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Thursday, 16 February 2017

Game Day: LeCraft - Magick and the Magus

Introduction to Magick

Magick* is a powerful form of power that is seemingly both matter and energy, sometimes one, sometimes neither, and sometimes both. This force can be harnessed and controlled at will by magickally attuned and correctly trained people. Utilising this source, the magus is able to enact change upon other existent matter and energy. It is seemingly also able to transform itself into 'normal' matter or energy under correct conditions. It is considered the radix of all life energies and therefore the source of existence itself. Basically, it is the malleable, although highly dangerous, 'building blocks' of reality and can therefore be used to change existing structures, forms, and reactions.

The 'tides of magick'

Almost all sapient creatures in LeCraft have the capability to utilise magick (all except the Kuôn and, to an extent, the automatons, but most don't consider them sapient anyway). However, this is dependent on the individual being 'attuned' to the flow of magickal power. It is possible for someone non-attuned to become attuned, f.e. being exposed to a large dose of magickal energy and so forth.

It is believed, and is possible, that the level of attunement was much higher years ago (the amount of years is disputed) and that the strength of magickal power is fading in the world. However, this has not been properly measured (although many are working on it) and cannot be confirmed, but it is  still widely believed that in the early days, i.e. during the Untold War, that everyone was a magus!

For the most part, the only place one can go to receive training in magick is in one of the magus schools. Fortunately, there is a magus school prominently within every one of the nine city states. Indeed, it is most likely that the schools are the reason for each of the city states existence, location, and so forth. Although all magus schools cover all the techniques of magick use, still each has a specialisation or has a particular focus of studies. Simply put, I see the magus schools as representing an idealised academia! However, rather than running with a straight analogy of university departments (Terry Pratchett) or school subjects (J.K. Rowling), instead I wish to create with LeCraft something believably 'other'. Recognisable as a method of study and practice, but not created for the needs of satire, something that seems like a 'fourth science' or new art-form.

Few, if any, know of the true origins of magick. Although the speculation upon this forms the basis of what is called 'meta-magicks', which is the theoretical study of magickal power and is typically the beginning point of a magus' career.

Systemising Magick

I'd started creating this depiction of magick in a fairly traditional manner, with a variety of 'schools' of magick each with a specific form or focus, i.e. something like alchemy, a school that focuses upon mind control and trickery, and so forth. I might post this list later on, but as suggested above, I've come to see this system as lending too much of an 'earthly' sensibility about it. So, I started thinking about the basics of how the system might work.

With so many potential 'types' of magick it would have been a ridiculous task (but not unusual) to list all the available spells particular to a form magick that are possible, but with around ten or more schools of magick this would have required mountains of research and writing, not least to make sure nothing is copied from another system, accidental or not.

Instead of that, I intend to keep it more open-ended, adaptable, and with the emphasis on creative engagement. Certainly I will list the sorts of things that can be done; offer outlines for power-level limits, note that these can be broken in certain circumstances, give certain well-known or famous examples of feats of magick and so forth.

So, that's a game mechanics comment. This is more concept. Magick as science is not a new idea, nor do I intend to provide something brand new. In a sense, the idea is to show magick fitting into a realistic (but fantastical) setting. The more I think about technological progress and its influence upon our lives, I can't help but imagine how a source of power as great as magick (in your typical high-magick fantasy setting) would shape the development of humanity in other ways. As technology is so pervasive in our lives, so magick is a component part of these 'others' existence. In this world, magick corrupts and drawing from it too frequently eventually damages and weakens the user, but the promise of immediate power is (as we know) just too tempting for most. I don't want to draw it too close to addiction parallels, but rather highlight the inherent shortsightedness of those in power and the seemingly inability we have to break away from our technological 'crutches'.

The use of Magick

This might give some idea of how I see magick being used 'in game'. It is to be less of the casual throw-away powers of D&D magic users or the unlimited usage of Harry Potter and his Wizarding World. The invocation of magick costs the user and I don't just mean in terms of points of spell allowance or in any game system manner, rather, there is a tremendous personal risk and potential physical and mental price to be paid.

