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28
Aug 2006

Stuff

It’s been a pretty tough few weeks from a personal point of view. I’ve had to reevaluate some things that I thought I’d already dealt with. Which is always unsettling. What else, one wonders, will leap from the past to mess with head and heart?

Still, at least I’ve got the record collection to deal with it. At times like these, one realises that some friends are definitely for life. So thankyou Nick Drake, Matt Johnson and Tim Buckley… you’re helping a lot. As is me old mate Frederich Nietzsche… “Ah, women. They make the highs higher and the lows more frequent”… ain’t that the truth?*

Anyways, browsing through a well-known online book retailer I espied something that managed to marginally lift my spirits. Check it out. Yes, that’s right, a new novel by Thomas Pynchon… his first in almost a decade! Called “Against The Day” and running to more than a thousand pages, I’m confident that it’ll be the finest novel published in almost a decade. Not due out until December this year, I’ve nonetheless already begun to feel excited at the prospect.

Pynchon is one of those writers that you either get or you don’t. Those who don’t, find him nigh unreadable. For those that do, however, Pynchon is rarely outside their top three novelists. He stretches the imagination to places that didn’t exist before he put pen to paper. He’s funny and wise and somehow manages to illuminate truths about the world we live in despite peppering his work with mechanical ducks, singing dogs, ninja death nuns, godzilla-attacks on Tokyo and rat messiahs.

Or maybe because of that.

Peak Oil is coming to get ya

The United States is on the brink of a major economic slowdown. In fact, it could well be the beginning of the final crash, though it could also be the last dip before that happens. The property market is stagnating as Americans are starting to feel poorer. Cheap oil means cheap everything, and the days of cheap oil are drawing to a close. I saw an interview with Al Gore in which he predicted that Dubya Bush would reverse his stance on climate change and begin the process of scaling back America’s fossil fuel consumption.

I’m not sure he’ll have much of a choice.

China and Venezuela have signed a major oil import-export deal. The government of Chad has just kicked ChevronTexaco out of the country. Officially this is for non-payment of taxes, but it comes just a couple of weeks after a meeting between the government of Chad and a Chinese trade delegation (the first diplomatic contact between the two nations since Chad recognised Taiwan almost a decade ago). Coincidence?

Incidentally, I’m also reading a lot about commodity speculators pumping vast amounts of money into crude oil. If this is true, then there will be a short-lived price crash (possibly down as low as 25 dollars a barrel – my prediction) when the US economy goes south and demand drops dramatically. This would be a good time for poorer nations to buy in enough reserves to fuel a transition to renewables. Not that they will of course. Economists still have too much influence over political decision-making. People who somehow believe that owning a dollar is the same as owning a dollar’s worth of crude oil (that whole “tranformability of units of production” bollocks).

Swiss banking and investment group, UBS, has become the latest major institution to accept that crude oil production is about to peak. Their prediction is that it will occur within 20 years, however they claim it will be mitigated by a switch to “other energy sources, notably natural gas”. Hmmm… someone needs to a have a quiet word in their ear about gas production and how it’s likely to peak around the same time as oil.

In other news

I read that the Vatican may be about to endorse the theory of Intelligent Design. This can only be a bad thing for science education all over the world. The trouble with I.D. as opposed to plain old wacky Creationism is that it’s a religious belief masquerading as a scientific theory, so it may insidiously work its way onto the science curriculum in religious schools. You may as well teach spaghetti monsterism in schools. I mean, if you’re going to fill kids’ heads with absurd nonsense, then at least make it funny nonsense.

By now of course you’ll all have heard the news that Pluto is no longer a planet. Apparently it’s now categorised as a “dwarf planet”. Does this mean that little people aren’t people anymore? I’m not an astronomer, but I did study a little bit of linguistics, and it seems to me that anything called a dwarf planet is clearly a type of planet. Frankly I think the phrase “solar moon” would have been a lot better (as well as being the title of a novel I wrote some years ago and destroyed).

Meanwhile the Irish government have announced that Aer Lingus, the national airline, will be floated on the stock market by the end of September. As I’ve discussed previously, this is an idiotic decision made by greedy politicians who simply don’t understand the concept of public service. Capitalists, fools and self-interested scoundrels to a person. A pox upon them all.

There’s little doubt in my mind that the combination of climate change and peak oil will result in violence erupting in certain places as people turn on the politicians and business leaders who led them to disaster. I wonder will Ireland be one of those places? And I wonder whether Bertie Ahern and his minions are aware that they may well be first against the wall come the crash? And I’m not talking about a metaphorical wall either.

Anyways, hopefully I’ll get myself back on an even keel – emotionally speaking – before too long. Which means I’ll start taking an interest in what’s happening around the world again, and become a half-decent blogger once more. If not though, I’ll track down some music memes. OK?

* Apologies to my female readers. If you have a favourite quote regarding the way men are the death of hope, then feel free to substitute… it’s human emotion that’s really to blame but, being a straight male, in my case it manifests as per Fred’s aphorism.

6 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion


16
Aug 2006

Life Experiences Meme

Yeah. Another meme. Sorry about that. This time it’s from here. It’s a long list of stuff that you copy and then highlight the ones you’ve done… adding comments should you feel so inclined.

I’m not entirely sure why it caught my eye, but I’ve no intention of inflicting it on anyone else… 150 items? It’s kind of over the top. But it’s been ticking over in my ‘drafts’ for a couple of weeks, getting added to whenever I run out of steam on another piece.

