Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Raw in Tooth and Claw

Sometime in the 1970's a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in a rousing speech at the annual conference claimed that his party was the "natural party of government." He went on a bit about the relationship between the mechanics of wealth creation and he claimed that his party was the vehicle by which an equitable sharing of that created wealth could be achieved without miring the industries of wealth creation in inefficiencies and pointless quarrels.  "Yawn" I hear the cry. But in the 1970's most UK political leaders had come of age in the Great Depression of the 1930's, their thinking much influenced by the Second World War and its aftermath. Experiences which I'd argue promoted an empathy for the lot of the multitude born of actual experience of hardship rather than high flown theory from the well subsidized fever swamps of the political  and economic sciences. As a youth my own reaction to the speech dwelled mightily on the incredibly ugly idea of a natural party of government. It sounded like a desperate attempt to avoid the onerous task of explaining the ugly details.

At the same time in the City of Cardiff, as I walked to the night shift at a burger joint down town, I could see suspicious devices hanging from the odd lamp post. I was informed the purpose of these devices was to sniff the atmosphere, quantify the particulates, and this way science deduced an unhealthy surfeit of lead in the air, the cause of which was city traffic. Some years later, employed by a Petrol Station to pump the gas, management was all in the air and angry, livid at the prospects of unleaded petrol, an unwarranted intrusion on their business model and yet another example of government incompetence placing burdens upon wealth creators. Back then of course a Prime Minister of the natural party of government could with a straight face say "popularity isn't everything, it isn't the most important thing, the important thing is doing what you believe to be right." Not sure what's happened to the explorations of science over the years, I suspect a wealth creator's concept of wealth has something to do with which of those explorations in science are popular, but I still hold the idea that there is no natural party of government.

Monday, October 15, 2018

North Wind

Pouring with rain, it's a warm rain and soon enough winds will embrace the north which means clearing sky and Patchy Frost followed by possible Widespread Morning Frost, soon there'll be the inevitable freeze, Woolly Bears in the outdoor boots, wet snow, mud and damp, bored cats, the list is long and awful. But it does give a person his opportunity to prepare for the ennui that amongst us normal people lingers for a good six months by offering us a chance to ponder meaning which these days generally results in a preoccupation with an epitaph that might sum up a person's passage through the world, his trials, his tribulations, his coping mechanisms without any of this fake news sugar coating that's currently all the rage.

 "Forbidden a ziggurat he died in vain." Some might think this sounds a little on the depressing side and if they do it means they are wedded to a set of extraordinarily bouncy ideas, cuddly toys and Christmas Jingles. Either way, an alternative epitaph of "Change is Good" falls way short of comforting, far too social media chirpy and the last thing the world needs is a patently wise-ass corpse anywhere messing with the ambience of the end time. I know this from bitter experience, there's a restless and most aggravating being in the barn who as soon as I've found the good hammer will insist on causing the can of nails to totally vanish for weeks on end.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Political Rallies

During a time of uncertainty for his party, Goebbels assured the faithful at one of the big rallies that "if we take the streets we take the state." Suspect it's like that now. Those rallies of the 1920's and 30's had a lot in common with the pomp and ceremony associated with the more authoritarian religious movements. You can kind of see it at something like Easter when the Pope appears on the balcony and everyone goes crazy then when it's down to the communion there's the dressing up, the big hats are donned and the faithful become zombie like in their obedience. No doubt about it there's enthusiasm around a sense of belonging, and at the same time there's a sort of chill that silences dissent. It's a wave and those who aren't surfing don't belong.

A journalist called William Shirer was a witness to an early Nuremberg Rally, he described a moment on the evening before the big event. He was wandering the streets, trying to find his way around, and he found himself in a throng of ten thousand people chanting outside a hotel room. When the great leader appeared the crowd joined in a messianic ecstasy which from Shirer's description might remind the television generation of teenagers greeting a Beatle at an airport. The more recent iteration of a Nuremberg Rally is probably better likened unto a sporting event, something like professional wrestling, an outrageous entertainment for a crowd. As Goebbels suggested, "intellectual activity is a danger to the building of character," which is another way of saying thinking's bad.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

