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Monday, 11 November 2019

Thoughts on NOT Thursday: The YouTube 'Putsch'

This has become an interesting snapshot of British politics that I feel it's worth recording and commenting upon, because at the moment with larger constantly looming political stories both at home and abroad it is becoming increasingly possible to lose track of events and fail to mark those important occasions and happenings with our attention, but I think this case in point of the failure of the far-right is one that is an outcome of hope for moderates, the left and the general population. Not least because it offers a push back to the received wisdom of the power of social media and as such I'll being comparing this story to another recent event, the so-called 'storming of Area 51' that gained a great deal of social media 'noise' and apparent influence, which ended in a damp squib.

Turns out that people who say one thing online in a completely anonymous and consequence free environment are unlikely to follow up any of the things they said they'd do. If only Brexiteers and the alt-right (two totally different groups of course) were also so spectral in their support. Although this story helps prove that apparent volume of online support doesn't necessarily lead to true believers. If we're not being watched or we have no responsibility to enact the things we say we'll do then we rarely seem to do them.

Link to BBC story here
Towards the end of last year there was a definite feeling (being promoted online) that the dissenting voices of 'Tommy' and his UKIP pals would not be silenced. That only with a true HARD BREXIT would the voices of the British Working Classes really be heard and responded to after their shattering 51.9% to 48.1% 'victory' in the advisory EU referendum that was held in 2016. Indeed, longtime demagogue Nigel Farage said what was lurking in the recesses of Tommy and his followers minds the previous year (at an event in 2017) that "there will be widespread public anger in this country on a scale and in a way we have never seen before... if they don't deliver this Brexit that I spent 25 years of my life working for, then I will be forced to don khaki, pick up a rifle and head for the front lines."

Well, the March deadline came and went without any public guillotines making an appearance and even after the October Spooktactular deadline was also passed, still not an incident had occurred. Perhaps they are biding their time?

I mean, either that, or  the Farages, Tommy Robinsons and other Dick Braines were just all full of shit and pandering to a delusional and easily swayed crowd of scared, confused and not overly sympathetic people with bombastic ranting specifically designed to appeal to weaker impulses and help keep them in power.

You could end of feeling sorry for them if they weren't literally the worst sort of people imaginable.

Here's an example in case it seems like I'm making a straw man.

Tommy Trumpet and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Booklet
By the man who brought you, 'Ten Reasons why Jacob Rees-Mogg should be Prime Minister.'

For a brief while it seemed as if the far-right was on a resurgence all across Europe (indeed, elsewhere it really is and is an actual threat) but thankfully Tommy seems to have almost single-handedly damaged the standing of such parties in the UK almost fatally. Perhaps another figurehead will rise up to become this generation's Nick Griffin, as I can't help but think that Tommy's has his time already. Since his release from Belmarsh prison in September, Tommy has been rather quiet, but it's interesting to see that one of the last public things he did was to 'back Boris'.

Really there's not much more that needs to be said about these people, as there's no point in engaging with them in good faith as this is the last thing that they would ever do. Their rhetoric is a swirling nonsense of racist buzzwords that only the initiated can interpret (AKA a dogwhistle) which leaves a deniability that allows their verbal slurry to permeate normal channels of discourse in an attempt to 'mainstream' their ideas. Fortunately, unlike the fascists of the USA and elsewhere in Europe and Russia, our lot are a rather pea-brained collection of failed humans.

I mean, unless you think that Farage and Boris Johnson pose an actual existential threat to the UK.

I'll get back to you about that on Friday the 13th.


Timeline of events:

    Sunday, 3 November 2019

    Foodie Whatever: Spanish Stew and Viv Dhal

    It wouldn't be a surprise to hear that I'm finding the thought of discussing or thinking about British politics, society and all her ills a massive depressing stressful bore presently. Frankly I don't think I'm alone in being fed up with the constant infighting, division, and most egregious, the continual bare-faced lying by those in power and those that would take power undeservedly (i.e. Farage, Bannon, Tommy etc).

