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Monday, 13 May 2019

Quotes Worth Saving (28): Auster on Writing About the Dead

These lines by Paul Auster have stung me especially painfully, mainly because I have written my own unkind words about my dad as well incomprehensible words about a much missed friend. It wounds me, because that's all of this ever really was, vanity, looking again at yourself when you should be looking at the other, at the world, but I continue to plumb the depths of introspection like the coward I am.

"Children have a tendency either to depreciate or to exalt their parents, and to a good son his father is always the best of fathers, quite apart from any objective reason there may be for admiring him." (Proust)

I realize now that I must have been a bad son. Or if not precisely bad, then at least a disappointment, a source of confusion and sadness...


The Rampant, totally mystifying force of contradiction. I understand now that each fact is nullified by the next fact, that each thought engenders an equal and opposite thought. Impossible to say anything without reservation: he was good, or he was bad; he was this, or he was that. All of them are true. At times I have the feeling that I am writing about three or four different men, each one distinct, each one a contradiction of all others. Fragments. Or the anecdote as a form of knowledge.



For the past two weeks, these lines from Maurice Blanchot echoing in my head: "One thing must be understood: I have said nothing extraordinary or even surprising. What is extraordinary begins at the moment I stop. But I am no longer able to speak of it."

To begin with death. To work my way back into life, and then, finally, to return to death.

Or else: the vanity of trying to say anything about anyone.

Paul Auster
The Invention of Solitude, 'Portrait of an Invisible Man'
Faber and Faber, 1982: London
ISBN 9780571154142

Friday, 26 April 2019

Filosophy on Friday: The Emerging Online Ochlocracy

The Mob cannot be reasoned with, because it is not rationality that drove them in the first place.

This is to very loosely paraphrase Jonathan Swift, who actually said, "Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired..."

In either case, I've been thinking a lot recently about how we might remove people from toxic environments and/or cultures that they themselves might not see as particularly damaging or dangerous while they are part of them, but that could represent an existential threat in terms of how we would wish a civil society to behave. The secondary thought to this, is rather larger, and is of the scope of 'what exactly is this civil society we are trying to bring people into?' which as suggested is actually much more complex than the first intuition of 'rescuing' those that might not actively request help.

To put it another way, how do we convince the stupid that they should become intelligent?

This is, of course, poorly put and motivated by not a small amount of frustration about many peoples seeming willingness to embrace unreason and eschew fairness, balance, impartiality and kindness for antagonism, cruelty, dishonesty and fanaticism.

However, we have to be careful about who the 'they' are as we can too quickly forget that as participants in modern society that this will include us to, and further to this that we should watch for making too simple a description of things as only black or white, that is, an 'in group' and an 'out group' distinction with ourselves as 'in' and whatever enemy of choice we and our group like as the 'outsider' whoever that may be.

I think that this need to create social groups and within those create divisions are both a strength and a weakness in how we approach things and by 'we' I really do mean all human beings.

So, to begin at the beginning, who or what or where are these 'People of ill Opinion' and what are their toxic cultures? Now, I don't want to look at any of the usual groups of concern, because I'm not sure that these sorts of groups are liable to suddenly and permanently remove themselves from humanity anytime soon. People have been hideous to each other throughout time, so I don't feel the need to scrutinise a particular 'bad' group today. Instead, I want to describe the medium of their collectivism and how this is affecting all parties negatively. We are being drawn into a system of interaction and it is one that has many dangerous qualities, not least because it has been designed specifically to prey on human frailties. I'm describing, of course, the Internet and the recent development of Social Media. Particularly, how this has changed how people think.

Sidenote A.

An apology. As will soon become apparent I don't accomplish or indeed investigate (m)any of the things I set out here, at least, not in the manner I've described them above. I give reasons at the end, but I just thought you should know...

1. The Ironic Youth

I could, of course, look at the alt-right and particularly after recent events seek to portion blame at them and their 'culture' indeed, in part, I already have, but the point of this piece today is not to point out all the negative, unreasonable and cruel things that 'they' do, but to shed a light on the negative, unreasonable and cruel things that we all participate in when we interact online.

As I have said before, the best way to gain an entirely negative view of people online is to purposely look into all the dark places wherein they congregate. However, what is perhaps more sickening is when one sees the aggressively emotional performance that the white supremacist makes being co-opted by other online groups as merely an 'aesthetic'. That aesthetic being irony of a form, diluted through capitalistic ritual, pieced together with immaculate deniability and crowned with an attitude of disdain.

Not that this form of youth culture is anything new, punk was itself a nihilistic rejection of the corruption of the wider 'adult' world in a sense, which fed through the materialism of the 80s and 90s neo-con generations and became (if there was anything like a trajectory at play) the ironic detachment of Generation X throughout that time and particularly in the 90s. David Foster Wallace has made insightful commentary about the corrosive effects of this 'irony' in several essays, one of which I have already quoted on this blog.

 2. Groups of Disdain

So, I've already labelled one group the problem (however naïvely) then surely all that needs to be done is to co-opt this group into acceptable behaviours and otherwise expunge them from the body politic and all will be right with the world again, right?

Well, no, probably not.

As fans of history might note, there is a certain type of behaviour that comes about in many different ways but the end result is almost always the same. The self-described outsiders, the radicals, the free-thinkers, the champions of (true) justice, the defenders of... etc. That is, those that start out at the fringe, later come into acceptance and power after struggles, and then with this power that they eventually wield, exert a massive revenge on the society that spawned them or, more correctly, the scapegoats within (or without) that they blame for their woes.

What is common in these ideologies that leads to totalitarians horrors? Well, actually very little. Looking back only a hundred years of so, there is very little at the outset in common with Russia's Soviet Revolution and Germany's NSDAP movement, or any of the other authoritarian governments in Eastern and Southern Europe at the time following the Great Depression.

This leads me to the conclusion that apart from outright advocating for violence that there is nothing inherent in any ideology that is meant for this purpose. Whether this be a form of religion, of political theory, even of nationalistic identity, that none of these are by themselves seeking to carry out the subjugation and disenfranchisement of an 'other' within or without society that the ideology has designated enemy.

Unless we proclaim that all ideologies lead inexorably towards a dehumanising outcome, in that they have a singular mind-set and outcome. Perhaps. But let's set this aside for now and make the argument for this at a later date.

3. Outliers of Culture

So far a lot of what I'm saying might be understood as, 'those who question accepted society are wrong and they lead towards only bad ends'.

This is not what I mean, as I have a great sympathy for those outside of normalcy that seek to question and challenge the status quo. Indeed, I sometimes think that I am part of this cabal.

It is not then that we question, but how we question and for what reason.

