Friday, 23 May 2008

The Tyranny of Poverty

It's funny, how many people will judge you negatively for being in a lower income bracket - or no income bracket at all. Financial worth has become synonymous with moral righteousness. Picture the man sleeping on the streets because he left his care home at the age of 16 and had nowhere to go, or lost everything including his shirt in the divorce; and how many people will step over him, or, like the majority response to those in wheelchairs, avoid making eye-contact with him. (I can never quite work out if this kind of avoidance arises from typical English embarrassment, or the fear that one might become contaminated by the less fortunate.) Or consider those who prop up the Dole queue every fortnight: those who creep furtively into the Jobcentre, aka the antechamber of hell, to be grilled about what steps they've taken to achieve moral rectitude: or those who never have the prospect of getting a job, ever, because they are either completely lacking in talents and abilities or have had an appalling education. They're practically subhuman in society's eyes. Moreover, they should be pitifully grateful for their meagre handouts, and swallow their pride when the government pries into every detail of their private lives.
As the credit crisis worsens into a Depression - come on, we all know it's coming: even George Soros says that we're suffering the worst economic situation since the 30s - the virtue of money is going to either increase out of all proportion or vanish into the ether. I'm hoping for the latter. Money technically doesn't exist: that little wad of notes you carry around only has meaning because you allow it to. And, once it becomes more and more difficult for you to be able to keep warm and clothe yourself and eat well, and the future turns into a vanishing point because the tyranny of money means that you exist from moment to moment, blinded by anxiety about where the next meal's coming from: think twice before you shun the beggar in the street. There but for the grace of God goes you.

IQ Tests for the working classes? Don't bother: they're all thick, claims academic.

Many were outraged this week when a leading academic stated that IQ and class are intimately linked: that possessing a low IQ predetermines your social grouping. And, to an extent, the man has a point. The majority of those in the working classes are part of this group because they, well, work: work in the sense of manual labour, be they painters or decorators or plumbers or builders or miners or chippies &c. &c. That is not to say that none of them possess exceptional intellects, and talents, and the ability to change entire societies through the power of written word or rhetoric. Two good examples are DH Lawrence and Margaret Thatcher. Cherie Blair, also. Laurie Lee. The list goes on. But they tend to be the exception, rather than the rule. The rule is, according to Aristotle, that each artisan possesses a specific talent (or what I suppose we would now call a 'vocational skill'); and therefore he is as much a master of that talent as a philosopher is master of mind. It should also be noted that the academic failed to point out that there are many amongst the upper classes who are intellectual voids: they are merely lucky enough to have been handed the key to the family fortune when they come of age. The middle and upper-middle classes seem to have got the best deal when the brains were handed out.

One of the key responses to this claim that intellect and class go hand in hand was that, most unfairly, people should be expected to 'know their place'. I don't see what is wrong in 'knowing one's place'. I'm not suggesting that we should return to some kind of pre-War utopia of Upstairs/Downstairs; but I feel that all this nonsense about 'equality' and 'diversity' has created such a sense of uncertainty for all social groups that no-one knows where they fit any longer. Not everyone is capable of greatness. Being told to 'live your dreams' is all very well and good, but I defy anyone with an IQ of 100 to become an astronaut, for example. It is a concrete fact that the lower the IQ, the smaller the life that one lives. One's life is confined predominantly to one's house,school, shops, family, pub, and holiday destination. As the IQ grows, so does the mind's potential to see beyond narrow geographical constraints and to look upon the infinite: the bigger picture, as it were. 

To encourage children to believe that they can do anything if they put their mind to it is clearly unfair. It would be a lot more useful to properly drill all children in the use of the three Rs, so that they have some prospect of doing well in the outside world, and to push those with true academic potential into higher education; to bring back proper apprenticeships and scrap noddy degrees in Soap Operas at third rate universities. Intelligence is becoming ever-more devalued under this Government; it is being employed only as a tool to make money, rather than being celebrated for its own sake.

