Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Donald Trump: President for Our Times

This article was rejected. I probably got too cynical, twisted and long-winded here. If Trump saw this, he'd probably say 'it's because you're a LOSER!'


Narcissism involves excessive self-absorption. A narcissist is someone who is completely obsessed with himself or his own physical appearance. In the most pathological case, a narcissist has an inflated sense of self-worth, excessively craves admiration and does not understand the needs and feelings of others. In the most pathological case, a narcissist will deliberately manipulate other people and draw attention to himself.

It would be a sweeping statement to say that we are a culture of narcissists, but it would not be far off the truth either. Media like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter seem help us to aggrandise ourselves. Users on Instagram constantly take photographs of themselves, of their food, of their dogs – and they want to remind you all the time. Statuses on Facebook remind you of their personal problems and they genuinely seem to think that you should care. Twitter seems to be a constant attention contest – each ephemeral, meaningless statement vying to go viral. 

Thomas Hobbes wrote a book of political philosophy called Leviathan. In that book, the ‘Sovereign’ is a leader who embodies all the citizens of a given society. He is the people. He can decide for them and legislate for them. He has special constitutional powers because every single citizen is embodied by him.

Donald Trump is quite likely the sovereign for our narcissistic times. He probably thinks that he embodies everyone and he would try to override the constitution and the law if he could. He has an inflated sense of self-worth. He claims to have an expertise in every field. Indeed, he claims that ‘nobody can do it like me,’ ‘nobody loves The Bible more than I do,’ ‘nobody is better with people with disabilities than me,’ ‘nobody understands devaluation better than me,’ ‘nobody understands taxes better than I do,’ ‘nobody understands debt better than I do,’ ‘nobody understands infrastructure better than me’ - on and on and on. As a businessman, architects and engineers would design buildings, other PR people would promote them and, then, when it was all completed, he would emblazon his own name in gold on top of it and claim all credit for himself. He is so convinced of his own brilliance that he thinks that he deserves to be president, despite having no prior political experience.

So Donald Trump does seem to be an appropriate president for our times, as so many of us seem to be narcissists. Trump might very well be our ‘sovereign.’ If we are all narcissists, then he might embody all of us. And if he is so convinced of his own brilliance, he can flout all political and constitutional norms.   

Friday, 12 January 2018

Synopsis: Communal Town and Liberal City

This brief text is a synopsis of an entry that I want to write for my book 'Collected Essays.'


 Many thought systems have either communitarian or individualistic foundations. Interestingly, more individualistic thought systems, such as existentialism and modernism, originated after communities deserted rural towns and moved into the city. Liberal values – and liberalism is ultimately predicated on the primacy of the individual – became more influential after the population of cities increased (Cox 2013).

Why are towns more communal? They have smaller populations, which foster social cohesion, shared values and a shared culture. Families often stay in the same town for thousands of years, meaning that traditions are conserved and they are passed on from generation to generation. Towns have community centres, churches, libraries and local councils. Blue Labour is a think-tank within the Labour Party which advocates these beliefs and it argues that the Labour Party lost its way when it preoccupied itself with abstract ideas such as equality (Bew 2016). It criticises Blair for embracing globalisation, since in its view it has decimated British manufacturing, depressed working-class town and, as such, destroyed local communities (Derbyshire 2011). It is also sceptical of the welfare state implemented by Clement Attlee from 1945-51 because it claims that it created a large bureaucracy which intruded into the private lives of families and that it created a culture of dependency (Score 2011). It also distrusts Gordon Brown’s world-view, as he embraced both the state and the market (Derbyshire).

This is an example of contemporary communitarian thinking. Globalisation has come under scrutiny recently for undermining such communities and some people have argued that their resentment has facilitated the rise of demagogues like Donald Trump. The city, meanwhile, has benefited from globalisation and could be seen as a reservoir of liberalism. Cities are often atomised, meaning that they are comprised of millions of individuals who pursue their own interests and they do not come into contact with one another. Examples of thought systems that emerged from this atomisation include existentialism and modernism. Existentialism argued that individuals should forge their own moral values and make their own choices in a world where prescriptive thought systems such as Christianity have been shattered (Burnham 2011). The Trial is a modernist novel by Franz Kafka and its protagonist Joseph K. lives an isolated existence in a vast city, where he works as a clerk. He has no belief system and he is constantly hounded by a vast and complex bureaucracy that does not specify why he is being persecuted. Modernist literature often portrayed this atomisation that the city created and it contravenes the communitarian principles of Blue Labour. The bureaucracy of the state permeates the world of Kafka whilst the market alienates its protagonist and does not imbue him with common values or culture.