So I may as well dump it on the website now before unleashing my next pseudo-philosophical musings on you my dear, long-suffering, reader. Without further ado…

  1. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
    More than once. Though usually – thank christ – in countries where you don’t need to take out a mortgage to get involved in pissed-up extravagance of that sort.
  2. Swam with wild dolphins
  3. Climbed a mountain
  4. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
  5. Been inside the Great Pyramid
    I became incredibly claustrophobic and didn’t stay long.
  6. Held a tarantula
  7. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
  8. Said ‘I love you’ and meant it
  9. Hugged a tree
    More than that, I even wrote a haiku about it… Middle-aged couple / discover me tree-hugging / all a bit awkward
  10. Bungee jumped
  11. Visited Paris
  12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
  13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
  14. Seen the Northern Lights
  15. Gone to a huge sports game
  16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
  17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
  18. Touched an iceberg
  19. Slept under the stars
  20. Changed a baby’s diaper
    It was an emergency and I was the only person available. I don’t think I did the best job in the world, but I did at least use the word “nappy” and not “diaper”. Fricking Americans!
  21. Taken a trip on a hot air balloon
  22. Watched a meteor shower
  23. Got drunk on champagne
    I no longer drink… booze just doesn’t do it for me anymore. But I’ve got the kind of curious nature that’s meant I’ve been drunk at least once (and ususally only once) on just about every drink you care to mention.
  24. Given more than you can afford to charity
    ha… ahh ha ha ha! One day I’ll tell that story.
  25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
  26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
  27. Had a food fight
  28. Bet on a winning horse
  29. Asked out a stranger
    Never got a response in the affirmative, mind.
  30. Had a snowball fight
  31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
  32. Held a lamb
  33. Seen a total eclipse
    Well, it was damn near total… ninety-something percent… London about six years ago.
  34. Ridden a roller coaster
    But man do I hate the things. I prefer to get my ‘intense experience kicks’ in other ways.
  35. Hit a home run
  36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
    Pretty much every time I’m moved to dance actually.
  37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
    I was Scottish for a day while my Scottish friend was Irish. Leastways that was the theory… I think most of the time we were both Welsh-Pakistani.
  38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
    Hell yeah! Lots and lots of moments. Without wishing to be too gloomy, it has been a fairly long while though.
  39. Had two hard drives for your computer
    Right now I’ve got three. But what’s that got to do with anything?
  40. Visited all 50 states
  41. Taken care of someone who was shit faced
    Yup. And I think… if I worked it out… I must be at least breaking even in the “had to be taken care of” Vs. “taken care of someone else” stakes (which is – as everyone knows – the only test that matters when St. Peter decides whether to let you into heaven or not).
  42. Had amazing friends
    All my friends are amazing! (you’ve no idea how far an attitude like that goes when you’re asking to borrow money).
  43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
    Yup. And I’ve danced with a foreigner in a strange country as well.
  44. Watched wild whales
  45. Stolen a sign
    A sign? ‘A’ sign, you ask? Myself and A.R. stripped an entire suburb of road signs one drunken teenage night and placed them all in a local (drained) pond. To this day I’ve no recollection of the moment we decided on that mission, but I’d love to recall the conversation that led up to it.
  46. Backpacked in Europe
    Technically every time I go to the shop.
  47. Taken a road-trip
    Starting to get a bit mundane now…
  48. Gone rock climbing
    … I mean, ever climbed some rocks? What’s that all about…? Seriously, what’s next? ‘Ever eaten some food?’
  49. Midnight walk on the beach
    Oh come on!
  50. Gone sky diving
    Ah, now we’re in better territory. Of course I’ve never gone sky-diving. I’m not a freaking nutter! The decision to jump out of a plane is – inherently – one you take as a matter of absolute last resort.
  51. Visited Ireland
    Clearly not expecting too many Irish respondents to this wee quiz.
  52. Been heartbroken for longer than when you were in love
    What? You mean it can pan out any other way? Really?
  53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
  54. Visited Japan
  55. Milked a cow
  56. Alphabetized your cds
    Oh man, you wouldn’t believe the time I’ve spent re-ordering my music collection. The male brain has an inbuilt tendency towards autism… and that’s where I let that little side of me run riot.
  57. Pretended to be a superhero
    Yes. But I was, what? 6 years old at the time?
  58. Sung karaoke
    No. And I never will. People don’t understand my objection to this… I don’t have a freakishly objectionable singing voice or anything. It’s just, when you’ve heard ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ butchered by an angry red-faced drunken middle-aged wino in a Cricklewood pub, the whole notion of karaoke loses its innocence and becomes something dark and unpleasant, filling your memory with little links and associations that you never asked for and can never ever escape.
  59. Lounged around in bed all day
    If whoever compiled this quiz had been really hardcore they’d have specified a week! That’d separate the men from the boys.
  60. Posed nude in front of strangers
    I posed nude (in crucifiction pose no less) for an artist when I was at college. But she wasn’t a stranger. I guess it all depends on your definition of “posed”. I was filmed by a van-load of policemen running nude across a bridge. It’d be stretching it to describe that as “posing” though.
  61. Gone scuba diving
  62. Kissed in the rain
  63. Played in the mud
  64. Played in the rain
  65. Gone to a drive-in theater
    When I was living near Chicago I hung out a few times at an old abandoned drive-in. It had an incredibly apocalyptic atmosphere and I was vibing on that at the time. Never saw a movie at a drive-in though.
  66. Visited the Great Wall of China
  67. Started a business
    More than once.
  68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
    You’re shitting me right? That really happens?
  69. Toured ancient sites
    Oh yeah, I’ve contributed to ‘tourist erosion’ at ancient sites all over the world. The Great Pyramids beat the rest hands-down. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. I dig lots of others too, don’t get me wrong. But the pyramids are a bit fricking special.
  70. Taken a martial arts class
  71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
    Probably. But I wasn’t a D&D geek for very long before my music-geekness kicked in and I stopped having time for anything that didn’t involve loud guitars and beer.
  72. Gotten married
  73. Been in a movie
    I was an extra in some WW2 mini-series starring Kenneth Branagh. Can’t even recall the name of the thing. I was a British soldier dying in the background. I’ve also been in a couple of low-budget student films. I was credited as “The Hippy” in the first and “Stoned man” in the second. Arguably the roles didn’t stretch my acting abilities all that much.
  74. Crashed a party
    I’ve crashed a fair few parties. Though none recently.
  75. Gotten divorced
  76. Gone without food for 5 days
  77. Made cookies from scratch
    I’ve made them from other things too.
  78. Won first prize in a costume contest
  79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
  80. Gotten a tattoo
  81. Rafted the Snake River
  82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
  83. Got flowers for no reason
  84. Performed on stage
  85. Been to Las Vegas
  86. Recorded music
  87. Eaten shark
    I was a fully fledged carnivore up until my 16th birthday. Ate a lot of stuff that makes me think “hmmmmmm, not sure about that” these days.
  88. Had a one-night stand
  89. Gone to Thailand
  90. Bought a house
  91. Been in a combat zone
    Not exactly. But we did get occasional bomb-threats in some of the countries I grew up in. My dad worked for a high-profile US corporation in some places where anti-American feeling could get violent. Mind you, this was back in the 80s… I suspect the kids attending (for instance) Cairo American College today are experiencing a whole other level of paranoid weirdness.
  92. Buried one/both of your parents
  93. Been on a cruise ship
    For all the more like ‘jazz heaven’ from Stardust Memories.
  94. Spoken more than one language fluently
  95. Performed in Rocky Horror
  96. Raised children
  97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
    And my second-favourite, and my third-favourite, and bands that probably struggle to make the top 20 these days.
  98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
  99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
  100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
  101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
  102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
    I was a motorist for about a year and a half in my late teens. Where possible I’ve done my best to avoid cars since then. However, during that brief time, it’s fair to say that I was rarely in the car without either Bowie or Talking Heads playing right at the edge of distortion volume. And it would be rare indeed if I wasn’t singing along. These days I must content myself with singing along at home… I still don’t give a toss if anyone’s looking.
  103. Had plastic surgery
  104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived.
  105. Wrote articles for a large publication
  106. Lost over 100 pounds
    Remember the dot-com boom? And the biotech boom? A chimp with smack habit could’ve made money in the stock market in the late 90s. I did anyway. Round about mid-2000 however I heard about a small UK tech start-up that was having its IPO. They were going to be the next big thing. They worked in the field of nano-grinding and I believed they were absurdly underpriced. Turns out they were absurdly overpriced. I lost a wee bit more than 100 pounds.
  107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
    Huh? Well, I’ve talked people down from some seriously bad trips. Does that count?
  108. Piloted an airplane
  109. Petted a stingray
  110. Broken someone’s heart
  111. Helped an animal give birth
  112. Won money on a T.V. game show
  113. Broken a bone
  114. Gone on an African photo safari
  115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
    Been stabbed. Does that count?
  116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
    Never in anger I’m happy to say.
  117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
    Wellllllll….
  118. Ridden a horse
  119. Had major surgery
    That’s the only kind of surgery I’ve ever had! Minor surgery is when it’s happening to someone else (to steal a line).
  120. Had a snake as a pet
    Anyone with reptiles or insects for pets needs to deal with their issues in a more healthy way. And pet birds are pretty damn borderline. Though fishtanks I kind of understand on a purely aesthetic level. Sorry but there you have it. Pets are about companionship. Companionship implies empathy. Empathy with non-mammals is pretty fricking weird in my book. I’m not saying repressive legislation needs to be drafted to deal with these people or anything. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just suggesting they wear some form of identification so the rest of us can shun them.
  121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
  122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
  123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
  124. Visited all 7 continents
    A question restricted to the handful of scientists stationed in Antarctica. Talk about exclusive!
  125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
  126. Eaten kangaroo meat
  127. Eaten sushi
    Not high on my list of favourite foods I have to say.
  128. Had your picture in the newspaper
  129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
  130. Gone back to school
  131. Parasailed
  132. Petted a cockroach
  133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
  134. Read The Iliad and the Odyssey
  135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read their work
    Not quite sure I understand this.
  136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
    Indeed. Mackerel. I have caught, gutted and pan-fried them over an open fire.
  137. Skipped all your school reunions
  138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
  139. Been elected to public office
  140. Written your own computer language
  141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
    Sadly not in a good way.
  142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
  143. Built your own PC from parts
  144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
  145. Had a booth at a street fair
  146. Dyed your hair
  147. Been a DJ
  148. Shaved your head
  149. Caused a car accident
  150. Saved someone’s life