Intelligence is not based upon a privileged upbringing: it is innate. Intellectual achievement, on the other hand, is certainly based upon a good system of education in which a child can realistically achieve its potential, without giving it goals and aspirations that it can never possibly reach, and leaving it miserable and discontented in adult life. Godwin famously remarked that discrimination on any grounds except for ability was intolerable: it is time for us to do away with so-called 'equality' and replace it with good, hard, common-sense.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Hybrids? There's no justification.

Last century, we talked ourselves out of having a reason to exist. Or, rather, we allowed sociobiologists to say that there was no purpose in our existence. Essentially, we are selfish beings, a biological travesty which rapes the earth, an earth that rejects us: all is hostile and alien, and we are fated to cling to life by our fingernails. Therefore, life is - due to the fact that it is no more than matter moved by electrical impulses - inherently worthless. Since we are predetermined to act in our own interests, we shouldn't bother caring for others: and therein lies the rot.
Today's Bill went through the Commons with a resounding majority of those who claim to be acting from conscience, rather than toeing the party line. Science says that we will be able to cure existent diseases, many of which are terrible for both the sufferer and their family, by combining human and animal matter. The religious position on this has largely been ignored: not only because we're the most secular country in the world after North Korea, but also due to the fact that all life has become so devalued that people just don't any the difference between human and animals. Man is not an animal, and I repeat: man is not an animal: he is separated from the animal kingdom because he feels compassion, because he is able to name himself and others, because he can articulate joy and sorrow, and because he possesses the capacity to destroy himself. This capacity is one which, if survival of the fittest is to be believed, the animal kingdom would never willingly subscribe to.
Since the human race became overly-driven by technology, mankind has speculated about its uncertain future. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein deftly articulated that which would happen if man played God; and I fear that we are about to reap the rewards of our unconscionable meddling into that which we do not understand. An eminent scientist today justified his support for the creation of hybrids by claiming that science has a 'hunch' that cures for supposedly incurable diseases may be found through tests upon this human-animal synthesis. A hunch is not enough. We need absolute certainty. Science would be better off investing its money in creating synthetic stem-cells. In the US, this process has nearly been achieved: why was it not advanced over the Pond?
The cynic in me feels that the new technology required to create hybrids will make some people a great, great deal of money, and the Government will benefit hugely from these investments. But it is not 'merely' the financial position - though Britain certainly prays at the temple of the god Mammon these days: it is that we are living in a vacuum, in which we cannot see anything beyond the small life that we live; that there is no life after death, no soul, that humans are solely organic creatures; that so many senseless murders are committed, and the victims are shown on prime-time television as 'entertainment'; that young men sit in brightly-lit rooms, laughing with each other, and play at death on their playstations; that we are fighting a war in which few in this country agree with... There is no end to the ravages that the human condition has suffered. And, over the past ten years, in which dignity has been abandoned for sensationalism, and we live in an ever-growing style over content world, it is perhaps unsurprising that hybrids should be permitted to exist; or that parents would deliberately create saviour siblings, whose only purpose in life is to act like a host to a parasite; or that we should be so ruthless when it comes to removing anything from our path that may inconvenience us - morals included.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Calm Down. It's Not As Bad As You Think.

So the Telegraph (the only rag worth reading, in my opinion: I skim the others, only in order to be able to argue with them) yesterday told us that due to the current economic situation, which can only get worse, has reduced families' disposable income to a mere £50 per week once they've paid off all their bills. I can only state that this is not a bad thing.
Britain has been in a state of discontent which has grown commensurately with its dependence on material goods. Keeping up with the Joneses has led to the desperate accumulation of all the latest technical appliances (you're nothing without your 34in widescreen HD TV) and an unhealthy reliance on grooming products and clothes: one's meant to think only about the outside shell, rather than the inner soul. People are unable to function, it seems, without being constantly bombarded by media of all kinds. This prevents individuals from thinking, from assessing the world around them and their place in it, and their relation to others: it creates selfishness, isolation, fear of mortality, greed and angst; it destroys families and family values.
I remember being most heartened by my class of French exchange students who stated categorically that they would never eat in front of the television, but only at the dining room table with their family. Coming together at the end of the day, they said, was the most important social ritual of all. Even when they went off to university, and were no longer under parental control, they still intended to eat their supper at the table. The very act of making a meal and sharing it with others is sacred.
During the Second World War, when people had to tighten their belts both literally and metaphorically, and every commodity was scarce, Britain experienced the kind of camaraderie that it has not experienced since. We do not need to place our reliance upon material things to pass the time or distract ourselves from our own thoughts. Far better that people come together and talk, sharing experiences, wisdom and insight; and the less cash they have for non-essentials, the better they will be in essence.