Works Cited
Bew, John. (2016) Citizen Clem. Quercus: London.
Burnham, Douglas. (1995) Existentialism. [Online] Available from: http://www.iep.utm.edu/existent/
Cox, Wendell. (2013) Observations on Urbanisation: 1920-2010. [Online.] Avaliable from: http://www.newgeography.com/content/003675-observations-urbanization-1920-2010
Derbyshire, Jonathan. (2011) Voice of the Heartlands. [Online] Available from: https://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2011/04/labour-glasman-work-tradition
Kuiper, Kathyrn. (2009) Modernism. [Online] Available from https://www.britannica.com/art/Modernism-art
Score, Steve. (2011) Review: Blue Labour. [Online] Available from: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/664/11577/30-03-2011/review-blue-labour

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Trouge Magazine

Trouge is a website that's kindly publishing some of my writings. I am writing three articles per week for them, which might lead to an internship.

They're not using all of them, though. One of them has been rejected. I'll publish the rejected ones on this blog.


Ahoy Facebook #7

These are my latest bits and pieces from Facebook.


Something I've noticed is that groups of people with a niche interest often tend to bemoan how everyone else is not interested in what they do. (I'm often guilty of this, too.) Go to a scientific conference and large chunks of dialogue will find them complaining as to how people are too emotional and not sufficiently logical. Go to some nutty left-wing conference and you'll find that everyone is incensed because no-one wants to get politically organised. Go to a conference about classical music and the speakers will lament how everyone's musical tastes are trashy. Composers of modern classical music will also complain as to how oppressively niche their occupation is.
Well, all those people are lucky enough to make a living from those things (and the odds of that are exceedingly low) and that really is quite a luxury. If you work 40 hours every week in some grim job, it can also be quite painstaking to listen to a modern classical piece or read about particle physics. Also, in a free, open and democratic society citizens are free to make their own choices as long as they are lawful. If you think that economies should be planned and that everyone should do such and such and buy such and such, then you really are a bit of a lunatic.


It seems that reckless irresponsibility and reckless radicalism is only okay for the Conservatives when they do it.
Brexit is quite possibly the most radical idea that we have ever tried to enact. We are dislodging ourselves from thousands of laws and leaving our main trading partner. Inflation is creeping up and the pound is falling. We would have to increase our exports/imports with the US with the US by 40% if we wanted to only rely on them and this already seemed unlikely before they decided to start imposing high tariffs on us. This is radical and reckless, but it seems okay to the Conservatives because they are the ones taking the decisions.
Likewise, the austerity measures implemented by Cameron/Osbourne were unprecedented because there were so many of them and were so quick. Again, that's very radical. Thatcher privatised utilities and destroyed British manufacturing, but she largely left welfare alone. Even the IMF warned them not to push the the cuts through so quickly.
And they start claiming that Gordon Brown ruined the country, or that Ed Miliband was a threat. Gordon Brown bailed out the banks, which would have otherwise collapsed, with money from the bank of England and left behind a deficit. What would have they done? Nothing? Again, isn't that reckless? Ed Miliband was a menace because he wanted to freeze energy prices and stop estate agents charging fees. It isn't quite so apocalyptic when Theresa May makes those exact pledges in her manifesto, however.


The left claim that the BBC is biased and the right claim that the BBC is biased. They both claim that it is a state-funded liberal conspiracy.
I rarely watch BBC News because it is anodyne and boring. It's just a loop that goes round and round all week. I watch Dateline London every Saturday, which I enjoy very much, because it is completely unlike the rest of the of their content - independent-minded individuals stating their opinions.
I find it amusing when people on the right of the spectrum and on the left lash out liberals. When you ask them about their beliefs in conversation, you often find that they believe in some liberal principles. They like to go as far away as possible on that spectrum because it doesn't make them look 'wet.'
Both camps complain that the coverage is biased. I watched a bit of (a pretty dreary) Labour conference and they had a pundit on who was pro-Corbyn. Yet many leftists complain that the coverage is unfair and that they never have any pundits who are pro-Corbyn. (This is a classic tactic practised by purist leftists - complain that the whole world is against you, so if something goes wrong then at least you have an excuse.) Whenever I go on the internet and see these nutty right-wing anti-BBC websites, they always complain that they only have left-wing commentators. Well, on Dateline London I'd say that 70% of the commentators are 'centre-right' and hold market liberal and/or social conservative views.
The thing is, though, if the far left claim that the BBC is a right-wing conspiracy, if the right-wing claim that the converse is true and if most of the content is anodyne and boring, then isn't this precisely what would happen if it were a neutral/unbiased broadcaster?