1 comment  |  Posted in: Blog meme


16
Aug 2006

Italy

So I’m thinking… having spent an hour on various websites, I can spend fourteen days staying in three-and-four-star hotels in Milan, Genoa and Pisa… including flights and trains it’ll come to about 900 euro. Figure half that again for spending money (good cheap restaurants but a couple of expensive ones too) and I’ll have change from a thousand english pounds.

Yes I know, that’s still a huge quantity of money to spend on two weeks eating nice food in Italy and watching the Tuscan moon rise above the gently lapping mediterranean. But really… when it comes down to it… what the hell else should I do with my money if not that? When I’m lying on my death-bed, what thousand-pound memory will outstrip my two week gastronomic tour of northwestern Italy?

But it’s the flight that’s bothering me. And travelling overland from Ireland to Italy turns my fortnight of lazing in the sun into something else entirely. Hmmm… we shall see.

8 comments  |  Posted in: Announcements


15
Aug 2006

Bloody markets

The problem, as is so often the case, is free markets. You see, they are maybe possibly perhaps a half-decent way of handling the distribution of new computer games. For instance. But they’re an awful way of dealing with essential non-renewable resources. Seriously awful. In fact, if you had to design a system with the express purpose of bungling resource management you’d probably arrive at something a lot like free market economics.

We’ve arrived at a system which provides as motivation for the production and supply of essential non-renewable resources; the generation of profit. And it bestows the right to choose how the resource should be consumed onto those wealthy enough to purchase it.

I see it as being somewhat akin to a national blood bank / transfusion service being run exclusively for the profit of those who own the system. And to make matters worse, there’s a cabal of millionaires who get their kicks buying blood to bathe in. I mean, let’s be honest, there’s no reason at all for a defender of the free-market principle to object to that.

Certainly if millionaires are buying blood to bathe in, it’ll raise the price and – presumably – generate a greater supply. But this is a finite resource we’re talking about. Over 10% of the population has “needle phobia”. Another 10 – 15% are barred from giving blood because of various contamination issues. And health and safety recommends that nobody should donate blood more than once a month (restricted to 4 times a year in many countries). It’s a finite resource and increased demand will not generate an increased supply beyond the limits imposed by nature.

So first our hypothetical cabal raises the price beyond the capability of the NHS to pay for transfusions, then it raises it beyond the capability of most private patients to pay. Do proponents of the free market believe this is an acceptable situation? Is it OK for rich people to deliberately waste a resource vital to sustain the lives of those with less purchasing power? Is it still OK when it’s your ten-year-old daughter dying in hospital because Peter Stringfellow, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Richard Branson want to sit in a bath of blood?

