Saturday, 24 September 2016

Most activists are twits

I think that altruism is a very noble concept indeed. I admire altruists very much. The world needs more of them. I, regrettably, am very selfish and self-centred. Altruists care very much about others and they often want to change the world and make it a better place. They might be naive or, alternatively, altruists can be very practical people who want to use the most effective methods to increase the share of happiness in the world.

What about activists? Some altruists are activists. I would not necessarily say that all activists are bad. Campaigning for a mainstream party seems perfectly acceptable to me. By going out campaigning, knocking on doors, handing out leaflets, communicating with MPs etc. you are are actually helping to change outcomes. 

But then, a lot of activists do not fit into either of these two categories. A lot of them spend inordinate time and effort devoting themselves to campaigns that won't change anything, or even create any kind of meaningful discourse. Why do it, then?

A lot of hardline leftists love the process and the politics involved. A lot of these people spend their entire lives clashing with others, branding themselves and others with various isms. They form part of factions. This could be termed, vaguely, as 'Trostkyist.' Needless to say, Trotsykism is the biggest political cul-de-sac in the entirety of history. It has never led to a single government. Whenever this militant tendency has hijacked the Labour party (as it has now), it has condemned it to pointless internecine squabbling (and unelectability).

A lot of activists do not take the time and effort to come up with policy to help solve complex problems. They vent their spleens against many well-intentioned politicians who do. They condemn globalisation and 'neo-liberalism.' They come up with a lot of fancy jargon and engage in more pointless process to debate the state of the world in these abstruse terms. They neglect the fact that globalisation is very entrenched and impossible (especially for them) to overturn. They neglect the fact that globalisation has been an engine of growth throughout the third world. 

The whole thing ends up being very flamboyant, too. Whilst they call themselves 'collectivists,' they actually end up fetishing the cult of the individual. They buy Che Guevara shirts. Their figures become so beatified that they end up being totally exempt from scrutiny. Take Jeremy Corbyn, who is now outstripping George Lansbury as the most shambolic leader the Labour party has ever had. They keep defending every single gaffe and all of the platitudes that he spews forth. In this individualistic societies, where Facebook profiles are advertisements for your own personality, it's very edgy indeed to subscribe to all of these causes.

Why subject yourself to all of this frustration? As I said earlier, I think that this frustration is vindicated when supporting a mainstream party, as then you end up changing something. (That's the whole purpose of activism, no?) Just think of the myriad, infinitely more interesting ways that you could spend your life. You could read and write books. You could study ancient antiquity. You could study quantum mechanics. You could learn an instrument. You could write symphonies. You could study rare types of birds. By the time you drop dead, you will have actually accomplished something. In the end of the day, this is really why activists do what they do. All it does is that it makes them feel better. All it does is give their life meaning. Why not give your life meaning with all those aforementioned activities instead? So there you have it, that's why I think that most activists are twits.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Ahoy Facebook #3

An update is in order. First of all, if you still drop by - thank you. Thank you very much.

I am currently job searching. I am looking for work as a advertising copywriter. In my spare time, I can only find time to work on my novel. 

The other type of writing I really want to do is essay writing. I have an idea for a book of 'Collected Essays.' I have a number of ideas and I have already made a list of future essays. I want them to be properly sourced and researched. I want them to be a kind of blend of academic and journalistic writing. I want to upload them onto this blog and to later amass them in a book. I don't want to just crank out an inchoate idea over twenty minutes anymore. The vast majority of posts in this blog have consisted of just that.

In the meantime, I am going to upload some Facebook updates. These are even more rushed and even more inchoate than a lot of these blog posts. At least it will keep this blog ticking over til I find the time to write those essays.