Starting with the second, the motivation behind criticising pervasive everyday behaviours might be that there is some perceived injustice or grievance that is going unchecked or unrecognised that the group or individual seeks to bring into the light. Let us call this the 'activist' reaction, in that there is one certain topic that is the foundation of this evaluation and that otherwise the group or individual is largely in line for how society is structured and functions.

A further reason might be that the group or individual feels that there is some wider error or fault within society that needs correcting. It might be a pervasive mode of thought, a political doctrine, or even a dominant religion. Let us call this the 'rejectionist' reaction and is obviously of greater scope than the 'activist'. Indeed, depending on the focus this sort of motivation might be an endless struggle for wider acceptance. However, some of these views may themselves be taken on-board by wider society and become themselves part of the status quo.

Differing from these specific goal-orientated reactions, we might also think of the analytic outsider, who uses their perspective to critique wider social structures. Let us call this the 'theorist'. In this mode, the 'theorist' is not motivated to a specific end point, but seeks to bring contemporary practice into a type of practice that is more in line with some other motivation. This may be for a more efficient political structure, or one that is more fair and just, one that is instead perhaps more secular or devout. It is less specific than the previous two motivations described and is therefore more changeable for that, to the point that the culmination of their theory might never be fully achieved.

Lastly (and it should be highlighted that this is merely the very briefest of sketches, which holds in itself the possibility for almost infinite variations and arrangements) there is the sort of motivation that wishes to halt or change a perceived path that society has taken. This motivation seeks to bring about social change in a different direction what the 'critic' feels is currently taking place. Unlike the 'rejectionist' there is not a specific error that the 'critic' has their focus upon, they are not seeking to build anything in particular, they are simply of the belief that general betterment can be reached with keeping an analytic focus on those 'norms' that we take for granted.

In summary; a focus on what they want, a focus on what they do NOT want, a focus on a particular theme of society, or no focus outside of ongoing societal criticism.

4. The End of Civility

"Facts don't have Feelings" is a common rebuttal to claims of a particular opinion being overly harsh or cruel or unrealistic. However, a more true depiction of the statement would be more like, "feelings don't have facts" as this is really what is at play.

Seeing your opinion as a 'fact' is the first step into a wider and more damaging delusion.

'But wait! This is not just any divisive personal commentary, this is personal commentary with stats and citations!'

Have we checked these so-called statistics for accuracy, have we looked into the perspective and motivations of those that we cite positively, and where are those that have voiced opposite opinions and made arguments counter to this intuition of ours?

'Well, there's not enough time to consider every angle. Eventually we all have to decide whether this is the hill you want to die on!'

As I've said before, it's becoming all to easy to find a constant barrage of agreement on the internet, which is I think a dangerous way to conduct yourself. Not that we should consider the unending negativity of the 'critic' to be absolute either. We might agree that there has to be a point in which we say 'enough!', but neither do we need to pin ourselves to this last-theory-standing attitude (you don't need to pick a hill to die on, not yet).

For most people, their attitude is to make do with whatever seems the most appropriate mode of existing in general acceptance. Not to say that the majority of the population does not consider existential questions ever, of course they do, all people will do so at some time in their lives, but neither do they spend the vast majority of their time considering them. This is were the activist, rejectionist, theorist and critic are truly outsiders.

All well and good, but how are we dealing with contrary perspectives? In public, much as we ever have. On the internet, with increasing rancour and animosity.

5. The 'Fickle' Crowd (see image at top of post)

An Ochlocracy is itself a pejorative for majority rule people's Democracy as used by Autocrats, but I am also thinking of it here as a threat to Democracy itself. The 'dark-side' of democracy perhaps, one that emphasises herd behaviour, mob violence, and populist crowd control.

However, this fear of the mob, also hides an advantage in that what constitutes a 'free' Ochlocracy is that it is defined without hierarchical structures, which some* think leaves it easy prey to despotic populist rulers. Indeed, history tends to favour this cynical appraisal of majoritivist rule, but I think that on the Web there is a possibility to escape the clutches of these tyrants. At least in the optimistic, borderline utopian, idealism of the original architects of the Web there were similar thoughts.

*This was my assumption. However, doing some brief research into the history of 'mobs', that is, what tends to be working-class group action against the state without a larger leadership or political influence, you tend to see that rather than the control of the group being corrupted by a demagogue with an alternative agenda, that instead there tends to be two distinct phases employed by the antagonistic government against the 'mob'. First, to disparage the group and their motives, directly or indirectly through state-sponsored media outlets (or online!). Secondly, to increase the persecution of the group with 'lawful' arrests and if possible wipe them out but thankfully this choice is less possible by governments and their enforcement arm of the police or the military (mostly).

That the corporate internet has instead used this generation's great technological innovators, not to dream of new horizons for online interaction, nor about developing creative solutions to communication and implications for global online societies, but rather that this intellectual talent has been squandered in creating what is possibly the greatest system of advertising ever conceived. A system that has real practical benefits in the application of how governments can observe and influence their populace covertly. Rather than develop the Web along the lines of an anarchist's egalitarian dream they have instead created another system of control, we have escaped from the 'real world' machinations of controlling governments to an online space where we have again developed these structures of control, surveillance and coercion.

There are still plenty of free spaces online, if one knows where to look. The success of free-to-use knowledge spaces like Wikipedia, the influence of investigative whistle-blowing against corrupt governments by Wikileaks (not matter what one thinks of the individual Julian Assange) and crowd-funding sites that have given artists and intellectuals who would otherwise go unsupported (by companies and governments) the funding to create new works. Not least to mention the benefits of online charities and funding made more immediate and impactful than traditional methods, giving people access to healthcare that would otherwise be denied them due to location or poverty. All of these examples give some hope that this originating anarchic Ochlocracy might yet become a future possibility, but first we have to break with the dictatorship of wants that Social Media has created for us.

6. The People of Ill Online Opinion

While some might point to a shadowy 'human nature' as the reason for belligerent and cruel behaviours exhibited in people online, I instead believe that it is something that is cultivated by repeated cycles of interaction. With these engagements being defined, their boundaries and expectations set, by a commercialised Web space that prioritises competitive individualism over co-operative understanding. It is the capitalistic influence at play in the social sphere again.

Who then are the people of ill opinion?

Those of us who peddle in closed ideas, who keep only within their particular bubble and indeed wear this identity as the product that it really is. Those of us who have forsaken true individual identity for one sold to us online, either by communities who wish to use us, or companies that simply want our money. Both want to drain us without any actual concern for who we are.