Anarchical? Moi?

Perhaps I am indeed, if one steps away from the given - and vilified - sense of anarchy which, to the money-lovers, signifies chaos: senseless, shapeless, formless and hell-bent on the destruction of all in its path. They question how anarchy can have a rule-book, for example, because it's supposed to have stepped away from the rules. Not so. Anarchical thinking is merely that which steps away from the party line; which agrees with the saying that To be Ruled Is Humiliating: To Vote For Your Ruler, Even More So. I must confess that I see absolutely no point in even casting my vote, these days: politics is merely an uncertain popularity contest, and the winner invariably has to sort out the messes made by the last victor. So that nothing, in effect, ever gets done: it's promises, promises promises, and people are treated as mere statistics in the game. They only have value, only lose their 'thing-ness' status, when their vote is being touted for; once their usefulness is over, they are pulled this way and that, subject to the whims of Empire-size egos and tyrannical market forces, until the next election comes around.

The difficulty is, due to the rigid matrix in which the globalised world has become fixed, is to find a valid alternative. What is going to cause true 'people-power' to emerge? How do we get away from statements like Michael Kinsley's, who asserted confidently that attacks on civilian targets should be weighed up dispassionately, solely in terms of the end result: 'a sensible policy [should] meet the test of cost benefit analysis' [of]' the amount of blood and misery that will be poured in, and the likelihood that democracy will emerge at the other end'? Whenever an individual's life, and the worth of his life, is subordinate to an idea - any idea, be it utopian or fundamentalist - apathy invariably sets in. It seems totally pointless to fight against those who would sacrifice anyone and anything to uphold the idea.

The big issue, though, is that no-one really seems to be entirely sure what the idea of democracy actually means (except those at the top, and they're keeping schtum). There seems to be an awful lot of woolly speculation, and various invasions (both corporate and military) occur all over the world in democracy's name: the basic premise seems to be that it somehow entails freedom. Highly unlikely, when the last two American administrations have laid claim to space, using it as a launching-pad for weapons which would ensure 'instant engagement anywhere in the world'. Star-wars, indeed. It seems to me that it is easier to leave democracy as a vague and undefined entity, or represented as a bright and shining idea, rather than to define it and thus risk having the existent systems toppled.

Over the past ten years I've seen England ravaged by those who claim to be increasing civil liberties and have taken the majority of them away. In fact, our society seems to be a perfect advertisement for removing the voting franchise at present extended to all adults. I hate the very notion of ID cards, human-animal hybrids, lesbians conceiving through IVF and leaving the father's name off the birth certificate, the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, the perpetuation of Orientalism, to name but a few things. So if one definition of anarchy is the desire to eradicate the status quo and return to a state in which individuals valued privacy, decency, honesty and a little dignity, please count me in.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Brain Drain: How TV Rots Your Brains