Apparently, our generation will not be well-documented for two reasons. Firstly, the paper we use is not durable. Secondly, we use the internet for a lot of our communication. Of course, the internet will come to an end eventually and it will not be very well-documented.
I'm sure that the internet will be fascinating to future historians. It will be seen as this vast repository of information. Also, future historians will find its democratic nature fascinating - how everyone effectively contributed to this vast archive. They will also find its globalist slant fascinating - i.e. the way in which the entire world communicated with each other via social media. However, it will largely be a mystery as they won't be able to access it.
I think that we can take measures to allay this. If Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece conserved their culture for future generations, why can't we do it? We should select the most culturally important work - i.e. the most important literature, art, scientific research, etc. - and print it in durable paper. We should also print the most representative aspects of popular culture - i.e. social media etc. - so that future generations have a sense of what our culture was like. Finally, we should conserve these artefacts in a safe and protected place so that future generations can find them.


Abstract concepts are not about physical objects in the real world. They're often ideas about the events and objects in the real world, but they make sense of the nature and meaning of these objects. For example, they are not about radio as objects, they are about the nature of radios and what that means.
The funny thing is, though, is that whenever I see a certain term denoting an abstract concept, images of the real world world flood my mind. For instance, some abstract economic terms that I encounter (I've been looking into economics a little bit more recently) are 'laissez-faire' and 'corporatist.' The former term means private, voluntary transactions free from government interference, which sounds pretty sinister to me. Whenever I see the term, I picture really tall sate-of-the-art buildings in London and I picture fat cats/bankers walking into them. The term 'corporatist' refers to arrangements when government, business and unions merge to form a huge single entity (similar to the economic structure in Britain from the 40s to the 70s). When I see this term, I picture a run-down building teeming with many people and I picture a table of (potentially sinister) union leaders addressing the crowd. In my imagination, they usually have bushy eyebrows and they usually look cantankerous.
Quite possibly one of the most abstract terms out there is 'phenomenology.' It involves subjective experience and your particular subjective perception of objective events. It can't get more abstract than that because it's not making reference to the real world at all. When I see this term, I picture some brooding Russian thinker with a long beard (someone like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsy) sitting next to a fireplace and submerged in deep thought.
These are my subjective perceptions when I see these terms. However, it does make me wonder how equipped we really are to process abstract ideas. Maybe it's just my peculiar thought patterns. However, several schools of thoughts rarely make reference to the nature of their arguments and they are often instead named after the person who created them: Keynesianism, Darwinism, Newtonian physics, Thatcherism, etc. Again, this is maybe because it's easier for us to remember these ideas when we relate them to something in the real world - an individual, an event, a point in history, a geographic location,etc


Here is an ostentatious and badly framed photograph of part of my CD collection. I listen to these discs whilst doing the dishes. The artists, from top to bottom, are: Edgard Varese, Ludwig van Beethoven, Robert Wyatt, Franz Schubert, Metallica, J. S. Bach, The Fall, Glenn Miller, Blind Willie Johnson, Captain Beefheart, Louis Armstrong and Gyorgy Ligeti. Needless to say, I have great taste. : )

Yesterday I was at three international airports. When I arrived at the first airport, I was struck by how cosmopolitan it was (obviously). I tried to think of the most precise term to describe the bizarre feeling that I was, really, in no country at all. I was, rather, in some strange netherworld - I was stuck in a border between different countries. I thought of the term 'liminal,' which denotes border spaces. 'Liminal spaces' involve physical, conceptual, spiritual, etc. borders between two often diametrically opposed places.
Of course, we live in globalist and cosmopolitan times (even though the Trumps, Erdogans and Theresa Mays of this world wish to roll that back), but airports take it further. You pay no taxes for the products that you buy, nor you a citizen of any government and nor are you in any country as such. If you do something imprudent, you are not violating the law of any country.
It also reminds of one of the first literary novels that I read from to cover (at the age of 16) - 'Naked Lunch' by William Burroughs. I hardly understood a word of it (I returned to it at the age of 19 and, again, hardly understood it), but then that would probably please Mr. Burroughs, as it was probably his intention to produce something unintelligible, druggy and inordinately weird. His later 'cut-up' novels are even more unreadable, as he simply cut out texts from books and newspapers with scissors and spliced them together. He was one of the first authors that appealed to me when I started reading books, but the older I get the less appealing and interesting he becomes.
Sorry about that digression. In his novel 'Naked Lunch,' Burroughs envisioned a surreal place called 'Interzone.' This was modelled on Tangiers, a city in Morocco where pampered middle-class bohemians like Burroughs went to do heavy drugs and meet other like-minded pampered bohemians. Tangiers had a cosmopolitan feel to it, which you can experience in many parts of the world today. Some people thought that it prefigured the internet, but then Interzone in Burroughs was a real physical place, not digital. (It might have just been a place where drug-addicts imagined and met each other synergetically. Or maybe not. Again, I hardly understood a word of this messy, druggy book.) I think that you really experience Interzone when you visit airports. You experience a strange liminal space where a plethora of people of different nationalities mingle. It is a place where you are not really in concretely real place at all.