What makes an opinion ill is a failure to effectively perform self-criticism, through a misplaced need to belong and a fear of 'being wrong'. This mobocracy, the dark-side of our positive anarchist egalitarian people's Democratic Ochlocracy, is the other possible road that the internet can take us down. Although there are certainly groups online whose attitude and actions makes them more culpable, still, all those who have embraced unreason carry the same hubris for their failings.

7. Summary

Probably you had thought that this post would mostly be a critique of the negative unreasonable mob behaviour by groups on the internet, well, that was certainly my intention in the introduction and I really thought it would be that too, but perhaps I'm getting a little disinclined with the constant stream of negativity that that investigation entails. So, rather than thinking about this subject in purely oppositional lines, and focusing on the collection of hate groups online, I seem to have drifted into what positive things can be taken from the ideas of collective thinking. And the positive manner in interpreting an Ochlocracy seems to me to be very apropos to the hopeful ideals of the Web, which make for more optimistic thinking than focusing again on the dangers of group-think, because we all know this by now. Yet our collective apathy and complacent cruelty has not vanished, so why is that? Look, I know, that I shouldn't be raising more questions in a supposed conclusion, but this isn't an end point for me. It's a spring board for other ideas, as this blog was always meant to be. There are several things I've mentioned here that I will allow to percolate before returning to them, either as a blog post or more privately. As always I welcome comments, questions and suggestions, should anyone ever actually read this that isn't me...

Sidenote B.

A brief mention about Jonathan Swift and that epigrammatic Quote at the outset. It might have been thought that the initial paraphrased quote from Swift was to indicate the tone and the writer's own general opinion on the matter of 'mobs'. Well, it might have been that at one point, but now it seems instead to highlight the view of any non-hierarchical group that has self-organised by a dominant power. And although Swift is undoubtably a great writer and satirist, his politics are hardly what one would describe as 'progressive', for although he often railed against political corruption, he was also a firm believer in the state as was, being a Whig and later a Tory. So, the reason for the mob's apparent lack of rationality might be no more complication than our own failure or lack of understanding as to their motivations, as well as a certain unwillingness to entertain their perspective. Indeed, it's easier to dismiss a contrary opinion if we discount it's validity as an argument at all. Much like we can 'deal with' certain groups if we allow ourselves to engage in and absorb dehumanising rhetoric about them. The 'mob' is comprised of persons, each of whom can be reasoned with if all parties are willing to be reasonable.

P.S. This has been written both in haste and while being distracted on many fronts and while I do not seek to make excuses for whatever errors this post undoubtedly contains, I will use this post-script to highlight any later adjustments, insertions or corrections that I make. [26/4/19] Some spell checking, edited my assumption about the weaknesses of 'mobs', and also an additional 'summary' [27/4/19] Added sidenotes A and B [28/4/19]

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Aesthetic Pleasures: Book and Music Pairings #1

A new and spur-of-the-moment posting 'series' that might, like many others, eventually be consigned to the dustbin of bad ideas...

But, for the present moment...

I had noticed that some novels tend to drive my listening to a certain type of music

Indeed, that what I'm trying to do in these occasions is to continue or even heighten the feeling of the world being created in the novel with my own selection of music, much like a director does with the score in a film.

The very first time I noted this behaviour was when I was reading Iain M. Banks (The M. denoting that it's one of his Sci-Fi 'culture' novels) and the most apropos music was the excellent Talvin Singh album OK, particularly the 11 minute first track 'Traveller' which seems to fit right into the mood of Banks' world.

So, the first selection comes in the form of Scottish socialist sci-fi and musical Indian futurism...

Iain M. Banks 'Look to Windward'
(click image for description)


Talvin Singh 'OK'

I'll add some more present ones to this 'series' and see where it goes with whatever readings and listenings are prompted by my ongoing existence.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Love is the Law (6): Baby Love

Librarian & Son

He is here.

It is hard to put into words the love one feels for their own newborn child, not least due to the exhaustion (lack of sleep is not something I cope well with), but also because there is a well established general description that, much like romantic love or other human feelings, is a fictionalised narrative of one's actual emotions. It can give someone else, an outsider, an idea of what it 'would be like' but what the real experience of it all is like for me, will always be a deeply individual and personal account. Potentially one that does not chime with our standard descriptions, but is no less an experience of love for all that and also because of that the language to describe this state is found wanting.

I've spoke before (links forthcoming) about how our different connections with animals, friends, art and so forth are all different 'types' of love (under one way of thinking) but are all examples of our care-for others. Other persons, other beings, other things, etc.

My love for my partner is not my love for my friends, or my love for my dog (deceased). How I might approach these relationships are different, but they are not weighed against each other, one is not greater than another, they are different but also the same. They are all love.

Sitting quietly at night with my son resting peacefully on my lap, fills my heart with such utter joy, peace but also fear. Such contradictory feelings, so potently felt, much like variations of other 'loves' that are my other connections that I care-for. Similar components in different combination, acting on the same being and bringing differing results, dependent on circumstance.

This love, like my love for JJ, is one that will develop as we grow together. We will change together as father and son. There is a (hopefully) long road ahead of us and I can't wait to get started.


Monday, 25 March 2019

Magickal Melancholy Mondays: Try Again, Fail Again, Fail Better.

Note: This is labelled 'personal' because it is mostly an unmoderated rant without research or citations to back my thoughts up with. As such, it is to be taken with a pinch of salt, as it is mostly strong emotional reactions to things not thought through clearly enough beforehand.

I've been trying to write about several things presently and they keep coalescing into one mess. This might have more to do with my own state of mind as I wait for the birth of my son, rather than any definite connexion between the subjects. Although I think that there's something there, even if it's just my own narrative attempt at understanding.

First, I've been trying to write about our, what I call, 'Emerging Online Ochlocracy' that is to say, the way in which we are becoming like a mob when we 'connect' online into groups or societies or communities (whatever we call them). I think that perhaps this is due to the depersonalisation of the connexion, but also because some of the online communities are actually trying to raise their talking points across all media on the internet, which means that on any topic that is interacted with or discussed online you find their 'take' on these things creeping into the discussion and eventually simply replacing that supposed conversation with their own ideology.

It is at this point that I realise that I've moved from a generalised look at depersonalisation online causing groups to become close-minded and isolated into an actual analysis of the alt-right and their tactics online. This especially in wake of recent events and the very active effort by the alt-right and their allies to deflect any criticism, valid or not, from touching their base. And this starts to make me think about the connexion with right-wing politics and our digital lives in totality.

That, politically, we are also become distanced and 'held at arm's length' from the real work of the government. And this in turn brings up the subject of Brexit, which is very much on my mind presently as you might imagine. That people are becoming disgruntled with the lack of voice within politics, their lack of involvement in the sense of being paid any mind by the people in control. And this makes me think about what are we meant to do to change this? Being online, gives one the illusion of immediate access to things, it also gives us the opportunity to air those thoughts 'to the wider world' and makes us believe that our personal opinion is important (after all, it always seems that way to ourselves). So, we engage with the world online, perhaps we simply comment, or join chats or forums about subjects of interest, or perhaps we become a content creator ourselves.