    It also doesn't help that our seven month old child has decided to cease sleeping for more than two or three hours at any one point, meaning I'm in a state of almost permanent zombie-like torpor, which makes dealing with my job, a increasingly frantic exercise in futility as I attempt to do four people's jobs while the whole place seemingly falls apart, nigh on impossible.

    Plus it's now well on the way to Winter in Scotland. A prospect that should fill most sentient mammals with dread as the big warm glowing orb goes away for three months and we live in a state a cold, dark, soggy misery and this time I can't even drink myself unconscious like most sane Scottish people do during 'the dark months'.

    Given all this, it is probably time to practice some mental health management. So, it's away with social media and all the unhelpfully biased news coverage, time to focus on caring for the family and spending time with them, and do good things for myself such as eating really nice foods. One of which is an old classic recipe paraphrased from a friend and the other is a recent experiment.


    Spanish Stew, or 'Guapo Fantastico'

    Chicken, Chorizo, Bean and Olive Stew

    This stew came about from having half a chorizo sausage and a big pot of olives in the fridge. A few brief searches of the internet later, a lightning fast supermarket sweep, and we were ready to get creative in the kitchen together.

    It's a lovely experience to cook together, although our sous chef is a little young he does provide excellent musical accompaniments, as well as providing a morale boost when required. If you can't replicate a baby in a bouncy seat, at least play some funk and soul music while you cook, which we also did.

    Ingredients List
    Chicken Thighs (off the bone, although this point is contentious, I prefer them like this)
    Chorizo, a sausage not slices
    Cannelini Beans, tin of
    Green and Black Olives with oil, herbs and garlic (or just a heap of olives that you like)
    Red Bell Pepper
    Small 'baby' potatoes
    A tin/carton of 'nice' tomatoes
    Tomato puree
    Onions
    Garlic
    Paprika
    Olive Oil
    White Wine (a white Rioja or other Spanish white seems appropriate)
    Crusty Bread to serve, ciabatta will do

    Method
    1. If, like us, you don't have a massive stoneware casserole dish then you'll have to make do with your largest saucepan. Heat a good glug of the olive oil at a medium-high temperature on the hob and then add the roughly cubed chicken. Stir this until the meat is sealed, it probably will stick a bit but this is fine as it'll all come off once the wine gets added later.
    2. Add the chopped red pepper, onions, chorizo and garlic. Add some paprika, about a teaspoon will do. Heat this for a couple of minutes or so, stirring all the time. Now pour in a good amount of the wine, like a half glass or so. Add the olives as you stir in the wine, you want to let this reduce a bit. Our olives were very salty, oily and herby so no additions were needed, but you might want to.
    3. While that's happening, bring some water to boil in another pan and add the potatoes. You want to these to be 'nearly' done, which will take ten minutes at most.
    4. Add the tomatoes and half again the amount of water from the tin/carton, give it a good squirt of tomato puree (about a tablespoon). Add the tinned beans, strained of their juice. Stir, reduce the heat to low and put the lid on. Give it a stir every five minutes or so.
    5. Once the potatoes are ready strain them and add to the stew. Walk away and forget about it while you bath the baby and it all burns to the bottom.
    6. Add some more water, a bit more puree, a pinch of chilli flakes (pul biber) and stir the burned goodness back into the stew. Also have a glass of wine about this time because it's all too much really.
    7. Serve with bread and the rest of the wine, but only once the baby is asleep.

    Some of these steps don't need to be exactly followed of course, I'm sure it would taste just as nice without burning it for example, but who knows maybe that added to the flavour?

    Viv Dhal

    Classic Masoor Dhal

    I've been making dhal varieties for a very long time now. It provides a basic base for all sorts of other more exciting ingredients to be added, but this list and method is one that I got from a good friend (the titular Viv) and is so fool-proof that it's worth following through everytime. Additions are still possible and encouraged, but I'll leave that to you. This is the classic dhal and is good enough on it's own with Basmati (method also covered) and Raita (ditto) only.