People of a more literary stripe often claim that our current generation is not sufficiently contemplative, does not read and that technology/social media is somehow to blame for this. They seem to have a halcyon age in mind, where individuals sat next to a fireplace and thought for hours on end.
The thing is, though, is that the manner in which we consume our information has always been fast. For instance, three generations have grown up with film. Most films are edited in a quick way and they are sequential. This goes all the way back to Charlie Chaplin in the 1920s.
There are some really gorgeous films that are not like that at all. For instace, films by Tarkovsky and Bela Tarr last for hours and they are comprised of really long takes where very little happens in the frame. I'm not at all bored by these films - on the contrary, I find them absorbing. They are sparser and more contemplative, but they are antithetical to the fast audiovisual culture that we have grown up with and are accustomed to.
I also highly doubt that people somehow had greater attention spans and were more thoughtful before the advent of film. Most of the great novels from the 19th century were serialised in magazines. If you notice, a lot of the chapters in novels by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Dickens etc. end in cliffhangers.
Also, I wonder how healthy it is for people to go around trying to encourage others to pursue idle time and sit alone and think. I enjoy sitting in a room for hours on end and I can entertain myself by looking at a wall and follow disparate trains of thought. I am able to do that, however, because I have economic privilege and a lot of idle time on my hands. The majority of people in the 19th century didn't sit next to a fireplace (only aristocrats with too much idle time on their hands did that), they worked exploitative hours in pretty squalid conditions. It can be very enriching to do all this, but I don't know if it's altogether desirable that everyone should be doing it. It's better for others to do something about poverty, social justice, civic responsibility, etc.


Here is an ostentatious photograph of the books that I have bought in Chile. : )
The first book is a history of Chile from 1500 to 2000. It starts with the Spanish invasion and ends with the transition to democracy after Pinochet. I would like to read more about Chilean history, but I thought that this was a good place to start as it is shorter and more broad, so it is essentially an overview. The other books they had were longer and more specialised.
The second book is a history of Chilean comics from 1962 to 1982. This was the golden age of Chilean comics and I read a lot of them when I was a little kid. It places all of the comics in their social, political and economic context.
The third book is a novel by José Donoso. I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on one of his books and I really his themes and the way he writes. His books are absurd, bizarre and humorous and they comment on Chilean society. I'd happily read his entire bibliography.


My year in books...