Of course, nobody bathes in blood. Leastways nobody you’d invite round for dinner. But I was drawing an analogy, not suggesting that Richard Branson actually has a blood fetish (though you do have to wonder about Lloyd-Webber… nothing would surprise me about him). And it’s an analogy that can be applied more directly than perhaps you’d imagine.

There are rather worrying reports emerging from some of the poorer African nations; Zimbabwe in particular. These reports are unconfirmed and I’ve only read them (thus far) on peak oil mailing lists (so I’m not using them as “evidence”; merely illustrative examples of how market forces will affect essential resource distribution… i.e. if this is not happening now, then it will be soon). As the recent rises in oil price kicked in, the poorest nations have been forced to cut back on the quantity they imported. This is what free markets are all about, after all.

However, in Zimbabwe this is resulting in a major curtailing of the – already decrepit – ambulance service*. People are dying right now because western consumers are willing to pay more for petrol to drive their SUVs to the hypermarket than the Zimbabwean health service can afford to pay to keep their vehicles on the road.

Bloody markets, eh?

* Yes, yes, I’m aware that the unique political disaster occurring in Zimbabwe is a major factor in the collapse of the health service (and just about everything else). However I trust you’re smart enough to realise that merely explains why Zimbabweans can’t afford to fuel their ambulances. Saying “Oh! Oh! Mugabe is a Bad Man!” loudly while sticking your fingers in your ears doesn’t actually redress the basic injustice that people are dying for want of a global resource while others are frivolously squandering it.

5 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion


15
Aug 2006

Basking in Mahmoud's reflected fame

Bloody Mahmoud Ahmadinejad! Guess what he’s gone and done? Only started a blog is what. So suddenly I’m getting hundreds of hits from people typing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blog into google. Which would be nice if it weren’t so disheartening. Hundreds of people arriving at my site, taking a two second glance, and thinking “ugh, this definitely ain’t what I was searching for” before hitting ‘Back’ on their browser in the hope of finding something to better suit their disposition.

Mind you, I guess I should take heart in my failure to capture the large audience that google and its ilk can theoretically provide. One’s popularity is – with a few noteworthy exceptions – a direct indication of one’s general wrongness. Don’t believe me? Take a glance at who wins elections, who tops the charts, what has the exclamation ‘Bestseller!’ on the cover, and what sort of regurgitated drekk is putting bums on seats in cinemas this summer. The Sun is not only the most widely read newspaper in the UK, but The Irish Sun is the most widely read rag on this side of the water. And don’t even talk to me about reality television and just how far up the collective arse humanity can shove that.

Yes, yes, there’s exceptions. You don’t need to tell me about The Beatles or Gandhi. But for every Beatles there’s a Jason Donovan, a Cliff Richard, a Simple Minds and an Oasis. For every Gandhi there’s a Stalin, a Blair, a Nixon and a Hitler. So yes, I’m more than prepared to accept that once in a while they get it right, but I’m also firmly convinced that as a general rule, the judgment of The People is fundamentally faulty.

Which is usually OK. We’re just bloody monkeys after all, so it doesn’t really matter, in the grand scheme of things, how we make our decisions. Let everyone have a turn at the wheel whether they’re drunk or not. Where’s the harm?

Except… and here’s the problem… when I say “we’re monkeys so it doesn’t matter”, I don’t actually believe that. Well, I believe we’re monkeys of course (don’t get all fricking pedantic and insisting on using the word “ape”. I prefer “monkey”, OK? Purely on the basis that it sounds funnier). But I don’t believe that our decisions – and even how we make those decisions – don’t matter. Because, and this is where we move from the solid to the ethical, I am not a moral relativist.

In fact, I’m an absolutist of the Old School… harking right back to the Greeks no less; though I’d obviously like to throw the odd “neo” around to get rid of some of the more wildly superstitious stuff. I believe that each of us is born with rights and obligations. And I take what I call an “Einsteinean” view of the source of these rights and obligations. Einstein himself would cite The Buddha and Spinoza.

But source and justification is a tangent I’m not going off on today. Instead it’s the ramifications for sociopolitical organisation and decision-making that interest me. Because clearly, unless your moral system specifically enshrines the right of every individual to have an equal say in decision making (and mine doesn’t… moral codes derived from pantheistic belief systems are rarely so explicit) then moral absolutism implies a curtailment of democracy.

1) For democracy.

We are committed to democratic norms, procedures and structures — freedom of opinion and assembly, free elections, the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers, and the separation of state and religion. We value the traditions and institutions, the legacy of good governance, of those countries in which liberal, pluralist democracies have taken hold.

You see, it’s difficult to square all those beliefs. “[D]emocratic norms, procedures and structures”… that means elections and stuff, right? But what if the people vote for closer ties between religion and state for example? Does that mean you stop believing in “the separation of state and religion”. Well, clearly not… but it is saying that where The People vote for closer ties between religion and state, that in such a situation it is right to implement such a policy. Right?

Which isn’t very absolutist. In fact it’s waaaay at the far end of the relativist crowd. It’s almost saying that morality can be mandated by popular whim. Which it can’t. And because social policy must reflect our collective rights and obligations, it follows that social policy (in relevant areas) cannot be decided by democratic mandate.

The most basic one…

… we each have an obligation to live our life in such a way that it does not prevent others from living theirs.

Without that obligation, our own corresponding right to live full lives is meaningless. And although we each bear that obligation as individuals, it also translates upwards as a collective obligation to organise our society sustainably. Because it doesn’t matter whether those we prevent living full lives are separated from us by distance or time; our obligation to them remains.

And because this obligation cannot be removed by popular vote, so it follows that decisions which impact the longterm sustainability of society and the ability of future generations to live full lives must be made based upon our unchanging obligation and not the current desires of the people (“full lives”, incidentally isn’t a crass gauge of life expectancy but a phrase that implies a life without being forced to bear unreasonable burdens created by your grandparents and their friends).

Luckily though, as well as containing the wet western wank of The Euston Manifesto, the internet also hosts some far wiser and more coherent voices. Voices such as Harry Hutton, who wonders…

Whose idea was it to have elections, anyway? If MPs were selected by competitive examination we wouldn’t be in this hole. We don’t elect airline pilots or heart surgeons, so why Prime Ministers? The idea that Mr Average Briton, walking around Tesco with his mouth hanging open, should be allowed to choose the government is superstitious nonsense.