We can make angry videos that are sad.

We can make sad videos that are angry.

But although one might be more theoretically stable and the other mostly just cathartic entertainment, in the end, our lack of agency means that all most of us can do is watch these videos on YouTube, adding money to Google, or we circulate other forums and air other views, again to the ultimate benefit of an internet corporation, or we can be one of five million (at time writing) people signing on online UK government petition to revoke article 50, or we can go outdoors and head to London and take part in a one million person march supporting revoking article 50, or support the opposite opinion, or one of many other ways in which we can make ourselves feel slightly better about our condition without actually effecting much of anything. It all feels like screaming into the wind.

Because without several fairly major global changes in attitude it's hard to see how we might move out of this, and this might be the ultimate failure of the internet. It brings people together as it isolates, it offers alternative views while indoctrinating users into a particular ideology, it offers the harmonious global village, but actually just creates aggressive mobs. Before the pervasiveness of the internet, one had to actively seek out extreme views and hostile opinions, they were never 'just there'. The connected networks of the Web also allowed the 24 hours news media to flourish and replace objective journalism with attention grabbing entertainment as ideology programming ("pick the channel/paper/website that best describes you!"). Of course, we move towards groups and opinions we agree with, but outside of the internet we are instead brought face-to-face with otherness, with those that mildly disagree with us, with opinions we can ignore or engage with. Online, the distinct differences drive us apart, not together, and people circulate with their own, out of fear of being publicly shamed, or criticised, or made a fool of, or called out, or doxxed.

And if we do meet with opinions we disagree with, or are directly challenged by another faceless accuser, our response is typically one of childish vitriol rather than a measured respect. As fake as that respect might be, still people in everyday life react to different opinions by at least hearing the other person out in most cases. But why are we like this? Is this just 'how it is'?

The thing I come back to in every case is the influence of global capitalism on all aspects of our lives, that post-crash 2008 we were betrayed by those we voted for to protect us, who chose instead to favour those that pay their wages. We are (some of us) convinced by a competitive individualism that exhorts this sorts behaviour as merely the rules of the game. The only rule that matters being, 'Winner takes all'.

Cosy liberal friends suggest going on marches and being 'politically active' as ways in which we can all help make a difference, but this is the world as they see it, a world where having the most logically pure argument will win out. The delusions of the philosopher, but in the face of a system that doesn't care or a person that hates, their arguments are meaningless.

Perhaps this seems unfair, cruel even, to be thinking this (especially now!) and perhaps it is just harmfully cynical. I should say that I'm very proud of my friends that made it to London on Saturday for the march. I gives me joy that they still hope. I've pinned my hope elsewhere. Not to my child, you understand, but to myself as a father, my family, our future together. Albeit one that looks outwards and is not just an insular motivation.

But what to do about our present circumstances? I have no idea. I keep trying to make sense of it, give it a reason, but failing every time. "Try again, fail again, fail better." - Beckett.

London, March 23rd 2019 'People's Vote March' Image from Sky News 

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Quotes Worth Saving (27): 👌🐸 ironic meme 'culture' is tyranny

Anyone with the heretical gall to ask an ironist what he actually stands for ends up looking like an hysteric or a prig. And herein lies the oppressiveness of institutionalized irony, the too-successful rebel: the ability to interdict the question without attending to its content is tyranny. It is the new junta, using the very tool that exposed its enemy to insulate itself.

David Foster Wallace (1962-2008), quotes from "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction" (The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 1993)

'Tweets are a lot like sound bites' -cgm

Friday, 15 March 2019

Filosophy on Friday: What is the web becoming?
Tim Berners-Lee in 1994

A few days ago (on March 12th) the World Wide Web Foundation launched a what's next #ForTheWeb campaign to mark the 30 year anniversary of the web. It is essentially a link to the campaign for a Contract for the Web.

Sadly, I can't help but see it as an optimistic, but ultimately futile gesture for something that has gone so far down one style of being that only a total restart could bring it back to what Berners-Lee and others had originally hoped that the Web would be for.

This isn't to say that some of the fundamental principles behind the formation of the World Wide Web are no longer present, indeed, most are, but it is just that they have become so corrupted, so toxic, that simply existing 'online' is a constant challenge and can only really be achieved by some effort to ignore or fight-back against all the negative influences that permeate throughout.

The web was designed to bring people together and make knowledge freely available.

It has brought people together alright. Terrorists, racists, fascists, religious fundamentalists, child pornographers, scammers, organised crime gangs, and many other forms of extremists and criminals can freely meet online and exchange their ideas, they are free to isolate themselves within their ideological echo chambers and further radicalise themselves without any pressure to analyse their thoughts or consider their actions, they are free to manipulate online resources to exploit, harass, and steal from others.

Communication, we are told, is quicker and easier than ever, but it is also more shallow, emotional, and duplicitous than ever before. After all it is easier to lie when you can't see or hear another human and often you will never face any repercussions for what you say, no matter how vile or blatantly false your words are. When there are so many statements being constantly made the only way to be noticed to say something so incendiary, so hideous, so dramatic, that people simply have to pay attention.

Although information is widely available, access is not always free. To gain access might mean something as simple as spending your time watching an advert, or scrolling through adverts, or signing up to receiving adverts, in order to gain access. Or, more straightforwardly, if you want some information that has actually taken some effort, some work, then you will meet a pay wall, "and why not?" All us good capitalists say. However, the web is a flood of available information, most of it promoting, directly or indirectly, some other ideology. Truth is only of secondary importance (if that) to many of the suppliers of this information.

Knowledge is not freely available if the people accessing the information do not have the skills to analyse and discern between what is false and what is a 'sales technique'. Between what is objective fact and what is emotional supposition.

Watching and reading the general reaction to horrible events online is possibly the best way to obtain an entirely negative and cynical view of the Web, I hold my hands up to this, as I know that there are many good people who work tirelessly to promote positive projects for the public good on the Web and they do so without consideration to financial benefit. Those people, however, are easily imitated and replaced by corporate copies who take their ideas and make them a money making scheme instead. Watch, for example, the #MeToo movement become an advertising and film/entertainment promotional technique, see the power of an anti-abuse campaign reduced to corporate promotion.