Ostentatious photo #3. One of my lovely Chilean aunts gave me a generous sum of money, so I spent it on these two books. : )
The first book is a memoir written by former chancellor of the exchequer and PM Gordon Brown. (Brace yourself for a wild digression.) I think that the country would have benefited enormously in the late 70s/early 80s and then the early 2010s if it had been governed by the Labour right. In the former case, Dennis Healey might have been PM and would have done something to protect British manufacturing, unemployment and poverty whilst still tightly controlling the supply of money, controlling inflation and opening up Britain to world markets. He would have also kept moderately high tax rates on the highest earners and he wasn't allergic to borrowing, which would have meant that public services and infrastructure wouldn't have been in such a parlous state throughout the 1980s. Alas, the Labour party lurched wildly to the left and Thatcher monopolised power.
In Brown's case, he wouldn't have pushed so many public sector cuts through so quickly and he wouldn't have called a silly referendum. Growth, wages, productivity and welfare would all be in a better condition. It's downright silliness how people blame him for the 'mess that Labour left.' He bailed out the banks with money from the bank of England and left behind a huge deficit/recession. He was instrumental in rescuing the world banks. The Tories would have left them default and would have let savings and money die. Just thank your lucky stars that he was PM at that point in time.
He was also a political and intellectual heavyweight, which are in short supply at the moment. Compare Yvette Cooper (a Brownite) with Brown, Jeremy Corbyn with Michael Foot and Tony Benn or even Liz Kendall with Tony Blair and it really makes you lose the will to live. Blair/Brown led a Trotskyite 'command and control' of the party, which meant that all minsters had to follow the party line and there was very little room for independence. This meant that more independent-minded ministers left in droves and we were left with lightweight understudies like Cooper and Kendall. This is a major reason why Corbyn found it so easy to win his leadership election.
The other book is '4 3 2 1' by Paul Auster. I really love his earliest books, such as 'The New York Trilogy' and 'The Music of Chance.' He's what's known as (forgive the ponceyness) a 'post-modernist' (I don't think that anyone honestly knows what that really means). In other words, he plays around with narrative, he is self-referential, references other books and often includes himself as a protagonist. He also writes very fluidly and his books are hard to put down. He is almost a bestselling version of Borges.
His books often have very similar themes. His novels often follow a protagonist who is isolated from the rest of society, lives a frugal existence, undergoes an existential crisis and then a chance encounter leads him to find an obscure French book from the 1920s and, along the way, he meets a pretty lady. Around the mid-90s that formula started to get a bit stale.
But lo and behold, he has broken the mould. This book is different for a number of reasons. It is longer and the sentences are more elaborate and baroque. It follows four parallel lives of the same individual. It covers a lot of social history of the USA. It's meant to be his best book (I like 'The New York Trilogy' so much that I find that hard to believe).



It's Christmas, so I thought that I'd share a little bit of music. There's nothing particularly 'festive' about this piece of music, but then Bach is quite possibly one of the composers most associated with Christianity and Christmas is supposedly about celebrating Christ (although among my circles it's a secular get-together). This piece is brilliant, but then so much of what Bach wrote is brilliant.



Now this is just brilliant.


1. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, Germany)
2. Jackie (Pablo Larraín, USA)
3. Silence (Martin Scorcese, USA)
4. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, USA)
5. The Student (Kirill Serebrennikov, Russia)
6. The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannuci, UK)
7. Elle (Paul Verhoeven, France)
8. Graduation (Cristian Mingiu, Romania)
9. Happy End (Michael Haneke, France)
10. The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi, Iran)
This was a ridiculously good year for film, but I didn't keep up with a lot of it. (One of my many hobbies is to keep with new releases and watch classic films.) For instance, I missed 'Dunkirk' by Christopher Nolan and 'Loveless' by Andrey Zvyagintsev, which might have made their way into this list. I still managed to see some good ones and I think that this is still a stellar list.
This list is only comprised of films which received a theatrical release in the UK in 2017.


Thought: Might Jeremy Corbyn go down as a Neville Chamberlain-type figure? i.e. Chamberlain didn't want to go to war with Hitler and wanted to secure peace because there were still memories of WWI. Jeremy Corbyn is a Eurosceptic and would ultimately like to leave the EU (because of his leftist/Bennite/Socialist politics). Might a Churchillian leader emerge within the Labour Party and try to keep Britain within Europe through sheer force of will?
Answer: probably not.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Ahoy Facebook #6

Here are my latest tidbits from Facebook.


I love this music. It's very singular and individualised - Partch built his own instruments just so that he could play it, as standard instruments couldn't play 'microtones' - but it's also very sensitive to the music of antiquity.



I voted Labour because 1) I like my local MP, Natascha Engel, 2) A vote for any other progressive party would be wasted in this constituency and help the Tories and 3) I don't want the Labour party to disappear and I sill want it to have a strong parliamentary presence. They have done a lot more for this country than any other party (way more than the Whigs and the Liberals).

Hung parliament? Hahahaha. Serves you right, Theresa May.

Now this is a strange one. It's a puzzle which was released just before the 2015 general election. The premise is '... If Labour Wins the General Election.' The subtitle is 'Use your imagination to puzzle thoughts into reality.' The implication (tellingly, perhaps) seems to be that the thought of Labour winning power is risible in the first place.
The drawing style is reminiscent of 'Beano.' Ed Miliband is prime minister and he is confronted by David Cameron, leader of the opposition, and Nick Clegg. Several other politicians are depicted in goofy ways.
In, say, 20 years' time, this will be a remarkable historical artefact, a complete curiosity. I'm definitely keeping this. It's also a nice companion piece to a t-shirt I own that bears the following caption: 'If Ed Miliband were prime minister, none of this would have happened.'
Sorry about the bad lighting.