These days I either put the television on mute or close my eyes in order to prevent myself from being bombarded by the - dare I say devil-worshippers? Sorry - advertising execs' ideas of what constitutes worth. The only way that anyone can ever sell you something is if you have some level of financial security that lets you see things you want, and treat them as a need. Fiction as fact. In reality, we only really need six things to stay alive: food, water, light, heat, shelter and companionship. Anything else is a Cinderella story in a bottle, packet or jar.
But, forgetting all that for a moment, my main gripe is with the advertising world's new enthusiasm for popular music. Timeless classics that made your childhood meaningful, or that take you back to a memorable point in your life, or even a painful one, have been indelibly linked to various products. Try to disassociate them if you can. 'Bette Davis Eyes' now only belong on a hair-dye model. One of my favourite songs of all time, Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now', is the new sound of Dairy Milk. In effect, what the advertising world is perpetrating is a form of brain-washing. Your memory of the first time you heard that song is gone. The song is perpetually linked to a consumer good.
The point of the advertising world is general is twofold. Firstly, it buys into the most cynical market-driven force of all. There is more than enough food to go around, but advertising exists to sell it to people who aren't actually crying out for it. (That which is given away to our poorer brethren is called 'aid' and causes a pernicious cycle of dependency, willingness to sabotage personal freedoms in return for it, and allows the donor to exploit them in order to gain more aid: a vicious circle.) The second is to prevent people from thinking. Advertising is based upon behavioural deterministic principles or, as I like to call it, 'dance, little man, dance'. It uses the most simple and compelling of images to hot-wire your brain into accepting, without question, the corporate message. You don't think about where, precisely, that chocolate bar came from: you need the fix, and to feel as though you're part of the fantasy. Ditto bread, and meat, and milk, and soap, and washing powder. Etcetera etcetera. And of course the greatest illusion of all is that, following the so-called 'green revolution', in purchasing certain products you're acting ethically. You're not. Free trade is a nightmare: it prioritises one farmer over twenty in countries that don't possess similar economic structures to the West's, thus making it much harder for the other farmers to survive: they have to be content to take the meanest wages. (See Starbucks, for example, and its policy on paying its African farmers the lowest possible rate.) So-called natural products are a similar nightmare. Consider a bottle of Original Source shampoo or bathfoam. The blurb states that it uses x quantity of lemons, or lavender, or rose petals: lovely for the skin. This is wholly unnecessary. Why does one 'need' 15 lemons in one's shower-gel? But, much more importantly, these 15 lemons per bottle constitute a huge usage of arable land. It therefore creates a shortage of land, drives up prices, increases the need for the use of diesel in order to transport the product, and starves the locals. It is a travesty on a par with biofuels. If one considers that one tank of ethanol constitutes food for a person for an entire year, one might start walking to the shops.
Advertising should be used solely to promote a product and should be subject to the most stringent censorship possible. At present, it is being used as an educational tool. In such a form, it is nothing more or less than propaganda.

Burma's Junta has a point, actually.

It's just a wretched shame that the people have to suffer so catastrophically.
But the reluctance of Burma's military authority to let in US and British aid is understandable. After sanctions were imposed against them, they must view with suspicion any attempt by the 'West' (a definition which seems to be restricted to Washington and London, and at a push Paris and Berlin when it's convenient) to enter their territory, for humanitarian purposes or otherwise. What's the betting that America would push to set up some kind of 'observation post' - a synonym for a military settlement - to oversee reconstruction efforts, or to monitor the country's health and welfare, or in case another such flooding were to occur? Does the Junta not fear that Burma may become yet another US military outpost, as so many other countries have in the past?
The problem these days is knowing your enemy: especially since a surge in globalisation has stratified language to the extent that democracy is only understood in terms of America (and increasingly Britain's) hegemonistic, top-down model, that there exists only one correct way in which to run a global economy, no matter if that method is failing, and that freedoms are increasingly being sacrificed for the 'common good'. It may be remarked that modern democracy is a terrifying context, until one considers the alternative; but too many nations have had to sacrifice their unique cultures, practices and forms of self-governance in order to toe the party line. Burma therefore finds itself in a Catch-22: to give itself away, or to watch its people die.

Thanks, Jean Jacques: Or Why We're All So Bloody Miserable

The destruction - or deconstruction - of the world in which we live can be rooted in post-Enlightenment scepticism and most properly laid at the door of Jean-Jacques Derrida, who, although he denied that he was attempting to set a philosophical imperative by making meaning redundant, has done more to internally shape and subvert nature and culture than any other thinker in the twentieth century (pace, Sartre). By dismissing metaphysics comprehensively from A to Z, it is difficult to work up any system of B(b)eing; there is no grounding to our perception of ourselves and the Other. Only that which is represented by clear, hard fact - universal natural laws - is intelligible.