Magick needs study, needs knowledge, but most importantly needs a reason to be used. It is dangerous, fatal even, to throw around magickal 'spells' without proper care. This is a very flimsy metaphorical description for how I envisage 'proper' academic or creative endeavour. That is, I think we go wrong when we rush through something without care. I'm not saying that there aren't 'happy accidents' in art or even science for that matter, but that comes about from constant diligent work. There is no 'fairy dust' magic (without the k!) of creativity.

This, unfortunately, means that the magick of LeCraft is likely to be less 'flashy' than in typical fantasy games, but I hope it can prove to resonate more and be just as thrilling because of its needful focus. Casting a 'spell' in LeCraft can therefore be a very slow, labourious process, potentially taking many hours or days of dedicated research.

How Magick is learned and controlled

I won't go into detailing the differences between the magick schools yet, mainly because this will come about as part of each city states description as well. Also, because despite their focal differences their formation and general running remains fairly similar, this is also because the schools keep in contact with each other (somewhat unwillingly, it must be said). They are important sociopolitical centres, whether they like it or not, and although the banal day-to-day running of society bores them, they are concerned with the overall development of the world that they are all part of. As such, each head of school, the prime, is considered a major player in their local politics. Also, the various heads of schools elected one of themselves to be the supreme magus for certain magick-based decisions concerning the ethics of studies and such like. It should be noted that this arrangement is mostly administrative and the role changes hands every few years. The role of prime magus within a school is dependant on that school's historic arrangements, typically this also changes after a certain time, but some primes have been in charge of their school for decades.

Each magick school is a learned society, with a variety of specialists teaching their own area of expertise and leading research in said area. These subjects are divided into discipline or sections based on the area of study and research and each section has a lead magus, and the school run by a prime magus, whom the section leaders report to. The leaders of their discipline probably do the most to organise the daily schedule of study, research and training throughout their sections, however, as the prime is ultimately responsible they tend to be kept rather busy with constant requests and inquiries. Each specialist represents many years of study and is an expert in their particular field of investigation. Each school's own curriculum is different, being based on the style of the prime magus in charge, with some taking a very linear progression and others being rather more care-free or tailored to the individual. Initially, however, the early study at all schools focus upon meta-magick, as this forms the basis for all magickal understanding.

Structure, Forms, and Focus

The unnatural sciences of the magickal world take various levels of detail, from abstract to practical. Starting with meta-magicks, which attempts to describe the theoretical basis for magickal power, the ethics of its use, and detailing magickal formula.

  • Structure = Channeling (matter, energy, interactions)
  • Forms = Enacting (methods of use; art, linguistics, movements, numerology, will)
  • Focus = Effect (outcome desired, these are manifold and included but are not limited to; artefacts, control, creation, destruction, divination, healing, manipulating physical forces, protection, summoning, transformation, travelling, and etc.

In game terms, meta-magick, structure, forms, and focus would be rated abilities or characteristics, possibly between 0/1-9, indicating levels of knowledge or strength. As a nexus discipline, meta-magick, should always be of equal or higher value than the other disciplines being used, even if meta-magick itself is not part of the required casting, without this the magick becomes 'unbalanced' and adds a greater risk to the attempt. (cf. 'the use of magick')

In terms of organisation at the schools, this means that the different disciplines; theoretical, structural, formal, and focal are part of separate areas of research, but that a specific research project will tend to be multi-disciplinary and incorporate several specialist magi working in collaboration. Although this only comes about once each specialist magus has made extensive advances in their own disciplinary area. Indeed, the idea of a magus been a 'generalist' is traditionally frowned upon, although there is an increasing movement among the young magi towards this approach. This is also motivated by the increasing prominence of the 'intuitives', those who can cast magick without the traditional training or apparent concern about the ramifications.

Trained and Intuitive magick users

Not all those that use magick have been trained at one of the magus schools, in the wilds there are those that are called 'intuitives' who can shape and use magick at will. This type of magickal practice had been made illegal in most city states and, depending on the ruler, can result in the harshest of punishments.

Although considered a new and dangerous (and much feared) phenomenon, intuitives have been around as long as magick has been utilised by sapient species. I'll go into this in greater detail at a later date, but the idea behind how the intuitive 'works' is via a bond with a type of magickal structure (to use the magi term). There are three classes of intuitive related to their respective bonds.