I vaguely knew this, but it hadn't sunk in enough to make a difference. Several people - including myself - use the plural of a word and follow it with the verb 'is.' I might often say 'politics is important' when I should really say 'Politics ARE important.' More examples: 'The media ARE biased,' 'Metaphysics ARE interesting,' 'Aesthetics ARE wonderful,' etc. I'll never make the same mistake again.

1) Tal vez hay justicia en el fútbol cuando el equipo que personifica éstilo, posesión, coraje y fútbol atacante (Chile) le gana al equipo que personifica inercia, negatividad y fútbol defensivo (Portugal).
2) Maybe there is justice in football when the team that epitomises flair, possession, courage and attacking football (Chile) beat the team that epitomises inertia, negativity and defensive football (Portugal).

Politics and tidying up are very similar. They are both means to an end, not ends in themselves.
If I want to be productive and do stuff, a clean and tidy environment is conducive to that. Otherwise, I just end up mired in my own shit. However, this is just a means to an end – ordered surroundings yield results.
Likewise, politics are important because politics affect the choices and decisions that I reach. I should be engaged politically because I am affected by an array of laws. Finding meaning in politics, though, would be tedious.
(The only people who see politics as an end in itself are socialists/communists. They opt for ‘organisation’ over ‘freedom.’ The latter is much more exciting because freedom entails a limitless number of choices, creative decisions, etc. The former is dull because it is seldom interesting, or even productive. Another reason they annoy me is their complete contempt for pluralism. Their way of thinking is the correct way of thinking – everyone should sacrifice their freedoms and get organised. They reject the idea of an individual rationally reaching decisions for himself and want to coerce everyone into adopting the ‘party line.’ Most of the time they just meet each other, discuss Marxist thinkers, wave placards and die. What a waste.)
So, just as I read the newspaper every day, I should also tidy up and wash up. I shouldn’t let either of these two things be my primary activities, but they enable me to do the things that really matter.

I don’t understand the leftist antipathy towards liberalism. Ok, so classical liberalism does lead to an unequal distribution of wealth. I get that. (At least left-of-centre social democrats do the right thing. They just want to preserve a safety net and want strong public services. They want equality of opportunity. They often want to regulate the excesses of capitalism. Otherwise, they are keen to preserve individual liberties.) What I don’t understand is the leftist antipathy towards other liberal principles, such as: 1) individuals should reach decisions independently and rationally, 2) all ideas should be debated freely and openly and 3) a tolerance of diversity. They want the opposite: 1) groups and communities such liaise to reach a ‘majority opinion’ (and people should be coerced to do this even if they don’t want to), 2) an antipathy towards a co-existence of different principles, ideologies – everyone should hold the same values and 3) they want a homogeneous society. I don’t understand why you would go out of your way to scold people who prefer the first three options.

I love You Tube.
I can spend hours watching British politicians from the 1970s debating the Common Market and inflation. I can listen to highfalutin rhetoric and plummy accents. I can also see their dapper clothing and bushy eyebrows.
Following this, I can watch a stellar concert by bassist Charles Mingus and multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy. They were both jazz heavyweights, pushed boundaries and made great contributions to the genre's repertoire. And I can watch them play TOGETHER.
If I'm in a different mood, I can watch interviews with Latin American authors. They talk about their novels, the books that influenced them and they often comment on the history/politics of their country. I'm always excited to unearth an interview with one of these guys that I hadn't encountered before.
I can then watch a silent film from the 1920s that's unavailable on DVD.
This is a seriously impressive archive. Its scholarly value is tremendous. I know that this archival footage constitutes less than 1% of videos there. I know that it is teeming with immature narcissists making unfunny comedic sketches. People will then state generalities as to how this is symbolic of our cultural decline. If you ignore the immature narcissists, however (and that is a very easy thing to do), You Tube is an invaluable source.