I Sing of Launderers

Dividere et Empera. It's Latin, the most aggravating language our species has ever written, but for some reason it does give provenance to the highfalutin. Most Romans spoke what's called Vulgar Latin, a freewheeling expression of their more rambling thoughts and communications. What's called Classical Latin was mainly used by scholars to precisely record their important ideas for posterity and by administrators to issue death sentences, written instructions, or whatever. People know this today, because the early Roman Playwrights wrote down the words for their talking characters in Vulgar Latin and there's a lot of Roman graffiti scattered around the Mediterranean, most of it ridden with grammatical errors, appalling spelling and some of it is just about incomprehensible.  One beautiful as opposed to vulgar example was on shop door post, "I sing of cloth launderers and an Owl, not of arms and men." I guess the context was the goddess of hardworking launderers, but it makes huge sense to me as a fairly good rule to judge most things and most people by.

The point is Divide and Rule long predates the Romans, the tyrannically minded have been at it since the first garden spade was shoved into the ground by a bright eyed innocent gardener who was hell bent on getting out of the hunter gatherer business and as an unexpected consequence enabled our species to produce a surplus, much of which went to supporting a political class. Over the years there have been rare flashes of brilliance when minds conjoin around the idea of a set of rules in which power thrashes out solutions to the inevitable problems confronting the multitudes surplus has enabled. Generally the consequence of obedience to those rules has resulted in a productive harmony, but invariably productive harmony itself leads to crisis. An unhappy thought indeed. You can blame narcissistic megalomania, avarice, greed, demanding more from the world than you could ever need, call it whatever you want, but far from being ordained in someway, we, like the Dinosaur, remain a species, ever changing or extinct. On a more positive note, worth recalling the little known Latin phrase, "well disciplined like a corpse."

Friday, October 12, 2018

Blind Panic

An experienced resident of a domicile knows fairly quickly when one or other of the domestic pets has introduced an outsider to the wonders, stresses and excitements of indoor living. Between naps and visits to the food bowl, there's a lot of padding around sniffing at stuff, peering under armchairs, unnatural bursts of sudden activity that have no apparent cause and there's a range of snarky attitudes which suggest that something's not quite right with the smooth running of a well ordered functioning household and that someone has to be blamed, at a minimum dismissed from service.

The novice will of course suspect that it might be time for a visit to the vet, enquire about his pets mental health, discuss sedatives and finally coming home with something like a bill for a worm tablet. Another novice error is to blame the clump of grass in the living room on a significant other, and accuse him or her of thoughtlessly sneaking around the dwelling while wearing their outdoor boots. Then for the novice there's the terrifying experience of seeing a young Shrew pottering across the kitchen floor. It looks very much bigger and a great deal more dangerous than it actually is. I'm told it's the mind reacting to what's called blind panic.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Land of Flowers

Difficult to avoid the history of Florida. You hear the quote, "because the Spanish gave the area the name Land of Flowers." Think of the ludicrous Viking name Greenland, I guess. Unfortunately, letters home from the early US garrisons stationed in the territory during the Second Seminole War described a land that was basically a hell hole of insects, heat and disease ridden swamps. In time the indigenous Seminole, and the slaves who'd escaped the more northern plantations or Black Seminoles as they were called. were defeated. Seminoles who survived were relocated East of the Mississippi, Black Seminoles sent back to slavery. By the 1860's the population of Florida was 140,000, 44% of them were slaves working the cotton fields in Northern Florida. Following the Civil War, the period of Reconstruction was particularly unpleasant, freed slaves fled intolerance to places like Michigan to look for work in manufacture. A time that's still called the Great Migration. A reach for freedom the music of which still influences much of our less reactionary world.

Generally Florida was a kingdom of horribleness run by the agricultural interests dominated by the old time Democrats until the 1920's when there was a land boom, money poured in and it all came to a screaming halt  in the 1930's.  And nothing much happen until the military build up of the Second World War. But if you're looking for blame, blame the railway line to Palm Beach which before the air liner gave the wealthy from the North a wintering phase, and then in the 1950's and 1960's there was air conditioning. Today around 21 million people live in Florida, 20% are over 65, the US average for over 65 is 14%, so they're not all as old as you think. If you've ever been there the high point is Britton Hill, 345 feet above sea level, it's up in the panhandle, otherwise Florida is mostly flat, dull as Kansas but with no shortage of flood zones and everyone talks about beaches and paradise. Me, I'm not a big fan of the state, and if you're interested, Plato had much to say about how "beginnings" kind of determine "ends."