  • Materiality (natural) = fundamental elements of matter, in LeCraft there are considered to be six; earth, air, fire, water, aether, and void. Someone with this bond is called a Wildward or Elemental and has a link to the natural world. They are guardians of wild remote places, despise cities and conventional society, and live in isolated cultish communities. They are rumoured to partake of hideous blood rituals, sapient sacrifice, inbreeding, and cannibalism.
  • Psychical = relating to the totality of sapient minds, conscious and unconscious. There is also a belief, among these intuitives and their supporters, in their connection with an immortal energy field connected to the living being, also known as the soul and the realm of the afterlife. These intuitives are seers and healers, that live among and are popular with country folk, who call them Augurs. City folk call them Witches.
  • Unnatural =  somehow bound to the Down Below, which is a form of hidden or mirror reality to LeCraft's own and a 'shadowy' mirror at that. Occultist is normally the kindest term used to describe these wretches. Those who have willing bonded with unknown dark forces are rightly considered the enemies of all other sapient species, they have traded their dignity for power and have betrayed all that is good in the world. Some, however, find they have this link unwillingly. These unluckiest of beings must struggle to control the literal beast within them.

Mage, Mágos, and other names

*Firstly, why magick and not magic? Well, I've also considered majik... but basically this naming convention is because of real-life Lovecraft character Aleister Crowley, who used the term to distinguish his brand of occultism (i.e. the cult of thelema) from the 'usual' kind. I suppose I'm grabbing some of this cachet.

I've also settled on Magus/Magi rather than the simpler term Mage(s) because it is so familiar and well-used in fantasy fiction and gaming. Magus comes from Persian and Latin and is closer related to the ancient Greek word than the modern Mage (see the title for the Greek term). It adds, I hope, an antiquarian feel to the name and the world.

Next time: Sapient species in LeCraft

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Game Day: LeCraft - World Building

I thought I'd explain some more of yesterday's ideas while they're still rotating around.

These are some notes that I made in 2015 about world building:

1. An 'unbroken' world. The game planet has not had the player races all slowly evolve on this world directly. Thus, many/most of the animal species native to the world are undomesticated. Further to this, they should be as un-Earthly as possible. So, we don't have a direct transposition from medieval Europe.
2. As many standard fantasy tropes to be subverted as possible. This will be difficult, but Elves as pragmatic. Dwarves as artistic and so forth.
3. Global community of refugees. Although some sapient species are native to the world (certainly kuon, possibly athexe, and others) most of the standard fantasy stock were brought here many centuries (possibly millennia) ago by some sort of... magical war and/or accident, trans-dimensional conflict/time war and etc.
4. Joined together to fight a common enemy. Although originally mortal foes; humans, elves, orcs, dwarves, goblins, and all the others, had to come together to fight an utterly horrifying aberrant species (Lovecraftian things). Who either were/are native to the world or followed them here. So, rather than the usual 'fantasy ghetto' divisions of continent by race/species (land of the halflings and so on) the cultures are divided more on ideological grounds, within which the different species are working together.
5. Ancient giant architecture. Abandoned colossal standing stones, ziggurat, and temples made by an older race (probably the risar).
6. Technology AND magic. Standard setting would have Earth tech equivalent to the 1700's. Clock-punk gunpowder weapons, clockwork machinery, etc.


I'm pleased to see that most of these ideas are still present, although some are becoming more tangential, i.e. the knowledge of the past NOT being made available to the characters of the stories.

One idea I'm certainly less attached to now, is the 'giant architecture', mainly because this isn't particularly surprising or interesting, indeed, it's a bit too common an idea. I quite like the idea of there being some giant-sized architecture, but not to make it a common theme. Indeed, the occasional 'odd' architectural or environmental structure would be more appealing.

The idea of the 'world' being a created space, some post-apocalypse realm, or experimental creation by mad 'gods'. Although the last one plays a little too close to Douglas Adams...

