecturer, I was 24. And 24 I have, naturally, remained – despite becoming a bit more mature and much wiser. Imagine my perplexity, therefore, in having two daughters who have both passed the age of 32. It’s bad enough to have children as old as your mother. But when they’re also older than you, you wonder if you’re losing all your concepts.”
He was always worth a read.