Who the hell needs my oh-so-knowingly-dry pseudo-academic toss when we’ve got Mr. Hutton? That’s what I want to know.

1 comment  |  Posted in: Opinion


13
Aug 2006

In this elegant chaos I stand to one side

I’m pissed off. Really really pissed off. Furious. And I have been for more than a week. I’m so pissed off in fact, that the dark cloud under which I’m living has been mentioned on the TV weather forecast… “and if we take a look at the satellite image, we can see that mad bastid in Rathcoole still hasn’t calmed down”

Yet the world keeps turning. Funny that.

I’m not going to write about what’s pissing me off… it’s not the most interesting story to the neutral observer. Instead I’m going to cast an angry eye over recent events around the world. Because let’s face it; if there’s one way to mollify a dark and stormy mood, it’s reading the news. Right?

I’ve got a fairly long piece in the works about Israel and the rest of the Middle East, so I’ll not talk about that now… except to say: “Stop killing each other guys! It’s really not helping.” Sadly, as I try to explain in my article, that kind of advice is liable to fall on deaf ears. In my view, none of the major players in this crisis should be viewed as rational agents, and that’s a serious problem.

For now though, allow me to get distracted from the Middle East by a manufactured media frenzy close to home. Is it just me, or does this “airplane liquid bomb plot thingie” get anyone else’s disproportionate-response detector going? If they arrested the people planning to carry it out, why the need to shut down half the world’s air travel? (not that future generations won’t thank the Home Office for the brief respite in fossil fuel usage).

But is that what it takes to utterly banjax the transport infrastructure these days… getting caught planning to banjax it? Surely by that definition, our security services have guaranteed a 100% success rate for all such plans. Either you get caught and everything gets shut down. Or you don’t get caught and everything gets shut down.

I understand, of course, that from the point of view of the hypothetical victims there’s clearly a big difference… but the primary objective of the terrorist is to cause terror and disruption; the individual deaths are a byproduct. And getting caught seems to achieve the primary objective just fine. Does it strike anyone else as a weird way to wage a war… adopting a policy that guarantees your enemy succeeds in their main aims?

I think it goes without saying, though, that the ringleaders of this particular media circus are “Dr. John” Reid and the UK Home Office. Having so spectacularly ballsed-up the Forest Gate operation, a decision was taken to make the maximum public impact with the next significant anti-terrorist “success”. Fricking idiots.

I tell you what my British friends, you guys really need to organise a revolution soon. It’s just as obvious watching from outside as it was when I was huddled within.

As for you in America…? Don’t even get me started. It seems like things are going down the tubes over there faster than you can say “We have always been at war with Eurasia”. Has anyone else noticed this? Florida’s Fear of History: New Law Undermines Critical Thinking (Anyone apart from Gyrus, I mean, who sent it to me)

We don’t want knowledge. We want certainty.

I don’t know a whole lot about Florida (Plus point: Witty blogger, L. Minus points: Jeb Bush, Miami Vice). I read a few articles about the state back when everyone was talking about hanging chads, and it didn’t sound like my kind of place. But then, the USA in general isn’t my kind of place. Great to visit… but very difficult to deal with on a permanent basis.

And I guess when a state elects Jeb Bush as governor it says something about where its head’s at… i.e. roughly the same place as the nation in general. What with Dubya and The War Against Terror and all.

So, as part of an education bill signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida has declared that “American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed.” That factual history, the law states, shall be viewed as “knowable, teachable, and testable.”

Florida’s lawmakers are not only prescribing a specific view of US history that must be taught (my favorite among the specific commands in the law is the one about instructing students on “the nature and importance of free enterprise to the United States economy”), but are trying to legislate out of existence any ideas to the contrary. They are not just saying that their history is the best history, but that it is beyond interpretation. In fact, the law attempts to suppress discussion of the very idea that history is interpretation.

Jensen’s article does a great job of exposing the lunacy of this project, so I’ll not dwell upon it, merely point out that there’s two links to his piece, above. Use one.

Don’t mention the war

Sky News is the only news channel I get right now. Which is a bit of a pain in the arse obviously. I call it “news drink”. You know the way bottles of stuff called “juice drink” aren’t juice at all, but watered-down sugar-filled froth instead? As I say, news drink.

All the same, news drink can be informative at times. Rarely down to what’s said of course, but more how it’s said. A couple of days back I watched one of their rent-an-experts go off message and was bemused by the knots the stern anchor-woman tied herself in while trying to rubbish the man she’d introduced as an expert. “What we are seeing in Iraq right now is a civil war. The United Nations estimates that between 75 and 100 people are dying every day in the ongoing conflict…”

At which point she cut him off to remind the viewer that while Dr. Arabic Name may describe Iraq as being in a state of civil war, most experts (very much her emphasis, not mine) agree that it’s not nearly that simple. Most experts will tell you that large parts of the country are now completely stable. Of course we rarely get to hear about this…

At which point she posed a completely unrelated question to another (thankfully on-message) expert who’d just arrived on a screen over her shoulder. But it seemed to me as she trailed off that she was basically claiming that Iraq is not in a state of civil war. It may look that way, but that’s only because the news media is giving a misleading impression.

Oooops.

Sadly though, I don’t actually think it matters what we call it. The armies of Britain and the United States have rained death upon that country and plunged it into violent chaos. It’s the kind of thing that makes me understand precisely why humanity had to invent the concept of sin.

Guess what I’m gonna talk about now?

Ahem… well, on the subject of peak oil and the energy problems we face…

As you would expect, I have much to say. But not right now. Head on over to google news and search for peak oil. My analysis can come at a later date. But when the Financial Times directly ascribes a 1 percent reduction in British economic activity to “supply-side constraints within the energy sector” then you have to wonder about OPEC’s assurances that they’ve got enough excess capacity to handle any possible crisis. I believe a tipping point has been reached. As one financial analyst puts it… “Buy on the dips”.

As for climate change… well, I’m turning off my appliances and I’m being as energy-efficient as I know how to be without entering genuine self-denial. That’s naturally a phase I’m mentally preparing for, but I’ll be blunt… I’m not going there alone; I’ll start denying myself electrical luxuries like PC usage and listening to music the very moment I’m sure I’m part of something big enough to be significant. Until then, I’ll minimise my role in the problem, but I’ll still remain part of it. Yeah, that’s selfish, but there you go… One day I may not have the luxury of a piping hot shower every morning… so I’ll damn well take advantage of the opportunity now. But that doesn’t mean I’ll run the hot-water boiler 24/7.