Indeed, that's a problem for me, the influence of too much British comedy! It's hard to think seriously about a medieval setting now without thinking of Holy Grail, science fiction without Hitchhiker's Guide or Red Dwarf, and generally ridiculing the often overly serious American attitude to fantasy stories (Raymond E. Feist is a good example of a fine writer that gets more than a little carried away with himself and don't get me started on George R. R. Martin!).

That point being raised, this leads me to giving a few more influences and one in particular, because he might of only got a cursory mention in yesterday's post, but Terry Pratchett is phenomenally influential. Not least, because he stops me from taking this all too seriously.

However, if you're unfamiliar, don't think that Pratchett is merely a parodist of fantasy novels. He does a great deal more, like Le Guin his stories seem to function as a believable world with a sense of substance, which is some feat considering that the 'Discworld' is a flat earth flying through space on the backs of four giant elephants carried by a giant space turtle, his characters also have a sense of truth about them, with personalities that make you care about their fates. Within the comedy and satire, however, are some of the best sequences of dialogue I've read where every word has obviously been carefully chosen, he also wrote perceptively about the human condition, and could use a literary allusion with precision.

Horror and Humour are dangerous companions though. As comedy easier breaks down the horrific, indeed, you might say that that's it's job! Laughing in the face of death.

The next influence, or groups of influencers, are more on Lovecraft's side (if we're putting Pratchett with Le Guin and I am) as their influence is one that shapes the shadowy mirror-world or the Down Below. I'm describing the art of Hieronymous Bosch and his creative successors (his heirs you might say..) the Surrealists, but not the Surrealists you're thinking of. Those pseudo-Marxist wannabe-Freudian's and the famous mustachioed adman, but the ignored female Surrealists, most of whom were based in Mexico. Particularly the work of Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo (whose painting Embroidering the Earth's Mantle is depicted below). Their style is what you could call 'mystical surrealism' or 'psychomagical art' and it certainly has more of a connection with artists like Austin Osman Spare (whose work on 'sigilization' is a key influence for one of the mage schools that will be described later) and medieval illustrations of alchemy and so forth. They help shape the imagery of my world.

Elf mages at work?

I had an idea of there being many (around 9) city states that operate independently but are tied together in a system of rulership or, better, stewardship over the world. The initial thought was to base the majority of my stories or games in one particular city and leave the descriptions of most of the others as loose as possible to allow; (1) the reader's own creative imagination, and (2) players of the game to detail their own games and thus customise the game world.

My city, Cherish Port, is one built around my last influence (to be mentioned here today) and that is film noir (excellent wikipedia page btw). I think the first film noir I saw was 'The Third Man' that just so happened to be on television one afternoon after I'd finished by postal delivery. It was one of those moments, like seeing Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (also by chance), that changed the way I saw film. Obviously, I'd already been exposed to films and media that were imitating the style of Carol Reed's film, but there was something utterly different. Perhaps Orson Wells' terrific performance, perhaps the music, but whatever it was I was immediately hooked and began to search out all manner of film noir classics and forgotten gems. The obvious immediate connection with Lovecraft is the mood of pessimism, nihilism even, of many film noir's and the lingering sense of threat and menace. Indeed, like Lovecraft, the characters in a film noir can often tend towards 'archetypal' and can be merely 'victims in the ongoing narrative' rather than developed in any real manner.

Next time: Magick and the Mage.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Game Day: LeCraft - Influences

Rather than start with the minutiae of this growing imaginative 'world' of mine, for example,  with a description of particular species or of one of the schools of magick or of any other countless small factors... I'll start first of all with the reasons behind my choices of influences as they might seem paradoxical to some and then give you a 'Big Picture' description for the world's setting.