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Qualities

Some of us have been a tad delinquent toward their collection of iron disciplines geared to mental balance, order and calm, which could well be why some of us amble into the morning with the sure sense that our head is about to explode. Not the first time, might not be the last time, and I have found that one route out of this limbo is to tidy the room where I spend far too many hours of my day. A room which, as it currently appears, might give the casual observer the distinct impression that your correspondent struggles with what might be politely called the compulsive disorder of hoarding, and which a grandmother might still refer to as an appalling case of bone idle boy-child slovenliness. A wonderful word with its origins in the Flemish for dirty, careless, neglectful and which I'd argue without any traditional evidence probably joined the perversities of the English language following the challenges to the Anglo-Saxon lifestyle that resulted from the Norman invasion of the English part of the British Isles toward the end of the eleventh century, an event that figures up there as a tragedy on a par with the defeat of Carthage by the cheating Romans at the Battle of Zama.

The argument against tidying up is the straightforward suggestion that after the deed is done a person can't find anything, and discovers himself dwelling upon the end time as he wastes valuable energy hunting down his pencil sharpener, last years birthday card, his socks and his important notes. The argument for tidying up is primarily devoted to offhand moments such as "what might others think when confronted by this kind of unhygienic chaos?" And there's always the more cheerful prospect of finding useful things that have been lost and forgotten since the last tidy up. More interesting perhaps, of those who struggle with obsessive compulsive disorders one in four males of our species attempt to conceal the disorder in bone idle slovenly hoarding behaviors. And worth recalling is the recent movement in idea around the word "slovern" which when used in the more youthful vernacular gives a description to boys suggesting behaviors that better resemble the looser loyalties found in an emerging presidential quality which when traditionally applied to girls would earn the title slut. Either way, it's been a long haul, a difficult ride along somewhat suspect paths, but there's absolutely no way I can accept the possibility of admitting to a presidential quality, so I'm pretty sure that any day now I'll be tidying my room.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Bivalves

Recent events have served to confirm my argument that there is no ghost in the machine and what we people loosely refer to as thinking or awareness is no more and no less an instinctual activity than say something like a deciduous tree dropping leaves in the fall of the year, or Bivalve Mollusks inadvertently producing pearls.

Nor shall I be remotely magnanimous in my clear and obvious victory. There'll be fizzy drinks of some sort as I dance in the end zone yelling nah-nah-nah. Classically magnanimous comes from the Latin, "Magnus" for great and "Animus" for soul. Pretty idea in the confluence of the two words, probably best reserved for Primroses.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Conflict

Hegel died in 1831. He put idea, what happens in the brain, at the center of his understanding. The more analytical minded, the empriricists, embraced his description of the way in which ideas moved. One thought led to another, and when it hit a brick wall it had to take a step or two back before it could advance, very sensible. The other thing about Hegel that's often quoted goes something like: we learn from history that we don't learn anything from history. I guess too that with Hegel a whole series of strands in thinking set in place the sense that truth was something of a moving feast, a conversation which when reason is withheld comes to a screaming halt. Something like partisanship is reasonable, otherwise ideas do not move. But if partisanship becomes an end in itself, reason steps out the window for a cigarette break and what you got is pretty much the most recent iteration of western society as practiced by our political classes.

As I understand it, Hegel was in a place called Jena in Germany when Napoleon marched his army into the city. He was excited to see the great man, the world was changing, the ancient regime had been swept away, the chaos of the French Revolution was finally over, new and more just forms would soon be in place. Hegel called Napoleon a world soul. Then Napoleon crowned himself as Emperor, and many people like Hegel went off Napoleon, got depressed and started saying things like: people and governments have never learned anything from history, nor have they ever acted on principles deduced from it. It was in his later life, after Napoleon was gone from power, that Hegel settled in to writing his history of philosophy. He came up with stuff like: education is the art of making man ethical. And my own favorite from Hegel: a genuine tragedy is not the conflict between right and wrong, but a conflict between two rights. An off hand remark possibly, but in my view a symptom of a dry sense of humor.