Saturday, 23 June 2012

Nativity of Alan Turing (1912)

Today we remember that quiet hero of the Second World War, Alan Turing. A man who would often have caught the train between Cambridge and Bletchley on the "Varsity Line". And so, as he would have travelled through Husborne Crawley each time - possibly encountering my great-granfather, heading into Bedford or Bletchley for the Peasant-Hiring - I like to feel that he is a kind of honorary Beaker Person.

My great-grandfather, before that unfortunate accident with the hay-bailer, was apparently a man of what might be called traditional morals. In short, had he known of Turing's sexual preferences, he would have beaten him out of the railway carriage with a horse-whip. Indeed, he always carried a horse-whip with him specifically for this purpose. Family history records the frustration he suffered that, in fifty-five years of train-travel, he never manage to spot a "thorough-going, grade-A, plainly-identified nancy-boy" on whom to express his moral disapproval. But I may be sharing too much family history here.

Maybe Alan Turing was born half a century too early. Were he alive today, with his Cambridge education, quirkiness and fierce, alternative intelligence, he would have been a satirical comedian. Or maybe the country's finest tax accountant. Or he might have been the geeky keyboard-programmer in an 80s pop band.

But his generation helped preserve this country and Europe as a place where we could let tolerance - slowly and unsteadily - take root. We live in a country where gay people are not criminalised, locked away or chemically castrated. Where people of non-European origin are not regarded as second-class.

So maybe he was born at the right time. Maybe we have enough comedians and tax accountants. Maybe if it had not been for Turing and his colleagues, there wouldn't even be comedians and tax accountants in England today.

Thanks, Alan Turing. We hope that there are plenty of problems to solve where you are. And we'll light an artifical-intelligence, computerised tea-light in your honour.

1 comment :

  1. I think that the history of Alan Turing shows how much we've moved on since his day. Unfortunately, there remains much residual prejudice of all types in the world, and particularly in the UK.

    It needs to be overcome through education and celebrating the lives of those like Alan, who were pioneer's in their time, as well as victims.

    I am unable to conceive how anyone can today, justify any innate prejudice on any grounds, whether racial, gender or sexual - it inhumane and not worthy of being tolerated. More education is needed if it is to be overcome.

    The Church(s) should be taking a lead in this area. Instead, they bury their heads in the sand and try to ignore change for the better, using scripture and arcane traditions and thought patterns to justify their ongoing discriminatory approach.

    The House of Bishops of both the CofE and RC Churches need to be open to the Holy Spirit and view these areas with open minds - because, if they don't, their traditions will be swept away in a wave of revulsion against such reactionary principles.


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