    Ingredient List
    Dhal
    1 onion, finely chopped
    1 3cm ginger, grated
    3 cloves of garlic, grated/crushed
    3 green finger chillies, sliced (deseeded or not, heat tolerance depending)
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1.5 tsp tumeric powder
    2 tsp ground coriander
    1 lemon, juiced
    Fresh coriander
    Butter
    Oil
    Enough Red Lentils for Two, washed
    Access to water (I've cooked this while camping)

    Raita
    Greek Yoghurt
    Cucumber
    Fresh Mint (these three minimally)
    Nigella Seeds
    Garam Masala
    Spring onions
    Sea salt flakes

    Method
    1. Fry your ingredients in the same pan that you'll use for cooking the lentils. Heat the oil and butter, add the onion and fry for a minute or two stirring. Add the ginger, garlic, chillies and spices. Also at this point don't tell Viv that I ALWAYS add a hearty shake of ground fenugreek, which I think is the tangible taste/smell of Indian food and is probably my second favoruite food smell after Dill. You might need a touch more oil/butter if you're being frugal. You want a paste like consistency. Fry this on a medium heat for five minutes or so. You want everything cooked through.
    2. Remove 2/3 of this mix and set aside in a dish, add a wee touch more butter to melt through this because why not?
    3. Add the lentils to the pan and stir them through the remaining mixture for a minute or so. Then add water and once boiling (should be almost immediate) reduce the heat to a minimal simmer and pop a lid on.
    4. Oh yeah, timing. Hope you're reading this BEFORE starting the recipe. Anyway, at around the time you're adding the onions and spice mixture to the dhal pan you also want to be adding your washed basmati rice to a pan of cold water and a lid on. 1:2 rice to water. Brind this to boil and then reduce to simmer and cook for fifteen minutes or until all the water is gone. A glass lid is invaluable for this task! Either that or shaking the pan while holding the lid.
    5. Did you make your raita already and put it in the fridge? If not, go back in time and do that. How to make? Chop and mix. Personally, I quite like to grate my cucumber, but that's just my kink.
    6. Hopefully your lentils and rice both evaporate their respective waters aroundthe same time. The dhal, of course, should be a bit looser than the rice. Mix through your set aside masala mix and squeeze through the lemon juice, serve topped with chopped fresh coriander, alongside the rice and raita. Oh yeah, did you buy mango chutney? Get some of that too.

    Keep eating happy.

    Love,

    C x

    Wednesday, 4 September 2019

    Words on Wednesday: Prescient Poets

    Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion,
    Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave and eats a bread it does not harvest.

    Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
    and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.

    Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
    yet submits in its awakening.

    Pity the nation that raises not its voice
    save when it walks in a funeral,
    boasts not except among its ruins,
    and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
    between the sword and the block.

    Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
    whose philosopher is a juggler,
    and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking

    Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
    and farewells him with hooting,
    only to welcome another with trumpeting again.

    Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
    and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.

    Pity the nation divided into fragments,
    each fragment deeming itself a nation.

    Kahlil Gibran, The Garden of the Prophet


    Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
    and whose shepherds mislead them.

    Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
    and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.

    Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
    except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
    and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.

    Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
    and no other culture but its own.

    Pity the nation whose breath is money
    and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.

    Pity the nation - oh, pity the peope who allow their rights to erode
    and their freedoms to be washed away.

    My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.

    Lawrence Ferlinghetti, after Kahlil Gibran


    Jane Frere



    Wednesday, 14 August 2019

    Words on Wednesday: Thali Katori

    Thali Katori
    An Anthology of Scottish and South Asian Poetry
    Edited by Bashabi Fraser and Alan Riach
    Luath Press, 2017
    ISBN 9781912147090




    I like a random poetry discovery as you may well know. Well, this one fell into my lap last week just as I most needed it. I've been struggling to read anything longer than a paragraph recently; exhaustion, child care, lack of motivation, other concerns, world weariness, etc.

    So, this literary "feast of many flavours" was a much appreciated find. Here are just a wee sample.

