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.

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.

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.

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.

Monday, 1 August 2016

More mad personal shit

I am hardly jeopardising myself by divulging this information. I have written stuff a lot worse than this in the past. On this blog I have written about mad personal shit on this blog in excruciating detail.

I am going to type out some of my personal fantasies. 'Keep it to yourself!' I hear you say! Well, the thing is I find that I need to expurgate a lot of thoughts that circulate round my brain. I prattle a lot about these things to those close to me. We are social creatures, so it's only natural to do so.


Fantasy 1: The Imaginary Girlfriend

It's really sad that, aged 26, I've never had a girlfriend. It's really sad that, aged 26, I don't even know what procedure to follow to acquire one. What is even sadder is that I occasionally fantasise about the ideal girlfriend.

My fantasy woman has the following characteristics:

- Red hair.

- Grey eyes.

- She is really tall.

- She only wears black clothing.

- She has a PHD in English literature. (Her thesis was about Charlotte Bronte.)

- She is a world-renowned and really accomplished classical pianist. She often goes on world tours. She specialises in modern classical and baroque music. (She plays a handful of Romantic composers, too.)

- She's really kinky. She likes to have sex whilst bashing out the chord off the second movement of Rite of Spring again and again.

Fantasy 2: Living in a Galleon

This fantasy involves living in a galleon. I have a room with a desk in it. I write novels there on a manual typewriter. I get pissed on red wine and often lie pissed next to the mast. An exotic woman lives with me. She's also very kinky.

Fantasy 3: Stay at home

In this fantasy, I simply stay at home with mummy & daddy. I get cooked for etc. I get £200 deposited into my bank account every month. I get a blowjob every day from a bimbo so as to ease off all sexual frustrations. The rest of the time I get to read, write etc.

Fantasy 4: I win the Booker prize

Now this is ridiculous, isn't it?! In this fantasy, all the novels that I write get published. I get interviewed by journalists. The most ridiculous thing about this fantasy is that I would have to write something readable. Who would want to read the esoteric crap that I write?

Fantasy 5: I become leader of the Labour party

Now bear with me here. I get elected leader of the Labour party, even though people compare me with previous disastrous leaders (Foot, Kinnock, Miliband and Corbyn). I make a pledge to 'make the Labour party an electoral force again.' I am pathologically nervous around journalists and shy away from the spotlight. I disappear when I should be making crucial media interventions. I draw up a series of policies that get called 'a dreary return to Milibandism.' I spend most of my time trying to appease warring factions in the party. I spend an inordinate amount of time appeasing the Blairites. The grass root membership leaves. I pontificate endlessly about 'pragmatic socialism.' I get pilloried by the press. I lose the general election in a spectacular fashion.

Fantasy 6: I become a football manager

I get a Eufa licence (or whatever it's called) even though I never played professional football (or even at an amateur level!). I take over my crappy little team - the fourth tier team Fernandez Vial. We climb up to the first tier over a period of five years. I stay in the first tier with them for two more years. In my final year I manage to finish in a 4th placed position. I attract the attention of Colo-Colo (the biggest Chilean team), even though I previously make the statement that I would never manage for them. The Vial supporters call me 'Judas' despite everything that I did for them. I win a couple of Chilean titles and have a couple of good runs in the Copa Libertadores. I become manager of the Chile national side and I manage to reach the semi-finals of the world cup with them.

Fantasy 7: I live in a castle

I live in a giant castle, placed on the crest of a hill overlooking a small town. The local community say 'he's a bit mad, y'know?' I spend a long time brooding. I have a cellar stocked with a lot of red wine. Every week a prostitute comes over to have sex with me (to ease off sexual frustrations).

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

University unions


Those words. They are hardly words that you would associate with a union, but they are roughly the words that my university union brandish outside their premises.

I do really find it rather ridiculous. A university union should be able to intervene when students are treated badly either by academics, business people of one stripe or another or extortionate landlords. If you an academic won't grade your paper or treats you unfairly, there's nothing that they can do. That's what they are meant to be there for. If the university is charging too much for rented accommodation, again, there's nothing that they can do or willing to do. They are supine and powerless.