It annoys me how political pressure groups, from both left and right, change language. They do so to such an extent that words start to mean the opposite of what they originally meant.
Take the word ‘equity.’ Movements often derogatorily labelled ‘SJWs’ claim to want ‘equity.’ Well, no, they don’t. Equity involves levelling out something completely. This means that everyone equally owns the same amount of property. Everyone has equal rights. That’s a fine ideal to aspire to.
The problem is that they start to defend equity and then claim that races, genders and classes have historically been oppressed. Dead white men have dominated history. This means that these oppressed races, genders and classes deserve more rights and that white heterosexual men need to be demonised because they have been historically privileged. Well, no, that isn’t equity! That’s the opposite!
It’s the same with the word ‘liberal,’ which now has the opposite meaning. I blame American political discourse for this. American politics is so dichotomous that you are either liberal or conservative. So these ‘SJWs’ are confusingly seen as ‘liberal’ over there. These movements say that people belong to groups. So, technically, I am not an individual – I am a privileged white male. I am part of a privileged economic class, so I am a priori scum. That’s the OPPOSITE of liberalism. They are often intolerant and want to deny political groups the right to free speech. Again, that’s the OPPOSITE of liberalism.
It’s the same with the word ‘progressive,’ which used to have really good connotations. It used to be used by governments which wanted to marry more redistributive economics with social liberalism. Now the word is complete poison. Call yourself a progressive now and people think that you are an intolerant person who wants to shut down all debate. They think that you believe in tripe like cultural appropriation, non-binary genders, identity politics etc. etc.
The right are not exempt from this. They often use the term ‘libertarian’ to defend anarcho-capitalism. So, they want zero government interference so that business people are free to do business. ‘Libertarianism’ was a word that lefty anarchists used in the late 19th/early 20th century. It meant a free-thinking individualist who defied government and corrupt business. It is now used by right-wing zealots who want to roll back the state and defer power to private business. Again, this word now has the opposite meaning.
Language does change over time, but it is meant to change organically. This is like George Orwell’s ‘Newspeak,’ where language is redefined and imposed on everyone else. All the cases that I cited above are cases of political pressure groups actively trying to change language. And it WORKS. As I mentioned above, words start to lose their original meaning and start to acquire the opposite meaning. It’s ridiculous for a decent individual who calls himself a liberal to be ridiculed as an illiberal zealot, for instance.

1) Voy a viajar a Chile. Estaré allí de noviembre a diciembre.
2) I am travelling to Chile. I will be there from November to December.

Ancient Greece, surprisingly, has not been recreated in cinema very much. There are many Hollywood and arthouse films about Ancient Rome and Ancient Egypt, but what about Greece?
I am sure there are many exceptions, but no 'major' films spring to mind for me. Directors like Theopolous Angelous dealt with Greek history, but he usually dealt with modern history.
What I find surprising is that there is a lot of rich cinematic material there. There all sorts of individuals and movements that did unusual and surprising things. You could recreate Bacchanal rituals, for instance. You would have debauchery, sacrifices and drunken excess - plenty of golden cinema there. You could recreate the struggles of cynics and stoics. A film about a Pythagorean cult would be superb. They would discuss mathematics, religion, mysticism and crack-pot theories. They would engage in deviant and cult-like behaviour.
There are plenty of philosophers whose lives could be dramatised. This wouldn't just involve long scenes of dry intellectualising - plenty of Greek philosophers led very interesting an unusual lives. A whole film depicting the trial of Socrates would be grand. Hell, even just turning a Socratic dialogue like 'Meno' into a film would be an interesting experiment. A film about Empedocles jumping into a volcano would be exciting. A film depicting Diogenes doing strange things in public would be interesting. It would start with him being caught by pirates and being sold off to slavery. We would later follow him masturbating, carrying a lantern in broad daylight, calling for an 'honest man,' sleeping in a jar, surrounding himself with dogs and, of course, telling Alexander the Great to move away from the sun. I would also like to see a film about Heraclitus, where we follow him stepping into rivers and being a miserable brooder. Even Aristotle's life could be turned into an interesting film. We could follow him establishing his university. The latter stages of the film would follow him fleeing persecution.
If you want a great war film, you could recreate the Persian invasion of Greece. Scenes of Spartan/Greek resistance would be grand. Also, scenes of Xerxes plotting would also be very good.
As I said, there is a lot of exciting cinematic material. Perhaps many of these films have already been made but, as I said, Ancient Greece has not been recreated as much as Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome, which is a shame.