    Tessa Ransford (1938-2015)



    The dhobi's dog


    The dhobi's dog will return from riverbank in the sun
    to the house, but not lie down; to and fro he'll trot
    panting, semi-wild, hither and thither recalled,
    never petted, fondled, either hot or cold.
    Does he belong? To whom? Dhobi-ji send him home,
    Bibi-ji won't give him room. Such is my lot.

    Born and reared in India, comforted by ayah
    on some cool verandah of lofty bungalow
    with charpai and dgchi, decander and serahi,
    enervated, dusty, the whining mosquito,
    black ants and red, hug fans overhead:
    when all was done and said, the British had to go.

    In Scotland I froze: hands, feet, nose,
    in thick uneasy clothes at dour boarding school:
    a wind-resistant, dismal, stern, redoubtable,
    grey-stone-wall life exemplified by rule;
    embarrassed to embrace, weep, laugh, kiss:
    was I of this race? from such a gene pool?

    I lived in Pakistan, land of the Mussulman,
    governed by the Koran. I learned Punjabi,
    dressed in shalwar, travelled to Lahore,
    joined in zabur, lived on dal-chapatti:
    but didn't my passport say 'British, born Bombay'
    however long my stay in Sialkot or Karachi?

    I like the way I speak, the voice my thoughts make,
    yet Scottish folk are quick to think me English.
    I've lived here (sixty) years (Anderson forebears
    and Glasgow Macalisters - that's buksheesh!)
    Still my language finds no place, no ethnic dress or face:
    I plead my special case and thus I finish.


    Irfan Merchant



    Address Tae Chicken Tikka Masala


    Fair fa' the nations favourite dish
    fulfilling everybody's wish,
    great chieftain, O so very Scottish,
    the spice o life;
    ye came, and conquered the English,
    tae cure thestrife.

    Born in Glasgow's Shish Mahal
    during Thatcher's iron rule,
    your origins stretch to the Mughals
    but when they tried
    the chicken tikka, the locals
    found it too dry.

    The chef wad think tae open up
    a can o' Campbell's tomato soup,
    add chilli, colouring with pap-
    -rika for zest;
    and then O what a glorious sup,
    simply the best.

    As Scots we want the hottest thing
    on the menu, a dish with zing:
    haggis disnae mak us sing -
    we're globalised;
    it's the mince an tatties o Tony Singh
    brings tears tae eyes.

    Noo we export tae India
    oor national dish, making it clear
    that Scotland is a warld leader
    in aa the airts;
    fir chicken tikka masala
    ye've won oor hairts.

    Lord Ganesh, tae please the Scots
    remember whit they want is lots
    o sauce and spices, very hot,
    but dinnae worry;
    Ah've got the answer in ma pot -
    gie then a curry.


    Shampa Ray


    Red Moss


    Are you land or water?
    You welcome me,
    spongy wetland, burnt red
    rain-fed mosses stacked
    discreetly under heather.
    I've gone this way before,

    looked out at lochs,
    Grand Canyon, a mile deep,
    gardens that no longer hang
    but are hung into the earth.
    I have seen you, cast
    my thought-hook elsewhere.

    But today it is your
    peaty reticence, the silence
    of your insects, the lure
    of no purchase, that wants me.
    Your open-heart surgery landscape
    will unravel me enough.

    I want your compressed
    witness, your tidy files, the human
    and inhuman in your dark seams.
    What was and is, together,
    not reduced like the curlew's cry
    but deep as Bible layers.

    You do it with such flair,
    skip over the ten thousand years.
    You are the story I would walk on,
    slip through as fish or toad,
    come clean to fill your sky
    full of bright sentences.

    Bashabi and Alan

    Friday, 26 July 2019

    Games Day: Championship Manager 01/02

    I'm having to talk about this here because otherwise I will drive JJ and my friends and colleagues up the wall about it, which is incidentally the main motivation behind this blog anyway.