I've spent today looking at; the alt-right rubbing their hands with glee on the Breitbart News Website comments section, posting videos of Hitler speeches ("it's alright once you get past the 3rd Reich stuff"), blaming the Left, blaming Muslims, suggesting a hoax or 'false flag' operation, and countless other lies and defamations (also, a link to this page was originally posted by the POTUS), then dredging through Twitter where people are all to happy to make whatever personal capital out of a horrific terrorist attack that they can, to twist whatever part of the narrative best suits their particular worldview and fail to consider the actual lives lost and the evil behind the motive.

Sometimes it is difficult to see the goodness in others and the Web only makes this harder to do by distancing and flattening what a person is into merely a hyperbolic sound bite. Let's make the attempt to treat people as complex dynamic beings and as deserving of fair treatment (until proven otherwise) as it states here:

Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity so that everyone feels safe and welcome online. 

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Library Tales: The Fall of an Avalanche in the Public Sector

I've been working at a public library for nearly two years now (after being at university libraries for the previous six) and have seen two council budgets come and go. On both occasions the head of the council department that (currently) includes libraries voluntarily offered to; in the first instance, close all libraries except one, and at the second time of asking, close a third of all libraries (which included the single library from the previous year's budget proposal).

Both times, the council railed against what a disaster this would be for the local residents and how vital libraries were for the most disadvantaged in our community. Both times, the entire proposal relating to libraries was wiped away, but I don't feel any more secure in my job for all that.

This is because I know that next year a similar or worse proposal will be made, then there will be the same managerial crocodile tears and claims that "they didn't want to do it" and when it goes to the council, the same performative outrage will be rolled out, script no doubt written by the same people who 'reluctantly' put the service forward to face the cuts and then we are all meant to celebrate after being spared for another year.

However, perhaps you are thinking "what's the worry? No jobs have been lost, no customer is without service, it's only the threat of removal." Well, that's the thing, for those at higher levels in the council there is really very little threat to their livelihoods, they are not facing wage cuts (but they should be), they are not facing an increased work load while other departments and roles are 'phased' into nothingness, and more importantly they already know the priorities of the council and what is actually at threat of closure and thus have the time to plan. They have the time to consider their situation, weigh up prospects, look elsewhere and if needed move to another post. While, for those at a lower level in the council, they get their 'news' for the local press or more likely from grapevine gossip, only 10% of which is likely to be remotely close to the true and the majority of which will be fear mongering and only manages to make the workplace more stressful and uncertain.

Let's end with a story...

Once upon a time.

High in the snowy mountains there is a small group of people responsible for watching for avalanches, being so high up they can see them happening and can even predict where the next avalanche will be going and can therefore make sure to move out of the way in time. However, despite this it is widely acknowledged as a dangerous job and they are duly rewarded both in prestige and in gold.

Whereas down deep in the valleys, where the workers toil, the echoes of an impending avalanche terrifies the inhabitants of all the nearby villages, but they can never tell until it's too late whether the avalanche will come crashing down their valley, or their neighbours, or whether it might even crash harmlessly into the river.

Still, all the people say that surely the guardians of the avalanches, who return each spring to the valleys to received their yearly praise for saving (most of) the villagers from an icy death, are not the ones who are actually starting the avalanches? But the thoughts continue to bother the villagers, might the guardians merely gathering the praise for something that they themselves created? No one in the villages really believes the guardians would do this, because they are good-hearted people and they know that no kind person would ever act in such a way.

And yet, despite the guardians saying every year that this would be the last time, the following year the avalanche comes again and sometimes a once beautiful little community is utterly wiped away and many 'livelihoods' are lost.

One day, a brave young woman decided to climb up into the mountains from the valleys and see for herself what exactly was going on. She was driven by the desire to know, which although a laudable goal, she should really have been driven by the desire to tell the truth. This is because when we share the truth we affect many others, when we drive toward increasing our knowledge no one else can tell us that we are wrong. Without others, without a care-for our community we are cold and alone.

And alone in the mountains our brave young woman certainly felt the cold. She missed her family's warm fire, her parent's comforting words, her siblings encouragement and her friend's laughter, but still she drove on. She wanted to see what the guardians saw.

Once she had reached the top, she had become one with the cold and she no longer thought that the villagers needed to know. Indeed, it would only further worry them to know all the details. As such, she was welcomed into the guardians and did not return down the mountain for many years.

Her parents were always proud of her and despite the yearly terror, their village was never crushed and they liked to think that this was because their daughter was watching out for them. That spring, who returned with the guardians? Their daughter! They were so proud to see her, pointing her out to all their friends. They even believed her when she told everyone in the village that there would be no more avalanches in this valley for at least three years, maybe even never again!

But next year, the deep distant rumbling started again and the village fell into a panic. "Don't worry!" The girl's parents said, "it won't be us, our daughter promised last year that we'd all be safe." So, when the command came, from a different guardian, that all the villages should clear out of their homes from this valley 'just in case' the parents scoffed and stayed at home.

All their friends and neighbours tried to convince them to leave, but they wouldn't hear it. Their daughter had said so and they weren't going to move because there was no need. So they stayed.

When, months later, the scavengers dug through the icy wastes, that was once a thriving village, they found them. Faces frozen into beneficent smiles.

The End.

Turner (1810) The Fall of an Avalanche in the Grisons

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Songs on Sunday: Gravenhurst, 'The Velvet Cell' and 'Reprise'

To understand the killer
I must become the killer
And I don't need this violence anymore
But now I've tasted hatred I want more
The velvet cell within men
Gloriously rusted masks
Grey death heart crocuses
And I had always thought
The desire to kill was a disease you caught
But it's dormant in the hearts of everyone
Waiting for a spark, an emotion

Nick Talbot AKA Gravenhurst, 2005, from 'Fires in Distant Buildings'

Nick's interview with philosopher John Gray is excellent. I should re-read Straw Dogs as it's been some time and it would be interesting to see if it still resonates as strongly with me as it did in 2004. It was the spark of contemporary philosophy that made my degree choice for me when I was considering other paths...

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Thoughts on Thursday: A Genuine Question...

A genuine question,

Why is there not a larger scale Green Conservative movement?

Further. Why is it that those who would otherwise set themselves up as defenders of tradition, not want to defend the tradition of having a breathable atmosphere?

Or to put it another way, why would those that are adverse to sudden change, be okay with sudden climate change?

Surely, Conservative is only a few letters away from Conservation?

Alright, seriously though, why must it be that those of us who consider the continuing survival of the ecosystem an important thing to be considered radicals? I would have thought that there's nothing more traditional than being able to provide a safe and sustainable living environment for our children and future generations to live in. Aren't these the people that love inheritance?

If you want it to continue to be a 'Green and Pleasant' land in more than just words, you would must also believe in doing your utmost to protect the natural landscape from unnecessary and dangerously damaging exploitation.