Although deconstruction, a phrase of which Derrida did not approve, is largely self-defeating - in that deconstruction means deconstruction, so that meaning is arrived at by way of a via negativa - it is the uncomfortable bed-fellow of many ‘isms’: determinism, social behaviouralism, existentialism, nihilism. If there is no grounding to our internal being, it makes sense to look at the shell that houses it: the human body. If, like the response to German idealism in the 1930s, the internal voice is so subjective that it is impossible to develop a set of objective criteria to define it, it is perhaps more useful to note specific behavioural patterns and how they work socially and environmentally. If again this internal world is so subjective that it has no commonality with the Other, one is indeed isolated in a ‘world of wills’; and lack of communication between these various wills, signifying the greatest possible loneliness of - and therefore pointlessness of - the human condition makes one wonder ‘what the point could possibly be.’

One of the great topics of the post-Enlightenment world was theodicy: or how evil and God can exist at the same time. Though such a subject is hardly new - Augustine discussed it in his tractate On The Free Choice of the Will, and it was a hot topic with Plato et al - it was one that caused growing conflict throughout the years, as disasters afflicting humanity grew commensurately greater with discoveries about the natural world and means of communication opened up. Evolution outraged many by the suggestion that nature is inherently self-seeking, others, however, were content to accept the fact that bad things happen to good people: the world was made that way. ‘Nature red in tooth and claw’ has been widely accepted and spawned various unpleasant ideologies (sociobiology in particular) which state that humanity is inherently selfish and hostile; altruism is a way in which we boost our superiority complexes; goodness in se doesn’t exist. The total desecration of the nobility of life during the First World War, accompanied by its levelling of the social classes, precipitated atheism en masse: God was tried by a jury of His Creation and sentenced to non-existence. It is sobering to note that more people believe in the devil and malign forces, than forces for good.

Such disenchantment with the world and fear of the hostility all around us gave rise to ideas about the meaning of life and ways in which to contain it. Whether a Freudian narrative, which places sexuality at the centre of the individual’s universe, or behavioural determinism, which claims that man is pre-programmed by his environment alone (the ‘rat in the maze’ premise) is employed, it is safer to find ways in which nature can be tamed, rather than battling with the uncertain. Enter Propaganda, the brainchild of Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, which has often been called the PR blueprint: ways in which to manipulate the general populace without their knowing about it. This has been used to the utmost by politicians and marketing bodies alike. Bernays’ conjecture was that there was simply too much information in the world for any one person to be able to take in, so, rather like Plato’s Philosopher Kings, it was up to the wise powers-that-be to make only limited amounts of information available, in order not to overwhelm the people. Propaganda relies upon behavioural-determinism narratives in order to succeed: find the right combination of images, trusted phrases and sounds, and you can convince almost anyone that the slogan you’re broadcasting is absolutely correct. In 1929 Bernays was set a little task by the US tobacco industry: to encourage the female population of New York to smoke despite the fact that smoking was considered a vile and unfeminine habit for ‘nice’ women. Hundreds of New York City debutantes marched in the Easter Day Parade, defiantly smoking cigarettes. Bernays’ first campaign was entirely successful.

Modern marketing strategies, however, would be less successful than they are if it weren’t for the great mantra of ‘Science Says’: science, a blanket term for numerous forms of speculation about the universe and its systems, has replaced the Churches as the voice of authority. (What most people fail to realise, because one voice - genetics - speaks for all science is that there are many extraordinary things happening in the astro-physical sphere, for example; but that is another topic altogether.) Our super-secular world prides itself upon having removed religious language, symbolism and meaning from society, little realising that ‘science says’ has become just as powerful an authoritative voice in its own right, uttering edicts that legislate for every manifestation of human behaviour. The secondary mantra that follows ‘science says’, ‘clinically tested’, is taken upon trust, even though such trust is often misplaced. People are encouraged to obsess about their health and appearance, to make sure that they have their ‘5 a day’, look after their heart, be regularly screened for this disease and that, reduce or terminate their alcohol intake, and a thousand and one other things way beyond each individual science’s remit. ‘Science says’ rarely looks at the societal discontent that causes a growing dependence on alcohol, drugs, nicotine, sex and other addictions; it fails to notice that such anti-social behaviour arises because ‘science says’ leaves little hope for present or future. Obsession with the material body has overlooked that which fundamentally motivates it, what encourages it to thrive, aspire, to build relationships, and its constant search for that which is ‘other’, ‘meaningful’.