As I've stated on previous occasions, this project was initiated by various conversations with Thomas, whose own fantasy world can be found on his blog 'A Basket of Leaves'. Had he lived, we might have collaborated on something related to his own world, as role-playing games were not a thing he was familiar with (oddly considering how steeped in fantasy worlds he was, but living in very rural localities limits one's D&D opportunities I suppose). Anyway, my creation has now become something distinct from his world, but the ideas, or rather, the ideals are still central to my own project. So, I'm still guided by the thought that a game or a story need not have violent conflict as its main motivation and that the thought of making this 'point scoring' i.e. collection of gold and experience as the primary player motivation is something I find incredibly dull and off-putting for a number of reasons, not least, the casualness of killing (fictional or not). D&D players sometimes (jokingly) refer to their Player Characters (PC's) as 'murder hobos' based on their habit of travelling the game world killing and stealing as they go. Now, I'm not turning into of those people that think people who play violent computer games and watch slasher films are more aggressive and are all potential serial-killing maniacs (see Przybylski), however, it's worth focusing on the story primarily and this is what I want to do with this game and story world of mine.

A. Influences

Ursula K. Le Guin and Howard Phillips Lovecraft in combination might seem incongruous as their own styles are quite distinct (to put it mildly). However, I believe this works (obviously) when one is taken as the 'solution' to the other's problems.

Lovecraft's flaws are numerous and not merely contained in his writing, which is something that unavoidably bleeds into his work. Not to beat around the bush, I'll just up and say that his racism is a fact and not something that can be excused by the "man of his time" claim. We might also say that it's irrelevant to his overall mythos. Perhaps. Would Heidegger have written 'Being and Time' without being a Nazi sympathiser? I think for any student of Heidegger's work that would a difficult claim to dispute, as some of the characteristic themes of German fascism are dominant in Being and Time. Should the work therefore be ignored or destroyed and expunged from the cultural memory as 'bad'? I'd say that it should not, (in either case, Heidegger or Lovecraft) as this is not the central claim of their work, but we should still be aware of its influence (Nazism and xenophobic racism) upon their respective works. I believe it is doubtless that Lovecraft's fears were not limited to fantastical cosmic paranoia, his literary supernatural fears having a very real world basis. Indeed, his work (perhaps) fulfilled a sort of katharsis, writing out all his fears of the everyday world into some huge maddening dread that was embodied in the stories in grotesque monstrosities and the nihilism of a cold disdainful cosmos. There's no doubt, also, that Lovecraft is a masterful (if verbose) writer of horror, of unknowable terrors that have sinister 'plans' for us. Indeed, he has become so well known that his 'style', his mythos, is in danger of being a 'cliche' itself. However, whenever that happens and 'Lovecraft' become short-hand for monster-with-tentacles then the fear has probably left, I doubt Lovecraft thought himself a writer of 'B-movie' style schlock, but many seem to have interpreted his style as this. Perhaps partially because he published mainly in pulp magazines, whose covers have a tendency to emphasize things in slightly more 'obvious' manner than Lovecraft did.

Le Guin writes with such a powerful eloquence about the everyday thoughts and activities of characters that seem fully developed and believable, whether they are also an Archmage or the futuristic humans of Tau Ceti. In a sense she is the polar opposite to Lovecraft's place-holder characters, as he desperately races to impart his fears to you. By any stretch Le Guin is the obvious greater influence because her work is so much more developed and, well, mature. Her knowledge of anthropology, philosophy, and history permeate through all her works and result in fully formed and believable cultures. With lands that seem to be functioning, that have always functioned, that are living history being described to you as you read. Now, if I could write half as well as Le Guin, I'd be doing very well, but it's good to have something to aim for. So, like Le Guin's worlds I want to mine to feel like it has a history, that the society and cultures aren't merely paper-thin analogies for real-world cultures, but feel 'solid' themselves, that they are as if something new is being described to you, not just another fantasy trope being put into a different box. In short, I hope to be describing a world that is not another Eurocentric fantasy, but nor do I mean to belittle other cultures by making a game about 'Samurai in Space' or anything of that nature, but create something that feels utterly alien but is also familiar (in that it features humans as our anchor, a tired but useful trick for the fantasy creator!).

So, how do I intend to reconcile the differing influences of two seemingly unrelated authors? Well, in one sense, I want to use one author to fill in the gaps of another and again it seems like I'm having a go at poor old HP, but in my defense, it's not his characterisation or world-building that I turn to his work for. Therefore, I see (or hope to see) my world as primarily Le Guin inspired in its construction. That is, as I've said, believably alien and real with a lived history. Something, I believe, she learned from academic study of human cultures and their philosophy's. In another way, I see my world as existing with two primary layers, one Le Guin and the other Lovecraft, that is they're operating in different zones. The 'real' world, with it's cities and politics, steaming jungles and dangerous seas, all the various interactions and conflicts between the different species of the world, and the other... the old world, the hidden dark mirror-world, wherein lie forgotten and buried secrets, terrible knowledge and vile mysteries!