However, to do so those on the Right must make more than a small movement towards environmentalism without getting caught up in their own little England. For although the environmentalist of the past might have been concerned with 'saving the Hedgehog' or 'protecting the Church's duck pond from the Bypass' the problem nowadays is that our environmental problems are of a much larger, much more global scale.

The problem isn't that Mr. Popescu isn't doing his fair share in the bottle recycling drive at the Rotary Club, the problem is greater than the individual and greater than the small town mentality of the countryside Conservative who pays lip-service to Environmentalism but refuses to criticise the collusion between governments and corporations. Such are the problem with Roger Scruton's otherwise commendable efforts in Green Philosophy, 2012.

And this might be the crux of the matter in the current debate. The Left posits views and solutions that most of the Right can seemingly dismiss in otherwise ridiculously stupid ways. Although the view 'across the pond' in much different, perhaps due to green politics being effectively excluded from the mainstream political debate for generations, whereas although it is often downplayed and dismissed, at least there is a stream of environmental politics in Britain that has never gone away and does do good work in communicating it's message to the wider public (however difficult the media continue to make that). So, it is for that reason the 'leader of the free world' can make the monumentally stupid statement, "when the wind stops blowing, that's the end of your electric."

Although, the currently prison-free POTUS has a long acknowledged inability to understand green energy or issues, his famous opposition to wind farms was based on the turbines "ruining the view" from his hideous already-an-eye-sore golf course that was build on a SSSI mainly due to the 'bung' he paid Alex Salmond (allegedly). I'm pleased to say, his opposition failed, but mainly because he became 'otherwise occupied' than a change of heart.

Anyway, keeping this to British politics, as we drive inexorably towards the cliff-edge of Brexit I can't help but wonder if this will provoke a greater interest in our longer-term survivability as an energy producing nation (our renewable energies market has grown massively in the last few years and could spell a certain freedom from being tied to foreign gas and oil) or whether we'll be drawn to making whatever short-term deals are 'needed' to keep the rich wealthy and in power at the expense, not only of the poor (because it seems we've never been that bothered about the poor) but also at the expense of the natural landscape of Britain itself.

And don't you want to save the British Hedgehog?

Still, think tanks like Bright Blue do exist... so, I'm more hopeful for the general British political consensus to consider and react appropriately towards environmental matters. I just worry about (1) the speed of this action, and (2) our inability to fight a stronger anti-environmental pro-corporation message being promoted by the US, Russia, and China. This will only be harder to fight against outside of Europe...

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Friday, 1 March 2019

Filosophy on Friday: Learning to be Rational

This will be a wee bit more 'stream of consciousness' than my usual posts, so apologies for that. And additional apologies if you thought that's how I write normally, but I'm actually trying quite hard to sound reasonable in my posts, even when I'm in fierce opposition to something I will try to give it a 'fair shake'.

Talking with pdb on my recent 'sensitive' topic post made me think some more about how people are treated in society, but it also made me think about why I'm trying so hard to be rational about things. Especially when everyone about me is acting so... irrational. Some it seems are just too willing to be led by their emotions, others are led by a desire to control or dominate others, or at least, to exploit them for financial gain or for social power. Still others have equally ill-thought-out reasons for their behaviour, like why would you support a politician like it's a fitba team? Makes no sense to me.

It's fair to say that I've a bad temper, but this isn't to make me sound like a hard man. No, what I mean is, that once I lose my temper I'm utterly useless, mostly if I need to communicate something. I can remember this being a problem when I was little. Like my parents would think that I'd done something wrong and (if I hadn't) it would make me so cross that I'd been falsely accused I'd just go mental; crying, laughing hysterically etc. Which, of course, just made me look guilty as anything and I'd then get unfairly punished for it. Conversely, when I had done something bad, I was able to play it off really cool and they wouldn't suspect a thing. In this manner I was able to get away with all sorts. I think that this might sound like the beginning of the diary of a psycho, but I didn't do anything really bad. Not really.

Sadly, something like this has continued until adulthood and even now at the 'mature' age of 40 I still go 'dumb' with rage. This has been particularly harmful in relationships. However, the difference from being a lad is that now I can put a hold to my anger if I get there soon enough. In this manner I've been able to remain reasonable in the face of quite extreme provocation (like talking with a Tory).

I suppose then that this abstraction led me to appreciate philosophy's attempt at objectivity, flawed as that might be in actuality, still it's the attempt at something like neutrality that is appealing. Most likely it's just that I'm easily overwhelmed by my own emotions and that the lack of control is frightening to me, or something like that. Except, that can't be it, because I don't really worry about control. I'm well aware of how little actual control we have over our lives. Also, as someone who was extremely interested in art and the lives of artists, this led to various attempts to get 'out of my head' in one way of another. Hallucinogens were really helpful in this regard and not something that someone with an overly developed need for 'control' would experiment with, I would suggest. An attraction to surrealist dream and sub-conscious automatic works and the inter-relation with the mystical experience would be another example of my interests that I could cite as evidence of my lack of fear about being in control.

Know thyself, is really quite tricky when you start looking at it. Because there's nothing there, or because we're always making stories about it all? Both perhaps.

Something else that occurs to me is the type of masculinity I was exposed to as a child in 80's Scotland. It's a style of manliness that is rather old-fashioned nowadays, but still lingers about like a bad smell. I assume that this smell is tobacco, alcohol, and B.O. Anyway, the main thrust of 'being a man' when I was younger was not to show your emotions, and certainly don't get 'carried away' by anything, unless it's fitba of course. At that point screaming, crying, hugging strangers, fighting, everything was allowed. But, as a rule, men didn't get emotional, they got angry and when they were angry it was righteous male anger, not bawling and greeting about being treated badly. And they got their way, they got revenge, they were always in the right (somehow, this was always the case even when two men disagreed, normally you could tell who was right because he knocked the other guy out).

Perhaps I could tell that this was nonsense. It doesn't take a genius to figure it out after all. Perhaps because I wasn't willing to be that sort of man. There were plenty (well, several and not all of them 'real') of male role models who didn't fit into this archetype and I latched onto them. Still, it took me some time to figure out that I could be something other than whatever was expected of me, because those expectations weren't coming from my parents.

The main problem, as I see it, is that everyone thinks that they are rational and it's the other guy that's being unreasonable, if only they'd just agree with me... It's not so much that, although I certainly feel that that's one way of taking it, but that people won't give someone who starts as 'different' a fair hearing. The fact is, most people don't even try to understand the other person's perspective and some times you'd have to say that that's the best course of action. Why am I going to try and analyse why some random kid thought it was alright to shout abuse at me, a total stranger, let's not waste our life with considering that rubbish. Still, it bothers me, that we willingly blind ourselves to HOW they got to think the way they do, which is more insightful than WHAT they are thinking. Perhaps it's because we all feel this pressure of time, like I don't have the time to find out about why this person feels this way, it's easier to just write it off as something that X group of people think and move on.

