Sunday, 16 December 2018

Football and community building


We can often find something larger than ourselves in communities. Football in the contemporary world is a way of building communities, as it creates a sense of belonging. Each club has its own history, its own successes and its own failures. Some clubs pivot more towards one camp than the other. A club might have its own style of football; it might be more expansive or defensive. Some clubs might have a history of prioritising youth whilst others tend to sign players. Even the fans themselves might have their own individual characteristics. Some fan bases might have a good reputation whilst others might be more belligerent. Each team also has its own rival and derby.

Additionally, a club might be founded by a particular industry, so a club might be associated with a particular economic resource, such as steel. In other instances, clubs might be associated with political allegiances. For instance, Roma is the leftist team in Rome whilst Lazio has a fascist past. Certain clubs are sometimes associated with certain classes. In some cases they are more working class, in others they are more upper crust.
Nations experience real unity when their national team plays. It is one of the times that political and social differences are cast aside and when the whole nation come together. So, although it is a completely tribal game, it can sometimes transcend tribalism. 

Ultimately, people should support their local clubs. They form part of the communal nature of clubs in that way. One of the effects of globalisation is that people support clubs in other cities because they have the best players and spend millions on advertising.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

A Matter of Life and Death


A Matter of Life and Death is a film that was written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Pressburger. It has been re-released in cinemas over the Christmas period. You are truly in for a treat if you have not seen it – it is, in every sense, a delightful film.

The film is about a British pilot i WWII, played by David Nevin. He is flying an air craft that has caught fire and is about to crash. As he falls to his death, he talks to an American woman over a wireless and they fall in love. He falls to the ground and, curiously, survives. He encounters the American woman and they forge a love affair. The film alternates between scenes in heaven – shot in black and white – and scenes in earth, which are shot in colour. We find that there is a glitch in the system and that he should really be in Heaven. A trial ensues in heaven, which tries to determine whether or not he should remain on Earth or returned to heaven. 
Stylistically, the film is astonishing. Despite being shot during war time austerity, it was an expensive film and it boasts some sublime sets. The editing is ingenious – Powell/Pressburger freeze the frame whenever an angel descends to Earth to communicate with Nevin. As with most films from the 40s, the colour is saturated. The scenes in Heaven are done grand, spectacular and have excellent attention to detail.

The politics of the film are intriguing, as the film was released when the Labour Party was elected with a landslide. Nevin at one point says that his politics are ‘conservative by nature, Labour by experience.’ Indeed, this was very much the mood of the time. Whilst socially and temperamentally very conservative, the country was enacting an ambitious and economically distributive program that would ‘take the shame out of need.’
Heaven has its own judicial system. The laws of heaven are broken for the first time, so that the individual can stay on Earth. The case is that Nevin loves the woman and has too much to live for. There is also a wonderful scene where Britain is defended as a bastion of individual rights and freedoms. The case is made against an American, who were fast becoming a world power. A sense of justice pervades the film because there is a sense that Nevin is a good citizen who will be a gift to the world. A scientific distrust of the divine is overturned and this is not really because the film is religious, it is really because, after the horrors of the war, a New Jerusalem will be built and anything is possible. 

There is some theology in the film, however it is hard to tell if it is really Christian. Plato and Aristotle are invoked. Plato claimed that there was a world of ideas that was more real than the Earthly world and that this world of ideas underpins this imperfect world. Aristotle tentatively suggested that the intellect might survive the human body. It is hard to tell if it really is a Christian heaven, as there is not much mention of Christ. It seems that it is a more Platonic heaven, as ideas are discussed and it seems to be founded on rational principles.
This really is a wonderful film. The 1940s were the high-point of British cinema, as it produced creative, stylistically daring and quintessentially British films. The Ealing Studios also produced a series of dazzling and inventive films. Mark Kermode recently asserted that this is the best British film ever made, which is not a controversial claim.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

PLANET ZHELANIE - NOVEL

I thought that I'd let my (meagre) audience that I have written a novel.

It is about a planet located in a parallel universe that comprised of the mind of a single individual. New space-time is created by 1) writing texts, 2) reducing the ego, 3) engaging with appearance in an objective way. The goal is to achieve one's wish, however the surroundings work against the individual realising his goals when those three aspects are undeveloped. As you can tell, it's a tad bit all over the place and confused.

I am sending them to some friends/acquaintances. I have two spare copies, however (I ended up with 17 copies, as opposed to 15). If you want a copy (yes, you! I don't know you, but you - vaguely - know me! unless my blog traffic is just comprised of bots!), just send me an e-mail! I can send it you via post and I won't charge you for it. If I run out of copies, I can just send you a PDF via e-mail.


