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.

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