Ah well, I'm rambling now. I'll just end this chat by trying to describe it once more in as simple a way as I can, the reason I try and treat people they way I do, is because it's how I'd like to be treated. I guess I took that Bible lesson to heart. Shame it isn't true then. Still, it's worth trying to be decent even if the world doesn't care.

Remedios Varo (1955) 'Transmudo'

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Secular Sundays: Misdirection, or Whataboutism as Political Expedience

Misdirection, or Whataboutism as Political Expedience

Bosch (c. 1500) The Wayfarer

My previous post could have been made at any time in the last year really, especially as pertaining to the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn. However, this has been made current by a recent split in the Labour Party and the formation of the Independent Group, many of whom cited Labour’s Anti-Semitism (some felt they didn’t need to prefix this with ‘Labour’s failure to deal with…’ that prompts a tone change in the conversation) as their reason for leaving. However, it also begs the question, “WHY NOW?” Why now, when we are less than a month from a potential No-Deal Brexit? Why now, when the Home Secretary is making a British citizen stateless?

There is a real need for a legitimate discussion about issues caused by the actions of foreign states and our part in them, about our relation towards religion and liberalism in the UK, about certain types of bigotry being effectively ‘authorised’ by our Government in their unwillingness to act, something that calls into question the usefulness of liberal democracies when dealing with fascism. However, is that time now? Or this is just a helpful distraction from the ongoing and unfolding crisis of inaction by the UK Government in relation to Brexit?

I would suggest that based on the lack of actual attempts to make this discussion about apparent anti-Semitism an all-party debate, and the general tone of media ‘scandal’ that has accompanied such reporting that is this another in a long line of recent distractions perpetrated by Governments to shift the public’s attention from a larger problem within the ruling party.

This is something of a speciality by the Trump administration, whose constant barrage of new outrages means that the press, let along the public, barely have the time to react before something new has overtaken the previous story. This technique means that there is not sufficient time to perform a proper analysis of the situation, place it in context, research facts, and so forth.

However, more useful in its level of distraction, would be a different crisis that has no simple or immediate end in sight (if at all). So, raising the spectre of the failure of multiculturalism and liberal ‘double standards’ (this despite rabid anti-Islamic feeling in the British press and in various political parties, as well as recent actions by the Tory Government in the ‘Windrush Scandal’) gives a potentially limitless supply of ammunition in moving the public’s gaze from Brexit to criticising and distrusting one of the only party’s that could actually offer a solution from the Brexit crisis.

In today’s edition of the Observer for example there were; 12 articles about anti-Semitism in Labour and Corbyn’s failure to deal with the split that created the Independent Group, and 4 articles about Brexit and the potential economic problems that a no-deal exit would cause, and all of former pieces were critical comments on Labour and Corbyn. I suppose that scientifically I should look through ALL the Sunday papers... but I'd really need to be paid in order to spent my time with anymore of that...

Secular Sundays: Hypocrisy, or double standards relating to criticism of the State, Religion, and people.

Hypocrisy, or double standards relating to criticism of the State, Religion, and people.

George Grosz (1918) The Funeral

Recently a political figure in the UK was swiftly expelled from their party for making the following comment on Twitter, “Islamic people with any sense of humanity need to start speaking out publicly against the ruthless murdering being carried out by Saudi Arabia!”

No, wait a minute, perhaps I’m getting confused. Wasn’t it, “Muslims must do more than just condemn terrorism.”?

Although stateless terrorists and a state-sponsored murder of a journalist (amongst many other wrongdoings) are obviously totally different. In that… answers on a postcard please.

No, there is no real difference, because in both cases one group of people is rendered guilty by association. If they do not do X, then they are without humanity or are not being truly ‘British and Muslim’, what follows for a minority group stripped of human rights has played out throughout history with various despicable consequences.

Actually though this didn’t really happen. The second quote was indeed made by Sajid Javid, Conservative politician and current Home Secretary, but he received no sanction for it. He might have received a little criticism from the left-leaning press (very little) but in general his views were welcomed. No, the difference was the first quote which was actually, “Jewish people with any sense of humanity need to start speaking out publicly against the ruthless murdering being carried out by Israel!” and was made by Labour’s Derek Hatton, whose return to the Labour party, after previously being expelled for Misogynistic comments, was very brief indeed.

Now, I have no wish to defend Hatton (whether the comment was six years old or not), but simply to point out the great disparity in reaction to similar comments made about Islam and Judaism in Britain. Both statements (Hatton’s and Javid’s) place blame on a minority that implies the removal of ‘normal’ privilege by their failure to act in a specified way. Obviously Hatton’s, both coming in the form of a character-limited tweet and being made by a stupid bigot, is worse and comes to worse conclusions that the lengthy statement made by Javid, but then Javid is not a stupid man.

No reasonable person would wish to defend fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups and would not therefore complain about such groups being criticised for various failures in rationality and humanity, but any such criticism of Israel’s Zionist ideology is counted as being a form of anti-Semitism and I would seek to make a clear distinction between being critical of Zionist ideology and being a person who hates Jews unconditionally.

For a start, let us remove the comparison with current or historic groups of terror as this is an unneeded emotive ‘accelerant’. One that draws a false comparison, as would comparing Israel with Nazi Germany, something that is so distasteful as to be an obvious inflammatory tactic. Instead let us compare my own criticism of the Trump regime of the US with my relationship with America and Americans. Hold on you say, this is merely an argument from experience and therefore a logical fallacy. One might as well say, “Some of my best friends are Tories.”

Well, alright then, let’s start again. People often use something like the argument that, “Jews are the only group of people who do not have the right to aspire to their own nation state in their historic homeland. The same people (who do have a problem with this) have no issue with Kurdish, or Catalan, or Nepalese, or Palestinian peoples making similar national aspirations. Anti-Zionism is then the political wing of anti-Semitism and the hidden desire to remove the Jewish people from existence.”

Under this argument it is therefore contradictory to say that one is anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic in the same way that it would be to say that, “I’ve no problem with the Japanese, I just don’t think that Japan should exist as a country or that the Japanese have any right to a country.”

There is comparison to be made with Zionism and that is with a similar argument made by the BNP that, “Britain belongs to the British” which means something quite different to them than it does to me. I would, for example, agree that Britain does indeed belong to the British (although it does strike one as a bit of a redundant comment to make) but among the British I would count; Muhammad, a Sudanese-born Muslim who came to the UK to train and work in the NHS and has now married and had a child here (although name changed this is an actual person and not, I would suggest, unique in that), and many others that the BNP and their current representatives, UKIP, would not allow to be counted as ‘British’. The comparison to be made between Zionism and the white Nationalism of the BNP is that both are Ethno-Nationalistic ideologies.