I'd suggest that this 'rehabilitation' of Lovecraft isn't anything new or original on my part, indeed, there's a rather large contemporary community of authors that identify as the 'New Weird'. One of whom, China Mieville, I've written about before and I believe his own work could be seen as a reconciliation between Le Guin and Lovecraft. However, I don't intend to create my setting with a 'Steampunk' theme similar to Mieville's in Bas-Lag series of books (currently at three).

B. Themes

What of the setting then? Well, let's try a very concise description and then flesh it out some.

Age of enlightenment, 'Clockpunk'.
Magical academicals.
Sprawling city states.
The Wilderness is dangerous.
Strangers in a strange land.
United against the darkness.
Subverting species.
Not on Earth, or any Earth-substitute.
Buried secrets, terrible knowledge and vile mysteries.
Seeds of division.

Well, so that's just some phrases to hopefully give some ideas. First of then, 'Clockpunk', which sadly isn't my phrase. I thought about a setting later than the standard fantasy 'medieval' but earlier then the Victorian Steampunk of New Weird and being a student of Kant and others, the age of enlightenment (or the 18th century to you) seemed an ideal choice. Immediate problem: for something not Eurocentric in aspiration, this is a very European starting point. Well, yes, but there have been plenty of 'ages of enlightenment' whether you are the Tang dynasty of China, the Islamic Golden Age, or the 4th Dynasty of Ancient Eygpt. The point here is; (1) the technological level, (2) the focus on rationality and culture (cf. Tang dynasty and Islamic Goldan Age), and (3) importantly, the hopeful belief that anything is possible. In 'our' case the result was several revolutions against the yokes of tyranny and the establishment of what would come to be called capitalism (a bigger and better yoke!). Not in my world however, money isn't as important as knowledge, because where magick is concerned knowledge is very definitely power.

Although the main protagonists of my game and my stories are most definitely the Mages and focusing on the political conflicts of the various Mage Schools. This is mainly for the following reasons; (1) they are analogous to academia and that is mostly my lived experience, (2) with this focus the game is therefore less about developing a combat system than developing a mystery to be solved by diplomacy, investigation and creativity, (3) also with this focus the stories are liable to be about exploration, interpretation, and running away (with thanks to Rincewind).

Not that this means we have a Magocracy. Although certainly powerful, the mages also have a propensity to be engaged in projects that take their focus away from the everyday (why, indeed, would a mage want to rule?) and into obscure depths of forbidden subject matters.

The appearance of the 'usual' fantasy species, but hopefully portrayed in an 'unusual' manner. I'll write plenty more about this but although I couldn't think of a fantasy world (or is that weird world?) without the typical elf, dwarf, goblin and orc making an appearance. I also wanted to be very sure not to make them 'just the same' as they normaly are. Here's a brief note, "what is the 'trope' of humanity? Generalists, because we can't describe ourselves 'as if' to another (how could we?) then human becomes the opt-out species/race. And then the alien 'others' get what? Historic earth tropes, or simple generic tropes." Why can't the dwarf be as varied as a human? Certainly the different species will have propensities towards certain behaviours and distinct physiologies, that's a given, but other than that I don't want to limit a non-human species to merely being a 'stand-in' for some other description. In a similar vein, nor do I want the world to be filled with our 'earthly' animals, because then the temptation towards 'knights on horses' becomes too great! Seriously however, I want to make this world not merely a simulacrum of a mixed together Earth history and I feel that introducing totally new or significantly different animals and creatures a sufficiently straightfoward way of making this world seem 'alien'. I'll probably not have multiple moons and two suns however...