And why is a union associated with a club? When I went to see the winners of the union elections, it was held at a club. Every time they would announce a winner, they would have intermittent blasts of pop music and the winners would dance around. What does the union say? WE CAN'T HELP YOU AT ALL WITH ANY TYPE OF INJUSTICE BUT, YOU KNOW WHAT, LET'S PARTY!!!!!!

What the union is ultimately there for is propping up careerists. Aspiring Conservative or Labour politicians run to further their nascent careers. It looks impressive on their CV. Even Conservative people, who do not even believe in the very idea of unions, die to control them.

Universities should be a hot-bed for discussion and free debate. Yet it really irks me how anodyne they are in this respect. Rather than allowing free debate, they promote a lot of PC stuff like LGBT awareness and anti-rape propaganda. Whilst rights for the LGBT rights are fine enough cause to espouse and rape is clearly abominable, this does not contribute to discussion or even any tangible change. They are just platitudes that make you look good.

It really does make me sick.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Sell yourself

Our society is becoming increasingly commercialised. Commercialisation has not even impacted public services such as hospitals and schools. It has impacted the individual. Every act is now effectively a commercial act. All behaviour is commercial.

Let me explain why I think this. We all have our profiles on social media. I am not exempt from this. As a matter of fact, my blog is not exempt from this. In this blog I have listed my preferences. This in itself is a form of self-commodification. It becomes capital. I project an image of myself online – I sell myself online – and people consume a projection of my individuality. This is the same with social media. People list their favourite books, films and music.

It becomes paranoid and neurotic. All types of behaviour become commodified. People constantly self-monitor themselves on such media. People become consumers of their own minutia. If I go out and I make an idiot of myself, I am neurotic the next day because the incident might become currency on social media. Meaningful communication becomes redundant because we are all performing as an idealised version of what we think we are. Only idealisations sell.

This trivialises politics. By becoming members of groups, it becomes more of a statement of yourself rather than a meaningful statement on affairs. Being a Marxist is edgy, as is being an Anarchist. People brandish t-shirts of Marx, making a mockery of what he stood for. Clothes are an important currency. By being a Goth, or an emo or a hipster – or whatever – you have to dress appropriately. Just walking across the street, every individual is a walking advertisement for a certain lifestyle. A lot of these subcultures don't propound theories about the state of affairs. They are simply profiting from zeitgeists.

The notion of having a public service funded by taxpayers is an anachronism. Even these remaining services are sold to us with garish pamphlets and the like. People are forgetting about this. All that matters is that you should have a good time. Don't foget to buy a cappuccino while you’re at it.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Desert island discs

I started thinking about my choices for this program recently. I recall that I did the exact same post a number of years ago, but I have changed my choices since then. This is a very indulgent thing to do - but this is my blog, where anything goes, so who cares?

The premise of this program is that you choose eight pieces of music, one book and one luxury item to take with you to a desert island.

1. Ich Ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ (Piano Version) - J. S. Bach

Bach has now become my favourite composer. I like his music very much because 1) It has a mystical quality that's very similar to a lot of religious art - i.e. cathedrals and Renaissance painting - where your senses are disoriented and you feel overcome by something larger than yourself. 2) The counterpoint, where several layers of music play at the same time, is especially interesting to listen to. It's fascinating to listen how the musical voices interact with one another and how they are resolved. 3) The seemingly endless treasures you encounter the further you dig into his body of work. He was an extremely prolific composer, yet very little of what he wrote is uninteresting to me.

Bach never wrote music for the piano - it didn't exist during his lifetime. He wrote for the harpsichord instead. I especially like the way a lot of his pieces sound on the piano. My favourite of these arrangements would be 'Ich Ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ.' I like the performance by Alfred Brendel, a brilliant pianist, the most.

2. 'Death and the Maiden' String Quartet No. 14  in D Minor by Franz Schubert

I like Schubert for the same reason that many people listen to music - he writes beautiful melodies and his music is very pleasant to listen to. I am especially fond of string quartets as a whole and this is quite likely the most well-known quartet piece ever written. It is a 'programmatic' piece, meaning that it has an accompanying story attached to it.