    That is, to have a space where I can 'talk out' ideas and concerns that would become an irritation in other ways. So, if in reading this you find your eyes glazing over, have no fear as this is typically the reaction I get when boring people about my activities and interest in the Championship Manager series of computer games. So, after that exciting introduction, let me now talk about...

    Championship Manager 01/02


    Championship Manager 01/02 (henceforth CM0102) is possibly my favourite computer game of all time. I might love the Baldur's Gate series (and will talk about those games in connection with my RPG past some other time, possibly if I replay the games) and the Fallout games (they became something totally different since Bethesda took over, but New Vegas is a great game) but I sincerely think that I've spent more hours playing CM0102 than any other game.

    A brief look at screenshots of the game shouldn't fill you will much/any excitement, unless you are thrilled by a good spreadsheet (and why not?), but therein belies the hook of the game. It's not the flashy graphics or exciting and different gameplay that gets you, all of these things can become usual and then passé reasonably quickly after all, but it's the core structure of the game that speaks to me and apparently many others. That is, the joy of organising!

    I mean, I am a Librarian, with a background in academic philosophy, so this really shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone, but I find a great pleasure in organising a 'perfect' team of players and the tactics of the team. Obviously, this is never quite realised as there's always something going wrong and something to win. Much like football itself, it's never truly 'over' and permanently 'won'.

    The benefit of this game rather isn't it's completeness, but rather the gaps that require imagination to fill. Unlike later versions that have 2D and 3D representations of the live game, this version is only text highlights and although there are images, they are rather a collection of stock backgrounds rather than individual specific portraits or actual locations and so forth. These people and places are all 'described' in the brief abstract way that the game uses, with special events being rare and not allowing a great deal of interaction with. Again, this is something that later versions alter, with newer games having endless press briefings and interviews, as well as player management and more realistic world football developments.

    Although these changes would, you'd assume, make the game more engaging, instead for me it makes the game seem more a slog and constant 'clicking through' of meaningless menus. Certainly having seen people play FM19 (the latest Football Manager game) this is how they seem to find these additions. CM0102 allows you to play through entire seasons in a few evenings.

    So the choice lies whether you prefer story or detail, minutiae or narrative, whether football itself represents a social story or a strategic competition.

    Now this last point might simply be me stretching a metaphor beyond breaking point (it is) but there is still something in that I believe. Namely how we differently interact with games, with art, with life. There isn't a right way, but we seemingly allow more space for personal differences in how we attach ourselves (how we care-for) to these games than we do the more 'important' things like politics. That is, "oh you like X? That's interesting, I like Y which is different from X, but I can see why you'd like it" or "oh you like X? That's interesting, I like Y which is different from X, tell me why you like it as I do not." These sorts of conversations are more likely when talking about games and almost impossible when discussing politics online. Although, perhaps the more vital component is the latter, 'online', than the subject itself (although I contend that this plays a significant part also, as it holds an implicit assumption about the 'value' of the subject).

    Do I now tell you about some of my games? How I took Gornik Zabrze from mid-table obscurity in the Polish league (with a maximum of 5 non-Polish players per team) to becoming Champions of Europe within four years? How I took tiny Hoffenheim from the German Regionals to becoming the dominant force in Germany and Europe, a 'career' game that has run for over ten in-game years, and has also seen me parachute into the EPL to save a relegation threatened Chelsea? How I took Welsh minnows Swansea from the bottom of Division 3 into the EPL with superstars such as Roy Keane, Zidane, and Patrick Kluivert playing for them before an in-game bug caused the entire game to be lost? These are just my most recent games.

    Maybe some other time... But I think that, like describing one's dreams to another, that they are never quite as interested for *you* as they were for *me*. Perhaps instead a few screenshots of some OMG moments from those games...

    Czech Republic v Paraguay World Cup 2010 Final

    It's hard to think of anything less likely

    Apart from this perhaps

    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.

    Yes.

    ...

    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'

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.

    26.03.19

    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?

    https://webfoundation.org/2019/03/web-birthday-30/?
    Tim Berners-Lee in 1994


    https://webfoundation.org/2019/03/web-birthday-30/?

    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'