Strangers in a strange land, another note. One final theme that needs to be highlighted and this is still something I'm working on, but the idea is that everyone (i.e. all species, well, perhaps not all) has come to this 'world' not by choice. That the known species fought together, a long time ago, to defeat some terrible power. Although the truth to that is lost and although many mages have tried there doesn't seem to be a way to find out. That is to say, time magick is locked, they cannot go forwards or backwards in time. There are records that all the species kept, but well, they're fragmentary to put it mildly. This land is not huge (continent sized?) but has also yet to be fully explored, perhaps due to the very real 'here be monsters' possibility and anyway, who has got the time to go exploring? There are plenty of real dangers at home; the city states are arguing about how the three-year cycle for leadership is governed, people worry about the rise of illegal intuitive magicks, and the dangers of the Wild become an increasing problem. Leave that weird stuff to the Mages.

Any questions?

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Thoughts on Thursday: BREXIT IS CANCER

I know that I said, I'd do by best to avoid inflammatory political discussions, but this one's pretty major.

So, the inevitable has happened, parliament has voted overwhelmingly to pass article 50 and now we can move on with the talks for the UK's exit from the EU. Brexit will be happening.

The closest analogy I can think of of is someone dying of a long-term illness. We know that they are dying and that they will soon die, but still when they die it is still such a huge and painful shock. Don't get me wrong this isn't the death yet, that will come when Brexit is finalised, but this is certainly the confirmation of the diagnosis. Sorry to have to tell you this, but it is Brexit...

With the inevitability of Brexit, however long it takes, comes the inevitability of a Scottish independence vote and this time it will, I believe, be overwhelmingly FOR independence. Perhaps the one thing that kept prudent Scottish voters against independence the first time, was the desirable status-quo. The union was strong, the UK was a solid member of the EU, it seemed that choosing chaos, even if that meant independence was not as desirable as maintaining something that seemed well-developed and long-lasting. 

That now has completely gone, the only certainty is right-wing Tory rule from London, and ask any Scot if they'd like that! I can see a 80% or higher voting for independence next time.

Labour or any opposition party (outside of the SNP in Scotland and only in Scotland, they are ignored at Westminster and in England generally) have failed to enliven the remain position. Any mention of Labour is liable to be a negative one by the media and it also has an unfortunate tendency of covering over any Tory or Brexiteer nonsense that should have been properly analysed instead, pure coincidence I'm sure! For example, today we hear all about Labour's problems - Corbyn failing to hold his party together - not a strong enough leader (whatever that means) - bloggers posting that they wouldn't vote Labour right now, lots of hand-wringing about what an opposition part should be doing, and on and on. Dozens of stories.

That the Conservatives have hired a Daily Mail journalist as their new chief spokesman, gets only a cursory mention and not one that goes into any detail. Now, the Daily Mail isn't Breitbart you might think, we're not nearly as bad as those terrible Yanks, but this bizarre attitude of "it's not so bad here, compared to X" seems like delusional ignorance. Yet it goes on time after time, Trump is a gift for the Tory government as the British people seem more motivated by his insane ramblings than our own politics. Where are all those young people that marched Monday night, in demonstrations organised that day over Trump's immigration ban executive order, when their own parliament quietly cuts it's own throat and throws their futures away?

However, misdirection is what has got the Tories in power, so they're not going to stop now. Why talk about your own policies when you can simply point at the opposition and the media dutifully follow.

Tory party spokesman quoted on the BBC on the night of the vote:
Forty seven Labour MP's voting against the article 50 Bill shows Labour can’t speak for themselves, let alone speak for the country. They’re hopelessly divided and can’t even agree whether they should back the Bill to implement the decision taken by the public to leave the EU.
What we do know is that they aren’t interested in controlling our own laws or immigration and are completely out of touch with ordinary working people.

What has this to do with anything? Why is the BBC quoting this? Mentioning Corbyn's failure to unite a Labour party that were split (by his three-line whip) between following the party and serving their constituents (many of them representing areas that voted Remain) is highlighting and normalising the denigration of the opposition, is that what parliamentary democracy is about? You can disagree with your opposition but the attacks aren't meant to be personal or dismissive. Indeed, there's actually nothing here about why this is a bad thing. What, not everyone in the party totally agrees with what they've been told to do? GOOD, that's the point of democracy and now you're meant to all discuss this and come to some sensible conclusion by using logical reason while bearing in mind your electoral responsibilities, i.e. there is a moral obligation to think how what is decided will effect people in general or in specific cases. To merely dismiss your opposition only helps increase the public's disaffectedness with politics (i.e. they're all the same; corrupt and useless, why bother getting involved?), which is obviously not what an incompetent governments wants at all! No sir!