Most governments are usually a mixture of good and bad things. Everyone now seems to think that New Labour was uniformly terrible. People seem to forget that they did a lot of good things.
If you were to rank all Labour governments, based on their domestic record 1997-2010 ranks second after 1945-51. They invested more in public services than any other government in history. They redistributed wealth. They managed to get a lot of people out of poverty through programs such as tax credits and Sure Start. They reduced unemployment. They gave us the minimum wage. They invested in science and the arts. They gave more people the opportunity to go to university. Compared to the 1970s, the Thatcher years and the present, those were happy times and the country was a lot less divided. They also pushed through a lot of social reforms while presiding over economic growth.
But then, the bad things that New Labour did were so bad that they seem to overshadow these achievements. Deregulating the banks from the oversight of the Bank of England surely played a part in the financial crisis. The spin was horrible. If they had done what they did without all the spin, people would have been more tolerant. They often actively told newspapers what to write and this practice turned hideously ugly during the Iraq war. Their social authoritarianism was also off-putting, particularly their insistence on people carrying ID cards.
And then there's of course Iraq, which was a horrible pointless war. It led to a bloody sectarian conflict and the resulting failed state facilitated the rise of ISIS. Blair actively lied about WMD and people resented it.
And, of course, there's Blair. When I watch him speak, I feel physically sick. When you look back at footage of Blair during the 1997 campaign, you wonder how so many people were taken in by him. He clearly doesn't mean a word he says.
When you unwillingly get into arguments with Corbynites, they say 'he isn't radical, he just wants a fully funded NHS and strong public services.' Well, New Labour did those things better than any other government in history. They managed to invest in public services more effectively than previous Labour governments and did so without unleashing an inflationary spiral or economic stagnation. New Labour might be discredited, but people should really remember that they did a lot of good things. It's very unfashionable to say that, though.

I really enjoy watching Jordan Peterson's lectures. I think that a lot of people avoid them because they think that he is a right-wing bigot, but they are really wide-ranging and thought-provoking.
'Crumb' is one of my favourite films ever made and is quite likely also the best documentary I have ever seen. I watch it on a yearly basis and it always moves me deeply and it makes me laugh. As Peterson says, it's very rich and there's a lot going on. It's about a broken family, art as therapy, coping with mental illness, dealing with your demons and honestly expressing one's darkest thought without censoring oneself. I am sure that it must be very interesting for a clinical psychologist, especially for someone who has also studied Freud.


The humorous libertarian journalist P. J. O'Rourke remarked that he became right-wing when he started his first job. He had been a communist, he claimed, but became a libertarian when he realised that 'we had communism already.' His income had been taxed at over 40%. (He really should have know that that would have happened anyway, he really was a tad bit naive.)
I generally find that I have had the opposite experience. The more I venture into the 'real world,' it makes me more left-wing. The more time I spend alone (and I do like to spend a lot of time alone), I want to defend my individual rights.
However, in the real world of work fundamentally decent people (most people are good, really) often do really nasty stuff to increase efficiency. It's a real shame that we have gone backwards in that regard, as the post-war Attlee settlement did so much to protect workers' rights. In the few shitty jobs I've had, I've seen really fragile people get overworked, told that they wouldn't get paid if they did overtime, receive xenophobic abuse and been told they weren't needed once they arrived at work. So, yes, the more I venture into the real world, the more left-wing I become.

If everyone had a mind that was more or less like yours, what would the economy be like?
In my case, there would be more demand for, say, art cinema, classical music and literary novels. For recreation, people would not go clubbing, they would attend Beethoven and Bartok string quartets. However, these sectors of the economy would be insanely competitive and few people would succeed at it. Only the most accomplished people would truly succeed, however the increased demand would mean that more individuals would make money out of these enterprises. Because there would be an increased demand for all these things, more people would work in these sectors in an administrative/organisational capacity. Also, art film makers would have a lot more money to make splashy films. (There only have been a few cases like this in the real world - i.e. Stanley Kubrick's A Space Odyssey and Murnau's version of Faust.)
However, there would still obviously be a need for engineers, doctors, technicians, etc. If everyone had a mind that was more or less like mine, there wouldn't really be any people with an aptitude for these things. There would of course be a need for lower end menial work and such people would be really bitter that the upper classes make a living from their interests whilst they are forced to collect rubbish or stare at conveyor belts. The most likely scenario would be that people would just live in caves, forage for food whenever they can and would just discuss philosophy in a meandering fashion.
Still, homogenous societies can often be the most successful and equitable. Countries like Sweden and Denmark are homogenous in that they are very similar, have a small population and they all work. They can all agree to be taxed more, receive benefits, have universal health care, nationalised utilities and distribute their wealth in an equitable manner. Their minds might not be entirely identical (hence they have engineers, doctors, rubbish men AND artists), but they are similar enough to come to this agreement.