Of course, having done so well to live a (relatively) low-energy lifestyle, I get the feeling that I’m going to blow all my good intentions out of the water with a flight or two later in the year. Once in a while I get the urge to fly somewhere hot and spend a week sitting at a beach-front café eating freshly made bread dipped in olive oil and parmesan while sipping chilled orange juice. I read a book and watch the world go by. Theoretically I could spend a week doing that here in Dublin. But for some reason it just doesn’t work unless you’re next to the mediterranean.

Despite getting that urge quite a bit, it’s been a fair few years since I’ve actually done it… just buggered off somewhere to eat nice food for a week or two. And something tells me that a couple of weeks in Italy would be exactly what the doctor ordered for late September 2006. A few days in Naples for the mediterranean vibe, then a train northwards and ten days of exploring the finest cheapest restaurants and cafés Italy has to offer (of which there are many).

Tattoo it on my forehead kids… I flew to Naples to eat nice food. It’s my fault.

Ah, don’t worry kids, there’s a good chance I’ll have guilted myself out of the idea before I ever get round to booking the ticket.

Anyways, that’s me for now. I’m off to listen to some music. I’m currently reminding myself just how amazing Peggy Suicide is… you always remember the singles of course, but tracks like If You Loved Me At All and Pristeen are amongst the best things Copey’s ever done. If you don’t know this album, you don’t know music.

5 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion


6
Aug 2006

Where once we learnt, now we park

On a recent jaunt to London I happened to wander through Camden and up Kentish Town Road. I passed the building where I attended university for four years. Most of it has been gutted and turned into a multi-storey carpark. As a final insult though, the front section has been converted into a big-franchise pizza place.

Sadly I wasn’t carrying a petrol-bomb that day.

It struck me as I walked past, that although many of my beliefs have evolved since my time there – some beyond recognition – that it was nonetheless in that building I learnt the way of looking at the world that I still use to this day.

It was the early nineties and I was studying philosophy in what was – then – one of the most politically radical universities in Britain. It hadn’t been my first choice uni, but nor was it my last resort, and I chose it over a couple of more prestigious (but conservative) places. During my first year it was called The Polytechnic of North London, but it had become The University of North London by my second.

Not saying I had anything to do with that…

The department was heavy on Critical Theory, Deconstruction and all that jazz. And even though that wasn’t where my head was at just then, it was a great environment to study philosophy in… whether it was political philosophy, theology, epistemology, or whatever. There was a sense that – intellectually speaking – everything was up for grabs. Philosophy was an activity, not an archive, and looking back on it I feel genuinely privileged to have spent part of my life in that environment.

In fact, I’m half-convinced that anyone who didn’t study Theories of Rationality at PNL / UNL between 1986 and 1996 is going through life half-blind. Seriously. The number of people who never ask the question, “does what I believe actually make sense?” staggers me. But even among those who do ask the question, there are so few of us who understand that there’s a process that can be learnt for establishing the answer. It’s like this big open secret, hidden in plain sight on the dusty shelves of the philosophy departments.

Of course, while courses like “Discourse”, “Language and Logic”, “Truth, Meaning and Metaphor”, and “The Philosophy of Psychoanalysis” have helped me better understand the world, I’m also certain they’ve helped alienate me from much of it. So it’s been a double-edged sword.

One I’ve been happy to wield, mind.

Nothing is eternal though, and by the time I left university the humanities campus in Kentish Town was already scheduled to close (though I never in my wildest nightmares imagined it becoming a Pizza Fricking Express / Car Park). Recently UNL in its entirety has been amalgamated into London Metropolitan University.

I’ve heard much of the radicalism of the humanities department has disappeared. Where once it occupied its own dark, imposing stone and redbrick bunker, it now lives alongside the business and accountancy faculties in a shiny glass office block on Holloway Road. This has changed the culture of the place apparently. Who’d have thunk it?

1 comment  |  Posted in: Opinion


4
Aug 2006

Frances Fitzgerald: candidate for The Man

A leaflet fluttered through my letterbox yesterday. It was from a local politician… a prospective Fine Gael (Fee-neh Gale) candidate in next years General Election. Her name is Frances Fitzgerald and her leaflet is a bit of early canvassing for next year, outlining some of her policies on mostly local – but also some wider – issues.

It took all of five seconds to establish that she has a whelk’s chance in a supernova of ever getting my vote. But that was never likely let’s face it. Fine Gael are a conservative centre-right party with a capitalist ideology. If there’s a mad independent candidate with staring eyes who is running on a ticket of whatever the aliens tell him… then he will better represent my views than Frances Fitzgerald. Because if Frances is standing for a party which seeks to perpetuate our rampant over-consumption and unsustainable economic growth, then she’s standing on the opposite side of the barricades to me.

The policy part of her leaflet opens with a section on crime. It’s beyond predictable; real mass-psychology 101 stuff, y’know? Open with fear. Scared people are more compliant… more receptive to any future statements you make once you’ve adopted the guise of “protector”. And what better way to do this than talk about…

  • “more Gardaí­ on the beat”;
  • “more [Garda] cars and CCTV”;
  • “implement a policy of zero-tolerance”; and
  • “ensure that criminals serve their time… not back on the streets posing a threat”.

That’s a distillation of the first four items in her 5-point plan to “restore law and order to all our communities”. The fifth and final point talks about investment in “recreational facilities for young people”. In the name of all that’s sacred! Does a politician who thinks in such an unimaginative and insultingly simplistic way honestly believe she can represent my views?

Solving crime

Look, if there is indeed a crime problem then let’s make a serious attempt to solve it. No, no, I’m not suggesting that we’re ever going to stop murder and mayhem. That’s never going away. We’re apes, and there’ll always be plenty of folks willing to act as a reminder. But despite this, clearly we could choose to address the crime problem more rationally than we’re doing at present.

I mean, tell me; has “more CCTV” ever resulted in “restoring law and order”? I lived in the UK for a while… land of the everpresent cycloptian eye. Everywhere you turn in London there’s a half dozen CCTV cameras peering at you accusingly. Yet they appear not to have eliminated crime in London as yet. Presumably, therefore, to have the desired effect we’ll need more than they’ve got in London. How many more Frances? Do you want us living in a world where our every moment is scrutinised by the lens?

