Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies

Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)

Who Would Have Thought It?

Did you anticipate the extent to which the EU Referendum would cleave into families and friendships in the way that it did, threatening relationships almost to destruction? Indeed, in some cases, destruction occurred. To take just one example in the public eye, apparently the close friendship between the Cameron and Gove families is shot; they haven’t spoken to each other since Michael Gove declared his hand for the Leave campaign. Two men who, it seems, couldn’t distinguish between the man and the ball.

There were times in the run up to the Referendum, and since, when I was reluctant to engage in the EU debate for fear of, if not destroying, then fracturing a friendship, perhaps irreparably. That’s not healthy in a democracy where freedom of speech is paramount and where, without full and frank discussion about how we organise ourselves and live our lives, the alternative is Orwellian.

Keeping Debate Alive

I remain emphatically in favour of robust debate, not least as we get to grips with shaping our renewed role as a self-governing nation, casting off 40 years of political slovenliness. Our politicians now need to discover, or re-discover what it means both to govern and to hold government to account; they’ve been playing at it in Westminster for a generation. Our role as citizens in a revitalised democracy is to keep our elected representatives on their toes, reminding them ceaselessly that their role is to serve us, and not vice versa. Free and open discussion is critical both for holding politicians to account, and for ensuring that our democracy is vibrant. Incidentally, withdrawing from the debate because the counter-view offends you is no excuse for then railing against the end result. In other words, being offended is not an argument, it’s a cop out.


Keeping the ball rolling and maintaining friendships as we go will be the challenge, particularly given the profound nature of the matter in hand. I had no idea that the question of how we, as a nation, should be governed would be so terribly divisive. I assumed post-Referendum would be a slam-dunk: we voted to leave the EU; we would leave the EU; thank you and good-bye. How wrong I was. So, it struck me that as we now start looking to the year ahead, it might be an idea to reflect for a moment on what really matters. For me, happiness flowers from a stem with three roots: the first of those roots is good health, the second root is to live in freedom and the third root is to love and be loved by family and friends. Since maintaining friendships could become the leitmotif of the year, or even years ahead, I decided to have a deeper look at what friendship means, and how important it is.

A C Grayling

I shall paraphrase for a moment the philosopher A C Grayling on the subject of friendship. We human beings are social animals. Relationships are vital to both our well-being and our identities. Friendships have the most significant impact on determining who we are. One good way to know what sort of person someone really is, is to examine the friendships they’ve maintained over time.

The key to friendship lies in who we talk to, and who we listen to, about what really concerns us. What we discuss with friends stays alive in the relationship thereafter, affecting its course and influencing the characters of the friends. This is perhaps why the EU Referendum debate has been so challenging for so many friendships.

Aristotle described a friend as ‘another self’: perhaps sometimes the deceiver we need when we wish to be deceived, and the absolver we need when we desire absolution. Friends are the ‘others’ we need, and who need us, for the sake of the connectedness which gives us the feedback, the challenges and the support that together condition us as friends – and the companionship and merriment that keep us sane.

Aristotle said that true friendship is ‘grounded in good’, in the sense that you wish for your friend what is best for them. Aristotle calls this friendship ‘perfected’ or ‘completed’ because its aim lies wholly within the relationship itself; it doesn’t treat the relationship as merely instrumental for some other, or further end. The ideal friendship is personal and mutual, and the very highest friendships are exclusive.

The key is that the overriding point of friendship is the relationship itself. Friendship is, by its nature, particular; its focus is on individual things, on confidences and on the security provided by mutual understanding.

Epicurus said that friendship has intrinsic value, being in itself one of life’s supreme pleasures. A friendship’s pleasures derive not only from what friends can do for each other and give to each other, but also from disinterested and altruistic actions. Friendship is among the highest of things that make a good life.

In Practice

One could list any number of attributes that one might use to characterise friendship; indeed, there are plenty of such lists out there. For me, I would focus on the following as being what it means in practice to be a true friend. A true friend is emotionally generous; understanding; reliable; kind; trustworthy; honest; and, above all – almost by definition – loyal. The most important part is being there – and not just for the good times. A true friend also makes the innocent and proper assumption that all the claims, expectations, rights and duties of this vital and valuable human bond called friendship are reciprocal. The idea is to be the friend you would most like to have.

Keeping It Alive

Aristotle (again) said fine friendship requires duration rather than fitful intensity. James Boswell, the Scottish lawyer best known for his biography of Samuel Johnson wrote that, ‘we cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is a last drop which makes it run over; so, in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.’ Boswell advises that we should fill our lives with friendships both old and new. Once formed, friendships must be replenished from time to time so that they remain in constant repair. Friendships need tending. Nothing can replace time together, ideally in circumstances where other pressures are lifted so that the gates of communication can swing open, allowing free trade to pass between.

Happy New Year

Finally, back to the beginning. We seem to be entering some new era or other; an era of political and social disruption and fierce debate; better that than us killing each other, I guess. Friendships have been tested to the limits this past year or so. The purpose of this post was to make the point that however fiery the debate, however at odds you are with your friends on this topic or that, bear in mind that friendship is one of the most precious elements of a good life. If push comes to shove, by all means be true to your ideas, but above all be true to your friendships. Never was the cry ‘Happy New Year!’ more apposite.