Deconstruction robbed history of its meaning: its predecessors and its offshoots also robbed people of personhood. Once upon a time, a heart was the fount of wisdom, and of love; the fount of the soul; something precious to be given and received. Now it is impossible to talk of the heart in such terms, unless you want to be described as ‘soft’ or ‘unscientific’, the latter being tantamount to a malediction (unless of course, you are celebrating Valentine’s Day, an extremely lucrative commercial occasion). But to rob us of being able to describe humanity in ‘soft’ terms has robbed us of our humanity; small wonder that the current generation is so ruthless about abortion, when an unborn child is referred to as either a ‘viable’ or ‘non-viable’ foetus: a mere mass of cells, of useless tissue. Many in the West see the images of unborn animals as more appealing than a child in the womb: some are even ‘morally’ outraged when abortion is referred to as ‘murder’.

Whilst it is possible to undo the entire human history of thought by approaching it subversively - that is, to subvert parts of the statement that deny the fundamental argument of any piece - it is not possible to undo it permanently, which could be a reason for humanity’s contemporary obsession with the fantastical: a form of mental exploration which has developed beyond the matter-form synthesis of the world as we know it today. It seems that the ‘rat in the maze’ has escaped the maze by abandoning the idea of the maze altogether: and in order to escape this matter-form world, has created a virtual one. Here, people can reign supreme. They can be a hero or a villain or an altogether more rounded person than the ‘Real World’ allows. This ‘Real World’ is a world in which one is rarely exposed to natural light, as one works under artificial light and goes home in the dark; one should suffer in a dull job with overwhelming financial commitments and no say in one’s own future. It is a world in which one should live for a mere three untrammelled weeks a year and an all-too-short weekend, retire on an inadequate pension and die unremembered and unsatisfied. This world has been represented as somehow virtuous.

Humanity is beginning to strike back. Freedoms are so shaky and the political climate at once so suppressive and uncertain, however, that it is easier to step into the realms of a controlled game than to indulge in a spot of free thinking. Such is the vice-like grip that the state has on the individual: consciousness is something to be regarded as a commodity, designed to create or maintain corporate infrastructures, and everyone, it is tacitly implied, is for sale (the mantra for achieving any decent job is ‘sell yourself). Anyone who steps outside the infrastructure is automatically penalised by society itself for wanting that which isn’t the norm. But we are all complicit in our own destruction. If we perceive ourselves as matter, shouldn’t we be treated as such? If we fail to challenge our government’s attempts to interfere and snoop into every part of our lives, do we not deserve to live in a police state? If we don’t take steps to increase our collective vocabulary and therefore our collective consciousness, the world of the imagination will be relegated to the advertising agencies and online virtual worlds, which again deny those essential freedoms for which we once fought so long and hard. It takes so little to step on to the uncertain path of hope. In the words of Robert F. Kennedy: “each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Equality Bites