I know a book about that.

And when you proudly proclaim your intolerance Frances, like a badge of honour, then I shudder at the thought of being represented by someone with so little compassion. Zero tolerance, eh? Whenever I hear a politician utter that phrase I hear a distant response… “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. And I want to demand that politician imagine their life today if their every past transgression had been treated with zero-tolerance. Demand they tell me whether the compassion and forgiveness of others had any part at all in forming the person they are today. And why they seek to deny that to others.

Zero-tolerance is not a policy. It’s a way of looking at the world. And one that I will never vote for.

Of course I’m well aware of how difficult it is to accurately trace lines of cause and effect when it comes to something as complex as a social system. There’s just too many damn variables. Nonetheless, there’s a phrase from systems engineering… “predictable consequence”. It’s important to read that phrase as a technical term; one which is ever-so-slightly different to the literal. Think of it as a defined as “on the balance of probabilities and based upon what we know of the most influential factors of the system, this is a likely outcome”.

The point of the phrase is that it’s how the analyst identifies something that requires action. If I say that a predictable consequence of running a system at the required pressure would be blown valves; I’m not saying that the valves will blow. I’m saying they need to be replaced. It may sound like splitting hairs, I guess, but the distinction is a real one.

Now, to describe our drug policy as counter-productive is like describing the sun as warm. We have decided, voluntarily, to place one of the world’s largest and most lucrative industries entirely into the hands of violent criminals. We have voluntarily surrendered all control over the manufacture and distribution of some of the world’s most addictive substances. We have passed laws to ensure that the consumption of these substances is made vastly more dangerous than is necessary. And we have entire government agencies working tirelessly to drive up the price of these addictive substances.

The predictable consequence of that set of policies is a crime wave. It would not be stretching it too much to suggest that we’ve somehow managed to implement a set of drug policies which maximise the social damage of drugs. Rational drug law reform will not “solve crime”. However it will radically reduce the amount of violent and acquisitive crime in our society. So as a first step, I’d argue that’s the sensible place to start.

It’ll certainly do more to reduce crime than extra policemen and a couple of youth centres.

Improving public transport

Fine Gael is committed to introducing competition in the Dublin Bus market. By allowing private operators to tender competitively for licences…

Ohhhhhkaaaayyyy… I guess she’s really not after my vote. Well, it’s nice that she’s upfront about it.

Here’s my thing… this is what I actually want my bus to be. First and foremost, I want it to be a public service. Now that may sound selfish. “What about all those millions of people who want it to be a profitable business, eh?” you ask. But the thing is… are there really that many of them? Because I’ve yet to actually meet one, despite their prevelance in the political media circus.

I want a bus that leaves Rathcoole every half hour and takes me straight into the city centre bypassing the bottleneck that is Clondalkin. I don’t want the bus to make any profit, merely cover costs* and I want it to run 24 hours day (though the frequency can drop to one an hour between midnight and 5am).

That would be a public service. The fact that Frances Fitzgerald believes it would be a bad idea (or, mindbogglingly, that such a service is actually beyond the ability of Fine Gael to organise) suggests that her first desire isn’t to be a public servant. Rather she seeks to serve the interests of that portion of the population who would genuinely prefer the bus to be run primarily as a profitable business.

That can only mean the shareholders of the corporations tendering for the rights to make money out of our public transport. Good to know. All I need to do is become a wealthy shareholder in a predatory corporation seeking to run my bus service at the lowest possible cost to themselves and the highest possible cost to me. Then Frances Fitzgerald might want to represent my interests. Yay Fine Gael!

Almost time to take to the streets

Oh there’s plenty more, but really, who cares? If this is the best that mainstream politics can offer us… well, it’s clearly time to look outside mainstream politics for the solutions we need to the problems we’ve created. It’s time we swept aside the empty nonsense of the Frances Fitzgeralds of this world.

Woe betide the next politician to leaflet my street…

* In fact, I would like it subsidised by the taxpayer. But I’ll leave that last demand until a future election (one step at a time).

3 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion


3
Aug 2006

Blair, Blears and ting

I switched on the TV a couple of days ago and caught a few seconds of Tony Blair’s foreign policy speech… the one delivered in Los Angeles. I’d missed the first third of it, but planned to listen to the rest. Unfortunately the very first thing I heard him say was how militant Islam “resembles in many ways early revolutionary Communism”. At that moment I weighed up the cost of a new television against my desire to watch Blair deliver a speech, and went for a walk instead.

You couldn’t make it up. Blair raising the spectre of Reds Under The Beds during a policy speech in America…? I know I say this all the time, but our political leaders are all turning into minor characters in a Thomas Pynchon novel. Or maybe it’s the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson fucking with our heads. Take thanatoid Ortho Bob from Pynchon’s Vineland for instance. I don’t know exactly why, but when I read this description I just can’t help but think of Dubya Bush…

Ortho Bob came lurching over, looking as awful as the night he must have spent, wanting to talk some more about his case. He had been damaged in Vietnam, in more than one way, from the list of which he always carefully – though it might only have been superstitiously – excluded death. There were items enough on his get-even agenda, relief for none of which was available through regular channels.

Ortho Bob isn’t Bush… well, not directly anyways… but that last line completely sums up how I feel whenever I see Dubya. He’s got the same look in his eyes that Ortho Bob has as he lurches across the Zero Inn to Takeshi’s table.

Political funding

To other things… I notice over at Justin’s place an issue has arisen which finds me, unusually, in complete disagreement with the boy. No, not that Hazel Blears must be stopped. As a general rule, who could argue with that? It’s just that – in one of those monkeys and typewriters moments – Blears is actually backing a sound principle in this case.

Blears view, as I see it, is that political parties should be funded through the public purse (aside: I’ve got my media player on shuffle and Taxman by The Beatles has just this minute come on). And while I do completely see Justin’s points when he decries such an idea, I nonetheless believe that public funding is the lesser of evils.