Addendum: Looking Ahead

Hopefully you’ll take a moment or two to reflect on my post above. Then, when you’re ready to look ahead at practical details for the coming year, may I recommend you pay a visit to my fellow blogger Dr Tim Morgan’s place over at Surplus Energy Economics where Dr Tim is, indeed, looking ahead.


  1. Excellent stuff as always MM. Like you I was taken aback by the response to losing from the remainiacs. It has been pretty hostile and to me quite shocking. My gut feeling is that this is largely due to the fact that the remainiacs never considered they would lose and the leavers never really thought they would win.

    I was fully prepared to see a narrow remain victory and I like to think that I would have remained sanguine at the result. What has deeply offended me is just how nasty and desperate the remainiacs have become. I feel this is counter productive in the long term as it only reinforces my view that leaving was the right choice. I also think it will convert a lot of lukewarm remainers over to the leave camp.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Always enjoy reading you Sir
    Happy new year Everyone.

    Wondered if “r/K Selection theory” had crossed your radar?

    For example, I think it explains the ferocity of opinion, between friends and family over Brexit and Trump.

    It explains quite thoroughly the Liberal v conservative mindset, and is quite a perspective to view the individual/group/society/civilisation from!

    The authority is. anonymousconservative.com/blog/home-page

    And there’s a great 3 part series by Stefan Molyneux on YouTube titled “Gene wars: r/K Selection theory”

    When this takes hold.. then we can really fight back and protect the future.

    All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moraymint · ·

      Thank you; will take a look!


      1. Would appreciate some feedback, when you’ve had the chance to view it,
        Personally, I think it’s our ‘K’ryptonite, and it makes liberal heads explode!

        It represents gene death to them.. 🙂 yaay..

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Robert E Lee · ·

    Feliz año nuevo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moraymint · ·

      And the same to you, sir …


  4. reallyoldbill · ·

    Another fascinating read from a thoughtful man, so thanks for that, MM. I have generally found in life that friendship usually stems from a mutual view of the world and shared values. There are, of course, exceptions, but it is unusual for a deeply committed socialist in the Corbyn mould to forge a genuinely deep friendship with an arch capitalist. What, after all, would they have in common that would have attracted them to each other in the first place? It is in that respect that the question of EU membership was so divisive, because it crossed all established boundaries, whether of family, friendship or even political views. If not a unique matter then it was certainly very rare.

    Many young people who voted have not had the experience of life outside the embrace of the European political family; never known the reality of a sovereign nation state in command of its own destiny; and were consequently blinded by the possibilities that could exist for a world-trading nation like Great Britain if she threw off the shackles of the EU. It is perhaps understandable that they saw only the potential downsides to leaving given that, thanks to EU funded propaganda disguised as educational projects to which they have been exposed throughout their lives, the elusive dream of a united European polity had been sold to them as a goal worth achieving at any price, and the notion of pride in nation statehood a somewhat subversive delusion fostered only by racists, xenophobes and extremists. Even the evidence of their own eyes should they have bothered to look at the misery being caused to countries in southern Europe, where whole generations were being sacrificed in pursuit of the chimera of a united Europe with its own currency and political identity, were dismissed without proper evaluation as to the cause. Reality could not be allowed to intrude into the fantasy. Such therefore was the zeal with which many of these voters viewed the ambition of a truly United Europe that normal political discourse was suspended in favour of bitter rancour towards any who did not share it. The level of animosity created by the very idea that the nation as a whole could even entertain the idea of leaving the EU was unprecedented in my lifetime, surpassing even that fostered by the independence debate in Scotland, which to an outsider’s eyes in England was itself scarcely believable. Despite this, a good many of the younger generation still voted to leave, thank goodness, and I fear many a budding friendship may have been irreparably damaged in the process. Time, however, can be a great healer, and the young have the benefit of it being on their side. I have great faith in the sense and fairness of ordinary Britons, and can already detect signs that the scars of the campaign are starting to heal, indeed know personally of people who voted to remain but now, having accepted the disappointment of the result, have started to view the future in a positive way, already making plans for our new path on the world stage and the opportunities it will afford. The future is bright; the future is ours.

    Happy New Year to you, and thank you for the mental stimulation that your blog delivers to your readers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. moraymint · ·

      Thanks Bill, and you’ve shared some excellent insights there.

      Here is an article that I think you might enjoy, if that’s the right word:

      ‘The EU is heading for the dustbin of history’


      1. reallyoldbill · ·

        Thanks for that. The greatest mystery to me has always been why, after experiencing the agony of Soviet domination, those countries in a recently liberated eastern Europe would throw in their lot with the EU, a project which by the time they joined was already openly showing its contempt for democracy, freedom and the nation state. Obtaining access to EU funding, and even the ability to travel freely to other EU states does not, for me at least, explain their decision. Ironically, as I always suspected, it will be the EU’s insatiable desire for expansion that may well bring about its downfall. I just hope that we have successfully achieved our exit before the roof comes crashing down on the house that Monnet built.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for that MorayMint. I must say, most of my friends supported Leave like me although they were not involved in the campaigns, I have a couple on the Remain side. They all knew of my commitment though, but I stayed and continue to stay, off the subject unless they raise it first.

    I don’t think Cameron had any right to expect Gove to give up his long-held beliefs and principles out of loyalty to a friend. Has he never heard the saying “Be true to yourself.” I’m afraid it’s another example of Cameron’s arrogance and petulance; if Remain had won he’d have expected Gove to suck it up and continue with “a friendship” which obviously wasn’t one based on respect. It’s a shame Gove then messed up the fallout of the result, but we’re well rid of Cameron.

    Happy NY to you MorayMint. The fight’s not over yet – there are plenty of Remoaners who are determined to prevent Brexit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. moraymint · ·

      Thanks Donna, and Happy New Year to you too.

      In my case, I was surprised at the number of my friends who were, and perhaps remain in favour of the UK’s membership of the EU. Being surprised was and is my problem and not theirs, of course. It just shows how careful one has to be about assuming what others think about one subject, or another.

      Despite everything before and after the EU Referendum, I have yet to see a hard-headed, politically, economically and socially sound case for the UK – or any nation for that matter – to remain wedded to an abjectly failed political project. The EU is doomed; it has been for many years and it was on that basis – having researched the history, culture and workings of that institution for an equal number of years – that I argued for the UK to pull out. I think an awful lot of people who voted Remain may not have done their homework about the realities of the EU – but I would say that, wouldn’t I …

      I hadn’t anticipated the venom and vitriol that would characterise the debate about the UK’s membership of the EU. I decided that the two sides to the debate were probably arguing from wholly different perspectives which made the debate so difficult and testy. Crudely, Remain fought on the basis of ‘life outside the EU will be dire; leaving will be an economic and social catastrophe; anybody voting Leave must surely be some sort of pitiful, narrow-minded, unenlightened soul ‘. Leave voted on the basis of ‘I want my country back; to hell with the consequences; I don’t care what anybody thinks of me’. Personally, I voted on the basis that the EU is the mechanism by which its member nations are governed by an oligarchy (the European Commission) and, therefore, the UK should recover its sovereignty. I confess to having been perplexed as to why any voter should fear the UK recovering its sovereignty, but fear there was, in spades. Indeed, that fear persists, clearly.

      In any case, it just seems to me that (a) we must keep sharing views on the UK’s situation – in parallel with getting things done (the latter being essential) and (b) we must strive to keep separate the person and the issue. By all means let’s have a barney about the future direction of our country, but at the end of the (heated) discussion, let’s go down the pub and talk about football/rugby/cricket/holidays/quantum mechanics/kids/the weather/whatever …

      Be true to yourself and your ideas, but friendship is all …


      1. Robert E Lee · ·

        MM, this reply to Donna puts me in mind of an old maths tutor of mine: Dr Darcy Redyhoff. I was a student on no13 GD Aerosystems course at RAF College Cranwell in 1980. Darcy was a brilliant, witty and iconoclastic lecturer. Having developed a difficult (to us,his students) proof, he would label its self-evidence by IPOTARTP scrawled in huge letters across the chalkboard.
        This stood for “It’s Patently Obvious To All Right Thinking People.”
        Your submission above falls into the same category.

        Incidentally, I have the honour of having a maths answer of mine criticized in writing by Darcy with the comment: “This looks like Horse and Hair pie pie to me.” He redeemed himself with a most gracious thankyou note some months later following the attendance of he and his lady wife at a drinks party I organised at our lodgings. It read ‘Thankyou for a truly excellent, copper-bottomed piss up.’

        Liked by 1 person

        1. moraymint · ·

          Love it!


  6. Moray, good as ever. Thanks for your continued thoughts and good health and happiness in 2017.


  7. Excellent and well thought-out missive. All the very best to you and yours for 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moraymint · ·

      And to you and yours, sir …


  8. Old Goat · ·

    Thanks for that, Moraymint. Something to read and digest, for the future. May 2017 bring more “popularism”, and a continuing change for the better, throughout the world.

    Happy New Year to you and yours, from Chateau Goat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moraymint · ·

      Bon sante!


  9. Arfur Bryant · ·

    And a Happy 2017 to you, Moraymint, and all your readers!

    [“Free and open discussion is critical both for holding politicians to account, and for ensuring that our democracy is vibrant. Incidentally, withdrawing from the debate because the counter-view offends you is no excuse for then railing against the end result. In other words, being offended is not an argument, it’s a cop out.”]

    Couldn’t agree more. I would like to think the BBC would consider adopting a new policy – that of reporting the news instead of trying to manipulate it!

    Gosh, look at that! I just saw a ‘Sus Domesticus’ fly past my window…

    Kind regards,

    Arfur Bryant

    Liked by 2 people

    1. moraymint · ·

      And to you, sir …



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