Perhaps then this is why ethno-state advocate Tommy Robinson also talks of being a Zionist and not least because he has received funding from Zionist organisations, but also because they have similar World views. However, I suspect that the ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ attitude between white nationalists and Zionists only goes so far. Were the far-right to come to power in the UK their ‘connection’ with Zionism would be dropped and all Jews would either be expelled to Israel or have to cease ‘being Jewish’.

To call an ethno-nationalist ideology ‘regressive’ would probably be the least one could say about them. As a product of ‘turn of the century’ anxieties about ‘living space’ as well as pseudo-scientific ideas of race propagated at the time, followed by the collapse of Empire(s) brought about by ‘the Great War’ (WWI) I would suggest that ethno-nationalistic ideologies belong in the past. Although the replacement of such ideas cannot come about without some intellectual and political work taking place. Again we look to the new generation to do the work that we and our parents have failed to accomplish (or even start).

Anyway, let’s bring this back to the false equivalence already mentioned. So, I don’t have a ‘problem with the Japanese’, but I’m critical of their actions during WWII and their lack of proper apology to Korean and Chinese victims during this time, does this make me anti-Japanese? I mean, I say I’m just anti-Shōwa but really I must just be anti-Japanese.

However, you could just dismiss this argument as me being disingenuous, because nobody is arguing for the reconceptualisation of Japanese WWII Militarism, this is purely historical and an abstraction. It was be as nonsensical as someone still hating Germans for having been Nazis, and no one does that!

Okay then, let’s criticise Shinzō Abe… He is a lapdog of Trump, having being told to put Trump forward for a Nobel Peace prize for two years in a row he has done just that, more than that he is a regressive Business before People’s Welfare politician, a corrupt leader who gives preferential treatment to his political friends and allies (i.e. Cronyism). Would such a criticism be evidence of anti-Japanese sentiment? Well, perhaps it might, but does this stop my criticism from being valid?

I suppose you’d have to ask me more to find out. Of course, one clue might be that I haven’t implicated Japan in a global conspiracy to run the banks and Hollywood and bring about Multiculturalism to create a downfall in the ‘West’.

What if… Abe decided to persecute the Ainu people? He reverses the 2008 ruling recognising the Ainu people as indigenous to Japan and instead strips them of their rights, removes them from their land in Hokkaido, land that he claims is properly Historically Japanese, and houses them in settlements elsewhere in Japan without providing proper amenities. What then? Would my forthcoming criticism of these actions hide a secret desire to exterminate the Japanese people? Or would it be a criticism of brutal dehumanising actions of a Government? Could it be both? Without reading minds how could you know for sure? A person's words AND actions perhaps? Therefore, to bring it back to the initial case (Hatton etc), what action(s) of the Labour party suggest anti-Semitism?

What if... We consider Zionism as an understandable reaction to the building anti-Semitism of the time in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Why shouldn't the Jewish people have a homeland, a homeland that they once held? And, of course, I would agree with this. How could a compassionate person think otherwise? But, how was it done, how was it arranged? Empire builders cutting up a land and a people that wasn't theirs and creating countless problems because of this. Consider, as comparison, the Partition of India that created a massive crisis at the time (in 1947) or perhaps the foundation of Iraq (in 1920) after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and (again) controlled by the British. And then, regardless of what we think of the formation of a country (all are an 'artificial' imposition in some way) we can then critique it's Government and leaders for their policies and actions, can we not?

P.S. If it needs saying, I think that anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic and Misogynistic and anti-LGBT+ and racist and fascist and, indeed, all forms of hatred and bigoted views are ALL wrong.

(or do I? how do you know? maybe I hate the Finnish, you don't know)

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Songs on Sunday: As the night draws in

[Verse 1: Ghostpoet]
I had a dance with the devil
I couldn't keep his pace
He gave a trademark cackle
I tried to hide my face
Trying to stay on the narrow
The straight's come to an end
I seek prose for a pep talk
I need your help, my friend

[Chorus: Ghostpoet]
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love

[Verse 2: Ghostpoet]
One step at a time
Tattered on our foot
You gave me food for thought
We're packed in on the tube
Bee's sweat on the mission
Crawling down my cheek
Eyes wide like a flatscreen
I haven't reached my peak

[Chorus: Ghostpoet]
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love

[Bridge: Daddy G]
Who gives a fuck if you be acting a clown?
Pass the queen's head and watch it go down
Tit for tat gets a young girl's passion
Hold it on tight to that glass of fashion
Knocking down the spirits till you're dropped to your knees
Don't sneeze, ninja please
We're dancing 'round the toilets in this whimsical scene
And if I be wicked then woe unto me

[Chorus: Ghostpoet]
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love
Woe is me
Just give it up
As the night draws in
We're all seeking love
We're all seeking love

© Obaro Ejimiwe/Ghostpoet 2017

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Songs on Sunday: Introduction to Zen Buddhism

First, there is a mountain,
Then, there is no mountain,
Then, there is.

The caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within.

Would you like more of an explanation?

No? Fine. Have some philosophy of politics and some logic.

Yes? Okay.

As I see it, we begin with our natural habit of labelling. This here, this is a mountain. Once we have been properly socialised, when we therefore see said physical manifestation (hills notwithstanding) we 'see' the label of mountain.

After, we have analysed this thought process, this socialisation of identification, we might then see the landmark and having unlearned what we have learned 'see' no mountain. Seeing instead what is there, which is not what the human language label says, it is not literally mountain as this is merely our language code for identification. Nor is it der Berg or le Montagne or Yama or any other language's term. What it is, is not a linguistic term. Through philosophical thought you have negated the linguistic mountain, now there is now no mountain.

But it is still there. It is after all existent reality. There is a large rock* there, you see it. (*Yes, it's not just a 'rock' but 'rocky shape' sounds no better) You have not made the mountain by naming it, it always had existence as it has existed, and one way of taking the 'third phase' here (as many do) is that the Zen Buddhist has 'over-intellectualised' matters and has now (in the third phase) returned to 'true' direct reality.

I think that this is not the case. It is not a matter of returning to the status quo unchanged. When we return to the 'there is' we are returning now (having been through phases one and two) as one whose usage of 'mountain' now accepts that it is a human label used merely as a tool for communication (i.e. what language is) rather than the true meaning of the existent 'object'. Existence lives around us, with us or without us, with language or without. There is a mountain.