Now, before I explain why, could I just put in the standard disclaimer about how I actually don’t believe representative democracy is a good way to run things in the first place, and how if I were made God Emperor there’d be some pretty damn radical restructuring, and the phrase Anarcho-Syndicalist Utopia would enter the common lexicon. So yeah, this is very much an exercise in deckchair rearrangement as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s the thing… we clearly live in an era where parties with better funding do better in elections. I’ll not go into my standard rant about how badly our poor ol’ apebrain deals with mass media advertising, but I’m assuming it’s an uncontroversial point that high levels of funding relative to your opponents gives an advantage in a modern election. And this advantage could very well be a decisive one in close contests.

The trouble is; that’s profoundly undemocratic. Which is a bit crap if your aim is to run things democratically. It all but forces political parties to pander to the business community and the wealthy. There may be a lot more of the poor, but they tend not to set aside a large slice of the household budget for political donations. Maybe back in the days of mass unionisation… but harking back to a past golden age is the job of The Right, so let’s not kid ourselves, eh?

If we place a political party or an independent politician in the position of relying upon donations for their political survival, we cannot blame them for seeking out the biggest donations. And while we may despair that parties seem to represent those who finance them above those who vote for them, we are surely not surprised about it. How on earth could it turn out otherwise given what we all know about the average human capacity to resist temptation?

On the other hand, if you deny all funding to politicians except a ration from the public purse based upon the number of votes they receive… they’ll still end up representing the people who pay for their campaigns, but now those people are their voters.

Yes, this is a very very simple sketch… safeguards would have to be introduced to prevent the entrenchment of power (because that’s not already happening, right?) and the active exclusion of smaller parties. There’s also the ethical dilemma of having extremist parties being funded by the public, no matter how “democratic” the formula that calculates the level of funding.

Still, I see it as self-evidently more democratic than the current system which forces politicians to choose between representing those who vote for them and those who pay for them. Just so we’re clear though… down with democracy! It’s a godawful way to run a civilisation in decline.

Rob Newman’s History of Oil & Ting

Speaking of civilisations in decline, via Gyrus at Dreamflesh comes a link to Rob Newman’s vaudevillesque political screed “History of Oil”. It’s both funny and informative. I’d heard a radio broadcast of it before, but it’s greatly enhanced by the visuals. Watch it at Google Video.

Oh yeah, a couple of other links. Ken MacLeod has returned after a prolonged break with a hard-hitting piece on the Israel-Lebanon conflict. Well worth a read. Meanwhile over at David Byrne’s journal he talks about US Christian fundamentalism in terms usually used to discuss militant Islam. I’ll bet he gets some interesting hate mail.

8 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion


2
Aug 2006

Steps to an Ecology of Mind

We may joke about the way misplaced concreteness abounds in every word of psychoanalytic writing – but in spite of all the muddled thinking that Freud started, psychoanalysis remains as the outstanding contribution, almost the only contribution to our understanding of the family – a monument to the importance and value of loose thinking.

Experiments in Thinking About Observed Ethnological Material | Gregory Bateson

There’s a collection of Bateson’s papers and essays which I’ve already mentioned a couple of times on this blog. It’s called Steps to an Ecology of Mind and I recommend you track it down with all haste, dear reader. It ranks up there with Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions as one of the most important collections of writings of the 20th century.

Like Ideas and Opinions, Bateson’s papers are sometimes far from the cutting edge of the subject they address (the earliest being over 70 years old now). But he writes with a similar piercing clarity and wisdom to Einstein and so provides a deep yet rounded understanding of his subject. He demonstrates methodologies and ways of thinking, rather than merely providing information.

For instance, the article Cybernetic Explanation cleared up a rather abstract area of confusion that had bugged me since university – but that I’d never been able to elucidate – regarding proof by reductio ad absurdum. And while his essay Style, Grace, and Information in Primitive Art may not contain the most up-to-date theories on primitive art (being almost 40 years old), it nonetheless forced me to re-evaluate some of my beliefs about the nature of consciousness and of human psychology.

No mean feat for an essay about cave paintings.

Steps to an Ecology of Mind

And it’s fair to say that it’s my views on psychology that have been most influenced by Bateson. Probably the most mind-blowing essay – for me – is Morale and National Character. In it Bateson very clearly presents the reasons why it’s not only legitimate to view and analyse nations using the tools of psychology, but why those tools are actually far better suited to that task than they are to the task of analysing the individual.

This was like an explosion going off in my mind. For years I’ve been of the opinion that what cognitive theorist Douglas Hostadter (dunno if he coined the phrase, but he’s where I first read it) calls “emergent intelligence” plays a far more significant role in the behaviour of corporations, institutions and nations… any large, organised group of people in fact… than is acknowledged.

Not only that, but I’ve always felt that although the tools of modern psychoanalysis are often too blunt to deal with the absurd complexity of individual human consciousness, that they actually have great relevance when examining the motivations and behaviour of the infintely simpler consciousnesses of groups of people.

Incidentally, there may be those who are a little puzzled by the idea that an individual human consciousness would be significantly more complex than a consciousness consisting of multiples of those individuals. It seems vaguely counter-intuitive. But actually the complexity of a consciousness is primarily (though not entirely) a factor of the number of constituent members (or “neurons”). The internal complexity of each individual neuron is a far smaller factor, though conversely it is a far larger factor in the likelihood of systemic failure (mental illness).

All of this seemed to make perfect sense to me… and whenever I applied my theory to the world, it appeared to work. The larger the organisation, the more prone to irrationality and dysfunction it becomes as the collective instabilities in the constituent members get amplified. Two perfect examples being, of course, globalised capitalism and modern China which have both descended into extreme psychosis… in the sense that they are unable to function sustainably in the environment in which they find themselves; the real world.

However, I’ve long become suspicious of assuming that just because something made perfect sense to me, that it did – in fact – make perfect sense. Too often have I been greeted with blank incomprehension as I explained why something obviously had to be a certain way. So it’s a joy to read an essay like Morale and National Character and discover that not only is someone thinking about the world in exactly the same way as you (albeit drawing different conclusions on occasion), but they can explain succinctly just why this way of thinking about the world is so very informative and so very valuable.

Anyways, I didn’t want to write a traditional review of this book as it’s far from a traditional book. I thought instead I’d explain just why it’s so important to me, and why I think anyone interested in anthropology, psychiatry, psychology, evolution, the history and function of art, epistemology or what it means to be human should read this important collection.

3 comments  |  Posted in: Reviews » Book reviews