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What have I chosen to do with my Friday night? I am watching Jean-luc Godard's 'Weekend' and then after that I am reading Kant's 'Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.' This is all for 'pleasure.' My God am I a sad and strange human being.
Yesterday I was watching videos of Enoch Powell on YouTube. Following this, I read 70 pages of the autobiography of Malcolm X. I was reading the words in my head in Mr. Powell's plummy voice. I couldn't get his voice out of my head. Extremely odd. I was reading the words of a controversial black activist who preached racial segregation through the prism of a controversial white politician who preached the deportation of immigrants to preserve social cohesion in Britain.
Looking back at archival footage of politicians being interviewed, it really does strike me how steeped a lot of them are in the history of ideas. (People like Enoch Powell, Michael Foot and Roy Jenkins stand out.) Two present-day examples I can think of are Michael Gove and, at a push, Ed Miliband. Otherwise, they're sound-bitey and spin-trained in the extreme. Even then, I can't say that listening to either Gove or Miliband speak is an interesting experience, either. Gove is well-read etc., but is a complete ideologue. Ed Miliband isn't very articulate, extremely nervous and rarely opens up about his geeky interest in political theory.
 I am especially annoyed by left-wing Brexit campaigners. They somehow assume that, if we leave the EU, that we will have a socialist/protectionist utopia where we will nationalise industries right-left-and-centre and reclaim sovereignty. That isn't going to happen, you stupid wankers. We have Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove spearheading the campaign and they're all on record as having said that they want to privatise the NHS.
Needless to say, I am truly disgusted by the murder of Jo Cox. It is somewhat symptomatic of how toxic political discourse has become recently. This kind of thing really doesn't happen here. This has early 20th century continental Europe written all over it.
I despair of how quickly this country is moving backwards. We're dismanting institutions that make this country great, such as the NHS and the BBC. We're turning from a tolerant, united and liberal island into an intolerant, disunited and illiberal island. All these developments make me want to move back to Chile, where they have a broken system but they are at least doing something to change it. And in much more cheerful news, Chile won the Copa America again for a second consecutive year.
It really is ridiculous how Corbyn/McDonnell talk about respecting 'democracy' when they cling on to power. What's 600,000 members in the larger scheme of things? People in this country need a Labour government - that's a lot more important than a few thousand people wanting to keep the 'dignity' of the 'left.' He can't form a functioning shadow cabinet. What's the point in perpetuating this frustrating cul-de-sac?
1) Although there were many strands in Labour when it was founded, and there have always been Labour Marxists, trade unionists founded the party primarily to be a part of parliamentary democracy and to change the laws of the country to benefit the working classes. It has principally always been a party of government, not a party of protest.
2) There won't necessarily be a return to New Labour if Corbyn goes. In fact, Miliband lurched the party back to the centre-left. He managed to get the Blairites on board and unified the party. He made a number of compromises and Labour's pitch in the last general election was incoherent as a result. He still proposed a number of quite radical poliicies (freezing energy prices, scrapping zero-hour contracts and confronting the Murdoch empire). A leader from the soft left, who is charismatic (unlike Miliband) and unifies the party, would be ideal.
3) The party really isn't going anywhere under Corbyn. The MPs simply won't back him. He really isn't much of a leader. Going round, preaching to the converted, ranting about austerity and giving speeches riddled with platitudes about a better society without presenting solutions to change it, really isn't helpful. He can't do anything without the backing of his MPs and there aren't even MPs who will help him form a shadow cabinet. As I said earlier, it's a dead-end.

I really don't like libertarians. They don't advocate freedom of the individual so that you can choose to lead your life in a creative, independent and interesting way (e.g study Greek antiquity, nuclear physics, linguistics or music theory). Instead, they have an asinine and boyish fascination with a lawless society and seem to derive an exceedingly stupid satisfaction from the thought of owning illegal guns and knives. They equate freedom with a smaller state without realising that cutting state spending reduces freedom for a very large section of society. Truly insufferable.
Here's a good quote, courtesy of good ol' Wikipedia: 'Was it America? Or was it Tibet? It is quite true, many of Your Lordships will remember it operating in the nursery. How do you treat a cold? One nanny said, 'Feed a cold'; she was a neo-Keynesian. The other said, 'Starve a cold'; she was a monetarist.' - Harold MacMillan
There are lot of articles, books etc. these days that use quotes/arguments from Bertrand Russell and George Orwell (the former in scientific/philosophical circles that argue in favour of rationality, the latter in progressive circles). With those two writers, you merely have to quote them and any counterargument you can make is invalidated because everything both of those guys said is undisputed wisdom. If you root around what they both wrote, like anyone else they were also capable of saying stupid things. It annoys me when these writers get beatified, because everyone adopts a lazy attitude whereby 1) you don't look at what they write critically anymore and 2) you just fish out one of their quotes and you have a stellar, irrefutable piece of writing.
Surely the whole purpose of an election is to change outcomes and to ensure that your vote has the greatest potential to change or conserve laws. It surely isn't a way of telling the world 'this is who I am and what I believe in.' If you are liberal ideologue, it surely isn't constructive to vote for a liberal party if this doesn't translate into any MPs. Likewise, it surely isn't constructive to vote Green when that will result in a solitary MP. It's also certainly suicidal to vote for Jill Stein (barring the fact that she's completely crazy) in the USA when that could potentially elect Donald Trump and have an adverse effect on the rest of the world.
I had an idea for a book that, surprisingly, does not appear to have been written yet (I had a brief look around). What about a history of dreams - namely how dreams have been analysed and interpreted - throughout history. For example, in antiquity and medieval times people thought that they were divine interventions. Later Freud comes along and they are interpreted as being full of hidden symbols and they are also part of a complex 'unconscious' that underpin all of your actions. Now with neuroscience, they are largely seen as meaningless images that come about because of electricity fizzing in your brain. I'd like to read a really nicely researched history of all this. I don't really want to write it, but it would be very pleasing if it exists because I'd like to read it.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the release of 'Intolerance' by D. W. Griffith. We have reached the point historically where we can start talking about the centenaries of major films.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intolerance_(film)


A decent article looking back at the legacy of modernism. Some of my favourite literary works and pieces of music are part of the movement. There's a lot from the period that I still can't get my head around (Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, etc.). However, it actually excites me that such complex works, which are freighted with allusions and complex wordplay, exist. It annoys me quite a lot when people facilely dismiss them just because they don't make sense on first reading.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/the-shock-of-the-new/309451/

Cultural events on the horizon (brace yourselves for some extremely convoluted writing): A talk with John Bew about his new book concerning former Labour PM Clement Atlee - 20th of October; a performance of J. S. Bach's spectacular 'St. John Passion' - 13th of November; a performance from the string quartet ensemble 'Ligeti Quartet,' where they will be performing several modern classical pieces - 15th of November; a screening of C. T. Dreyer's silent classic 'The Passion of Joan of Arc' - 22nd of November.