Have no doubt, UK politics is in utter disarray presently, with no general idea of what is wanted or where they are going. The WILL OF THE PEOPLE cretins like David Davis parrot day after day, the will of some of the people during an advisory referendum. As A.C. Grayling says,
[T]he nature of representative democracy, in which MP's are meant not to be simple messenger boys and girls reporting their constituents’ sentiments, but informed and rational agents acting on their behalf in their best interests by getting the facts and examining them carefully, seems to have been forgotten by MP's, and not known by the public.
So, what's so bad? Maybe the end of EU membership, the end of the UK, and the end of parliamentary sovereignty, isn't so bad. It's not like anyone's going to do anything about it anyway. Everyone return to work, pay your taxes, nothing to see here. That's what the people in power want you to do, if you're not looking, not caring, then it's easy for them to line their pockets and walk away from the bonfire they started (like Cameron and Osborne did). It's high time we started holding politicians to account. A lot of people who voted Leave did so to show their dissatisfaction with the current administration and more precisely with the style of politics we have now. It was certainly easier than getting off their arses and doing anything thoughtful about it, but then what are the choices if all you can see are the limitations that the various bureaucratic governments (Tory then New Labour then Tory again) have laid out for you. Basically, it works like, if you're on their side and you play their game, you'll be alright chum. With the added bonus of class and racial social limitations (and gender and sexuality too!) but we're not meant to mention that because it might look like we're complaining and my mate has a big house and he left school with no education, so that's alright isn't it? I mean,  he's got a big telly and a wife and kids, what else do you need in life? It's all fine here, I've changed my mind, Brexit is great because there's nothing else for it anyway. You don't need fairness, you've got a telly.

Capitalism. Ending all hopes and dreams since the industrial revolution.

Bear patiently, my heart; you have suffered through heavier things ...

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Words on Wednesday: ancient wisdom for contemporary fears

So, I have passed through the storm of January as expected. If you are still reading, you have my thanks. The world, as always, has kept on turning and people have kept on being foolish, mean-spirited, kind, and forgiving in equal measure. Such as it is, always in balance, except when the foolish and mean-spirited are the one's in power. In those times we have to think...

This too shall pass

این نیز بگذرد
īn nīz bogzarad

Phrase from a fable of the Sufi poets, Attar of Nishapur or others, which relates to a king who asks for a ring that will make him happy whenever he is sad. After consideration the sages craft a ring with this phrase, which has the unfortunate side effect of depressing him whenever he is happy too...

Or, if you prefer...

גם זה יעבור
gam zeh ya'avor

A Jewish folktale that relates to King Solomon.

Take courage, my heart: you have been through worse than this

τέτλαθι δή, κραδίη: καὶ κύντερον ἄλλο ποτ᾽ ἔτλης
Odyssey 20:18

Not so much, all is immaterial and will eventually fade, but rather 'hold on, you'll have your time soon.' In Homer's case it is a time for vengeance against the evil deeds he has suffered.

Full context:
His anger was roused, and he pondered in his mind, whether he should chase them down and kill them, or leave them to sleep with the arrogant Suitors one last time. He growled inside, like a bitch guarding her vulnerable pups, ready to fight on seeing a stranger. He growled inside with anger at their evil ways, but striking his chest he restrained his heart, saying: ‘Patience, my heart. You endured worse than this when the Cyclops, with his huge strength, ate my loyal friends: yet you held firm until your cunning released you from that cave where you faced death.’
Such were his words of self-rebuke, and his heart obediently steeled itself to patience, but he still lay tossing this way and that. Like a paunch filled with fat and blood turning in front of a blazing fire, twisted about by the man who roasts it, eager to see it done, so Odysseus turned from side to side, considering how to tackle the shameless Suitors, one man against many.