Schubert was one of the early 'Romantic' composers. To put it simply, the movement in music was largely interested in 'emotion.' This piece does indeed stir the emotions quite a lot. As the piece progresses, it becomes more exalted. Schubert wrote astonishingly beautiful melodies, but it's also very interesting to hear how he harmonises the voices.

3. String Quartet No. 4 by Bela Bartok

Bartok is my favourite composer after Bach. Although his music is very dissonant, it's still melodic and it is tonal - though it does shift across many keys during the course of a single piece. What I like about modern music is that I do hear melody in a lot of it, but it's a lot more angular. There is a lot of strangeness and beauty to that. Bartok drew from Hungarian folk melodies and transformed them into visceral modern classical pieces. In this piece, the five movements 'mirror' each other. The first and fifth movements are related, the second and fourth movments are related and the third movement is a quiet interlude. Like a lot of other modern music, Bartok was interested in ryhthm. In this piece, the melodies are played almost rhythmically.

4. Clocks and Clouds by Gyorgy Ligeti

Post-war music was considerably more abstract than the music that preceded it. Ligeti, another Hungarian, is one of the more approachable ones. His music employed 'micropolyphony,' which involved many individual voices playing simultaneously. This created large tone clusters, a large homegenous sound constituting many individual parts.

This piece is particularly impressive. Unlike a lot of other modern music, it sounds somewhat mellifluent. It is dream-like and strange. It has a disorienting effect, much in the same way that a lot of Bach's music affects my senses. I am fond of getting drunk whilst listening to music - Ligeti is one of my main choices for such occasions, alongside Bach.

5. Autumn's Child by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

I have a strong emotional attachment to Beefheart's music. I have been listening to his stuff for twelve years now. This song is more 'straightforward' than a lot of his other stuff. It's somewhat mawkish, even. I still find the 4/4 section very moving - and very evocative. You have Beefheart's vocal about a past encounter, the chorus sings about 'go back four years' ago and finally you have the eerie theremin to boot. This being Beefheart, the more 'striaght' sections get interrupted by unusual time signatures. This really is a truly overpowering song.

6. British Grenadiers - Gross Chapel by The Fall

The Fall are my favourite rock act, alongside Beefheart. Whereas a lot of their output is somewhat blithe, this track is a lot darker. I have always thought that the album this is from, Bend Sinister, is one of their best and very underrated. The Fall are from the post-punk era. This meant that consumers who were not technically proficient realised that they could make music. This led to very unorthodox and interesting results. These bands were listening to a lot of interesting bands, such as Beefheart. Mark E. Smith hardly ever sings; he recites. His lyrics are very abstract and very embittered. On paper, they are baffling, but they are mesmerising on record.

7. Naima by John Coltrane

Jazz is easily one of my favourite genres - it's possibly my favourite genre alongside classical. I fondly remember being a lazy 15-year-old who would sit in his room all day listening to jazz records. I was a terrible student back then!

'Naima' is such a wonderful tune. This tune is just so life-affirming and soothing. I feel infinitely better every time I give it another spin. Coltrane's virtuosic technique takes me to the most wonderful places.

8. Flamenco Sketches by Miles Davis

Everything about the record Kind of Blue is just perfect. Every note is in the right place. There are so many tracks I could choose from Davis' discography, but I would have to go for this one. Again, it's a very soothing and uplifiting piece. I love how Miles' stamp is firmly indented in all of his music, even the cheesy 80s synth stuff.

This is the first jazz record I listened to. It's a record a lot of people start with - it's a great portal. Finally, I'll just end by saying how much I regretted leaving Ornette Coleman's 'Lonely Woman' out from this list.

Book: Fictions - Jorge Luis Borges

I thought that I would chose a book that I can read many times. Borges' stories are something you keep returning to and something that you find surprising every time you re-read. His stories are so intertextual that, in many ways, you are familarising yourself with literature culled from many centuries. So this is more than  one book in many ways.

Luxury item: A typewriter with a lifetime supply of ribbons and paper.

I would want to be able to write in this island. Typewriters are cumbersome, but then computers are too distracting. I prefer to type when writing stuff - I am not a pen-and-paper person.