Archive for November, 2008

And people put up with this..?

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

I can’t honestly believe I am reading this as fact. What century are we living in? Can the British queen still invoke the divine right of royalty?


Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

The term ‘unemployment’ does not do justice to the evil that resides in the concept. It’s one of those words that has been euphemistically employed by governments to make its true import more anodyne, just as ‘collateral damage’ or ‘defence’ has.

I speak from personal experience. In the recession of the early nineties I was made redundant from a job in the creative industries. As it happened, at the same time, I had a band that I played in and wanted to promote so I was kept busy doing that during my period of unemployment. Interestingly, the elements of running a band – writing songs, performing them, organising rehearsals, getting gigs, producing promotional material, producing product, getting training etc. are exactly the same elements used to run any business. Only the names are different. And so when the band folded (you can only run a loss making venture for so long) I had all the necessary skills to run a small business and I have been self employed ever since.

However, I saw and experienced enough of unemployment to understand how corrosive it is and if I were the head of a government I would make it my top priority to make sure as much of society was as gainfully employed as possible, for both their sakes and mine.

The ineluctable facts are these;

  • The human body is designed to move. Without exercise, the body atrophies.
  • The human mind is designed to think. Without thinking the mind stupefies.
  • The human being is designed to be social. Without community the human being becomes renegade.

Unemployment incorporates all of these unnatural states. Without identity, status, stimulus, appreciation and satisfaction in physical labour a human being will seek these things out in whatever form it can; drugs, gangs, criminal activity, violence. If it can’t find them then it will settle for substitutes – self harm, drugs, stupefaction or suicide. Not so much unemployment as radicalisation or termination.

You want proof. Here’s the story of the day. An oil tanker with two million barrels of oil on board has been commandeered by Somalian pirates. Somalia is virtually a lawless country without a government. The pirates are largely unemployed traditional fishermen who have organised themselves. They became unemployed after illegal industrial trawlers fished their seas dry. They saw these trawlers come into their waters and take what they wanted with impunity. Now what is a healthy mind and body to think when its livelihood is suddenly taken away?

“Hey, if they can do that to our fish, why can’t we just do that with their trawlers? Let’s just help ourselves. Wait a minute, why stop at trawlers?”

Governments beware of high unemployment. Here’s another scenario; “Those greedy banking bastards just took all my life savings, and they’re still rich… why don’t I just take it back..?

Jump you fuckers

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Such was the outrage at the collapse of Wall Street recently that some indignant citizen (who presumably, lost a great deal of money) posted a hand scrawled sign on Wall Street, exhorting its occupants to do just that. A knee jerk reaction, you would imagine, an oversimplified world-view perpetuated by the moronic media. Nobody could be that stupid or greedy. You would be wrong.

There is always a suspicion that one or two rouge elements in any system could be capable of crossing the line of decency, morality, legality, but surely, you would think, not an entire organisation, not an entire industry? Again, you would be wrong.

Here is a story which beggars belief regarding the sheer greed and stupidity of business leaders who have been entrusted with billions of dollars of other peoples money. It is not a story for the faint hearted. It is not a story for anyone who has managed investment funds and wants to sleep at night.

Here is a sample of the kind of monumental stupidity the article discusses;

In Bakersfield, California, a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $720,000.

Sometimes, fairy stories are not so far off the mark. Read the article here…

The buck starts here

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

You are a member of a small island group of people in the Pacific ocean living simply and sustainably. Your ancestral stories go back several generations. Living is fun and fulfilling.

Then one day you notice the sea has come further up the beach than is usual. Over a few years the sea level has risen alarmingly and during storms the houses nearest the beach always flood. Your island is only several metres above sea level at its highest point. At the continuing rate of rise your entire island will be under water in a couple of decades.

If this was a result of natural phenomena you would just shrug your shoulders and adapt as best you can. But if you knew this was the result of some strange race of people living on the other side of the world doing things to the environment in an utterly careless way, you would be appalled, disbelieving, angry…

So now you are a member of a large island group of people living a complex and unsustainable life style. Life is not much fun but it is tolerable. Then one day you notice the media is full of stories about the rising tide of debt and how it has risen to levels not seen before. Suddenly a fierce financial storm threatens to drown your island and everyone living on the island starts bailing debt as fast as they can. Many drown.

Then you discover that this tsunami of debt was the result of some strange race of people living in America doing things to the financial environment in an utterly careless way and you become appalled, disbelieving, angry…

But then, in the aftermath, you learn that the great expanse of sea between America and here is actually no barrier at all and that, in fact, you are part of that strange race of people doing things so carelessly to the environment.

Eternity, eternity, eternity, eternity, eternity

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

In King Lear, the death of a daughter provokes this line from Lear;

“…Never, never, never, never, never.”

That is the correct way of writing ‘never’, it should be repeated five times. In this way, at least you start to get a grasp of what the word is trying to convey and it would deter people from using it needlessly.

Equally, the word eternity should always be written as I have it in the title of this post. It is a paradox. By giving it a name we have tried to contain it in a concept. Thus we simultaneously destroy the very thing we are trying to create. That is the tragedy of language. We think it enables us as a species when in reality it diminishes us.

And so I apologise beforehand for the descriptive inadequacy of this post. But there is a remedy. You could try what I am about to describe for yourself.

On the recent trip to Spain with my family, we had to return using a flight that required us to get up at 2.30 am. We had stopped with friends during the holiday and they lived in a mountain valley far from any large towns. The house itself was isolated and was several hundred metres from the nearest street light. As I emerged from the house to load the car with our bags I wasn’t prepared for the sight that greeted me.

The mountains that faced the house were painted the colour of black hole. They seemed to have been removed from the picture. The night sky above them was also black but appeared to have a faint light shining behind it as if I were within a huge dome of black marble. The dome itself was punctured with thousands of little holes of varying sizes through which this light poured. It was a stunning set piece. I was a rabbit caught in the most dazzling headlights one can imagine and I stood frozen to the spot trying to make sense of it.

And therein lies the terrible price of being a human being. That was the existentialist void I was caught in – language was bubbling away in the cauldron of my head when something else, something ineffable, invited me to remain silent, to just be there, to become part of the eternal.

In the end language won. I took the poorer option but only because I wanted to share the moment with you dear reader at a later date and in order to do that I had to sacrifice the now for the clumsy concepts of language. The best I could come up with that described the moment was; Eternity, eternity, eternity, eternity, eternity.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it.


Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

That’s what Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, facetiously calls compliant people. He has a point.

On returning from a family holiday today (it was my family, not someone else’s) an incident occurred which illustrated his knowing sarcasm.

We entered the boarding area of the airport we were flying from to discover all the available seats were taken by the other waiting passengers on our flight. So instead of just waiting where we stood or in some corner, I decided we should stand and wait right in front of the door which led to the passage taking people to the aircraft. Our tickets didn’t have seat numbers on so it made sense to be at the head of the queue and have the pick of the seats when we boarded the aircraft first.

As we positioned ourselves in front of the closed glass doors I overheard a fellow passenger behind me comment to his friend about our move.

‘That’s one way of doing it,’ he said, and within the space of twenty seconds had made up his mind that it was what he should do too. I heard him quickly shuffle into position directly behind me.

Then a remarkable thing happened. Within three or four seconds of him taking up his position I heard the flutter and rustle of clothes, arthritic limbs and hand luggage being swiftly manoeuvred into similar positions along the nascent and quickly developing queue. Within a fraction of a second after that a growing roar of movement, similar to a huge flock of birds taking off simultaneously, arced into a crescendo a few yards behind my head. As I turned round to look I had to suppress a wry laugh as I saw all the seats in the waiting lounge were now eerily vacant and all the passengers had formed a solid and slightly frightening compact queue behind me, vacuum packed with grim determination.

I felt somewhat sheepish myself because according to the announcement on a computer screen visible to all, there was still a good few minutes before the doors were due to be opened for the processing of the passengers. I felt I had somehow duped them.

But I didn’t sell them anything. I had just used some logical reasoning to create an advantage for myself. Although, it could be argued I suppose, that because i did this publicly, it was the ’show’ part of the ’show and tell’ method of selling.

The result was an instant bandwagon with the final people in the queue being tragic double losers; not only were they the last in the queue and therefore could not derive any benefit from that position but they had also made themselves uncomfortable to boot by giving up their cosy seats.

I also got an insight into how powerful this herding principle is. If you can understand it and have the resources and or benefits to precipitate it, you can rule the world.

I will therefore add to the maxim, ‘divide and conquer’ the caveat, ‘herd and control’.