The greatest failing of this Government (and there are too many to count) is that they took a successful form of government which was being unsuccessfully run, and pulled out every single lynch-pin that held it together: and it, like society, has plummeted into chaos; the chaos of 'equality'. Rather than acknowledging that their theory of social advancement has failed, they prefer to use those great liberal buzz-words: 'equality' within a 'transparent', 'accountable' 'society'.
 Liberalism, the 'great leveller', which claims that everyone is absolutely equal in every way, has had the effect of destroying individuality, muffling the voices of those who protest against being lumped in with everyone else. It isn't fair to put up someone with an average IQ against an Oxbridge student; so lean on Oxbridge and get them to lower their entrance requirements, thus bringing down the standard of education for the rest of us. Manners? Schmanners. Don't strangle your child's liberty or right to self-expression by daring to tell them off. In fact, your child is your equal and, under various bits of recent government legislation, in some ways your superior: they are in some ways akin to the nasty little Nazi beasts who could inform on their parents if they held a prepubescent grudge. White? Sorry: you don't fit the quota; the government needs to keep up it's 'equal opportunity' monitoring. If you dare to mention your discontent with such a system, you automatically are labelled a member of the BNP. Gay marriage? The Guardian lambasted Boris Johnson for disagreeing with this latest innovation; the liberal mafia, with their insistence on 'caring' and 'sharing' steam-roller over those who possess an opinion contrary to theirs. What they fail to realise is that many gay individuals don't want to be seen as the 'same' as heterosexuals - as indeed, they are not: there's a huge difference in sexual orientation, to start with... They will not recognise that there are many of us who were happy with the status quo prior to their explosion on the political scene; and though we would all wish to be treated fairly, 'equality' is the enemy of liberty. But they can get away with it by insisting that 'equality' is for our own good; and thus the Philosopher Kings gain an ever-greater stranglehold over the population, so that there is not a single act of human behaviour that has not been legislated for, and the only freedom that we possess is 24 hour supermarket shopping.
Aux armes, citoyens! Or we may find our numbers tattooed on our wrists yet.

Things That Irritate Me.

1) Queuing.
2) Oikishness.
3) Spitting.
4) American TV shows that purport to be set in England where everyone is apparently Cockney, owns a full set of Coronation china, and lives either in a hovel or a castle. We don't find it charming. Please stop.
5) Gordon Brown.
6) Gordon Brown's Cabinet. What a front bench! Gladstone Mark II, Anne Robinson on steroids and an ageing Harry Potter. If only Brown had Gladstone's ability to run a government.
7) Tax handouts for middle-income earners. How cynical. All of us are burdened by horrendous bills. 
8) Orientalism.
9) Neo-Conservatism.
10) Being told that if we eat too little/too much, drink too little/too much, sleep too little/too much, we are going to die. Horribly and painfully. After having spent too much NHS money (far better to be used for abortions and fat pay rises), for which we should feel guilty, of course.
11) Political correctness. The greatest bar to free speech that exists.
12) Democracy. Better known as Mob Rule. (demo+kritos)
13) Apathy.
14) Liberalism. It breeds terrorism. See Berman's Terror and Liberalism.
15) 'National security'. Sieg heil.

The Stupidity of Fame

So TMF, in all their wisdom, have decided to show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. Again. As if it weren't bad enough that the world was subjected to so much stupidity the first time... I am conscious that in commenting upon Jessica Simpson's undeniable imbecility I am merely adding to the many thousands of articles, soundbites and take-offs that have followed that 'lady' through her failing career. But there is something so compellingly awful about the calamitous passage of a peroxided, meagerly-talented harridan that one cannot help but to recapitulate some of her worst gaffes. She appreciates being compared to Imelda Marcos. She believes that dolphins and chickens arise from the same part of the animal kingdom. She has no idea how to spell 'lose'. And has never heard of bludgeoning or battering. Her favourite word is 'cute' (nauseating). She is a compulsive spender with the philanthropic (figure out how to spell that one, Jess: remember how much trouble you had with 'Massachusetts'?) sense of a City trader. It is sad, that in a world that has so much richness, so much with which we can be fascinated, that the faceless be-suited network moguls think it right and proper to bombard us with images of the untalented - and to try to make others emulate them. No job prospects? No problem: go on big brother. Can you sing one note in five in key? Fine: go on American Idol, or get chosen to join yet another apathetic girl group/boy band, whose idea of writing a song is to change a classic 70s number's time-signature and pass it off as their own. Make a fortune, believe that you are above having a social conscience and, if you're very lucky, they may give you your own TV show. 
Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison