I didn’t know Norman Geras, or “Norm”, as he was known by the blogging fraternity, that well – we certainly never spoke, although I had a number of exchanges with him – but I feel strangely like I have lost someone important today.
As well as a blogger, I am aware he has been a highly-respected professor of politics and whom I also cite as one of the important signatories of the 2006 Euston Manifesto, which helped me re-examine the way I think about a few things. It challenged the sloppy, lazy way that sections of the left had got into thinking.
I mark him out, essentially, as one of the few people both rational and brave enough to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy of the left on such subjects as its relationship with non-democracies, racism, Islamism and other religious intolerance. I have often found myself checking normblog to see what a super-rational, forensic view might be on a particular subject or, as my friend Nick Cohen writes today:
Whenever I faced a difficult moral question, I would at some point think “ah, what is Norm saying about this,” go to his blog and see that Norm had found a way through.
His pieces were always short, forensically focused and argued, but with a fundamental basis in humanity rather than cold ideology. I have never managed to edit myself so ruthlessly as his exemplary nuggets, though I should certainly one day like to learn how. If you have never yet visited the blog, I would strongly suggest you dip into its extensive archives here.
My own story with Norm is a short and rather uninteresting one: he contacted me about being one of his comprehensive series of blogger profiles, a link to which I have proudly displayed here in the right-hand bar of my little blog ever since (no. 389, since you ask).
But you gave me that little push and encouragement into writing, Norm, and made me think that I might possibly be creating something of some small value to someone, somewhere. Most importantly, you reminded me that there were clever people out there, who were true comrades of mine and were not afraid to challenge the mental straightjacket that the left, my political home, sometimes works itself into.
For both these things I am profoundly grateful.
As Nick says, “rest in peace, comrade”.