Saturday, 17 November 2018

The legacy of three generations


Generations are often categorised, which is not always helpful, as it is obviously a generalisation. Nonetheless, it does help us make sense of things. If there is any generation that we owe a debt to it, it is ‘the silent generation.’ This is the generation that roughly from the 1910s to the 1970s and fought in the Second World War.
This generation lived through the First World War, the Great Depression and witnessed the growth of fascism and communism in Europe, which threatened their civilisation and values. They fought in the Second World War and sacrificed their freedoms to protect the freedoms of future generations. Millions of people died to save Europe from degenerating into fascism.

Following this, they made a concerted effort not to go back to the rampant unemployment and poverty of the 1930s. Indeed, ‘The Beveridge Report’ sold 600,000 copies. The book aimed to tackle ‘squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease.’ The Labour Party was elected in 1945 and implemented Beveridge’s ideas by creating the welfare state. They also created the NHS, which was spearheaded by Anuerin Bevan as minister of health. ‘No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means,’ he claimed. The spate of reforms during this period did much to protect workers and for a long time we had full employment.
This generation also made a concerted effort to avoid another world war. The UN was created, as well the germ of the European Union - ‘The European Coal and Steel Community.’ The IMF was also created to prevent countries from sliding into economic chaos.

The Baby Boom generation benefited from the economic comfort that was bequeathed to them by their parents. There had never been a generation that was born with so much so security and so many opportunities. However, they were more prone to virtue signalling than their parents. At the same time, they were extremely indulgent. They indulged in heavy drugs and engaged in wild orgies. On the other hand, they waved placards and protested against social injustice and figures of authority.
The song ‘Taxman’ by The Beatles exemplified this very well. Ostensibly, The Beatles care about justice and world peace, but were still unwilling to do contribute back to society by paying their fair share of tax. It was bogus.

The activist Jerry Rubin is very representative of many hippies. He was active in revolutionary politics, but he really did nothing constructive to change society. He squawked about ‘capitalist pigs,’ ‘straights’ and ‘war,’ but really did nothing apart from indulging in casual sex and heavy drugs with free-spirited abandon. Ten years later, he became a clean-shaven millionaire stock broker in Wall Street. Really, there was not much difference in this career move – it was equally indulgent. Cases like this are legion.

The legacy of this generation is not good. They deregulated the financial system, which led to the financial crash. They voted for Brexit. There is little affordable housing, the NHS and other public services are creaking and there is low growth. They still have the gall to complain about
millennials, which is a bit rich. We are the ones who will have to pick up the pieces.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Liberty/equality

Liberty

- We should have a free press where everyone can voice any views they like on society. Power must be scrutinised at all times and all individuals can voice dissenting views. No opinions should be silenced.

- Autonomy should be a human right. Most individuals want to choose what to do with their own lives - depriving them of that right deprives them of their humanity.

- Markets are usually the most effective way of allocating resources.

- There should be property rights - individuals should be able to start businesses and own their intellectual property.

- Society is more interesting when it is pluralistic and diverse, not homogeneous. Difference should be celebrated, not ostracised. 

Equality

- There should be safety nets that mitigate the excesses of a free-for-all market capitalism.

- Health care should be socialised. Health problems can't be predicted and are accidental - hence, it rests upon the state to provide health care for everyone, free at the point of use.

- Education should be a human right and quality education should be equally accessible to everyone.

- Markets should not be left alone - they should be regulated so that the public is not taken advantage of. There should be a minimum wage and some union labour rights.

- The government should control equality of outcome to some degree. There should be some redistribution of wealth to ensure that one segment of society is not exceedingly richer than the rest, as this creates inequality, resentment and it is unjust.

- There should be social reforms that tackle social injustices, unfairness and other forms of discrimination.

- There should be social programs that assist people and help them back to work.

- Utilities should be publicly owned, as they are something that people need and private companies should not ratchet up prices to chase profits.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Epiphanies


An epiphany is a moment when an individual suddenly realises something important and life-changing. It is an almost mystical experience – you encounter something and this experience changes your entire world-view. This type of experience has been recreated many times in art. The modernists, for instance, sought epiphanic experiences. Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time starts when its protagonist eats a madeleine and he subsequently looks back on his entire life.

Many people shape their political world-view after such an experience. Roger Scruton became a conservative in 1968 when he witnessed radical leftists looting and pillaging the streets of Paris. He was twenty-four at the time, when his politics had been ‘vaguely left-wing.’ These leftist activists wanted to stage a revolution and replace it with something vaguely Marxist. Scruton said at the time: I decided, yes, of course there is such a thing as the bourgeoisie and you are it, these well-fed, pampered middle-class students whose one concern was to throw stones at working-class people who happened to be in a policeman’s uniform.’ His politics underwent a volte-face and he has been an arch conservative ever since. The radical leftists were certainly twits, but Scruton decided that they were so bad that he would espouse a world-view that was diametrically opposed to theirs.



P. J. O’Rourke is another example. A self-styled ‘Republican reptile,’ O’Rourke is a libertarian. He believes that government invariably damages and stultifies economy and society and should be limited as much as possible. He claims that he used to be a communist in the 1960s. His own politics took a 180 degree turn when he started his first job, when his income had been taxed. Following this, he came to the conclusion that the U.S.A. ‘had communism already’ and he became an ardent libertarian. He really was a bit naive, since he surely must have known that his income would be taxed. 



Michelle Bauchman is a Republican congresswoman who underwent a similar conversion. She had been a Liberal until she read
Burr by Gore Vidal. Vidal has always been on the left of American politics and has always criticised the wealthy, greedy and powerful. Bauchman claimed the following: 'Until I was reading this snotty novel called Burr, by Gore Vidal, and read how he mocked our Founding Fathers. And as a reasonable, decent, fair-minded person who happened to be a Democrat, I thought, 'You know what? What he's writing about, this mocking of people that I revere, and the country that I love, and that I would lay my life down to defend - just like every one of you in this room would, and as many of you in this room have when you wore the uniform of this great country - I knew that that was not representative of my country.’ So at that point she decided to become a small government, conservative Republican.



None of this makes sense. I, personally, correct my views over a long length of time. I read, learn and experience new things. I don’t have one sudden revelation that forces me to radically change my views. Maybe these people are exaggerating, but I am sure that they also form their views after long, protracted and careful consideration of facts and ideas.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Nature and stress


Nature is beautiful in the same way art is beautiful – it is pleasing to the eye. However, like art, it is has high utilitarian value. Walks in nature help us to cope with depression and stress and they also help us to escape problems.


There is mounting scientific evidence that nature does do these things. The reason for this is that urban environments are crammed with excessive information. People come to contact with constant stimulation, which is termed ‘hard fascination’ and this leads to cognitive fatigue. Meanwhile, in natural environments we deal with less information, which leads to ‘soft fascination.’ The environment that we process is also aesthetically pleasing, which leads to feelings of pleasure. There is also, of course, a sense of escape from the problems that we encounter in urban environs. Nature often makes us feel better, which is why they are called ‘restorative environments.’
Many scientists believe that our minds are not equipped to deal with so much information. The internet inundates us with multiples sources of information and we often access such information compulsively. Hence, these ‘restorative environments’ lead to a healthier state of mind, which help us to be more creative and also enhance our problem solving skills.

We lived in green, natural environments for thousands of years. Another interesting theory is that we feel less stressed in natural environments because our minds adapted to live in such environments. This theory holds that urban environments are unnatural and cause us to experience stress, depression and anxiety. Additionally, nature was crucial in helping us to survive. Plants helped us to find shelter and water and thus helped us to evolve our brains, which is an unnatural ‘mismatch’. Some of these mismatches were beneficial, such as sleeping on mattresses instead of the ground. Others may have contributed to disease and reduced our quality of life and these negative mismatches are termed ‘discords.’ Our brains are vulnerable to discords because they are complex organs that mature after birth and respond to external stimulation. Exposure to plants might have been what our minds were naturally predisposed to processing and the absence of this might have predisposed us to develop mental illnesses. 

There have been political movements that have revolted against technological progress and sought to return to a more natural mode of experience. The most notorious movement were the ‘Luddites’ during the Industrial Revolution. The Unabomber – otherwise known as Ted Kaczynski - was an anarchist neo-luddite who launched a crusade against technology from the 1970s to the 1990s. He was a formidable mathematician who left a comfortable job as a university lecturer and fled to the woods to lead a hermetic existence. He wrote works of political philosophy and, most disturbingly, sent bombs out to airports and universities. He believed that technology was unnatural and that a human society built upon technological progress regulates and stifles human freedom. Wild nature – that is, nature that is not regulated by technology – allows individual freedom to flourish. Unabomber said that ‘it is only necessary to get rid of industrial society.’ He did not think that it was necessary to create a new social order, as the French and Russian revolutions did. He wanted to eliminate ordered society and technological progress so that individuals could be completely free in natural environments.
Of course, this was psychotic behaviour. It is still vital for us to engage with nature, however, and it should, ultimately, be a vital aspect in our lives.